If you live in Uganda you must come across these sentiments. My last name begins with Kag-Kagumire. My blog is not under that name for many reasons but this is one of them. When I say my last name to people sometimes they will say: Kaguta, so you’re from the west, Museveni’s relative etc. Even if it’s a slight joke it evokes a feeling that I can’t describe. To associate me with someone that is increasingly becoming negative makes me mad and in my tribe most times it’s okay to be mad and show it. I take time to explain to friends, sometimes gently other times with some emotion that I am from Bushenyi and I have never been to Rwakitura and that my father doesn’t own a single head of cattle. I am a private person but for the sake of clarity I am forced to talk about all these things and now i am writing about them.
The conversation is only possible when the person saying this is civil enough to listen. Other times I am shopping in down town Owino and I believe a buyer should be free to check the garments and see if they like it. If they don’t they should be free to leave. For many times because I speak Luganda with a heavy Kinyankole accent, my tribe shows up in reactions from the trader.
“Abanyankole nwatutama, Mulowooza mujja ku fira kuntebbe?” loosely translated as we are tired and you Banyankole, do you think you will die in power? Of course being in Owino I keep my cool and gently shake my head and I walk away. It happens many times and I look around to see whether others disagree with the sentiment but most keep mum and a few support this.
One in particular said that ‘we’ actually don’t come to buy but to check their suffering.
I like bodas and I get to discuss with the riders that take me around Kampala. they will at times talk ill about my tribe with no idea that am one of the ‘evil people’ simply because sometimes it’s difficult for some to tell where am from. All this attacks hurt more than any other abuse I have experienced in life.
But this kind of view is not limited to the ‘uneducated’ Ugandans. A friend once told me that his Ugandan female friend hates ‘westerners’ so much that at her work place when job applications are brought in, she sorts out the west first. This personal level of disdain for a group of people is unfathomable. Others point out how rich you’re and how many opportunities you get. Many times I tell the people about my life which is not the most difficult one but is not any better than that of an educated person from the east, north or central.
I am forced to tell them that I am not just a product of Museveni’s love for power that my story goes a few generations ago. That am what I am because my grandfather, late Paskali Bwantamu happened to be a teacher (who by the way died without getting his pension despite many attempts, he served government for over 30 years). And that he rose above society attitudes about educating a woman to give my mother an education. That my father’s side, my grandfather made several trips to Buganda to till gardens for most of the year to buy himself and his family chunks of land and that these trips enlightened him and that he valued education too and sent my father to school. That my mother was not educated because of Museveni or Banyankole in power, but she went to school during Idi Amin’s era when education was not a hassle. She still values her picture from her graduation day where Amin was holding her hand. That she simply went to school on merit and became a Vet doctor on merit. Without having a relative in the Bushenyi district administration she got a job there.
I am still forced to say that I am what I am because my mother struggled to get loans and all sorts of help to see me and my five siblings through school. I can’t easily convince these people who say tribalistic words to me that I spent most of early years tilling land to get food and money with family. That I have learnt from my mother that hard work pays and that I don’t need to know anyone to be somebody. I have learnt also from many people’s experience that you can’t keep a good man down. That from this motivation I have literally taken on any chances that have come my way including working in three newsrooms in four years.
All I am, I have learnt from friends many of whom are not even from the ‘west’. My friends are a mixed bag of all tribes and races. It’s hard to convince some people that my generation is unfortunate because Uganda has become no man’s land with many not caring about the effects of their actions. That to get a job you must know someone who will get a bribe from you, sometimes your first salary goes to this person. We are facing high levels of unemployment that at 25 years sometimes 30, many of us still live on handouts from relatives and our old parents.
I try to tell people that I worked for over 4 years but I still have no savings that If I lost a job I would probably go back to Kibona or look for a relative in Kampala who cannot easily allow me to stay under their roof. I try to say that we face the same challenges but these people disagree. That because Makerere increased fees I don’t get much sleep here in Costa Rica where I am studying because I worry much about my little brother who’s just enrolled.
And when I say study, they will ask, was that state scholarship? I get mad and ask why would a state sponsor someone that disagrees with them. And because I know why the question came up I already know the answer, my tribe is the ‘fortunate one’. They don’t believe that I am at UPEACE because I dared to apply many times.
In the wake of these riots in Kampala, I fear that tribalism is consuming us bit by bit. I also fear that because sometimes I can’t say the L without calling it R, it may translate the earlier stated sentiments into an attack.
Because these people wont listen to my cries or my confession that my father is no cattle herder and that my siblings don’t have jobs despite having a good education, that I have to work not only for myself but also for my little cousins who are less fortunate. They will not see me as facing the same predicament as they are. They will not believe that everyday I long for the day Museveni will decide to leave that seat peacefully. They don’t get it that I dream of a Uganda where my gains and progress are not tied to my long nose (which is not even long by Ankole standards). They will not listen that I have traversed Uganda and have seen people in inhumane conditions in northern Uganda. That many times I think about children that I once interviewed who had been forced to kill their parents by LRA. That I feel hopeless and helpless and wonder what their lives will be with no proper rehabilitation in the area.
They don’t see my story and lots of other people’s stories that I carry with me everyday especially that child soldier at a rehab centre in Gulu that I played football with and when I tried to wash my hands at a tap he was abit agressive and told me that I was washing my hands in blood. Yes blood, thats what he sees when most of us see water. They won’t believe me that this brings tears to my eyes because my tribe is supposed to only look for power. They will not see me in this way because my tribe blurs their vision. I am not denying that some people in my tribe have enriched themselves on state money but why should I pay for their deeds? I don’t fear judgement for sometimes it avails a chance for self assesment but judge me by character as Dr.King said. Why should my tribe be my pain?