Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Writivism featured at Youth Village

We have been running the Writivism project since October 2012. In an interview with Youth Village, found here, I talk more about Writivism and other things.


"Youth Village: Being a young person what do you think is biggest challenge in Africa?

Brian: I think the biggest challenge in Africa is the thinking that only Africa has challenges. And so the search for Africa’s biggest challenge is Africa’s biggest challenge. I would say poverty is Africa’s biggest challenge, but show me a continent without poverty and I prove how much you know of the world. Some friends of mine think Africa needs education, by which they mean schools. Others say Africa needs health, by which they mean hospitals. And I ask myself, if education is the attainment of skills, through how many methods have we attained skills in Africa outside schools? If health is the condition of the person’s body and mind, how many of us in Africa keep our bodies and minds in good condition without going to hospitals? I think I have now discovered Africa’s biggest challenge. We have artificial challenges. We cry of not being healthy, but we the criers know the herb whose sap can heal us when we bleed, knowledge handed down from our ancestors and not given to us in schools. We say we are not educated yet we can weave mats, make iron tools through blacksmithing and other skills we have inherited from our forefathers and mothers, without school. Now, you agree with me, that if you do not get the problem right, you won’t get the solution right. There is our biggest challenge. Our failure to harness our potential. Our failure to tap into the opportunities that indigenous knowledge offer. Recently, a teenager at one of Kampala’s crowded high schools made a tablet that can heal worm infections. How? She is just a teenager? She did this by applying her grandmother’s knowledge, that pawpaw seeds heal worm infections. Her grandmother had used the seeds to heal their infections when they were young and voila, now we have a tablet made by a teenager. Will she be supported? Our failure to believe in our own potential and abilities is what kills us. We do not develop local potential and do not support solutions from within."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kategaya Dead. I also have grown so old.

See a newsreport of Kategaya's death here.

My memory of Kategaya tells me I knew him before I made ten years of age. He had been invited by Hon. Shem Bageine, who by the time of Kategaya's death is a junior minister in the ministry Kategaya headed. Then, Bageine was a Member of Parliament and he was central to a fundraising ceremony for St. Paul, Nyanja Primary School where my mother taught at the time. Hon. Kategaya came to the fundraising as Guest of Honour with his wife, Joan. I remember every detail of the day vividly. My father bought a small table at a very high price. That table is still busy doing its job, from then, in the 90s.

Anyway, I am no longer a toddler. Kategaya is dead. Between the 90s and now, so much has happened. In the 2000s, when the debate was rife on whether Museveni should have a third term in office, Kategaya took a stand that inspired many of us, teenagers then. He disagreed with Museveni. He left the NRM. He was a founder member of FDC. I wrote a poem about these individuals who disagreed with the big man then.

Someone who was Resistance Officer No. 2 in the formation of the Resistance Movement and Army that has made Museveni everything he is, just threw in the towel on principle. Kategaya's image as a great person was cemented in my mind. This is why I could not forget the 1990s' fundraising. This was a great guy afterall. The table my father bought at that fundraising in a way became a big thing because that ceremony had great guys like Kategaya in attendance.

Anyway, we know what has since happened. He later changed his mind and rejoined Museveni. We do not say bad things about the dead. About the old. Kategaya was in his sixties when he died. An age that should command respect. I was in fact one of those who were miffed that Dora Byamukama, that woman who failed to make it to the Speakership of the East African Legislative Assembly, could throw flowers at this old man in his sixties. Kategaya in response said that Dora is a 'bad mannered girl'. I am in my twenties. Kategaya has died in office. Museveni is his age-mate. They are of the same generation.

In remembering and celebrating Kategaya's life, we should remember that we, who have childhood stories that have these men as central figures, are being robbed of the glory of having role models, by what is happening in their old age, while they remain in office. Their legacies are being destroyed before they die. Let them atleast not die in office, that way their legacies can survive. I send condolences to the family of the late and his friends.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Boston Lagon Airport; 'I like your accent', he says. And I, smiling sheepishly, ask, 'Why?' I like how you pronounce all the letters, not like this American accent where people do not speak words as they are supposed to be - I say the 'Thank You' and he continues, 'you are not American are you?' - Of course I am not, so I tell him so. He asks, 'Are you British?' - 'No,' I say. 'Ah, maybe Canadian', he pursues!

To stop this guesswork, I tell him I am Ugandan. 'Oh, African, I see', he says this in a way that suggests that he had thought about it but dismissed it at first. So, we move on to other things. I wanted him to help me get to the bus-station where I could board a bus to New Haven, so I did not want to push him into a discussion of the difference between being Ugandan and African. But he returned to the thing after we had flagged down a cab to take us to the station. 'I wonder why the Americans do not speak English the British way. You Africans speak it better,' he says.

But you are black, I almost tell him seeing his admiration of the closeness of the African English accent to the British, but I am at his mercy so I do not tell him. I try as much to avoid the discussion, but this was one hell of an unavoidable discussion. I wish for some sleep to come and start pushing my head down and up in those classic dozing head movements but sleep refuses to honour my wishes. So, he asks, finally, 'Why do many Africans want to shed off their accents to adopt the fake American one?'

I want to answer him honestly, but I think to myself, this dude is speaking in that heavy American accent himself, he is a black American, he had told me earlier, he wishes he had a British accent, then why does he question Africans who have close-to-British accents and want to have American ones? Anyway, the bus to New Haven was soon leaving, and he was going to New York, so I had to leave, but as I left, I kept thinking to myself, did this dude know that my English accent is actually Rukiga-influenced? Did it matter to him that African and Ugandan may not mean much to my accent as being Mukiga who spoke Rukiga before English does?

Anyway, it was my first time in the United States of America, the USA, it was a pleasure being helped to find my way around by a black person, who thinks he is different from myself, an African. He even allowed me to use his i-phone to check my Facebook where I found a message from Gloria Mujyawimana relaying some bad news from LDC. I was not ready to loudly ask questions. Not ready to enjoy the awkwardness!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Raising a new generation of African Entrepreneurs

There is a difference between entrepreneurship and business. Yes, there is, entrepreneurs are not necessarily business people. Entrepreneurship is now defined to include leadership generally. Creative Leadership I'd add.

So, let me cut to the chase, in this blogpost on the Global Changamakers website, I explain why it is essential to attend the Harambe Bretton Woods Symposium VI, recommending it specifically for young and entrepreneurial Africans, with new ideas about the way forward for the continent reading this. Those who sense the urgency, opportunity and responsibility of our time and would like to rely on a global support network of like-minded, driven and motivated young Africans to transcend their nascent ideas into high impact action.

In the same post, I reveal how I met Ms. Naseemah Mohamed, the amazing Zimbabwean lady we co-founded Center for African Cultural Excellence with. If you know a young African bustling with ideas, tell them to apply to attend the HBWS VI, the application is here. I shall not be blamed for having not shown the cow where the stream is. It is up to the cow to drink. Good luck.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

You did not know

Night will come. Night will not come. Papa will speak. Papa will not speak. That is what she was saying. And you kept looking at her. Papa's eyes were not moving. When his lips moved, no sound came out of them.

Mama died. Mama did not die. Papa shall tell us. Papa shall not tell us. You moved closer to her when she said this. She ran out of the room. When you looked Papa's way, your eyes momentarily missed him, they found empty space. You thought Papa had returned when you moved closer to the bed, but you were wrong, it was Papa's body on the bed.

You ran out of the room, looking for your sister. You ran and ran. You did not find her. You ended up running away from Birambo. Where you went, you did not know.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

This is Not to ask for a job

The course is going down in days. Yes. In a matter of days. The talk is about jobs. It is predictable. So, I am writing to an employer, hopefully not asking for a job.


I hope business is good. This is not a job application, so please read on. I sympathize with you when it comes to the many unsolicited job applications you receive daily from soon-to-be graduates, from graduates and even dis-satisfied employees of other companies. I have a gene for entrepreneurship and do not see why people have to stalk you with unsolicited job applications. Why don't they go and make jobs? Now that we even have a Youth Fund, however tiny.

Anyway, I should talk about myself a little. I am soon putting a Masters degree in my qualifications bag. That does not mean I want a job. I know the job-seeking tag turns off lots of people. Justifiably. I do not carry such a tag. I am a born entrepreneur. I intend to start implementing my business idea as soon. Maybe a year, or two years. Soon enough. My start-up is around 25.000 USD. It is not a lot of money, you see - in entrepreneurship terms. But the Youth Fund is so small. I need to mutate into so many youths to acquire the amount for my start-up.

Of course I know you are not a bank, or a micro-finance institution. In case you are wondering why I am telling you about the capital I need to start up my business. I know that you have a knack for entrepreneurial minds as mine. All entrepreneurial minds are attracted to each other, you see. That is why I am writing to you in this way. I believe we can work together for a year or two, depending on how you see things and then I will be able to earn the little amount I need for my start-up. Our arrangement will be a norm-setter.

Forget about the boring and tiring employee-employer relationship, this arrangement will allow me to use all my entrepreneurial abilities and my expertise to contribute to your company's growth. You know employees always hold back something because they are looking at the company as a golden cow there for them to milk. An arrangement I am proposing is mutually beneficial to you and to me as entrepreneurs helping each other - working together.

I am looking forward to working with you after we have discussed further the details of the arrangement.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Damaged Love

Until today, despite having made several book purchases on Amazon, I had never written a book review there. But you see, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma's Shadows is not your ordinary book. And so, it became my first review to do on the Amazon site. This is the review;

Shadows is a story of a young artist, Mpho and his love for his mother, whose prostitution he despises and Nomsa, a daughter to his mother's prostitute friend whom he loves because they are both damaged. The story, told in the first person exposes Mpho's passions, frustrations and triumphs. His seemingly unlimited freedom to express and fight his pain ends when he is arrested at an exhibition meant to celebrate his mother, taken for a political act.

Novuyo's sharp pen in Shadows pierces the repressive society in which Mpho lives and the hypocrisy of human rights activists, who visit him in prison. Novuyo writes in the same uncensored way that Mpho treats his mother. There is a nakedness that brings an unsentimental and original touch to the tale. To combine Damage and Love, and write a gripping story as Novuyo does is an act of genius. Shadows strips naked the stereotypes about prostitution and forces us to re-think the place and power of art in society.

Now, it is always a painful process to come up with a cool less than 200 words when writing of literary beauty, so will not add more to what I have already said in the Amazon review. But I think you, who is reading this review would appreciate if I got you a paragraph or two from the book, not so? And so, I have randomly picked this;

My days spent with Rasta had given me a sense of worth. Now he was dead, and I was dangling once again by my shallow roots of existence. I became angry; angry at this country, angry at my existence. I spilled my poison onto the page. The smell of my own fear began to overpower me. It clung to me and refused to let go. I began to fear that other people could smell it around me. The only one who never seemed to notice was Nomsa.
‘You are the only woman who can love me.’
We were drawing circles in the road dust with our toes, watching a sun set over the township houses. The township houses squatted unevenly on the horizon like the clumsy paintings out of a grade one book. There was a beauty to the disorder.
‘Why do you say that?’
'Because we are both… damaged.’
‘Is that the best you can do for romance? That you love me because I am damaged? How about that you find me beautiful or smart or anything? Even that you find my breasts enticing. Anything. Damaged?’
She was my best thing, after Rasta, after Mama. Rasta was dead. He became my conscience. And well, I told myself that I loved Mama only because she was my Mama and the only Mama I would ever have, what could I do about that? I had long ago learned to play down expectation, and relish compromise. Nomsa became that compromise.

Okay, so much for telling you a lie, these paragraphs were not picked randomly. I, like Mpho, have a thing for Nomsa. Okay, let us say I have a thing for Nomsa and Mpho's relationship. Such honesty between them, I have been wondering how possible it is in real life to have such brutally honest relationships. So, this is also my compromise. Like Mpho, I have started to enjoy the beauty of honest, brutally honest, naked truth-filled relationships. So, I have ended up saying too much, go buy the book at Amazon. You will thank me.