By Peter Kasaija

The last few months in Uganda, have brought quite their fair share of news, gossip, events and all kinds of goings-on, some of which have gripped the nation for days and weeks on end, while others simply dissipated into the oblivion of history. From the never-ending corruption scandals which hug the headlines of our dailies that are now an enduring hallmark of our current crop of leadership, be it the stories of the unfortunate LC 1 chairman nabbed encroaching on another man’s ‘swimming pool’ (as Abdu Mulaasi would sing in one of his more famous compositions), a high level greedy politician having burnt his fingers while extending his grubby hand into another man’s pot, or, on the more serious side of things, a local bank going bust under the watchful eye of the omnipotent (or should we say impotent for that matter?) Central Bank, life in our banana republic never disappoints as it continues to serve us an interesting menu almost every other day.

Among all this hullabaloo, however, it is the ongoing succession debate juxtaposed against the omnipresence of a visionary leader, perched high up in his Nakasero crib, seemingly oblivious to the ever rising crescendo of opposition voices and disillusioned masses, which is the mainstay of our routine, be it at work, at home, at school, or in the many seedy and obscure bufundas dotted around our beloved Kampala. Of course, once in a while, the odd heart-warming story of ordinary folk, like the Ghetto President or the many cancer patients who manage to overcome and beat all odds to become the heroes our society craves so much, breaks the monotony of the above dour political story we have so much become accustomed to.

But before I digress, let me get to the story for today. Recently, a venerable and much admired personality in the country’s education sector passed on. Almost immediately, the whole nation (perhaps I should say almost), politicians and everyone, came out to eulogize our fallen comrade.

According to those high up in the echelons of power, the nation had lost a ‘great man’, who had almost single-handedly transformed and changed the private education sector. The praise and admiration for such a personality, given his accomplishments, could not have gone unnoticed, even by the most uninformed hermit far withdrawn from the daily gossip of our beloved banana republic. However, almost immediately, even before his casket had settled in its eternal resting place, the man whose name had been etched as a national hero in the annals of the country’s history, turned into a fiend, a monster to be reviled for the accusations leveled against him in his past life. Overnight, stories came thick and fast, about the abuse the departed gentleman had meted out to not one, but many, whom he was presumed to have been a mentor, a father figure, and probably more. Apparently, several young women (or should we say girls?) came forth, claiming to be mothers of his offspring. The venerable gentleman had taken advantage of his privileged position and sired children with the very students placed in his charge. This, was a scandal many had never imagined. From some quarters, it sparked outrage, anger, betrayal and the like. And of course, many debates ensued, from those who sympathized with the beleaguered family left behind to pick up the pieces of a patriarch whose apparently squeaky clean image had been desecrated with the entrails of a hyena, to those baying for the deceased’s blood, given such abominable behavior.

The songs that were sung to eulogize our dear comrade died away almost suddenly. Before the tears had dried, daggers, knives and machetes were drawn from their sheaths. The proverbial guns were out, and corked in unison. But, alas, at who were all these weapons drawn? For the accused, whom these were drawn against, was far along on his way to meet his maker, to make an account of his earthly life. If all the accusations against his name are true, what he has left behind, we cannot comprehend or fathom for now. The damage has been done, and we cannot turn back the hands of time. We can only sympathize with the unwilling victims, the victims’ families and his own family. Let us not crucify them for that which was beyond them. For those victims who fell for his overtures, that is another story altogether. The physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma which the girls are enduring cannot be erased over night, but we can start from here. After the inquisition, the accusations and counter-accusations, let us look at ourselves as a collective society, because the blame for what transpired in this case cannot be squarely placed on just one man. We as society, as leaders, as parents, as professionals, whatever walk of life we align ourselves with, are all culpable.

More importantly, I say that we as men, as fathers, need to take a harder look at where we stand. For long, as men, fingers have been pointed at us, and yet we have done little to change things. Cases of child molestation, defilement and rape still abound in our society, and nothing seems to change. On the contrary, it gets worse. Children, young girls and women continue to bear the brunt of the senseless, careless and wanton behavior of perverts, who think little or nothing of the consequences of their actions. Previously, we have had illustrious campaigns against related perversions as cross-generational relations. These have come and gone, without any significant impact.

It’s time we arose, as men, against these injustices to our children, our little girls, our sisters, our girlfriends, our wives, our mothers, our grandmothers, to make a statement. We have kept quiet for too long, we have been on the defensive for too long. Perhaps, like the Promise-keepers, it’s time we raised a new generation of young men who come out to change the collective image of the man, and maybe then, we will restore some sanity to a generation that seems bent on self-destruction. For our venerable comrade, we cannot do much. Whatever transpired when he was alive, we can only pass off as a great tragedy, if indeed it is all true. He is gone, and there is little we can do for those whose trust he is accused of having betrayed. However, there are still many more predators out there, among us. We need to find it in ourselves, as men, to be the ones at the head of the war against such predators, to protect and ensure that the future of those we love is not tainted.