Open Letter to Epolon YKM

By on August 20, 2018

Yoga noi Epolon YKM,

In my native tongue Ateso, epolon is an old man. I come from a lovely place named Serere where old people are treated like royalty; they are respected, treasured and accorded utmost honour. There are two ways one qualifies to become epolon. One becomes epolon by virtue of the grey hair on their head or, if they are bald like a few people I know, advanced age and display of immeasurable levels of wisdom and knowledge. Of course old age isn’t always synonymous with wisdom but the general rule is the older you are, the wiser and more knowledgeable you become.

One can also become epolon when they get a child. I always refer to my dad as ekapolon, (my old man) and so do all Iteso – at least those who see any worth in their culture.

I write this letter to you epolon Yoweri Kaguta Museveni with the hope that you will take time to read it or at least one of your handlers will read and pass the message onto you. The writer is not as important as the message so worry not, I am really a no-body. This letter may have been delivered by myself but I am confident it could have been written by any other young person in Uganda. In other words, this letter isn’t really my letter to you but rather our (the young people) letter to you.

We are living in a time that can best be described as a state of sadness. I don’t want to use words like apathy, crisis or upheaval because those will create a hint of animosity between you and I. So I will just say that I write this letter from a place of extreme sadness – the kind of sadness you feel when you lose something / someone close to you. No one can feel it with you, they can only commiserate and sympathise but really, they can not fathom how shattered your insides are.

As a person who has grown up largely in this regime, I have had the unfortunate privilege of watching what was a very bright future for the country slowly dim and turn into a bleak and almost uncertain future with one group of citizens (the powers that be) up against another group of citizens (the populace). There was a time when the hope for this country was bright and it sparkled like brand new chandelier in a Congolese Palace. Today, the hope is almost dying out and all this, I am afraid, is because your regime is hell bent on snuffing out whatever hope the young people have/had.

As we speak, it feels like the young people have been relegated to the back of the hall, their hopes and dreams shattered and their request for better governance, service delivery and human rights flashed down a toilet. Every time a young person opens their mouth to say a word, they are construed to be speaking against the establishment. Every time a young person lifts their finger, it is assumed that they want to hurt the establishment. Every time a young person breathes, the assumption is they are breathing in oxygen of defiance. Where did this paranoia come from? How did we get here Epolon? Is it not possible that these young people could actually just be saddened by the state of affairs so much that it would be imprudent for them to just sit down and not say a thing? Are these young people not speaking from a place of genuine disappointment and sorrow?

I mean when several women are brutally murdered in a short spell, surely, you can understand young people marching the streets and demanding answers. When the constitution is violated, I am sure you can understand young people walking the streets to seek answers. When kidnappings happen all over the place and young people speak up, you can understand where they are coming from, right? When strange taxes are introduced, again, I am sure you would understand when young people are angered and thus demand answers. And when young politicians are arrested and tortured, it would be strange for young people to just sit down like nothing happened. So essentially, everything that the young people are clamoring for is not entirely from a place of misdirection or confusion. The young people are quite unhappy with the state of affairs.

And yet with all this happening, you continue to refer to these young people as Bazukulu – not with endearment and warmth as one would expect, but rather with a condescending and patronizing attitude. These young people you often refer to with disdain, the ones you are supercilious to, these are the people who are working their behinds off to put food on tables around the nation. They are thrust into the harshness of the world at a very young age because the competition today does not give anyone time to slowly grow into an adult. These young people are paying taxes left, right and center to make sure you and the rest of the regime can have fuel in your cars, food in your bellies, flights on your itinerary and shillings in your bank accounts. It is these young people going across borders to try and sell their country, all its problems and shortcomings notwithstanding. These young people are the ones who stand up and promote their country albeit with difficulty and struggle. It is these young people who struggle to put children through schools that are charging an arm and a leg. These are the people who are constantly developing scientific solutions to problems like Malaria, Cancer, HIV/AIDs and other forms of illnesses. It is these young people who are constantly connecting with the rest of the world to find solutions to the agricultural problems Uganda is facing. It is also these young people who are always on their knees asking God to redeem the nation.

It is fairly possible that you do not have very many young people around you and therefore you can not be blamed for having this kind of attitude towards the young people. However, could you at least stop referring to them with the derision and scorn you very comfortably and often use? Is it possible that you can look at these young people through the eyes of a parent who respects his son because that is the only way his son will learn to respect others? Is it possible that you can treat the young people like the hardworking citizens they are?

I write this letter not to demand much – I will admit there are about 294 things I would love to demand for. It would take exactly one thousand nine hundred eighty six minutes for me to go through all of them. So I will just let that slide. Today, I write this letter to request that you think about a time when you, epolon, will not be around and these young people have taken over the family reins. Do you suppose they will speak well of their father? Do you reckon they will put up a statue of their epolon in the family courtyard and have fireplace conversations about how the old man was such a wonderful man? Do you think they will some day look back and smile at this regime? Or do you worry that they might want to erase this regime from history books, just so the future generations do not read about the horror? Do you worry that maybe, just maybe, when you are no longer around these young people will witch-hunt your surviving friends and demand answers to questions only you could have answered? Do you not worry that a time will come when these young people will pour all forms of filthy brew all over you grave as they drink and toast to your demise? Does it not bother you that when these young people feel represented by someone like Bobi Wine and then he goes missing they feel empty, for one of their own is AWOL? That young man Bobi Wine is an inspiration to many of these young people. Don’t you suppose one or two of these young people now feel lost, confused and saddened because their mentor, friend, hero, father, husband and MP is unfairly incarcerated?

Like I said, I am not here to demand one thing or another but just to request that you take a moment one of these evenings, sit by the verandah of your home in Rwakitura, stare into the sunset and think long and hard about some of these things. Epolon, someone needs to look after you when you can no longer get around easily in a presidential convoy. Someone needs to stand guard at your gate so that strangers don’t stroll into your house and loot it. I wonder who will do that, if the young people you should be mentoring are not at peace. A time is coming when you will need these young people by your side because they will no longer be young people but the only people you have left. Think long and hard about that.

Otherwise, greetings to the family and don’t forget to say your prayers before bed tonight.

“… the young people are the ones who most quickly identify with the struggle and the necessity to eliminate the evil conditions that exist.” ― Malcolm X

a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
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Beewol – The Talkative Rocker

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