Sunday, 8th February 2015 marked my 82nd day in Addis Ababa where Iam on a 365 day’s personal mission to the African Union. Having seen Arsenal loose yesterday to Spuds, I took a personally inflicted punishment to stay indoors carefully looking though all my life photos, before stumbling on this one when I was aged 8! It’s been said and written that ‘If you don’t know where you’re coming from, you don’t know where you’re going’-Anonymous
I remember vividly, we’d just come home for lunch with my mother who was (a bad arse) teacher of English at Kahoko Primary School. That bright afternoon, everything in our village was not normal. Local roads had been cleared and decorated with banana leaves. Local bars had already run out of the local brew (Amaalwa) by hours of the early morning. The locals had been matching around the village all day, singing, cheering, drinking and if my village was in France, you can only imagine what’d be happening. Our then headmaster Mr. Kizza Bernad (who happens to be my uncle with a story behind his name) had already communicated, school would be closed in the afternoon-you see, this was during the 1995 constitutional Assembly Election Campaigns. Women groups featuring my auntie had done millions of musical rehearsals which praised the HEROS of the 1980s liberation war. Word had it that, the one and only Brig Jim Muhwezi was visiting and campaigning in our village. Wait, he wasn’t just visiting like grasshoppers do during December, no thanks. He was coming in a ‘bird’. Holy cow, yes! This would be my first ever time, I ever came across a plane after, well, sometimes being lucky to see an atom of a plane in the skies. Zillions of times, I’d prayed to atleast have a glimpse of those who travelled in air before Jesus came back! In my village, during that time, sound of a car was always as scarce as finding a pregnant guinea fowl.
Having heard a lot of stories from my parents about Obote, and Amin’s regime, I was inspired to finally learn that a new generation of leaders featuring the man whom I had imitated during the many School Parent’s days musical performances:-Brigadier Jim Muhwezi was physically ‘coming to town’. Shit was coming down for real (if you know what I mean). Between 1994 &1997, I tried to unsuccessfully rename myself after him, thanks to my parents who insisted that Brian Mwebaze Kanaahe sounded better. I grew up wanting to have 7 children like him-ofcourse that has changed since. Brig. Jim Muhwezi was not just your local politician. Tales of locals visiting him at his mansion, and coming back drunk, with lots of money, medicines, agricultural fertilizers, salt, sugar, and some children from poor families getting educational scholarships would only make my heart beat at lightning speed. What a man! Evidemment, he was the people’s man. Songs were made in his name, new borns named after him. Wives got beaten by their husbands for coming late home having been learning songs and doing rehearsals prior to this day!
Quickly, mummy (may her spirit continue to leave in me even after she’s gone) hurriedly got us dressed in what was the fashion of our time: We were the most well dressed kids at the function which took place in the farms of Mr. Rukyeera. Mummy’s teacher etiquette couldn’t allow us to just show up with untidy clothes. The children of the most respected female teacher in the village had to stand-out:-I love you mum!
Announcing his arrival, the Brigadier glided in his helicopter around the whole sub county, sometimes coming close to the ground that we’d clearly see him waving at us, waving at the people who were farming, waving at the cattle keepers, waving at everything. Forget age here:-the old, the young, the middle aged were all caught in a Muhwezi-mania aura close to America’s Obama-mania. Drunken men danced around like kids, kids went crazy, dogs barked, cows mooed, women swore, people with physical disabilities forgot they had them! There was such a big crowd which yelled and applauded the Brigadier ontop of their lungs that I couldn’t possibly kept hearing my mum’s feeble pleas to catch up with her:-so you know what she’d do? Pull me by my ears like a rabbit.
After touring the sub county, the Brigadier’s Chopper took to ground, and he had a speech for atleast 1 hour with the locals. He repeatedly emphasized ‘Okushoma hamwe n’Entunguuka ya boona’ (lit. education and development for all). For me, ‘Entunguuka’ meant, getting and gliding in the helicopter like him: A reason why we got ourselves that pix:-a record had been set. No plane had accidentally or intentionally landed in our village before. The Brigadier asked those who were in school to put up their hands. A small number it was ofcourse, upon which he announced that in less than 1 year, primary education would be free!!!!!! This was followed by a thunderous clap from the locals, that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He donated a number of construction materials for my local school and asked men to stop beating their wives, as women were equal to men! Not many voices were heard at the mention of this, as you’d expect. The virginity of calmness was re-broken when his 8+ convoy of cars went at full throttle as they negotiated the bends leaving an atmosphere of dust behind them. After takeoff, I remember very well, locals especially women, scrambling to get the grass beneath where the aircraft had landed. As I was later informed by mum, they believed the grass would cure ‘Ebihungu’ (Schizophrenia related disease) among infants. No doubt, he won by 94%. All my life, I wanted to be like Brigadier Jim Muhwezi. Everything about him was perfect. He had a good habit of shooting surprise visits to the village. Sometime, he attended local church masses. Looking back, I see and admire 3 characteristics of a great leader he had: Simple, Charismatic & Accountable. That was my idol until during my S.4 vacation in 2002 when, a new course unit was introduced:-but again, that’s another real story.