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Happy Independence Day to Uganda.

9 Oct

Happy Independence Day to Uganda.
Anybody who knows me or who follows my work knows that I have a great love for our continent and a special deep rooted love for Uganda. So it is no surprise that I along with my Ugandan family, will be celebrating its independence. As much as the country boasts beauty, tranquility and splendour, like every other county it has its problems and areas that need attention. I will address all of these in this blog.

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Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose diverse landscape encompasses the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria. Its abundant wildlife includes chimpanzees as well as rare birds. Remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary. Murchison Falls National Park in the northwest is known for its 43m-tall waterfall and wildlife such as hippos.It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate.
Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala. The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago, when Bantu-speaking populations migrated to the southern parts of the country.
Luganda, a central language, is widely spoken across the country, and several other languages are also spoken including Runyoro, Runyankole, Rukiga, and Luo.
According to oral tradition, the Empire of Kitara covered an important part of the great lakes area, from the northern lakes Albert and Kyoga to the southern lakes Victoria and Tanganyika. Bunyoro-Kitara is claimed as the antecedent of the Buganda, Toro, Ankole, and Busoga kingdoms.
The culture of Uganda is made up of a diverse range of ethnic groups. Lake Kyoga forms the northern boundary for the Bantu-speaking people, who dominate much of East, Central, and Southern Africa. In Uganda, they include the Baganda and several other tribes. In the north, the Lango and the Acholi peoples predominate, who speak Nilotic languages. To the east are the Iteso and Karamojong, who speak a Nilotic language, whereas the Gishu are part of the Bantu and live mainly on the slopes of Mt. Elgon. They speak Lumasaba, which is closely related to the Luhya of Kenya. A few Pygmies live isolated in the rainforests of western Uganda.
The geography of this beautiful country are marked by mountains on its eastern and western borders. In the east, there are a number of volcanic mountains, Mount Elgon the highest at 4,321m. In the west, the Ruwenzori mountains run down much of the border (with Uganda’s highest peak at 5,109m) and in the south are the northernmost of the Virunga range. Lake Victoria is sometimes said to be the source of the Nile. But really, this huge lake has many rivers which feed into it. The Ruvubu and Ruvyironza rivers (in Burundi) are regarded as the ultimate source of the Nile; these are upper branches of the Kagera River (in Rwanda) which flows into Lake Victoria
The Nile is the longest river in the world (at 6,695km). It has many different stretches and flows through a number of east African countries. Uganda’s rivers are mainly seasonal and can be slow and swampy in stretches. Uganda is rich in wildlife and habitats. The country has semi-desert areas in the north-east, swampland along the Albert Nile in the northwest and savannah across some regions. The country also has areas of forest, including the tropical montane forests of the southwest. However, much of southern Uganda’s natural rainforest has been cleared.

The history:
Beginning in 1894, the area was ruled as a protectorate by the British, who established administrative law across the territory. Uganda gained independence from Britain on 9 October 1962. The period since then has been marked by intermittent conflicts, including a lengthy civil war against the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Northern Region, which has caused hundreds of thousands of casualties. Uganda gained independence from Britain on 9 October 1962 as a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. In October 1963, Uganda became a republic but maintained its membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.

The first post-independence election, held in 1962, was won by an alliance between the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and Kabaka Yekka (KY). UPC and KY formed the first post-independence government with Milton Obote as executive prime minister, with the Buganda Kabaka (King) Edward Muteesa II holding the largely ceremonial position of president.

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Uganda came into the spotlight for its laws against LGBT rights in 2007, a Ugandan newspaper, the Red Pepper, published a list of allegedly gay men, many of whom suffered harassment as a result. On 9 October 2010, the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone published a front-page article titled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak” that listed the names, addresses, and photographs of 100 homosexuals alongside a yellow banner that read “Hang Them”. The paper also alleged that homosexuals aimed to recruit Ugandan children. This publication attracted international attention and criticism from human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, No Peace Without Justice and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. According to gay rights activists, many Ugandans have been attacked since the publication. On 27 January 2011, gay rights activist David Kato was murdered.
In 2009, the Ugandan parliament considered an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would have broadened the criminalisation of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, or are HIV-positive, and engage in same-sex sexual acts. The bill also included provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited back to Uganda for punishment, and included penalties for individuals, companies, media organisations, or non-governmental organisations that support legal protection for homosexuality or sodomy. The private member’s bill was submitted by MP David Bahati in Uganda on 14 October 2009, and was believed to have had widespread support in the Uganda parliament. The hacktivist group Anonymous hacked into Ugandan government websites in protest of the bill. The debate of the bill was delayed in response to global condemnation but was eventually passed on 20 December 2013 and signed by President Yoweri Museveni on 24 February 2014. The death penalty was dropped in the final legislation. The law was widely condemned by the international community. Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden said they would withhold aid. The World Bank on 28 February 2014 said it would postpone a US$90 million loan, while the United States said it was reviewing ties with Uganda. On 1 August 2014, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the bill invalid as it was not passed with the required quorum. A 13 August 2014 news report said that the Ugandan attorney general had dropped all plans to appeal, per a directive from President Museveni who was concerned about foreign reaction to the bill and who also said that any newly introduced bill should not criminalise same-sex relationships between consenting adults.

Ugandan Cuisine:

Ugandan cuisine consists of traditional and modern cooking styles, practices, foods and dishes in Uganda, with English, Arab, and Asian (especially Indian) influences. Like the cuisines of most countries, it varies in complexity, from the most basic, a starchy filler with a sauce of beans or meat, to several-course meals served in upper-class homes and high-end restaurants. Most tribes in Uganda have their own speciality dish or delicacy. Many dishes include various vegetables, potatoes, yams, bananas and other tropical fruits. Chicken, pork, fish (usually fresh, but there is also a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat and mutton are all commonly eaten, although among the rural poor, meats are consumed less than in other areas, and mostly eaten in the form of bushmeat.
My absolute favourite dish is Matooke and ground Peanut sauce. Matoke, is the fruit of a variety of starchy banana, commonly referred to as cooking/green bananas. The fruit is harvested green, carefully peeled and then cooked and often mashed or pounded into a meal. The fruit is steam-cooked, and the mashed meal is considered a national dish in both countries. The Buganda tribe of Uganda do however pride themselves in making the best matooke dishes. Matooke are peeled using a knife, wrapped in the plant’s leaves (or plastic bags), and set in a cooking pot atop the banana stalks. The pot is then placed on a charcoal or wood fire and the matooke is steamed for a couple of hours, water is poured into the bottom of the cooking pot multiple times. The stalks in the bottom of the pot serve to keep the leaf-wrapped fruits above the level of the hot water. While uncooked, the matooke is white and fairly hard; cooking turns it soft and yellow. The matooke is then mashed while still wrapped in the leaves or bags and often served on a fresh banana leaf. It is typically eaten with a sauce made of vegetables, ground peanut, or some type of meat (goat or beef).
Ugandan traditional meal with Matooke steamed and served with luwombo, meat or gnuts steamed in banana leaves. Matoke are also used to make a popular breakfast dish called Katogo in Uganda. Katogo is commonly cooked as a combination of the peeled bananas and peanuts or beef, though offal or goats meat are also common.

Some other traditional and historic Ugandan foods include:

Posho or Kawunga – called Ugali in Kenya, it is usually made from maize but also other starches, regional names include kwon. Ugandan expatriates make posho from cornmeal, masa harina or grits. Kwon is a type of ugali made from millet (called kalo in western Uganda) but in other regions like eastern Uganda they include cassava flour.
Groundnuts (peanuts) – groundnuts are a vital staple and groundnut sauce is probably the most commonly eaten one. They are eaten plain or mixed with smoked fish, smoked meat or mushrooms, and can also be mixed with greens such as borr.
Sim-sim (sesame) – A staple particularly in the north, roasted sesame paste is mixed into a stew of beans or greens and served as a side dish, though sesame paste may also be served as a condiment; a candy is made from roasted sesame seeds with sugar or honey.
Luwombo – A traditional dish from Uganda, in which a stew of either chicken, beef, mushrooms or fish is steamed in banana leaves
Malewa – A traditional dish from eastern Uganda (Bugisu), made from bamboo shoots
Kikomando – A chapati that is cut into pieces and served with fried beans
Uganda is also know as the La Vegas of Africa as it sports a wild and vibrant entertainment scene. In certain parts of Kampala, there are bars and restaurants that operate 24 hours, whether its a quiet drink with friends and dancing to Uganda’s favourite po artists, there is a place that will suit your requirement.

My favourite dinning spots are:
Zone 7, which is co-owned by Gaetano Kagwa. The restaurant/bar is the perfect location for a lunch or dinner or after work drinks session. The establishment hosts a number of of events from sporting to live bands and the well know School party, where revellers are invited to wear their school uniforms and party down to the past decades top 40 hits.

I discovered a great eclectic bar for The Embers, run by two amazingly crazy New Zealanders, who like me fell in love with the country.

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Their speciality are their infused cocktails and shoots. My favourite is the chilli tequila.

They also have live events and I was able to catch the performance of ‘Young Cardamom & HAB’. These artists are both Ugandans with roots that reach far beyond their borders.Though they represent the sound of their city, Kampala, the duo’s tracks also blend several influences from South Sudan, India, Atlanta, and Lahore. Cardamom’s parents are actually Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani and filmmaker Mira Nair (Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding). Their song, #1 Spice features in the Disney film: Queen of Katwe.
A lot of their specialised cocktails are made from the world famous Ugandan Waragi.

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My favourite chilling to spots include the cocktail bar or poolside at the Serena Hotel, as well as The Royal Suites. I have had the opportunity of living at both 5-star residence. Both boast comfort, safety and true East African hospitality.

The Ugandans entertainment industry is growing at a great speed, with the rise of some of Africa’s most celebrated stars such as Flavia Tumusimme, Gaetano Kagwa, Brian Mulondo, Cedric Ndilima and Sheilah Gashumba. Of course all of these artists are represented by Waka talent Agency, http://www.wakaagency.biz
There has been an emergence of powerful channels being broadcast from Kampala, including the establishment of Kwese TV.

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