In honour of the Ugandan soldier

Ugandan Soldiers off to an African Union Mission in Somalia. Are they dying in vain? (Courtesy Photo/www.militaryphotos.net)

First, a brief and quick lesson in history:

Sixty-four years today, World War II came to an end. Much of the Western world returns every year on Nov. 11 each to remember their own that were consumed not just in World War I and II but also in subsequent wars since. This Remembrance Day is taken from the time WW I is believed to have formally ended when on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 Germany signed the Armistice.

And just as the architects and so-called winners of these wars have intentionally left out of the wars’ history the more than one million African troops that gave their lives to wars that neither they nor their countries were benefiting from, the governments of countries from which these troops came have not behaved any differently. Not a whiff is felt in their honour.  In East Africa, upwards of 290,000 soldiers were drawn out of the then King African Rifles.

What do veterans of WW II mean to Africa in general, and Uganda in particular? Pre-independence African history is littered with tales of how in the eyes of participating African troops the massive deaths of Europeans in these wars completely demystified the ‘coloniser’ who hitherto had cut a figure of immortality. More than that the wars were, albeit by default, a source of enlightenment so much so that returning African troops have been credited for turning up the heat in the quest for self-determination.

‘Ba kawonawo’ as we refer to the WW veterans had social impacts as well, beyond self-determination. One such impact is coincidentally typified by our current long serving president: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. That last name, I’ve read, is coined out of a battalion of returning Ugandan soldiers from WW II to firmly etch their contributions in our memories, LEST WE FORGET!

What a shame that we so seem to have confirmed our forebears fears!

My few buds are surprised at how high I esteem the military. Does anyone out there wonder, as I do sometimes, WHAT and WHO a Ugandan soldier dies for? Do our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, aunts and uncles (add to the list) die in vain?

Blinded, self-interested militarism is the thorn in our flesh. It’s our plague. Now, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to be ostriches and tuck our heads in the sand about it or are we going to be like Albert Camus’ Fr. Paneloux in The Plague and claim that’s what God has allotted our kind?

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