(this article first run in the New Vision of December 14th, 2018)
If you are like me, you are probably tired of those people who are always posting stuff about how a small little country to our south west is doing just great. Psychologists probably have a term for it, and doubtless dissertations have been written about it, but it seems to be some kind of self-hate when one is always happy when someone else, not you or yours, is doing well.
But of recent things are happening in Uganda that if they were happening in said small country will be all over our Inboxes, but those self-haters are strangely quiet. Last weekend, of course, a Ugandan beat out all other African girls to become Miss World-Africa, and reach the final five of the Miss World beauty pageant.
The fact notwithstanding that said pageant has lost much of its glitter of late, the organisers have been accused of selling out to the Chinese (no surprises there), and feminists have sworn to drive into oblivion, a beautiful girl will always draw attention. So a very big up to 22-year old Quinn Abenakyo, and we can add ‘the land of beautiful girls’ to the ‘kindest people in the world’ to our country’s description.
Beauty queens, by their very nature, are supposed to be goodwill ambassadors, so it has always beaten me why, after they are declared winners, most just go back to their normal, many times dull lives. They should be out there endorsing products, selling government policies and programs, but in Uganda we have a Minister for Tourism posing for selfies with a one Zari Hassan, whose main claim to fame is how many men she has slept with.
There are rumours making the rounds that Abenakyo was not only tossed around by government officials, but hit for six and kicked into touch when she was searching for help as she prepared for the Miss World contest. No prises for guessing what department that might be (and a picture appears on social media of a heavily-made-up Zari, complete with heels, with a basket of green pepper on her heard).
In other trivia news, the name Quinn is apparently of Irish origin, and there are quite a number of colourful characters throughout history that have carried the name Quinn. Maybe all those Irish peeps will want to check out the Ugandan Quinn (some wag on social media asked where were the girls from that small country to the south-west during Miss World?).
Elsewhere, another Ugandan girl, Harriet Anena, won the 2018 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa for her book of poems A Nation in Labour. She shared the prize, chosen from a total of 110 submissions from 11 African nations, with Nigerian poet, Prof. Tanure Ojaide, for his piece Songs of Myself. The prize was established in 205 by the Lumina Foundation in honour of the Nobel Laurette, and carries a cash prize of $10,000 (about sh37m).
Anena is no Johnny-come-lately, she won her first writing prize in 2003 for her poem The plight of the Acholi child, which helped her secure a bursary for A-Level education. She attended the 2013 Caine Prize workshop held in Uganda, her story Watchdog Games was published in the anthology A Memory This Size and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing (2013); she was shortlisted for the Ghana Poetry prize for her poem We arise (2013), and made the shortlist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in May this year. (And Zari posts another selfie, dressed in jungle fatigues and surrounded by armed policemen).
Before that Joshua Cheptegei (remember him?) made the news by breaking a world record in the 15km run; a world record, ladies and gentlemen! The last time a Ugandan held a world record in anything (corruption doesn’t count here) was in 1972, go figure! (Zari is seen posing with goats in a typically rural Ugandan setting). Do our neighbours to the south-west hold any world records, does anyone know?
Then our own Stella Atal, who has continually held our national flag higher and higher every year for the last decade, participated in the 11th edition of the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA “festival international de la mode en Afrique”) in Morocco. Before that she literally flew the flag at the UNESCO Africa Fashion Reception in Paris. Then she was off to Brussels for the DEVCO2018 Directorate General for international Cooperation, organised by the European Union. (Zari, probably bored with all this tourism ambassador thing, has reportedly gone back to her ‘home’ in South Africa).
So it is a good time to be a Ugandan, even if the first official photograph of a new Uganda Airlines plane looked like it was made out of papier-mâché, and the figure of the crane on the tail looked it hadn’t eaten since the original Uganda Airlines was closed.
I know there are reports coming from Parliament that some local banks were closed and sold like mivumba in Owino Market; and that the chaps on the Committee refused to heed the President’s advice and have the hearings in private, so now the whole world knows that even the very well paid folks in the central bank have mivumba tendencies.
It is time to feel good about Uganda, c’mon y’all.