Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Burning Forests and The Ugandan Chaos Theory. Guest post by Wasswa Artha.

Brave. Wasswa bungee jumping at Jinja last year.

Bodaboda Baby is taking a, er, slight break from bodabodas (if you read some of my latest Tweets or when you read my next post you'll see why). I know this is a boda blog but trust me, it's needed. Wasswa Artha has kindly written this very honest guest post below on what it means to him to be Ugandan. Actually, he unknowingly volunteered himself after replying to a Tweet of mine about Nigel's guest post and informing me and his followers that for the past 15 years he hadn't had one boda (motorbike) or bicycle accident on Ugandan roads. Nigel, the challenge is on. Get back to Kampala now...

Wasswa does consultation work for a British firm called Rattle Media. Last year they worked on a project called A Dam Relief, for Ugandans and mzungus (foreigners) looking to promote the best of Uganda so that the tourism, trade, business, and education can continue to grow.

Wasswa describes himself as a "layabout, wino, coffee shop maverick, eccentric introvert and overachiever" whose bucketlist is "half empty". Oh, and as I've also discovered in the past week he likes rugby, too. He hasn't travelled overseas, but hopes to go to Bondi, Australia, next year to visit friends (good choice).

Bodaboda heaven. Wasswa on a boda in Kampala this week. Photo courtesy of Wasswa Artha.

Most of my high school friends left the country to pursue their dreams abroad, some left even before high school ended. Some spent over five, others three years or less, now they are returning home after they’re studies, after they have experienced life in all aspects. They return to Uganda, and what welcomes them? Well teargas and other things that make us wish we weren’t Ugandan. They complain a lot about how life is different wherever they have been, Britain and AmericaMalaysia. Some can't even stand the traffic, others go on and on about how the Uganda police are bullies. But I say to them, that’s plain wallowing.

Yes things are bad here some days but not all the time and well….where there is good there is some bad too and as a Ugandan you have to work to change what you don’t like about your own nation. Change won’t come in a day, you can’t have change if you don’t change yourself first. You see Uganda is like a broken marriage trying so hard to hold it together.  Everyone else thinks you are happy but the people in the marriage know exactly what’s going on. The saying “you don’t look where you fell but where you tripped” comes to mind here. Where we went wrong, that’s where we should look at.

We are all to blame for what Uganda is going through, its international image, economy struggles and we can change that if we try. We have a very beautiful country but we don’t take time to travel and see its hidden treasures, A typical Ugandan would rather take a vacation abroad, in the Maldives perhaps, rather than travel to Murchison Falls National Park or any other Ugandan destinations. Last year for the first time, I went bungee jumping, where I met this Indian guy who was raised in England. He asked me “which country are you from?” He was extremely surprised to know I was Ugandan.

 After I jumped, the guys supposed to get me out of the jump rope to the raft asked me the same thing. They were from Basoga working at Bujagali. Where am I getting with this? The fact that Ugandans hate bursting their bubble. We live in this little thing called “the Ugandan zone” and hate going out of it to explore what’s out there. In our own country, we stereotype that only foreigners should do this and that and give them all this praise and in process we stay in a colonial state of mind. Not even one per cent of Ugandans go out there to see wildlife or anything even if the prices are different for citizens. The only thing they do is hangout and say "I have a heavy hangover in the morning". And when you do something different like kayaking or white-water rafting, they say you’re now “white”. Believe me, I have been ridiculed so many times by some of my friends for doing such.

Wasswa Artha.

And then there's the case of the alien, the Ugandan born or raised in the Diaspora. These ones are highly neurotic, they will talk everything bad and sad about Uganda, One of my friends who left Uganda at 12 asked me the other day if that shopping mall I was at in a photo I posted online was really in Uganda. I mean for crying out loud come on! Some have never even been here, but will criticise everything depending from what they see on TV. Ugandans in the diaspora don’t comeback to share their success stories with the less fortunate Ugandans who haven’t seen the world yet.

They don’t feel the need to be identified as Ugandans when they are put on that pedestal in front of thousands of people and asked where they are from originally. The people who are in a good position to make a difference don’t feel the need too, it stinks. It doesn’t stop there, it goes on and on. When a Ugandan artist is nominated abroad, chances are ninety per cent he/she won’t win that award, WHY? Because we lack the common courtesy to vote .After that, we have the audacity to say that our own people are wack then we get back to watching Nigerian stars and singing like them in process killing our own industry. The tabloids keep kicking even if you’re down, killing any chance of a Ugandan being great at something.

Half of Ugandan people are illiterate. Surprisingly these are the people who support music in a major way. The “hip” ones never go to concerts. Once an artist posts about his concert, he'll get lots of Facebook likes and that’s where it ends! In Uganda, when an artist sings one song he becomes a “star”, does a few shows and that’s it. Automatically people expect him/her to be living large, have a big car and own a house on a hill somewhere, basically be a “celebrity” after he falls off coz of lack of support. That's when the tabloids remember to write the bad about the situation -  “BIG ARTIST NOW BROKE" -  and we will in turn buy that and make it trend on social networks because that’s the news of the day. In the process leaving our own people hanging out to dry and for the whole world to see. That’s not love and I'm pretty sure that’s not patriotism either.

Cos everything is calm in Africa, right? Photo courtesy of Wasswa Artha.

If you read books or watch a few films, then you are familiar with The Chaos Theory or The Butterfly Effect: “the supposed influence exerted on a dynamic system by a small change in initial conditions or a theory that complex natural systems obey rules but are so sensitive that small initial changes can cause unexpected final results, thus giving an impression of randomness”. The Butterfly Effect sits well with this Ugandan situation. We see a bad situation happening to our own or a good one and we don’t help that person raise it. In the process everything goes down the drain and then we wait for another person to do the same thing all over again, not knowing every little aspect affects us in a way.

"You’re Ugandan back from abroad. Welcome home". Some never return but keep on frustrating us writing about how Uganda is doing so well basically from hearsay and tabloids,  doing all this in the comfort of their living room somewhere abroad. But if you’re here, what have you done to make it better? Are you always going to complain? Won’t you write something good about your countrymen on social networks? Will you, a Ugandan girl go abroad to be a hooker? Just because Uganda is now a "shitty country" and we have potholes? Why do you make so much buzz about international artists and not make that same buzz for your own country? They also became big by being voted by their own people. You can say “totukooya” (translation: don't make us feel tired, you're killing my vibe) or whatever you need to but at the end of the day every decision made by someone else affects you in one way or another. So go out there, be something different, look for things people rarely do and put your emphasis there. Whatever you decide to do, just help Uganda grow because if it dies, the corpse is ours to carry, not anyone else’s.

Overlooking the Nile in Jinja.
 Not everyone is supposed to be a doctor or a lawyer or a fool who keeps wallowing yet does nothing not knowing they have more control than they can ever imagine. I have traded stories with acquaintances , some boda boda drivers who have built houses and put their kids through school by waking up everyday and riding. But if you look at them, you may think they don’t even make enough to get by. No matter what you do, everyone is part of the bigger picture. We shouldn’t be the monkeys laughing at the burning forest, not if that forest is where we were born and raised! 

1 comment:

  1. Inspiring article. We Ugandans need to pull together for the greater good!