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A visit to the world of the dead

I last had such a dream about three years ago. I had died, that way I was able to rub shoulders with the earth’s mighty and great that had earlier passed on. Among the dead, life’s conversations seemed to continue. But now they were all stripped of their worldly powers.

Last week, I dosed off while reading Oscar Wilde’s essay ‘The Critic as Artist’. I ended up with the dead, in a world that had hardly moved on from its previous. Surprisingly, or not, they all had their full bodies – including Ben Kiwanuka and Patrice Lumumba.

Ben was still the lawyer that hardly kept quiet when he felt he had to say something. He was standing beside Idi Amin when I entered the dead’s cafeteria, demanding to know where his remains were put. Amin, obviously taunted enough, looked to the ground as he muttered, ‘Ben, won’t we let that pass? I was also unceremoniously buried in Saudi Arabia completely and also. Me, the Conqueror of the British Empire!’ 

Amin, turning his face up to Ben, whose toothbrush moustache was now standing, continued: ‘I thought you were now concerned about more recent events back home. Your house was razed. Nothing remained but a parking yard. Even if you had been buried there, your bones wouldn’t have rested. Thanks to your son’.

‘Stop it, Amin! Just answer what I asked you,’ Ben thundered. Amin smiled, picked his accordion and moved to the gardens. Obote had managed to outwit Kibirige Ssebunya and gotten away with the Uganda Waragi bottle. He came in sipping and chanting, ‘everywhere, UPChi; everybody, UPChi…’

Ben turned to Obote and laughed as he quipped, ‘Me and UPC have a lot in common’. ‘What is that you share with my great party?’ Obote asked with a smile that brought out the beautiful space in his teeth. Still laughing, Ben answered: ‘we are both dead but not buried’.

Obote put his bottle down, but near enough to be monitored. His sarcastic eloquence had been invited by Ben’s meanness. Besides, near each other, friendship was a stranger. Obote cleared his throat, ‘Ben, except if you have also become emmome, you must be following what’s going on in Uganda with your DP. You are lucky you have no grave, you would be turning in there all the time’.

Ben picked his rosary and left, walking past the big tree in the gardens where Amin was now playing his accordion to new arrivals that included Arap Moi.

Moi was in the company of Jomo Kenyatta who had picked him from the rear gate through which he came in. He seemed uneasy and restless. On Kenyatta’s advice, they had avoided the main gate, where Dr Ouko had camped for years in waiting for him. The main gate was very busy and congested, both by new entrants and the angry dead that still had issues to score with the living.

So, they sat here waiting for specific people. Among the new entrants, I saw a young gospel musician arriving from Kigali. His legs were broken! I recalled that, back in earth news, this happened as he climbed up to hang himself – which is how he met his miraculous death, just like Ouko had shot and set himself ablaze. Death is infinitely creative!

Kayiira was still seated here, in whispers with Nebanda, Ayume, Kirumira, Abiriga, Kagezi, Kifeefe, Kaweesi, and a couple of Muslim clerics. Whatever they were saying, my ears missed; as my attention was on the bullet wounds some kept as flesh evidence.

At the main gate, those arriving from black Africa were rather younger than others from Europe, America, Australia, and Asia. I overheard Jesus telling his father that He wanted to come back to earth and correct the impression often given at funerals that God was responsible for having ‘called’ everyone that died. Otherwise, the world was about to accuse Him of racism.

A group of new arrivals from Somalia had come in with a petition to God, asking if indeed they had been killed in His name and if He was to reward their killers. Behind them was a group of Christians who had died of poverty. They wanted to confirm if He had received their offerings and what He had done with them. Were the Hummers, Bentleys, Range Rovers, and V8s bought from their sacrifices on his behalf? And the mansions? Was He that pompous and indifferent to the plight of His followers?

Jesus was bitter. ‘Did you read what I used to say to the Pharisees?’ He asked. ‘Is there any part of the Bible that stops you from demanding for accountability for what you offer?’ The petitioners went silent. He continued, ‘Isn’t it written in Matthew 24:4 that I said “Many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Messiah’, and will deceive many”’?

It’s at this point that Satan interrupted their conversation, also protesting that he was tired of being used as an excuse. He was carrying a rope, threatening to hang himself. I can’t recall who pleaded with him not to, though I imagine the economic value of his existence.

Away from the main house, Nyerere, Sankara, Steve Biko, Sobukwe, Kimathi, Nkrumah and Mandela spent most of their time by the river at the south end. There they could easily disguise their tears. They mostly preferred to listen to news from Ghana, Botswana, Namibia, and Senegal. Feelings about Tanzania were now mixed.

Mandela was particularly low. He had just seen another picture of an African ‘foreigner’ being stoned in his country. The victim was from one of those African countries where ANCs guerrilla training bases were.

I woke up panting, wondering why these afterlife dreams again! But, as the indecorous African proverb warns; when you go to bed with an itchy behind, you are likely to wake up with smelly hands. 

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The author is a teacher of philosophy. This post originally appeared on observer.ug

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Written by Jimmy Spire Ssentongo

The author is a teacher of philosophy

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