Celebrating ordinary Ugandans doing extraordinary things

Celebrating ordinary Ugandans doing extraordinary things

Now that 2012 has come to a close, I can say that it has been an interesting year for Uganda, with the country experiencing some of the greatest highs and lows in its history. The country just buried a young woman member of parliament from the ruling party, Hon. Cerinah Nebandah from the Butaleja District in Eastern Uganda, who died under mysterious circumstances. Her suspected poisoning has strongly divided the nation. The official government autopsy report claims she died from a drug and alcohol overdose, but her family and legislators have rejected the findings. The debate, however, does bring to the fore the alcohol and drug problem in Uganda, which society has failed to acknowledge as a deeply entrenched problem among young people. What I see, above all, is the loss of one of Uganda’s most vibrant young politicians. For many young people, the 24-year-old Nebanda represented a new political force that could potentially cleanse the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party from within.

The news of Nebanda’s death of December 14 over-shadowed the wonderful story of 15-year-old Phiona Mutesi, a teenager from the Kampala slum of Katwe, who has become a national chess champion. Her amazing story is told in The Queen of Katwe, written by veteran sports journalist Tim Crothers, and is also being made into a film. This story, of a young girl and her mentor who started a chess group in the slums in order to keep children out of trouble, is only one of many examples of the amazing work done by Ugandans to improve their communities. It is a story of resilience and creativity in the midst of immense need.

This year has had more than its share of other positive stories. There’s the little league baseball team from Uganda that was the first African team to play in the Little League World Series and even take home a win — and the obscure police officer who broke Uganda’s 40-year-wait to bring home the country’s second-ever Olympic gold at the London 2012 games. Or take the Ugandan university students who created an electric car recently featured on CNN — an example of what can be achieved by collaboration between universities, even from Uganda’s historically antagonistic northern and southern regions. And then there are the tech-savvy university students who  are creating mobile applications relevant to the social needs of the community.

It is stories like these that give hope amidst the sad stories of corruption and a failing health and education system.

I pray that we can take the same ingenuity into 2013, and that we give coverage to these stories of ordinary Ugandans doing extraordinary things.

 Jackee’s twitter handle is @jackeebatanda