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1st December 2018 - Approaching death’s mute horn

The Baganda say, “Akanaafa tekawulira ng’ombe”, which can refer to Death approaching it’s potential victim without warning, or hunters blowing their horns on their way to hunt, with the  potential victims  (the animals) oblivious. How else do you open the tragedy of what happened some days ago when merrymakers set out to make merry on Lake Victoria on a day that brought such terrible tragedy?

The bare bones of this tragedy are stark. The vessel was far from worthy: as its owners (not that they didn’t know) were constantly reminded. It had been laid up for a considerable time because it was badly holed, and leaked. But did the lure of profit make its owners (Mr and Mrs Bisase) oblivious. Both paid with their lives. But so did unknowing dozens of victims. Whatever you might think of the Bisases they did not shirk the trip. People who knew the late Bisase refer to his great interest in helping to improve tourism in Uganda.
At least one of the revellers, Omulangira (Prince) Wasajja, was from the Buganda royal family, earning the trip even greater social significance. Another of the crowd, who luckily survived, was the son of my late cousin, Nawova Mukasa, my well-known nephew Hope Mukasa, owner and impresario of many drinking and dancing clubs in his happy-go-lucky day. Some of what I am writing about this terrible event I got from speaking to him on the phone from London.
Hope’s account of what he went through still numbs my senses as I write. He had not felt buoyant from the beginning about this trip, and indeed had hoped that he might be late arriving for it. But at least the feeling had led him to insist that the man whose small boat took him to the doomed craft parted with his life jacket, tiny as it was on Hope. Without it he would assuredly not be telling me his tale.
How the boat overturned he didn’t have any idea but he found himself at the bottom of Lake Victoria. When he regained the beautiful air above, the first occurrence was that other (and briefly) surviving passengers tried to seek his help but he had no compunction in kicking himself free, thereby insuring his own survival.
When he at last reached the shore the first bodies were already arriving. “People with whom I had been talking not long before on the boat.” But a fresh worry was gnawing at him. Before the trip he had realized that he hardly knew any of the people going. He had phoned his friend Irene Namubiru, who after much coaxing had agreed to come. Now he felt he was her murderer. His joy was unconfined when learning that she, too, was safe! (Her tale appeared in Monitor.)
Some days before, on first hearing from my hosts, the O’Donohoes, about the boat’s sinking, which they had just heard on TV, for some reason my immediate feeling was that it was from Tanzania, where a huge similar accident had occurred some weeks ago, but with twice the number of the dead, as I said to these friends. How could Fate be so cruel?! To afterwards learn how much closer home this was, was for the heart to sink more.
What’s to be done? Compulsory learning of swimming is probably a step too far, and therefore impractical at the moment.  But I understand in the UK, for example, there’s a law that, like it or not, children must be taught to swim. We have a pool at our Muyenga home in Kampala. I confess that while I can kind of float while feverishly beating the water like an enemy, as soon as I stop I sink like a stone. I shudder when I imagine being on a sinking boat even ten yards from shore. How will our Government solve this?
The National Health Service (NHS) in Britain is clearly also about Life and Death. It gives me real pleasure to write about it and sing it’s well-earned praises. Of course it is underfunded and creaking at the seams. But what it achieves is magnificent and, for the great majority unable to afford prohibitively expensive private treatment, is absolutely necessary.
I will tell you what happened when I visited an NHS dentistry last week, and came in contact with an amazing young woman dentist, Dr Afra Godarza-Mofrad, originally from the Middle East. Her professionalism as she worked  on me was simply outstanding. I will be much interested in how my dentist in Kampala, Dr Jain, looks at her Ex Rays of my teeth, which she did with infinite patience and attention. I asked her whether she had ever considered going into private practice. “Never,” she answered. What a star!
Politics, like The Poor (or so they say,) is never far away from us! UK Premier Theresa May is fighting as if there’s no tomorrow.
If indeed she loses the Elections she would have to call, Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn. Apart from anything else, a Labour Government would make it a priority to fund the NHS much better. This is a must! In any case a change is called for. I shall stay hooked from Uganda, where I’m booked to return on the 10th. I can’t wait!

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