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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Is this the time for Ugandan writers to shine again?


There was a time when Uganda was an acclaimed literary powerhouse worldwide. The 1960s and 70s was the period in which Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino was published (1969), the period that shaped writers like Ngugi wa Thiongo (he studied at Makerere between 1960-1963), Arthur Gakwandi, Timothy Wangusa and Austin Bukenya among others, the golden era of Ugandan literature that led to the production of work whose force and relevance remain unsurpassed.

Participants of the 2011 AWT writers workshop pose with their trainers
Sadly, times changed and famous literary magazines and journals like The Dhana and Transition folded, creative artists were harassed in the repressive times of Amin, some killed, and Ugandan literature suffered a stroke. Then the boisterous late 1980s and early 90s birthed showbiz with the flocking in of western entertainers that saw many abandon books for hedonistic fun.

It was not until the formation of the Uganda Female Writers Association (Femrite) in 1996 that Ugandan literature started waking up from its limbo. Since then, a couple of writers like Doreen Baingana and Monica Arac de Nyeko have won literary prizes of international acclaim like the Commonwealth and the Caine Prize for African Writing.

It also helped that the British Council initiated the Crossing Borders programme in which our sons and daughters like Julius Sseremba, Glaydah Namukasa and Patrick Mangeni outed books of outstanding merit.

Upsurge of readers
Today, people are writing with consuming fire. There are more blogs and websites displaying Uganda’s creative writing talent as well as reviewing it. The Uganda Modern Literary Digest at and the Reader’s CafĂ© at have some of the finest creative writings in the land.

There is also an upsurge of readers and writers’ clubs today than before, run by individual writers and literary organisations.

The annual Book Week by the National Book Trust of Uganda and Femrite’s week of literary activities, plus the monthly Authors’ Forum have all popularised Ugandan literature and contributed to its slow but steady acceptance.

But it is the spurt of training opportunities Uganda’s creative writers are enjoying lately that could transform our industry by giving writers hands-on tips to produce works of global appeal as would top best-seller book lists and rake in millions for authors.

In September, British Council Uganda, partnered with Femrite for a creative arts workshop to assist upcoming writers to develop effective writing skills in the fields of short story, drama and poetry. By the end, the over 20 participants produced works of publishable quality most of which will be submitted for international writing contests like the Commonwealth Short Story writing competition.

And hardly a month later, the London-based African Writers’ Trust (AWT), was in Uganda to train and mentor promising writers to stretch their imagination and strive for international breakthrough, and to link writers on the continent with African writers in the Diaspora.

“Whether we live here or in the Diaspora, we all face the same publishing challenges as African writers, so we think these groups should be meeting more regularly and in a more structured way to share skills and experiences and enhance learning and knowledge,” says AWT founder and director, Goretti Kyomuhendo.

That this year’s training is facilitated by award-winning UK-born Zambian author Ellen Banda-Aaku, whose first novel Patchwork, won the 2010 Penguin Prize for African Writing, tells much about the determination to help Ugandan writers write internationally competitive books.

Ms Banda was joined by Dr Susan Kiguli of Makerere University’s Literature Department and Ms Kyomuhendo, herself a holder of a Masters degree in creative writing and author of well-known novels like The First Daughter (1996), Secrets No More (1999), and Waiting (2007).

This is the second AWT workshop in Uganda. Last year’s was facilitated by UK-born Nigerian award-winning author Sade Adeniran who worked with young emerging writers from Ugandan universities.This year, the AWT is continuing with those students alongside other independent writers who certainly can do with help from their more learned and experienced counterparts in the Diaspora, on how to find a publisher in the developed world, get a literary agent and generally write a work of compelling quality.

The winner of the inaugural BN Poetry Awards (2008) Lillian Aujo, says she now has better insight into creative writing, and is foraying into short-story and novel writing, thanks to her participation in both British Council-Femrite and AWT workshops, while blogger Ishta Nandi called her participation in the AWT workshop “a major milestone” because it not only got her work evaluated and critiqued but also helped her learn that it’s not enough to have talent; “you actually have to work; make the time to write and rewrite” till the work meets the best standards.

Ms Kyomuhendo says it’s a good time for African works today because their demand in America and Europe is high if they pass the test of quality, the kind of quality those participating in these literary meet-ups are hopefully attaining, and the kind of quality that will reawaken the greatly missed golden era of Ugandan literature.

--Saturday Monitor, November 19, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

To co-exist we must love


Winning the 2010 Penguin Prize for African Writing should tell you about the overall quality and relevance of Patchwork, but of particular fascination to me is its visual appeal and intensity.

Zambian/British author Ellen Banda Aaku explores the realities and complexities of life in the Lusaka of the late 1970s in which the book is set; realities and complexities that are bound to resonate in your mind as well because they epitomise today’s experience in most of Africa. She writes in the present simple tense, employing a vivid and fast-paced style that might make you think you’re watching a movie.

The 216-page novel is narrated in the First Person by Pumpkin from when she is a child to when she becomes an adult. It opens with her as a nine-year-old living alone with her alcoholic mother whose affair with the bottle comes to an end when her beloved Pumpkin is taken away and dumped at her stepmother’s. She begins life afresh; marries Uncle Oscar and brings Pumpkin to live with them again.

In the second part of the book, Pumpkin is a successful, western-educated architect of 31, so insecurely married to a structural engineer named Tembo that she employs everything including her fists and sharp nails to pound and scratch the young woman she suspects to want to wreck her marriage by snatching the father of her two children.

From early on, the volume crackles with wit and humour that made my reading experience worthwhile. Seeing how little Bee infuriates Pumpkin following an argument over whose Dad is more important: “Anyway, me, what I know is that every ‘uman on this earth is same,” she says. “Every man, he go toilet. And whether man is white, blue, green, rich, poor, he shit. And when he shit, his shit smell!”

How about this: “The car wipers squeak rhythmically as they swipe at the raindrops that trickle down the windscreen like tears. Sometimes I imagine that the tears we cry on earth rain down on a world somewhere below us.”

As it is, Patchwork is more a story of Pumpkin and her father Joseph Sakavungo, a self-made millionaire and shameless braggart and philanderer that very much reminds me of Kosiya Kifefe in Arthur Gakwandi’s novel by that title. Sakavungo endures poverty and early rejection. At one point he slept alone in a dorm meant for six because, “No one wanted to share a room with someone from a tribe that was only fit to empty buckets from pit latrines. I was a shit-carrier. That’s what they called us.”

He gets the last laugh though, and boasts: “Life has a way of coming full circle. The same people that refused to share a room with me come to me today, asking for loans. And you know what? I give them…I give them the money and look them straight in the face.”

Sakavungo shares with Kifefe a matchless weakness for women and both are incapable of making emotional sacrifices or taking responsibility for the pain they inflict on others, thinking money and power is all that matters. They rise from nothing to great wealth and join politics only to die before they fully relish its benefits (Kosiya dies celebrating his ministerial appointment and Sakavungo dies after losing a presidential election).

Overall, Banda-Aaku’s first novel is about a political and morally decadent society bustling with unloved children –a result of broken homes. The gulf between the rich and the poor is irreconcilable, prostitution and drunkardness, violence and betrayal rule, old men prey on young girls causing teenage pregnancies, alienation and death. Talk of street brawls and episodes of bravado as women nearly pluck out each other’s eyes over men, and go as far as settling their scores through witchcraft. And the imperialist is still blamed for all the adversities in the land. As a line on the cover sums it up, “this novel is a patchwork of love, jealousy and human frailty set against a backdrop of war and political ambition.”

It evokes the need to face the good and the ugly, and teaches that to coexist we must love. Patchwork was launched in Kampala on Thursday October 27, by the African Writers Trust.

--Saturday Monitor, November 12, 2011

A passionate evening of literature


Fine readings and edifying jokes from the cream of the Ugandan literati distinguished the public reading occasion at the Uganda Museum last Thursday.

Organised by the African Writers Trust (AWT) with support from the British Council Uganda, the literary evening was a culmination of two writing workshops from AWT to upcoming writers selected from three universities (Makerere, Kyambogo and Uganda Christian University Mukono) and independent writers –not attached to any academic institution or writing organisation, that for two weeks were offered professional writing skills with emphasis on the importance of words and mastering their chosen language of creativity.

“We at AWT share the same values with British Council Uganda, of promotion of literature, writing and language,” said AWT director Goretti Kyomuhendo, who founded AWT in 2009 to bring together African writers on the continent and the Diaspora to foster learning and information sharing.

Ms Kyomuhendo said today’s generation of writers are lucky they can easily meet acclaimed authors and get inspired. In her time, she said, it was difficult because there were few literary organisations and events that would attract writers or lecturers of writing like Doreen Baingana, Glaydah Namukasa, Sr. Dominic Dipio, Dr Patrick Mangeni, Dr Susan Kiguli, Dr Richard Watulo and British-Zambian writer Ellen Banda-Aaku, who were all in the house. She evoked laughter when she admitted the first time she met Chinua Achebe in 1999, she asked if she could touch him!
“AWT is keen to extend the impact of these workshops with more mentoring activities, and we plan to publish the stories generated during the workshops,” she said.

Excerpts from creative works produced during the workshops were read out to the guests, who savoured every bit judging by the applause the readers received. These were completely varied pieces but all touching on the theme of childhood memory, stories written compellingly because they were drawn from experiences well remembered.

“In our neighbourhood, you did not have friends if you did not have money…” began Ishta Nandi’s story while Sophie Bamwoyeraki’s poem, A Handful of Fresh Leaves reminisces about the radio bringing “into our homes Donna Summer and Abba…”
Ishta Nandi reads, with Ellen Banda-Aaku keenly watching while Goretti Kyomuhendo is engrossed in her papers. Next to Banda-Aaku is British Council Uganda boss Hugh Moffat.

And you will never believe Umeme’s not afraid of writers! Just when Irene Kahunde of U.C.U. was reading The Bubble, there was a blackout. British Council Uganda Director Hugh Moffatt slipped away and returned with two candles.

“Fantastic! Now we’ve a candle-lit reading,” cooed Doreen Baingana who was seated behind me.

Meanwhile a generator was powered, and soon all eyes were on the workshops leader and star of the night, Ellen Banda-Aaku as she read two extracts from her novel Patchwork, winner of the 2010 Penguin Prize for African Writing.

Banda-Aaku who has also published three children’s books and holds a master’s degree in creative writing, is the winner of the first AWT Fellowship for which she will spend six weeks in Uganda mentoring more university student writers, and crown it all by leading the November 14 to 25 Femrite Regional Writers Conference alongside our own literary superstar Baingana, that will have writers from South Africa, Namibia, Tunisia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

Patchwork was launched in Uganda that night, and Banda-Aaku said words that every hungry young writer present returned home with: “We should have the passion to write, the ability to persevere and the professionalism to excel.”

--Saturday Monitor, November 12, 2011

Hotsteps breathes life into boring evenings


We were having a good time on the evening of Independence Day when one of us, Britter, excused herself saying she couldn’t miss Hotsteps. She didn’t know it but what she did was a big statement at the magnetising power of the reality danceshow.

With local content on our small screens continuing to be paltry, Hotsteps was seemingly birthed to save the day, though its great reception has everything to do with the professionalism behind it, and its great promise to the talented who may not have the knack for academics, or have with a profound love for dancing as well. Ask Season I winner, Antonio Bukhar who has since maximised his fame and fortune to open his own dance studio where he’s said to be minting a lot more.

Yes, with the ultimate prize of Shs10m, the competition is fiercer than ever, with the dancers bringing rarer novelty and nimbleness and dynamism to the dance floor. And with judges –Roger Mugisha of KFM (who I hear was a dexterous dancer back in his heyday) and Ronnie Mulindwa (the man whose face is synonymous with growth of modern dance in Uganda thanks for starting the Obsessions dance troupe) –doing everything to keep the competitors busy and viewers glued to their screens.

It all started with regional auditions, where the most hilarious and absurd parodies of what is watched in American music videos, the craziest stunts and dance moves are to be witnessed. And you know what after? The Facebookers delivered their own verdict –that the people of western Uganda simply cannot dance!

Anyhow, those that were lucky to make the cut, are pulling out their best because the fourth season has no room for commonplace footwork. And the hotsteppers know it because they are pulling out their best. And with the variety of dances –foreign and local – and the glut of exceptional moves, the viewer cannot help but get mesmerised.

Catch the Hotsteps on NTV every Sunday at 8p.m.

--Saturday Monitor, October 12, 2011

News broadcasts leave alot to be desired


There’s an irritating practice that has infiltrated Uganda’s broadcast industry and is becoming acceptable unless it’s dealt a fatal blow once and for all. It’s understandable that more news items are sourced from the local community where the degree of literacy and English comprehension is scanty, but if you are going to mix two languages in the same newscast use subtitles. If it’s English news at 1pm, then don’t adulterate it with Luganda because not every viewer is bilingual in English and Luganda.

It does not stop there. Sometimes the wrong video clip for the right news item is shown, not forgetting this tendency of showing complicated graphs when dealing with issues of national interest, and indecipherable shapes when it comes to weather forecasts. This makes you gasp at the faith our news managers have in the comprehension of the average Ugandan viewer!

More flabbergasting though is news anchors losing their breaths and stumbling over words even when the news presentation is not live. Editors and producers need to work closely with reporters to ensure stories are well-written, well-edited, well-packaged, and to approve all content before it’s aired.

Evidently, more journalists should be deployed to cover related angles especially when reporting on national concerns like load-shedding, striking public servants and oil contracts. But in our typical broadcast industry, multitasking has gone down the drain whereby reporters are made to record their scripts, edit, assemble them and sometimes anchor the news all in one. No wonder the bloopers are seemingly endless.

Although NTV and WBS try to beam the best graphics/pictures to add visual appeal to and enhance the viewer’s understanding of the relayed content, while others are dismally limping so much that their footage is there to serve the purpose of merely filling airtime!

As it is, the moving pictures (action) makes television the most powerful source of news. So content managers and reporters must strive, always, for excellence and professionalism. Take off time and pick a lesson or two from how those BBC/CNN professionals approach and execute general reportage.

--Saturday Monitor, September 24, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It’s all about guts


In the “haven of peace” that is Dar es Salaam, is the Benjamin William Mkapa Pension Tower, the tallest skyscraper in this commercial capital of Tanzania that houses the famous Paradise City Hotel. The hotel is owned by a Ugandan entrepreneur, Justus Baguma, who at the height of the East African community talk in 2003, stepped on Tanzanian soil, and two years later, established the four-star hotel after leasing the multi-million US dollar complex from Tanzania’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

Hotel magnate Mr. Justus Baguma in his office in Dar
“I love to serve and I love good things,” Mr Baguma reveals the drive behind his hotel business. “I have lived in most expensive hotels and I always wanted to own mine, and today, I employ about 200 people in this country.”

Chanced meet
On a business trip to Tanzania early this year, I booked into the 72-suite hotel, clueless it’s owned by a Ugandan. On the third day of my stay, I jumped into the lift to go to my room on the sixth floor, and therein met a man who greeted me politely and asked how I was finding it at the hotel. With the ergonomic facilities I had enjoyed from day one, and the fantastic continental breakfast I had just consumed and the sweet smile of waitress that served me still etched on my mind, I found myself saying: “This place’s sure a paradise away from home!”

Turns out, I was speaking to the managing director of the hotel himself! And when he learned I’m Ugandan, he shook my hand excitedly, and invited me to his office where we spoke, like long-lost-finally-reunited-buddies, on life back home.

Ingredients to success
From his unassuming and friendly disposition, it was easy to figure out why it’s difficult for such a man to fail. Baguma is a “man of the people” who prefers “dealing with ordinary people because they can be trained and trusted to do a better job than professional managers that always walk out on you.”

The husky-voiced hotelier was born in Mbarara, 62 years ago, and studied business at Kyambogo. In 1986, he went to the United Kingdom for a Masters degree in Business Studies.

“A rocky road to success, rags to riches –that’s me,” he says quietly. “I’m a self-made man. I believe in hard work. I believe in comparing notes and I believe in challenges.”

The greatest ingredient to success, he said, is guts. The guts to take tough decisions, the guts not to quit when the going gets rough. Blunders characterised his early business days. “I used to get excited,” he confesses, “I would involve people in all sorts of business ventures without doing thorough research. We would lose all our money and they would blame me. That was my major challenge until I decided to do it alone.”

In 2001, Baguma attempted to bring McDonalds, the American fast food chain to Uganda, but it didn’t work. He retreated to the drawing board and made another strategy that birthed Paradise City Hotel. He uses the metaphor of death to describe the investment mistakes from which the real business men rise to make it.

Experience has also taught him that generosity is invaluable. “Someone comes and says ‘I want to stay here, but I don’t have that kind of money.’ What do you do? You have workers to pay, and rent, but you look at the empty room and give him accommodation.”

And when he begins to talk about God, in the success equation, you might mistake him for a pastor as this paragraph demonstrates. “God is one and we are all his children and when we seek Him diligently, He’ll be able to answer our prayers. I’ve tried to do things my way, depending on myself, and it doesn’t work. But when I’ve tried Him, I’ve seen doors open. I see His hand of protection and mercy doing things for me.”

With oil on home soil, Baguma plans to spreads his investment wings to Uganda. “Tanzania is governed without tribal differences and I pray Uganda forgets about ethnic boundaries and unites toward the development of this country. What should unite us is one thing; one God. God is love. Bring love closer, you can even invest in Russia or anywhere in the world. You give love you’ll be given love. Instability is a setback to development.”

Outside business and playing golf, the hotel magnate tries to find time to bond with his wife, Eulogia, a fashion designer. “She has been an inspiration in bringing our six children in a manner that’s expected and admirable. That in itself has been a big support on my side because if I had worries here and there, worries at home, I would not be here. I thank God because He has been able to protect us, guide and increase us in wisdom.”

The interview ends with his word to fellow businessmen. “If you know you’ve made yourself a successful entrepreneur, you need to fight day and night not to lose it. Once you lose it, it’s over.”

---Sunday Monitor, October 23, 2011

Ssali, Ssekamate and Kabuleta are spot on


Tonight is the night the Uganda Cranes must break the 34-year barrier and whup the Harambee Stars to qualify for the African Cup of Nations next year! This was the preeminent subject of discussion on WBS’s Sport On programme last Sunday.

Show host Mark Ssali and his team of analysts Joseph Kabuleta and Allan Sekamate, have earned their plaudits as Uganda’s best sports pundits, with Ssali sometimes hired by the BBC. Forget the misleading paroxysms of most Luganda sports commentators that shout “goal” when there is no goal!

Ssali, Kabuleta and Ssekamate know their game inside out and have actually transformed sports journalism in Uganda into a fun thing with their upbeat commentary and articulate on-field experiences.

And during their Sunday show, they advised our players not to panic when they, God forbid, concede an early goal, but to attack more and strive for victory no matter what. They also have to aim for an early lead, and do their best to protect it to the last whistle.

Ugandan soccer maniacs are known to be overtly critical, but Kabuleta said we must for once forget all that tonight because tonight is the night that Uganda Cranes need us like never before. We must yell, scream, ululate, dance and blow all the trumpets we can in support of our players. As Ssekamate avidly put it, “The adrenalin of the crowds has been known to inspire players to play their best game and deliver goals.”

Good thing nothing jazzes the Ugandan like soccer, and so far so good. Everywhere you turn: on the radio, on TV, in a taxi, and even on the streets, you hear the deafening chorus of “We go we go! Uganda Cranes we go! We’ve to win we go!” with many already clad in yellow jerseys written on Uganda in the most visible show of patriotism to be witnessed in the recent past.

More good news, UBC has mounted its cameras and will be bringing the game live to the viewer that will not be at Nambole. The overall anticipation fits Grantland Rice’s observation that “the drama of sport is a big part of the drama of life, and the scope of this drama is endless.” Be sure to catch the best after-match review and analysis on WBS’s Sport-On tomorrow night after the 9pm news.

--Saturday Monitor, October 8, 2011

Entertainment show hosts need to up their game


Talking show business on the small screen, it is pretty much predictable that every week, there’s almost nothing to look forward to. From WBS’s Showtime Magazine to NBS’s Pundonor Magazine and NTV’s Login, these shows revolve around the same storyline. Could be Moses Golola flaunting Sharon O’s handbag, Sean Kingston hitting town, Chameleon becoming Gadaffi, or Bebe Cool and Bobi Wine staging shows on the same day in a bid to see who still pulls the crowds.

My editor thinks I should be a little more positive, but how can I when the bulk of entertainment fans that have already had enough of this stuff in the gossip pages of newspapers and on the internet, are subjected to the same stuff by these show-hosts, moreover, mostly, delivered superficially; in synthetic sing-song voices with plastic smiles and forced accents!

Sometimes, the viewer is forced to mute the volume of the telly and be content watching those pretty things that haunt these entertainment scenes in a quest for fame or the thrill of rubbing shoulders with Uganda’s “happening” celebrities. Evidently most of them get a kick out of appearing on the front page of smut tabloids smooching with that one-hit wonder whose song still rules the local charts.

Seriously, our showbiz presenters need to up their game. NBS’s host of Pundonor, Precious Mable has a certain sweetness and naturalness about her except she desperately needs the services of a smart script-writer, plus she needs to polish up her interviewing skills.

Susan Nava who hosts Login every Tuesday night (after the 9:30pm news) is endowed with such looks and a honeyed voice that will keep you glued to the show, or “logged in”! She laughs a lot though, and most of that laughter is mechanical. Slow down girl, you have chemistry with the camera, and your flow is desirable. I like the one-on-one segment, plus the way you do that “Hear’Say” which is all about celebrity local and international gossip, sets the pace.

The show needs to be extended by at least five minutes so that the producers don’t have to run through the snapshots all in a bid to show a modicum on everything that happen in the entertainment week. Overall, ‘Login’ remains that ray of hope; a show worth “loggin’ in” without missing. If not for anything, at least catch Nava’s end-show trademark: “I’m your host Nava, thank you for watching…I’m login’ out!”

--Saturday Monitor, October 1, 2011

Baingana returns home to share literary experience


There’s probably no contemporary Ugandan fiction writer as decorated as Doreen Baingana. Her clout has everything to do with her 2006 Commonwealth literary prize winner for Africa –Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe –a collection of six linked stories about three sisters and the divergences that characterise their life journey. This nostalgic work is not only a captivating commentary on what makes people take different paths in life but equally embodies the quality and maturity of writing, rare in Ugandan works.
A year after garnering the prestigious accolade, Baingana packed her bags and returned home from the US where she had lived for over a decade. I bumped into her at a Femrite writers’ workshop in 2008 and she told me she was crafting her first novel. Soon after, she disappeared from the radar, leaving her tantalised readers anxiously waiting for the promised novel.

It’s the same mysteriousness with which she vanished that she resurfaced at the opening of this year’s Femrite literary week in July. Turns out she had been working in Nairobi as Managing Editor at Story Moja. It is evident how much the Kenyan experience has changed her. The heavy and withdrawn Baingana of 2008 is today a radiantly lean and effervescent woman that gladly obliged to strike me a ‘seductive’ pose when it was time to take her picture.

When we met at the National Theatre restaurant for this interview, she had come in from a swimming session and told me how crazy she’s about dancing. The single mother of a three-year-old son loves her independence, and says writing is such a consuming passion –the reason she will not marry. Still, I could not help thinking how slow we Ugandan men must be that none has swept this urbane and erudite beauty off her feet and charmed her into changing her stance on marriage.

Well, Baingana is back home as the new Chairperson of Femrite. All eyes will be on how she will apply her literary expertise and global experience to improve the quality of the overall output of Uganda’s most active literary organisation and help take home-baked literature to the mountaintop.

She's pro the theory that “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration” –her unflagging belief being that quality does not come by osmosis but through passion and a willingness to read widely and work hard enough. That she is particularly inspired by the works of African-American writer Toni Morrison, the first black woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature (1993) is another pointer to the lyrical prose and literary profundity she wants Femrite writers to strive for.

Born in Entebbe, Baingana left the country in 1989 for Italy from where the process of putting words together in form of letters to her family stirred the writer in her with such intensity that she has never really disentangled herself. When she went to study and live in the US, she hounded poetry sessions; fascinated by the sheer beauty and intricacies of that genre. She also links her love of writing to the “wonderful times at Gayaza High School where teachers made books alive and showed us how to relate to our lives.”

The rest you have heard it all; how she shelved her law degree for fiction; weaving works with moving storylines and a rare spark of originality that her contemporaries could only dream about. To understand her literary sway, you have to peek at her trophy trove which includes the Association of Writers & Writing Prize (AWP) for Short Fiction, the Washington Independent Writers’ Fiction Prize, on top of the Commonwealth Prize, and cake all that with her 10 years as an editor for Voice of America (V.O.A).

With all that distinction and exposure, it comes as potent news for patriots and books freaks alike that Baingana resigned her job at Story Moja and returned home “for good” because “I love my country; east, west home is best, and I wanted to bring up my child in Uganda –he has already learned the national anthem!” Also, her preoccupations were making it impossible for her to focus on full-time writing, which is now doing on top of part-time editing.

She was commissioned by the Chinua Achebe Centre for African Writers to write a travelogue about Somaliland, but she is also working on a fictionalised account of a female rebel leader: “I am interested in how she manoeuvres her way to the top position in a male domain such as war; particularly what goes inside her head –the psychological underpinning.”

This could be the book she promised in 2008, the book by which her novel-writing competences will be gauged, or will she continue to be distinguished for the luster and force of her short stories?

--Saturday Monitor,  October 1, 2001