Reflections in Juba–The sad story of the undeserving Mzungu

This old man from the north eastern Uganda district of Katakwi deserves more than just waiting for food aid to survive. He deserves a decent life from both his community and government. The children below too deserve a better life and future beyond eking for a living by the roadside.

This old man from the north-eastern Uganda district of Katakwi deserves more than just waiting for food aid to survive. He deserves a decent life from both his community and government. The children below too deserve a better life and future beyond eking for a living by the roadside.

If you have some knowledge of African history or at least follow some world events, you may know that for ages Africans have resisted racial discrimination and fought against white domination both on the African continent and the west. And that is the reason why have in our history such great names like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, Julius Nyerere, Nkwame Nkuruma, Jomo Kenyatta, Samora Machel, Miria Makeba and many others. And very recently we have had in America a number of public protests against the shooting of un-armed black young men by white police men and a white boss of an American football team forced to resign over racial remarks.

Not so long ago I received a forwarded email (those days when colleagues at the place I worked just forwarded anything that came their way) from a colleague with the title, “What went wrong?” It was one of those typical ones without any introduction – just a dry forward but it was also one of the few which did not make straight to the junk mail, for something in caught my eye, thus keeping me from hitting delete. From the title of that mail I came with the title of an entry to my blog to which I later posted the pictures therein.

That mail had several pictures of African children juxtaposed with those of children from the West (White kids) in different conditions of life – environment, health, etc. One of the pictures had a starving African child against that of an obese white kid and another had African children writing in the sand with their fingers alongside that of White kids in a class room with computers. Oh, that incidentally reminds me of my son’s craving for an iPad – wishing to be like the kids from International schools whose home work is on the pad rather in the notebooks.

Well, the title of that mail (WHAT WENT WRONG?) and subsequently of my blog entry which was inspired by the same was get us thoughtful Africans on some journey of soul-searching for a sense of human dignity within ourselves that could possibly rouse or inspire us to strive for a better Africa rather the one we are so accustomed to. Or the one we have been made to believe we can neither attain nor deserve by the constant negative images/messages we are bombarded with. For you can believe the curse of Ham and live out in perfect fashion.

Children selling fish by the road in Uganda, some of them barely clad. The kind of images pf Africa most of us are familiar with especially as portrayed by western media and we seem to have settled for the way things are.

Children selling fish by the road in Uganda, some of them barely clad. The kind of images pf Africa most of us are familiar with especially as portrayed by western media and we seem to have settled for the way things are.

It is seems to me that some Africans (at least a good number of those I have worked or lived with), like the character in “My Fair Lady”, feel it is ok to be in a quest for a better life while at the same time feel undeserving and are intent to go on undeserving like Mr Doolittle.

Take the example of some gentleman who approached me lately for some gardening tips especially garden ponds and when took him through a pictorial tour of my village garden he marveled and called me a black Mzungu (Black White man – whatever that would mean). To him, that was a compliment to me for having such a beautiful garden in a rural home. But not one I was so eager to accept with the word “Mzungu’. Simply put, it is White people who deserved such homes. How contrary to the belief that all men are born equal!

That is not the first time I am called a Mzungu; remember my jogging weekends on Buziga Hill in Kampala where kids often called me mzungu when they saw run past their homes with my dog Spanky. Thank God, one lady asked them, “What kind of mzungu is this one in a black skin?”

And I have heard many a visitor my home say similar remarks – a Mzungu would love this home.” And the sad story of the undeserving “Mzungu” goes on while we shout aloud that we are all equal as we applaud our brothers who demonstrate against police brutality in the West. Very much like what Obama said of African leaders at Mandela’s funeral – many express solidarity with Madiba but do not espouse his ideals at home (my own paraphrase). In the same way we suppress our own ambitions and aspirations; thus unknowingly shoot down our dream of a better Africa.

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About mosrubn

Aged 50, married with two kids aged 9 and 7. In the past fifteen years worked in the newspaper industry; first with the government owned New Vision of Uganda for twelve year, then three in South Sudan with The New Nation,a weekly newspaper published by Sudan Advocacy for Development, as distribution manger. Now back home in Tororo, Eastern Uganda as a small scale farmer. Likes reading, writing/blogging, photography, travel, gardening, farming and hiking.
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3 Responses to Reflections in Juba–The sad story of the undeserving Mzungu

  1. Now says:

    I would have to take issue with one thing you’ve posted here: …for ages Africans have resisted racial discrimination..” It was first in Africa I discovered that we – black people – discriminate against each other on the basis of tribe quite happily without any European intervention. We have learned nothing from European discrimination against us; in fact, we are more likely to condemn racist stereotyping by Europeans and respond blankly when someone makes a prejudicial comment about someone from a different ethnic group.

    As for the “black mzungu” thing, that’s borne from ignorance. It’s borne from not expecting better, or thinking differently, or trying a different way. Most of the people who will use the “black mzungu” thing aren’t people who, when you start questioning them, are able to think beyond the linear. This is so and it remains thus. Funny enough, I’ve had discussions with people on social media about “traditional African values” and had to point out to them that the traditional values they are expounding is actually a European import.

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