Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Two recordings 

In this post, two episodes from African history of the early twentieth century are reproduced from Pottekkatt’s book Kappirikalude Nattil. Though we are quite unfamiliar with the recordings, we can take a couple of lessons from them.

Pottekkatt finished his Kenya tour and he was on his way to Uganda. He embarked on a ship SS Usago and crossed the Victoria Lake. It’s the second largest fresh water lake but nobody uses its water. Infested with a kind of worms called “Billersia” which enter into the human body to thrive on, the Lake is scary as well. The islands in the lake are uninhabited. Flies named “Telsy” (also known as Tsetse) have made them a dreaded place by propagating a terrifying disease named “Sleeping Sickness”. A giant killer by itself, Sleeping Sickness had banished 1/3 rd of the population of Uganda. Scientists identified the virus “Tripenosome” which were carried by Telsy flies. They were inactive in the night-time and the ships had rearranged their schedule to move only during nights. 

Tripenosome lied dormant in the human-body for a long time.At the final stage when the disease became full-blown, its beyond treatment. The symptoms were very similar to Malaria , often resulting in wrong medication. “Tripenosome” attacked salivary glands first followed by human brain. And then they entered the vertebrae column causing paralysis. The patient turned a zombie at this stage. The control over the sensory organs was lost and the patient lied on his/her back with the knees folded upwards touching the neck. However, death did not happen even at this stage.The victim had to pull on for years together in this extremely pathetic posture until pneumonia took away the life.

Since treatment was not common for Sleeping Sickness, the Ugandan government was concentrating on the prevention part. The islands were condemned for human habitation and people were being evacuated even from the banks of the lake. The government cleared 35 lakh acres of vegetation just to keep Telsy flies at bay.

Sleeping Sickness is no more a scare in Africa these days. 

Marchal Mithouard

There is one more recording in Pottekkatt’s book and that is about history. In fact, Uganda’s history is not well-documented till the end of 19th century. 

The year was 1877 when Uganda was ruled by a Kabakka (king) named Muttesa. He was whimsical with a staunch belief in sorcery. Several human lives were sacrificed. Muttesa thought it would increase his longevity and strength. Surprisingly, the unpredictable king had welcomed the British missionaries. Not to be left behind, the Catholic missionaries from France too made a beeline to Uganda. The natural fall-out was an unstoppable war between the two factions. The English missionaries and their French counterparts took to weapons and fought against each other. Their new-found followers perished in the process.

There was yet another faction, the Ugandan Muslims who were hostile to both English and French missionaries. They were the progeny of Arabs who had an inherent dislike to the religious invasions. The civil unrest continued till the death of King Muttesa in 1884.His eldest son, Muvanka became the new Kabakka. He had a dream that a white man entering Uganda through the northern side of Victoria Lake would wrest power from him. Roughly at this time, the British Church had sent a Bishop, James Hanington and his itinerary through the northern side gave the King sleepless nights. The Bishop was brutally murdered. 

The new Kabakka was in fact an accumulation of oddities. He practiced sodomy and had kept a harem of young boys. The enthusiastic conversionists worked on the sly and  thirty two of the boys were converted to Christianity.  Muvanka was angered to no end. Death sentence was slapped on them and the boys were given 10 days to relinquish Christianity. Backed by the prodding of the Bishops, the boys refused to budge and Muvanka burnt all the thirty-two of them alive. The incident forged unity among the warring factions of Catholics and Protestants and they entered into a pact with the Muslims to fight the common enemy. Unable to withstand pressure, Muvanka had to flee for life to an islet named Sesse in Victoria Lake.

Unfortunately, things were back to square one in the absence of the King. A severe fight between Christians and Muslims followed. The Muslims managed to oust the Bishops and all Christians from Uganda. Not for long. The Christians came back next year with renewed vigor and recalled Muvanka from exile. He was made the King yet again. The Muslims were suppressed and the Christians had a free-run.

The Ugandan history did not end at this point. Muvanka was ousted again and he took refuge in a French colony named Bukoba. What's more, he was called back yet again by the British to overpower the elements of protests against them. Oddly enough, Muvanka turned against the British for some strange reason. The British had enough and banished Muvanka from the country. Muvanka did come back and joined the Sudanese soldiers as well as local war-lords to unleash a year-long covert war against the British. He was defeated in the end, was taken as POW and was exiled to Seychelles where he died in captivity in 1903.