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.

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.)

the importance of blogging in Uganda

Earlier this week, White African featured an interview with Neville Newey, creator of the Reddit-esque African social bookmarking site Muti. I think Newey, in addition to having an awesome name, is doing great things, and I agreed with every point he made in his interview until he answered the last question: What are your thoughts on the impact of blogging in Africa?

Newey claims blogging in Africa isn’t as influential as blogging in North America because news here is less frequently corporately owned, and therefore more independent, than it is there. I would argue that media in Africa is heavily censored — if not by corporations, then definitely by governments.* In Uganda, the New Vision is clearly Museveni’s plaything, and Blake Lambert (a Canadian journalist who was expelled from Uganda last year) has an excellent piece up at the Sub-Saharan African Roundtable about the numerous instances of media repression by African governments over the past year.

Blogs in Africa give their authors an opportunity to express views that aren’t being covered in the regular media. Sokari Ekine at Pambazuka News agrees: “African blogs have been able to challenge governments on issues such as corruption, human rights, economic policy and social justice in their respective countries (often anonymously) in ways that could not have been possible without risking arrest or harassment in the past.”

My thoughts on the impact of blogging in Africa? Many of the blogs that do exist are shaping the way people think and contributing to major debates in their countries — just look at Sub-Saharan African Roundtable or Weichegud. In 2006 the number of blogs on the continent doubled, and the number of blogs written by women quadrupled. The reason blogging isn’t as popular as it is in North America is simple — on a continent where fewer than 2% of the population has access to internet and only 70% is literate, creating and sustaining a thriving blogosphere is difficult. Still, I’m happy with the rate at which the African blogging community is growing, and I believe that as technology becomes more widely available, we’ll see bloggers influencing their societies just as much as their North American counterparts are.

*Paranoia (and the urge to mention his name) compels me to restate that the Daily Monitor and East African, the other two major English-language newspapers in Uganda, both belong to Aga Khan.

EDIT: Speaking of emerging blogging technology, I just found this post by Revence at Communist Socks and Boots. He blogged from the January UBHH using his cell phone. Way cool.

First Annual Uganda Best of Blogs

At last week’s Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour, I may at one point have been so overcome with spirited enthusiasm that I declared an upcoming blogging competition without real regard to who would organize, sponsor or regulate such a competition.


Not one to disappoint, I’ve decided to take on this (joyful, weightless) burden. It’s time to recognize the talented writing, creative design and spirited community that is the Ugandan blogosphere.

The first annual Uganda Best of Blogs competition is now open for nominations in the following categories:

  • Ugandan blog of the year — open to any blog written by a Ugandan or focusing on Uganda
  • Best post — The single best piece in the Ugandan blogosphere
  • Best blog in Uganda — Written by anyone living in Uganda in 2006
  • Best overseas Ugandan blog — Any Uganda-focused or Ugandan-authored blog written in a foreign country
  • Best writing — Intelligent, witty, feisty, eloquent or just plain funny
  • Best design — Best overall design and layout
  • Best photography — Best photo taken by a Ugandan blogger and posted on his or her blog

To be considered for the 2006 Uganda BOB awards, blogs must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Have dated entries
  • Have existed at some point during 2006
  • Be written by a Ugandan, by a non-Ugandan living in Uganda, or be focused on Uganda

Nominations are open from now until Thursday, February 15 at 11:59 PM. You can e-mail your nominations to me at jack.fruity [at] yahoo [dot] com or bring them to the February Happy Hour. Anyone, blogger or non-blogger, Ugandan or non-Ugandan, can nominate blogs.

In the nomination phase,

  • URLs are required for all nominated blogs
  • The maximum number of blogs you may nominate for a category is two (2) for most categories and three (3) for Ugandan blog of the year
  • You must nominate at least three (3) different blogs total — no flogging of one blog for numerous categories
  • You may nominate your own blog, but the nominations for your own blog must be less than one third of your total (legitimate) nominations
  • There is no limit to the number of categories for which a blog may be nominated
  • Nominees have to fit the category they are placed in

Once the nominations are in, they will be counted, and the three blogs in each category (and five blogs in the Ugandan blog of the year) with the most nominations will be voted on. Voting will take place here between February 19 and March 9, and awards will be announced at the Happy Hour on Thursday, March 15.

Ready, set, go….

I didn’t think you were white

More Happy Hour pictures
More Happy Hour pictures

The topics of conversation at Thursday night’s Inaugural Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour ranged from cell phones to Alice Lakwena to the transvestitical possibilities of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Jabberwocky was recited, blogging addictions were confessed, heaven was declared to be just like North Korea, and the Ugandan blogosphere gained a fanboy. Also, we unanimously agreed that Inktus is hot.

We came together to discuss the issues circulating among our blogs and throughout the country, to put faces with names, and to enjoy a few drinks with our fellow geeks. I’d like to think we all got something special from our exchange — I came home with multiple offers of free jackfruit and the shocked insistence of many of my co-bloggers that I couldn’t be Jackfruity because I’m too white. No fewer than three of my blogging compatriots were convinced, based on this blog, that I was black — “too black,” according to one.

Does someone want to explain this to me? I write about being a white woman in Kampala and complain about being called a mzungu. Do I need some sort of disclaimer that heads every page? Caution: you are reading the blog of a (pale) white female from Kansas.

All told, the happy hour was an immense success. In the words of Josh, who gave a rousing speech to commemorate the first of what I hope will be many blogfests: The goal is to increase the level of debate in this country, but at least now we can all make fun of each other and hang out.

Inaugural Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour Guestlist
Colin (still waiting for his first post…)
Dennis Matanda
Ivan (200 Coin has Fish)
Jared (it’s not a blog, it’s an “online journal”)
Josh (In an African Minute)
Rebekah (Jackfruity)
Revence (Dying Communist)

Non-bloggers in attendance