Monday, July 15, 2013

NO TOILETS? LET THE MZUNGUS BUILD IT

In case you missed it Iganga municipality market commissioned their new toilet last week.

The new toilet cost sh20m, is a flush toilet,  most probably also has a sink(s) and all the bells and whistles that come with a modern toilet – soap dispenser, toilet paper holder and air freshener.

One should not begrudge the 500 or so vendors of that market their new toilet, should we?
What made this big news is that the toilet was the charitable contribution of Daventry town (where?) in the UK.

I can only guess that some resident of that town some time back, while wandering around Iganga town (after overindulging on nsenene)  felt the need to “go” and could not find a toilet in the market to save his life.
God bless their hearts, the residents of Daventry.  But one has got to wonder about the able bodied vendors of Iganga market and the good residents of Iganga town who shop in this market.

This story is so wrong on so many fronts.

So it took visitors from the UK, and not even London, to come and diagnose the problem and prescribe a solution?

And these were not felt hat- wearing, slave driving, Victorian age explorers, overwhelmed with religious fervor, here to  open up our god forsaken corner of the dark continent to civilization … this is the 21st century for goodness sake.

So somewhere in Daventry  these vendors of Iganga town are the butt of jokes by the town’s children who would find it quite funny that they contributed part of their lunch money to improving the toilet habits of some African village.

So if you ever find yourself in Daventry, don’t mistake the belly aching laughter when you introduce yourself as Ugandan as testament to your sense of humour.

Don’t get me started about the stereotypes this story will perpetuate in the minds of the impressionable children of Daventry.

This story of less than 300 words and a picture of town councilors kneeling in gratitude for their toilet before some bemused Daventrans (is that what they call themselves?) is the most manifest sign of a lot that is wrong with Uganda.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Once upon a time some Europeans happened upon us, with one eye on the rich natural bounty they saw around us they decided to subjugate us.  They did this in various ways, by enslaving, massacring and  mutilating us before moving on to  more subtle ways of brainwashing us all in aid of making us believe we are lesser human beings and therefore we should toe the line – their line.

It was obviously very effective because now our brightest and ablest minds voluntariliy ape them, hold up their culture as the standard of good behavior and jump through hoops to win their approval.

To deny or dismiss that our colonial history is a factor in the dysfunctionality of our society is also to buy into the myth that we are hopeless and in need of help. And this is not by mistake.

However, so we have gone to school now, we wear suits and ties and whiz around in European sedans, so why do we continue to perpetuate the problem?

We not only fail to recognize the vast potential around us but we squander it by depopulating our waters, ravaging our forests and dehumanising our people.

We are 50 year old country, if independent Uganda was a person it would probably be a grandfather by now. Some may argue that 50 years is nothing in the lifetime of a nation but one needs to look at that little-rock-in-the-sea Singapore, which in the same space of time has transformed itself into a first world nation .

The vendors of Iganga showed a lack of leadership, a lack of pride and a hopelessness that is hard to wrap one’s mind around.

To extrapolate, when our government officials go to the donors to beg for money to fix our sanitation systems it is not akin to asking them to come and build us toilets.

Let the plight of the vendors of Iganga town be a cause for national soul searching. We need to ask ourselves how we can be wallowing in such abundance as a country and still have the majority of our people (forget the dollar-a-day standard) living in subhuman conditions.

It is obviously not for lack of money or resources, it is that our minds from the top to the bottom of our society is so steeped in poverty that we are unable to lift ourselves up.

Meanwhile you will have to catch me dead in Daventry. I couldn’t stand the kids in the street pointing at me and bending over in rib cracking laughter.

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