Thursday, July 28, 2011


JULY 2011

“…They were too many. I saw them set my home on fire. They forced me into the burning kitchen that is how I burnt my face. Meaning they wanted me dead. This is the only blanket I’m left with, after these people burnet my homestead,” an old man narrates.

Displaying wounds on his fore head, another old man recounts in documentary film, ‘Article VII Voices For Healing’: “I was axed here, then stabbed here with a knife and then they clobbered my back.”

“They tied our hands and legs then assaulted us on the buttocks and under the feet. I had a six weeks old baby. They ordered me to lay the baby down so that they could beat me up,” a woman reveals.

The film produced by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) opens with harrowing accounts of the brutal beatings, rapes and tortures that took place in Zimbabwe during the March 2008 elections. It shows victims with fresh wounds, displaced families and those mimed and humiliated. It is a story of those hurt by political violence crying out for healing for themselves and their land.

“They beat me up with knobkerries and metal rods. They struck my lip with a knobkerrie as I turned over because of its unbearable pain on my buttocks, so that when I jerked and turned over that’s when it hit my lip. Two of my lower and two of my upper teeth are shaking,” a young man with deformed lips recounts.

“They went on to burn down my home. Everything was reduced to ashes. My wife and children were not home when I returned. As I survived this ordeal I don’t know where my family went to and if they are alive. Also if they know that I’m alive,” he adds.

"Those were painful times! Children were forced into evil acts. Murder, assault and burning properties, all evil acts that anger God happened. Nothing inhuman in behaviour was left out in 2008," Chief Mutekedza laments.

With this documentary, ZimRights examines the question of national healing in Zimbabwe after the March 2008 elections. What results is an engaging film that seeks to explore the origin and redress of political violence in this country. Since the 1990s, Zimbabwe’s elections have increasingly been characterised by violence.

Jestina Mukoko, the director of Zimbabwe Peace Project comments: “We recognise that whenever elections or referendums approach, we have gross human rights violations, which are politically motivated. Where we even see people being murdered, people being maimed, women being raped and people fleeing.”

“Elections cannot be a disease like Aids, No! We come to know that every five years that disease is back, and people are going to die? No, we cannot carry on like that,” Mutekedza notes.

The film reveals that the history of Zimbabwe is characterised by transfers of power, which manifest themselves through violent conflicts. Political, and in particular electoral violence, in Zimbabwe is rooted in colonialism, suggests, Pathisa Nyathi, a historian and cultural leader.

“The kind of violence that we have has its genesis in the colonial period. This is the period when repressive laws were promulgated, where people just disappeared, they disappeared because they were intransigent. People resorted to an armed liberation struggle. Let’s be clear about an armed struggle, it is by nature violent,” says Nyathi.

"Unfortunately, that culture did not abate, neither did it stop nor was it transformed even after we got our independence. People have been dying and that is the modus operandi within Zimbabwe. Therefore in my opinion, this has become a culture within Zimbabwe," says Pastor Ray Motsi.

Nyathis further asserts that election violence is used chiefly to maintain economic interests. The Catholic Parliamentary Liason Officer, Father Edward Ndete takes this point further by adding: “As long as people want to protect their power, and the illegal way they have acquired wealth, this violence will continue.”

The production is the culmination of consultations in rural communities around Zimbabwe on the course the national healing process, provided for in Article VII of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) should take.

The film gives people in grassroots communities a chance to speak out on the direction the national healing process should take, on who should lead the process and what should be done to bring about true healing in the country. It emerged that most communities would like the process to be decentralised so that they can dictate the pace of healing and reconciliation for themselves. People have indicated that the national healing organ must not prescribe solutions, but should carry out consultations on how communities want the process to be done.

The documentary scooped the Best Zimbabwean Production Award at the 2010 Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF), the biggest film festival in the country. The festival was held from August 27 - September 5, 2010.

It has been screened in Uganda (on NTV), South Africa and Namibia, where it has also earned a lot of publicity as it evokes discussions on the state of affairs in Zimbabwe and whether or not the country is ready for elections, seeing that most people have not healed.

“So it’s commercial politics now. They campaign, people die; they win and are given cars, twin cabs. Next time new candidates win, they get cars… it’s a vicious cycle,” Chief Mutekedza observes.

“The ones who did should be arrested. Also those who were beating up people should be arrested and tried in court. Then we will know that the government has power and there is rule of Law. They must go to prison. We will talk forgiveness with them when they are coming from prison,” a man says.

A significant impediment to national healing is that the architects of the violence are in government, and national healing is a government led process.

In the film, Father Ndete suggests that retributive justice will not work because: “There are some who are viewed as having perpetrated more violence than others. So the moment you start talking about retributive justice, you anger a certain group of people, and this healing will not move.”

For the people, national healing cannot proceed without dealing with the perpetrator. However, there is a widely held fear that because these are powerful and wealthy people, it is easy for them to manipulate or bribe unemployed youths to perpetrate further acts of violence, reversing any progress made.

In bitter voice a woman asks: “Does the law go on vacation? The law does not go on holiday. But how come perpetrators of political violence are not arrested and tried? Why it is the law applies only to us and not to them? Why?”

Another issue the film examines is that of compensation. Is it enough to apologise and ask for forgiveness? Or should the victims be given compensation for their suffering? The documentary even asks at what point in Zimbabwe’s history should national healing start?

The film shows how the current process of national healing has failed those it is supposed to help, as one admits: “We don’t understand the national healing process. In fact we don’t want it. They must consult us first. Not just for them to wake up and say - we are sending people to you. Instructing us to forgive each other. Forgive who?”

A woman adds: “I was beaten up, my three month baby was taken away over night, when they beat me up I messed in my pants. Then they forced me to eat my excretion. How do I forgive someone like that? They later forced me to drink beer so I could swallow my excretion. So how do I forgive such a person?

The documentary shows that any lasting solution has to come from Zimbabweans themselves.

“About the national healing process, the solution should be prescribed by the grassroots. By grassroots, I mean the people on the ground. Not for people from Harare or Head Office to come and tell us how to do the process. We are the ones who hurt each other; we are the ones who are hurt. We should be telling them how to do the process. So I may be able to forgive my neighbor,” a man suggests.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011



ALTHOUGH Essence Kasozi, Uganda’s Afro-pop princess has been accepted in the United Kingdom where she is based - she is a disappointed that her music is virtually unknown back home. She is seen in a photo at a recent performance.

“I have been accepted because there’s already a tradition of World Music in London and people appreciate it. London is somewhat of a centre for this music. Audiences here are more open-minded and there tends to be an enthusiasm for something different,” she says.

“I feel disappointed my music is not appreciated in Uganda but also I still have hope that people will begin to open their ears to other styles of music; this is always a slow process. The media has also a role to play to do something about this to make people aware just as this interview is seeking to reveal artists like us to the general public,” Kasozi said.

Although Essence commends the recording industry in Uganda for sustaining the music sector she observes that there is room for improvement. “The producers have to start getting musicians to play live instruments and also to get musicians who are experts on their instruments because when you get different musicians each one brings their own feeling to the music and this creates a much more solid work with more originality rather than everything from one studio sounding the same.”

She recognizes that live music is still dominated by men in Uganda but adds that this is changing. “I think women are mostly interested in singing/dancing but also there’s no tradition of teaching music. So, most women don’t get the chance to get involved in the other aspects. They have been mostly dancers apart from a few. Recently this has begun to change though and it’s encouraging.”

Regarding the impact of latest technologies like computers on the development of playing musical instruments in Uganda she notes, “It has killed the ambition of learning to play live instruments, which is a shame but they will snap out of it with time hopefully because technologies change and with that fashions fade.”

Neither is she pleased with the CD generation of musicians, observing that: “I guess singers becoming celebrities for just one or two songs and going on tours for that. They even go abroad to perform that one song using CDs - amazing. However, the CD track and miming performers’ days are numbered because as is notable, there are many live bands cropping up because audiences are tired of being hoodwinked.”

Essence‘s advice to young musicians who would wish to take up music as a career is, “Love the art first before thinking of money, learn the trade and get training in music theory and practice. Play one or a few instruments then you will be better set for a music career.”

Essence who sings mainly in Luganda fuses Afro-beat with Reggae and Afro-pop. With her soulful vocals she tackles issues related to love, advice to fellow women and social evils.

Essence first got into the entertainment business as an actress on the Ugandan scene. She performed with the Kayaayu Film Players, which was one of the leading theatre groups in Uganda in the 80s. She has appeared in several Ugandan TV soaps by the Ebonies group including "That's Life Mwattu" in which she played the character of ‘Anita.’

She later ventured into music with the release of her debut album 'Obukoddo' (Selfishness) in 1998. The 'Obukoddo' album is still awaiting reissuance by the Madhead Kitchen Records.

In 2001 she followed it up with the album Ekiseera mu Biseera (Time within time) under the Hans Records label. The album has ten tracks that include the title track Ekiseera mu biseera, Kuuma line, Nakamatte, Mwanyinaze. It was a top seller in the East African section of CD baby for over 6 months and number 3 in the Afro-pop top 10.

Ansudde Ddalu (He has made me go crazy) released in September 2007, under the Madhead Kitchen Records label is mainly blended in Afro-pop crossing from the Kalimba/Akogo rhythms and melodies to funky dance grooves and slices of Latin. The ten-track album that was inspired by love has songs including the title track Ansudde ddalu, Nkwagala nyo, Wotoli, Nsaliddewo ddala and Gwe weka. The album was number 8 in top selling Afro-pop albums at CD Baby.

Asked as to which of her two released albums is her best, she says, “My second one “Ansudde Ddalu” although I must say a lot of people appreciate “Ekiseera mu biseera” I guess it’s a little raw and that quality can also have its own appeal.”

Essence’s fans should expect her next album next year because at present she is working on a musical film project.

She says her best moments of her musical career when she played live at the BBC World Service in 2004 and the first time she performed at the National Theatre in London, “it was a thrill and an honour. The audience was very vibrant and they received my performance very well; I loved it.”

In September 2003, Essence was one of the Ugandan artists who were recognized for their contribution to the Ugandan community in the U.K. at the inaugural Ugandan Music Awards. The South Bank Arts Centre in England has described her as an Afro-pop princess from Uganda.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Caine Prize Shortlisted Story Inspired By LRA Rebellion

A SHORT story by a Ugandan poet and short story writer that was shortlisted for 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing was inspired by the brutal effects of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war in the north of the country.

Beatrice Lamwaka says that the idea of her short story “Butterfly Dreams” emerged after she heard the sad tales of child captives at a rehabilitation centre in Gulu district. She is seen in the above picture taken by MORGAN MBABAZI reading the same anthology.

Lamwaka was shortlisted for short story, “Butterfly Dreams” from ‘Butterfly Dreams and Other New Short Stories From Uganda,’ published by Critical, Cultural and Communications Press, Nottingham (UK), 2010.

Butterfly Dreams’ is about a family that has been waiting for five years for their daughter, Lamunu to return home from the hands of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The family has even buried her tipu (spirit), when word went around that she would not return home. Bongomin, one of the abductees who had returned home from four years of abduction, claimed to have seen her dead body bursting in the burning sun.

The family never believed Lamunu was dead. They also did not want her tipu to roam northern Uganda. They did not want her to come back and haunt them. The family had become part of the string of parents whom listened to Mega FM every day for names of their loved ones. The mother never believed for one moment that her child was gone. It was the mother’s strength that kept the family hoping that one day Lamunu would return.

The mother said she dreamt that butterflies were telling her to keep strong. The night after the dream there were so many butterflies in the house. The other family members thought their mother was running made. They thought Lamunu had taken their mother’s mind with her.

Their father was brutally murdered by the rebels after finding him in the garden and yet everybody was supposed to be in an internally people’s displaced camp. “…They later cut his body into pieces. Lamunu, we did not eat meat after we buried your father and we have not eaten meat since then… We could never understand why another human being could humiliate another, even in their death.”

When Lamunu is finally rescued by the soldiers in Sudan and returned home she is a traumatized and changed girl.

“You were at world vision, a rehabilitation centre for formerly abducted children. You were being counseled there. You were taught how to live with us again. Ma (mother) cried and laughed at the same time. Yes, you were alive. We couldn’t believe at long last out anxiety would come to rest. That night, Ma prayed. We prayed till cockcrow. We were happy. We were happy you were alive. Pa (father) might have turned in his grave…,” the story reads in part.

“You returned home. You were skinny as a cassava stem. Bullet scars on your left arm and right leg. Your feet were cracked and swollen as if you had walked the entire planet. Long scars mapped your once beautiful face. Your eyes had turned the colour of pilipili pepper. You caressed your scars as if to tell us what you went through. We did not ask questions. We heard the stories before from Anena, Aya Bongomin… We are sure your story is not any different,” the story goes on.

“When you returned home, Lamunu, we were afraid. We were afraid of you. Afraid of what you had become. Ma borrowed a neighbour’s layibi. Uncle Ocen bought an egg from the market. You needed to be cleansed. The egg would wash away whatever you did in the bush. Whatever the rebels made you do. We know that you were abducted. You didn’t join them and you would never be part of them. You quickly jumped the layibi. You stepped on the egg, slashing its egg yolk. You were clean…”

“Ma never spoke of the butterflies again. We never heard of the butterfly dreams anymore. We wanted the butterflies to come and say something to Ma,” goes the narration.

“You spoke in your dreams. You turned and tossed in your mud bed. We held your hands. You were like a woman in labour. You spoke of ghosts. You spoke of rebels chasing you in Adilang because you tried to escape. You spoke of Akello, your friend, who they made you and your team beat to death because she tried to escape. You said you didn’t want to kill her. …You said you saw Akello covered with sticks. You saw the blood in her mouth. You watched as the older rebels checked to confirm that she was dead. You nauseated. You tried to vomit but there was nothing to let out…”

“…we listened to you curse under your breath. We watched you tremble when you heard the government fighting planes flying over Katikati. We knew that you were worried about the people you left behind. We knew that you knew what would go on when the planes went after the rebels. We didn’t ask you for stories…”

The story ends with Lamunu back at a primary school of formerly abducted children to pursue her dream of becoming a medical doctor.

A US based Zimbabwean author, NoViolet Bulawayo won the 2011 Caine Prize beating over 120 writers to the converted continental award with her short story ‘Hitting Budapest’ from ‘The Boston Review’ Vol. 35, no. 6 - Nov/Dec 2010.

The Caine Prize, widely known as the ‘African Booker’ and regarded as Africa’s leading literary award, is now in its twelfth year. It is awarded to a work (a short story) by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere.

Lamwaka was the third Ugandan to be shortlisted after Doreen Baingana and Monica Arach de Nyeko, who won the prize in 2007 for a story, “Jambula Tree” from ‘African Love Stories,’ published by Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2006.

Lamwaka has published a number of poems and short stories in different Uganda Women’s Writers Association (FEMRITE) anthologies including her latest story “The Hair Cut” in the anthology Never Too Late. She is currently is working on her first novel whose title keeps changing. Her short memoir, “The Market Vendor,” was published by PMS 9, University of Alabama, USA, 2010. Her poems have also been published in various anthologies.


A New Collection of Wisdom Published in Uganda

PAGES: 480

A NEW collection of maxims, proverbs, anecdotes and quotes titled, “The Minds of Achievers,” from some of the greatest men and women of all time in the world has been published in Uganda.

They include Nobel Prize winners, scientists, novelists, civil rights activists, great military strategists, great corporate leaders, leaders of great nations, among others.

From the ancient great thinkers to the contemporary world movers and shakers, The Minds of Achievers authored by Mr. Grace Mugyenzi Musiime offers a complete, comprehensive selection of the world’s most inspirational and profound witticisms.

This special selection of over 3,000 enduring quotations is a treasure house of penetrating wisdom, and most brilliant thoughts; gleaned from the writings and teachings of the world’s greatest minds. It also has quotations by unknown sources.

It is recommended for those aspiring for achievement, leadership, career excellence, personal development, management and sports, among others.

Compared to a dictionary of quotations this book is arranged alphabetically theme by theme to give the reader a quotation that he/she needs. The 72 themes include; ambition, change, character, courage, determination, enthusiasm, failure, faith, generosity, happiness, hope, humility, inspiration, integrity, leadership, truth, wisdom and vision, among others.

Besides lacking an index the shortcoming of this book is that it does not carry ancient African wisdom that forms part of the African philosophy and experience.

The former British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli rightly said, “The wisdom of the wise and the experience of ages may be preserved by quotation.”

“Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something,” Plato said.

Jamie Paolinetti said, “Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imagination, our possibilities become limitless.”

“When you believe and think “I can,” you activate your motivation, commitment, confidence, concentration and excitement – all of which relate directly to achievement,” said, Dr. Jerry Lynch.

Nido Qubein said, “Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people.”

“A journey of 1,000 miles must begin with one step,” goes the ancient Chinese proverb.

The former prime minister of Great Britain, William E. Gladstone said, “No man ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes.”

Carl Icahn said, “In life and business, there are two cardinal sins; the first is to act precipitously without thought and the second is to not act at all.”

According to the Burmese saying, “Who aims at excellence will be above mediocrity; who aims at mediocrity will be far short of it.”

“Fame is a vapor, popularity; an ancient, riches take wings. Only one thing endures, and that is character,” Horace Greeley said.

Aristotle said, “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor (honour).”

The American poet, lecturer and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

Bishop Desmond Tutu noted that, “Perhaps oppression dehumanizes the oppressor as much as, if not more than, the oppressed.”

“The measure of a man is what he does with power,” goes the Greek proverb. For Cornelius Nepos, “The power is detested, and miserable the life, of him who wishes to be feared rather than to be loved.”

“Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served,” Mahatma Gandhi noted.

According to Buddha, “Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.”

Mother Teresa said, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”

According to Dr. Dowling of the University of South Africa, “Most of what we say or write is forgotten. But occasionally, someone – a writer, a politician, an actor – says something that is remembered and quoted over and over again. These quotations enter the common body of wisdom and we are expected to know who said them or what the original context was. Also, in our writing, we may need to refer to these pithily expressed words.”

Over the years, Musiime has dedicated time to study biographies, speeches, articles and the best that has been said and written by great personalities and has since assembled a collection of powerful motivational and inspirational quotations that can change one’s life.

His collection began as a hobby way back during his high school days at Ntare School in western Uganda in the 1990s. But more importantly his experience with both young and old people as a lecturer has exposed him to different brilliant people with spectacular ideas but full of negative energy; inhibited by imaginary fears, a gap this book intends to fill.

He has also found out that successful people are ordinary individuals with average talent but who discipline themselves to do simple, small, incremental tasks that other people ignore, and do them extraordinarily well.

Musiime is a strategic management consultant, student and teacher. He holds a B.Com degree and a Master of Arts in Economic Policy Management degree both from Makerere University, where he is currently a lecturer of international finance and business strategy.



IN OLD AFRICAN tradition, the fire place was used as an informal venue for elders to meet young people to pass on wise counsel and also tell stories. It was also a place for family, friends or clan members met for night celebrations. A group of youths has borrowed a leaf from this tradition and they hold the Bonfire Night every Wednesday at National Theatre in Kampala. Bonfire Uganda is a community based organization which uses visual and verbal art forms for the integration of a diverse cultural heritage worldwide. It is a podium for self-expression with no rules or restrictions and everyone is welcome to share his or her talent be it singing, painting, poetry, storytelling or even dancing. The Executive Director of Bonfire Uganda, ABASS HASSAN MUHAMMAD IBRAHIM AMIN alas Ugly Emcee talked to BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI. Picture by Morgan Mbabazi. Excerpts:

Why the ‘name’ Ugly emcee?’

Well I decided to use this name for if meant so much to me. You know so many people see things in a negative way and even when you decide to freely express yourself you’re not considered to be fit thus an Ugly attitude towards you. In simplicity Ugly is basically the true definition of self esteem. It simply stands for you got to love yourself.

What motivated you to start Bonfire Uganda?

We wanted young people to share knowledge, skills and ideas and to interlink social information through arts and culture. Bonfire Uganda would then seek, enhance and maintain the freedom of conscience, expression, association, academic liberty, artistic liberty and all rights and privileges accruing to members by virtue of their humanity, age sex, status, citizenship and other relevant criteria thus promoting enjoyment of their freedom and rights as young people with a diverse cultural heritage, indigenous wisdom, values and skills.

What is the difference between Bonfire and that held in the traditional setting?

Bonfire is all about young people freely expressing themselves regardless of their race, tribe, citizenship and denomination through a platform. – Bonfire Nite with the Art of poetry, music, dance, acrobatics and so much talent for a positive social change. It’s all about peer to peer counseling through art and culture unlike in the traditional setting where the young people were only trained to listen to the elders.

Nevertheless in this urban world today, there are so many young people and due to different cultures coming together then Bonfire is the good way to go for they can now freely shave their ‘fires’ (ideas) with each other. Otherwise Bonfire only makes a new traditional Bonfire into this generation unlike in the traditional Bonfire where cultures and values are passed to the next generation to keep it moving.

What is the future for Bonfire?

Bonfire Uganda will be the sole linkage of adverse culture heritage Worldwide with young people from all continents sharing their ideas and knowledge through Art and culture at the Bonfire International Art Festival.

Have you noticed enthusiasm among Ugandans for Bonfire? Or do you think they prefer live music performances, television and cinema?

Of cause yes because it is so interesting educative and entertaining however some people who are busy and can’t come to the nite, prefer watching if on television, DVD, or listening. We are now working on a TV show for the Bonfire dubbed Bonfire Swagga.

Among the Bonfire presentations what interests Ugandans the most? Why?

The music. Most especially rap music which is poetic and the art of dance for instance break dancing, popping and locking because they can freely express themselves in these forms of art and their fans too like them very much.

What have been your major achievements?

We are improving on the inter-cultural relation locally, regionally and internationally. Bonfire Uganda has built a platform for poets, story tellers, acrobats, hip-hop among others on a weekly basis. It is also bridged the gap between the advantage and disadvantaged. Bonfire has also established a collaborative relationship with various Cultural organizations like the Uganda National Cultural Centre and Alliance Francaise Kampala.