Last week I was invited, by the wonderful ICT Officer at my work to get into an idea – “a media road trip” – an idea that turned out to be a white van (that I swear was modeled after a matatu, just cleaner and with seats that still had bounce) in which I spent four days with 7 to 8 journalists.
They came from Masaka in Central, west of Kampala.
We went to Tororo in the East.
We went to Lira in the North.
We went to Hoima in the North West.
I arrived home at 9:30pm on Friday, ordered a pizza and tossed and turned in my bed as my back ached from the hours on a maram road.
Why would I do such a thing – and why was it one of my best experiences in this, Uganda Trip #2?
Because we were all looking for stories – about innovations and challenges, about how justice, law and order looks like on the ground, stories like these:
And http://allafrica.com/stories/201604080068.html – In response to this article, by Anthony, which I can’t seem to size properly:
And http://allafrica.com/stories/201604120790.html – I’m not sure why this story about a judicial officer “Husband Snatching” gets online coverage, while Anthony’s story about a girl trying to compel her dad to pay her school fees doesn’t – it was in the print edition last week…go figure:
And my first story is simply about the journalists themselves.
Ritah – She is the PR person for the judiciary. She is always ready with her camera, taking an interview of a Chief Magistrate or the scene of a community baraza (a word for when a community comes together for a meeting) spreading news about Justice Centres Uganda. She is elegant (well to the extent I could tell as she wore different colours of a “Small Claims Court” T-shirt), bold yet helpful and real – she didn’t ride with us most of the time, so I didn’t get to know her as well as the others.
Anthony – This relatively quiet member of the vehicle had a quick turn over in terms of articles – as in reading the paper the next day was a really neat experience for me – Yes, we had just been there and seen that! He bought some passion fruits of a local variety and let us have a sampling – tangy yet sweet!
Patrick – This journalist is super knowledgeable, especially in irony – His go to tag-line for what we saw in each town we passed or stopped in, or even something along the way, was “This is steady progress.” He brought the laughs out for us in one way or another – and yet he says he’s tired of the same old stories after about a decade and is planning to become a farmer! No way – so much lost talent.
Phillip – This friendly guy knows about every single town around the country – as in where to sleep, eat and party. I did use his Uganda Public Broadcasting mike to ask a few people on the streets of Soroti what they thought of their town and why people should visit Uganda. A common response was “there’s peace”. That’s telling…yet on the news that very night, Kasese was facing ongoing violence and tensions…Some publications are reporting 54 dead, post-elections, causes and attribution are still being debated in this week’s media. Anyways, when it comes to Phillip, it cannot be forgotten that he went to the local trading centre in the middle of nowhere with me, and made sure the Chapati vendor made me a Rolex…He helped me get my own eggs and a tomato from across the street – After rice and beans and rice and beans, it was fabulous!
Eddie – This soft spoken journalist has a wicked amount of experience. He was curious about what a girl like me might want from a suitor – When I said “brains and muscle” it seemed novel to him. He likes to narrate sometimes but otherwise sat in the front and kept to himself. He told me and Anthony a story about a girl whose step-mother purposefully burned her, Aisha Nabukeera – He was the one who went for the story when a fellow journalist said she was too busy. It still makes him smile to think she ran for Miss Uganda in 2015. Check out her story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4stV_fltF1c (by the way, she was given the title of “Miss Rising Woman”).
Annette – This West Nile woman is tough and rocks the radio airwaves – She raised herself after her parents passed away and now works at the Ugandan Radio Network. She’s not going to publish a story right away, instead she thirsts for great content – the compelling story of a common person. And she’s proud of where she comes from…that goes without saying. We both watched a group of ants try to get a dead fly into their ant tunnel opening at one point – She compared their confusion and lack of clear strategy to Ugandans, likely based on lived experiences – she even tried to assist by using a stick to poke that fly into the hole – They just brought it right back out. It definitely made me laugh.
Ignatius – When I first entered the vehicle – this one didn’t even introduce himself or look at me. I thought maybe he’s too proud because of being a BBC guy. But later on, I even took a funny photo in his batik sweatshirt and we decided to meet up in Kampala – Go figure! He knows like 10 different languages and is also going to work on his recordings and not publish right away. Him and Annette had an ongoing rivalry with jabs back and forth – however, by the end of the trip, they seemed to have reconciled pretty well, over pork and chips at a Hoima spot.
Sheila – Only partially with us, yet another cool journalist. She brought with her a book called “Diaries of A Dead African” by a Kenyan author that I found so depressing and aggravating that I had to put it down, despite not having anything else to do but look out the window. Ummm…I still want to finish reading it!
Last but not least – some pictures – to complete the story:
Selfie with Edgar!
Annette – hee hee 🙂 – poser much?
Now Ritah’s turn!
Patrick – the last to emerge from our van!
Anthony, Ignatius and Annette talking to some Justice Centre Uganda staff
More images to come of what we actually saw in my second story, about Legal Aid – until then!