There is no official national register of pensioners in the country of Uganda

The ministry of Public Service says many pensioners do not show up for verification hence leading to delays in payment of their monthly dues and the once off gratuity. Courtesy photo

By Nelson Wesonga

Kampala

Government says it does not have records of pensioners due to “lack of data and personal files.”

According to the ministry of Public Service, many pensioners do not show up for verification thus leading to delays in payment of their monthly dues and the once off gratuity.

The State minister for Public Service, Mr David Karubanga told MPs during plenary that the ministry will, carry out a census and biometric validation of pensioners starting February 20.

“The ministry of Public Service does not have a national register of pensioners,” Mr Karubanga said yesterday.

“Despite the decentralisation of pension management, a number of votes [ministries] have not verified the records on the payroll.”

A day earlier, Aruu Member of Parliament, Odonga Otto had told the August House that many pensioners have not been paid for several months.

Many were, therefore, depending on their relatives – who already have other financial responsibilities – to pay their bills or to buy basics.

Those without relatives are borrowing items from shopkeepers.

Shopkeepers though can only lend them for a few months expecting to be paid once they get their gratuity.

Following Mr Odonga’s remarks, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga said the government was treating the senior citizens disrespectfully.

On Wednesday, Mr Karubanga also said the Public Service ministry had for the last four years not carried out verification of pensioners “due to funding shortage and lack of clear addresses" [of the pensioners].

The verification of the pensioners will be done between February 20 and March 24 at the district headquarters by Face Technologies.

According to Mr Karubanga, Face Technologies will do the work, which the ministry failed.

However, it is still not clear how much the ministry will pay the company.

Face Technologies is the company that processes driving permits for motorists.

Workers Members of Parliament Margaret Rwabushaija and the Erute Member of Parliament Jonathan Odur said the government should tell Ugandans when it would pay the pensioners all their arrears.

Mr Karubanga said payments are the responsibility of the Finance ministry.

All that Public Service does is to furnish the Finance ministry with the particulars of the claimants.



    THE

OBJECTIVES 

 It is to develop the elderly of Africa, Uganda financially.


Secondly, it is to assist the needy and disabled.


Third, it is to humanely visit the sick and stressed.


Fourth it is to create financial projects for the needy to generate income for the elderly and young.




This organization has carried out such activities as:

Cake and bread baking.


Members have been involved in rural building construction and road making and repairs.


Members have been involved in decoration on functions.


Members have been involved in all means of assistance in burial ceremonies in the communities.



Ugandan workers less educated, poorly paid

Publish Date: Sep 22, 2014



A Ugandan worker is less educated and poorly paid.

By Samuel Sanya 


MOST working Ugandans are only educated up to secondary level, work for 10 years, six days a week and earn at least sh403 per hour according to a wages survey.


In the wage indicator survey, released recently, 1,306 Ugandans from all administrative regions were interviewed by the Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) in conjunction with Dutch and Tanzanian researchers.


Conservative estimates place Uganda’s working population at 17 million. The average working week of respondents is almost 60 hours and they work six days per week.


Slightly over half (51%) work evenings, seven of 10 workers report working on Saturdays, while four of 10 work on Sundays.


Nearly half of the workers in the sample were managers. Only two of 10 workers had a permanent contract, three of 10 were on fixed term contract while four of 10 workers said they are entitled to social security.


Despite the low numbers entitled to pensions, respondents indicated having four dependants on average. The analysis showed that 77% of the workers were paid on or above the poverty line of sh403 per hour or $1.25 (about sh3,000) per day.


Five percent of workers had no formal education, 14% studied to primary education 48% had secondary education certificates, 16% had a college education and 17% a university degree. Only 62% of informal workers are paid above the poverty line compared to 97% of the most formal workers.


Workers in trade, transport and hospitality are most at risk of poverty with 30% paid less than a dollar a day. Public servants are best paid. At least 92% earned above the poverty line.


Labour State minister Rukutana Mwesigwa recently revealed that Cabinet is considering creation of a wage board and a minimum wage.


The Government last set a minimum wage of sh6,000 in 1984. In 1975, the Minimum Wage Advisory Council recommended a sh75,000 minimum monthly wage. It remains on paper.

Why are the poor citizens of Uganda receiving money that is accounted for as a national pension for the elderly of this country?

Photo by Fred Muzaale

By JOSEPH KATO


Posted  Tuesday, July 5   2016 

The Senior Citizens Grant in Uganda is given to the elderly aged 65 and above to help them live decent livelihoods; however, in some districts, it is the young, energetic poor that are being given the money.

Over 110,000 persons aged 65 and above in 141 sub-counties, towns and 6,028 villages in 15 districts are beneficiaries of the Senior Citizens Grant (SCG) that was started in 2010. SCG is one of the essential modules of the Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE), financed by government and development partners such as DFID and Irish Aid.

SCG is aimed at enhancing access to basic needs such as food security, better nutrition, health care and improving housing among others which is legal onus of the state to provide wellbeing and upkeep for the elderly.

David Lambert Tumwesigye, advocacy advisor at Expanding Social Protection (ESP) at the Ministry Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) calls upon the new MPs to join the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection (UPFSP) so that they can advocate care for the elderly.

What do MPs say?

Agnes Taka, Bugiri Woman MP, appreciates the services that have been offered to the elderly through SAGE. However, she calls upon the government to be open and involve grassroots leaders when selecting beneficiaries saying it will help to avoid issues of segregation.

“We need to know what criterion is followed when choosing SAGE beneficiaries. It is perturbing to learn about activities being done in your constituency from locals. Leaders need to be involved,” argues Taka.

She wonders why majority of the 15 districts where SAGE has been enrolled and the next 20 districts targeted to benefit from the programme are not from poverty stricken areas.

She asks her colleagues to push the government hard so that there can be transparency in the enrollment.

Rtd Lt Cyrus Amodoi, MP Tonoma County, Katakwi district, marvels at why the programme in some districts has been shifted from the elderly to the poorest people.

“What I have seen is that there is political interference in some parts where SAGE has been enrolled. In some places they target the poorest people instead of senior citizens,” says Amodoi.

In response to MPs queries, Drake Rukundo, Policy and Monitoring and Evaluation, UPFSP, says they have on ground people who gather information for the befitting citizens. He encourages the MPs to advocate countrywide enrollment for the elderly.

Rukundo says they want government to commit resources as a priority towards social protection to help the elderly live decent livelihoods because they are the bridge between the past and the future.

He applauds the 9th Parliament for being instrumental in ensuring the survival of the SAGE programme and extending it from 15 districts to additional 40 districts in the next five years.

In the FY 2015/16 Budget process, Parliament made a resolution where the SAGE programme was to be rolled out to the whole country covering 100 oldest persons in every sub-county.

Tumwesigye says the 10th parliament and the government did their work and it remains critical that all districts get covered for fairness and equitable development. The new MPs are expected to enlist to become members so that advocacy on social protection is boosted.

The forum undertakes to provide information and create spaces for engagement on issues touching social protection.

The cabinet passed the social protection policy which proposes a myriad of progressive interventions that if implemented will significantly contribute to the journey from third world to middle income status as envisaged in the Vision 2040.

However, even with the current roll-out plan, only a total of 55 districts will be reached leaving out 57 districts. To maximise pressure on government, the Forum has conducted regional consultative meetings that bring together Members of Parliament, District Chairpersons, District Community Development Officers and the civil society.

Reports from the Ministry

Reports from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development indicate that the senior citizens grant is increasing productive investment where 32 per cent of the beneficiaries use the money to buy livestock or engage in petty trading while 27 per cent of the beneficiaries invest their money in hiring additional labour to work in their gardens.

“At least 16 per cent of the beneficiaries save their month’s payment purposely to cover emergencies, 17 per cent use the gratuities to support productive investments, cultivation (15 per cent and meeting the educational needs of children and/or grandchildren taking 14 per cent,” reads the report on expanding social protection programme for senior citizens grant.

According to the report, majority of the senior citizens grant beneficiaries spend the large part of their transfers on food leading to increased frequency, quantity and quality of meals eaten by beneficiary households.

The report further shows that SCG beneficiaries especially women consistently report improved participation in community affairs, sense of self-esteem and empowerment. Older people report feeling less discriminated against in their communities and more valued by their families on account of their ability to make social contributions to community-based social support mechanisms which are based on reciprocity like contributing to funerals and weddings.

About SAGE

SAGE is a financial support programme for people aged 65 years and above. Currently, the programme is covering 15 districts. A total of 40 more districts have been lined up to benefit from SAGE by 2020.

In the 2015/16 budget, over Shs30b was expected for the national rollout where 100 persons per sub-county were to benefit but government committed Shs9 billion only.

jkato@ug.

nationmedia.com


African Refugees:

The Road to Nowhere Part 1: Fleeing Sudan, Only to Flee Again into Libya

 
By Heather Murdock, of the VoA News
 
TRIPOLI, LIBYA – Nafisa heard the sound of a woman singing. It was a call for the Janjaweed militiamen to attack.

This kind of singing had ushered in other conflicts in the Darfur region of Sudan, but this was different.

“Before they had spears and knives,” Nafisa said. “Suddenly they had Kalashnikovs and heavy weapons we had never seen before.”

The Janjaweed swept through the village on horseback burning crops, homes and the people inside.They had orders to exterminate farming communities.

“My husband and two sons were set on fire,” she added. “So I hid until I could run to another village where the burning hadn’t reached.”

Nafisa watched her husband and two sons burn to death in Darfur, Sudan in 2003.
Nafisa watched her husband and two sons burn to death in Darfur, Sudan in 2003 before she fled for the first time. (H.Murdock/VOA)

Her third son, Tayib, was not home. He survived and fled with his mother. This was in 2003, and it was the first of four times they have now been displaced by violence.

The last time was only two months ago, here in Libya. A week after Nafisa arrived, forces from the east attacked the western capital, Tripoli, and Nafisa fled the bombing.

The Journey

When the “burning” reached the next village, Nafisa and her son fled to a massive camp for displaced families in Sudan called Kalma, where roughly 90,000 people still live.

Many families that fled to Libya from other African countries have been displaced multiple times, including by the current war, April 29, 2019. (H.Murdock/VOA)
Many families that fled to Libya from other African countries have been displaced multiple times, including by the current war, April 29, 2019. (H.Murdock/VOA)

But the conflict followed them and Kalma remains a notoriously dangerous place to live.In April, 16 people were killed in clashes there.

Nafisa and Tayib walked out of Sudan into Chad, where they caught a ride and spent 17 days in the desert on their way to Libya. They crossed the border and made their way to Umm Al Aranib, a town in Libya’s volatile southern desert.

Since early April, forces based in eastern Libya have been battling the forces of the country’s western capital, Tripoli. (H.Murdock/VOA)
Since early April, forces based in eastern Libya have been battling the forces of the country’s western capital, Tripoli. (H.Murdock/VOA)

While resting in a garden in Umm AL Aranib, Tayib and some other young men were surrounded by armed militants and forced onto the back of a truck, where they were tied up. Parents were told they needed to pay ransom if they wanted their sons back alive.

Nafisa and other parents begged friends, relatives and strangers for money, and she eventually raised about $3,500 to secure Tayib’s release.

“He was tortured,” she said.” The boys were burned with fire and chained up. There were many from Darfur locked up there.”

A week later, in the city of Sabha, Nafisa found a ride to Tripoli, a breezy Mediterranean city that, in March, was at peace. After 15 years of running, she thought she could stop. But now she lives in limbo, having applied for asylum in Libya with no real desire to stay and wait out another war.

“Sudan and Libya are the same,” she said.” I want to go to Europe.”

Asylum seekers from Sudan in Libya hold up documents from the United Nations, insisting that they have the right to flee their country, April 29, 2019. (H.Murdock/VOA)
Asylum seekers from Sudan in Libya hold up documents from the United Nations, insisting that they have the right to flee their country, April 29, 2019. (H.Murdock/VOA)

The Next Stop?

All the Sudanese people staying in this schoolhouse, like Nafisa, share the same hope of finding a way to Europe.

Libya is known as a gateway to Europe from Africa, where a vast network of smugglers send boats into the sea, in the hopes of reaching Italy. The boats are often ill-equipped, overcrowded and deadly.

The International Organization for Migration says 550 people have been killed crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe so far this year.
The International Organization for Migration says 550 people have been killed crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe so far this year, and that number is expected to grow to the thousands by the end of the year. (H.Murdock/VOA)

Nearly 550 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe this year alone, according to the International Organization for Migration. By the end of the year, that number is expected to be in the thousands.

But between abject poverty and increasing violence, Nafisa says she has no future in Libya and the Darfur she grew up in is gone. When she was a child, men that now serve as Janjaweed soldiers were nomadic herders, who traveled through the northern farming areas only during the rainy season.

“Sometimes there were tensions when the animals would graze on our farms,” Nafisa explained.” And sometimes they would give us milk or meat and we would give them watermelons and sorghum.”

 

 

 

 

 

My Great-Grandfather was a Nigerian Slave-Trader:

The late Eramus Nwaubani Ogogo.

 

The descendants of freed slaves in southern Nigeria, called ohu, still face significant stigma. Igbo culture forbids them from marrying freeborn people, and denies them traditional leadership titles such as Eze and Ozo. (The osu, an untouchable caste descended from slaves who served at shrines, face even more severe persecution.) My father considers the ohu in our family a thorn in our side, constantly in opposition to our decisions.

By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani of New York Times,

 

16 July, 2018


Nobody on this list has affected the history of slavery quite as much as Anthony Johnson. He is rumored to have been the first black man to arrive in Virginia as well as the first black indentured servant in America. He was also the first black man to gain his freedom and the first to own land. As a true pioneer of firsts, Johnson couldn’t stop there. Ironically, he became the first black slave owner, and it was his court case that solidified slavery in America.

My parents’ home, in Umujieze, Nigeria, stands on a hilly plot that has been in our family for more than a hundred years. Traditionally, the Igbo people bury their dead among the living, and the ideal resting place for a man and his wives is on the premises of their home. My grandfather Erasmus, the first black manager of a Bata shoe factory in Aba, is buried under what is now the visitors’ living room. My grandmother Helen, who helped establish a local church, is buried near the study. My umbilical cord is buried on the grounds, as are those of my four siblings. My eldest brother, Nnamdi, was born while my parents were studying in England, in the early nineteen-seventies; my father, Chukwuma, preserved the dried umbilical cord and, eighteen months later, brought it home to bury it by the front gate. Down the hill, near the river, in an area now overrun by bush, is the grave of my most celebrated ancestor: my great-grandfather Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku. Nwaubani Ogogo was a slave trader who gained power and wealth by selling other Africans across the Atlantic. “He was a renowned trader,” my father told me proudly. “He dealt in palm produce and human beings.”

Long before Europeans arrived, Igbos enslaved other Igbos as punishment for crimes, for the payment of debts, and as prisoners of war. The practice differed from slavery in the Americas: slaves were permitted to move freely in their communities and to own property, but they were also sometimes sacrificed in religious ceremonies or buried alive with their masters to serve them in the next life. When the transatlantic trade began, in the fifteenth century, the demand for slaves spiked. Igbo traders began kidnapping people from distant villages. Sometimes a family would sell off a disgraced relative, a practice that Ijoma Okoro, a professor of Igbo history at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, likens to the shipping of British convicts to the penal colonies in Australia: “People would say, ‘Let them go. I don’t want to see them again.’ ” Between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, nearly one and a half million Igbo slaves were sent across the Middle Passage.

My great-grandfather was given the nickname Nwaubani, which means “from the Bonny port region,” because he had the bright skin and healthy appearance associated at the time with people who lived near the coast and had access to rich foreign foods. (This became our family name.) In the late nineteenth century, he carried a slave-trading license from the Royal Niger Company, an English corporation that ruled southern Nigeria. His agents captured slaves across the region and passed them to middlemen, who brought them to the ports of Bonny and Calabar and sold them to white merchants. Slavery had already been abolished in the United States and the United Kingdom, but his slaves were legally shipped to Cuba and Brazil. To win his favor, local leaders gave him their daughters in marriage. (By his death, he had dozens of wives.) His influence drew the attention of colonial officials, who appointed him chief of Umujieze and several other towns. He presided over court cases and set up churches and schools. He built a guesthouse on the land where my parents’ home now stands, and hosted British dignitaries. To inform him of their impending arrival and verify their identities, guests sent him envelopes containing locks of their Caucasian hair.

Funeral rites for a distinguished Igbo man traditionally include the slaying of livestock—usually as many cows as his family can afford. Nwaubani Ogogo was so esteemed that, when he died, a leopard was killed, and six slaves were buried alive with him. My family inherited his canvas shoes, which he wore at a time when few Nigerians owned footwear, and the chains of his slaves, which were so heavy that, as a child, my father could hardly lift them. Throughout my upbringing, my relatives gleefully recounted Nwaubani Ogogo’s exploits. When I was about eight, my father took me to see the row of ugba trees where Nwaubani Ogogo kept his slaves chained up. In the nineteen-sixties, a family friend who taught history at a university in the U.K. saw Nwaubani Ogogo’s name mentioned in a textbook about the slave trade. Even my cousins who lived abroad learned that we had made it into the history books.

Last year, I travelled from Abuja, where I live, to Umujieze for my parents’ forty-sixth wedding anniversary. My father is the oldest man in his generation and the head of our extended family. One morning, a man arrived at our gate from a distant Anglican church that was celebrating its centenary. Its records showed that Nwaubani Ogogo had given an armed escort to the first missionaries in the region—a trio known as the Cookey brothers—to insure their safety. The man invited my father to receive an award for Nwaubani Ogogo’s work spreading the gospel. After the man left, my father sat in his favorite armchair, among a group of his grandchildren, and told stories about Nwaubani Ogogo.

“Are you not ashamed of what he did?” I asked.

 

“I can never be ashamed of him,” he said, irritated. “Why should I be? His business was legitimate at the time. He was respected by everyone around.” My father is a lawyer and a human-rights activist who has spent much of his life challenging government abuses in southeast Nigeria. He sometimes had to flee our home to avoid being arrested. But his pride in his family was unwavering. “Not everyone could summon the courage to be a slave trader,” he said. “You had to have some boldness in you.”

My father succeeded in transmitting to me not just Nwaubani Ogogo’s stories but also pride in his life. During my school days, if a friend asked the meaning of my surname, I gave her a narrative instead of a translation. But, in the past decade, I’ve felt a growing sense of unease. African intellectuals tend to blame the West for the slave trade, but I knew that white traders couldn’t have loaded their ships without help from Africans like my great-grandfather. I read arguments for paying reparations to the descendants of American slaves and wondered whether someone might soon expect my family to contribute. Other members of my generation felt similarly unsettled. My cousin Chidi, who grew up in England, was twelve years old when he visited Nigeria and asked our uncle the meaning of our surname. He was shocked to learn our family’s history, and has been reluctant to share it with his British friends. My cousin Chioma, a doctor in Lagos, told me that she feels anguished when she watches movies about slavery. “I cry and cry and ask God to forgive our ancestors,” she said.

The British tried to end slavery among the Igbo in the early nineteen-hundreds, though the practice persisted into the nineteen-forties. In the early years of abolition, by British recommendation, masters adopted their freed slaves into their extended families. One of the slaves who joined my family was Nwaokonkwo, a convicted murderer from another village who chose slavery as an alternative to capital punishment and eventually became Nwaubani Ogogo’s most trusted manservant. In the nineteen-forties, after my great-grandfather was long dead, Nwaokonkwo was accused of attempting to poison his heir, Igbokwe, in order to steal a plot of land. My family sentenced him to banishment from the village. When he heard the verdict, he ran down the hill, flung himself on Nwaubani Ogogo’s grave, and wept, saying that my family had once given him refuge and was now casting him out. Eventually, my ancestors allowed him to remain, but instructed all their freed slaves to drop our surname and choose new names. “If they had been behaving better, they would have been accepted,” my father said.

The descendants of freed slaves in southern Nigeria, called ohu, still face significant stigma. Igbo culture forbids them from marrying freeborn people, and denies them traditional leadership titles such as Eze and Ozo. (The osu, an untouchable caste descended from slaves who served at shrines, face even more severe persecution.) My father considers the ohu in our family a thorn in our side, constantly in opposition to our decisions. In the nineteen-eighties, during a land dispute with another family, two ohu families testified against us in court. “They hate us,” my father said. “No matter how much money they have, they still have a slave mentality.” My friend Ugo, whose family had a similar disagreement with its ohu members, told me, “The dissension is coming from all these people with borrowed blood.”

I first became aware of the ohu when I attended boarding school in Owerri. I was interested to discover that another new student’s family came from Umujieze, though she told me that they hardly ever visited home. It seemed, from our conversations, that we might be related—not an unusual discovery in a large family, but exciting nonetheless. When my parents came to visit, I told them about the girl. My father quietly informed me that we were not blood relatives. She was ohu, the granddaughter of Nwaokonkwo.

I’m not sure if this revelation meant much to me at the time. The girl and I remained friendly, though we rarely spoke again about our family. But, in 2000, another friend, named Ugonna, was forbidden from marrying a man she had dated for years because her family found out that he was osu. Afterward, an osufriend named Nonye told me that growing up knowing that her ancestors were slaves was “sort of like having the bogeyman around.” Recently, I spoke to Nwannennaya, a thirty-nine-year-old ohu member of my family. “The way you people behave is as if we are inferior,” she said. Her parents kept their ohuancestry secret from her until she was seventeen. Although our families were neighbors, she and I rarely interacted. “There was a day you saw me and asked me why I was bleaching my skin,” she said. “I was very happy because you spoke to me. I went to my mother and told her. You and I are sisters. That is how sisters are supposed to behave.”

Modernization is emboldening ohu and freeborn to intermarry, despite the threat of ostracization. “I know communities where people of slave descent have become affluent and have started demanding the right to hold positions,” Professor Okoro told me. “It is creating conflict in many communities.” Last year, in a town in Enugu State, an ohu man was appointed to a traditional leadership position, sparking mass protests. In a nearby village, an ohu man became the top police officer, giving the local ohu enough influence to push for reform. Eventually, they were apportioned a separate section of the community, where they can live according to whatever laws they please, away from the freeborn. “It will probably be a long time before all traces of slavery disappear from the minds of the people,” G. T. Basden, a British missionary, wrote of the Igbo in 1921. “Until the conscience of the people functions, the distinctions between slave and free-born will be maintained.”

Nwaubani Ogogo was believed to have acquired spiritual powers from the shrine of a deity named Njoku, which allowed him to wield influence over white colonists. Among his possessions, which are passed down to the head of the family, was the symbol of his alliance with Njoku: a pot containing a human head. “You had to cut the head straight into the pot while the person was still alive, without it touching the floor,” my father said. “It couldn’t just be anybody’s head. It had to be someone you knew.” In Nwaubani Ogogo’s case, this someone was most likely a slave. When Gilbert, my great-uncle and a previous head of our family, died in 1989, his second wife, Nnenna, a devout Christian, destroyed the pot. Shortly afterward, her children began to die mysterious deaths, one after another. Nnenna contracted a strange ailment and died in 2009. Some relatives began to fear that dark forces had been unleashed.

Last July, my father’s cousin Sunny, a professor of engineering, visited my parents to discuss another concern: a growing enmity in our family. Minor arguments had led relatives to stop speaking to one another. Several had become estranged from the family. “We always have one major disagreement or division or the other,” my father’s cousin Samuel told me. My cousin Ezeugo was not surprised by the worrying trend. “Across Igbo land, wherever there was slave trade with the white people, things never go well,” he said. “They always have problems there. Everybody has noticed it.” My relatives thought that our family’s history was coming back to haunt us.

Prior to colonization, the Igbo believed that spiritual forces controlled events. If enough misfortune piled up, a family might come to believe that it was the victim of an intergenerational curse resulting from the actions of an ancestor. Family members would seek out a juju priest, who would consult a deity, diagnose the root of the curse, and then expel it through a religious ritual. When foreign missionaries arrived, they persuaded the Igbos to embrace Christianity—openly, at least. But belief in ancestral curses has remained, cloaked in Bible passages that refer to God “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” Many churches now offer services similar to the old rituals, in which a pastor replaces the juju priest and Jesus replaces the pagan god. This way, evil forces can be exposed without Christians engaging in idolatry. Deliverance usually requires a family to pray, fast, and renounce atrocities.

In 2009, the late priest Stephen Njoku wrote a book called “Challenge and Deal with Your Evil Foundations,” in which he argued that some people should change their names to rid themselves of curses. “It’s like building a house,” he told me. “If you don’t get the foundations right, if you used substandard materials or if the stones were not laid properly, the building will inevitably develop cracks and collapse.” A number of Igbo communities with names that extol gory histories have taken new ones. In 1992, people in my home town became concerned about several unexplained deaths of young people. After a period of communal prayer, people gathered in the village hall and voted to discard the community’s historic name, Umuojameze, which means “children of Ojam, the king.” Ojam was a deity whom the townspeople had worshipped before Christianization, and to whom they had made regular human sacrifices. They chose the new name, Umujieze, which means “children who hold the kingship,” to reflect our severance from the atrocities of the past.

My relatives disagreed about the cause of our family’s curse. Most believed that it was because of Nwaubani Ogogo’s slave trading. Some suspected that it was his broken alliance with Njoku. My father thought that it might have resulted from his human sacrifices. Sunny was not sure the family was cursed at all. “If our problems are because of the sins of our fathers, why are the white people making progress despite the sins of their fathers?” he said. Nevertheless, they agreed to hold a deliverance ceremony, and settled on a plan. On three days near the end of January, from 6 a.m. until noon, family members around the world would fast and pray. My father sent out a text message in preparation that included passages from the Bible. He has never been overtly religious, and it amused me to watch him organize a global prayer session. I teased him about the fact that he would have to skip breakfast, which was usually waiting for him at the same time each morning. “I’m a saint,” he declared.

On the first day of the fast, members of my family met in small groups in London, Atlanta, and Johannesburg. Some talked on the phone, and others chatted on social media. Thirty members gathered under a canopy in my parents’ yard. With tears in his eyes, my father explained that, in Nwaubani Ogogo’s day, selling and sacrificing human beings was common practice, but that now we know it to be deeply offensive to God. He thanked God for the honor and prestige bestowed on our family through my great-grandfather, and asked God’s forgiveness for the atrocities he committed. We prayed over a passage that my father texted us from the Book of Psalms:

WHO CAN UNDERSTAND HIS ERRORS?
CLEANSE ME FROM SECRET FAULTS.
KEEP BACK YOUR SERVANT ALSO FROM PRESUMPTUOUS SINS;
LET THEM NOT HAVE DOMINION OVER ME.
THEN I SHALL BE BLAMELESS,
AND I SHALL BE INNOCENT OF GREAT TRANSGRESSION.

During the ceremony, I was overwhelmed with relief. My family was finally taking a step beyond whispering and worrying. Of course, nothing can undo the harm that Nwaubani Ogogo caused. And the ohu, who are not his direct descendants, were not invited to the ceremony; their mistreatment in the region continues. Still, it felt important for my family to publicly denounce its role in the slave trade. “Our family is taking responsibility,” my cousin Chidi, who joined from London, told me. Chioma, who took part in Atlanta, said, “We were trying to make peace and atone for what our ancestors did.”

On the final day, my relatives strolled along a recently tarred stretch of road to our local Anglican church. The church was established in 1904, on land that Nwaubani Ogogo donated. Inside, a priest presided over a two-hour prayer session. At the end, he pronounced blessings on us, and proclaimed a new beginning for the Nwaubani family. After the ceremony, my family members discussed making it a yearly ritual. “This sort of thing opens up the mercy of God,” my mother, Patricia, said. “People did all these evil things but they don’t talk about it. The more people confess and renounce their evil past, the more cleansing will come to the land.”