Nyege Nyege and ghosts of Uganda’s north-south divide
Last week, in a bold seizure of power, Uganda's parliament banned the 2022 international edition music Nyege Naige Festival.
The festival, which will take place on September 15 at Itanda Falls in the old industrial city of Jinya, was founded in 2013 and is now the main holiday of electronic Africa music.
There is no denying the important cultural history, tracing and hedonism of Nyege Nage. However, the same subversive denial and freedom it expresses is also its strength – and why it needs to be protected.
Following the ban, youthful Uganda went to war. Parliament looked at them with its threat, but within 24 hours it lost both the battle and the war. Nyege Nige will happen.
If it were all a fight to dance wildly in the mud and have a youthful escape to Neverland, Nige Nyge would only have modest significance. But it is not. It became one of the biggest proxy battles for the distribution of the national cake and restitution for past sins.
In the last war against Nyege Naige, the speaker of parliament, Ms. Anita Sered, was the commander-in-chief, assisted by lieutenants such as tororo's female MP Sarah Opendi. Nyege Nyege, for them, is the pinnacle of immorality, sexual deviance, homosexuality, devil dance, forbidden substances and an attack on the purity of the republic.
However, they parroted the previous arguments of the late moral police officer, pornography and a miniskirt hated by Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Locodo.
In 2018, Locodo launched a deadly campaign against this “ugly thing” by Nige Nyge and only lost on the line. In defeat, Locodo complained that “the devil has won.”
Locodo, Among, Opendi and most of the leading anti-Niege Nayege politicians are mainly from northern and eastern Uganda. This is no coincidence.
In northern and especially northeastern Uganda, there remains strong dissatisfaction with the fact that during the period when these regions were destroyed by war, the southwest was peaceful and flourished when they endured hell. That they did not receive reparations for the losses they suffered.
Socially, combined with hiv/AIDS disorders, the southwest has undergone a mini-sexual revolution. The skirts went up, the cleavage went down, and you could have a kimansulo (half-naked overly sexualized show) in clubs. In the north and northeast, women were abducted and raped, covering as many bodies as possible.
The freedom of the Ugandans was linked to their bodies as they wanted, becoming another of the political gaps between the north and the southwest.
If you look at the previous Nyeges, the bodies on the show are full, toned, with a Southwestern accent. In some Ugandan political spectrums, children flaunt prosperity, from which the north and northeast have been locked in the faces of “victims” for years.
You see this tension at Miss Uganda beauty pageants and the underground debate they started about what beauty is privileged. Aamito Stacey Lagum is probably Uganda's closest to a supermodel. However, Lagum, who hails from the north, came to modeling fame after winning the Africa Next Top Model.
Northern and northeastern leaders would argue that otherwise the dominant view of beauty in Uganda is nothing more than northern; it will be Quinn Abenakyo, Anita Fabiola or Zakhara Nakiyaga. Young Ugandan women who will dance in the Nyege Nyege, forgetting about the bigger political drama, will look more like women in this latter category rather than Lagum.
The attack on Nyege Nige is how some of them express their frustration with what they see here as a national-aesthetic bias.
This is not the only way. We have seen this because of regional tensions caused by the death and the organization of the burial of former Parliament Speaker Jacob Ulanya earlier this year. He raised his head over the announcement that the Kampala Jinja Expressway would be a toll road. Northeastern and eastern policies raged that paving the road to the east was discriminatory while no one to the west is paid. Forget for a moment that the road will be primarily the gateway to Kenya, Uganda's main export-import route, not the eastern highway.
Anyone who has ever posted a story about Ankole's long-horned cattle on social media has been greeted with repulsions about how Western soldiers robbed north and northeast livestock during wars and how the wealth of Southwestern cattle is an insult.
However, there is a glimmer of hope. First, this division over Nyege Nyege is bipartisan. Second, the underlying forces that fuel it can be easily solved with more significant national capital. It is a burden passed on to the younger generation that was not part of the wars in the north and northmu east. Thus, the watch is on the Nyege Nyege generation side. They will outlive their enemies.
Mr. Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer and curator of The Wall of Great Africans. [email protected]