We are championing on. I am still typing away as the 18 participants attending MRG’s Kampala media training add their comments to a blog we are attempting to write jointly. All of the activists represented at this training work with minority communities in some of the harshest political and socio-economic climates. They are almost always excluded and often discriminated against.
‘The Batwa are the first people in the Congo but the last in getting resources from the government,’ says Tuteene, who works with Batwa ‘pygmies’ in north Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tuteene wears the most colourful suits (today he is in orange) and has helped brighten up each of our sessions. The activists working with Batwa, in DRC and Uganda, have explained through the course of the training, how this community is marginalized and discriminated against. They face high levels of poverty and illiteracy and are stigmatized in society because of their specific physical characteristics, Peninah, explains. Peninah like Timothy also works with Batwa in Uganda.
‘The drought is so alarming and exceptional, it is having adverse effects on the livelihood of people and is causing starvation,’ Albert says. Many of the pastoralist activists have referred to the manner in which these groups of cow herders are struggling because of the prolonged drought and also due to the effects of climate change.
Mitiku, who works with pastoralists in Ethiopia highlights some of the challenges the participants may face in advocating their problems. ‘Even though we got this technical knowledge, it will be very hard and challenging to do advocacy and lobbying on the issues affecting our community,’ he says.
Whilst the training was specifically on how to use the media to promote issues affecting different communities, the bringing together of various different people, from different communities, helped to sensitise all of us, allowing the group to understand problems faced by minorities all across Africa. Many of the participants, mainly through the cultural evening, made new discoveries.
Apparently all Africans originate from Ethiopia. ‘How come no one knew this?’ I ask. ‘Some of us learnt it for the first time,’ says Joanna. I must clarify: this did not transpire based on any proper research. It just became apparent, as each activist referred to their origins that almost all of the communities represented at the training had originated from Ethiopia.
‘I didn’t know that Iteso are sons of the Karamojong,’ says Timothy. This is in reference to Albert’s historical portrayal of how the people of Karamoja and Teso came into being. The Teso, according to Albert, are a break-away group of the same set of pastoralists who moved to Karamoja. Both communities are in conflict over land and other resources in the region. ‘I think we just became stubborn and went away with the cows and never went back,’ laughs Ben, who is from Teso.
Samuel, who works with a Ugandan pastoralist community, says he was surprised to learn the different types of pet-names Banyoro people give each other. Drake, who is from Uganda’s Banyoro tribe, revealed to us how each person in the community has a pet-name, in addition to their real name. He has kindly named me Amooti, meaning flower (I really am not one). All of us picked up a few different ways to greet each other, the most popular was how the Karamojong do it.
‘Maata Angaatuk’ (I greet you in the name of cows, goats and all livestock), shouts Albert.
‘Maata’ we reply, in unison.
The participants also learnt about their own and others hidden talents. Samuel, for instance, discovered he is an exceptional cameraman, while Drake can easily start a career as a narrator (we hope he doesn’t give up his work with pastoralists).
Michael, the newfound reporter who apparently works for MRG TV (we don’t really have one, it was just a part of the video activity), says, team-building was good in the way we tapped into people’s professional skills. All of us had different skills. Penninah was very confident in responding to questions in the interviews and Albert was good in creating captions.
One of the most unique aspects of this training was that, whilst the entire team worked intensely for long hours throughout the day, no one was short of energy to party through the night. As we shift our focus to how much fun the group had, Sandra is unanimously asked to comment. Sandra is a local and took on a leadership role in pointing the rest of the participants to the ‘must visit’ night venues in Kampala. ‘This was not enough fun for me,’ she says laughingly… ‘Especially when we went out to my favourite hangout and the guys slept,’ she adds. This did happen. On the second evening, when we went out to a fancy bar (Sandra’s favourite), the girls all ganged up and chatted and the men looked bored to death. Some did go off to sleep. ‘It is not a human rights violation to sleep,’ quips Tuteene (no giving away who fell asleep!).
According to Albert on most nights they had so much fun they had to take a vote to decide the time to leave. I have to confess that I didn’t have enough energy to keep up with the continuous partying so wasn’t a part of these exceptionally fun nights. Faith, our Zimbabwean participant, who has unlimited energy to party, says the training was always ‘happening,’ but she insists the term has to be pronounced with a Nigerian accent (hapnin) to give it added kick.
Despite the fun, the participants re-emphasise how important the training has been for them. Drake sums up for us, ‘We have been having a barrier on how we can get our issues through to the international community, we buried our head in trying to find an answer. But this training has helped us to get an idea of how we can do this.’
- Agnes Ingwu, Abanbeke Development Association, Obudu City – Nigeria.
- Albert Lokoru, Karamoja Agro-Pastoral Development Programme (KADP), Karamoja – Uganda.
- Drake Nyamugabwa, Masindi Pastoralist Group, Masindi – Uganda.
- Faith Nzilani Musinga, Centre of Minority Rights and Development, Harare – Zimbabwe.
- Mohamed Matovu, MRG Regional Information Officer, Kampala – Uganda.
- Mohamed Mukhtar, Media and Rights Somaliland, Hargeisa – Somaliland.
- Mitiku Tiksa, SOS Sahel Ethiopia, Addis Ababa – Ethiopia.
- Mugabe Herbat Joram, Pastoralist Women to Break Cultural Chains, Kiboga District – Uganda.
- Niwagaba Joan, Mbarara Development Agency, Mbarara – Uganda.
- Omunga Benjamin, Katakwi Urafiki Foundation, Katakwi District – Uganda.
- Peninah Zaninka, United Organisation for Batwa Development, Kampala – Uganda. Rahel Negussie, Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia, Addis Ababa – Ethiopia.
- Sandra Nassali, UgaBYTES Initiatives, Kabalagala – Uganda. Samuel Kaweesi, Nakasongora Pastoralists Association, Nakasongora – Uganda.
- Tuteene Kusimweray, Action pour la Promotion des Droits de Minorites Autochtones en Afrique Centrale, Bukavu – D.R.C. Thomas Kiptiony Chepsoi, Endorois Welfare Council, Nakuru Town – Kenya.
- Mpalanyi Michael, Uganda Land Alliance, Kampala District – Uganda.