A Makerere University student, one Samuel Mugarura aka Falcao, last week unleashed onto the Ugandan scene an ‘explosive’ concoction hitherto known as ‘sugar spray’ that he says is made from ‘domestic ingredients’ that include sugar, salt and food colour.
Mugarura even went ahead and displayed how his spray, probably inappropriately called ‘IED’, works, and also said he is planning to make a ‘smoke bomb’ and further, even make Uganda a ‘nuclear country’!
“My dream is to make Uganda a nuclear country just like other countries e.g. South Korea, Russia, among others. So, its high time government took a lead in Africa as a nuclear country by supporting my nuclear project,” Mugarura was quoted as saying by the media.
However, since he went public about his innovations, Mugarura, a 23-year old third year Bachelor of Sciences student majoring in Chemistry has been threatened with arrest by the police, with spokesperson Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi seeming to suggest that the student’s innovations attract criminal sanction.
Unfortunately, despite admitting that making ‘tear gas’ is simple, Mugarura’s lecturers and other resource persons at the university have also denied any relationship with the youthful innovator’s ideas, with Prof Muhammad Ntale, a former head of the Chemistry Department at Makerere University quoted by the media as saying that ‘Mugarura could be out for cheap popularity’ or ‘doing such things on his own’.
Of course, it is not uncommon for ‘heroes to be denied their rightful positions in their own societies’ and the Bible ably links us to the circumstances which Ugandans can make reference to in order to understand the stance taken by our police force and the academia in respect to Mugarura’s innovations, which have since become a source of controversy. ‘A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house’, the Holy Book quotes Jesus saying in Mark 6:4.
Now, if my memory serves me well, President Yoweri Museveni has been at the forefront of advocating for scientific innovation in Uganda. And some of his efforts in that direction have seen billions being splashed on innovations by students working in conjunction with their lecturers, including the ‘innovation of the Kiira EV car and the ‘Kayoola 1’ bus. Indeed, against such a background President Museveni’s enthusiasm for scientific innovation as a pedestal for development and the attainment of a middle-income status in Uganda by 2021 should not be lost on the security forces.
And, lest I forget, since campaigns for presidency begun in earnest last year, the Uganda Police Force used loads of tear gas to disperse opposition supporters attending rallies, mostly those addressed by Dr Kizza Besigye across the country. Obviously, that tear gas was not manufactured in Uganda, something that presupposes that millions of dollars were spent on getting it into the country. And this is where Mugarura’s innovation of ‘sugar spray’ should be recognized as a handy tool that can, as an alternative, constructively help police shift from using imported tear gas that is laced with pepper, a concoction which when used, inadvertently affects both the protestors and those caught up going about their business!
That said, while it is a generally accepted principle that the use of explosives is a preserve of the security forces in many countries, it does not follow that the thought process that leads to their manufacture is the preserve of the security forces. Indeed, other people with the requisite competences can pioneer and the security forces can then step in to offer guidance including the handling and patent processing and possibly, even take on the innovators as resource persons.
‘I am doing this project for my country and my institution Makerere University which I still think is the best in region. Makerere made me who I am, made me much more bigger and mature …I picked this explosive project because that’s what my heart has always told me to do…i thank God that the results are positive and I believe the government will give us a hand and Uganda will never be the same again as we BUILD FOR THE FUTURE ….for God and my country,” Mugarura posted on his Facebook page, urging the powers that be to refrain from misconstruing his intentions. Clearly, this post seems to suggest that Mugarura is not a purveyor of dubious enterprise.
Anyhow, for purposes of innovations in science, since time immemorial most innovators arrive at their ‘intended innovations’ after lengthy periods of research that include several ‘trial and error voyages’. Thus we today have the word ‘Eureka’ (I found it!), coined by ancient Greek scholar and mathematician Domenico Fetti Archimedes, after he established that ‘the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged’. Archimedes arrived at this discovery after a cumbersome effort.
And, though laced with mythical intonation, it is also noteworthy to know that Archimedes’ discovery was to help solve the mystery equation of the purity of the Golden Crown that had dogged the mind of the 1st Century aristocrat Hiero II of Syracuse, for long.
But back to our local scene, as the forces mull over Mugarura’s ‘bizarre’ innovations, it is also important for them to reflect on the possible gains that Uganda as a country can recognize from the young man’s ingenious mind in the field of science.
Indeed, the young man should, just like the innovators of the Kiira EV and Kayoola 1, also be given chance to benefit from his years of schooling and thinking, otherwise we might as well be providing the US or any other power that recognizes innovative ingeniousness to offer an opportunity for Mugarura to exploit his potential to the fullest, with the attendant monetary benefits that will then accord him the opportunity to send ‘crumbs’ to Uganda as dollar remittances to help his relatives cope with life in a third world economy that will have denied one of its own to make his modest contribution to both national and global development.