Tag Archives: in this Uganda

“Us vs. Them”

Standard

Just some thoughts in the wake of the Sunday bombings in Kampala …

  • As anyone could have guessed, the responsibility of the Al-Shabaab military group for the bombings and loss of close to 80 lives has awakened some xenophobic sentiment against Somalis living in Kampala. In an interview with NTV last night, Ugandan residents of Kisenyi (a suburb heavily populated by Somali refugees) expressed anger and suspicion towards their Somali neighbours. The refugees on the other hand, stressed that they are innocent of the bombings and faced the same – and sometimes even worse – atrocities which forced them to leave their home country.

What surprises me even more though, is the sentiments expressed by some of my peers on Facebook. I suppose just because someone can type 200 words per minute and knows what the Internet is, doesn’t excuse them of ignorance and/or stupidity. To say things like  “we should smoke out the Somalis” or “Uganda should wage war on Somalia” or “okay we help yu with yo civil wars in yo weather damned desert country, give yu assylum in this beautiful pearl, yu even marry our women n yu give thanx by bombing us. okay no retreat no surrender, we to drive all these chaps out of here. dont support any of their enterprises n fire them at work, evict them on yo rentals, dont allow them entry anywhere; hospital restaurant, mosque, s/market. together tunawakilisha” … Seriously?

I suppose it’s just an opinion, just people saying ‘what’s on their minds’, but it’s a slippery slope from xenophobic opinion to xenophobic action – as the African foreigners in South Africa will tell you. For someone to say “all alshabab (sic) are somali, therefore any somali is probably alshabab” is very ignorant and irritating. I don’t think the average Kampalan knew much about the ongoings of Somalia before Sunday night’s tragedy, but it’s just lazy of people not to at least Google them before unleashing torrents of ignorance on Facebook.

That said, to argue any further I feel is to dishonour the dead and their bereaved families. I am very angry about these events, but for us to retaliate against the Somali community makes us no better than the Al-Shabaab themselves : committing horrible violence out of ill-informed passions.

  • The other thing that this tragedy has glaringly exposed (not that it was a secret) is the sheer lack of staff and equipment at our city’s main hospital in Mulago. Pictures of victims lying on the floor or being tended to in corridors, shortages of blood for transfusion, stories of the mortuary mixing up names and giving the wrong bodies to the wrong families…! As if they aren’t suffering enough!

 

  • On a more positive note, the country and Kampala especially has shown great solidarity over Sunday’s events, and a sombre mood hangs over the city. Many bars were closed last night and Monday, maybe partly out of fear, but I believe partly from respect for the dead and grieving.

Shut your mouth!

Standard

Catching up on recent news last night (after my attentions had been grabbed by the World Cup lately), I was interested to discover that France has introduced a new law banning insults.

The law aims to curb psychological violence inflicted through words, sms, email, et cetera, particularly on women by their spouses/partners; the reasoning being that words do as much harm as sticks and stones. Any one found guilty of breaking the new law could get up to 3 years in the big house and fined about 90,000 US dollars.

What’s interesting is that the law defines mental violence as “repeated acts which could be constituted by words or other machinations, to degrade one’s quality of life and cause a change to one’s mental or physical state”. So while women’s rights advocates around the world will be celebrating this one, I’m wondering, can this law be invoked where a religious group is targeted? And what kind of physical evidence would support verbal abuse? I wouldn’t go so far as to say France is now ‘criminalising speech’ since this law will probably be used mostly in cases of prolonged/ repeated mental abuse (say in a marriage), but people are arguing that this is a strike against free speech. Opinions?

Of course in Uganda, there’s no need for such a law. Why waste time on verbal abuse when you can pull out your shiny pistol? This MP who allegedly threatened a fuel attendant with physical violence is the same man who would readily ‘be the hangman if his son were gay’. Charming.

Speaking of violence, German fans are apparentlyy now calling for the death of Paul, the psychic octopus who infamously predicted the Spanish win last night. Sigh. First they love you, then they hate you. Poor mollusk was only delivering the message!

Irritable

Standard

I like to consider myself even-tempered. Aside from the somewhat-frequent occasional  gin&tonic induced moments of bliss and the odd nervous-breakdown, I have the emotional variation of sand. Today, however, my mind is in a freefall toward murderous rage. I’m not quite there yet (as I write this, I’m somewhere at dark cloud hanging over head, but trying to fight it) and I’m really hoping no unfortunate thing or creature will push me over that precipice.

I woke up happy. I even had a rock-out moment to Plain White Tees with my nephew. Breakfast was good; I actually got to chew and swallow it – usually I have to inhale some juice before running out the door with one shoe on.

So whence did this melancholy descend? It was somewhere around the old taxi park. Some time between trying  to dodge brainless veering bodabodas and taxis while simultaneously trying not to land on my ass on the putrid, slimy, pothole-filled thing that passes for a road. The place smells like chemicals and chickenfeed, you can’t tell where the garbage stops and the road begins and the textile sellers, fruit vendors, serious people like myself and general loafers are all jostling for the same two inches of “clean” walking space. AARGH!!!

I finally reach my destination, or rather, as far as the taxi will take me, and I have to get a boda to work. Something about the way that blockhead rode made me want to crack open his skull and rip out his brains [I think we’re somewhere close to murderous rage now] – unfortunately, he didn’t have any. His contraption kept stopping until I decided I’d get to my office faster if I crawled, so I got off, may or may not have muttered curses his way and walked.

Even my newly compiled 90s playlist didn’t calm me down. Now I’m at work and I’m going to sit quietly and not tempt Fate until the day ends. At least tomorrow’s a holiday. Sigh.

It’s never too early…

Standard

… for some shameless promotion! 

Some infinitely awesome cousins and friends of mine are putting out a line of  T-shirts that celebrate our Ugandanness in a very stylish funky wicked way. They feature Ugandan-isms such as potholes, katogo, kapintos (a.k.a makansi) and of course, matooke. Every tee has a tongue-in-cheek pronunciation and explanation of the image featured. Love it 😀

Peep game:

Check out the def.i.ni.tion page on facebook for details on price, sizes and where they will be sold. As if being Ugandan could get any cooler 🙂

*end of announcement*

An Education?

Standard

In Uganda, most educated people on average go through sixteen years – nearly two decades- of schooling. I went through about eighteen myself (counting kindergarten and that inconsequential year in ‘pre-primary’ – WTF?) and sometimes I sit and marvel at the uselessness of it all.

What have I learned, really, that helps me navigate through the shit that life/ gainful employment/ daughterhood/ girlfriendhood throws at me on a daily? From school – very, very little. I mostly get by with quick thinking, shrewdness, humour, alcohol, spirituality and gracious parents and friends.

I’m not saying school is inconsequential. Without it, I might not have learned languages, for instance, which are quite helpful for flirting and getting my way 🙂 I wouldn’t have learned to read as well as I can; although thinking about it, I am mostly a self-taught reader and, if anything, my teachers tried to stifle me with 100-word Peter & Jane books while my latest Enid Blyton lay ignored in my schoolbag.

School for me provided the tools (brains to pick, libraries, computers) with which I stoked my curiosity for knowledge about the world. As for the syllabi themselves – rubbish mostly. Take History for example: why oh why does a Ugandan child in 21st century Africa need to know about Metternich (sp? it’s been a while) or the bloody Crimean war? And not just know them, mind, but cram them and love them well enough to score an A on their final exams?!

Why do we need to learn about the alliteration and onomatopeia in Robert Frost’s poetry, when many of us have never heard of or read our own Okot p’Bitek or Doreen Baingana or Monica Arac de Nyeko? I realise that school is not the only teacher in our lives, but Ugandan schools, which have had the same A level syllabus for the last 10 years, are really just an assembly line of empty-headed unthinking cramming machines.

And don’t even get me started on the particular high school I attended and its stern colonial ban on vernacular! We actually were not allowed to speak Luganda/Rukiga/ slang, etc (anything that was not english or french) ever, except on Saturday from 10 a.m to 4 p.m, if memory serves. I am not kidding. The punishment for any offender with this horrible horrible inclination to speak their mother-tongue outside of regulated hours was a large “speech-offender” banner worn around the neck. Much like a noose.

Whoever said, “do not let your schooling get in the way of your education” needs to come to this country and say it again for all to hear.