Reflections

In Africa The Dead Are Living

By Mpuga Rukidi, Uganda:

Sometimes we are not given the credit we deserve. I mean we, Africans are denied credit that is rightfully ours. The other day one of my uncles – Bob – just got elected in Zimbabwe for …er…er… the third time. But let's not go there. I do not read politics and won't therefore go into discussing how many times he should be elected. He wasn't probably good at Maths either, so he won't know after how many years he should leave.

The story of how elections are organised is not new in Africa. Maybe the whole idea of elections is alien to us. These alien things are not good for us, you see. Who says people know what they want? Shouldn't it be the good leaders to show them and tell them what they want?

In some countries the president gets elected before the election so that the actual voting is like the chronometer at the Queen's Clock Tower in down town Kampala – elegant look but wrong time. Stories have been told of cows that have voted like the length of their horns depended on the ballots. Goats – bearded and beardless alike – have voted presidents and Members of Parliament here in Africa. After a certain election somewhere chickens were seen hi-fiving each other. That is Africa. Creativity at its best.

But the recent elections in Zim brought one aspect of the life in Africa that is seldom celebrated. Unlike Europe and America and anywhere else where your death is the end of you, here when you die you don't leave – you continue to live. That is why the names of our ancestors are very important. That is why I carry the names of my ancestors. That is why I am a warrior like my ancestors. That is why we, Africans, are unique. I hear you ask why we have graveyards. You have the answer. Here, we bury our dead in graveyards, not cemeteries. Cemeteries are artificial; they put the dead far away from you and kill that connection between the two worlds. Here we look at and connect with the dead every day.

Applying this ancient but very relevant knowledge, the guys in Zim did it just right. The opposition didn't get it and they cried foul. There were no cows, no bearded, foul smelling goats or noisy chicken. It was simple and straightforward. It is just the registers that had to reflect our cultural beliefs. They contained some of the names of the registered voters and occasionally some of the names appeared more than once, with slight modifications. The real trick was that many of the registers contained names of people long dead. They simply came out of their resting places that day, cast their votes and went back. Ancestors don't forsake their children's children just like that. They don't abandon them fwaa!

Now the opposition is crying foul, wondering how on earth dead people can cast ballots. But the same opposition will claim to have a connection with their ancestors. What hypocrisy! What insolence! Who said we are Bazungu who just forget their dead? Who in Africa doubts the continuous presence of the dead? So before you blame my beloved uncle, remember to give us Africans the credit due to us. And remember that here, in Africa, the dead are not dead; they are living.

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