Prepare to raid your grandparents’ photo albums, journals and memories at some point between now and the coming New Year’s celebrations.
I’m on my annual holiday right now and have taken time off to do some more reading and a bit of book editing. This has involved double checking many facts and details as the book is an autobiography composed of memoirs; most going back a mere fifty to sixty years.
I say “a mere fifty or sixty years” because we are crystal clear, some of us, about much older accounts – like the Bible (but that’s a sacred book) and other writings of long-gone Europeans, Americans and other such people going back hundreds of years.
But here, right here in front of us, it’s a bit hard to find details stretching back even to the seventies, and this difficulty is hard to accept for those of us who work off the Internet and do extensive research using Google in ten-second bursts.
Because I am exceedingly patient I can go till the third or fourth page of search results before declaring something unavailable and commencing a new search. This is the high-speed information age and we expect everything that matters to be on the Internet; therefore anything that’s not on there cannot be important.
The book I am editing has underscored in many ways how unimportant a lot of Ugandan information is because there are too many simple things about us that are not easily available in written form – in pamphlets, books, or on the internet.
It is incomprehensible for us, Ugandans and Africans alike, to be so invisible to the world in this information age when internet access is getting cheaper, easier and faster every day. It’s not wrong to assume that all the university research papers, Masters dissertations or theses are being uploaded to the internet somewhere, but this is simply not happening for some reason.
Neither are all the folk tales that have been told down generation by generation since the story of Kintu and Nambi was first released – and thankfully, that one is up there, but there are very many missing. Up till now I can faintly recall the song “Kakokolo gwe” being sung by my grandmother and I know that one Simon “Base” Kalema sang a hip hop version of this but can’t confidently relate the two to establish what the exact folk tale was – yet “Little Red Riding Hood” is all over the internet and our children’s libraries.
It cannot be possible that we have no inspirational stories to tell, no sensible memories to share, no learnings to impart to future generations, but that people in Europe and America do. And it may seem like small potatoes, but people in Bunyoro once made implements out of iron but now we can’t build a refinery in the same region unless foreigners do it…there’s a link.
Partly because we have the likes of Eddie Kwizera and, revealed last week Prof. Tarsus Kabwegyere, who do not think it necessary to stop being on employment long enough to put thoughts to paper (yes – Prof. there stands for professor but let’s not dwell on irony for too long…), and I must dig up for re-reading one of the best newspaper commentaries last year, in which Ofwono Opondo wrote about the dearth of books and writings by wise old men and women.
At our rate as a country, we need to get even unwise men and women writing down as much as possible from and about Uganda; and put it on the Internet as a matter of priority. The internet should be used principally by people like us because it gives us the opportunity to right the imbalance of knowledge and content, and to put the Kakokolo legend right up there next to Little Red Riding Hood and the boy who cried wolf – we don’t even have wolves in Uganda but we use them to warn our children about the dangers of telling fibs!
My frustration right now, editing this book, includes failing to find the list of former directors of the Law Development Centre of Uganda, which as an institution has only been in existence since 1970, which is akin to the hunt for a vital matching sock on a busy morning. And for the Law Development Centre to have a website replete with errors even in spelling and so lacking in useful information about itself is as embarrassing as watching a bridegroom, during his wedding speech, forgetting the name of his bride, where they first met, and failing to say a word of thanks to anyone.
Uganda’s Cabinet List as at June 1974? Nowhere, even though the information is somewhere in the Cabinet office, accessible to six government ministries and an equal number of support bodies.