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Your mail: Why are Ugandans always happy?

Despite facing challenges such as bad governance and unfair taxation, Ugandans have mastered the art of finding joy in the midst of adversity.

Now, while Uganda might not be topping the World Happiness Report (yet!), there is no denying a certain infectious cheer that permeates the air.

Have you ever wondered what makes Uganda and Kampala a happy city? It is weird how happy Ugandans can be from the bustling marketplaces to lively boda-boda stages, the spirit of joy is infectious.  

Step into any marketplace in Uganda and you will be greeted by a chorus of laughter and beaming smiles. Whether it is bargaining for goods or sharing juicy gossip, the market ladies know how to keep the mood light, no matter the situation.

Despite these moments of levity, Uganda faces its fair share of challenges, from corrupt governance, bad roads, inappropriate policies to burdensome taxes. Yet, somehow, Ugandans manage to maintain their cheerful disposition. Is it sheer resilience, or is there something deeper at play? Is this some kind of national superpower?

When we delve into the realm of mental health, the picture becomes clearer. Statistics reveal that a staggering 14 million Ugandans are grappling with mental illness. However, rather than succumbing to despair, many choose to confront their struggles with a smile on their face. It is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of positivity in the face of adversity.

However, it is important to remember that happiness and mental health aren’t always opposites. Finding humour in everyday life, staying connected to the community, and maintaining a positive outlook can actually be coping mechanisms for dealing with the full-time stress of being Ugandan.

So, what are the benefits of this national case of the giggles? Well, for starters, happiness is good for you. It boosts your immune system, reduces stress, and makes you a more pleasant person to be around (trust us, nobody wants a grumpy boda rider).

Plus, a happy population creates a more vibrant and welcoming atmosphere, which is excellent for tourism because who would not want to visit a country with million-dollar rats? Or the world’s most expensive road? So, what do you think the secret to Uganda’s abnormally happy citizens is? Sharing a laugh over a shared struggle, that is the Ugandan way.

Mark Sseggirinya,
Kampala.

Ugandans don’t care about their country

Many Ugandans know the sorry state of some of our roads. Unfortunately, many people cannot put our leaders to task on such a matter. Instead, they run to social media platforms to rant.

Then comes our ‘opposition’ politicians who in normal circumstances are the alternative government in waiting. Many of these politicians have been found to mirror exactly what they speak against. For example, abuse of power in their own parties and the misuse of taxpayers’ money through unfair allocations as reported in the recent social media parliamentary exhibition.

Then there is the issue of military officers engaging in politics. The public is mute on senior military officers involving themselves in political campaigns. We have accommodated this unconstitutional act in the beginning and should not complain in the end when it is out of hand when everyone in the security forces goes on the campaign trail. 

Ugandans would rather sweep the major things that affect them under the carpet and complain in whispers. We negotiate less in the market and curse everyone along the road when we are cheated in the purchase.

However, the day we are affected personally, we shall simply say, “we knew these things but had nothing to do about them!”

Andrew Kasumba,
Kampala.

Uphold Luzira prison legacy

In February 2024, the Ugandan public was rocked by news of plans to relocate Luzira maximum prison and replace it with a five-star hotel.

This proposal sparked widespread debate, prompting reflection on the historical and cultural importance of Luzira prison and its potential transformation.

Luzira prison holds a significant place in Uganda’s history, dating back to the colonial era and bearing witness to the complexities of post-independence governance. As a symbol of both oppression and resilience, Luzira’s story is deeply intertwined with the nation’s narrative.

Over the decades, Luzira has earned a notorious reputation as a maximum-security prison, instilling a sense of fear and apprehension among Ugandans. This fear, rooted in historical context and the experiences of those familiar with Luzira, forms a crucial part of its legacy.

The proposed demolition of Luzira prison threatens to sever a tangible link to Uganda’s diverse history. Converting this space into a leisure and hospitality destination risks sacrificing an essential piece of our heritage. Instead, we advocate for the preservation and repurposing of Luzira as a museum — a beacon of knowledge chronicling Uganda’s journey from colonialism to the present day.

Around the world, similar facilities have been successfully repurposed for educational and cultural purposes. For instance, in South Africa, former prisons now stand as poignant reminders of human experiences and serve as educational landmarks.

Preserving Luzira prison as a museum is not merely an act of conservation but an investment in national education. It would serve as a testament to Uganda’s resilience, highlighting the facility’s role in shaping the lives of its inhabitants. Luzira’s story — from its impact on individuals to the transformation of lawbreakers into law-abiding citizens — holds intrinsic value for Uganda and the global community.

By choosing preservation over destruction, we honour Luzira prison as a site of historical significance, inviting the world to witness its role in shaping our collective identity. Let us embrace our history, draw lessons from it, and ensure that Luzira becomes a beacon of enlightenment for generations to come.

Mathias Rukuba,
rukuba17m@gmail.com

We need to combat teenage pregnancy

Teenage pregnancy continues to present significant challenges in Uganda, affecting the health of both the mother and the child. Effects include increased chances of pregnancy-related high blood pressure, premature birth and low birth weight, just to mention a few.

Despite ongoing efforts to tackle the problem, the prevalence of teenage pregnancy persists. There is a need for a deeper insight into its underlying causes and implementing effective strategies for prevention and support.  

Uganda has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) reported that nearly one in four Ugandan women has given birth by the age of 18.

Uganda grapples with unique socio-economic and cultural factors that contribute to high rates of teenage pregnancy. Factors such as limited access to comprehensive sexual education, early marriage, poverty, and gender inequality are among the primary drivers fueling this phenomenon.

In many communities, entrenched traditional norms and practices perpetuate harmful attitudes towards adolescent sexuality, resulting in early pregnancies and restricting reproductive choices for young girls.

Efforts to combat teenage pregnancy in Uganda must target the underlying causes of the issue through comprehensive approaches that empower young people with knowledge, skills and resources. This entails promoting access to sexual and reproductive health services, integrating age-appropriate sexuality education into school curricula, and challenging detrimental gender norms that perpetuate unequal power dynamics.

The repercussions of teenage pregnancy extend beyond the individual, impacting both the health and educational outcomes of young mothers.

Adolescent girls who experience pregnancy face heightened risks of maternal complications, including obstetric fistula, preterm birth and maternal mortality. Furthermore, pregnancy often necessitates the abandonment of education, depriving girls of opportunities for academic advancement and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Community involvement plays a pivotal role in addressing teenage pregnancy by facilitating dialogue, dispelling stigma, and offering assistance to young mothers.

Government policies and programs are instrumental in tackling teenage pregnancy in Uganda. Strengthening reproductive health services, enforcing legislation against child marriage and sexual violence, and investing in girls’ education are integral to addressing this issue.

Mercy Akankunda,
mercyakankunda124@gmail.com

letters@observer.ug

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