For all the time I have spent keeping tabs on issues in the East African region, I must admit that Uganda is a really interesting place compared to the other four EAC member countries. And by the way this has got nothing to do with the fact that I hold a Ugandan passport but more with what comes after this statement.
To start with, Uganda is generally one of the most misunderstood African countries you can find. I have spent a lot of my adult years explaining to friends and foes what Uganda is all about sometimes with no success at all.
Just imagine the country has over 40 different ethnic groups but got its name from just one, Buganda. This often explains why Ugandans do not understand when Rwandans refer to them as Abagande or when Kenyans and Tanzanians use the Swahili word Waganda to refer to all Ugandans.
The other day the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni thrust Uganda into the news headlines when he finally put his signature on paper to bring to life a controversial Anti-Homosexuality Law.
All local and foreign media houses jumped on the story and some like the tabloid Red Pepper took it to another level by publishing a list of what it alleges are some of the gay people in Uganda. I wondered why they do not publish other criminals each time a law affecting them is signed. Imagine a list of 200 most corrupt government officials for once.
The law got everyone talking in a way that can only be described as shouting at each other. If you are against the bill then you are unAfrican, imperialist or even a bad Christian while those who support the law are considered stupid, backward and unexposed. The moneyed people did what they do best – aid cuts and threats.
Those who support the law in Uganda also just woke up to the realisation that Uganda does not need aid that much. Is it also not interesting that this law addresses something that was already illegal only prescribing harsher punishments of the same? I then wonder what it will take to come up with hasher laws to address the issue of corruption or child sacrifice.
Besides the talking caused by the above law, others have been laughing again thanks to Uganda. It just occurred to me the other day that as far as East Africa is concerned, Uganda is a leading exporter of jokes. And this is not a joke.
Kenya’s Citizen TV recently signed a deal with Anne Kansiime, a Ugandan comedian who has gradually made for herself a name with her no nonsense-drama filled video clips. Her strong Rukiga accent and common Ugandan phrases have made her a force to reckon.
Kansiime rose to fame when her short clips that aired on NTV Uganda were uploaded on Youtube and then shared across the region. She is now a big name even in Burundi and as she found out last year she is almost a celebrity in Rwanda. The Kenyans love her not just because she is funny but also because they find Ugandans generally funny.
For example, whenever Museveni visits Kenya and gives a speech he makes the crowds laugh whether he is reminding the people of West Pokot to return his cows or just because of how he pronounces some English or Swahili words due to mother tongue interference.
One can actually safely conclude that of all the current East African presidents, Museveni is the one you can bank on to make people laugh. Mwai Kibaki was funny too but he is no longer president.
Even before Kansiime could stake her claim as the leading female comedian in the region (lately, Kenya’s Teacher Wanjiku seems to be faltering) there was another Ugandan who involuntarily made the region laugh.
I am sure you have seen the video clip of the drunken fellow who was trying to narrate to a reporter what caused a truck carrying beer to crash. He is most remembered for the phrase, “It was a full full condition.” I have seen NTV Kenya picking lots of Ugandan video clips for the humour show, ‘Offside’.
But it can also be interesting to look at things from a Ugandan angle. For example many Kenyans love to laugh at what they call the Ugandan accent and yet I really find the Kikuyu, Meru, Kamba and Kenyan Somali accents quite funny.