A rapper, WhatsApp teacher – a good Ugandan society

Wednesday July 22 2020

If you are a news junkie, you probably have a few news aggregators you go to to get your fix. I have a couple, two of them dedicated to Uganda news.

They offer an interesting view of how the many people out there in the world get their news, and who are the key shapers of their view of the country. You know the old story how it is not an easy task to unseat an entrenched incumbent. In Uganda power politics, the incumbent is President Yoweri Museveni.

In news, there are two incumbents – the New Vision and The Daily Monitor. I counted the 100 stories on one of the aggregators a week to Monday, and 90 of them were shared nearly equally between the New Vision and the Daily Monitor.

This tells you that, while in the noise of social media and the Internet, it might seem that those two are withering on the digital vine, they are still king. The significance of that is that if you want to be noticed “out there”, for now at least, be nice to the New Vision and the Daily Monitor Big Chiefs and Chiefesses.

What were the other non-New Vision and Daily Monitor about, or rather what did they reveal? To list a few, one was about former South Africa Under-17 and University of Sports South Africa cricketer Mpho Selowa. The lack of opportunities in South Africa forced left-handed batsman and wicketkeeper to take up Ugandan citizenship to realise his childhood dream of playing international cricket. Didn’t know that.

Another one spoke of how the Jane Goodall Institute and One Tree Planted (OTP) are restoring habitat for endangered chimpanzees by planting three million new trees in the Uganda part of the Albertine Rift Forests. The Albertine Rift Forecasts cover Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi. Otherwise, what these too clever ecologists mean here is what ordinary folks like us know as Kibale National Park.


The region is truly impressive. We are reminded that in addition to being an important habitat for endangered chimpanzees, it is home to more than 50 per cent of birds, 39 per cent of mammals, 19 per cent of amphibians, and 14 per cent of reptiles and plants of mainland Africa.

There was a story by poet and writer Gloria Kiconco about Kampala-based rapper MC Yallah, (Yallah Gaudencia Mbidde). I have seen her name pop up on social media a few times, but have never listened to any of her material. It is a hell of a story, with Kiconco reporting that MC Yallah, who was born in Kenya and grew up in Uganda “has been in the East African underground hip-hop scene for nearly 20 years”. East Africa has an underground hip-hop scene? The things we don’t know.

MC Yallah we read is “a self-described ‘conscious rapper,’ her content draws from real-life experiences and social observations”. She started out with Chameleon, Bebe Cool and Bobi Wine, but as they rose up into the mainstream (Kiconco is really saying they became commercial) MC Yallah “stuck to her roots in underground and conscious hip-hop,” and also had to contend with the “challenges of being a female rapper in a male-dominated industry, [which] slowed her progress”. She has got her groove. She seems really cool.

There was the story of the robbers who attacked, raped and beat some of the 50 Bannabikira Sisters (Daughters of Mary), in their convent in Bwanda on July 10. That one was covered in local Uganda media. The version in many publications outside Uganda, however, was reported by Godfrey Olukya, Catholic News Service. The Pope’s church is sneaky like that, trust it to have a news service.

Olukya’s story also slides in a paragraph about how the good Bannabikira Sisters, in addition to making clerical vestments, “operate schools, a dairy farm, a candle-making factory, bakery and fishponds”. Free market-loving nuns. Hope the vandals who attacked the convent are caught and face the full wrath of the law.

One that really warmed the heart was an Associated Press report by Rodney Muhumuza. There we met Stella Maris Basemera, a mathematics teacher who heads a group of tutors called Creative Learning Africa, who writes work for students (who are at home as schools remained closed by the Covid-19 pandemic) to complete which she sends them as a private tutor via WhatsApp.

Otherwise, it was a cautionary wider tale of how many students “will fall behind and possibly drop out of school forever, worsening inequality on an already unequal continent.”
So, what do these stories reveal? Perhaps, in common, they show us part of what a Ugandan society is.

Mr Onyango-Obbo is a journalist,
writer and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. [email protected]