I asked what part
the tribe played in his life. "It is important. Since I am a Lango, I don't
think I'd like to go and live in the West Nile District. I will always have the
feeling that it is better to stay with my parents, to live where I was
downhill from the gardens and high-rises of central Kampala into the business
district. Independence Day banners swathed shops and light poles. Plastered in
rows across all vacant surfaces were portraits of General Amin, his collar
pushing up his jowls, furrows of worry around his eyes.
expect the reception I got when I came home," said Akii. "There were
2,000 people at the airport. I met ministers, there was a VIP luncheon. The
president came. It was the second time he had spoken to me. Last year he said
he hoped I'd do my best in the Olympics. It was good to know I had.
has come my way since Munich. You know, since my father died we have been poor.
I had not much schooling. I was not a middle-class man. But now I have so many
friends, so many invitations. Every night I have to break promises."
Farther down the
slope we came onto a dusty street which led past shuttered and barred
wholesale-furniture houses and ended in a great mass of haggling people.
"That is a
market," said Akii, "and this...." He turned and extended his arms
both ways along the road. "This is my street."
"I don't know
for sure yet. The government has said they will name a street after me. This
one has no real name yet. People just call it South Street. It's a good street,
don't you think? Busy, with solid buildings."
"Yes, it's a
fine street." I stood still, affected. That his name was to be given to an
enduring public landmark seemed suddenly to elevate Akii out of the world of
games, of records inevitably broken, feats eventually surpassed.
"Remember," said Akii, with a sly look, "there has never been
anyone from Uganda like me." Then he laughed, an open, intelligent guffaw
at the silliness of it all.