Rarely do Ugandans attend burials for the right reasons…
In Uganda, death can never be abrupt, at least the link will be with how the person lived their last days. “I saw the way she laughed at me. It wasn’t the usual laughter. She didn’t even ask for transport money. Maybe she knew she was going,” the boyfriend will say.
Judgement day: When people die, there are things that are so typical of Ugandan funerals; the mourning style, the drunkards and, of course, those who will be judging the dead.
- The first thing they ask is, “What did he die of?”
Once they get a response, they will still insist; “naye nekali kabadeemu” to mean; “the man also had HIV/Aids.” In Uganda, a man cannot just die. It’s either HIV/Aids or witchcraft. The rest doesn’t count. And if the deceased was an Opposition politician, they will insist that they were poisoned. Only three things can kill a man in Uganda.
- Some drunkard shows up and begins to spill the secrets of everyone present
He pretends to be drunk but keeps on telling those who have bleached to rethink their life, and will also reveal the DNA results of some people present. Later, you realise that there is always a mafia behind this. The mafia’s role is to keep supplying this drunkard with more alcohol.
- People begin making rare promises to the widow and the children
“We shall sponsor the kids all through school. We shall complete the unfinished house. We shall pay off all the debts.” It’s akin to the excitement that takes over people when they are pledging at wedding meetings. Just as you struggle with people to fulfill their wedding pledges, it is the same with funeral pledges. You soon learn that what people say and what they are capable of doing are two different things.
- New children of the deceased pop up at the funeral
Regardless of how straight a man’s life was, you cannot be sure until his funeral rites are done. You must always suspect that there’s always some woman, some other kids that he has not announced to anyone. These kids only get to show up at the funeral.
- The mourners pretend like life has come to an end
It is not a Ugandan funeral unless there is some wild person wailing; “banange how have you left us? The devil is a liar. Who will feed me anymore?” It’s the art and science of mourning in Uganda.
- There is always that one or two mourners who speak of the events before the person’s death was announced
They narrate those events that make you certainly believe it was not just a coincidence. “Imagine I woke up in the morning without energy. As I lifted the glass, it got out of my hands and shattered. Little did I know that my Hajjat was going. The glass was just announcing her exit.” In Uganda, death can never be abrupt, at least the link will be with how the person lived their last days. “I saw the way she laughed at me. It wasn’t the usual laughter. She didn’t even ask for transport money. Maybe she knew she was going,” the boyfriend will tell the other mourners.
- Half of those who come for the burial have simply come to rate the countryside home of the deceased or the relatives of the deceased
Rarely do Ugandans attend burials for the right reasons. Some are simply there to confirm that indeed the great lion is gone. Most are simply there to rate whether someone’s life in the city matched their life in the village. Workmates will show up just to see whether their boss at work has done anything substantial in his village. The aftermath will be full of stories. “Can you imagine this man has been shutting down bars in Bugolobi, but his coffin couldn’t even fit in their village house?”
As such, in Uganda, before you even construct a house in the city, the expectation is that you must have a super home in the countryside. Half of those at the burial are simply there to judge and review your countryside life. But of what use are these village houses? Of what use is a house if you rarely sleep in it? Anyway, you don’t have to question things. We simply must do things to avoid the public comments.
- Someone celebrates the death. For many in Uganda, death is a punishment
If you’ve been a rich man, it’s how the poor get their revenge. If you had a big fence in the neighbourhood, many will flock in for the vigil just to confirm what had always been hidden in this big house. Some will intentionally soil the house to avenge for all the days they lacked the opportunity to get in. Death in Uganda is also about settling scores. If I couldn’t abuse you while you were alive, at least I will abuse your relatives at the funeral while pretending to offer help.
- There’s always that other sober group that’s lost in deep reflection
Suddenly it hits them that we are all mortal, that death awaits us all. These ones will assure everyone that going forward they will be doing better with their lives. Only to return to Kampala and drive their Subarus at high speeds through the potholes of Najjera.
- Not giving condolence money is a crime
If a condolence list is passing around and you claim not to have any condolence money, all eyes will look at you in disbelief. And for those who give in money, they expect to be announced. And on the day of the burial, there will always be some random politician who turns up and converts the funeral into a campaigning platform. This politician will always have no idea of the deceased, but well, it’s all for the votes.
And finally, it’s about the numbers, there will always be someone counting how many cars, how many people, how many important fellows showed up for the burial.
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