Odokonyero is here

In July, last year, Madhu Krishnan and I convened two creative writing workshops in Kampala and Gulu, taught by Nick Makoha and Jennifer Makumbi, respectively.  Moses Odokonyero and Jacob Katumusiime were very central to the secondary school teachers’ focus group discussions we held alongside the workshop. The results of the workshop are eighteen short stories, written by emerging and young Ugandan writers, now available for public enjoyment in an anthology, published by Black Letter Media.


Alongside the workshops, in the same month last year, Noosim Naimasiah and I collaborated on a documentary film project on the question of social media and its impact on creative writing. For the film, I interviewed five major Ugandan writers, namely, Jennifer Makumbi, Stella Nyanzi, Nyana Kakoma, Ernest Bazanye and Acan Innocent.

The July days spent with Noosim, Zahara Abdul, Lewis Ainebyona and Esther Mirembe were enjoyable and I am proud of the product of our labour. I am personally grateful to Henry Brefo who has been the key strategy man for Writivism since 2016, Roland Byagaba who has been the man in charge of all things Writivism since September 2017, Rukundo Joschua, and Mulialia Okumu for their labour, and unflinching support.


The final version of the documentary film is on tour in the United Kingdom next week. The film will be screened in Brighton, London and Birmingham. The Uganda screening news will be released as soon as they will be available. I want to be there, obviously. While I wait anxiously to travel to Kampala for that screening, and the launch of Odokonyero, the anthology, enjoy four of the eighteen short stories in the anthology, below.

Candano by Fred Sunday Mugisha

Tendo by Esther Mirembe 

My Name is Ojwiny by George Ocen 

Let me Write to Dad by Jacob Katumusiime 

It was a pleasure doing these things, to celebrate five years of Writivism, no wonder my electronic self passed out in August, and I missed two weeks at the beginning of the semester. I am happy to see the fruits of all that labour.

Dear Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda

On January 25, 1986 when the Uganda National Liberation Front military government was defeated by your National Resistance Army (NRA), I did not exist in any form. Not even as an idea. Not even as a foetus. I was born almost two years after that day. This means that as you celebrate the feat of leading Uganda for thirty one uninterrupted years this 26th day of the month of January, the year of our Lord 2017, I will wait for ten more months before celebrating my thirtieth birthday.

Our generation of Ugandans, born in 1986 and after deserves to be named after your stay in power. We deserve to be known as the Museveni generation. We grew up knowing that your name is a synonym for presidency. Indeed we said things like, Kenya has changed its museveni, to mark the handing over of presidency in that country from Moi to Kibaki and from Kibaki to Uhuru Kenyatta. To us, the office of the president is you, and you are the office of the president. That is reductionist. You are more than the office of the president. You have defined much of the reality in which we have grown.

We remember our childhood, teenage and young adulthood days by the various policy and political events in which you were the central player. Whether it is the start of the Universal Primary Education programme in the 1990s, under which most of us attained elementary education, or the 2000 political challenge for the presidency of your organisation (system), the National Resistance Movement by Kizza Besigye, or even the 2005 Juba Peace Talks with the Lord’s Resistance Army, or the 2011 Walk to Work protests: you were the lead player that shaped those events, and as a result, you dominate how we remember our own personal histories.

You have re-imagined and created Uganda in your image. You have been in power for longer than the combined years previous leaders stayed in office. Today, I like to think about these realities as merely that: facts, without imposing any value judgement. My letter to you, Yoweri has nothing to do with whether it is right or wrong for you to have shaped our generation through your short and continuing stay in power. I know that your handlers and propagandists are itching already, to tear down whatever I wish to say, if they sense that this letter is criticising your short stay in power. I wish not to indulge them.

Yoweri: I want to ask about a side of you, that I wish to see more of. Can I call you Grandpa? I have read that people called you Mzee, even before I was born, you were already called Old Man. To a person born in 1987, age-wise, you qualify to be a grandfather. But also, given your role in shaping the conditions and realities of my short life on earth so far, I think it is respectful to call you Grandpa. After all, where I grew up, they taught us not to call elders by name. I apologise for the bad manners exhibited in the previous paragraphs. Can we cut out the handlers and propagandists at this stage? They should not care what grandchildren tell their grannies.

Grandpa: I wish to see more of your intellectual side. I remember glancing through my father’s copies of Sowing the Mustard Seed and What is Africa’s Problem in the late 1990s, when I was too young to appreciate your wisdom. As a young adult, I would read you in detail and appreciate that you wrote that scholarly verification of Fanon’s Theory of Revolutionary Violence in Mozambique during your undergraduate study. That thesis is important for my political commitment to and interest in the fight against imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, to borrow bell hooks’ naming of the system of our oppression. I also appreciate that you published selected essays on protracted warfare that military strategists world over should also be thankful for.

I appreciate most of your speeches, where you forget to score points against perceived Ugandan political opponents and go off on tangents in which you seek to interpret phenomena on your own terms as an ideas man. Most times I pick interest in how your neo-liberal practices as president contradict your ‘freedom fighter’ rhetoric. Your actions have entrenched the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’s hold onto Ugandan society. But I remain greedy Grandpa, for your written material and intellectual things, and so allow me, as you would a grandchild, to ask for more. Please publish more, Grandpa. Our generation deserves to read more narration of events that have shaped our lives from your perspective. Just as you disagreed with your teacher Walter Rodney at University of Dar es Salaam on the issue of the existence of God, you know for sure that some of us will disagree with your viewpoint as is expected in a situation where there are two and more working minds.

I know that some of the propagandists in your employ are now tempted to respond to this blog post by attacking me personally, and listing all your publications. They probably think that I am not aware of the long list of your publications. I do not know if they sometimes think that our generation does not know how to use Google to find information, or they are the ones who do not know how helpful that search engine is. So, indeed we Google a lot, and specifically I, look out for any intellectual material authored by yourself there is, online. I also look for the same offline. Our generation is after all not able to live fully digital lives because of what you would call infrastructural bottlenecks, when you wear the bureaucratic jargon on your tongue. Your critics would add the fact that sometimes you pull out of that hat, a vague justification, that gift that keeps giving, of ‘national security’ to try to deny us the use of the internet as happened during the 2016 election. But let me not pay attention to the propagandists in your employ and their antagonists, your critics.

Let me state my second ask. It is related to the first. Grandpa: why don’t you impose a cultural agenda onto your government? Maybe that is a wrong way to phrase it. Let me re-phrase. Grandpa: can you impose a cultural agenda onto your government? Surely, you can’t limit the role of culture in the revolution to the military songs of the NRA. You know that Amilcal Cabral’s concept of the building of national culture and consciousness went beyond that.

I love that in your personal capacity as an intellectual, you have been part of two groups of linguists that have worked on a translation dictionary, and a thesaurus. I have expressed elsewhere my issues with these two projects. I have questioned the dominance of Runyankore and Nkore ways at the expense of Rukiga and Kiga ways, yet they are described as including both the Banyankore and Bakiga nationalities. My critique of the work does not take away its value. I think that it is important work. Indeed as bell hooks says, the critic only engages the work that they ascribe value to. Given the technological domination of the world by White Supremacist Eurocentric media and modes of knowledge, our generation appreciates the labour of those intellectual fighters who keep our own languages and heritage accessible to us. In your personal capacity, you are one of them.

But Grandpa: why do you do these projects as an individual? Why doesn’t your government have a cultural and language policy to support this work, in the process extending it to other nationalities in Uganda, beyond the Banyankore and Bakiga? I could list the various provisions of international human rights treaties ratified by Uganda that require the state to promote indigenous languages and heritage. Indeed, even the 1995 Ugandan Constitution has provisions that support this case. Sections of various Acts of Parliament can also be cited to boost the case for state investment in indigenous languages and heritage. But for now, I choose to write to you a blog post than to take your government to task in the courts of law. From your Kavunuuzi and Katondoozi projects referred to above, I know that you are interested in this type of work, as an individual. Why, Grandpa: doesn’t this interest and personal investment seep into public policy?

As a President of Uganda, your government’s cultural and language policies for the last 31 years have served a colonial and imperial agenda. They enforce White Supremacy in the name of ‘development’ and ‘modernisation’. They turn full lives into commodities, following neo-liberal capitalist logics. They alienate black children from their immediate environments, history and heritage, to the benefit of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Grandpa: knowing that you are a former student of Walter Rodney, the Guyanese historian and Pan Africanist Marxist who gave us How Europe Underdeveloped Africa among other revolutionary texts, I know that this gospel is a staple on your ideological plate. I imagine that at a personal level, you do not like your own government’s cultural and language policy framework. But why does your government continue to do this damage, Grandpa?

Instead of you always asking UNESCO to fund your personal heritage and language projects, a state institution should exist to support this work. As you know, our generation has its many demands on the state and on your generation, given the conditions of our growing up. You are all we know. We may not yet be big on demanding a cultural and language renaissance, but you can be sure that we will appreciate this in the long term. Why don’t you institutionalise your personal hobby of contributing to projects around Runyankore and Nkore heritage so that other intellectual workers in the indigenous arts, from other Ugandan nationalities can make their contributions? Grandpa: is this too much to ask? You surely can persuade your colleagues in government to allocate some of the hundreds of millions of US Dollars the Consolidated Fund already has, from oil related income (that batch for which the handshake was given) to this.

My final ask is petty, Grandpa. It may even be problematic. Actually, it is. Please Grandpa: do not allow your handlers and various propagandists to come here and pretend to respond to this open letter. I know this last paragraph is a gift to them, as they think that they will use it to delegitimise what they may perceive as an attempt at discrediting you. Grandpa: please prevail on them. They may not see how well intentioned this plea from a child who has no choice but to carry the label with your own name, having been born during your era as Ugandan president, is. I know you are busy, and that this last paragraph could be the reason this letter may not reach you, but I believe that there are spiritual dimensions to our existence on earth and so you may find this letter telepathically. I will be glad to receive a response through action, Grandpa. Or even clairvoyantly.


Furayide: P.O Box Nyanja, Kabale.

We want to preserve Rukiga – Rukiga: Prof. Manuel Muranga

Dear Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire,

I am seeing for the first time your comment on “Kavunuuzi”. (I cannot see its date, I am afraid!) It is very well written, and as one of the authors, I wish to register my acknowledgement of your critical remarks. Indeed the dictionary needs some, and in places even much, revision. If you know anything about the history of dictionary writing worldwide, you will appreciate that this is not an easy task. “Kavunuuzi” is one of the very few Runyankore-Rukiga dictionaries that exist, and I would suggest that your criticism be a little tempered. Is there nothing good at all in the dictionary, apart from the intention, which you say was never achieved?

Using expressions such as “failing miserably” is certainly not edifying for me as one of the authors: allow me this I hope understandable level of sensitivity. Did you not at least notice the effort to follow the official orthography of Runyankore-Rukiga, which is generally not known and so not observed, with words being written arbitrarily or instinctively? (Indeed, have you learnt the orthography yourself – one of the best achievements in the history of Runyankore, Rukiga and other Ugandan bantu languages? It was not invented by us, and though it leaves something to be desired here and there, it still is a remarkable achievement and we thank those linguists for it.)

But of course you are free to adopt the critical stance that you deem best, but being an old pedagogue, my take is that it is generally wiser to look for something good or at least fair in a work – and be it ever so paltry; thereafter, you may proceed to point out the weaknesses. Even this pointing out should be as humble, yet at the same time as clear as possible – in one word: constructive. This is a difficult art in criticism and scholarship, but it constitutes the difference between serious criticism and the itch for sheer polemic.

Let me add a few terminological matters for your consideration: The term “Runyankore-Rukiga” automatically suggests that there is more Runyankore than Rukiga in the concept or reality that is conveyed by that term. Thus a “Runyankore-Rukiga” “Kavunuuzi” announces itself in its title as Runyankore-dominant. What would “Rukiga-Runyankore” be like? My idea, indeed, is that the Rukiga we in the northern and north-western half of Ndorwa County normally call “okuhorora” should be called “Rukiga-Runyankore”, while the Rukiga whose grammar (especially) is clearly distinct from Runyankore, Ruhororo and what I have just called Rukiga-Runyankore should be called Rukiga-Rukiga, or simply Rukiga. Mark you, the “Rukiga” spoken in the southern and south-western parts of Ndorwa County, i.e. large parts of Kyanamira and Kitumba Subcounties, plus most of Buhara, Maziba, and Kaharo Subcounties, as well as – in Rukiga County – large parts of Bukinda and all of Kamwezi Subcounties: the “Rukiga” spoken in those places is indeed what I would call “Rukiga-Runyankore”, or, even more accurately, “Rukiga-Ruhororo-Runyankore”.

Mr. Bwesigye, clear distinctions between Rukiga and Runyankore “culturems” or culture-based specifics in the vocabulary (as you correctly refer to them) notwithstanding, the major “heritage” you and I want to preserve as far as Rukiga is concerned is the heritage of “Rukiga-Rukiga” grammar, which is quite distinct from Runyankore/Ruhororo/Rukiga-Runyankore grammar. Thus, whereas Rukiga-Runyankore (as I have called it) and Ruhororo and Runyankore – or, in a word, what is currently called “Runyankore-Rukiga” – all say, for example, “Nooyenda ki?” (and, more colloquially, “Nonda ki?”), what does Rukiga-Rukiga say? Rukiga-Rukiga says, “Orenda ki?” (and this happens to have no colloquial form known to me).

Your concerns are apparently more about vocabulary – understandably since “Kavunuuzi” is a dictionary. But I tell you those words that are typically, almost inalienably, “Kiga” are easy enough to identify and this will be done in the next edition of “Kavunuuzi” – which we are already working on, by the way. Other vocabulary is quite fluid between Rukiga and Runyankore, and with more writings in Runyankore-Rukiga or Rukiga-Rukiga coming into being and circulating, this fluidity will become more clear to you. The fluidity also touches on culture, though I too am, by and large, an advocate of cultural preservation.

But, as I have just said, what is more inalienably “Kiga” – and what I would soonest die to preserve – is the grammar, and of course the “sound”, of Rukiga-Rukiga, manifest though this is in at least five dialectal forms, namely: “Rukiga-Rusigi”, “Rukiga-Runyangyezi”, “Rukiga-Ruhimba”, “Rukiga-Rusaakuru” and “Rukiga-Rugabira”. Yet, even within each of these there are differences: thus whereas many speakers of Rukiga-Rusigi would say “okugambiisa”, “okunagiisa”, “okwegyeesa” etc. in constructing the causative forms of the root verbs “okugamba”, “okunaga”, “okwega”, elongating the vowel sound in those critical positions, other Rukiga-Rusigi speakers (e.g. myself from Nyakagyera in Subcounty Kyanamira) would – like the Bahororo and Banyankore – not effect that elongation.

I hope this is a useful exchange, Mr. Bwesigye.

Prof. Manuel J.K. Muranga

Kizza Besigye is no Thomas Sankara but the only chance at Change

This blog considers Thomas Sankara, the former Burkina Faso President as the most ideal pan-African leader to have lived in recent history. In a mere four years of ruling Burkina Faso (which he renamed), he did not only outline an anti-imperialist agenda that should be adopted by many countries under the yoke of neo-colonialism, but he also physically built the country. He painted a picture of a modern Africa that is not necessarily Europeanised. In his policies and thinking, we see a clear line between modernisation and Imperialism. He challenged the traditional feudal chiefs’ hold onto land, promoted gender equality, was a big arts patron, supported the youth and lived a very frugal life. He has been called the upright man. The name he created for the country, Burkina Faso, actually means the land of the upright.

the wire

Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, since Sankara’s death was ruled by Blaise Compaore, who literally was a class-monitor operating on behalf of France, the country that colonised the country that used to be called Upper Volta. He over-turned Sankara’s policies, and had the man’s grave attacked several times. Talking about Sankara in the country was almost criminal. It attracted serious consequences. After 27 years of imperialism-backed dictatorship, the people of Burkina Faso, the youth calling themselves the children of Thomas Sankara took to the streets and peacefully protested Compaore’s plans to extend his rule. The dictator did not budge. The youths burned the Parliamentary buildings. France sent a plane to evacuate their man to Ivory Coast, where another puppet is in control. The Burkinabe got their country back. They are now rebuilding it, and one hopes that their current President, the first civilian leader since independence follows Sankara’s relevant and revolutionary policy and ideological blueprint.


Uganda goes to the polls tomorrow. The country has been ruled by a Compaore type of figure. Under his rule, the country has been involved in each and every conflict in the region, from Somalia, to Central African Republic. This man is a key points-man for US and UK interests in the region. Uganda needs a Sankarian revolution yesterday. Ugandan society needs an overhaul in the way feudal patriarchal structures operate in most areas. The country needs genuine leadership on the gender equality front. A leader willing to tell men things about male privilege. Thirty years of doing the bidding for neo-imperialism are enough. Uganda’s national interest needs to come from the shadows of personal and American interests. The country needs a national identity. Who are we? What are we? What does it mean to be Ugandan? The arts are gone. Artists in the country succeed, despite Uganda, not because of it. The  country carries a heavy debt burden and a thieving class has grown, without tangible production. False middle and upper classes that are not based on productivity but connections. Economic growth figures reflect the amount of corruption happening, than industrialisation.


Who will lead the Sankarian revolution in Uganda?

There is no Thomas Sankara in Uganda today. As Prof. Horace Campbell wrote recently:

Besigye (Kizza) has been addressing very large rallies in all parts of the country. Citizens have flocked to his rallies with gifts and the symbolism of youths bringing jackfruit, chicken, goats and food as donations to political rallies signaled that the poor want to make up for the financial deficiencies of the opposition, FDC (Forum for Democratic Change). The massive rallies of Besigye and the enthusiasm of the electorate has been a signal of the deep desire for change in the political direction of Uganda.


Besigye holds a baby at a rally in the poorer parts of Kampala city, which is increasingly becoming a class-segregated metropolis.

The peasants, the working class, those that Sankara referred to as ‘the people’ have showed support to the FDC candidate. Besigye’s campaign message hits directly at the exploitation of the poor by the corrupt. He indeed preaches that power needs to be removed from the hands of a few and put back into the hands of the people. But there is a problem. Prof. Campbell puts it better.

Ugandan workers and poor farmers are demanding change, but so far the traditional opposition parties have failed to present a project that could find support among the most oppressed. Kizza Besigye has persevered over the past fifteen years, but his horizons are limited to his understanding of the future dependence on western forces.

Imperial neo-liberalism is the beast. The foundation Besigye talks about looks too eerily neo-liberal. He talks the free-market language. The FDC Policy agenda and manifesto preach social-market economics. They are trying to build neo-liberal societies but want to contain the excesses. That is not a Sankarian revolutionary party. Indeed as Horace tells us:

While the FDC has pointed to the wretchedness of the poor, the campaign has not made the link between the structural adjustment programs and the conditions of Ugandans. In many ways, this opposition will remain constrained by its exposure to the international ‘donor community’ and the embrace of the International Republican Institute (IRI). The over-size influence of western NGOs and embassies is evident in the operations of all of the top candidates. It was significant that General Sejusa did not flee to Tanzania or Mozambique when he fell out with Museveni, but to Britain.

Winnie and Besigye

Besigye consults with his wife Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director at Oxfam

Besigye and the FDC are thin on pan-Africanism. In all honesty, Besigye, compared to the other leading challengers for the seat comes off as the cleanest individual. His name has never been connected to corruption scandals. He is a puritan, as Daniel Kalinaki’s book, Kizza Besigye and the Ugandan Unfinished Revolution describes him. He is a stickler to principle. In that way, one can say that there is after all a small Sankara streak in him. He obviously speaks to the people, the masses. That, too is Sankarian. But his medicine of neo-liberal market economics, to the exploitation of the poor by the rich is faulty.

Besigye book cover

By all means, the current neo-colonial regime should go. And at the moment, only Kizza Besigye represents a chance for change. The people support him and they should have their way, as popular democracy (not necessarily the neo-liberal variety of procedural multi-party elections) demands. Once that first step of getting rid of the current neo-colonial regime has been achieved, a proper Sankarian revolution can then happen. The progressive pan-Africanists should get ready for the battle for Uganda’s policy and ideological soul under Besigye. One hopes that the FDC on getting power soon realise the folly of neo-liberalism. The Western block do not trust Besigye that much, after all, so he does not have to become a stooge of US-UK imperialism while in office.

Why FDC and Besigye need to keep a healthy distance from the West (Kofi Annan and Ocampo)

Under the auspices of the Kofi Annan Foundation, the West seems to suggest, through the disgraced former International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Mr. Moreno Ocampo (diplomatically of course) how a Ugandan political party should do her things. Despite a very hard campaign and delicate election process in this party in which my preferred candidate lost, despite the failure at the first The Democratic Alliance (TDA) talks to agree on a joint presidential candidate, in London, the neo-colonisers seem to suggest that the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate that they have never liked anyway should not be the leader of a joint strategy to oust Museveni.

This is disappointing in many ways. Museveni is the West’s so called ‘strategic ally’, which is their way of saying ‘agent’ and they have never liked Besigye to replace him, and now they have found ‘diplomatic’ ways of having not to worry that they are losing an ‘ally’ in the region. Museveni will exploit this to even claim that he is an enemy of the imperialism he has been championing in broad day light and hideous darkness! Even if the candidate being touted as ‘endorsed’ by TDA wins the election and actually takes over power, it will be a non-victory for the people of Uganda because man, why can’t we be independent? Why can’t the African people matter, instead of Western interests? Why can’t African interests matter? This replacement of one agent with another is terrible. Sick. Ocampo and your backers surely, why not leave Africa alone, man?

Besigye book cover

Books, stories, nonfiction and fiction are important survival mechanisms for the disillusioned. So, I have been re-reading Daniel Kalinaki’s recent book as a way of coping with the tragedy of a subtle attempt to ‘bulldoze’ Besigye and the FDC by the West, again as a way to secure their interests at our expense. They have been doing it and it has helped maintain Museveni in power. Now they are doing it such that even if the person they rather deal with wins, their interests shall be safe. And it looks like FDC and Besigye almost fell for it. But trust Besigye, the puritan to insist that Mbabazi does not stand for a corrupt free government, human rights and other pillars of FDC’s struggle against the ruling government in Uganda. Trust the stickler to principles, the puritan.

We start at page iii. The prologue.

“In April 2011, Dr Warren Kifefe Kizza Besigye, the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) opposition political party, met with foreign diplomats in Kololo, an affluent suburb of Uganda’s capital, Kampala.”

*A lot of background and historical text here omitted.

“Besigye’s post-election plan, in particular his participation in the walk-to-work protests, topped the agenda at the April meeting, with diplomats and representatives from donor agencies.

Western agencies had for long been ambivalent about Besigye and the FDC. Britain, Uganda’s former colonial master, the United States of America, other donor countries, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had all invested heavily, both financially and politically in Museveni and his regime.

*Omit more context

*Omit more context

“They (the West) stuck with Museveni, even after the widely discredited 2006 election in which Besigye spent half his campaign time in jail or court, battling fabricated rape and unproved treason charges.

In March 2007 Uganda deployed peacekeeping troops to Somalia to keep what was left of the failed state from falling into the hands of extremist Islamists from Al-Shabaab, who are allied to Al-Qaeda. Suddenly Museveni went from an imperialistic meddler to a strategic ally in the global war on terror and an enforcer of stability in regional geo-politics.”

Down with the bloody agent, down! Neo colonialism Zeeee! Zeeee! #NeocolonialismMustFall

*Omit more context

“Besigye’s brash and aggressive style had never really endeared him to the West. Where Museveni was charming and affable, Besigye was stiff and overly serious. Where Museveni humored diplomats with tales of African history or the provenance of his beloved herds of cattle, Besigye never veered from monotonous diatribes on policy failures and the democratic deficit in the country.

Many western observers accused Besigye of being populist and confrontational rather than rational and persuasive. They wanted him to build a party, write manifestos, propose alternative policies, and run a western-style democratic process.

Besigye accused the western donors and diplomats f being naive and ignorant. Museveni had so much power and dominance over the political landscape, Besigye argued, that he had to be dislodged if real and sustainable democratic reform and institution building could take place.

In any case, Besigye had charted out policy alternatives in his election manifestos, he said, but those counted for little in a political environment where it was not the votes that counted but those who counted them.

That was the context as Besigye walked into the Irish Ambassador’s residence in Kololo. The mood was hostile and tense.

Many of the diplomats seated around the table could hardly disguise their contempt. They saw a sore loser, a could-have-been who had fired his last bullet and was now trying to fashion a human shield out of the man on the street.

“It was embarrassing to see the way Besigye was humiliated,” a diplomat who attended the meeting recalled. “They had a go at him and simply cut him to smithereens. I wished the ground could swallow me whenever we made eye contact.”

Besigye, on the other hand saw self-centered diplomats putting personal careers and the interests of their countries ahead of what he considered to be Uganda’s national interest. Apart from the battle by foreign firms over oil contracts, the West was also interested in the security that Museveni had helped procure in South Sudan and Somalia, opening up the region to trade and investment.

Museveni was pissing, all right, but he was in their tent pissing outside. Besigye, on the other hand, could not be trusted not to rain on the parade if he took power.

That meeting arguably marked the end of Besigye as a ‘formal’ opposition politician. Within a few months he would announce his intention to step down as FDC leader, two years before the end of his term.”

We can see that Besigye has remained a big force in the opposition despite the Western countries’ hatred of him, and his methods. Why is he now trying to listen to their new trendy way of neutralizing him? He knows they do not stand for Uganda’s interest! We return to Kalinaki.

“When the meeting with the donors in Kololo ended, Besigye rose politely. With his head stooping as usual, he walked to his car in the parking lot. He was beaten but not defeated. For better or for worse, this struggle had now become his life.”

Kalinaki concludes the prologue. This reflection concludes by humbly suggesting to the FDC and Besigye campaign teams to consider including very strong pan-African, anti neo-colonial promises in their manifesto. This message needs to be central to the struggle man. Get inspired by Sankara folks!

Just how different is Rukiga from Runyankore and why does the Kavunuuzi deny?

Originally posted on Facebook

To many people, the difference between the Bakiga and Banyankore is unreal. Putting aside the hoax that physical attributes can help to tell the difference between any ethnicities, the cultural especially linguistic difference between the Kiga and the Nyankore peoples is what many consider as inconsequential. The Nyankore and Kiga cultures generally have wide differences from each other, but it is undeniable that the Rukiga and Runyankore languages are closely related. This close relationship is what has been mistaken for similarity and has occasioned a subtle linguistic erosion of Rukiga as a distinct language. Some friends insist that Rukiga and Runyankore are mere dialects of the same language. Some say that the difference is in the accent, while insisting that Rukiga is the same as Runyankore.

I spent my childhood in Nyanja, Maziba, punctuated with visits over the holidays to Kyanamira, all areas located in the Ndorwa county of Kabale district, in the Kigezi region. At my rural primary school, Nyanja Primary School, we learnt how to read and write the Rukiga language alongside English but this stopped at Primary Three level, from where we drifted to learning in English only. But we freely spoke Rukiga all times of our school life at Nyanja. English was limited to the classroom activity.

When I joined Kigezi High School for my secondary, I met many people who spoke Rukiga like me and I remember vividly that the school had no policy forcing us to speak English while on the school premises like other schools I have heard of. Indeed, many of our colleagues from other places knew how to speak Rukiga by the time they left the school. It is then that I learnt for the first time of the existence of Runyankore as a distinct language and its differences from Rukiga, my native language. Runyankore speakers at Kigezi High School often found some words we used in Rukiga strange at first the same way we found some Runyankore words strange.

Kigezi High School

Kigezi High School

However different many words in these two languages are, speakers of either language can hear and understand each other, even with the strange words. But I (a Rukiga speaker) can also understand a Rutooro and Runyoro speaker without need for translation! Yet, it is not necessarily said that Rukiga and Rutooro or Runyoro are the same language, or is it?

From the translation of the Bible, to many other linguistic projects, Rukiga has been lumped together with Runyankore, always mistaking the two for one language. In all these texts, the distinctive Rukiga words and phraseologies are often omitted in favour of Runyankore distinctive words and phraseologies.


Inside the Runyankore Rukiga Bible

As I have argued elsewhere, language is not merely the collection of words, but a core facet of culture and identity. People whose conventional economic activity is cultivation have a language that reflects the reality of their daily activities, just as those whose economic activity rotates around cattle keeping will have a language unique to their way of life. To stretch this further, we can say that the cultivator has a language he uses to speak to their crops and the cattle keeper has a language he uses to speak to their cattle. These languages can not be the same. The ears of the crops differ from those of cattle.

Further, physical environment has an impact on language, the same way it impacts on culture. The hills, valleys, swamps and the mountains speak and are spoken to by those who live on, in and with them. Flat lands speak as well. But there is no way the highlands can speak the same language as the lowlands. Language is thus not just about words, syntaxes, grammar and other technical bits of linguistics. A people’s Language is inseparable from a people’s culture and way of life. Our languages are related because mankind irrespective of which theory you believe in (evolution, creation etc) is related by nature. But as we know, migrations, settlements and other reasons have made us develop unique heritages from each other, and with this, distinct languages have developed for individual identities.


Kabale land is heavily fragmented

The differences between the cultures and languages of the Banyankore and Bakiga are so many I can not start listing one by one. However, over time, especially after the advent of colonialism and the demarcation of a border between Rwanda and Uganda in effect separating the Bakiga from their closer relatives the Banyarwanda, the written forms of Runyankore-Rukiga have taken on a Runyankore character and lost any “Kiga-ness” in it hence there has been a systematic subjugation of one language by another. This subjugation however is limited to written forms as the oral versions remain as different as they can ever be.

In the days of acceptance of our diverse heritage as Ugandans, projects like the writing of the Kavunuuzi y’Orunyankore Rukiga omu Rungyereza (Dictionary of Runyankore Rukiga into English), a translator of sorts, it is expected that the project would recognize the uniqueness of each language. The dictionary written by Yoweri Museveni, Manuel J.K. Muranga, Alice Muhoozi, Aaron Mushengyezi and Gilbert Gumoshabe in 2009 and published by the Institute of Languages, Makerere University & UNESCO Nairobi Office and financially sponsored by UNESCO and the Japanese government, in my view fails miserably if it ever considered the uniqueness of Rukiga from Runyankore. Rather than preserve the Runyankore Rukiga languages as the stated objective of the project, it seems to enable Runyankore suppress Rukiga as a distinct language on its own. Below, I intend to briefly show the narrow extent to which Rukiga is depicted as a distinctive language from Runyankore in a translation dictionary.

Let me start from dances. Different cultures have different dances and know their dances by unique words. Language is inimitably part of the dance and the culture. You can not use Luganda words to dance the Kikiga dance and vice-versa! For the uninitiated, the traditional dances of the Kiga peoples are different from those of the Nyankore peoples. The Kiga traditional dances include ekizino, omwemuriko, kakitaari among others, while the Nyankore traditional dance is the Ekitaguriiro. Ekitaguriiro is a noun that comes from the verb okutaguriira. The Kavunuuzi says, “Okutaagurira” is the act of dancing unique to Banyankore and Bakiga of south western Uganda. But the Bakiga do not dance the Ekitaguriiro. It is a Kinyankore dance! This is a typical example of how the Kavunuuzi misrepresents the heritage of the Bakiga by lumping them together with the Banyankore and assigning what is uniquely Nyankore to both identities. In Rukiga, the word okutaguriira to mean dancing does not exist, because the Bakiga call their dance okuziina hence the different dances, Ekitaguriiro for Banyankore and Ekiziino for Bakiga! But the Kavunuuzi overlooks that!


Dancing ekizino, the kikiga dance

In the Kavunuuzi, the strictly Rukiga words (those that Banyankore do not use/know), are marked with a‘usage’ connotation showing that they are Kiga and the strictly Nyankore words (which Bakiga do not use) marked with a Nkore usage connotation. There are however many strictly Runyankore words which the Bakiga do not use but are not conotated in the dictionary as of Nkole usage. Very few, if any strictly Kiga words have escaped the Kiga usage connotation on the other hand. This can be interpreted/misinterpreted to mean that some strictly Runyankore words should universally apply to Rukiga, where as strictly Rukiga words should not apply to Runyankore. If this be true, then the Kavunuuzi’s intentions are not noble. By treating Rukiga as a minor language and projecting Runyankore as the superior language, the Kavunuuzi attempts to subdue Kiga heritage, which we know is on its own as rich, I won’t say richer. Let us look at some of the words themselves as projected by the Kavunuuzi;

Ahansi adv. the place beneath, or under. Usage: Kiga. Var: ahaasi. The Bakiga do not use the ahaasiword to mean ahansi, ahaasi is conventionally a Runyankore word but it is not followed by a Nkole usage connotation.

Amashaza n. peas: a leguminous plant of the genus Pisum with small white flowers and long green pods containing edible green seeds. Usage: Kiga. Var: obushaza, amasaza. Sing: eishaza. I am not sure that the Banyankore grow peas, so it is as well possible that they do not have a word for peas.

Ekibiga n. a condition of feeling hot. Usage: Kiga. See: EKYOYA. The Kiga do not use the word Ekyoya to mean Ekibiga as the Banyankore. But the Kavunuuzi does not state that Ekyoya is of Nkore usage, the same way is states that Ekibiga is for Kiga usage!

Ekicuucu n. shed: dark area on the ground, wall, floor, etc. due to cut off of direct rays of light. Usage:Kiga. See: EKIBUNDA. Pl: ebicuucu. So, the Kavunuuzi rightly notes that Ekicuucu is a strictly Kiga word, but do the authors want us to believe that Ekibunda applies across the board? It is a strictly Runyankore word that is not universal!

I can go on and on and mention more words as Nyenkyakare, Okucuusya, Okufuura, Okuhenyera, Okukaakaara, Okusonoora, Okutonoora, Ruzimure among others, but I hope the few words above explain the point well.

It would be unfair of me if I do not approve the “stated” objectives of the Kavunuuzi project! But that is all I can do, applaud the objective which to me is not met, if I look at the matter from my perspective as one interested in the preservation of the Kiga heritage just as others. By subjugating the Kiga language with Runyankore, the Kavunuuzi does more harm than probably intended! Maybe the whole lumping together of Runyankore and Rukiga under the Runyankore Rukiga tag is wrong!

Republished on Ugandans At Heart on January 26, 2014