This is an issue that mainly affects Ugandans in the diaspora. At the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1990’s here in London, maybe one body a week was being repatriated. To their credit, a lot of organisations sprung to help, including my own. But people are now questioning whether this time-honoured practice should continue for three reasons:
1. Funeral fatigue has set in. Much as people try to help, the need problem is so relentless.
2. In the UK, the legal loophole we used to get money from the social security system to help in the repatriation has been closed now, so family and well-wishers have to bear the cost.
3. Many children have now grown up in the UK. We now have second and even third generation Ugandans and a good number, like mine, have no connection whatsoever with Uganda. It is this generation that argues against repatriation of bodies, in fact they assert openly that they would never allow their mother or father to be buried in a foreign country where they can not visit the grave. The death of their parents alienates them even more and more from Uganda.
On the weekend we had a meeting about the issue and I would appreciate comments from Ugandans in the diaspora who have had to deal with this issue of repatriation.
On a humorous and less sombre note, one person who attended the meeting tried to lighten up the conversation. He told a story of a Ugandan couple, both devout catholics, who went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.The wife had usually been a shrew and a bully. Unfortunately, the wife died in Jerusalem and the husband began the process of repatriating her body to Uganda. The travel agents quoted to him $10,000, an amount he could hardly afford. He went to the priest to get advise. The priest told him:
“But why do you want to repatriate her body to Uganda when you can bury her here in the holy place? And it will cost you only $200 . You can bury her in the cemetery of my church”.
The man pondered for a while and then :
Husband: Father, thank you, but I think I will repatriate her to Uganda.
Priest: But why when it is going to cost you a lot of money. You would be pleased for her to be buried in the holy land would you not?
Husband: Father, many years ago, a man died and was buried here and a few days later, he rose from the grave. I DON’T WANT TO TAKE THAT RISK!!!!