As was expected, the inauguration of President Museveni for his sixth term happened and ended well, at least in general terms. Allow me to comment on a detail that some may have missed at the occasion; the poem.
Towards the end of the function, a poem written by Mary Karooro Okurut was recited by a confident and smartly dressed 12-year-old who said she is the grand daughter of the late Tito Okello Lutwa, former head of state of Uganda in 1985.
It was indeed a touching moment when she thanked the President for his patience and good heart in not taking revenge on former enemies. I salute her for her maturity.
The content of the poem itself was good; thanking President Museveni for his exemplary leadership and magnanimous heart.
However, some aspects of the poem recital need to be improved upon next time, particularly, the quality of the poem. It sounded plain and lacked basic poetic traits that would have given it colour and potency. Some have suggested that it was a camouflaged speech!
Firstly, a major national event like that one is a great opportunity to market ourselves and showcase our brand as a true pearl of Africa.
Poems at national events put on display the values, struggles and aspirations of a country in ways so compelling that they capture the hearts and imaginations of the hearers. Therefore, sufficient preparation and attention needs to be placed on that segment at national events.
In the US for example, poems have featured prominently at presidential inaugurations, starting with the inauguration of President John F Kennedy in 1961 when Robert Frost recited his poem “The gift outright”. Since then, America has sought to bring out their best on such occasions including Maya Angelou, Miller Williams and, most recently, the youngest of them, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman.
Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”, presented at president Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, literally took the world by storm. It beautifully called for unity and togetherness and proposed that while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. Such is the power of the pen in the hands of a poet!
A few questions for us to ponder going forward: Do we give serious consideration to promoting our own literary talent on such major occasions? Was the dear girl properly trained on how to deliver spoken word poetry? Was that the best that our esteemed literary icon, Karooro Okurut, had to offer?
I propose that next time, if we decide to have a child deliver a poem, let it be their own composition, but with the guidance of a skilled poet. Secondly, let it be national in scope, telling our story in the most beautiful way possible, with lines that will grab the world’s attention and stick to our memory forever!
Nathan Kaija, Kisoro