Dear Beti Kamya

I have been reading all the vitriol that has been directed your way, since you promised our dear president, Baby Face, that you will ensure that he wins the next elections. The more I have read, the more I have found myself in your corner. I mean, the more I have appreciated your current position. Especially that indeed, the opposition never saw any good in you, they did not see your leadership potential while you were on their side, while Baby Face was always wooing you.

I will be honest, Beti. Us, who belong to the much maligned millennial generation (those aged 18-35 in 2016), who only know Baby Face’s leadership of Uganda, came to know you when you were one of the ‘detractors’, at least in public. We heard that you had differences with people in Reform Agenda, as early as 2001, and that in 2005, those differences worsened and led to your loss to Alice Alaso as Secretary General of the party. I sadly looked on between 2008 and 2009 as you tore the FDC party to shreds in your attempt to ‘inherit’ the late Dr. Kiggundu’s position as party chairman. Your opponents also threw some jabs your way, that have lasted!

beti

The things you were saying about ‘Westerners’ then, were too heavy for me, a born of Kabale in the South-West of the country, to say or think anything at the time. I walk around with Westerner guilt anyway. Your words contributed to it, to be honest. That your late husband (May he RIP) hailed from the West, and therefore your children are from the West too, complicated matters. The guilt could not allow me to jump onto any side. Those who said that you hated Westerners did not get my audience, because I was there saying, if she hated them, why would she have married from them?  We could say that I may not have been on your side, but I also wasn’t against you. What does that even mean?

Before the Kiggundu replacement saga, you had in February 2008 been charged before court, with promoting war and inciting violence. The charges were based on an article in Daily Monitor, in which you questioned Baby Face’s nationality! Even if you were then an FDC MP, that article had left some of us who held the party membership cards worried. The nationality and ethnic nationalism question in Uganda is a complicated one, that we have to face at one point, or at several points in Uganda’s life as a country, but Beti, that article! Do you sometimes look back at some of those things you wrote?

kamya-beti

Anyway, you moved on, from FDC and started the Uganda Federal Alliance. I remember when you told Josephine Karungi of NTV that you fell sick during the campaign trail, and even went for surgery and the loud women rights activists did not even call you, to wish you well. EXCEPT: Winnie Byanyima and Miria Matembe. I remember you sharing with the country the fact that Winnie abandoned her husband, Besigye’s campaign trail to bring you flowers. Beti: Winnie cares. She is loyal. To digress: do you think you would maybe support her if she contested for President with Baby Face in 2021? (Just kidding)

Your relevance after the 2011 election played hide and seek, except on most Saturdays when the country tuned in to the Capital Gang to hear from you. People kept talking about you joining NRM, that there was really no surprise that you were made a Minister this year. In fact, some people (of course excluding you) had thought that you would be announced as Vice President. They thought that Ssekandi would not have a chance to set fashion trends in this playful hakuna mchezo term. But here we are, Beti.

kamya

I think people are being unfair to you. You are a complex human being, like each one of us. Those who claim that you were a spy in FDC and the opposition generally want to figure you out, and reduce your complexity to one mission. They forget that before the political phase of your story, you were a successful manager at Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC). I have seen others claiming that you needed some money to be able to sustain a middle class life in Kampala. Really? People can want to reduce others to small material conditions. You have a brain on your shoulders that can sustain your life without the trouble that politics is. One of my friends says that you really wanted a position of influence, such that you contribute to national development. She almost convinced me, but then, I do not buy this notion of ‘development’, so I jumped out of her taxi.

I do not want to try to understand you. I would hate it, for someone to try to understand me, too. Our individual lives are complex. Every single person who aims to understand others ends up misunderstanding them. I feel that you have been misunderstood Beti. People are now shaking their heads at how you can turn from the person who was calling Baby Face a monster, a non-Ugandan, to the one declaring that he has stamina and has always had your interests at heart. Again, I refuse to buy their attempts to reduce you to a turn-coat. I know you are not bothered by all the vitriol being thrown at you, you are not the first to be accused by some Ugandans of betrayal, I mean, there is Awori, there is Atubo, there are more people, and more will join the league of the complicated Ugandan politicians and we will forget about you, but I just wanted to say that we would appreciate if you could gift us an autobiography. There is an important story we deserve to know. So that when your detractors spread their misunderstanding of you, we will hit back with your properly laid out story. Please Beti, oblige us.

Q&A: Justice is merely a feeling – Peter Kagayi

Today, the third conversation (interview) in the Law and Literature series has been published at Africa in Words. It is a conversation with my law school classmate Kagayi, whose poetry collection is coming out soon.

Excerpts from what he told me, those January 2015 days:

My first time flirting with the law was in reading English literature.

Honestly I did not want to study Law; I wanted to pursue Literature or Creative Writing, but it was not available here, …

I honestly got tired of sitting for and answering exams, wearing ties but mostly the artificial pressure (LDC) created.

The Law not only provides the layer of thought, but also enriches the diction.

What we need is a revolution; a model to drive new ideas forward focusing on how to approach things within & without academia …

No matter what we do, or say, what matters most is how we make others feel. Poets lay the palate upon how people feel about things …

Enjoy reading.

AiW Author: Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire

Kagayi-Peter Peter Kagayi, image via Writers of the Pearl

Peter Kagayi is a Ugandan poet and lawyer. Recently announced as Anglophone coordinator at Writivism, he has taught Literature in various secondary schools in Uganda and was President of the Lantern Meet of Poets until recently. He curates the regular Poetry Shrine performance at the National Theatre in Kampala and supports various groups of young poets who have completed their high school education. He was part of several staged poetry performances while involved with the Lantern Meet of Poets, and is one of the founders of the Uganda Literature Teachers Association. His debut collection of poetry is forthcoming. Kagayi studied Law for his undergraduate at Makerere University. This interview takes place on email in January 2015.

Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire for AiW: When did you pick interest in law?

Peter Kagayi: Come to think of it – I never really…

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The Book of Betrayals: Quotes from The Memoirs of John Kazoora

I purposed to look for books that are unofficially banned in Uganda in the last few weeks/days, to try and sip on the forbidden. One of these is Betrayed By My Leader: The Memoirs of John Kazoora. To be unofficially banned means that a book is not banned in the real sense of the word, legally or otherwise, but you can’t find it in bookshops. They pretend that it is out of stock, or things like that. And so the only way to find the book is the same way you would find a banned book. From the underground market.

Kazoora’s book was interesting at many levels. I loved the fact that he does not hide the nature of his grievances against various people in and out of power, be they personal or public. Obviously, Mr. Yoweri Museveni is the leader that has betrayed Mr. John Kazoora, but there are also a number of other people that have betrayed the retired soldier. Let us get into the quotes already.

Correcting the Record about Besigye’s Bush service

Kizza Besigye who was also at the High Command was so dedicated to the cause and you could see from the way he trained and the way he carried himself and whatever he did was done with conviction, determination and perseverance. He was always leading us on the route marches. So while some of us once in a while overslept, Besigye never did. – Page 58

Missing Graduation Because: the bush

I later learnt that my mother was glad that I had graduated but very disappointed that she was not one of the proud parents sitting at Makerere University because I had mysteriously disappeared. She was not even sure if I was still alive. I am told that she became the laughing stock of the village – as other parents were boarding buses to Kampala for the function – she was locked in her room crying. Graduations in those days were such a big issue. – Page 59

NRA Atrocities?

There were also the Alur community who supported the UPC. The NRA referred to them as Bipingamizi (enemy supporters). The late Senior Officer Peter Kerim, a serving NRA Alur officer, would woo them in his language and the NRA would expel them from the war zone and in some cases kill them using a Kafuni. They would dig a shallow grave, tie you kandoya, and lie you facing the ground and crack your skull using an old hoe called Kafuni. This was one way of dismantling the UPC machinery. The CHC would say that they earned their death as a just retribution and deterrent. – Page 83

The Kabaka’s Involvement in the bush

While in Kabale, Prince Ronald Mutebi (now Kabaka) arrived from Rwanda with John Nagenda. I took them to Kasese and handed them over to Amanya Mushega who in turn took them to Fort Portal to meet CHC. I also did the same for Samson Kisekka. He was very impressed to find a smart, eloquent guerilla. – Page 106

Student teaches his Teacher

At Makerere University, Mahmood Mamdani won the RC 4 eat having come through RC 1, RC 2 and RC 3 and he said since he was popularly elected he should be the Vice Chancellor. I tried to explain to him the difference between political roles and administrative duties. This was ironic because he was the one who had taught me Political Science at university and we had become friends. He seemed to have issues with the Vice Chancellor Prof. George Kirya. He kept insisting that he was more popular than Kirya, until I told him to shape up and stop living in cloud cuckoo land. It was both a managerial and administrative challenge to me. – Page 112-3

Disappointment on Retirement

For all my years of contribution and exploited youth, I was given a small plaque made of cheap wood (Kilundu) which I immediately threw away at the very spot in Mpererwe where I had been saved by cigarettes while going to the bush in 1982. But at long last I had received my freedom, and I felt a weight had been lifted.

Amanya Mushega, Tom Butiime and Capt Byaruhanga did not even bother to turn up to receive their discharge certificates.

Capt Guma Gumisiriza was later to make a u-turn and was promoted to Major and Rwamirama to Lt. Col after they voted for Kisanja in their retirement. – Page 185

A Russian anecdote

I am reminded of a wild man who once broke into the Kremlin (Russian Parliament) and ran through the halls shouting “Khrushchev is a fool. Khrushchev is a fool.” Khrushchev was the Russian leader. He was quickly captured, put on trial and convicted. His sentence; twenty two years. Two years for disturbing the peace and twenty years for revealing a state secret. – Page 193

I would ordinarily say, go out and buy the book, and provide a link to an Amazon page, or name a bookshop where you can find the book, but this is an unofficially banned book. The underground market in Kampala may be affected by intelligence boys and girls who come with money and order many copies, such that they buy the unwanted information off the ‘hidden’ market, but you can still find some of these books, if you care enough.

“Rugarama” by Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire

Early this year, a group of Ugandan writers travelled to Kabale as part of the FEMRITE writers’ caravan. I was one of them, and in this JALADA issue bring you the highlights of one of the evenings.

We were at Rugarama hill. The home of Kigezi diocese. Kigezi High School. Bishop Barham University College. And many more institutions. I hope you enjoy the reportage.

Jalada Africa

F29 rainingrukiga


Sometime in February, we boarded a Caravan van, courtesy of the Association of Ugandan Women Writers (FEMRITE) to Kabale. The we are Jason Ntaro of the Lantern Meet of Poets, Ernest Tashobya Katwesigye, lawyer, writer and educationist, Fred Musisi, country representative of the Danish Centre for Culture and Development, Glaydah Namukasa, chair of FEMRITE, Hilda Twongyeirwe, the FEMRITE executive director and Juliet Kushaba, also of FEMRITE. In Kabale, we found Lillian Tindyebwa, writer and lecturer at Kabale University, and Prof. Manuel Muranga, the principal of Bishop Barham University College, a constituent college of Uganda Christian University. This evening, we are climbing the Rugarama hill to talk about Literary Activism. What is its influence on building a market for literature? It’s the debate, oba dialogue’s theme. The speakers include Lillian Tindyebwa, Glaydah Namukasa, Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire and Hilda Twongyeirwe.

And so it rained. Not just cats and dogs but elephants too…

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A Mobutu in our midst? Quotes from Michela Wrong’s In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz

As I grow older, I realize that I am beginning to pick interest in interesting things in books. The themes that stay long in my mind as of now are most likely things such as failing to tell someone a character is in love with that they are than corruption, the lisp in the protagonist’s speech than her immigration blues or the fact that a character speaks words twice all the time than religious riots. There is something human and particular about such things, and my interest is nowadays geared to such things.

Michela Wrong’s In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz, the author’s first book that recounts the times of Zaire’s leader for thirty two years is not the type of book in which you would expect trivial details as the ones I mention above, but I am moved mostly by Mobutu’s story as a human being than anything else. Since reading the book, I have been wondering about the personal lives of rulers, the influence of their family backgrounds, the circumstances of their growth and rise to power, their relationships with family members and what happens to them when they are no longer in power.

Dear reader, you will forgive me, but I have found so many similarities between former president Mobutu Sese Seko’s manner of doing things and in some very personal effects, and a current president of one of the neighbouring countries to the country the Leopard skin cap wearing man used to lead. Be it the family rule with relatives doing official duties with or without positions, the army of fixers and middlemen, the crowd-exciting theatrics, handing cash in envelopes and sacks to praise-singers, charming opponents sometimes with cash, harassing those that can’t be bought, a tight control of the military and ethnic composition of the same, a seeming non-plan of succession amidst hints on family succession plans, the manipulation of subordinates by playing them against one another, twisted economic policies, doing puppet work for Western powers, let me not go on and on.

I have also of late started feeling that this same leader who is alive and shall not mentioned may actually be besieged and not in much control as it may seem, and he may in the end be betrayed and humiliated by those we (including he probably think are close to him, but I am ignorant about the actual state of affairs in the palaces, so ignore my speculation.

Mobutu Sese Seko (photo: Wikipedia)

Mobutu Sese Seko (photo: Wikipedia)

Below are a few excerpts from Michela’s book that stayed with me.

American and Belgian Interest in the Killing of Lumumba

“… the CIA director himself had told Devlin that Lumumba’s removal was an ‘urgent and prime objective’, an instruction that presumably could have covered anything from encouraging Lumumba’s rivals to topple him by legal means to funding a coup. Now Washington moved to direct action. Shortly after Mobutu’s takeover, Devlin was advised by headquarters that ‘Joe from Paris’ would be coming to Leopoldville on an urgent mission. ‘I was told I’d recognize him, and I did. He was waiting at a café across from the embassy and he walked me to my car and we went to a quiet place where we could talk.’ The man was a top CIA scientist and he had come to Kinshasa with a poison for Lumumba. Devlin, he said, was to arrange for it to be slipped into the prime minister’s food, or his toothpaste. The poison was cleverly designed to produce one of the diseases endemic to central Africa so that Lumumba’s death would look like an unfortunate accident. ‘Jesus Christ, isn’t this unusual?’ was Devlin’s astonished reply. Joe from Paris acknowledged that it was, but said authorization came from President Eisenhower himself.” – Page 77

“The whereabouts of Lumumba’s body have never been identified. It was probably hacked into pieces, the head dissolved in a vat of sulphuric acid by a Belgian clean-up team sent to remove all traces of the assassinations. But another, even more fanciful story has done the rounds: that Mobutu’s collaborators, terrified that Lumumba’s spirit would live on after his death, asked a witch doctor how to destroy his supernatural powers. On his instructions they divided up the body, and hired a low-flying C130, and flew along the borders of their huge country, scattering the pieces. This was the only way, the marabout has said, to prevent Lumumba’s spirit reassembling and returning to challenge his former friend.” – Pages 78-9

Political Charm and Oratory

‘He was a speaker of genius,’ said a Congolese journalist who was a student at the time. ‘I would go unwillingly, because I didn’t really approve of Mobutu. But as soon as he began speaking, we would be swept away. We’d stand in the sun for hours, but the time would slip by without you noticing. If you study those speeches now, in the cold light of day, you can see there was almost nothing in them, they were full of inconstancies, gossip and tittle-tattle. But he knew just how to speak to the people. He would tell us nonsense and we would believe him’.” – Page 89

On Authenticity

‘Authenticity is the realization by the Zairean people that it must return to its origins, seek out the values of its ancestors, to discover those which contribute to its harmonious and natural development,’ Mobutu told the United Nations. ‘It is the refusal to blindly embrace imported ideologies. It is, in short, the affirmation of mankind, in its place, as it is, with its mental and social structures. (…) Instead of the European suit, men were to don a high-collared jacket of Mobutu’s invention. Dubbed the abacost (from ‘a bas le costume’ – ‘down with the jacket), and usually modelled in dark brown or navy blue wool, this was no better adapted to the African climate, but it was different. (…) ‘If he had focalized and crystallized his thought by writing it down, there were rich ideas there waiting to be developed,’ insisted Honore Ngbanda, who later became one of Mobutu’s closest aides.” – Pages 90 – 91

The Complicity of the Bretton Woods Institutions in Crippling Zaire’s Economy

“… the reason the report (Blumenthal’s) was significant was not so much because of the information it contained, but because it ended the cosy arrangement in which the Zaireans knew that the international financiers knew, and the financiers knew that the Zaireans knew that they knew, but everyone could carry on playing the game of credits, conditions, targets and standby arrangements with apparent innocence. ‘It was a bombshell,’ acknowledged one World Bank official. ‘The report came out just before we were to meet a Zairean delegation and I wanted to crawl under the table. I couldn’t look them in the eye. What could you say to them after that?’ – Page 193

“The image of the Fund going on bended knee to beg one of the world’s most corrupt leaders to take its money is not an attractive one. It may help explain why in 1987 David Finch, an Australian economist heading the IMF trade and finance department, resigned over the granting of a new loan, claiming the US had applied undue pressure. The programme staggered along, although it 3aas now a tattered. Pitiful scrap of a thing. Kengo had been sacked, and trust in Mobutu’s good intentions had shriveled.” – Page 204

Mobutu, as an American Agent

“Roger Morris, responsible for African affairs at the National Security Council under both presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, once estimated that Mobutu received close to $150 million from the CIA during the first decade or so of his regime. Not all that money would have been originally intended for him. John Stockwell, a CIA man who ran one covert operation to destabilize Angola’s Marxist government through Zaire, logged how Mobutu creamed off part of any consignment destined for Angola, on one occasion in 1976 casually pocketing $1.4 million given him by the US to pay off the rebels. Ten years later, a state department official was still being confronted with the same problem. ‘We’d mostly stick with equipment as if we sent money we knew it would go missing. But even when we were shipping equipment and gasoline, the Zaireans would steal part of it. I don’t think they knew how to do business normally.” – Page 200

Betrayal by acolytes

“Mobutu always tried not to dwell on his acolyte’s hypocrisy. Politicians who denounced him abroad would be welcomed back like prodigal sons. No matter how rude the newspaper article, he never sued. ‘He did a lot of forgiving, because there were a lot of betrayals,’ said son Nzanga. ‘He would say, “Never forget but never take revenge. Because your judgment is not good when you’re harbouring hard feelings.” “But treachery rankled nevertheless.” Page 215

“Before allowing the car to drive off, Mobutu lowered the passenger window and addressed his security aide in a voice that was barely audible. ‘Ngbabda, do you realize that even Nzimbi abandoned and betrayed me?’ the president said in disbelief. Then he burst into tears.” – Page 279

Price of Power on Family

‘We relied on my mother. She played the role of father and mother at the same time,’ said Nzanga. ‘We missed him terribly. We really lacked a paternal presence. For my father it was work, work, work, all the time. Even when we were at the table he would be receiving visitors and holding meetings. He had no personal life. Which is why I want to be around my own two children a lot while they are growing up.’ – Page 268

Busoga is not the Poverty Headquarter and a Saturday with Bwambale in Namwendwa

For all my many years on earth (and they are very many), I had not been part of the groom’s entourage at traditional introduction ceremonies till August 8, 2015. It is a curious fact because I have been a groomsman once (don’t laugh), taken readings at two wedding ceremonies and I have been involved in organizing introduction (the word give-away is problematic) ceremonies in a few occasions. I will not go into details about the briefing involved in preparing to welcome guests to your home, who soon become in-laws. For all that we associate with abakwe (abako in Luganda), you will forgive me for wanting to experience an introduction ceremony from that point of view. All my brothers, by blood, by tea, by alcohol and by water are hereby notified that I am ready to join them as they are introduced to their future in-laws.

Daniel Bwambale Busathiro, a fellow alumna of Makerere University where we met takes the flowers for offering me the first experience of an introduction ceremony from the bakos’ tent. The dress code for the bako was the now Africanised kanzu of Arab roots. There was transport for everyone. There was a meeting point. Despite all the preparation, poor Bwesigye arrived a few minutes late at the meeting point. And just on arrival, realized he had to ride back home for something. The first group left him behind. He had to join the groom himself, and his brother Baluku Rogers for the journey to Kamuli. Let’s talk about Baluku a bit.

The briefing

The briefing

This author joined Kabale Trinity College at some point in 2004 for a few months. In those few months, he made friends with a number of people, most of whom were studying the same subjects as he was. Literature especially. And Baluku Rogers happened to be among those. Baluku was the always smiling, never picks grudges with anyone student in class. A bit shy actually. But this author was shy, too. So this morning as we head to Namwendwa, it is discovered that Bwambale and Baluku are brothers. Baluku went to Mbarara University of Science and Technology and eventually settled in Kasese. So, for all the years of knowing Bwambale, poor Bwesigye did not know that the former was a younger brother to Baluku! Doesn’t it say something about a family for one to separately be-friend two brothers without knowing that they are connected? Maybe we can write a script that now ties in the sister/s (*Hides).

We reach Jinja and find the groups that left earlier. Our final destination is Namwendwa in Kamuli. There will be a dressing stop-over in Kamuli town, and then we proceed to the home from which Bwambale has made close friendship. A few bites at Jinja. The road from Jinja to Kamuli is smooth. There is a spokesperson who has to brief all the members of the entourage. We are over fifty people in the entourage. I am excited that there are a number of females in the group. Not because of what you are thinking. It is not that. Because of pseudo-feminist reasons. I know that is not what you were thinking.

There are over ten cars snaking their way to the home. Bwambale’s other home from today. I am in the car with Bwambale himself and his brother Baluku. I am closely monitoring the groom’s mood. He is relaxed, calm much of the time. There are bouts of anxiety but he brings them under control soon. Baluku is his ever jolly jocular self. Making everyone laugh. We arrive. It is threatening to rain. By the way, those theories about rainmakers, are they real? Is there some scientific backing to them? Or is it magic?

We make a queue. One for males, one for females. There are a good number of females. The queues are almost the same height. Orange things are attached to our coats and we are given small hand-held fans. Sura yakko is playing. Some Wiz Kid tunes will be played. There is this young man who is very jolly and dancing ahead of the first group of people from whom we are supposed to choose the real reason for our visit. The young women in green gomesis do not have the friend Bwambale has made in this family. Boys follow. Each group takes gifts from us. And envelopes. A group of old women come. The spokesperson from the home says that these old women were busy digging before they were brought. We are fined for disturbing their productivity with our visit. An envelope. Another group of women comes. Still, the person whose hand in marriage Bwambale is seeking is not seen. I have not seen her myself, ever, actually. I want to ask Bwambale how they met, but of course not in this tent. Later maybe. On our way back.

Bwambale and Baluku and all of us in the bako tent

Bwambale and Baluku and all of us in the bako tent

There is an interesting linguistic mix happening. Bwambale is from the Bakhonzo people of mid-western Uganda, the people of the Rwenzori mountains and the friend whose hand in marriage we are seeking is from the Basoga people of Eastern Uganda, the people around Lake Kyoga. At the beginning we sang the Busoga and Rwenzururu kingdom anthems. There are important people here. This home is connected to Kamuli LC V Chairperson, Salaam Musumba and High Court judge Egonda-Ntende. I love the rhythm of Lusoga.

The last group of the girls in the home appears and the smile on Bwambale’s face is telling. Bwambale had never wore that smile before, in my presence at least. The man is happiness itself. Wiikendi, the song by the now defunct all-girls group Dream Girls plays. It is an oldie by the way. We are old. The spokesperson says that those who want to kugeya the bride are given a special warning. There are lewd remarks made about the bride. I am shifting uncomfortably in my chair when the spokesperson asks her to show us her behind. Things become more awkward for my ears when they ask the bride to tell us what tent she would love saved if the Al shabaab militants were to attack this homestead this minute. Of course you know the tent she pointed at.

The flower with many items

The flower with many items

Then the bride’s aunt is sent to look for Bwambale. Juliana Kanyomozi’s Kyanoonya is playing. And Dindu the folk song follows the awkward moments of Bwambale and Baluku being fished out from the tent where we all are sitting and people drinking wine, Bwesigye drinking juice, others water, eating fruits. The stomachs are having a good time.

The bride returns to the house to take items that Bwambale has brought, all contained in a big flower. I am not sure I like the meanings of many. They reinforce the thinking that a wife is a servant of the husband. Things are being said about Bwambale getting tired of restaurant food, of taking his clothes for washing at the dobbi’s etc. I take things too seriously. When the women in the tent in which we are sitting are to speak, they kneel. I am being told to not over-think these things. It is just culture. Ceremonial. I know for sure that some women have said that they can kneel in public, indeed Shifa Mwesigye in her Crossroads essay says the man better be ready to kneel for her in the bedroom as well.

The rain falls just before we handle the eating matters. So we postpone till it reduces. My female neighbors are hungry actually. We eat when the rain stops. Bwambale’s face is shining. He is one of the happiest human beings at this point in time. The talk in the tent is that his friend is beautiful. People are talking about her curves. God! Even women in the tent are talking about how ‘sexy’ she looks. I am not saying anything, to be honest. I am listening. Observing. Recording, someone is accusing me with her eyes. There is a side conversation about love and marrying outside one’s class. I do not know how it starts, where it starts from, I think I remember, it starts from the fact that these introduction ceremonies follow the partners’ agreement about marrying each other anyway. I would love the tension in a ceremony where we do not know if the girl, or her parents will say yes. The uncertainty. There are perspectives on the whole issue that I am loving. Okay, a perspective that I am loving.

Bwambale's widest smile ever

Bwambale’s widest smile ever

It is dark. We have to return to our homes. The wedding ceremony will follow. The launch is on August 30, 2015. Why do people call Busoga poor? At least not Kamuli. At least not Namwendwa. We were many kilometres deep into the interior of the region and I can bet the television set that I do not own that there was nothing close to poverty that I saw, smelled, heard, felt nor tasted.

Congratulations Bwambale on being introduced and wishing you all the best in your marriage. Even though I will miss the wedding because of travel things, I am glad that I was with you as yours introduced you to her people. Some people say that the bachelors in the groom’s entourage should ordinarily socialize well enough to find their own partners in the process, I think they need to provide a guide. Or maybe poor Bwesigye did not realize that some people were busy socializing properly because well, he thinks he has his prayers somewhere. We shall see.

Bernard Sabiti’s Take-down attacks the person rather than Andrew Mwenda’s Argument

By James Ephraim Mundekyere 

Mundekyere

So Andrew Mwenda is a pseudo-intellectual, an intellectual fraudster, imperialist agent and hypocritical! WHY? Because he, in his recent rebuttal published by Aljazeera, advised President Obama to mind his own business and to stop lecturing African presidents on matters of Human Rights and Good Governance, so the argument goes.

Whereas initially, I for one, would have gathered no interest whatsoever in responding or commenting on social media in the manner that I have, Bernard Sabiti’s reaction to Mwenda’s rebuttal provided a somewhat different dimension from all the other comments on the same, and the mood and attitude with which it was presented, inspired or rather prompted me to say something regarding his own line of argument. Admittedly, it is typical for social media users to express their opinions in diverse ways and many times out of context. But that should be expected because by its very nature, on social media, anything goes just the cafeteria style. Therefore, the reactions to Mwenda’s rebuttal against president Obama’s comments during his recent visit to Kenya a few weeks ago would not have bothered me and indeed I had read so many of the comments that various people were making on Facebook, and I had ignored them thus far because most of them were simply emotional expressions and attacks on Mwenda, absolutely devoid of objective content and hugely lacking in academic discipline and respect. However Bernard Sabiti’s ‘’Taking Down Mwenda’s Pseudo-intellectualism’’  was a little differently presented.

By ‘’Taking down Mwenda’s pseudo-intellectualism’’ I suppose that Sabiti presumably implied that he himself is an intellectual, and therefore irritated by Mwenda’s pseudo-intellectual ways was compelled to ‘take him down’. It is strictly on the basis of this that I want to respond.

Sabiti’s claimed analysis is indeed not a response to Mwenda’s argument, rather an attack on his person. But why am I saying this? To answer this question, let us subject his argument to a logical test; logical rules of inference and specifically the rules of deductive reasoning. Perhaps a little explanation about deductive reasoning is necessary here for those of us who may not be familiar with logic. Deductive reasoning is a logical process in which multiple propositions (premises) which are believed to be true provide strong evidence for another proposition (conclusion) which should by all means be true if the premises are true and vice-versa. It is impossible in deductive logic for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false and the reverse is true.

If the premises for a deductive argument are true as well as the conclusion, the whole argument will be valid while if the premises are true and the conclusion is false, the whole argument will be invalid. In the same way, if any one of the propositions of a deductive argument (whether it is one of the premises or the conclusion) is false, the whole argument will be invalid. In deductive logic, however, arguments can be valid insofar as conclusions derive from the given premises but it is at the same time possible for valid arguments to be unsound as with regard to their content.

Bernard Sabiiti

Having the above in mind, let us see whether Sabiti’s argument is valid or invalid by subjecting it to the rules of inductive logic. We shall begin by identifying the different propositions (premises and the conclusion) from his argument. Since the author has not given us any other reason for branding Mwenda a pseudo-intellectual other than the fact that Mwenda, in his rebuttal advised president Obama to mind his own business, let us see what logical structure we can construct from this type of argument.

  • Premise 1: In his National address to Kenya during his recent State visit to the country, President Obama, in his speech talked a lot about matters of Good Governance, Human Rights and the penchant for African presidents to cling onto power.
  • Premise 2: While responding to President Obama’s comments on matters of Good Governance, Human Rights and the habit of African presidents to hold onto power, Andrew Mwenda advised Obama to mind his own business since the State that he represents is not any better.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, for Mwenda to respond like that, he is a pseudo-intellectual and a hypocrite.

Looking at an argument with such a logical structure, we can draw a few pointers.

  • Premises 1 and 2 are indeed true.
  • Whereas premises 1 and 2 are true, the truth value of the last proposition (conclusion) cannot, in strictly logical terms be ascertained. Indeed, the conclusion doesn’t seem to be deriving from the two premises. It bears nothing in common with the premises and appears to be coming from nowhere in the whole argument set-up. In addition, the truth or falsity of the conclusion cannot be appropriately ascertained-neither Sabiti nor any other individual can in logical terms affirm that Mwenda is a pseudo-intellectual since the word itself can be judged as a purely subjective opinion not a matter of truth.
  • Back to our rules, since the premises are true and the conclusion is not, it is logically correct to infer that Bernard’s argument is invalid.
  • Not only is the argument is invalid, it is as much fallacious. His supposed analysis is an attack on the person rather than the argument he advanced. This is a fallacy (error in reasoning) of attacking the person and not an assertion that they have made.This fallacy can take different shapes: it can be abusive, associative or circumstantial.

It is without much effort easy for any amateur logician looking at the author’s argument to see that the argument is heavy with content which is being spilled with an intellectual attitude and mood but which is nonetheless lacking in intellectual discretion and discipline after all. For a strictly intellectually active response would not require for the author to make lamentations about how Mwenda is not an intellectual. Any reader would not need to be told rather they would be able to learn for themselves as they interact with an argument.

It is too easy to detect from the choice of words that Sabiti uses. From his very Headline: ‘’Taking down Mwenda’s pseudo-intellectualism’’ right from onset indicates that the direction of Mwenda’s argument has been lost on Sabiti as he straightaway aims for the person. Whereas more intellectually meaningful words such as; Uncovering, Unearthing, Revealing, Unpacking, Disclosing could have been handy, the author chooses and I think rightly, ‘taking down’ as his preferred title which explains his immediate state of mind. He is charged, ready to take down his perceived threat. Taking is what happens in fights not discussions. He attacks Mwenda, the person when he should have aimed at engaging with Mwenda’s argument.

If the objective of the author was to show that Mwenda is not an intellectual that he ‘masquerades’ to be, it would have been inevitable that the author assessed his subject’s rebuttal against President Obama’s speech, subsequently giving us reasons drawn from the various areas in his argument where he lacks on the skills and qualities of a legitimate intellectual. Simply claiming that Mwenda is a pseudo-intellectual will not help someone seeking to understand why you are making such a claim as much than giving a justification for your assertion would which the author by-passed.

Sabiti concedes that Mwenda possesses a gift of oratory and as such he compares him with other renown orators such as Hitler, Winston Churchill, Benito Mussolini e.t.c. By such a comparison, the author is only attempting an insinuation that Mwenda does things that most people of such a personality as his do. Such argument is typical of the fallacy of attacking the person in which attention is shifted from one’s argument to their relationship, likeness or association with others. In a similar way, one can be accused of standing to benefit from the prevailing state of affairs. This is clearly seen when Sabiti tags Mwenda and ‘’his dictator friends’’ hypocrites who manipulate situations such that they work in their favour.

Sabiti claims that Mwenda employs Whataboutism, an old trick used by political propagandists in the former Communist Soviet Union. He uses this trick to evade reality. Whether this is something to believe or not, the most interesting in Sabiti’s argument is that he himself albeit I think unconsciously uses the same trick to drive his point home. In his last paragraph, he contends that Mwenda has changed from the person that he used to be. The present Mwenda is a political weapon (I think that is the insinuation) employed to protect and promote the interests of those who sustain him through his analyses. Ipso facto, the author is far too inside the territory of Whataboutism trick than he would have imagined. One may ask how? This is how; when Mwenda writes and demands that President Obama should mind his own business because he is no better position to lecture African presidents on the need for Good Governance, and protection and promotion of Human Rights, Sabiti retorts by saying: What have you to say hypocrite? You are an intellectual fraudster as well as a pseudo-intellectual. You do things to benefit your own interests and those of your bosses. You never used to be like this but now you have changed and exist for yourself and your dictator friends!!

How can such reaction be described if not Whataboutism? I will leave that question for the reader.

About James Ephraim Mundekyere: James Ephraim Mundekyere is an Assistant Lecturer at Makerere University. He holds a First Class Honours BA (Philosophy) degree from Makerere University and is currently an MA Philosophy Candidate at the same university.

Editors’ Note: Bernard Sabiti this morning published another response to Mwenda, this time concentrating on the issue of term limits. Read it here. This blog is interested in this discussion and we are excited that an author and researcher Bernard Sabiti and James Emphraim Mundekyere are making important contributions to what we view in the large frame as the definition of a Ugandan intellectual space, without the blog editor necessarily claiming to belong to that space.

TAKING DOWN ANDREW MWENDA’S PSEUDO-INTELLECTUALISM

By Bernard Sabiti

We will start with definitions here:
1. Pseudo-intellectual. Noun. 1. “a person exhibiting intellectual pretensions that have no basis in sound scholarship.” 2. “a person who pretends an interest in intellectual matters for reasons of status.” 3. “a person who wants to be thought of as having a lot of intelligence and knowledge but who is not really intelligent or knowledgeable.” 4. “A person who affects proficiency in scholarly and artistic pursuits whilst lacking any in-depth knowledge or critical understanding of such topics.” 5. “A person who pretends to be of greater intelligence than he or she in fact is.”

Writer Marcus Geduld expounds on these definitions with examples. Says he: “Pseudo-intellectualism is a social stance. A pseudo-intellectual wants other people to think he’s smart. He will work towards that goal in the most economical way possible. An intellectual will read a whole book, because his goal is to understand the book. A pseudo-intellectual will read the Cliff Notes, because his goal is to convince people that he’s read the book. And you don’t need to read a whole book in order to make most people think you have. Cliff Notes are more efficient.”
Intellectual fraud on the other hand is willful misreading and or misrepresentation of facts, adopting selective approaches in analyzing issues, disregarding facts that make the intellectual uncomfortable depending in his or her interests. The good thing is, we have Daniel Patrick Moyinhan, the legendary US senator who gave us the famous “you’re entitled to your own opinion not your own facts” quote. Therefore, we can take down pseudo-intellectuals and intellectual frauds using the weapon they fear the most: Facts
One of the most glaring examples of a pseudo-intellectual and intellectual frauds we have in Uganda is Andrew Mwenda. Having been taking this country and the region for a ride over the last several years, he is now being called out, especially after his recent opinion article published on Aljazeera’s website containing his criticism of US president Barack Obama’s speeches during his recent Africa trip (More on this later).

Andrew Mwenda, Founder of The Independent Magazine - Photo by Jeniffer Cheung

MWENDA IS IN GOOD COMPANY

Pseudo-intellectualism, and its more self-respecting cousin, intellectual fraud, have a towering legacy in history. History is awash with world figures whose thrust into national and global prominence wouldn’t have been except for their oratorical and or rhetorical gifts, their penmanship and spell-binding speaking abilities. Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, etc. Some of these giants of history would, as you know, later use their gifts for evil purposes, with tragic consequences of unseen before proportions. The former two used theirs for good and impacted the world positively. The latter two the opposite. But they all shared one thing in common: they could write, speak, or both, compellingly.

Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic invectives and other dangerous views, expressed in his Mein Kampf (My Struggle) biography sounded compelling and even reasonable to some in his day. When he came to power in 1933, the book became a best seller. His oratorical gifts had been identified by some of his superior officers after World War I, making one of them to remark: “He’s a natural born orator. His fanaticism and populism captivates listeners, forcing one to think as he does.” His propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, knew he had an asset in his master’s ability to hook his audiences with his words. Most of his sweeping speeches however, contained very weak arguments that would not stand on their own if subjected to fair criticism. Except that there was no room for criticizing the Fuehrer as such an act was treasonous. That didn’t stop some critics from afar from criticizing his views. George Orwell, he of the famous “Animal Farm” classic wrote a drubbing criticism of Mein Kampf in 1940, tearing most of Hitler’s arguments to shreds, much to the Fuhrer’s chagrin. But oh, was he popular! You need to watch those WWII documentaries (available on YouTube) to see the apoplectic and ecstatic responses of his audiences to his speeches, or read about how his Mein Kampf was a must own, given as a special gift to wedding couples, etc. Not all this adulation was forced.
What I am trying to say is that most of the soaring rhetorical stuff, oral or written, once removed from their emotional whirlwinds and platitudinal covers do not stand the test of time when subjected to tough fact-based, academic examination. Some of these views tend to be found incoherent, impractical, or even gibberish. I hope you will not take this to mean that I am comparing Andrew Mwenda, who has not killed anybody, with some of the evil men of history listed above. All I am saying is that just because one has a way with words whether in spoken or written form doesn’t make them smart, or even intelligent.

MWENDA’S ATTACK ON OBAMA

In his 1,065 word article published on the Aljazeera website a few days ago, Mr. Mwenda castigates Mr. Obama for “lecturing” to Africans during his recent visit to Kenya and Ethiopia and accuses the US leader of “flagrant hypocrisy.” He continued the attack with some other accusations on his media platforms to include Mr Obama’s use of Airforce One, his comments on term limits, and other issues. He has received mostly derision but also pockets of praise for this article. In analysing Mr. Mwenda’s charges against Mr. Obama one by one, I will start again with, just like I did in this article’s introduction, some definitions:

1. Whataboutism: a tactic used by the Soviet Union in its dealings with the Western world during the Cold War. When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union, for example on Human Rights, Stalin’s purges and executions, nuclear proliferation, the response would be “What about…” followed by the naming of an event in the Western world. This is a classic example of “tu quoque”, (Latin for “you, too” or “you, also”) the appeal to hypocrisy, a logical fallacy which attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, without directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument.
2. Fallacy (in Philosophy): The use of poor, or invalid reasoning for the construction of an argument. A fallacious argument may be deceptive by appearing to be better than it really is. Some fallacies are committed intentionally to manipulate or persuade by deception, while others are committed unintentionally due to carelessness or ignorance (Mr. Mwenda, who reportedly quotes medieval thinkers in his commentaries, one of his other silly, not-so-subtle ways of demonstrating to his audiences that he is intelligent, could have read Aristotle’s fallacies).
Whataboutism is therefore fallacy because the moral character or past actions of the opponent are generally irrelevant to the logic of the argument. One of the earliest uses of the technique was in 1947 after then NY governor William Averell Harriman criticized “Soviet imperialism” in a speech. A response in the communist party’s “Pravada” criticized the United States’ laws and policies regarding race and minorities.
Whataboutism is a technique still used by many repressive countries when western nations comment on their Human Rights abuses, bad governance, etc. Indeed the coverage of riots the US such as in Ferguson, Missouri, following police shootings of black men, was intense in Russian and Chinese Media. Even North Korea released statements condemning the US’ treatment of its African American citizens!

Mwenda’s criticism of Obama’s “meddling” in African affairs by pointing to the ills of that country therefore is an old card that shocks no one that reads an occasional book. It’s a fraudulent, deceptive technique that supposes that two wrongs make a right. Malcolm X’s words become relevant here: “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against”. Does Mr Obama speaking the truth (on Africa’s corruption, violence, dictatorship) make those issues less important or less true because the person mentioning them is leader of a country that has a not so good historical record on the continent?

Yes the CIA murdered Lumumba. That though was in 1961, over 50 years a go. Is that the reason The Democratic Republic of Congo is still in the doldrums? The US also flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the only country since then where a nuclear bomb has been dropped. Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and these other nations currently referred to as “Asian Tigers” were once under similarly brutal colonialism. What happened there?
Yes, the West still has issues such as treating immigrants badly. But they admit to those mistakes and a significant chunk of their society rejects discrimination, at least institutional discrimination. That why Marie Le Pen’s FN, UK’s UKIP and other right wing parties have a hard time winning elections there. But even if they treat immigrants badly, how does that make Africa’s big men’s brutalization of their own people OK?
The US president’s trip to Africa cost American tax payers six million dollars, with Obama hopping on Airforce one so Obama is just as wasteful as the Jet owning African despots he criticizes, Mr Mwenda argues. Now, this is the most absurd of Mr. Mwenda’s criticism of Mr. Obama. America’s GDP per capita is $53,000. Uganda’s is $570. The Boeing Company that manufactures Air force One is an American company, so is General Motors, the manufacturers of The Beast, the US leader’s presidential Limo. Lest I forget, the Gulf-stream Aerospace Corporation, makers of the Gulf-stream Jet, a favourite for Africa’s presidents, including our own Yoweri Museveni, is an American company too. There haven’t been reports of a jigger outbreak in an American city of late. Let the US leader enjoy his expensive, high presidential life because his rich country can afford it. The same can’t be said of our banana republic

WHY IS MWENDA RARELY, IF EVER CALLED OUT ON HIS PSEUDO-INTELLECTUALISM?

There are three major factors going for Mr. Mwenda as well as other intellectual frauds in Africa:
1. Very few Africans read
2. Those who do lack the time, means, and platforms of hitting back at them
3. Some do not think it is worth it.
I have read Mwenda’s writings for some time now, both before and after his metamorphosis. As a story teller, he is good. As an analyst of issues, he is not that good, even when he is at his best in terms of impartiality. Many people wrongly think that because a journalist can compellingly tell a story, he can also be a good commentator or analyst of phenomena. That is not necessarily true. His weekly, 800-word “Last word” column in HIS independent newspaper which I occasionally read doesn’t strike me as overly intellectual. I always marvel at the baseless swooning of some of his shallow followers in the comments section. Those who question his intellect he dismisses as Uganda’s “chattering class.” I guess like his dictator friends, he would rather have close to him only those that tell him what he wishes to hear.
I have also looked at Mwenda’s other works including some high profile speeches, writings and presentations over the years, including those presentations he makes at Rwanda’s ministerial retreats. I don’t think anyone has ever critically analyzed them. One that probably thrust Mwenda onto the international stage was his 2007 “TED Talk” in which he riled against Foreign Aid. I doubt anyone ever did a critical analysis of that talk. On the face of it at least, it is a very weak, utopian argument that he makes, not dissimilar to many of his other writings. I know what kind of impact these feel good speeches and writings can have on any audience. I used to get that euphoric, utopian feeling whenever I read such kind of works. When I first read Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, I almost quit my Uganda shillings 700,000 a month job the next day. I desperately wanted to make “Money work for me” rather than the other way round. My then girlfriend (bless her) talked me out of it by asking a simple question: “What next when you quit?”. Similarly, I felt mad when I first read Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid”. But I also worked in the Aid Industry and knew of the good that development assistance, despite its obvious limitations, was doing on the very basic level so I had to cool down. These superficial, feel good analyses only impress those that are not far-sighted or critical enough in their thinking or are simply unwilling or uncomfortable to factor in more cold realities by looking at the full facts.

As you all might know, Andrew Mwenda was not always like this. You can retrieve his “Mwenda’s Prison Notes”, an impressive prison diary he wrote when Museveni jailed him for calling him a villager in 2005, to get an inkling on his thinking then. Or you can similarly Google the resignation letter from The Monitor which he wrote to then chief of the Nation media group.
So, what happened to him?

That may be the Million dollar (could be Shilling, Franc, Pound, Euro, who knows?) question.

Bernard Sabiti is a researcher and policy analyst. He is the author of the recently published Uglish: A Dictionary of Ugandan English . He contested for the Bufumbira South parliamentary seat in Kisoro in 2011, the basis his other (not yet published) book, “Look After Me: The absurdity of Uganda’s bribery politics.” He can be contaced on bernardsabiti@gmail.com, or his WordPress blog at Ugandan English (where this article is also published), and on twitter @BSabiti

Editor’s Note: The name Andrew Mwenda is not new to this blog. Check past mentions here, here and here. It is embarrassing that for someone who claims that he is an intellectual, and his legion of fans who cite TIME and FOREIGN POLICY as their references for this ‘intellectual’ status, there is not much credible scholarly work for commentators like Bernard to look at, in trying to understand his non-existent thought. Newspaper columns, mere articles on websites, speeches and presentations however ‘intellectual’ (and Mwenda’s have been described as propaganda before), can’t be the primary products of a thinker. Real intellectuals for example Mahmood Mamdani, Sylvia Tamale, Dani Nabudere, Okot P’Bitek and more don’t philosophise primarily in newspaper articles and TED speeches and not just because TED is a new phenomenon. The newspaper materials are secondary to the primary work, the core scholarship. It’s an insult to real intellectuals when rants published online and in newspapers claim to be the only fruits of intellectual labour a ‘thinker’ can produce. On that basis alone, this blog agrees with Bernard that Andrew Mwenda is a pseudo-intellectual.

Should we grow tea in the densely populated mountainous district of Kabale?

Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba has a PhD in Poverty Reduction

Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba has a PhD in Poverty Reduction

A tea plantation

A tea plantation

Kabale land is heavily fragmented

Kabale land is heavily fragmented

On February 28, 2015, I received a Facebook notification. Atwiine Allan Beine has tagged you in his post, it said. I studied with Allan at Kigezi High School, the very few months I spent at Kabale Trinity College and for four years at Makerere University where we both studied Law. This background is important. Allan is one of those people who do not conform easily. He has since not followed the legal practitioner path and is now a business man, specializing in real estate and farming. I take his opinions seriously.

Below is the post, in full, that he tagged me in.

Greetings Prof. Nuwagaba Augustus

 

On the 23rd of Feb 2015, I read your article in one of the leading dailies encouraging the people of Kigezi to plant tea and emphasized that it would transform them economically.

 

I beg to disagree with you and this post is a humble response. I also beg to be corrected if I am wrong.

 

First and foremost, I am reluctant to believe in the growing of a perishable crop, which can not be profitably transported over a long distance in its raw form. This means that the producer of that crop is left at the mercy of the buyer who owns the factory that does processing. This entrepreneur will most probably determine the price (as minimal as possible to keep the farmer in the enterprise) as well as determine when to pay. Kabale in particular has previously embraced seemingly good projects that came with a promise of transformation only for farmers to be disappointed. I refer you to the artenesia & pyrethrum projects. People were devastated.

 

Secondly, Kabale has for the last century experienced challenges of land scarcity and fragmentation. You and I both know that its very difficult to come across one family that owns 10 acres of consolidated land. In my sub-county, which is Kaharo, I can not mention even 10 families. How do you expect these families to balance tea growing together with other food crops?

 

If tea growing is embraced as you want it to be, do you realise that we face a danger of food insecurity? One of the largest tea producers, Uganda Tea Corporation headed by Mrs Yvonne Mehta along Mukono-Jinja, has aproximately 2000 hectares of land for the project. Even then, only 1200 hectares are covered by the tea plantation. The rest is for forestation and food crops. May we borrow a leaf from that?

 

You have said that families with less land may indulge in growing of tea seedlings which they can sell. Its true, growing of seedlings is highly profitable-but only if you have many tea seedlings and a ready market. On average (I know you have such a project in Ndorwa), you invest 180 shillings in a tea seedling for it to be eligible for purchase. I am told that at the moment, a tea seedling is purchased on 450 shillings. The gross margin is enticing.

 

But tell me, Mr Professor, how many rural families have the logistics to have a nursery bed of 500,000 seedlings for the venture to be profitable? We are talking about a project with an initial investment capital of 90,000,000/= to earn you 225,000,000/= assuming there is ready market.

 

Mr. Professor Sir, with all due respect, I will request you to read the 2009 report of International Food Policy Research Institute titled “Analysis of Relative Profitability of Key Ugandan Agricultural Enterprises by Agricultural Production Zone” specifically page 23. The profitability analysis of tea/hectare is put at a range between 382,075sh and 2,233,566sh per annum. Tell me sir, how such a family will ever pay tuition fees for a university student.

 

I want to bring it to your attention sir, that for one to get high yields in a tea plantation there is a heavy use of nitrogen fertilisers. This eventually has effects of soil degradation and pollution.

 

The above brings me to the question, what then is the most suitable agricultural intervention enterprise suitable for Kabale?

 

The answer, in my opinion, is fruit growing. I will particularly single out apple growing. In a layman’s argument, do we import raw tea? No. Do we import apples? Yes. Therefore I am of the opinion that we should plant what we import. Somebody may argue about the forex earnings of tea but that’s not the primary project of tea planting in Kabale.

 

On a hectare of land, Mr Professor Sir, you can grow up to 250 plants of apple trees. At five years, each tree has potential to produce up to 600 fruits per season i.e. 1200 fruits per annum. Those are aproximately. 30,000 fruits/ha. Assuming the farm gate price is 300sh, you have a gross earning of 9,000,000 shillings. Compare and contrast that with tea.

 

An apple tree has the potential to be fruit bearing for up to 100 years. In temperate climates that experience winter, apple tress shed leaves in winter before flowering through a natural process but that cannot happen in Kabale. This is a God given natural advantage that whereas other regions have only one season we have two harvesting seasons.

 

Once again, I stand to be corrected if I am wrong, but as it stands now, I strongly believe that tea growing will be a disadvantage to Kabale.

 

Thank you.

You can find Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba’s opinion in The Monitor here to contextualise the discussion.

Several young people from Kabale joined in the discussion. Find the full discussion here.

Important points were made, the professor himself joined in the discussion. Below I reproduce some of the comments, for which I have received permission to republish, from the authors.

Starting with my own comments:

 

My two cents are,

 

1. Why can’t we continue producing food crops to feed our families and sell the surplus to those who can add value to them, say emondi, I grow to eat and sell the surplus to those making emondi crisps and chips. A crop that you can’t survive on in food form is dangerous. They brought us senturuma, it destroyed our soils. Now some runaway capitalists are marketing tea growing to us aware that we have no extra land on which to grow it without sacrificing land for food crops.


2. What really is wrong with subsistence farming except that it doesn’t benefit non producing capitalists who benefit from non tangible production say those in the marketing and other chains? Let us first feed ourselves. Let us care about our basic needs first.

 

3. I agree fully with Atwiine Allan Beine, Ambrose Budman Niwagaba and others who oppose tea growing in Kabale.

Ronald Kajwengye Akatwijuka agreed with me. He said:

I agree with Bwesigye.

 

There is already much food scarcity and people with limited resources (like the Banyakabale) are better served getting themselves food security first. If we don’t spend on food and are not starving, we’ll be able to engage in other commercial activities, to enhance our living. Food security is a bigger problem and accounts for a more basic need.

 

Rukundo En, a PhD student somewhere in Germany added his two cents, laden with experience.

Well, this discussion is really very interesting! As a tea farmer and a Kabale person who is also interested in tea in the greater Kigezi, it leaves me on the fence and not sure if the wind blows where I would fall! My grandfather was among the first people to grow tea in Kayonza – Kanungu in the late 60s and later on, became a chairman of Kayonza Tea Growers factory, the tea plantation that he planted in 1960s and early 70s is still standing and benefiting the family mpora mpora! So, yeah, tea is a cash crop which you can have a plantation of, for very many years as long as you maintain it well.
Atwiine, I am not sure about the statistics of production, but I think Kayonza is way ahead of Igara and Madhivani on both quantity and quality. In East Africa, Kayonza tea has the highest prices at the Mombasa tea auction market. As for using nitrogen fertilisers, actually for new plantations, the best way would be to go organic and green (not the color but the brand description). Organic tea would then command even higher prices and better revenue for households.
As for ownership of the factory, In Kanungu, Garuga has recently opened two factories, one in Kayonza and the other in Rugyeyo. When Uganda Tea Corporation was privatised, Kayonza tea factory was bought by the farmers union which runs it up to now. So there is space for farmers to organise themselves and own and manage a community asset. Of course community and local politics not withstanding. This is very good for the farmers in Kanungu since they can actually decide who they sell their tea to. So currently the green leaf prices are in market equilibrium in Kanungu since the two owners/ markets keep checking each other.
But Atwiine, Ambrose and Bwesigye, you raise important points on land availability. A crop like tea needs enough land for one to benefit. of course these are basic economies of scale. Small mini acreages don’t benefit the farmers as much, they just maintain the farmers’ living. But you could also say that even when Kigezi is over populated, it does not have the highest population density that can prohibit tea growing! Look over the shoulders to Rwanda, they have the highest population density in Africa (over 11 million people squeezed in a country just slightly bigger than Kigezi) but they produce enormous quantity of tea (my professor here told me he drinks only Rwandan tea for the last 25 years) and the country is not food insecure!
But to benefit from this, there needs to be a general shift in the development landscape of Uganda! People are so scattered, providing public services is expensive for the public service provider and this gives an illusion that land is not available. What Rwanda has done to free up more land for large scale agriculture is to create imidugudu (small towns and centres) in which people are settled, services provided and land freed for both food crops and cash crops. But doing this in Uganda is close to impossible!
So, enough said, we need to look not only at the economic activity but the political economy that facilitates such shifts to succeed. This needs not to be politicised (as I see Prof Augustus Nuwagaba doing – when he is “talking to the farmers” in NRM bandanas and t-shirts) because this is not just a tool for political capital but a venture that can stay on decade after politically leaning people have left the dancing stage. In the meantime, I will return to Kayonza and see how my grand father´s tea plantation is doing (I am planting more soon).
The conversation is an ongoing one. The professor spits economic growth figures as important for the people of Kabale. I have failed to see how economic growth figures really mean better welfare for people who are being advised to lose control of their food crop production, aware that they eat this food, and sell the surplus. I do not know why so-called educated people do not see through the bastardisation of subsistence agriculture. In another forum, I have asked why we think that paper and metal (money) are more important than actual basic needs like food. To buy the type of food people in Kabale grow and consume may take a lot of tea leaves grown on a larger piece of land. Someone needs to debunk this ‘development’ by economic growth figures lie. Do you think the people of Kabale should invest any land, effort, money and time in growing tea? I am all ears.

The Literature Gap in African Legal Academia

I have been silent. Have I? Today, I guest blog at Africa in Words on a subject, very close to my heart. Law and Literature. Go over there and read my take on how we train law students in East Africa today and how Literature can be useful in reforming our current methods. You will read more from me, about Law and Literature moving forward. Thanks for reading.

AiW Guest Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire

Writing for Africa in Words in May 2014, Dustin Zacks presented a case for the inclusion of African Literature in American legal academia. The case for the inclusion of African literature, or any other literature for that matter, in East African legal academia is however yet to be made. As Zacks noted, there is a lot of European and American Literature referenced in American legal academia. Kafka, Shakespeare, Hemingway and Dickens stand tall on many a syllabus of major American law schools offering Law and Literature modules and have been cited hundreds of times in American legal scholarship. One might therefore expect the works of p’Bitek, wa Thiong’o, Adichie, Achebe or Armah among other prominent African writers to be a staple in East African legal academia. And yet incredibly Law and Literature as a field of study in East Africa remains invisible. It is…

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