Reflections on Oulanyah’s death

Author: Augustine Bahemuka. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • The cause of our Speaker’s death has remained as mysterious as the reality of death itself. Some have cast categorical doubt on the ‘scientific’ position in the post-mortem report and attributed Oulanyah’s death to poisoning.

The last couple of weeks marked the national mourning period for our deceased Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah. We observed sorrow, pain, bitterness, pomp, cultural drama and politicking, almost in equal measure. The cause of our Speaker’s death has remained as mysterious as the reality of death itself. Some have cast categorical doubt on the ‘scientific’ position in the post-mortem report and attributed Oulanyah’s death to poisoning.

 This reminds me about the principle of causality in African Philosophy, which states, “The world is an ordered universe in which all events are caused and potentially explicable”. In other words, for the African mind, there is a reason for every event that occurs.

For instance, if lighting struck animals of one member of the village, the logical explanation, grounded in empirical science, would seem obvious and easily acceptable. However, this would not be the same in African thought: village folk would problematise the sad event and question why lighting struck the animals of that particular person or community. Make no mistake to imagine that African thought is ancient because it is still alive and applicable for many. It is no wonder that the Minister of ICT and National Guidance took a humanistic approach to the poison talk by recommending counselling for our Speaker’s father.

Two, this newspaper kept us informed about many things, including the budget process for our Speaker’s burial arrangements, which was slashed on two known occasions. We would later on learn from other sources that this amount was to be borrowed, though they could not verify this information.

Nevertheless, it was clear that the budget for burial arrangements for such high-ranking officials was not well documented. It is no wonder that the politicians from the former Speaker’s ethnic backyard included a slot for themselves in the budget! Just like it was clear in our Constitution that Parliament was to elect another Speaker, so may the budget for the entire burial expenses for the different categories of public officials be documented and made available to the public domain for future reference.

It is important that we appear orderly as a country. We can learn from Tanzania, which had an admirably seamless transition in the highest office of the land when the country lost John Pombe Magufuli. We can only hope for the same in our dear country, even amidst much skepticism. 

Three, we have also heard much criticism from the streets and main stream media about politicians and other privileged folk who seek medical care from abroad in high-end specialised hospitals at the expense of taxpayers. I believe that it is in order for anybody to go the furthest they can to save their lives or the lives of their family. However, how about we fixed our own healthcare system so that more Ugandans can access affordable specialised healthcare!

Prof Cilas Kemedjio has problematized this phenomenon, which is not unique to Uganda alone, and referred to it as ‘waste’ because the amount of money African governments spend on medical care in high-end specialised hospitals in Europe and US can actually transform the healthcare systems in Africa.  Waste in this case should not only be perceived as that which we dispose after use, but also whatever else that we import and yet can manufacture and provide locally. 

Lastly, some events during the mourning period evoked the bitter reality of our historical inter-ethnic tensions. However, my attention was not as drawn to the remarks made by the pained Chief Justice, who lost a personal friend, as it was by his reconciliatory gesture, moreover made in-person! From a peace building perspective, such forgiveness and reconciliation gestures are uncommon among leaders and yet they highly impact on the minds of the groups represented by these leaders. Happy Easter!

Mr Augustine Bahemuka, commentator on issues of peace and society. [email protected]

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