𝐵𝑦 𝑃𝑎𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑘 𝑂𝑑𝑜𝑛𝑔𝑜 𝐿𝑎𝑛𝑔𝑜
The great people of Lango have a saying: pe icat abeno kan atin atoco oto iye. This means it’s impolite to sell a baby’s carrier bag in the funeral wake of an infant. The wisdom in this saying is that even if you’re well-meaning and completely doing a lawful business, be mindful of the feelings of others.
So you can understand how aghast Ugandans were, more so the people of the Lango subregion — the most productive area in Northern Uganda, but with the least bitumen road coverage — that the Government is contemplating constructing several hundred miles of first-class tarmac roads inside Congo. The poor state of roads in the Lango subregion is a very emotive issue. The people of Lango feel insulted. Over eighty percent of URA tax collection from Northern Uganda comes from the Lango subregion. Yet the Masindi Port-Apac-Lira-Acholibur road, the central artery in the region, remains undone and in an appalling state.
One of the abiding lessons of history is that hubris — overconfidence combined with arrogance — is dangerous. Hubris makes one pursue a policy contrary to self-interest and one’s very survival. Lango subregion has a population of 3 million people. It was formerly an opposition stronghold but the population has shifted their allegiance to the NRM — something that shouldn’t be taken lightly or treated with a cavalier attitude. It would be the height of foolishness to slap the people of the Lango region in the face by not addressing their core demand: construct the Apac-Lira road — just don’t talk about it or read about it during hollow budget speeches. I don’t envy the person who will have to explain to the people of Lango how the government sees that it’s more urgent to build roads in Congo and leave the hardworking taxpayers in Lango stuck in mud and muck.
Unfortunately for us in Lango, we now lack bold legislators in the mold of the late Dr. Yefusa Okullu Epak, Ben Wacha, Adoko Nekyon et al. who convinced the government of the fierce urgency of now. You might recall that it was the Honorable Okullu Epak who moved the motion in parliament to stop the archaic and barbaric graduated tax collection.
In closing, I offer a second Lango proverb. This one says ipito aweno, ipito gweno. This means that, as you tend to the well-being of strangers, don’t forget to tend to the welfare of your children too. The writing on the wall is clear and unequivocal: Uganda First!