Ghetto is often an overused and stereotypical term to describe a minority group of people living in slummy surburbs.
If Uganda is put into a global perspective with the unending developments even in the unauthorized swampy areas, then the Pearl of Africa is one whole ‘Big Ghetto’.
Unfortunately or fortunately the ghetto is a place where many millennials have grown up and come to appreciate as home. Forget the billion dollar adverts that the government used to run in foreign media to promote this landlocked country as one destination with enviable tourism amenities. The real sellers of Uganda to the naïve tourists and eager investors are primarily the ‘Ghetto Kids’ (read athletes).
Almost 100 per cent of these are from the Ghetto. Athletics aside, boxing takes the plaudits for continuously raising the Ugandan flag high, way back since Leo Rwabwogo heroics at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.
As a teenager growing up in Lugogo, we used to refer to Naguru as Las Vegas and Nakawa Quarters as Toronto – two places we visited in our dreams every night. It is no coincidence that at least 200 active Ugandan athletes have successfully sought asylum in the US. That dream has never died. But as raw as they come, the Ghetto kids come with the least desirable moral values but once harnessed over time they turn into the most loyal of servants.
Such was Isaac ‘Zebra Mando’ Ssenyange. One that never shied away from a brawl for a good cause – be it to either win a title fight or to safeguard journos after a late fight night.
A reportedly ‘bad boy’ turned ‘super nice’ who had graduated to the rank of a utility Bombers’ Team Manager – an office he honestly earned as he was at the forefront of helping the game return from a lengthy limbo and diligently served as a role model.
But for him to be sacrificed at the political altar pains even the slain hero’s hardnosed haters. A legend of our times had innocently been murdered in cold bold. The apology from President Museveni is an applaudable human act but it won’t heal any wounds.
The panic button has been pushed and a stampede looms. Robert Mukasa alias Soldier Man, who was Zebra’s closest confidant, was picked and returned tortured at the same spot his master was killed over the weekend.
Former Commonwealth gold medalist Justin Juuko was wrongly held captive for over a fortnight. Now 2002 Commonwealth silver medalist Joseph ‘Joey Vegas’ Lubega and Mudde Ntambi are missing.
These skilled men might be with ‘emitima egyakaluba’ (read lion hearts) but at this rate they may want to avenge in the only possible way they know and can.
Growing up in the ghetto is not a crime. It is an opportunity to dare to dream differently, thrive and make your country proud. The world, Uganda in this case, must accept and appreciate the ghetto because it is who we are.