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Plainly speaking

This is the Pearl of Africa

I was in an afternoon lecture somewhere in Makerere University when the lecturer was talking about the pearl of Africa. I remember I was in a doze mood until I heard the lecturer refer to Congo as the pearl of Africa. Deep inside, I was like “where is your patriotism Mr?” My mind already taking it’s toll analysing all the facts that he( the lecturer) used to describe Congo, I was utterly saddened by my mind’s revelation, I am not trying to say that my mind is a king neither am I saying that I am the grandfather of ‘patriotism’. The thing is that, whatever he said about Congo also applied to Uganda and many more that he didn’t talk about, but that still leaves Uganda as the only Pearl of Africa. Here is why:

First things first, Uganda was named the Pearl of Africa by the former UK Prime Minister Sir Winston Church when he was on a tour across Africa in 1907. He called uganda so, because she was/is a special country endowed by mother nature more than any country on the African continent. Like many other visitors, he fell in love with her lakes, rivers, mountains, climate and forests thereby making him to brand her as the Pearl of Africa. No other country has ever been described as that and thus, there is one pearl of Africa which is Uganda.

Uganda is home to the best weather in the world, coupled with sunshine and rain, Uganda has a number of forests which don’t only modify the climate of the pearl but also provide herbs, fruits and wood. The best tropical climate attributed to the equator strategically located in Uganda more than any other country in the world, makes it a country worth living in due her hospitable climate which is normally stable through out the year.

Uganda has the best scenery in Africa composed of swamps, lakes , rivers mountains and semi-arid lands. The biggest lake ( Lake Victoria is found in Uganda), The longest river (River Nile) starts from Uganda. Did I mention that Lake Bunyonyi, the second deepest lake in Africa is also found in Uganda? Can you imagine snow capped mountains on the equator? Uganda is indeed the pearl of Africa.

The source of the greatest river in the world (River Nile) is right here, and the source of the greatest river happens to be one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world(Lake Victoria) which is shared by three countries. John Hannington Speke the great explorer from Britain, indeed justice and credit when he came and found the source of River Nile. Today, Uganda is proud to be the home to the longest River in the world starting right from the Eastern district of Uganda to the Mediterranean sea connecting to the Atlantic Ocean.

Uganda has many mountains which include a snow caped mountain also known as Mountains of the Moon(mountain Rwenzori), a source of many minerals which include; vermiculite, copper, limestone. a haven with the best hospitality, diverse cultures, tribes and languages. Uganda is also known as the banana republic because it is majorly an agricultural economy with fertile soils and favourable climate. a home to mountain gorillas, buffalos, hippos, nile crocodiles, ostriches lizards, snakes, chimpanzees, monkeys, wathogs, birds, et cetra. found in the numerous game parks and reserves located around Uganda not forgetting the Uganda Wildlife Education centre commonly known as the Zoo.

Mountain Gorillas are found in Uganda than the rest of the whole world and Africa in particular. Little as it is, Uganda has 10 national parks, 7 game reserves and around 30 national forest reserves where birding vacation are the order of the day. It is therefore a home away from home by tourists and visitors who come and spend long holidays in our motherland wishing to stay here even after the end of there vacation. Indeed, Uganda is not Spain! We belong to a class of people far beyond and better than the rest in the world.*

And on top of that, the cultures of people in Uganda takes it all. Uganda has more than 50 ethnic tribes with different cultures. This heterogenous setting, has made us to be one of the most culturally diverse community in Africa which is living in peace compared to other countries at war for example South Sudan. This is Uganda, a country with numerous cultures, dances, practices and dressing, a country with a lovable people, warm hearted and loving. a friendly climate and many physical features. this is the pearl of Africa.

Our diverse culture have remained our strength of national heritage. Uganda’s culture comprises of various ethnic groups that is the Bantu speaking group who are base in the western, central, and southern side of the country and the Nilotic group who lives in the northern, eastern and northwestern part of Uganda. The Bantu speaking group has the largest population in the country and comprises of the Basoga, Bagisu, Baganda, Bunyoro, Banyankole, and the Batoro with Baganda as the largest ethnic group in the country. Their major economic activity is cultivation and some are Pastoralist. T

In spite of them being in the same ethnic group, they are also divided into tribes having different leaders and known with different names. Example the Baganda ruled by Kabaka, Bunyoro ruled by Omukama.  This is the ethnic group were traditional rulers are still given that traditional respect and rights today by their people.

The north offers you opportunity to engage yourself with The Nilotic speaking group comprises of, the Acholi, Lango, Iteso, Karamojong, Alur and the KaKwa with the Itseo as the second largest ethnic group. They mostly depend on farming and animal rearing to supplement.

Did i mention about the small group of the Batwa community which lives in Bwindi impenetrable National park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park?. The Batwa are the threatened species of human being in Uganda. A visit to the batwa pygmies’ community offers you exciting cultural trails known as the Batwa trials where you will be told about the Batwa ways of living.

That said, what more evidence do you need to be reminded that Uganda is the Pearl of Africa?



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Plainly speaking

Uganda isn’t Kony, Idi Amin or Ebola

You have any non-African friends, right? Ask them what they think of Uganda. The answers you may receive will be related to poverty, AIDS, Ebola, hunger, tribalism or animals. Their faces will turn sorrowful and sympathy might linger in their eyes. They may give an example of how they helped to “Save Gulu” by donating to the “Kony 2012” campaign or dreamed of adopting a “Ugandan orphan”.

Most likely the view of the continent is that it is not a continent at all, but one large country, where everyone speaks the same language, eats the same food, wears the same type of clothing, and creates the same type of art. Yes, in their eyes, “Africa” is a homogeneous place of simple people with simple activities.

Mainstream media and educational system constantly feed our minds with this type of negative information on Africa. As a consequence, the average white person has a very narrow-minded image of the continent, filled with lions, malnourished children, corrupt officials and rebels. We rarely see or hear anything different and therefore see such images as the truth. But, for someone who has never been to the continent, can they be blamed for this ignorance?

There are mainly two sorts of Africa that appear on the media, the human Africa riven with poverty and violence, and the Africa of wildlife documentaries where humans hardly appear. There are the occasional travel documentaries but even here there seems a lot of emphasis on poverty and the primitive nature of just about everything.

The effect of the above perceptions, is that it leaves the world thinking that Africa is a dark continent already lost in the jungles of primitivism and barbarism. It makes Africa at the center of stereo-typing and it also makes us to be branded as an inferior race in the world thereby even affecting our self-esteem.

Because of such, we wonder whether  we should be annoyed with non-African journalists who broadcast embarrassing images of poverty in Africa, or at the African governments who tolerate and often create such misery in the first place? Much criticism has been leveled at western media for negative coverage of Africa. They have been accused by some of ignorance and racism. In many cases, this criticism is justified.

But why do many Africans, feel so strongly about how Africa is portrayed in western media? After all, the average Brit or German doesn’t give two hoots how their country is covered in say, Nigerian or Kenyan media. Europeans are not emigrating to Africa in large numbers so they simply don’t need to care how Africans view them.

Photocredit- KCCA

Photocredit- KCCA

Perhaps we should ask you, Does the whole of Africa have this demographic problem? Why do you focus on the slums and not on the positive stories? Why search out the most miserable environments to film in and continue propagating negative stereotypes of Africa as a nest of poverty and problems?
But as proud Ugandans,  we also know news media in general (African included), tends to focus on the negative and not the positive. Bad news sells well. People feel better about their lives when they hear others have bigger problems than them. A European who’s unhappy he can’t get a mortgage, will, however unwittingly, likely see his life in brighter lights after watching footage of people with no electricity, no running water and little food to eat.

It’s important to challenge the negative images and the perceptions circulated by the media particularly; whether in films, books, news and academic reports. It is vital to report, complain, blog about it. Challenge and object to it with whatever means you have. A pen or a keyboard are the most powerful tools. We are not just rebels or victims awaiting international aid or assistance for our children to be adopted by wealthy celebrity who will parade them. We are – just like every human being – complex characters journeying on this planet who deserve dignity and respect.

Of course there are many different and often positive stories to be told from Africa’s 54 diverse countries. But the continent currently has no microphone of its own on the global stage, no loudspeaker with which to tell its stories the way it wants them told. It has to wait in line hoping others lend it theirs from time to time. That won’t do.
Al Jazeera has succeeded in giving Arabs a voice on the global stage the same way BBC and CNN have succeded in giving a voice to the British and Americans respectively. Where is Africa’s answer to Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN?

More programmes about Africa, made by Africans, is the voice that is missing in this world. We need programmes which will not portray only wildlife, but the beautiful cultures of my country Uganda told by a Ugandan. We need new programmes which will not call Africa a country, but will appreciate that Africa has states like Uganda which are not at war but a pearl of hard working people.
This is Uganda they never show you. This is Uganda of people with dignity and stories changing our society. This is the Uganda the land gifted by nature and not conflict, poverty and diseases. This is Uganda of lovers, beautiful people and not people dying of hunger. This is Uganda they never show you that we want to tell the world about and be the voice of the voiceless.

If we Ugandans do not stand up to tell our own stories and positive stories about Africa as a whole, then we will forever remain misunderstood, misinterpreted and not respected. We will not only be untrue to ourselves but putting the future of our country at risk as the late Bob Marley once said… “ Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery because none but ourselves can free our minds!”



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Poetry as an instrument in Ugandan society
Murray Shiraz aka "Black Poet" performing one of his poems at open mic Uganda- a re-known spoken word poetry platform in Kampala.

Poetry must not be used for social change but CAN be used for social change.

Poetry is the best words arranged in the order to clearly define the poet’s heart based on inspiration, whether hidden or open. Poetry to some has been known as a means to preserving daily life experiences in society. Its  like a day to day diary of a writer though not so many people have the talent and passion to scribble down beautiful words in poetic ink.

Writers should have the liberty to express themselves in the best words possible to define their heart, but should welcome criticism of their work.

Lantern Meet cast during a recent poetry recital dubbed "moving on"

Lantern Meet cast during a recent poetry recital dubbed “moving on”

Poetry is everywhere in every  tradition and culture, and is not considered for elites alone. Ugandans just need to work hard like Shakespeare in spreading it and making it something phenomenal by each person regardless of who they are or where they come from.

The lessons for the poets

Poets need to learn the tools of the trade before they go out to claim that they are poets.

Ugandan poets need to know that they are vital people in our society and help us reflect who we are as Ugandans besides helping us to creatively preserve unique societal experiences in living words frozen in ink that speaks.

As Ugandan poets, we need to market poetry to our neighboring countries to kill the monotony of having the same faces at every poetry event, and having  a few foreign faces every now and then.

The societies and platforms

There are local poets who have graced Uganda like Paul Kafero, Henry Barlow, Okot P’Bitek, and we who have come after feel that we are on the right track on carrying this torch.

We just need to support the poetry societies that groom writers such as the Lantern Meet of Poets, Femrite, Luminous Sorrels, Bonfire Uganda.

And the poetry performance platforms that give poets a monthly opportunity to showcase their spoken word like Open Mic Uganda, Poetry in Session, Kwivuga and Poetry Shrine.

Let’s support the Ugandan poetry platforms in whatever way possible now that its one of the avenues left to preserve our culture and make Ugandan history to be read by the future generations.



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Plainly speaking

Meet Uber’s first female Ugandan driver, Fiona Kiberu

The long wait is over, Uber is now in Kampala. Today UberX officially launched its ride sharing service in the city of Kampala during a press briefing at the Kampala Serena Hotel. Fortunately, there is a lady driver part of the Uber team now.

Fiona Kiberu Photo: Tech Jaja

Fiona Kiberu
Photo: Tech Jaja

Fiona Kiberu is a simple and down to earth lady who has been in the taxi business for almost eight years. She stays in Kawempe and works at Lugogo Shopping mall. Those that have used a cab from Lugogo shopping mall before know her quite well, he generosity, kindness and politeness. She drives a Noah.

Salvador Idringi celebrating the launch of Uber. Fiona Kiberu in her driver's sit. Photo: Twitter

Salvador Idringi celebrating the launch of Uber. Fiona Kiberu in her driver’s sit.
Photo: Twitter

In an interview by Tech Jaja, Fiona Kiberu declared that she will drive Uber for life, she also added a smile to her new recruitment into Uber.

Uber is a service that enables a person/client to get a ride at the tap of a button, it eliminates flagging hands so as to stop a taxi or entering an unfamiliar car which is totally insecure. It’s also the most convenient way to get a safe, reliable, and affordable ride to work, to a party, or back to home. The Uber app detects your location, tells you in advance about your driver, and you can choose to pay with a credit card or cash so it is easy and safer for both riders/clients and drivers.

“Uganda’s famous “Happy City” is well-know for several attractions – its bustling streets, exotic nightlife and dynamic skyline. These are just a few of the many reasons why Uber loves Kampala, and we’re excited to announce that YOU can now request a ride at the tap of a button.”- Uber

With the launch of Uber in Uganda, one can only hope for the best in the transport sector and system which hasn’t been performing to expected standards in the past. To celebrate their launching, Uber is giving all riders the opportunity to enjoy FOUR days of free rides in Kampala.




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