OPINION: For centuries of progressive civilisation, the art of honouring the dead through naming structures after them has always been the peak of importance. For as long as the structure after which someone is named exists, that person shall never be wiped from history. Some people have gone as far as buying such honours. That simply implies that they cannot achieve them!
In Uganda, the culture of naming things after people came with the age of colonialism. The white foreigners taught this to our ancestors by naming structures in Uganda after themselves. Somehow, this will be a long standing reminder of the idealism of racial superiority. Because, for some reason, things are still named after those white oppressors.
Walking through Kampala, one will see that there are very many roads named after the white imperialists. Buildings as well! History alone can always remind us in detail, of the un-glorifying days of colonialism. The days in which we lost our dignity and were marked inferior. Over the decades, that has come to change. Children today are taught that no creature is mightier than another. So, the days of racial superiority are behind us.
The government has decided to honor the former Mayor of Kampala, late John Ssebaana Kizito with a street named after him. With all that he achieved for this country, he deserves it. Nevertheless, it is a pity the government had to choose Nakivubo road instead of DE Winton road (just saying)!
With all the many roads named by the colonial self-imposed government, they chose one with a local name. First, the public is very much accustomed to referring to the road by its original name. Second, much as Ssebaana was esteemed, people will be very reluctant to adopt the new name. Third, there are many other roads without names. Fourth, there are many roads/streets within the centre of the Capitol named after foreigners.
People are not always happy about unnecessary changes. After one has known Nakivubo road by that name, one’s mind might reject the name Ssebaana Kizito road. It will be the case for people to refer to Ssebaana Kizito road as Nakivubo road ten years after it has been changed. The argument here is against changing the names that are already cherished.
There are many roads, with new constructions under way, that aren’t named after prominent Ugandan figures. Giving unnamed roads as honours to significant people would be very much more appreciated than having to make uncalled for changes.
Another important fact is the roads that were named after people that we are not familiar with. It is those names that should be changed. Having roads/streets named after foreigners implies that we as a community applaud their work in our country. It doesn’t matter if a white man led this country to independence, we cannot prioritise a foreigner over a Ugandan.
It comes to show that even after over fifty years of independence from the whites, we are still in admiration of them. Much as we have made progress towards cultural reinvention, the government will always make two steps back. If we are to honour the good of the evil in our past, having our former colonial masters’ language as the official language is enough to recognize the good they did for the country.
Besides the language and the roads/streets that I’m ranting about, there are geographical features named after foreigners. Lakes such as Victoria (formerly known as Nalubaale), Edward and George are things that hail foreign sovereignty. It probably would’ve been better to change Lake Victoria’s name to Lake Ssebaana. That sends a better message of independence than the Kololo ceremonies held every 9th of October.
My argument isn’t against naming a road after Ssebaana or any other Ugandan figure, it is against changing a valued local name in spite of the many foreign named features in the country. Recognizing the acclaimed Ugandans with names to long standing structures is progress to reinvention. Nonetheless, having those names replace locally named features with so many foreign named things takes us back to where we started. Hence, stagnant progress!