African beauty displayed in this statue
African beauty displayed in this statue

As the end of the year draws near and the death of former President of Uganda, Milton Obote passes, it brings back memories. Memories of a life I was meant to live in my Dad’s home country and all the loved ones lost in the wars which have ravaged Uganda.

I was born August 12, 1972 in Kitchener, Waterloo, Canada. My Dad was doing his PhD in biology and zoology on a Commonwealth scholarship at the University of Waterloo, and my Mom, who is originally from St.Vincent and the Grenadines, had moved from Toronto. The plan was after my father’s graduation my family would move to Kampala, Uganda where Dr. Sam Kakonge would teach at Makerere University. I would grow up and receive the same kind of education a solid middle class African girl would and most likely only return to Canada to study abroad.

My Dad became a PhD, his wife Yvette became my Mom, and all three of us left Canada to make Uganda our home in September, 1972. Now, at the age of 33, I still have the scar from the booster shot I received in Uganda on my upper left arm.

That turned out to be the first of the scars left. My Uncle John was head of the youth party for the Uganda People’s Congress, Obote’s party. As former President Idi Amin overthrew Obote in a coup d’état, Uncle John went missing.

My Dad has told me with passion many times over the years how much he loved his brother John. He quickly was involved in searching for his brother.

My Mom tells me that one of my Dad’s sisters came to the house we were living in. This was a time when the former British colonialists influence was still on Uganda and milk was brought to your door. My Dad’s sister did not bring milk, but instead a message that the police were looking for my Dad and if we didn’t get out of the country fast, he may go “missing” as well.

This is where I became a refugee to a country where I was a citizen. My Mom left behind many precious things like her wedding dress in Uganda, but with me tucked in her arms we returned to Canada after five months of being gone. My Dad followed later on as he needed to tend to his work situation.

Like so many Ugandans, Uncle John was never found. Over the years my Dad has also lost family members from more than just Amin, but from AIDS.

I returned to Uganda in September, 1996 almost 25 years after my first visit. President Yoweri Museveni is presently in power and the weekend radio shows call the names of those dead, mostly from AIDS.

My family grew; I have a younger brother and sister in that order. They were both born in Toronto, did their education mainly in Toronto and work in Toronto. My parents divorced when I was 15, 1987, but they remain good friends as my Dad often reminds me how other divorced couples bicker. If only the once unified continent of Africa could get along so well.

War is what plagues Uganda. When I was there from 1996 to 1997, I stayed and worked mostly in Kampala which is a bustling city, but many of the buildings at the time show signs of wear. In my trip there, I found the potholes in the road to one of the most dangerous daily encounters.

My Dad, once he returned to Canada worked mainly for the government. Now he delivers The Toronto Star and owns six houses in downtown Toronto which he renovates. He has not been back to Uganda, but returning is part of his retirement plan, where he would like to restore his old family home in Hoima, Uganda in a village near Rwanda. I saw that home when I was in Uganda in 1997 – he has a lot of work to do.

Would I go back to Africa? With the beat of my heart I would, however my heart also beats for Canada and all it has to offer. My Mom, my Dad, my Aunt and my country kept me safe from Dictator Idi Amin. As another year passes, and old Ugandan leaders die, the best I hope to do is have a peaceful and productive life in my native land.