Daniel Kalinaki's weblog

A commentary on news and events in Uganda and elsewhere

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why Kalyegira needs a dayjob

WASH, D.C - Timothy Kalyegira is intelligent and industrious. His work (book and website) on the Uganda and Africa Almanac was ground-breaking and a useful compilation of historical facts that, sadly, have not been updated. Some of Tim's newspaper articles are very well informed and insightful, drawing on extensive research and scholarship. It is not uncommon, in the midst of a discussion or a radio debate, for Tim to quote Newsweek of 1983 or a BBC broadcast from 1973 or thereabouts. But Tim, like many of us, has his moments of madness. The only difference is that while we spew our madness into cyberspace, Tim does so through a national newspaper. How I wish Tim would use that space to construct, rather than destruct and distract!

I have been meaning to write and respond to one of his regular themes but had not found the time to do so until now. Just before I started writing this I read a piece by Jenkins Kiwanuka questioning Tim's demands for someone -- anyone -- to produce evidence that Idi Amin killed more than 600 people during his reign. Tim is right to note that some of the claims about Amin have been exaggerated -- but to use these broad brushes of inexactitude to try and gloss over the canvas of Amin's terror is mischevious at best and provocative at worst. Amin could have killed 5, 10 or 100,000 people but those would still be people he need not, should not, have killed. Tim has not provided the list of the 600 (or less) that he believes Amin killed; why then does he want or expect others to do the harder job of listing the 300,000 that are often quoted?

I think Tim would serve his readers better if he used his research skills to find out the exact (or approximate) number of people Amin killed -- and the whereabouts of their remains for those who are still listed as missing -- to allow friends and family find closure, not dance on their presumed graves in a mathematical tango of indifference and pedantry.

While Tim calls for scientific proof on Amin's murders on one hand, he, on the other hand, holds out encounters with a 'seer' about events that are likely to happen in the region, as truths that he holds to be self-evident!. Beyond the obvious contradictions between science and speculation, readers are subjected to doses of latter-day Nostradamus-like posturing by an unnamed oracle! Should we, really, not watch the weather forecast or carry out economic research because we have seers to tell us what next year's inflation rate will be (come rain or shine) and which countries will go to war? This from a guy who compiled an almanac and who says, in his latest column, that the most brilliant Ugandan is Fred Guweddeko, a researcher? Tim!

I, of course, have my own thoughts about that matter of brilliance (the original Daily Monitor stories on the matter, which were flaccid and insipid, spoke of the most powerful/influential Ugandans so this rejoinder was a comparison of apples and oranges) but let me say that while brilliance is relative, authorship of a letter speculating about possible motives for the presumed poisoning of a government civil servant do not hold much sway in my stable, but to every man his own.

More troubling for me, however, of all the things that Tim writes, is his regular theme on higher education, particularly that pursued by Ugandans abroad. In a nutshell (at least the way I understand it), Tim says Ugandans go abroad for master's degrees as a fad and that they have nothing to show for it in terms of changing the country when they return. This is a dangerous and false generalisation that needs to be exposed for the fallacy it is. Tim seems to have a problem, not only with higher education per se, but with higher education sought abroad, particularly in western universities. Tim has previously thumbed his nose towards Ugandans who go abroad for 'kyeyo' but these same folks keep people in school and food on tables in Uganda.

Of course many Ugandans who have gone for "further studies" in "outside countries" have ended up staying on, sometimes to do menial jobs that put to waste years of education. Others have returned to lives of crime, indifference or obscurity (or alcoholism, I hear some of you wags saying). But is a higher education to blame for these choices and other shortcomings? Why not encourage people to drop out of school at primary seven, then? Are the people who do their master's degrees at Makerere, Nkumba, etc., necessarily better than those who do them abroad? Does it even matter where you do it? And who says your degree is supposed to change the world? What of the hundreds who've used their opportunity to change/improve themselves and their families? Should they refund part of their scholarships or family contributions to their tuition because we still have no cure for Aids and still have a war in the north? Getting an MA or a PhD might not make you a better person or any smarter -- and it certainly won't change the world -- but neither will discouraging people from nurturing their aspirations and ambitions.

Tim is a smart fella and he ought to use his skills to do research to inspire people to work towards achieving their dreams. He does not need a PhD for that and while he might not change the world, he will change people's lives.

8 Comments:

Blogger joshi said...

an almanac is just pieces of information gathered and printed together, not some encyclopedia or research item on proven scientific experiments or historically discoveries..I love it when my former neighbour writes, i tried to convince him he needs to get a blog but he is of the old school of writers who burn the night stick

6:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you please check the link to
Jenkins Kiwanuka's piece. Would like to comment but would like to read that piece as I am not aware of it.

7:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daniel, Tim puzzles many Ugandans.I for example don't agree with his seer thing but there is no way I can miss Tim's column. And even when he writes about an 'ugly' thing like meeting a seer and making a dooms day prediction- its Tim's coolness in pointing out all these scientifically unprovable things that amaze me. Once he wrote that he was more informed about security than Bush and the CIA, and the reason he gave; he gets the info from a US based news site!

But one thing is clear; there is only one Timothy Kalyegira.

3:44 pm  
Blogger Kwesiga said...

Nice Piece. I thought I was the only one who had a problem with his IT paper at ICC.

1:54 pm  
Blogger Iwaya said...

Why is it so "unserious" to consider a researcher one of the most brilliant minds in the country? Not that i agree with Tim's pick. Just wondering.

10:28 am  
Blogger ARIAKA said...

Interesting Daniel. I know Tim's outlook of thinks is simply "extraordinary", a skeptic I will add. For example his SEER philosophy. Do'nt laugh, but it makes some sense. Again do not laugh. I think what Tim has done is build scenarios for his readers. It is up to us to take him seriously or not, but we should atleast ponder on his scenarios. Search deeper for answers to the questions it poses and prepare to manage the outcome.
Do not laugh Daniel, I think Tim is Uganda's answer to Socrates, Pluto, Aristotle. For he asks the deeper questions, challenging convention boldly putting his ideas to the public. Let's seek him to imbue hemlock.

11:00 am  
Blogger semakeddie said...

One thumb for tim,he managed to scoop all these reflections..

i however personally like his pleasantry writing style..though i feel he needs more than that little 600 word column to tallk about such a wide subject

wwww.semakeddie.multiply.com

8:29 pm  
Blogger Batte's Notebook said...

You read my mind Dan. I am one of those guys who really think that Tim is that brilliant guy who has used his gleam to dampen spirits than actually inspire a soul. Why not? He can…

8:40 am  

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