Reflections

A Million Questions

By Edger Kasunsu, Uganda:

I hate the fact that English is the only language in which I can express myself perfectly. I hate the fact that I cannot express myself clearly in my mother tongue with confidence. I hate the fact that I cannot write anything more than a paragraph in the language of my fathers.

But what am I to do? I cannot get an education unless I first learn English. The first seven years of my ‘education’ I spent learning English and being punished for speaking any other language other than our beloved ‘official’ language. Speaking vernacular in class was a huge crime. It was like whispering the ‘F’ word into the headmaster’s ears during a school assembly.

In Uganda, days before 9th October of every year, we spend millions in preparation for the independence celebrations and each year, I have the same set of questions.

Where is the independence in me spending 11 years of my ‘education’ learning English, as a compulsory subject while children in countries like China only study English as a by-the-way thing?

Where is the independence in me being tear-gassed just because someone thinks that I am planning to peacefully demonstrate to get my point across?

Where is the independence in me watching movies, soap operas, music, etc. all with a language that was alien to my ancestors and instilling in us a culture that is probably destroying us? Now we shun who we are and look at our fathers’ fathers as ‘old-fashioned’ pricks because they do not look like what we see on TV.

Where is the independence in us having kings with no authority? Kings who have been given just enough powers so that they can be used as tourist attractions only? (That is exactly what I was taught in school as one of the points as to why the monarchs, kingdoms and chiefdoms in my country where restored). And who the heck is that person who dictates whether our monarchs are allowed to exist or not?

When the colonialists came, they placed all of us regardless of tribe in tiny little boxes called territories. They did this without respecting the borders we had then, the borders that they found already in existence: As if the land was completely unoccupied when they came. When they were “leaving”, they gave us “independence” after signing agreements. Seriously, independence from what? And without thinking, we also signed the shallow agreements.

In signing those agreements, we accepted the systems that they had made for us. Systems manufactured in their home countries, copied then pasted in the colonies without asking whether the systems would work in those environments or not. Something tells me they did it intentionally.

After leaving us with those systems with many holes, they then started preaching democracy to us. They coated the thing with peace, development, equality, fairness, justice and all that senseless jargon they like to use. Most of the countries that destroyed our monarchs are still under monarchs, now where is democracy in that?

Where was the independence in us accepting their system? Of course we can’t rule out the fact that they only meant for good things to happen to the very young and weak countries they had created for us but how come they forgot that those countries they were leaving where not there when they came? How come they did not first ask themselves if the democracy they were leaving for us would even work in our reference frames?

For countries like America, democracy developed from first principles and after a long and painful journey. So they learnt to respect the system that had developed from that hard work. That is why it worked and it is still working for them. It took centuries for countries like America to develop the democracy they are now proud of. But when they were leaving the colonies, they just threw their system on us like it was the most perfect blue-print for any civilized nation to have.

For countries in Africa, imposing democracy on us was like donating to us oversized shirts and forcing us to wear them without questioning. Or like forcing us to eat food we had not worked for. Food like that always has strings attached and has never been free, it will never be. Now we are paying the price.

One of the most popular examples of how democracy looks like an oversized shirt on a child for the African situation is Mugabe and his Zimbabwe. For sane people watching from outside the country, he looks like a cheat, a fake, a liar, a dictator, and all but the guy has still managed to pull mammoth crowds during the campaigns. And of course after every election, he ‘wins’; again.

Call me pessimistic but I think the African situation is here to stay. Even the solution of going back to the systems that were in place before the colonialists came cannot solve the problem. No amount of donor aid will be able to make Africa look like those developed countries. And besides; even if donor aid keeps flowing in, where do you think it will go?

We were raped, and I like to make myself think unintentionally. It is too late for an abortion because the child has already been born. We now have no choice but to take care of the thing that came out of us and if we as Africans cannot find African solutions to our African problems and work hard at materializing those solutions, we are doomed!

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