What you need to know:
- Memories. Last weekend, the country came together to celebrate Uganda Martyrs’ Day. Thousands gathered at Namugongo with one purpose, to remember the great ones, the ones who sacrificed everything for their faith. Yours truly stays in that corner, as such, every Martyrs’ Day, I join in the sacrifice a week earlier. Because when you stay this side, you park everything a week earlier and focus on following the proceedings.
This year’s Martyrs’ Day was special in its own way. It brought back many memories. It is those memories that I wish to recount today.
A decade ago, or more, I was a good student at Uganda Martyrs’ SSS Namugongo. Now, when you are a student at Namugongo, you become one with the martyrs. You speak the martyrs, you live the martyrs, you walk the martyrs. Martyr’s Day was also in a way our school’s day.
But then, when you go to the Basilica every now and then, there is a familiarity that develops. For you, Martyrs’ Day means something else. It is not another day for getting lost in the Basilica. It is a day to get out of the school gates, meet fellows from other schools and have some time out. Yes, it indeed was always time out.
On this one Martyrs’ Day, the school gates opened outwards to release us into the fray of Martyrs’ Day. There was only one condition; that we should return by 5pm. It was the thing they say, ‘it is up to you, whatever you do with this information.’
As I got out of the school gates, I noticed Alinda, my friend and cubical mate on the side lines. He already had something better to do with the information of the return hours.
“You know, my auntie stays a walk away from here. We can pay her a visit, and we shall return just in time.” Everything should have gone to plan, had it not rained. And yes, it always rains. And it rains just around the afternoon, then cuts off.
We arrive at auntie’s place, it is Alinda, another friend and I. There is something about African aunties. They reveal their soft sides to their nephews, nieces and friends of this lot. Alinda’s auntie followed this script to the dot. From filling our school bellies with digestives to preparing the best pilau in the world.
But outside, it was raining. When students ran back into the school for shelter and lunch, there came a directive that the school gates should also be closed. Once in, there was no going out anymore. Again, Alinda and friends were enjoying the best the auntie had to offer; movies, food, laughter, enjoying nothing but the fruits of the Uganda Martyrs.
Somewhere around the Basilica, there was a club, aka Caesar’s Palace (the irony). Because why would Caesar, or Kayafa (in Museveni Language) choose to establish his palace at the martyr’s shrine? So, some students from across this country had found their way inside this club. And rumour had it that some Namugongo students had always strayed into those grounds. Again, who knows what students had chosen to do with the earlier instruction issued at 8am?
At around 4pm, Alinda and friends chose to exit auntie’s palace to begin the long walk back into the school gates.
A few steps towards the gate, there was that mood in the air, the kind of mood that we were about to become martyrs in our own right. We could not spot a single Namugongo uniform. We got to the school gates, and they were closed to us. We checked our watches; we were right in time. On the far side, we noticed that some students were squatting. We were asked to join that lot.
The assumption had been made that everyone who had arrived at school past a certain hour must have been at Caesar’s Palace. Yours truly and friends had no idea what and where Caesar’s Palace was. Above all, we were all given blank papers to reveal the names of our partners in crime while at Caesar’s palace. At this crime scene, it became clear that while some of us had enjoyed rice and movies, some had enjoyed with an actual clubbing session.
Long story short, everyone at the crime scene plotted something sinister. Everyone’s list had a name of two of the head teacher’s children and a name of a school prefect. It created a dilemma for the school. The school had us, but we also had the school.
Only Muyingo could jump out of this conundrum, he suspended the whole school prefect body and declared a week of mourning. The week of mourning was meant to cleanse the school of this sacrilege. All school canteens were to remain closed throughout mourning week. We mourned (but the school dining also mourned).
I do not think the school ever spent much on food as it did that week. After a week of mourning, peace was restored in the school and we learnt from then on, never to joke with our Uganda Martyrs. Whatever you do with this information, is up to you!