Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I cannot not hope

News out of Kenya is grim. At first we thought that, maybe, just maybe, the handshake between the politicians would solve things.

Well, I was mistaken. Maybe the rest of the world was too. I should have remembered that in 1985, Nairobi was the site of the Uganda Peace Talks between the then guerrilla leader Museveni, and the military junta in power in Kampala. Ugandans called those peace talks the Nairobi Peace Jokes.

Yes, maybe I should have remembered that.

Africa is bleeding. And I am hurting. I feel the pain of the Kenyan as the brother raises hand, machete, spear and arrow against brother. I feel the bewilderment as children are burnt in churches, and neighbour burns neighbour for being the wrong tribe. The bullets flying, the meaningless talk, the pain and fear and the displacement. The loss of life and property and livelihood and hope.

Africa is hurting, and I cannot help but feel the pain.

Yet I cannot give up hope. I must hope.

I cannot not hope.

I will not be wrapped in the pain of despair,

or let the desert chill of hopelessness overwhelm my soul.

I will sow hope, a seed of faith,

broadcast over all the land.

I will plant and toil, sing and cry;

I will labour and water with my tears,

But I cannot not hope.

Hope is the river that waters my heart

that sustains me through thick and thin,

that lays siege to despair and pain

knowing, despite the heaviness of night;

despite the darkness, the mud and pain;

day will come, light broach the night,

the sun will rise,

and my tears of pain will in a face of happiness turn

to tears of joy raised in a face shining with hope

beaming with happiness in the sun’s warm radiance, glorious promise.

I just cannot not hope.


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Monday, January 28, 2008

Uganda Best of Blog Awards.

Please do not vote for Semambo.wordpress.com. He requested to be removed from the nominees. Thanks.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Charisma, People of Charisma

I have followed Barack Obama's riocheting rise to prominence in world politics with a bit of awe. Must admit that there are few people just like him. Made me to start thinking of the power that some people have. The power of Charisma.

What is Charisma?

Dont know whether I can put a finger on what it is. To me, it is the power to sway others. Maybe with intellect. Albert Einstein had that, I think. Maybe with oratory- Churchill?, maybe with writing- Shakespeare, to me at least. And Wordsworth.

Or the force of personality.

Where does Obama fall?

Some are gifted with charisma, and do use it to make others their slaves. Slavery of the mind. I am thinking of the guy who led his cult to death, giving them 'Kool Aid'. And of course the Kibwetere of Kanungu in Uganda. He burnt them dead.

Martin Ssempa is definately charismatic. Yes, and it is our problem that we are up against him in Uganda. Us as in Kuchus.

It is interesting to realise the power of a charismatic person. Ssempa is a case in point.

I personally do not like the guy, so what I am going to write is highly suspect.

Ssempa is a handsome, personable man. Very well spoken, articulate, and knows his way round the field of people politics. He is a 'pentecostal' pastor, with a Church at Makerere University which he founded. He is charismatic, and here lies the danger of charisma.

Ssempa is vain, and not a good man personally. He does love power, and seeks it. He is not very clever. Well, I must admit that he says he has an MPH and PhD. The honorary kind, if I am not mistaken. But I might be.

Because he is charismatic, Ssempa jumps up and down on his stage and preaches to his enthralled flock about the beuties of sexual abstinence, how masturbation is a terrible sin, and how Uganda has made its name on the HIV front by following the godly family values of abstinence and being faithful. And this to twenty something zealots.

Ssempa is so illogical in his logic that many laugh at what he says. One has to laugh, but when you hear the fervour of his flock, you cannot help getting concerned. They believe in him. Simply, without thought, without criticism, without any fear.

They are willing to injure me, in the name of their god and Ssempa, yes, because one of the things that Ssempa is rabid about is my sexuality. Homosexuality.
Think I am lying? Check out these posts. One and two. That happened in November 2007, and yes, I had no doubt that Ssempa's flock had no qualms about hurting me in the name of their god.

Maybe that is my definition of charisma. The quality to sway other human beings to follow you in a certain direction.

Told you that I do not like Ssempa. He sincerely believes that he is my friend. And I believe that he believes so. He believes that the best thing for me is to die, (maybe be imprisoned, at least) all in the name of turning me away from homosexuality. Yet he is my 'best friend'. That is according to him. His very words.

But all that is charisma, yet used badly. Is there a person who used it well? Jesus of Nazareth. Churchill. Is Nelson Mandela charismatic, or is it the charisma of hype that surrounded his 27 years in prison?

There is one guy that I have no doubt was charismatic. And he was intelligent enough to use this for the good of his nation. As he saw it.
An unsung hero, to most of the world. Reviled by some, revered by others. Julius Kambarage Nyerere. First President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

I know most in the west have barely heard of him. And those who did, heard that he was a 'communist' and thus 'bad'.
I did have the luck to know a bit more about him. And I must say that I was struck by his charisma.
I am not a Tanzanian, and what I write about him are things which I picked up as I grew up.

Nyerere was a school teacher. He led his country of Tanganyika, to independence. And he was President for 26 years.

Yeah, you may say, typical African strongman. President for life.

But that is where you would be very wrong. Nyerere was indeed a highly intelligent and charismatic, and human person.

He had a vision of the unity of Africa. Negotiated the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to make the Tanzania we know.
His was the time of the cold war. And the turbulence of post independent Africa. The west courted him. Kenyatta of Kenya was amenable to the west. Nyerere prefered his independence. He did not like the USSR. And, in the cold war, he embraced China. Instead of USSR. He kept his country truly free.

In that day of ideological wars, Nyerere liked socialism. I think it appealed to his sense of duty to the country that he led. But he did not want to embrace it as it was exported from USSR and China. He developed a political philosophy of his own. African Socialism, or Ujamaa.

Our nations post independence were nothing like they are now. Disparate ethnic groups united by a conqueror called a Colonialist, and then left on their own in 'independence'. Zaire, or the DRC has never got over the post independence convulsions, to date. In Kenya, an 'African Strong Man', took over, saw his opportunity, made himself rich and powerful and have a dynasty etc. And they were never truly united. What is happening today in Kenya is basically a symptom of that. Kikuyu against the rest of the country. Reprehensible, but reality.

I was once in Tanzania. One thing that impressed me, then, as ever was the unity of the country. They are Tanzanians, and they know that they are. We Ugandans, are Ugandans second, but either Baganda, Basoga, Alur, Iteso, etc etc first. Our ethinicity is something which we strongly believe in.
The unity of Tanzania, I have no doubt, was Nyerere's doing. His long reign. Oh yes, it was a reign. His ideas, his promotion of one language of unity. Swahili. And his charisma.

Multipartyism came to Tanzania in the late 80s, if my history is not wrong, and people found that they could talk about what they liked and what they did not like, openly. And they did.

At that time, Nyerere had stepped down. Voluntarily.

He allowed (true to agreement) the President of Zanzibar to become President of Tanzania. An imbecile, (I am allowed a personal assesment, aint I), if there was one. But Nyerere was the power behind the throne.

The country started to move towards multipartism. Slowly, hesistantly. And of course the powers that were felt threatened. They decided to renege on that promise.

Mzee Mwalimu Nyerere, revered Father of the nation (Baba wa Taifa) called a press conference. And at that press conference declared that multi partyism was the way to go. And that was it. When I heard that I was cynical. He had ruled without allowing dissent, but now was forcing his succesor to have an opposition? I thought it hypocritical.

But he was not yet finished.

The ruling party had to choose another man to lead. The imbecile (my pen just slips), was term barred. And of course there was jockeying for positions. Who would be the next man?
Nyerere looked through the list of the likely candidates, and was not impressed. He declared all of them unfit.

The country waited for Nyerere to play king maker.

Interestingly, the current president was younger but very popular. Nyerere rejected him. Too young, his words, I believe. So, he chose an unknown political entity, Benjamin Mkapa, and proceded to campaign for him across the country, and win him his presidency.
And, personally, I believe that this time the old man saw true. He chose a good man.

I once did hear Nyerere speak, in Swahili. I was amazed.

I did not know Swahili, and Nyerere was not president at that time. I was in a place that was a hotbed of dissent. Cross my heart and hope to die, I listened as this elderly, revered gentleman talked on the radio for over an hour. I understood nothing of the language. Tanzanian Swahili is very, very good. And too hard for me.

What I did understand was the rapt attention of almost everyone where I was. They were not forced to turn on their radios. Indeed, they would revile and joke about the sitting president's escapades and switch off the radios when he was talking. But when Nyerere decided to talk non stop for a full hour plus, on radios which the populace could switch off if they so wanted; they broadcast it, to their neighbours and friends who did not have one. They listened, and listened in the heat of Dar-es-Salaam. Those doing work did their work quietly, listening to that charismatic man.

I must admit I was deeply critical of the man at that time. Well, in keeping with the environment I was in. But, despite my lack of comprehension of the language, I noticed the thrall into which it seemed everyone was. A magic spell that settled on all the listeners.
Baba wa Taifa, the Father of the nation was speaking. And literally, the whole nation stopped to listen. And they did listen.

Nyerere is now dead. Still as revered as he was. In keeping with his frugal style, he never amassed the wealth that his neigbours did. When he decided that the 'socialist' way was not the way for his country, he relinquished the reins, into the hands of an (imbecile) but still oversaw, for 8 long years. And during that time, he personally steered the country towards a market economy, and multi partyism, and a democracy, the African way.

Yeah, I was impressed by the man. Incidentally, besides writing his own philosophy of leadership in Africa, I hear he translated the full works of Shakespeare into Swahili. Truly a man of many parts.

(I must confess when I heard about the translation I was deeply prejudiced. I was younger, and demonstrably more stupid than I am at the moment.)

Anyway, going back to the subject of charisma, Is Barak Obama in the mold of a Nyerere?
If he is, with all his idealism and talk of hope and charisma, well, maybe the US will have a president they will respect, and indeed hold in the awe of JFK. If he becomes president.

If he is indeed as charismatic as that, I do not envy Hillary Clinton's bid to beat him. Even if he is still the underdog.


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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Grey Day

The day is grey. Really grey.

I mean, the sun is not to be seen. A haze has settled over the valleys of Kampala, and even the hills seem to be wrapped in it. I am downtown, looking out towards Old Kampala hill. Cant see the green of the trees. It is a dark, shadow that sits where-ever the trees should be.
Grey Kampala. But bustling all the same.

It is supposed to be a national holiday. The ruling party. Odd. The party in power does have its own National day.

But there are quite a number of vehicles on the streets. And people. And movement, and- Kampala is its usual bustly self. I came with an umbrella because it was drizzling when I left home. Noticed that most people did not have them, and rightly so. My weather sense was telling me, despite the heavy overcast, the mist, and the drizzle, that it should be a hot and bright day. Yet to see whether I can still read that right.

Grey day.

Does not reflect what is in my mind. But there is a friend who seems to be having a grey time.
Iwaya. A cyber acquaintance. Met him here, and have been visiting his blog. Following his posts.
These posts, they reveal so much and so little of us. He was working in Southern Sudan, Juba. Seems both to love and hate the place. It is a tough posting. Rough place with minimal government. And we seem to have problems, as Ugandans working in Sudan. Horror stories.
Followed his posts through a return to Uganda for holidays, an apparent break up, returning to Sudan, and then the horror of a house fire where 8 Ugandans were burnt to death. 2 of them were his friends.

He writes beautifully. Lyrical. Kind of hard sometimes to know whether the emotions expressed are his. Yet they are too intense, too heartfelt to be someone else’s. In prose and poetry, he has told a story of his life. And he is in pain.

I feel it, too. Through his writing. Hope you’ll be okay, Iwaya. My prayers for you. May the problems be solved.



Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Day

Sun is not going to be out today. Least, does not seem likely.

Low overcast cloud. The trees and leaves green and turgid, stirring fitfully in the cold uneven breeze.

Kampala, as I know it, is a very bustly city. People moving everywhere, goods and services on the sale at every corner of the street and in the middle of the roads. All is movement, and bustle, and noise, of car horns, cars engines and the tangy stench of exhausts.

A cold Kampala is not made much better by the lack of sun. One feels the cold, cutting, in sympathy to the usual blanket of heat teasing sweat from our glistening bodies.

But today, today, it will not be so. Today the sun is hid, and maybe unhidden only in the afternoon, if it does.

Have just done a bit of work. One of those days, when words seem to flow smooth, and life has that edge to it that makes it worth the while to sing about its oil of happiness. Reading Charlotte Bronte’s poem, ‘Life’ this morning, I am minded on how fitting it is. Life is not a dream dark. Life is a flow of river, sometimes quick, sometimes a cascade, sometimes slow and lumbering, always flowing.

And today, it flows. Though it is true that the sea is the final destination, yet I will take joy in the song of the bird, the strains of music in the air, the tang of cold on my skin, and the news of a football match on the other side of the continent.

The Kenyan convulsions have eased, a bit. Though we are still taking the aftershocks. Have heard of another world wide convulsion in the stock markets. Had never heard of something that is called ‘sub prime’ loans and things like that. I will not swear to knowing the definition, even now.

But I know that in this global village of our, that unknown thing may affect how I do the things that I do.

A day with the adrenaline coursing near the skin, yet I cannot help yawning. It is beautiful, how many times can I emphasize that without being repetitive?


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

UB40 at Lugogo Cricket Club - February 23th

This is not big news, and a little early, but apparently UB40 is playing at Lugogo in a month.

VIP tickets are 125,000.
General tickets are 25,000 ugsh.

Red red wine, baby!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Yet another BHH

We didn't have one for December (thought we deserved a break) but we are back for yet another Blogger's Happy Hour in January.

This time around it is on Thursday 24th January 2008 at 6.30pm at Mateos, as usual.

It is also time for the UBOB. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is the annual Ugandan Best Of Blogs Awards. Please e-mail your suggestions for categories and nominations for the ones suggested below to darlkom@gmail.com or come with them to this months BHH. I am putting up the parameters we used for the awards last year, please let us know using the comment section if there are any particular changes you want to see.

The first annual Uganda Best of Blogs competition was based on the following categories

  • Ugandan blog of the year — open to any blog written by a Ugandan or focusing on Uganda

  • Best post — The single best piece in the Ugandan blogosphere

  • Best blog in Uganda — Written by anyone living in Uganda in 2007

  • Best overseas Ugandan blog — Any Uganda-focused or Ugandan-authored blog written in a foreign country

  • Best writing — Intelligent, witty, feisty, eloquent or just plain funny

  • Best design — Best overall design and layout

  • Best photography — Best photo taken by a Ugandan blogger and posted on his or her blog

To be considered for the 2007 Uganda BOB awards, blogs must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Have dated entries

  • Have existed at some point during 2007

  • Be written by a Ugandan, by a non-Ugandan living in Uganda, or be focused on Uganda

In the nomination phase,

  • URLs are required for all nominated blogs

  • The maximum number of blogs you may nominate for a category is two (2) for most categories and three (3) for Ugandan blog of the year

  • You must nominate at least three (3) different blogs total — no flogging of one blog for numerous categories

  • You may nominate your own blog, but the nominations for your own blog must be less than one third of your total (legitimate) nominations

  • There is no limit to the number of categories for which a blog may be nominated

  • Nominees have to fit the category they are placed in

After BHH, the nominations will be open for one month, till the February BHH on 28th February 2008.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

the Audacity of Hope

a man- of soaring eloquence;
in whom the pulse to life
throbs, near to surface,
fascinating, ensnaring, empowering-
any, all that dare near
the sun to fly, never untouched.

the audacity of hope-
Hope, that the sun will rise,
though darkness threatens-
the moon her brilliance touch
to full, the skies to clear,
a man, woman to know God-
in depths of despair, the world
to change, retouch, renew;
not a lifeless bauble-
a living, life giving mother to us.

the audacity of hope, giving hope-
world over,
not a Ceasar to rule, I pray
(human is fallible)
but a man, who dares to hope and
this world reach, turn to stare
and, dare to hope...

the audacity of hope, rising
in our breasts, my breast, yours-
in Africa, America, Europe;
hope soaring in Asia, Australia
-the audacity of hope.

Dare to dream, a man that
dares all to dream, to hope
the Audacity of hope.


Funny. I have never read the book.

I am an African. He is American.
I do not like stereotypes, shortcuts to thinking. But I recognise the overwhelming feel of good that seems to float from him. Not because I can try to claim him an African. Fie on that.

Because as a human being, he is a charismatic one who is holding the hope of using that power to sway for good.

The poem lacks a lot. True.

Yet, as flawed as it is, I think it tells something of what I felt yesterday, thinking of his suprising win.


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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Thought for Africa


they’re on my body,

not my mind-

I’m free, where it matters.


It’s the new year, 2008.

Beautiful outside. Dry weather, a bright sun promising heat in the day. Heat there is now, a nice, dry feel to the skin. The kind which would have me throw off my shirt and labour under the sun, skin glistening with glorious sweat running down my back, muscles rippling and dancing under my dark skin, swinging an axe, or hoe, pulling at stubble in a field, in the hope of rain far off in the future.

Africa. Beautiful Africa.

The new year has dawned as the old did. New and old are mixed, despair and hope.

Another African leader has betrayed his people. This time in Kenya.

Swindling a poll? Maybe he did not. But there is so much circumstantial evidence that he is guilty till proven otherwise. Like our president, he came in on a wave of promise, five years ago. Popular support, acclaim, for a new Kenya, a jewel in Africa’s crown.

Like our president, again, he has turned a horrible new leaf.

Chains? Yes, they are there. But we are free. As free as we will allow ourselves to be.

Sometime ago, I would wail and cry at what has happened in Kenya. The betrayal of trust. The mindless deaths. Unreasoned, unreasonable actions.

Yet I have to admit that I hold too closely to the values which are foreign to my culture. They are good values. But not enough of us hold them to make them African. They evolved in the thinking of years. In Africa, in Kenya, some steps forwards were taken, now we slide back.

Yet these chains are on our bodies. We are still free.

And it is that freedom that I am carrying on in the new year.

I do freely admit that I am stubborn enough to hold onto my convictions. I am an African. A Ugandan, living and working in Uganda. I will, and do, borrow and steal and take from all over the world. I will not be constrained by the trappings of culture. And I will not accept, as seems reasonable, that conventional, western thoughts are the norm. I will think, and reason, and argue, and say, that which my mind deems to be right.

That is freedom. That is freedom of the mind.

There are chains of poverty, of ill will, of greed, of corruption and despair all around me. Death seems a constant companion. Life’s cycles seem corrupted by pain and despair.

Yet I know, believe, that I am free. Because I am free.

Beautiful Africa. My beautiful world.

I know you are hurting, your children hurt, your earth raped, your forests naked and stolen and hurt. But thank you for the gift of life, and freedom of the mind that I celebrate of now, in this new year.

And thank you for a very beautiful morning, dawn, and weather promising a beautiful day today.


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