“Omwaana Wuwo?” announced the poster on the urinal’s wall in Iganga, deep in rural, Eastern Uganda. I instantly recognized the question. It’s a direct translation of the Kiswahili expression: Mtoto ni wako? Is it your child?
I get the rationale for placing the poster in a place where men can see it as they go about their business, when their future, quite literally, is in their hands. It’s an opportune moment to question the paternity of their children. Or so I thought.
I was wrong. Uganda, it turns out, is in the grip of a national quest for legitimacy. And married men are seeking to establish if they are the fathers of their children.
Here’s why: Mid this year, a married woman, in the heat of an argument, let it slip that her husband was not the father of some of her six children. She later apologised and said she had said in jest.
But the man was wise enough to know a so-called slip of the tongue, also called Freudian slip, is a significant revelation, so he secretly submitted samples of the children’s DNA for testing at the government labs in Uganda. All the tests turned out negative. None of the six children were sired by him.
There was no way, the man said, that the results could be accurate. Something somewhere must be wrong. Subsequently, he took more DNA samples to South Africa. Zilch. Ditto Canada. None of the six children he called his own was blood of his blood. He had been cuckolded six times.
This is what drew more Ugandan men to the lab, seeking to establish the truth about their progeny.
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At the last count, 32 men had applied to the registrar of persons’ office to have passports of their children revoked, after they found they had not sired them.
The registrar reminded the men that children cannot be deprived of their citizenship because their mothers are Ugandans, and their passports would stand.
The moral of the story, if any, is that men shouldn’t pose questions whose truthful answers they can’t the truth.