Two beautiful marriage ceremonies this past weekend. One in Uganda, the other in England. Powerful lessons taught. Humility on display. Love preached to people in love. Hopefully heard by everyone else with ears. In a world that desperately needs changed hearts and attitudes.
In Uganda, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and his wife Jacqueline received their daughter’s fiancé at a traditional Kikiga ceremony of okugamba obugyenyi (loosely translated as “introduction ceremony”). The fiancé, Andile mwene Ramaphosa, is the son of the South African president.
Ordinarily, a meeting of two prominent African families is an opportunity for an extravagant display of power and fortune. The son of the South African leader had the “right” to do what many sons of chiefs usually do – throw his weight around, complete with flashing his family’s enormous wealth and power.
The former prime minister and his family could have used the occasion to show the country that they may be politically down, but they are not out.
Instead, according to friends who attended the event, and the video recordings that came our way, it was a very dignified and modest gathering. Led by Mr. Charles Mbire, an excellent and humble kigamba-bugyenyi (the groom’s spokesman), Andile chose humility and showed utmost respect and deference to his in-laws. The Mbabazis were gracious hosts, comfortable in their role as parents and inheritors of a great tradition.
More striking still was the presence and role of Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda. That Mbabazi, who was fired from his job in 2014 and was replaced by Rugunda, invited his successor to be his spokesman, reveals the humility and grace of the former prime minister that his critics have often failed to acknowledge.
That Rugunda accepted and performed the role very well revealed that the two old friends were men of class, who did not mix politics with social relations. It is the kind of political culture that warms one’s heart, a reminder to others to find opportunities for social intercourse that trumps political tensions.
Yes, we continue to dream of a Museveni-Besigye handshake, not just in the literal sense, but the forging of a new discourse. Our dream is founded on that which was so eloquently spoken by Bishop Michael Curry of Chicago, the preacher at the wedding of Harry and Meghan, rallying us all to rediscover the redemptive power of love.
What a beautiful occasion that was! The humility on display at Windsor Castle, if one can apply such a word to the blue-blooded subspecies, was equally heartwarming. No, not because they reportedly spent £32 million on the event. Not even because the groom had proven himself to be a genuine friend of Africa and a true carrier of his mother’s baton.
I was moved by the sight of a royal English prince, sixth in line, marrying a Mukiga commoner that he loved. The simple but elegant attire of the bride and bridegroom; the groom driving his bride in an old collectible car; only two hundred guests at the wedding reception; and the choice of preacher, musicians and other participants in the ceremony, reminded us that Princess Diana, Harry’s deceased mother, had had a powerful impact on her son.
I was struck by the complete absence of introductions and recognitions of “who-is-who.” Had this been in Uganda, we would have been treated to an hour-long torture of recognizing honourables, professors, doctors, lawyers, canons, engineers, generals and every imaginable title that our elite are obsessed with.
I was moved by the sight and sound of Bishop Curry, an American descendant of African slaves, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ from a pulpit at the centre of Anglicanism and British imperial power.
Among his listeners was the day’s chief hostess, Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. In the congregation, hundreds of descendants of men and women who had made it possible for Bishop Curry’s ancestors to be traded and held captive in the most inhumane manner.
Here he was, preaching love, and bringing life and laughter to a chapel where conservative dictates encouraged a funereal demeanor even when the occasion was a very happy one.
Here he was, standing in an ancient English castle, talking about love changing the old world into a new one.
Here he was plumbing the experience of slaves in the American south to teach about true faith and Christian discipleship to Britain’s hereditary and economic aristocrats.
Here he was, unafraid to make the assembled powerful uncomfortable, among them the Defender of the Faith herself.
And here he was, opening and ending his inspired sermon with references to Martin Luther King Jr., whose dream of 55 years ago continues its struggle to become reality.
I recalled a part of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech of 1963 where he said: “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
Amidst the pomp and circumstance that is the signature of British royalty was a subtext of a seismic shift that had occurred in that most conservative institution since the advent of Princess Diana.
A partnership between Harry, Meghan and Bishop Curry was using soul force to shake up the symbol of centuries of exploitation and pain and inviting them to come to the table of brotherhood as family, joined together by a transformative love.
It was a message that I hope was heard by the Ugandan ruler and his opponents, and all who use physical force instead of soul force in their quest for power and dominance.