The American inauguration and rich people problems

Sunday January 24 2021

Angella Nampewo

By Angella Nampewo

Perhaps more than usual, the inauguration of US president Joe Biden on Wednesday attracted the eyes of the world.

One of the key reasons why we paid attention was that this swearing in provided Ugandans like myself, exhausted from a long political journey, the perfect way to unwind from our drama.

We could focus on a different brand of politics in a different time zone and dream about colours of democracy that we dared to hope for but feared we may never see in many lifetimes.

It was a colourful ceremony, with pomp and great choreography—the guest list rich, the appearances well-coordinated, the speakers well-chosen and even the choice of performers very exotic. Following the fracas that had unfolded earlier on January 6, at the Capitol, it was important that the inauguration all go according to plan and democracy be seen to have triumphed.

There were many remarkable moments, many of which qualify for the history books. The National Youth Poet Laureate 22-year-old Amanda Gorman provided one of those breath-taking moments with the recitation of her work, “The Hill We Climb”. It was meaningful, powerful and delivered with so much poise that even those who do not like poetry were forced to sit up and listen to the message of unity.

On Twitter, one of the platforms where Gorman’s performance was trending thereafter, people from all walks of life confessed to watching it with tears in their eyes. Others wished that more youth would seek such excellence. Some confessed that their children stopped what they were doing, put down their phones for once and actually paid attention. I watched it over and over again, hearing something new or hearing it differently every time.


It was a happy time, a beautifully arranged day and all the right people came. As they say of course, at every party, there is the misfit, the guy who is inappropriately dressed or whose behaviour is wanting, known in Luganda as the musiiwufu.  The musiiwufu of this party wasn’t actually in attendance.

The inauguration of the American president was like attending that graduation party of the only guy who has made it in the village and having your parents poke you every now and then to remind you that when you grow up they expect you live up to those standards and even surpass them.

Meanwhile, looking back at your current grades in school, leaves you wondering what kind of miracles you would have to pull off to be just like that guy. The inauguration was a moment of inspiration and aspiration. Watching three former presidents and their spouses arrive, in good health and good humour, having left their quiet and peaceful retirement to come out and wish their successor well, put one past even the point of envy.  

To be envious, you must at least have some expectation that you stood some chance of getting or having what someone else has. But it was beyond one to be jealous. Briefly, we joked about some of our past leaders congregating at one swearing in ceremony, in one room and genuinely engaging in some banter while speaking encouraging words to the nation.

Now that we could finally focus on someone else’s problems and not our own, it was like temporarily burying our poor people problems of not knowing where your family’s next meal will come from and taking time to focus instead on the problems of your rich neighbours who are wondering how to enrich their dog’s diet or trying to decide whether to buy another car.

Ms Nampewo is a writer, editor and communications consultant