What you need to know:
- It is one thing to be disarmed by the UPDF, another to turn one’s Ak-47 into a few iron sheets. But what kind of emasculation must a warrior undergo to lose the would-be roof over his head to a mere minister wearing a wig over hers?
There has been a lot of anger recently just because a few thousand iron sheets or so meant for the people of Karamoja were found nailed on timber trusses elsewhere in the country. This anger is exaggerated and misplaced.
First of all, no one really expected the iron sheets to go to Karamoja. Have you seen the stick enclosures that the Karimojong loosely refer to as houses? Honestly speaking, where would you install the iron sheets on those houses?
Any good architect will tell you that iron sheets require a timber frame sitting on a concrete beam that is itself supported by burnt brick walls built atop a sturdy foundation. In the absence of this supporting infrastructure, sharp suspended iron sheets might be a danger to the lives of the innocent women and children of Karamoja. What if they fell down and sliced through the throats of the sleeping innocents?
Then the same people making noise about the missing iron sheets would accuse the government of human rights violations, and the dead Karimojong of losing their heads. Better to take the iron sheets to safer parts of the country, far away from the insecure Karamoja where they can be kept safely on top of buildings there, awaiting for Karamoja to develop supporting infrastructure.
This won’t be the first time we take things from the Karimojong for safe keeping. When the Bush War ended in southern Uganda one of the clever things done was to take cattle from Karamoja, Teso and other parts of the country in the north for safekeeping in more southernly ranches in the cattle corridor. Have you heard any of those cows complaining? In fact those cows sleep soundly at night, enjoying the peace from cross-border cattle rustling ushered in by the NRA!
About a decade ago, women in northern Uganda were found tying children suffering from nodding disease with ropes on trees to keep them from wandering off into wells and fireplaces. This was, of course, primitive and sub-optimal. How can you restrain a human being with a rope?
The more humane restraint, of course, is a seat belt, as some clever chaps in the Office of the Prime Minister pointed out. Properly used, seat belts and air bags have been known to prevent severe injuries and death in sudden encounters between humans and other obstacles.
But the poor folks in northern Uganda did not have the supporting infrastructure, like motor vehicles, in which to insert these air bags and seat belts. So the clever chaps in the Office of the Prime Minister decided to invest Other People’s Money in vehicular infrastructure designed to provide an enabling environment and restful sleep at night. Like the latest Mercedes Benz models.
They planned to send the cars over to the north, they swore, crossing their hearts, licking their fingers and pointing to the high heavens with the sincerest looks they could muster. But the roads! The roads in the north were ill-suited to these luxury vehicles, so they kept them in Kampala where the roads were much better, and where officials knew how to fasten seat belts.
Similarly, if the intended beneficiaries of the iron sheets in Karamoja really want their mabati, they should put their houses in order. With bricks and mortar. Apparently, some of the iron sheets were meant for reformed warriors who turned in their rifles and walked away from a life of cattle rustling.
It is one thing to be disarmed by the UPDF, another to turn one’s Ak-47 into a few iron sheets. But what kind of emasculation must a warrior undergo to lose the would-be roof over his head to a mere minister wearing a wig over hers?
If these so-called warriors tremble at the sight of Karamoja Affairs Minister Goretti Kitutu or her iron-sheet carrying colleagues, then it was a wise career move to turn their backs on armed cattle rustling. The ‘basajja’ from the Pokot and Turkana tribes, from what we gather, are said to be a lot more dangerous and manly than Matia Kasaija!
Like the OPM bosses earlier decorated for innovating safer ways of restraining humans and improving their living conditions remotely from apartment blocks in Kampala, those involved in the current iron sheet saga should be rewarded. They have saved the people of Karamoja from sharp guillotines suspended on flimsy manyatta walls. The iron sheets were taken for safe custody. They will be returned when the Karimojong learn to build brick walled houses. Case closed.
Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and poor man’s freedom fighter.
[email protected]; @Kalinaki