By Munguongeyo Ivan
The year 2020 is finally coming to an end. This year 2020 has given more to the authors of history textbooks than it has to the writers of diaries. In the coming decades, scholars will have a wealth of material for their accounts of this pivotal time, but when the people who lived through it look back on the timelines of their personal lives, many of them will find a gap where 2020 should be. How do then one describe the year that was 2020? I would like to borrow an excerpt from Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Falls Apart’ novel, to describe the year that was 2020. Achebe wrote:
“…The year that Okonkwo took eight hundred seed yams from Nwakibie was the worst year in living memory. Nothing happened at its proper time; it was either too early or too late. It seemed as if the world had gone mad. The first rains were late and when they came, lasted only a brief moment … The drought continued for eight market weeks and the yams were killed. The year had gone mad. When the rains finally returned, they fell as…had never fallen before. Trees were uprooted and deep gorges appeared everywhere.
That year, the harvest was sad, like a funeral and many farmers wept as they dug up the miserable and rotting yams. One man tied his cloth to a tree branch and hanged himself. Okonkwo remembered that tragic year with a cold shiver throughout the rest of his life. It always surprised him when he thought about it later that he did not sink under the load of despair. He knew he was a fierce fighter, but that year had been enough to break the heart of a lion. Since I survived that year,” he always said, “I shall survive anything.”
The above novel summarizes what we have been through in the year 2020. Indeed writers are prophets, they see ahead. They map the trajectory of human experience even before it happens. The year 2020, better known as the year that was, indeed went mad. The last time the world witnessed a similar tragedy was in 1918-1920. That was the Spanish Flu. It lasted for two years and left a devastating imprint. We are sadly back to that past 100 years later. The #COVID-19 pandemic as it became to be popularly known affected all countries across the world from Europe to Antarctica, over one million people have died. Over 81 million persons have been infected.
The year 2020 was a year of failed businesses. Marriages failed. A year of no parties and celebrations. Human beings were humbled and humanity tried to catch up with an existential accident. It was a year when science was put to a test. A year where the idea of community was redefined. Man was forced to stay in their own natural enclaves, and avoid each other. This was the spectacular year when even grandparents were advised to stay away from their own children.
There were new phrases and words that came to be known in the year 2020 such as: physical distancing, social distancing, masks, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), guidelines, sanitize, and so many others. It was a year when the pharmaceutical companies reaped big profits, the mask and sanitizers making industries and Hi-Tech owners and investors made big money.
In Uganda, there were other kinds of harvests, which added to the people’s misery and pain. There were desert locusts that entered Uganda through Amudat on Friday 3rd April 2020. The two swarms that entered in the country further spread inland into Kumi, Katakwi, Otuke and Agago districts worsening food insecurity.
The economy, of course, failed too. Many people lost their jobs. It was a sad year in all sectors, more or less. And it was the year when Ugandan youths rebelled against police brutality and bad governance. It was year of so many things that I could not write all of them here. What lessons have we learnt from the year 2020 and how can those lessons help us in the years to come? The year 2020 is coming to an end in few days but everyone thinks that in 2021 #COVID-19 will disappear. Absolutely wrong. The year 2021 will be most likely a year vaccines and the politics of vaccination.
Going forward, there are few lessons we may have learnt from this year; firstly, it taught us how we should relate with one another, a handshake was once a symbol and expression of brotherhood was no more in 2020. Ugandans used to love party after party. It was no more in 2020. It actually became a crime to attend parties. It was a year when technology became evident. We were introduced to the zoom and kobo economy where classes were done online and so were meetings. Finally, the year 2020 showed that leadership mattered in everything. May the peace of the lord Jesus Christ, be with us all in the coming year 2021.
The writer is a Lecturer at Bugema University