Uganda Best of Blogs update

Josh at Global Voices just posted a mini-review of the eight blogs nominated for Uganda Blog of the Year, which is excellently written and serves as a neat little guide for those of you who haven't voted for the Uganda Best of Blogs awards yet (or for those of you who are new to the Ugandan blogosphere and want to check out some of the best examples).

Some people have voiced concerns about the fairness of the voting process — specifically that you can vote once each day, which means that someone with unfettered internet access and the will to win could, theoretically, vote him or herself to the top.

I modelled our system after the South African Blog Awards, which allow voting each day. JKB pointed out that the Canadian Blog Awards do the same thing. So do the Asia Blog Awards, the Business Blog Awards, the Deaf Blog Awards and the Weblog Awards. The way I see it, if you're dedicated enough to vote every day, then you must be a pretty serious blogger — well done, you.

There are only eleven days left to vote for the 2006 Uganda Best of Blog awards. Have at it.

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imagine the google search results this will get me

When I think of pleasant ways to spend a Sunday afternoon in Uganda, listening to a six-year-old sing karaoke to “My Heart Will Go On” while watching a man hack an entire roast pig to pieces with a machete in preparation for a cock fight isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

But when in Uganda, do as the Filipinos do (that's what I always say). I was escorted to this whizbang of a socio-cultural experience by my new friend Richard, to whom I was introduced this weekend thusly:

“This is Richard! Tomorrow, he’s going to show us his cock!”

Intrigued, both by the introduction and by the way this small man reminded me of Seth Green in Can’t Hardly Wait, I befriended him and scored an invitation to what turned out to be his distant relative’s baptism celebration, which, he told me ecstatically, wouldn’t be complete without a traditional Filipino cock fight.

Sunday morning saw me barreling down Entebbe Road in a car driven by a hungover Japanese ex-supermodel, listening to Richard explain the finer technicalities of the legal status of cockfighting in Uganda.

“The cocks are so big in my country,” he informed me proudly. “So the police here, they cannot trap us. Our embassy told the government about the cocks, and they said, if we have the cockfight in private, it’s okay.”

Thus assured, I arrived at the house of Richard’s relative, too late for the baptism but just in time for the karaoke. Richard regaled the crowd with a few songs in Tagalog before relinquishing the microphone to a little girl who proceeded to alternate between Madonna and Celine Dion for the next twenty minutes.

Then came lunch, announced by the ceremonious rolling-out of an entire spit-roasted pig. The head was hacked off to cheers and continued karaoke, pork juices flying across the dining room and landing on the carpet and, occasionally, on innocent bystanders – a true symphony of sights, sounds and sensations.

After lunch we went outside to examine the cocks. Richard explained the differences between local, Texan and Filipino cocks (“These local cocks, they are weak. The ones from Texas are aggressive, but the cocks we have in my country, they are clever!”), and I was persuaded by a chain-smoking man with gold teeth to pose for a picture with his cock. “This will make the New Vision,” he promised me, though the captions I was imagining seemed more fit for the Red Pepper.

As the weighing and sizing of cocks for the first fight began, I was struck by how serious of an event this actually is. I assumed one simply threw a couple of roosters into the ring and let them have at it until one of them gave it up in a burst of blood and feathers, but the procedure is much more complex.

First the cocks are thoroughly examined for injuries. Their owners then swap cocks to inspect their opponents, ensuring that both are approximately the same shape and size. Then the cocks are given to the cockmasters, who strap a scythe-looking blade onto the left foot of each competitor (“All cocks are left-handed,” Richard tells me).

The owners step into the ring with their cocks tucked under their armpits. Each cock is given the chance to peck at the neck of the other before they are set on the ground, facing each other. And then it begins, with the squawking and the flapping and the slashing. It lasts approximately 30 seconds, or until one of the cocks is too battered and limp to continue.

I was ready to go after the first fight, but Richard and his countrymen were loving this — 50,000 shilling notes and hundred dollar bills were flashing around like confetti, and I learned that some gamblers can earn as much as $1000 a week if they choose the right cocks. I refrained from betting, suspecting that the protection afforded the Filipinos by their embassy may not extend to me (and also a bit hesitant to place my money on a cock who, if I picked wrongly, may shortly meet his maker).

After a few more rounds, I left Richard to his cocks and returned to the relative safety of Kampala, where I spent the rest of the day trying to ward off the images of bleeding cocks that were assaulting my brain. While I appreciate Richard's enthusiasm in sharing what is obviously a very important part of his culture, I think I'll stay away from any future offers to accompany him to events involving bloodsports.

For those who aren't so opposed: research today uncovered advertisements for the International 8-Cock Derby and this gallery of fighting cocks.


the united nations of this rap...stuff

The violence in Karamoja is likely the biggest forgotten, neglected part of what has been called the biggest forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world. Both UPDF soldiers and rebels have been accused of gross human rights violations, drought is sweeping the northeast, and the violence has gotten so bad that the night commuter phenomenon, previously restricted to areas under LRA attack, is spreading to the region.

Amidst it all, there is hope — in the form of a hip-hop duo called the Rocky Boyz Crew. Ugly-Unit and Legless, its two young members, aim to promote unity and reverse negative perceptions of Karamoja through their music.

Another hip-hop artist in Kampala is doing the same thing. Abramz, a rapper and breakdancer, works in Nsambya, Gulu and Mbale to encourage at-risk youth to work together for social change through Breakdance Project Uganda.

I met Abramz at the Global Kimeeza II conference last month, and his passion for both his art and his work made my insides all smooshy (in a good way). If anyone knows how I can get in touch with the Rocky Boyz Crew and beg them to let me hang out with them for a few days, let me know.

Jay-Z may think he's the UN of this rap shit, but he clearly hasn't met these guys.

EDIT: Ariaka's right. "Rebels" is the term the UPDF has applied to armed Karamojong, who some would argue are protecting their land, cattle and/or families against government attacks.

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possibly crossing the line into stalker territory...

...but when a trusted friend sends you a link with no explanation, you open it up, right? And if, when you open up said link, it happens to lead to the the Friendster profile of a writer with whom you're literarily infatuated, you can't just ignore something like that. Right?

You read it, of course.

And you find out that someone thinks, "Tom is 100% grade-A Midwestern man-meat."

And that, my friends, is just too good to pass up.

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February UBHH

Last night's Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour was attended by almost 20 people, both bloggers and the blog-curious. As Dennis says, we were sitting at an L-shaped table, which for some reason inhibited my picture-taking desires, but Pernille has an interesting photo up.

Nominations for the 2006 Uganda Best of Blogs awards are in, the results have been tallied, and the candidates are listed for your voting pleasure. Awards will be presented at the March UBHH, which will be on Thursday, March 15 at 6:30 PM at Mateo's. My apologies to the few of you who asked for different days/venues — the consensus seems to be that the current time and place works best for most people. If I'm wrong, hit the comments below and let me know.

Thanks to everyone who came last night. It was great to see the returnees and meet those who came for the first time (including the Peace Corps volunteer we attracted with our fetching sign):
Star of Bethlehem
A Crooked Mile
I've Left Copenhagen for Uganda
Uganda Scarlett Lion
K Spencer
Ivan (200 Coin Has Fish)
Dying Communist
Mark & Jan
Building the Nation

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2006 Uganda Best of Blogs

Nominations for the Uganda Best of Blog awards are in. Voting will take place between now and midnight on Saturday, March 10. Awards will be presented at the Happy Hour on Thursday, March 15. Vote, tell your friends to vote, and check back to see how your choices are doing.

Thanks to everyone who submitted nominations. Some categories didn't get enough nominations, so I've eliminated the in Uganda/out of Uganda distinction and combined those nominations with the Blog of the Year category, expanding the choices from 5 to 8 to accomodate everyone who got more than one shout-out. Congratulations to the nominees!

All nominations are in alphabetical order. Here goes....

Voting for the 2006 Uganda Best of Blogs is now closed. Come to Happy Hour on Thursday, March 15 at 6:30 PM at Mateo's for the awards.

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breaking news: Ugandan VP drives home

The Daily Monitor reported today that Vice President Gilbert Bukenya drove himself home last Friday. This is not the first time the VP has flagrantly disregarded his security squad: in December he went, unsupervised, to the gym.

Another star example of this week's African media: Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo defended his People's Democratic Party presidential candidate Alhaji Musa Umar Yar'Adua against rumors of ill health using the infallible logic, "Can somebody with one kidney play squash?"

Last one: Ghana's Accra Mail declared that smuggling in Ghana is decreasing. The cause? Police efforts to decrease smuggling.

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Lots of goodies this week. Commenting on them all would take more time than I have, but I want to put them out there for discussion:
  • Country Boi makes an excellent point in his comment on my post about blogging and anonymity. He's right — blogging is self-publication, which means that you're never entirely anonymous. Even if you blog under an assumed name and keep personal details off your site, you're still putting your opinions in the public sphere. This gives anyone license to debate and reference these opinions and anything else you post using your pseudonym, which is exactly what Dennis did in his article — he didn't connect anyone's pseudonym with their real name if that name isn't published in connection with the blog.

    That doesn't mean I don't take issue with some other things in the article, of which I'm only going to mention a few: The majority of bloggers do not use pseudonyms (in fact, only 28.7% do, while 92% reveal detailed personal information). Not all comment threads degenerate into snide blame-throwing. Above all: my name is not, nor has it ever been, Jack Fruity.

  • LeftVegDrunk has an brilliant post about obstacles to peace in Uganda. Go. Read. Comment.

  • There's an all-female peacekeeping unit in Liberia (via Congogirl)

  • Uganda and Southern Sudan are signing a bilateral trade agreement. Way to through more fuel on the fire of the LRA's complaints.

  • The Daily Monitor's reporting that the UK planned to assassinate Amin at the 1977 CHOGM. Isn't that old news?

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the hour of our discontent

The first rumblings started here, with feezee's remarkably eloquent comment about the Uganda Best of Blogs awards. Then Pea had a little something to say, Dennis D. Muhumuza worked his magic in the Daily Monitor, Minty chimed in, and now everyone's talking about it: should Ugandan bloggers stay in their own, private corners, or should we out ourselves and come together offline?

My opinion on this one is obvious — I've been pushing hard for the BOB awards and UBHH. And since I've been encouraging more interaction, more debate and more openness among Ugandan bloggers, I feel like it's time to, you know, do that. So here goes.

I get the need for privacy. I understand that there are things you could never say to your closest friends but have to say to the world. I know the fear of being outed, of losing your anonymity, of having your innermost thoughts suddenly exposed. It's happened to me, and the results weren't pretty — rebuilding the relationships that were damaged when people I knew read what I'd been thinking in secret was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

A study done in 2004 showed that 42% of bloggers almost never reveal their identities online, and 36% have gotten in trouble for something they wrote on their blogs. I value the freedom to say what you want online without offline retribution (provided you're not inciting riots or calling for murder), and I will never criticize those who treasure their online privacy. My intention with the BOB awards and the Ugandan Bloggers Happy Hours is not to force the spotlight onto anyone who would rather remain anonymous (UBHH guests: I went through the photos and deleted those that showed the faces of anyone who asked me to protect their privacy). If you don't want your blog involved in the awards, just e-mail me and let me know so I can take you out of the running.

That said, I believe there is great value to be found in publicizing Ugandan bloggers and the Ugandan blogging community. Through the first UBHH my knowledge of Ugandan blogs quintupled. Nominations are coming in for the BOB awards, and I find it encouraging that so many of us are paying attention to what each other has to say. We're talking more: we're arguing, but we're also learning and laughing. Isn't the point of posting your thoughts on the internet, anonymously or otherwise, to get them read? To start conversations? That's why we post comments and link to each other.

Bloggers all over the world, from Houston to Delhi to Cape Town, are meeting up. They're talking about identity, censorship, media, technology and creativity, among other things. They're telling their stories and making their voices heard, and I think that's a wonderful thing — something Uganda deserves and is highly capable of doing. That's why I helped start UBHH, and that's why I created the Uganda BOB awards.

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In which I agree with the LRA

It's common knowledge by now that the Lord's Resistance Army have pulled out of the Juba Peace Talks for what feels like the 8027th time, demanding that they be moved to Kenya or South Africa or God knows where, accusing Riek Machar and Sudan of being "Uganda's allies."

My gut reaction: more sabre-rattling? More political blustering? Haven't we had enough? Suck it up and get your asses down to work, gentlemen.

But then I thought about it, and in approximately two seconds, I realized that I am an incredible idiot. It goes back to Deborah Scroggins.

Who had the balls foolish audacity to appoint a senior member of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army as mediator of the peace talks between the LRA and the GoU? The basics of any "history-of-the-conflict-in-thirty-seconds" go like this: LRA = bad. Sudan supports LRA, which also = bad. SPLA fights Sudan, which therefore = good. SPLA = good, and LRA = bad, so GoU supports SPLA.

Again: who's hairbrained idea was it for Machar to be the one mediating? There isn't even the pretense of neutrality — regardless of whether or not this nutshell-sized-version of the last twenty years is accurate (and Debbie would most likely argue that it's not), public perception is that this man owes at least some of his current power to Museveni's administration.

Of all of the complaints the LRA has lodged since the beginning of the talks six months ago, this is actually legitimate. Which means that I find myself in a rather precarious position: I agree with the LRA. Debbie, love, what have you done to me?

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UBHH: Intelligent. Witty. Sexy. Occasionally ridiculous.

The February Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour will be held on Thursday, February 15 at 6:30 PM at Mateo's (above Nando's on Kampala Road, Kampala). Happy Hour is the last chance to turn in your nominations for the 2006 Uganda Best of Blogs, so don't miss out! (If Valentine's Day takes its toll on you and you absolutely can't make it, you can e-mail your nominations to me at

As always, bring your friends, your charm, and your political manifestos. (Despite your many insistent offers, I kindly request that you leave your jackfruit at home.)

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