One morning this week three conversations came together to highlight a point that had been tingling at the back of my mind for a week or so.
In the first, a prominent Ugandan Pastor kicked off the day by declaring, “We are backward!” on the basis of some whimsical observation that he had followed up with no research on whatsoever. The ensuing conversation quickly became angry, mostly because of the irritation some of us face whenever we meet self-deprecating people volunteering negativity of this sort and casually branding the entire nation this way.
The second involved a group of youths that have taken to constant agitation for dispensation from the government just because they are youths. This conversation was as inane as all the ones these groups normally engage in, harping on their so-called support for this politician or that politician and positioning themselves for some financial consideration in return, or simply making noise about anything and everything without critical thought.
But the third conversation uplifted me greatly. It was triggered by the blog kakoma.ug and titled, ‘This Year, Be A Hero’. The combination of ‘Kakoma’ and ‘Hero’ will make you think of George Kakoma, composer of the National Anthem, but this blog is by one Peter Kakoma
, whose hero this week was Mubarak Batambuze.
You may have heard of Batambuze but ignored his story after a while since he is just a fisherman from Kaliro and therefore not as deserving of our national attention as, say, a politician, a naked entertainer, a philandering harlot or a witchdoctor based in South Africa.
But this man’s story has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now, and whereas Kakoma’s blog highlighted for me exactly why Batambuze is so important for all Ugandans, his profile and activities stood out even brighter when considered against the background of the flashy, misguidedly outspoken Pastor and our hordes of rambunctious youths.
Batambuze, aged 56, hails from Kibuye village, in Nawaikoke sub-county in Kaliro, and came to fame because he went after a massive crocodile that had killed his wife, Demeteriya Nabwire (may her soul rest in eternal peace), who was eight months pregnant.
The crocodile reportedly killed and ate her that Sunday morning as she fetched firewood, and residents could only tell because they found her “toes, fingers and a mobile phone” on the scene. The same crocodile is said to have killed and eaten six women and children who were fetching water at the same spot last year.
The irony of the poor lady having a mobile phone on her while fetching firewood would confuse a normal economist and make one hesitate to declare her “backward”, but that wasn’t my focus point.
Neither was it the fact that so many people kept getting killed by the damn animal while fetching water, which brought to the fore of my mind arguments we have been having on Twitter about how well the National Water & Sewerage Corporation is doing spreading its network around the country. Cost of the water aside, if they had gotten piped water to Kibuye last year, perhaps people like Nabwire could sacrifice some airtime money for clean, crocodile-free water (though she was gathering firewood, not fetching water).
The point that stuck with me was that when Batambuze found the 25-foot beast still in the area, he, “went to the blacksmith and paid him sh20,000 so that he could make me me a very sharp spear.”
I repeat: he WENT TO THE BLACKSMITH AND PAID HIM MONEY SO THAT HE COULD MAKE HIM A VERY SHARP SPEAR!
This man must get a medal next year on Independence Day.
Now, first stop what you are doing and go measure what 25 feet actually looks like, then imagine the courage that Mubarak Batambuze utilised to address this crocodile. (I did the measurement with my children, using a foot ruler and walking the distance – this is NOT a joke).
Then, weigh yourself and imagine how many of you would make up 1,000 kilogrammes.
See why he needs a medal?
But now, rather than go the way of ’Tusaba gavumenti etuyambe’ to get rid of this over 1,000 kilogramme crocodile, he whipped out his own hard cash and ordered for a spear. This fisherman in Kaliro did not hesitate to spend Ushs20,000 on this.
And forget the nonsensical people you and I deal with in so-called corporate Uganda, university graduates and people speaking in TV accents who cannot accomplish a task without “First going” or “First checking” or “First seeing”; Batambuze swung right into action!
The man should become a motivational speaker, or a university lecturer, so that we get more Ugandans of his dispensation.
After paying for his very sharp spear, THEN he went and killed the monster – singlehandedly.
He didn’t hold a fundraising meeting the way we do for weddings, graduation and even baptism parties – he went ALONE. He didn’t even dilly dally by first going for his wife’s lumbe and crying a bit and collecting the mabugo; he went straight into action.
And how old is he? 56 years old; not youthful at all yet very useful. All these whippersnappers making noise in demonstrations and political rallies and on Facebook and Twitter and can’t even spell words properly even in vernacular need to step aside for Batambuze!
The 56-year old man chose not to lament but solved a problem that had his entire village celebrating, with even his RDC (no need to mention his name) standing on the crocodile to address locals. Better still, his heroic action has been picked up by the media internationally and given such wide coverage that there might be a movie made about him a la ‘Crocodile Batambuze’ – which means that wherever you and I go and say we are Ugandans, people will look at us in awe as Crocodile slayers, rather than “backward” as the despicably self-deprecating would have us called.
I have seen public officials refuse to do the simplest of tasks because of lack of “facilitation “, and even so-called corporates in private companies fail to deliver profitable services because of “close of business” and authorization required and all sorts of other stupid excuses.
Strictly speaking, Batambuze should have called the Police and the Uganda Wildlife Authority. He should have had the RDC address the matter during the district security committee meetings, and maybe even have written a Letter To The Editor and tweeted about the menace the crocodile presented to the village, criticising the government for doing nothing about this problem.
But Batambuze is a hero.
By doing what he thought needed to be done for his community, taking matters rightly and justly into his own hands, he showed the world that true Ugandans are strong. We don’t let the environment, the jungle, the beasts, the monsters get the better of us.
We fix problems. We face our fears, with preparation, planning and bravery, then tackle them to certain victory.
Batambuze is a hero. A true Ugandan hero.
I hope to one day get a clear photograph of Batambuze so that I can mount it on my wall with his story, and ensure my children’s children take his story to heart.
Seriously, give that man a medal. Tell your children about him: Batambuze, the Ugandan hero.