By DELOS DELOMERA
Facebook Post: https://www.facebook.com/delos.delomera/posts/10159036522108684
I remember those Panda-Gari days vividly, it was scary at first but imagine we got used to it eventually.
I was a very little boy then and the thing that always made me tremble was the thought of them taking my big brother who was then around S1 or S2.I loved him so much because my Dad and Mum were rarely around and so I used to sleep with him, still remember how when he delayed to come home in the evenings I would spend the while stressing on how I would sleep at night.
You see we have a far-off shamba my mum went to weekly (or once in two weeks around start of school).
As for Dad,he got into the cattle trade after losing his job,he would go for months on end to buy cows in Lango and Ankore which he supplemented with ours in the village and delivered to the Uganda Meat Packers.Remember there were no mobile phones and so once someone’s gone they are gone and the only assurance you have of them ever surfacing again is that they tapped your cheeks and told you they will be back very soon.
Communication was by radio call or telegram at the nearest Post office or Police post from where you would be looked for to come and receive your message(sounds like a gamble now but was the reality of life then).
I remember this because when another brother of mine got knocked by a car while crossing the road with my sis,it was so difficult to get in touch with any adult. The acting head of our family was my brother then in S1 or S2.
Then come panda gari,I think it used to happen every week, I can just remember a loud noise made by a hard kick to the door,kabooom!,that would scare us into waking up to only see armed men in military fatigues roaming all over the house, I still remember the sound of their boots.My brother would jump out of bed run around telling them Dad and Mum are not around and he’s the adult plus also making sure my sisters were not being harassed or molested in their bedroom. He also had to ensure the military men picked nothing from the house as some had the habit of carrying with them things like radios and watches which back then were very priced possessions.
This happened several times and I still remember crying and shaking with fear under the sky blue bed sheets I shared with my big brother. With time we had to get used,panda gari used to take place on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays,I can’t quite recall.
Comfort for me began when a certain kind faced soldier noticed how scared I always was and would come back to the bedroom to tell me not to worry my brother will be back. On those days my brother always slept with a shirt on the bed post ready to dress up and go as any delay would earn you a hit with the gun butt.
One day my uncle, the last born in my Dad’s family, came and found my brother had been taken and decided to start living with us, uncle is not that much older than my brother, he had just started his new job as a forklift driver with Uganda Breweries. Uncle’s coming saved my brother those weekly trips on the truck.
I remember uncle always jumping out of bed handing me his Oris watch and telling me to keep it till he comes back.That day was always the slowest and most stressful day of the week.
I do not know much about Amin’s time apart from the stories and movies some of which are too fictitious to believe and that is part of the problem for some of us. And also the time, 8 years compared to the 35 plus years in which most if not all of us have gone through all the bad treatment people talk about during Amin’s time so much so that killings have become a normalcy. We watch the beatings and killings in broad daylight and even on Telly as if it is supposed to happen. Later on the killers jump on media to talk about how they were arrested at a road block and decided to go to the bush!
I find this very ridiculous because, where are we supposed to go then after being surrounded at 7 by people you clearly do not know and neither do they know you,off to a jail cell for no reason but to instill fear in young people so as to secure the (mis)fortunes of a backward, insecure, ignorant and flawed family?
Where should we go if they went to the bush for shit?
I don’t know of any friend who has lived in Uganda and has never been mistreated by the forces. I don’t know which one of my own stories of being beaten and later thrown in a cell having my mind clouded with doing something like what Samson did in the Bible.
I remember my left knee being hit with an AK47 rifle 17 times and later being beaten because I can’t stand up to walk,I remember the commanding officer drawing the bayonet and wanting to stab me because I mentioned having to talk to my lawyer before signing anything (remember that S1 brother of mine during panda gari? he is now a senior counsel .Glory to God).
I don’t know how many of my friends’ stories I can tell. Stories we tell each other in consolation and laugh about. That is how normal this nonsense has become to us.
Stories like my friend Ande’s, a man from Masaba land whose only two crimes are a very insecure “soldier ” coming to live next to the home their late father left for them and being light skinned. On a day the military man had a party at his house his guards who were roaming around the area decided to pick Ande at 9,throw him into a car boot drive him around and drop him at a torture chamber for 3 days claiming he is a Rwandese spying on their boss. Ande who could not talk, tortured and lifeless was dumped by the road side at Solent Avenue, Silver Springs,only to be identified by a passerby who knew him and had heard about his disappearance from his big brother. BARBARIANS!
What can I say?Where should we go?
And NOW the abductions and murders and that they are supposed to become normal too?
The drones, the balaclava masked gun wielding kanyamas. These ones even seem to be more cowardly than the panda gari ones.
These are the reasons some people do not believe the Amin and Obote stories anymore.
We have seen it all ,we have all tasted it and it keeps getting worse yet we should learn to live with it.