Dar es Salaam, 25 September, 2036.
Today you turn 18, which is surprising because it feels like yesterday when your mum and I received you in our arms. It was a chilly September afternoon at the hospital in Nairobi. And here you were: crying, legs kicking and eyes darting. You were a product of the times, indeed!
Your 18th Birthday is special to me in many ways. I tend to think myself superstitious but there’s something about the years that end in “…6”. 2036. 2016. 2006. 1966. That your 18th falls in one such year has caused me to reflect a bit on life.
I say “reflect” because 18 years ago few would have imagined the events that would change the course of our country…for good.
Your generation is perhaps too young to remember the events that September afternoon when drama crossed the street from the (former) national theatre and entered the National Assembly, with the army in tow!
For many observers, the country had travelled back in time to 1966…walking past 1986 almost in a hurry!
To the few who could read the tea leaves, this was not a march (military style!) into the past, but a sign of things to come. Indeed it wasn’t long…
If only they had looked at 1966, not for what had transpired then in Uganda, but a book title, “A Man of the People” that came out the same year. In it the author, now long dead, would quip:
“No. the people had nothing to do with the fall of our Government. What happened was simply that unruly mobs and private armies having tasted blood and power during the elections had got out of hand and ruined their masters and employers.”
And, son, that partly explains your birth in a neighbouring country.
But things are different now. Next year you will go to the ballot for the first time. You will also head to the university. While you will be less assured of who will win the election, you will at least know a job awaits at the end of your university education. For your dad’s generation, the opposite was true.
Your generation is dealing with new challenges altogether. But danger still lurks in the background. We were once hopeful too, assured we had fallen one last time, and going forward it would be steady progress. It wasn’t. The year should have been 2006. But we hesitated. Contemplated. Pontificated. Stalled.
Your generation has the chance to right these wrongs. And you are now old enough to participate in that process.
I trust you know better now that we did those many years ago.