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Someone teach me to be a Tanzanian.

This blogpost was first published in 2015 on the Chicamod site. 

Someone teach me to be a Tanzanian. I am not that far away. I am just a neighbor from the north, here in Uganda. And yes I belong to the great East African Community. But there are things I failed to learn at a distance.

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Tanzanian National Flag. Internet Photo

It seems Tanzania is not an African country. Look at the way they do their things. They don’t fight. They don’t talk a lot. And it seems they were all fathered by that Julius Nyerere man who they all adorably call, Mwalimu.

Every 2nd June is the day Julius Nyerere is remembered in the realm of the saints during the celebration of the Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo. On that day, the whole of Namugongo is thronged by the people of Tanzania who come at their cost in large numbers led by their leaders. For years they have been praying that Julius Nyerere is added on the list of the Namugongo martyrs.

When I begin learning how to be a Tanzanian, I will learn to speak Kiswahili, the original language. Then I will be an extra ordinary East African unaffiliated to the adage that Kiswahili was born in Tanzania, grew up in Kenya, fell sick in Congo, died in Uganda and was buried in Rwanda. I no longer want to be in that category. The Kiswahili spoken in Uganda is like that glass with a whitish content which you can see through and they say it is milk. That language is next to Kiswahili though it is different, I spoke it in Kenya and no one could understand what I was saying. Our Ugandan Swa (as we call it) is a stunted child. It is only the combatants that speak it fluently. Our army, the famous Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) even sings songs in Swa. I love the songs but I don’t know what they mean. We dropped the language at school because they said the language was used by robbers and indiscipline soldiers during the previous regimes. So every time our elders hear Swa, they are reminded of the dark past. So we hated the language on their behalf.

I want my president to speak a language we all understand not because one went to school and the other was just about when the opportunity withered.

You see our president said we have the most well trained army in East Africa and that is why we quickly restore peace in other countries whenever uproar breaks out. And I would wish our army to go to Tanzania but there are no wars there. I wonder whether they even know the meaning of that word war. Do they even have a “UPDF”? What for?

I want to be a Tanzanian to see a peaceful transition of power from one president to another without any threat but when people are hugging each other. There has never been one in Uganda since independence.  I want to know what it feels like having former presidents attend national celebrations when their seats have been reserved in a VIP tent. I want also to see my president join the queue to go and vote along with the wanachi without minding of his security.

All I wish to see is that moment when elections end and everyone is waiting for the swear-in ceremony. I don’t want to see the things I have always seen where while one is going to the national stadium; the other is going to court or worse still to the bush. Our president talks a lot about the bush that at times I wonder what will happen of our country in case he is away and all bushes are tarmac grounds.

I want to be a Tanzanian so that the international media has no option but report what they see in our country other than what they always want to see.

Do you remember in 2011, when the reporters of those media houses staged camp here because there was news to report about Uganda every day? I want to be one of those people who don’t know that tear gas has different colors or that it even exists. I also want to be told stories. It is not a pleasant thing when you’re sharing some bits of your story. I want to learn how to play politics like a game not a battle of two warring factions atop the peaks of twin hills each warning how they are going to take on the other.

I want to be that citizen who has confidence in elections not the one I am today.  A presidential candidate said the elections are not going to be free and fair much as we have not yet voted.

There is no war in my country and neither do I wish to see it but I want things to be better. I want to see my president driving around town, talking to people freely without having to move in company of an endless tail of the military. I want to see my president comfortable in his country, glad to be serving in that position.

I want to be the blogger who has to write about their country from a coffee house along the street not somewhere in Washington where the news of my country is third hand information.

The child in me would wish to study, work and gracefully age in my country with my parents not somewhere in a UN white tent where I have to be enclosed in a camp because I am a refugee.

Someone teach me to be a Tanzanian so I learn to be happy and content in my country without having to think of the attention-seeking politicians of my country.

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BAN SACHETS

Let’s tell the story properly is the title of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s 2014 Commonwealth Award Winning Short Story.

The story is written with a Ugandan conversation touch paying maximum attention to the details of interjections and sighs. That is how I would rather we tell the story of sachets in Uganda today.

When you take a walk around the nearest trading centre regardless of the time of day, you will not fail to see a young man or a group of them cuddling small sachets in their fists. They carry them as they execute their duties (for those who have). Unfortunately, this situation is not only among the youth on the streets but also at the work place. The sachets come at a very friendly and affordable price of UGX 500 for a 100ml sachet. And they come with a “kill me quick” element. This leaves you in company of drunk workmates should they be consumers.

The consumption of sachet alcohol began more than five years ago with Uganda Waragi. Then, the price was more than UGX 3000 and that made it hard for the youth to afford. Today, with numerous players on the market, there are so many available brands at a very low price. Whether they are all regulated, UNBS is yet to tell us. These mainly target the youth. Rogers Kasirye writes thus in his blog;

Research by Professor Swahn and UYDEL in 2014 shows that only 17% of youth in the slums, ages 12 to 18, find it difficult to purchase alcohol despite the minimum legal age of 18 years. The research also shows that nearly half of the youth report seeing alcohol adverts often (44%) and that they see ads in the city, on television, on radio and in newspapers and/ or magazines. More importantly, as many as 18% report getting free alcohol as part of promotional activities and as many as 20% report having items with an alcohol brand logo on it. Also, despite the mandated alcohol warning on the advertisements, our inventory of alcohol marketing in the slums of Kampala shows that as many as 25% of the marketing materials do not have any health warning. Continue reading

Dear Philomena

Two months ago, I came across Mugabi Byenkya’s novel, Dear Philomena. It did not strike me to read it then. The book was unusual!

On first look, I thought the layout was so unique for a novel and I wondered the kind of description we could accord it in my literature class. I did not read the book.

Then I picked book again over the weekend. The cover image of the novel was so inviting. I turned to the blurb and that drew my attention. I now want everyone to know about this awesome book.

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Dear Philomena

Dear Philomena is an interesting read; a write up of modern conversation traits strewn from the recent communication channels. The novel is written on a phone exchange using different phone aided communication tools mainly social media.

The most captivating attraction about Dear Philomena is the mental setting from where the conversations stem.
Mugabi, Philomena and Gabster are such a close knit circle of friends who can only be associated to a closed Facebook group. And for Philomena and Mugabi, theirs is not even a whatsapp chat group, it’s something a little more closed up, compare it to twitter’s direct message.

A book built not on chapters but the months of the  fateful year 2015.
I was mainly intrigued by the outstanding reference of the personal pronoun “my”. Its consistence application reveals a lot on the protagonist’s struggles in dealing with the after effects of the various strokes.

Gabster’s role as an anonymous reliable voice to/of Mugabi plays such a critical detail in building hope for him(Mugabi) to carry on with life.

The ending of this book drives one to ask questions, no wonder the author found themselves asking questions as well.
“Depression is not an answer, It’s a question”
At the time we live when there is a lot of denial in the state of livelihood, this story comes in handy and calls for a conversation.

I am glad, Mugabi voices out his struggles on paper. This story is going to help many people; as a highlight of the effects of stroke and that depression lives among us.

Meet Sam Mugisha of BIC Tours

I recently met up with Samuel Mugisha, the Managing Director of BIC Tours, a tour and travel company that mainly specializes in Japanese tourists. All the clients of BIC Tours receive a package of locally grown coffee and pineapples from the land. These are given out as souvenirs to the tourists.

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Samuel Mugisha 

Sam (as he is commonly known) is a very humble man that you may miss him as you look forward to meeting a bigger and space consuming Sam. His story is one driven more by a cause to help others than satisfy self. As a fresh graduate, Sam found himself in care of his family upon his father’s demise. For the big family that it is, (28 children) and being the first boy child in the family, he wanted to extend a hand of help to his other siblings to acquire the education that they needed.

This was not to come easy. When he got an opportunity to go to Japan to study Japanese, he was more than glad. He jumped on to the opportunity and that consequently gave birth to BIC Tours as he shares here.

It is always a good culture to give something to visitors and having lived in Japan where gifting is a great deal, Sam was pushed to think of how to consider gifting his tourists. It is important to give a gift that is consumable, he was advised.

Gorilla coffee gives a picture of Uganda, it signifies that someone is from the Gorilla republic. This kind of marketing goes to places where the internet isn’t. It comes up at conversations that you would never be a part of. and most importantly, it comes up at coffee time.

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The BIC Tour souvenirs; Pineapple slices and Big Gorilla Coffee

 

There is need to buy something Ugandan from the Ugandan market. There is need to find Ugandan products in a Ugandan market. As people go around their trip, they get a chance to taste a local brand. It is important that people identify with the place where they are.

Ten years later, BIC Tours operates both in Uganda and Rwanda.

BIC Tours is located on the 1st Floor at Tirupati Mazima Mall, Kabalagala.

 

Justice For Sexual Violence Survivors

“The biggest challenge with handling human trafficking cases is that you have willing victims driven by circumstances into submission to acts which result into sexual violence,” said Moses Binoga, the Chairman of the National Task Force on Human Trafficking.

Sexual Violence is one of the unvoiced acts that daily strangle up people in their relationships. It affects men, women and children. However, women and girls turn out to be more of the victims. This is mainly because of tradition and rigid gender norms.

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The need to address Sexual Violence. Photo credit: @FIDAUganda

It is such issues that ought to be addressed. The perpetrators of sexual violence usually are freed for lack of evidence against them. The inconsistency in the law gives lee way to the perpetrators to go unpunished. For example, does a raped victim first report to the health centre or the police?

One out of three women who experience physical or sexual violence is mainly inflicted by someone close to them usually a relative or friend. And reporting them to authorities is a challenge.

Also the police, in a number of countries in the Great Lakes Region, does not have a clear description of what constitutes to be sexual violence and what does not. This affects the process of justice.

It is because of this reason that The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) convened a two day conference at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort to find ways of seeking #Justices4SexualViolenceSurvivors during the #16days of Activism.

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Delegates  in  a group photo with Hon Mary Karooro Okurut. Photo credit: @Pauline_Kahu

Today, there are many gaps in the process of documenting and investigating sexual violence. Very few personnel in the police are well versed with how to address this issue.

According to ICGLR, sexual violence includes; rape, sexual assault, grievous bodily harm, mutilation and forced pregnancy.

Sexual Violence should not be seen as a public health care problem but as one that cuts across multi-sectors.

There is need to ask questions but most importantly to speak to the victims of sexual violence; men, women and children. Victims ought to be helped especially men. Very few open up as victims of sexual violence.

Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut pledged, on behalf of the government, to seek justice for the victims.