ideas are harder to destroy than bricks, steel, concrete and mortar


Benedicto Kiwanuka - independent.co.ug
The late Benedicto Kagimu Kiwanuka (Photo from http://www.independent.co.ug)

Dear Uganda,

Please let’s drop this fixation on Real Estate as a sign of prosperity, presence and relevance?

Besides our awkward daily focus on buying land as an investment, and erecting properties as a way of storing our variously-acquired gains, this week we have read numerous stories about the residential home of the late esteemed Benedicto Kagimu Kiwanuka (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedicto_Kiwanuka), Uganda’s first Chief Minister, President of the Democratic Party, and first black/African/indigenous Chief Justice, being razed to the ground.

Most things about this story are as painful as they are wrong, but the ones that hit hardest are the ones that appear to define us as a nation.

I’m not going to mention his family members because there are numerous articles about that situation that need no repeating here, but that one must share with one’s own children in lieu of the traditional ‘I curse you’ statement. (http://www.monitor.co.ug/Magazines/PeoplePower/Ben-Kiwanuka-was-an-astute-politician/689844-1492508-bfx33jz/index.html & https://skaheru.com/2012/09/29/ambassador-peter-maurice-kagimu-kiwanuka-kiri-wa-nnaku/ and even http://williamkituuka.blogspot.com/2011/12/exclusive-interview-with-his-excellency.html).

The people speaking up in outrage are numerous – including both Government and Opposition officials. Reading their statements in media reports so far convinces one that they are clearly being misquoted.

Benedicto Kiwanuka’s house was razed to the ground and does not exist any more. It was razed to the ground and the photos being published are all of the cleared ground – no rubble.

Minister General Jeje Odongo is quoted, for instance, saying: ““Government got concerned about what is happening here. At first, we thought it was a private family issue until we learnt that the house had been demolished. This is a historic site; it is here that the people who fought for our independence lived. Ben Kiwanuka’s name is historic, his house is monumental, it belongs to Uganda, government cannot simply watch.”

This is exactly what the Government did. Or maybe not, since it happened without their knowledge and we can therefore argue that they did not actually “watch”.

The Kampala Metropolitan Police Officer, Luke Oweyesigire, “said they got to know about the matter when the area chairperson took the late Kiwanuka’s old cars to Wakaliga Police Station.”

Not BEFORE it happened.

And according to Daily Monitor: “(DP President Nobert) Mao said if it was like in other countries, the home would be made a historical site given his legacy.”

Which other countries?

In organised countries that one would presume he would be talking about, this conversation wouldn’t be happening 46 (forty six) years after the great man’s death!

It is disturbing that this issue had to first get to the media before both Government and Opposition leaders knew about it. Is our entire political class really so far removed from people on the ground that a house so seemingly significant can be demolished without ANYONE raising a red flag right here in Kampala City?

Officially, don’t we have laws and regulations governing the alteration or, worse, demolition of property? Surely a local government authority is supposed to issue a permit and assign a cross-functional group of people to ensure the work is done properly – security, architecture, safety and legality all being catered for?

I’ve seen that the Kampala Capital City Authority, in whose jurisdiction this former house once stood, has Demolition Permit Applications online (here), so why wasn’t the Police aware? What about the KCCA Councillors, some of whom one would expect to belong to DP and, therefore, to give a damn about this?

On behalf of the DP, Deputy Secretary General Gerald Blacks Siranda reportedly acknowledged that the Party only learnt of this through the media. Just like Gen. Odongo, this must be malicious reporting on the part of the journalists, because there is no way a politician can say such a thing about an occurrence in his stronghold constituency.

Siranda should clarify that he was misquoted rather than appear to have told the world that DP is so out of touch with voters that…

But it gets worse when he is quoted as saying,

“As an institution, we are devastated and believe that what happened is trying to wash away the memory and image of Ben Kiwanuka; you can take away his home and body but cannot take away his history and contribution to the country.”

UGANDA, PLEASE!

Please let’s stop equating ‘LEGACY’ to ‘WEALTH’ and ‘PROPERTY’?!

As Uganda’s first Chief Minister and first black/African/indigenous Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka’s legacy cannot be just that house!

It won’t even be the one that Nobert Mao announced in May last year was going to be built in Benedicto Kiwanuka’s honour – the construction of which was supposed to begin in July 2017 and that must have started but without too much fanfare amongst the general public…(I read that here: http://allafrica.com/stories/201705290434.html)

The legacy of an intellectual revolutionary like Benedicto Kiwanuka should be in our hearts and minds, as absorbed through consuming his writings and memoirs, and hearing renditions of his speeches and public statements made by erudite professors and scholars of law and politics.

Where are the books about him written by all the elderly politicians who were young men alongside him back in the days when he was leading Uganda to Independence and self-rule? Where are the memoirs of the people that took cover in the mental trenches and exchanged political fire with the mighty colonialists and triumphed?

At the very least, let’s have some compilations of the papers delivered at the annual Benedicto Kiwanuka lectures that were launched back in 2011 since when I, personally, can’t recall many more. Someone, not his unfortunate son, but someone should take all those compilations to the Uganda Museum so that they can be installed on the bookshelves of the Uganda Society, lazima!

We should stop thinking about putting up a monument on Ben Kiwanuka street – which is non-existant even if it sounds likely. Nobody should even suggest establishing a Benedicto Kiwanuka section at the Law Development Centre or the Uganda Law Society buildings.

Those who have studied law in Uganda might have heard a lot more about Benedicto Kiwanuka during the academic lectures there since he was so influential in Uganda. I suspect that if you stop any lawyer and ask them to tell you about Benedicto Kiwanuka they will effuse greatly about his ideals and knowledge.

Try it.

These lawyers might even have – each of them – a secret copy of an anthology containing all the tens of thousands of theses and dissertations that addressed Benedicto Kiwanuka’s work.

Ask them.

If none of this exists, and we are going to lament over a house that is razed to the ground without even thinking about what condition it was in the day before demolition began then, again, we are being unfortunately defined as a nation.

Seriously speaking: WE ALL need to write more books and organise our thoughts, ideas and value systems for posterity. Ideas are harder to destroy and last much longer than steel and concrete, brick and mortar.

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