Category Archives: Uganda

5 African and sci-fi and fantasy books

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor tade thompson

It seems writers from the African continent are doing a good job in writing science fiction (sci-fi) and fantasy books. In this article you will find a selection of 5 books to give you an introduction to this particular field of literature. To me there were familiar names and one name that was new to me.

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Ugandan-Canadian Bitek wins Glenna Luschei literary prize

She was born in 1982 in the Kenya capital city Nairobi. Her parents were Ugandan. Now she lives in Canada. She writes poetry and she has won a literary prize. Maybe you have thought: could she be the daughter of …  Yes, indeed she is the daughter of Okot p’Bitek.

Ugandan-Canadian poet Juliane Okot Bitek has

Read more about her and her poetic activities here

 

 

A conversation with Nakisanze Segawa

The name of the Africa country Uganda is derived from the name of the kingdom of Buganda in present day Uganda. The history of Buganda and other kingdoms is closely connected to the birth of Uganda. People from the outside come to the areas around the immense lake (now Lake Victoria). Arab traders from the east came to trade and slaves were taken. Missionaries from the British Anglican Church and from the Roman Catholic Church came to the area and were trying to get into contact with the ruler of the kingdom of Buganda. It was seen that to find an entrance for their religions would be very important, that is why attempts were made to approach the court and its courtiers. 

Books have been written about these events by outsiders, focusing on the political and religious complications. Now a view by an Ugandan has been published. Nakisanze Segawa has written her debut about these pre-colonial days of the Buganda kindgdom and the coming of the first intruders. The title of her book is ‘The Triangle’ and here you will find an interview with her. 

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Ugandan writer Beatrice Lamwaka

This is another session in the series on writers on books. This time we meet the Ugandan writer Beatrice Lamwaka. She was born in the Gulu area in northern Uganda where there was much fighting during the civil war, with the Lord’s Resistance Army. In one of her stories she wrote about the devastating effects of the war in an abduction of a young girl.

Read here about Beatrice and her thoughts on books.Lamwaka, who has written numerous articles,

 

THE YEAR OF THE GORILLA

Last Tuesday I drew your attention to the book ‘Life with Daktari, written by Susanne Hart. In this book she talks about people she met during her time in Kenya where she worked as a vet, specialized in wildlife. One of these people was George Schaller, reading this name, I thought: I have come across this name before. Indeed, a book by Schaller is on a shelf in my study.

At the end of the fifties (last century) Schaller got the opportunity to do research on the topic of gorillas.  In February 1959 (two years after the opportunity for this research was mentioned to Schaller) he sailed for Africa. He wrote a scientific study on his research, under the title ‘The Mountain Gorilla’ (1963). The book ‘The Year of the Gorilla’ is a popular book on his research and his personal life during the year he spent at the Virunga area.

The book starts with a short survey on the study into gorillas during the ages. Many stories circulated, in which the gorilla (especially the mountain gorilla) was a vicious monster, a danger to mankind.

At first Schaller spends time in travelling through areas in which there are gorilla populations. He makes clear that he is not very keen on the work of missionaries, but this attitude does not hinder him to accept the help of these people. Finally he decides to settle in the Virunga area, in the Belgian colony of Congo. The area is close to Uganda (British) and Rwanda (Belgian). He settles in a small cabin at Kabhara, where he lives with his wife and Andrea Batinihirwa, a local man who will do daily chores, like chopping firewood. Also a gamewarden was present, who would stay for three weeks and then another one would come.

On a daily basis Schaller moves in the jungle to meet with the different gorilla groups. At times he sleeps near one of these groups. He gets to know many gorillas and the animals seems to accept his presence. He makes notes and his wife in the little cabin in the woods converts these notes via a typewriter to a readable work. Schaller gets very familiar with these imposing animals and he notices that the stories about these ferocious animals are a far cry from the truth.

Near the end of the book the work of science is being disrupted by the troubles caused by clashes between Hutu and Tutsi, later on the surge for independence of the Belgian colony Congo is causing people to leave the area. Schaller does his utmost to continue his work, just as others who have a duty in the protection of wildlife. One of these is the Belgian game warden Jacques Verschuren, who tries to continue his works in the parks where he spend many years. Congolese game warden do their utmost to continue the work of protecting wildlife. In this way the story of the gorillas become a story of politics.

Schaller wrote an engaging book on the world of gorillas. Due to his scientific approach we get as readers a balanced view of these animals that have set the imagination of men at work. 

George B. Schaller – The year of the gorilla – 1963 

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor the year of the gorilla

THE TEETH MAY SMILE BUT THE HEART DOES NOT FORGET

I just finished a brilliant book, written by the American investigative journalist Andrew Rice.

In this book I found three lines of investigation that all come together:
* the story of Duncan Laki who searches for his father Eliphaz Laki who disappeared during the reign of president Idi Amin. He was a chief in Ankole. After his disappearance silence took his place.
* the story of Uganda (starting with the Brit Speke 😦 ) to put the search by Duncan into a proper context. Rice traces the different groups, the influence of colonialism, the way to hold sway among many oppositions.  
* the search for an answer to the question of forgiveness and rememberance and confession. What do communities and countries want to remember about their past? What is the role of justice in it all? Can there be forgiveness when there is no confession of guilt?

All these lines come together in a fascinating story, built upon research and many interviews with the people concerned (except Laki senior and Idi Amin), but Rice had contact with Obote and with Museveni, who took a personal interest in the case and who was present at the reburial of Eliphaz Laki.

We follow the lives of Eliphaz Laki, the rise to power by Yoweri Museveni, the lives of three people who were brought to court for the death of Eliphaz, one of them being Gowon, a close associate of Idi Amin, and also from the West Nile area.

We see the outcome of the courtcase and the shaping of a post-Amin judicial system. We see the changes of Museveni, from a communist/socialist fighter to a man who prefers the liberal capitalism. We see the fragility of a nation that smiles but cannot forget (a saying of the Banyankole, to which Duncan and his father and Museveni belong). We meet people who want to embrace Idi Amin once again. We see Duncan Laki in his search for his father, while close relatives prefer to let the dead be dead. Every answer could lead to complications.

Near the end of the book we see the difficulty Museveni has with a legal opposition in his country, Bisegye is a victim of this attitude. He has been fighting with Museveni during the rebellious days and now he tries to run for president, just like Museveni.  Now recently a second edition of  Museveni’s “Sowing the Mustard Seed” has been published. The name of Besigye, who was present in the first edition, has been wiped out of the second edition. This reeks of oldfashioned communist rewriting of history.

On page 248 I came across the name of the American Roy Innes (1934). I did not recognize the name and did not get much information on him in the book (notwithstanding the many and extensive notes). In the book it is mentioned that in 1973 Innes was in Mbarara, in the company of Idi Amin. 
At the time of this visit, Roy was the National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He was elected in 1968. Under his leadcership CORE supported the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972. 
This trip to Uganda was not the first trip in Africa for Innes. Two years earlier he and other delegates of CORE visited seven countries in Africa and had met with peple like Kenyatta (Kenya), Nyerere (Tanzania) and Tolbert (Liberia). And on that very same tour the CORE group also went to Uganda and met with Idi Amin, who was awarded a membership for life of CORE. I do not know if this included a medal, that could be pinned on the uniform of the president. Strange bedfellows: an American Black Nationalist Movement and Idi Amin.

A well researched and documented book. Warning: you might want to read it in one go!

Andrew Rice – The teeth may smile but the heart does not forget. Murder and memory in Uganda – 2009

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor the teeth may smile

 

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

For a long time I thought that this book was an account of a real life situation. Till I started reading this book and read a bit around this book.

There are two main characters in this book. One is the Ugandan dictator and soldier Idi Amin, who made himself famous thorugh is atrocities and unorthodox methods in international diplomacy. The other is Nicholas Garrigan, a medical doctor from Great Brittain (sorry, Scotland!). He just finished his medical studies in Edinburgh and starts his work in a clinic/ small hospital in the western town of Mbarara. On his first night in Uganda Idi Amin takes over power and Obote is chased away.

We read about Nicholas’ day to day work in the medical world of Mbarara. One day he is called to treat the president after an accident near Mbarara. Shortly afterwards hge is called to Kampala to be the personal doctor of the president, next to that (but his main job) he works in a Kampala hospital.

Nicholas is intrigued and fascinated by Amin. This fascination draws him closer and closer to Amin, and when the world around him falls apart he stays at his work in the hospital and near Amin. He lives at the compound of State House.

Not only is Nicholas fascinated by Amin, there is a mutual relationship, not only due to the Scottishness of Nicholas.

This book makes a good read. Foden did a fair bit of research and some of the characters and situations of this book did remind me of the death of the Kenyan minister Bruce Mackenzie (1978) and the role of the Briton Bob Astles in Uganda.

The book has been turned into a movie. Forest Whitaker played the role of Amin to much acclaim.

Giles Foden – The last king of Scotland – 1998