Yahya Jammeh and how not to be a refugee

Source: nbcnews.com

Former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh boards a private jet before departing Banjul into exile


Last week, Rev Simon Feta, my philosophical friend, invited me to a four-day excursion in the West Nile region.

The trip was meant to give Uganda Christian University students of Bachelor of Governance and International Relations a real life field experience of how bad governance breeds conflict and how international players come together to handle its off-shoots.

After visiting the Rhino Camp Refugee Camp in Arua and Bidi-Bidi Refugee Camp in Yumbe District, it became increasingly obvious that the only way not to be a refugee is not to be African.

In fact, former Sudanese and later South Sudanese Senator, Rev Canon Clement Janda, put it more bluntly when he told the students that “as long as you are Africans, we are all potential refugees.”

As I was still grinding his statement, former president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, proved him right. He went from being president to being a refugee in Equatorial Guinea in a space of just four hours.

If this is your first encounter with the name, let me take a few lines to explain just how powerful Jammeh was. He took over power when he was just 29 years old and ruled the country with an iron fist for another 22 years.

After losing and accepting defeat in a recent election, he made a U-turn, refuted the election results and threatened not to leave power forcing his opponent, a victorious Adam Barrow to take oath in neighbouring Senegal.

Although Jammeh finally bowed to pressure and relinquished power, he left Gambia into exile after emptying state coffers of a whopping $11million (Shs38 billion).

The similarity between Jacob, a 29-year-old refugee from South Sudan and Jammeh, is not that they are both refugees but that they are both victims of poor governance systems in their respective countries.


Alex Taremwa engaging three-time refugee and former Senator of Sudan and South Sudan Rev Canon Clement Janda. Photo by Ronald Awany

The total number of refugees at the end of 2016 reached 75.3 million that is to say one out of every 85 people on Earth, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Whether in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi or Syria, only war can account for the massive influx of people from their homes to refugee camps.

Not that conflict represents the absence of a more peaceful and long-lasting solution but rather a mechanism through which governments and those against them across the world strive to maintain and conquer power respectively.

And I have it on good authority that most leaders maintain a tight grip on power not because they enjoy their stay but because they are afraid of prosecution from their opponents when they leave.

In that case, if we shifted political rhetoric from prosecuting corrupt, murderous, long-serving dictators, to forgiving their wrongs and offering them a safe passage to retirement, it would in a way motivate them to peacefully step down and avoid bloodbaths.

The bottom line therefore is that peaceful coexistence and good governance go hand-in-hand. The absence of one automatically translates into the absence of the other, and in that regard, a refugee status cannot be ruled out for anyone.

Alex is the Managing Editor of The Transparent Magazine

Review: Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness


Book review: Alex Taremwa Title: Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness Author: Timothy Wangusa Publishing Date: June 2015 Publisher: Nsemia Inc. Publishers, Oakville, Ontario, Canada Outlet: Aristoc Bookshop, Kampala Price: Shs20,000/=

Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness is the second novel of seasoned scholar and author Timothy Wangusa’s Mwambu trilogy.

It is therefore a sequel to the acclaimed Upon this Mountain set in pre-independence Uganda.

Launched on August 22 2015 at the closure of the 2nd East African Literary and Cultural Studies Conference, Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness is a story of an intensely sensitive, impressionable and introspective school leaver, who goes on a rather fascinat- ing journey of discovery.

Upon this Mountain takes the story of the protagonist, Mwambu, from breast-sucking to about age 20, the end of his high school.

This highly captivating and addictive piece of literary genius traces the troubled fortunes of the same protagonist from age 21 until when he is 32, on the very eve of Uganda’s acquisition of her independence.

It has been 25 years of Upon this Mountain, 25 years of intense suspense and 25 years of painstaking work on the author’s side who said in an interview with The Transparent Magazine that Betwixt Mountain and Wilderness is the best literary piece he will ever produce.

Prof Timothy Wangusa (Author) and the Transparent's Managing Editor Alex Taremwa recently. (Credit: Ivan Naijuka)

Prof Timothy Wangusa (Author) and The Transparent’s Managing Editor Alex Taremwa recently. (Credit: Ivan Naijuka)

For over 10 years, Wangusa has invested his best intuition and ingenuity into producing what will undoubtedly be a must- have item on every reader’s book shelf.

“Once upon a sunset, abrupt news leapt from hilltop to hilltop as fast as a black dog is famed to run,” it opens.

One is instantly intrigued into asking: What was the abrupt news? Where and why was that? To whom did it happen and who was there to report it?

I was inspired immediately, from the cover design to the prologue, I was already addicted that I was through the 204-page book in 24 hours.

My best passage in the book which I bet you will equally find fascinating comes soon between pages 15 and 17, in the second chapter as the Elgonton District committee members argue in utter ignorance about what a degree is.

This comes at a time when Mwambu is preparing to join Makerere on a village bursary scheme. It reads:

“What is Mwambu going to get from Makerere? I want to know if it is something good or just rubbish. Is it a decoration, a kyepe, a medal such as some of us got from the King African Rifles – KAR, popularly known as KEYA for distinguished service on the field of battle in the Second World War? Tell me, Mr. Chairman, what is this thing they call Diguli?”

Formerly Professor of Literature at Makerere University, Wangusa, PhD, is Presidential Advisor on Literary Affairs currently a Visiting Professor at Uganda Christian University and Vice Chairman of LuMasaaba Language Academy.

He is also co-writing the first LuMasaaba Dictionary. He posits that poetry is the “mother tongue of mankind”, while he perceives literature as a “verbal rendering of the human soul or community condition.”

Open Letter to Amanda O’maya

Mr. Aruho Marvin

This story is affectionately dedicated to Amanda’s charisma and relentless belief in hope once in her possession, with whom I spent numerous rewarding Facebook conversations.

Three years ago on a return journey from the city, hours before I took to the bus, I couldn’t help but notice an odd looking gentleman pacing about in the park. He seemed disturbed- on edge, not in the manner that would attract attention from the authorities but in a sense of need, or even urgency… a point of view I had grown familiar with over the years. My mother was and still is a cautious woman. When I was leaving for boarding school, she sat me down and told me things. Most of which didn’t make much sense at the time except for the one piece she always said to me, “do not attract any extra attention than that which your nose already brings you.” Knowing me you might find that funny. But trust me, the irony lies far beyond the obvious- my funny looking nose.

Now for a minute or two, I couldn’t help but wonder what could have been troubling the fellow. So I walked over to him in all manner of disregard for my mothers advice and introduced myself, asked if there was anything I could do to brighten his day. He swiftly responded with a no, as though he knew what I had to say before I even thought it. That was about the time I realised what a terrible idea it was to walk over there and impose on another mans privacy. Without word, I turned around and walked away in attempt to avoid a demonstrative argument that would have been totally justified on his part.

Over twenty minutes later, we both boarded the same west bound bus where I picked a seat close to a good looking lady like I always did and plugged in my earphones listening to nothing hoping the other party would try to initiate some sort of discussion. I knew that by being close to them, it would present an opportunity to rub shoulders at every hard turn of the journey… something I believe we should all look forward to on every bus trip.

Later on in the journey, the same fellow approached my seat-mate with an impish grin on his face and presented her with an offer so tempting that she couldn’t decline, then sat besides me in quiet and waited. Almost as though he was choosing his next words with the utmost precision. He then started talking; told a story about a friend of his who got duped in the same manner I approached him. He then hinted that he might have lied to me earlier when he said there wasn’t anything I could have offered to brighten his day. He insisted that I lend him an ear, that all he wanted was someone to talk to, someone to relate to his situation and even offered to reimburse my troubles. Now imagine my delight when it became quite clear that he was demonstrating a willingness to clear out the air with me- a complete stranger, he did not have to but he did anyway. I turned my head and said to him; “Sir, that sounded dangerously close to an apology” …and that I admired the effort, then smiled back at him assuring him not to worry about my cool. We then conversed and shared a couple of ideas in an equally rewarding manner.

I later learned that Timothy here had just lost a close relative and wasn’t ready to take over the family business all at the expense of his post graduate endeavours. Think about that, he was one of  those rare things Tim, a relentless fighter who as I have shared with you never let an opportunity to put his empathy and altruism to the test pass him by… even in the most trying times, in light of such disheartening news. Honestly, I never understood the man, it was until recently when I watched a movie by Denzel Washington- The Great Debaters… when Lowe (not real name) said “I’ve never seen a wild thing feel sorry for it self” while stepping up to the challenge of quoting a line that blends in with the act of self pity.

The commonest mistake we all make when trying to cope with demanding times and heartaches is opting for the easy way out when trying to move on. From what I gather, in practice it entails forceful forgetting. Edgar Allan Poe once said; “if you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.” …just so you know, I have every intention of siding with this 18th century celebrated novelist. Tim believed in this train of thought, he opted for talking about his troubles with a random stranger on a public bus to drowning himself in worry and pretending to forget. He took the hard path and emerged out triumphant while also securing himself a long life friendship with that same stranger- me.

So how this introduction relevant to what I’m about to tell you O’maya? I have no idea, I just woke up and felt like sharing with a complete stranger… hoping that I too for once would feel like normal people do. So here, I wrote a letter to God hoping to vent out what lately seems to be enslaving my progress. I therefore apologise before hand for the weird mix of emotion here after and beg that you bear with me in reading this story and try not to treat my words as reinforcements for that damaging intensity that fuels deep inside you that I for one find very attractive.

So here goes; dear God, if everything is possible, then I suppose what I am is totally justifiable- a load some of unresolved father issues, assaulted memories from my childhood and this besieged adulthood path I seem to have embarked on as though I have a second shot at living, to mention but a few. An accumulation of emotional remnants from either good or evil intentions but non the less expendable, or at the very least… irrelevant.

At just the age of -9 months, I watched my fatherly privileges get yanked out of my destiny. As a consequence, I’m speaking the truth back into existence with the hope that my great grand father doesn’t get lynched for contracting as much as a bacterial infection from being bred for in breeding.(slavery) The reason I feel bullish about getting out of bed every Sunday and although it’s hard to define it, lets just label me agnostic because all I ever wanted was my dreams to rescue me, to come true eventually. For all the other wishes to be granted too and so I wished, wished to end suffering, wished upon the brightest star because apparently dreams reflect clarity. Then I overheard my crush talking to my other crush about how apparently you help those who help themselves. Something I might have learnt in Sunday school if I wasn’t so busy either walking there or trying to fit in with the other rich kids. The irony being that mother and I were the other 2% of the honest, humble and seemingly innocent folks still left in the entire neighbourhood. I remember at the age of 15 walking into what now seems like a threesome(in light of new information). I called them “ekirebwomwe” translated into shooting star. The phrase in my language which traditionally meant a rare sighting, and believe me, the spectacle was precisely that. I mean, how often do you walk into a pair of twins every single afternoon sunbathing in the nude?

”I’m supposed to know that I was more than a man.” I kept telling myself… probably all that mattered in my family and I don’t mean that as a derogatory reference, listen; I met my father for the very first time when I couldn’t meet the library requirements right after getting admitted to the best high school in the whole district… among the top 5 in the entire nation. And that was even before my first elevation, a time when I still shied away from the fact that I was a genius… way before Nicki had a body. I’m sorry I meant to say before I cracked jokes like that, when to me, I was still a son to a Vet, when I stilled called my own mother ‘aunt’ for lack of a better word because she worked over 12 hours a day for a net worth equivalent of USD 2. Way below the poverty line considering she had to feed and school my older sister and I. She’s now my cousin, but still calls me brother because like I too, she’s all I have.

Oh an I met her earlier today when I was returning her laptop bag, held her one year fatherless son and looked deep into his spotless eyes reaching for his soul as I raised him up. My eyes dazzled from dejavu when I started feeling them gradually tear up to mount a falling drop of inexplicable sour liquid. A taste only I suddenly recalled on placing my lips on his gentle forehead. An assorted memory from my childhood locked away from when my uncles used to hold me. And so I yawned for that innocence yet to be lost in this cruel and hurtful earth.

Moving on…
In my senior year, that’s when I met her, not Amanda… but the reason for this hollowness in my heart. I remember trying to kiss her back as she said the most disheartening words anyone has ever told me; “I never wanted to do this.” right about the time I thought I had finally found someone to open up to and cry about with my broken self. I always wondered how things would have turned out if all that didn’t happen exactly the way it did. Say if my extended family had bothered to pick my calls and made it less obvious that the reason I got stuck doing the dishes with the maids even on my own birthday party was that I was beneath the cake, or if say people could just look at me and not just see the beautiful flower I’ve blossomed to but that I did so in despair.

And so I wonder; do people really have fun at parties or is that like an excuse to show off their fancy photo captions? If religion hadn’t monopolised hope, would I still be standing in the middle of the road waiting for a sign? Or like Amanda, I too would be having trouble living, wishing to fall asleep tonight and never wake up.


New killing tactics threaten valuable species in Queen Elizabeth

Lions and elephants in Queen Elizabeth National park are among the most protected species that have a high potential of tourist attraction. Until recently, poachers used conventional methods of long range shooting to kill the animals upon realisation that this alerted the game rangers, the attackers have now poisoning.


According Mr Nelson Guma, the area Conservation Manager, the lions are killed by herdsmen who graze in the park illegally in the night mostly in areas where they have unsettled land conflicts with the park management.

“Pastoralists graze in the park due to scarcity of pasture as a result of other indigenous plants like the Lantana Camara and the Parthenium weed which have colonized their grazing lands,” he said.

Guma also stressed that the lions access and kill the cows as they graze in the park and in seeking retribution, the herdsmen poison the caucus of the cows and it’s the poison that kills the lions whenever they return to eat the meat. At least 3 lions out of the 140 in the park have so far been found dead

The elephants on the other hand are also poisoned by the poachers who smear poison on different crops in gardens that they know elephants like most. When they cross to raid people’s plantations outside the protected area, the elephants feed on the poisoned crops and soon or later, they die.

Explaining this tactic, Guma said the poachers then follow the elephants in close distance and when they die, they take the ivory and leave them to rot in the wilderness adding that this process has so far claimed 5 elephant lives.

In defence, the park management has embarked on excavating a network of trenches and electing beehives in an attempt to stop both the herdsmen and elephants from encroaching on each other’s land

“Over 177kilometres of trenches have so far been dug and we are in the process of empowering the natives to elect bee hives around their gardens as one of the defence mechanisms so that when the elephants approach, they get stung by the bees and they’ll run away,” Guma elaborated.

He also said about shs3billion is required to implement the interventions in areas like Kasese-Ruhingo, Rubirizi-Kafuro and along the Ishasha-Bukorwe border where such activities have been reported most.

The Chimpanzee and Alcohol:

Meanwhile the Chimpanzees, another group of valued species within the National park also face predatory threats from carnivores after they developed a new habit of drinking alcohol.

Guma said that due the prevalent drought and lack of sufficient fruits in the Kyambura area, the Chimps have started to cross to peoples gardens for supplementary foods and in the process, they encroach on people’s locally brewed alcohol and they get drunk exposing them to risk of being preyed by carnivores especially the Leopards.

“When they get drunk, they lack instincts of self-survival. They start drumming excessively and celebrating yet several other animals in here don’t like noise,” he said.

Email me :alex.taremwa@yahoo.co.uk