By Ofwono Opondo
My apologies to those who have heard me on the subject of Mulanda, my birth place to which I have some bragging rights over, and so don’t impose a gag on me not to write or say anything publicly about it. Two weeks into my leave in Mulanda, we are having extensive conversations on a wide range of topics like how to uplift life, raise sustainable homestead incomes, cutback on some areas of wasteful expenditures, and improving parents commitments to their immediate families especially child health and education.
Here, like elsewhere in Uganda, funerals including of those little known, are quite elaborate and increasingly becoming a huge commercial enterprise. You will be invited to funeral ceremonies especially burials even of those you don’t know. Upon any death, with social media these days, WhatsApp groups are immediately created to spread information, keep updates and mobilise financial support towards the funeral expenses, often out of reach of the immediate family members.
Then, on FM radio announcements you hear relatives, friends, area MPs, and local politicians being invited to at least five funeral functions in a day, and are expected to make financial contributions in addition to attendance in person. The money is meant to go towards some avoidable expenses like church service, shaded seating, food, music and public address system, or storage of corpses in the mortuary at Rubongi UPDF garrison. Meanwhile, they won’t, even when beckoned, contribute towards a needy child’s education or treatment of the sick, yet money for men’s alcohol doesn’t seem to be in short supply.
They’re not content with a small financial token. They want, if you enjoy name recognition, to be the official, sometimes called chief mourner, a term, now adopted by the government. MPs, local politicians, and prospective candidates intending to contest in the still far-away elections of 2026 jostle to make financial contributions that some of them go to great lengths to borrow so that they can be recognised and given speaking slots during the burial functions. These days it’s at funerals that the uninspiring government and Tieng Adhola cultural leaders make what passes for important policy pronouncements because they cannot convene their own meetings as to avoid associated financial costs. And speaking of funerals, you have to wonder what hell broke loose among otherwise educated and enlightened relatives who created the needless protracted drama that has accompanied the death of Supreme Court Judge-Stella Arach Amoko, a friend of many years long past. Nevertheless, May Her Soul Rest in perfect peace at that family cemetery in Nebbi.
The local folks especially Local Council leaders and almost all men blame everything that they aren’t doing well on the democracy introduced by NRM and President Yoweri Museveni since 1988 when the authoritarian, highhanded and extortionist powers of appointed chiefs were heavily trimmed, and replaced by popularly elected local leaders.
And with time over the past three decades legal reforms banned corporal punishment, domestic abuse of women and children, and human rights activism edged on by a vibrant media and civil society groups mushroomed and have grown exponentially that there is no place for abusers to hide. Men here claim that they can no longer ‘discipline’ women by which they mean physically assault them as in the years past when men could break limbs and remove teeth of their wives without any serious legal consequences. Museveni, the men claim has given women so much freedom that they can even own property including money, land, houses and commercial businesses in their own names, and such empowered women are very difficult to prevail over!
In a sense many leaders today, from the household to community as well as national level cite the thriving democracy and freedom citizens enjoy for weakness to enforce the rule of law, commitment, obligation, and even commonsense. Parents especially men in rural areas in Tororo don’t bother to provide the required care of their families. The overwhelming number of men will claim that they cannot ‘force’ school age going children to keep in school even when there is free universal primary and primary education within reach, the result of which are low numbers, perpetual poor transition and completion rates, and low quality outcomes.
Head teachers and teachers in most government primary and secondary schools even when enjoying a relatively better terms and conditions of service than counterparts in private schools show less commitment to duty, many of them having abdicated responsibility and are more in private hustles. And what goes on in the public education sector is true for every government services like health and so-called agricultural extensive services in rural areas. The much-hyped new program of the Parish Development Model (PDM) where every parish is to receive one hundred million annually over the next five years is most unlikely to yield the anticipated results unless we get back to the drawing board and keep a vigilant eye on tracking implementation.
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