When 13 year old Rose Ariokot gaily returned to her poverty stricken parent's home in Amudat [Northern Uganda] for holidays, late last year, she had no clue her relatives were planning to take her through the outlawed initiation custom, otherwise known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Against her wish, Ariokot was taken through the rite.
A year later, her poor parents married her off, after supposedly failing to raise her school fees.It had been Ariokot’s wish to continue with school, however.
Ariokot had invariably given a good account of herself in class.Some of her former classmates, say she was always among the best pupils in her class.
Sad as it is, Ariokot’s story is not isolated.
Several other young school going girls in Amudat and the Karamoja sub region in general, have suffered similar unfortunate fates.
In many parts of the Karamoja sub region, forced marriages are all the rage.Young pubescent girls; some as young as 10 are married off soon as their breasts begin to sprout.
Forced marriages are according to the Ministry of Education’s Gender in Education Strategic Plan for Karamoja 2018-2022, the leading issue affecting education in Karamoja.
“Poor, handed from down, community attitudes towards education are way bigger a problem. The other challenges simply feed into the poor attitude problem. Less enlightened families are into the habit of marrying off their daughters early because they are products of an environment that feeds off false old narratives like the ill advised belief that when girls are educated, they become prostitutes or that education is a curse,” James Bedigo Okumu, the deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Kaabong, told Masaabachronicle.
Johnny Backri, a teacher at Morulem girls S.S in Abim district concurs.
“While it can not be stated in the abstract that all young girls in Karamoja has fallen victim, their education attainment rates have consistently been low compared to those of boys and that is principally down to a pathetic attitude towards education. There is a misguided fear that when a Karamojong girl gets educated, she will not marry into the Karamojong community.”
The 2015 participatory gender audit in Karamoja (by the Ministry of Education and Sports) showed that persistent low school enrolment and high dropout rates have a lot to do with negative community perceptions to education.
Luke Ajuret, an opinion leader in Nakapiripirit district, says it is deplorable that some communities in the Karamoja sub region still hold views that run counter to the education of girls.
“In some areas, education is not seen as a pathway to improving livelihoods. To that end, some people remain indisposed to views that education can indeed transform their livelihoods. Because many households are poor, educating girls and boys too is not always seen as a priority. Girls are viewed as sources of wealth. Once they supposedly reach mature age, they are married off so that the parents get cows in return. Cows are status symbols,” Ajuret told Masaabachronicle.
Though it is outlawed, Female genital mutilation still rears its ugly head in Karamoja. The practice is very much to the detriment of many of the region’s young school going girl children, especially those living in areas where it is still practiced; to wit; Amudat.
“The law [Prohibition of Female genital mutilation Act 2010] does exist but its long arm has not stretched long to bring retribution to bear on the people who still practice FGM in areas such as Amudat. The upshot after the rite is performed is that girls are pressured to marry. Even those who were lucky enough to be in school are usually withdrawn after they undergo the rite,” Fred Emojung, an educationist from Kotido, told Masaabachronicle.
Karamoja’s education sector is however not only grappling with issues of mediocre girl child education attainment.There are a host of other challenges the sub region is facing, such as rampant child trafficking.
“It dampens my spirits when I see trafficked Karamojong children, on the streets of Kampala and other towns, begging. These children should be in school, not on the streets. Retribution for persons who traffick these children as stipulated by the 2009 prevention of Trafficking of Persons Act, has been long overdue,” Ajuret told Masaabachronicle.
At issue, as well is rampant child labour. It is an issue which has featured prominently in several district dialogues.
“Child labour interferes with the ability of children to attend school. In many parts of the Karamoja sub region, the exploitation of children through hard labour is still widespread and it continues unabated. Children, especially boys are compelled to cast about for firewood and pasture for cattle in far off places. The girls on the other hand are compelled to sell commodities such as paraffin, firewood, etc, instead of being sent to school,” John Oputa, the Moroto district education officer, told Masaabachronicle.
Some years back, the now obsolete Alternative Basic Education for Karamoja programme, brought glimmers of hope to some of Karamoja’s children.
Under the programme, stay home children-children, who in most cases were at risk of abuse and other forms of exploitation learnt how to read and write. The instructors often used the native language to train Karamoja’s young people on topics such as livestock rearing, human health, crop production, etc.
Low education levels in Karamoja have also reportedly been brought to pass by excessive corporal punishments in schools.
In several community dialogues last year, corporal punishment in schools was cited as a contributory factor to high school dropout rates.It was reportedly high in schools in districts such as Abim, Amudat, Moroto and Kotido.
Several district education officials and district heads who attended the 2018-2022 gender in education strategic plan for the Karamoja sub region, workshop in Moroto recently noted that corporal punishment was still rife in some schools in the sub region.
The solutions seeking workshop, held under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Sports also sought to discuss solutions to the low enrolment rates of Karamojong girls at primary level.
According to the 2016 Education ministry Statistical Abstract, only 43.6% girls enrolled in primary school compared to 56.4% boys in the Karamoja sub region.Total enrolments have generally been low and education experts are concerned that despite benchmark interventions like UPE and USE, the trajectory has been persistent.
Peter Apaja, the LC 5 Chairman of Moroto, notes that Karamoja needs to look beyond platitudes that have not worked in the past.
"There must be new approaches to promote gender responsive education. Community mobilisation drives are going to be carried out in earnest, as a means of changing attitudes and putting a stop to counterproductive traditional customs that are denying young girls an education," Apaja told Masaabachronicle.
Martin Gwoko the Moroto Chief Administrative Officer, says an 80% primary dropout rate for both sexes and enrolment rates of 20% for Karamoja, do not make for good reading.
“Our primary school completion rates on the whole are always below the national average of 60%. This gender in education strategic plan will be a useful tool in the mobilisation of resources to implement effective interventions for the sub region’s education sector," Gwoko told Masaabachronicle.
Joseph Opio, the Moroto RDC notes that drastic approaches will have to be enforced to tackle low enrollment, high dropout rates and FGM in the sub region.
"Disarmament as an exercise worked. I have no doubt in my mind that counterproductive practices like FGM and forced marriages can also be done away with,” Opio told Masaabachronicle.
“If need be, children will be compelled to go to school. Karamoja can not perpetually lag behind.” Opio stresses.
Angel Nakafero, the technical advisor in the gender unit at the Ministry of Education and Sports, tells Masaabachronicle that the 2018-2022 strategic plan for Karamoja seeks to amongst other things, support and achieve education parity between boys and girls in Karamoja.
“It also aims at achieving national education targets for boys and girls in all educational institutions in Karamoja. Skills will also be developed for out of school boys and girls in Karamoja and all technical staff in the district education departments will be required to get skills in gender analysis and mainstreaming and to address gender related issues in education.”
Rap music gets real exciting to listen to when diss songs between rival rappers are thrown back and forth.
Some of the best rap songs in Uganda have been diss songs; to wit-Atlas the African’s-Jealous Bi*tches and Babaluku’s-“Straight spit”.
Rappers are wordsmiths so needless to say, a real serious rap beef will escalate into a war of words.
Diss songs in rap are songs that deride the authenticity, flamboyance, charisma and lyrical ability of a rival rapper. In the world of hip hop, originality is treasured and any forms of mediocrity in one’s word play or lyricism are frowned upon.
In the years of old, principally around the mid 80’s and mid 90’s, rap fans across the globe waited for rap beef songs, like 2pac’s “Hit em Up”, Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline” and Nas “Ether” with an almost hysterical sense of eagerness, akin to the Stella Nyanzi fans penchant for her insolent posts in the aftermath of her suspension from Makerere.
To boot; most of olden days rap beef songs were replete with petulant and sometimes humorous punch lines, poetics, threats and diatribes, just like Nyanzi’s posts.
Infamous as some of the diss songs were, they had great massive appeal and pushed sales units for 2pac, Ice Cube and Nas; just like Nyanzi’s posts gained her likes and followers.
The songs drew forth interest in hip hop and that was at a time when the fundamentals of the genre were starting to be compromised.
Increasingly the lyrical template for rappers at the time had become money, cars, women and clothes; subject matter that, in many ways, ran counter to the original template for rappers, which was addressing society’s ills.
The only anticlimax after the release of 2pac’s “Hit em up” record in particular was that 2pac and Biggie Smalls, both undeservingly lost their lives.
2pac had accused Biggie and his posse of trying to kill him in a robbery in New York’s Quad studios.
2pac released hit me up in the aftermath of the robbery, in which he was shot 5 times.
Despite that dark chapter in rap history, rap beefs continued but mostly for the entertainment value.
Threats were thrown back and forth but nothing out of the ordinary happened. The beefs stayed on wax (on the records).
In Uganda, most rappers with bones of contention have chosen the subliminal way (indirect) when they make diss records, aimed at perceived rivals.
In a subliminal diss song, a rapper hardly name drops his rivals but when you listen close to the rhymes, there are broad hints of who is in his cross hairs.
Classic example has been Atlas the African with his numerous diss records aimed at Navio and his posse of the Mith and J.B.
The reasons that beef sparked off are still unclear but word from the grapevine was that Atlas felt he was not being given enough props (read Hip Hop for respect).
“Atlas was by then still relatively unknown in Uganda’s rap industry. He had created a buzz for himself with songs like “My Swag” and “Wait and See” but at length, he felt he had a bone to pick with the Navio camp and that is when he started releasing songs like illuminated,” Gideon Kibuka, a Hip Hop producer, tells Masaabachronicle.
In “illuminated” Atlas goes at Navio with ferocity; amongst other things, intimating that Navio is a comic who should be rapping at the comedy nights that used to be held at Effendy’s.
He also called out Navio for agreeing to appear on a child Molester’s song. The child Molester being R.Kelly and the song referenced was-“Hands across the world”.
Needless to say, R.Kelly has been accused of being a sexual predator.
The word play that Atlas displayed in “illuminated was replay worthy and exciting. The song created quite a buzz for Atlas among some Ugandan rap fans especially the ones that always felt that Navio was over rated.
To the consternation of Navio fans, he did not release a rejoinder diss song.
A Navio response at that time would have fanned the flame that Atlas had sparked and would have given him chance to showcase his rap battling skills; which skills, Navio himself has said won him laurels in one of South Africa’s toughest rap battle events.
He lost that opportunity and needless to say, his detractors swung into action, saying he is not as lyrical as he thinks he is.
Atlas did not rest on his laurels after the “illuminated” record.
After a fight, reportedly at one of Kampala’s bubbling night spots, with J.B of Klear Kut, he went to the booth and released more verbal venom in a song, he called-J.B or “Jealous Bi*tch”.
Notice how he disparagingly played pan with the J.B initials.
“Fans who thought the J.B song was only aimed at J.B were mistaken as Atlas, as well threw verbal jabs at the Mith and Navio in the second and third verse. For a rap fiend like myself, that song manifested one thing, which was that Atlas is no joke lyrically,” Gladys Kituyi, an entertainment blogger, says.
Atlas went on to release other subliminal diss songs that did not get responses like “You got nothing on me,” and the more recent in “they still hating”
In “they still hating” Atlas again goes hard at Navio.
“If Navio or his crew had responded, it would have created a major buzz for Ugandan Hip Hop but they took a back seat; though some inside scoop had it that Navio had actually recorded rebuttal songs, but rap fans have never heard them,” Kibuka opines.
The Luga flow world has also seen its fair share of beefs.
Beefs that have brought out some phenomenal lyrical poetics and word play from the genre’s best.
Some that stand out include Babaluku’s “Straight Spit” where he lyrically annihilates the Lugaflow duo-Sylvester and Abrams.
In the song, Babaluku attacked Sylvester and Abrams as being run of the mill and calls them out for trying to trash his legacy as the pioneer of Lugaflow.
At the time, Babaluku was on a roll and “Straight Spit” cemented his place as one of the best, if not the best Lugaflow lyricist in Kampala.
As vicious and disparagingly as the song was, it did not get a rejoinder.
“It might have played into the hands of Sylvester and Abrams had they responded but it would have been a tough call for them to pit their wits against a talented rapper of Babaluku’s caliber. The subsequent subliminal diss song-“Twakugudemu” by Abrams, only released about a year ago was not strong enough lyrically and interms of delivery as well,” Ronald Odongo, a seasoned Blogger says.
Babaluku has not only been enmeshed in rap beef with Sylvester and Abrams. It is common knowledge that there is no love lost between him and Navio and his crew.
The most recent subliminal diss record from Babaluku was “Batulidewo” where he and Saba Saba-his cohort from the Bataka Squad fire off lyrical shots at any naysayers.
The other prominent Lugaflow beef has pitted new comer-St Nellysade against an old timer and veteran wordsmith in Mulekwa.
Rumours of beef between the two started doing the rounds after Mulekwa released “Abanno Bano” a diss track aimed at Nellysade.
In the song, he accuses Nellysade of jacking his style-literally meaning he stole his rap style.
Nellysade, as you can reckon, has not responded.
GNL, for his part, has also thrown off several subliminals at his competition but the braggadocio and hyperbole embedded in his verses at times makes it hard to make out who he is dissing.
Fans however easily discerned who his intended target was in the captivating songs-“Ceasar” and “Tebangatika”.
Gravity was in his cross hairs. No response has been heard from Gravity, thus far.
Other prominent Ug M.C’s that have been embroiled in beefs include Foeva emcee and Baboon Forest’s Tommy Race.
Code and Tucker H.D.
A BRIEF ON RAP BEEFS
Rap song beefs are as old as the Hip Hop genre itself.
(Hip Hop was started in the early 70’s in New York).
The first prominent rap beef saw rap legends Krs One and Mc Shan squaring off.
The two protagonists dueled over whose neighborhood was the best and who was the best lyrically. In the end, Krs One from the Bronx-New York came out on top. Shan was from the Queensbridge area of New York.
At 56, Uganda has come a long way.
It is a country far removed from its atrocity ridden past.
[The country recently celebrated its 56th independence anniversary]
For the past 3 decades, Uganda, in many respects, has experienced upward trajectories of growth, though its overall potential, across the board, remains unrealized.
Many of the country's leading political analysts contend that the upward growth will continue provided Uganda stays on a political straight and narrow, devoid of political violence.
“At 56, opportunities for national and individual growth in Uganda abound,” Vincent Okwalinga, a Political scientist, says.
“There is however still a lot of leeway to be made up. Uganda is a country with a lot of potential and that potential will only be harnessed effectively if vices like corruption are dispensed with."
“Recent incidents of political violence and the cold blooded murders of prominent Ugandans have raised the spectre of insecurity. Any semblance of insecurity will have an adverse knock on effect on our tourism industry, an industry, which is still by far, the nation’s leading foreign exchange earner,” Robert Wamukota, a seasoned Political scientist and opinion leader in Mbale, told Masaaba chronicle.
Notwithstanding, recent reports like the 2018 Africa Risk Reward Index have cast Uganda in good light.
Uganda is cited as one of sub saharan Africa's strongest performing economies.
The report indicates that ongoing national infrastructural projects and other developments in the country would not be possible if there was political instability.
Uganda’s risk profile Index has also reduced significantly, through the years.
This denotes more visitors for the country.
According to the Inform global risk index, Uganda’s risk index is now 6.0.
Inform is a global, open source risk assessment for humanitarian crises and disasters.
That said, analysts say the voices of Ugandans disillusioned with the status quo should not be ignored.
“Ugandans intent on changing the status quo should however steer clear of putting false constructions on the country’s political and economic situation. That as a means to an end is counterproductive,” Wamukota argues.
“It is incumbent upon the government however to address the grievances of all Ugandans.
In many areas of the country, tangible evidence of progress for many citizens remains elusive.”
Analysts state that tourism as a sector will most likely bear the heaviest brunt should the country’s image continue to be tarnished.
At present, the sector contributes 10% to Uganda’s GDP.
“Recent projections by the Minister of Finance that Uganda will in the near future receive 4million visitors annually will only come to pass if the country enhances its tourism industry competiveness and markets itself better abroad,” Okwalinga argues.
Uganda currently gets 1.3 million visitors annually.
The most recent high profile visitors being the African American Hip Hop artist-Kanye West and his wife-Kim Kardashian.
“Uganda needs to invest more resources in its tourism sector,” opines Amos Wekesa, the proprietor of Great Lakes Safaris, Limited.
“Regionally, Uganda is lagging behind yet with 10 unique national parks, principally world heritage sites such as Bwindi, Mgahinga and the Rwenzori mystic mountains, Uganda should be one of the top tourist destinations in East Africa. More also needs to done to improve on tourist infrastructure.”
Uganda is one of the best places to track mountain gorillas.
At present, Uganda is home to half of all mountain Gorillas in the world. 480 out of 880, to be precise.
The economic value of gorilla tourism in Uganda is estimated at up to $34.3million.
The need to promote the country’s tourist sector was again re-emphasized by President Museveni on the [30th September], whilst passing out game rangers in Nwoya district.
The President noted that Uganda can earn more tourist foreign exchange if it efficiently promotes and markets its tourist potential.
Currently, Uganda spends far less on tourism marketing compared to her regional neighbors, yet the second national development plan lists it as a priority sector that will if harnessed well have a great multiplier effect on the country’s economy.
Kenya spends $3.37 on promoting and sustaining its new tourism markets.
Rwanda on the other hand, spends $40million on its tourism advertisement campaigns.
“Marshaled well, Uganda’s cultural and heritage tourism sector represents a potential major area of growth. There are heritage sites around the country, which are in many ways still tourist virgin territory or which have not been developed enough to attract visitors,” John Kityo, a travel and tourist, expert, says.
“Take for example, the Namugongo shrine, the Rwenzori cultural trail and the Mutoto Cultural grounds in Mbale, where the inauguration of the revered Imbalu custom takes place.
Mutoto which attracts up to 1000 foreign visitors biennially is devoid of an Imbalu paraphernalia museum, yet, to all intents and purposes, it should have one.
Construction of a museum at the site has been long overdue.
There are several other cultural and heritage sites in the country which can stand the country in a good stead financially.
“Uganda has 600 years of kingdoms and over 40 different indigenous ethnic groups, who immense themselves in a variety of cultural norms and customs. These can all be of financial benefit to the nation.
Now is the time to amplify efforts to market Uganda as a worthwhile tourist destination. It could be a grain of mustard seed for the country,” Kityo says.
One of Uganda’s greatest tourist secrets are the white sands of Ssese Island on Lake Victoria.
The white sands, the uncrowded beaches and the tranquility of the place create a never ending honeymoon experience.
On Lake Victoria as well, there is the picturesque Equator Island-Lwaji Island. The equator runs through Lwaji and Damba islands.
The two archipelagos are diamonds in the rough. They are marvels of nature, with plenty of bird life.
By all accounts, Uganda is home to over 10% of the world’s birds and 50% of Africa’s birds-home to 1,072 different species including some of the rarest birds.
Some of these can be found on Equator Island.
Jinja, the adventure capital of Uganda-Jinja deserves more promotion and marketing as a leisure travel tourist destination.
Jinja’s overall tourist potential remains unrealized.
With more advertising Jinja, the source of the world’s longest river-6,853km [4,258 miles] will get more visitors.
Whilst in Jinja, visitors can enjoy bungee jumping, quad biking and safe whitewater rafting and kayaking.
“Chill with all that palaver about good looks,” a friend once quipped as we shot the breeze, one weekend in one of Kampala’s nice and quiet hang out places.
A couple of young nice looking females were parleying in our midst.
“Iam for brains over beauty. In propositioning to a lady, I go slow to gauge if she is intellectually worthwhile to speak to or not,” he closed out.
In my reverie at home, after, I thought about what he had said.
At length, I figured writing something on it, would not be a bad idea after all. I did some online searches and came across information that seemed to connect with what he was saying.
There is a world out there where brains hold sway over beauty; a world where real people, yes real people looking for people to date, look beyond skin deep beauty as their foremost dating attribute.
That world, which has of recent, being christened the Sapiosexual world, is a world where people are attracted to someone of the opposite sex on account of their brain power or call it their intellect.
In the sapiosexual world, it is only your smarts that will get you into a prospective lover’s good graces and get you laid for good measure. Sapiosexuality is not an indelicate sexual orientation; so, trust me moralists like Father Lokodo will lose no sleep.
In this tough economy, everyone deserves a partner who is intellectually stimulating. This is an economy that requires people who sets their wits to work.
For the sapiosexual, intellect is like a drug; something close to that mulondo [a local aphrodisiac] or coffee beans, that Baganda men chew on, supposedly to gain virility.
Do we have sapiosexuals in Kampala; you can bet your last dollar we do; though some are not aware, they are.
Seanice Kacungira formerly of the Sanyu F.M, morning show personified the kind of intellect; many sapiosexual males would be enamored with.
While it may sound subjective, the fact is that, Kacungira was in a class of her own when it came to smarts.
It is a no brainer that she eventually got into some people’s good graces, people who love intellectual discourse ofcourse.
On that Sanyu radio morning show, she was always on her mettle, giving clever and insightful articulations on varied issues.
I call to mind some years ago, when she was in a heated and lively debate on the virtues of marriage with Fat Boy.
That day, she was on her A game, setting her wits to work impressively against an obstinate Fat boy who needless to say was playing devil’s advocate, desperately finding fault with the institution of marriage.
At length, the crescendo of calls supporting Seanice’s position spelt she had struck a more meaningful chord with listeners.
Fat Boy who worked with Kacungira and who many view as a maverick notes that a woman’s intellect has no direct bearing on whether or not he will find her sexually attractive.
“I don’t think women are attracted to intelligent men for their intelligence per se. They are drawn to intelligent men because it is assumed that there is potentially money (whether at present or in the future) or status associated with that intellect (sometimes both). If you’re a nerd quietly collecting your degrees and keeping to yourself no woman will be interested in you,” he opines.
Fat Boy adds that most women who are interested in men try to hide their intelligence as much as possible because they know that in the subconscious minds of most men, intelligence in women is associated with belligerence and independence.
“Women generally don't give a damn about a man’s intellect, outside of potential resource provision capacity or status associated with it. Women like socially dominant males i.e. Alpha Males. If you try to use philosophical discussions on abstract concepts and ideas to get into lady good graces, sadly you only alienate them, even the so called–intelligent ones. Whenever I meet women that say they are attracted to me because of my ‘intellect’, I notice they never attempt to engage me in any intellectual discussion over my specific views or ideas. In order to enjoy that intellect – rather, they’re usually more interested to know how I feel about being listened to by many people, what it feels like to be ‘so controversial’ (i.e. to be attracting a lot of attention because of the things I say), or something along those lines.”
In their own right, the likes of Timothy Kalyegira, Morrison Rwakakamba, Cissy Kagaba, Nobert Mao have sapiosexual appeal and that is due to the intelligence they personify. Not saying they are sapiosexuals but in many ways, they fit the bill.
A world where your quick wits and smarts resonate and endear you to people of the opposite sex would surely make younger Ugandans more vibrant, creative and unique.
It would break a certain mould in our society, where we sadly settle for the less than consequential virtues as we look for people to date or to make our significant others.