You have probably seen people wearing T-shirts bearing the expression "Proud to be a Musoga" that is printed against a background of thumb prints. Chances are high you must have been left wondering what the entire drama is about.
Started three years back by Moses Zikusoka, a proud Musoga, who lived almost 30 years in the UK / US, and returned to Uganda 10 years ago.
Proud to be a Musoga is a campaign striving at restoring the pride of being born a Musoga, a reality many have distanced themselves from due to the stereotypes imposed upon the Basoga. Most of these have a thing to do with being slow thinkers, poor or conservative.
According to Senior Marketing Officer with the Uganda Tourism Board, he was inclined to start the campaign in response to his 10 year old son being teased by his classmates for being a Musoga.
"I was offended and incensed. I couldn't help it but to remind my son that that there was nothing shameful about being a Musoga," said the 45-year-old.
In agreement with Zikusoka's opinion, Edward Balidawa former Kigulu North Member of Parliament observed that Basoga had produced many pioneers in Uganda - first medical doctor, female Vice President, Chief Justice and Civil Engineer (his father Eng. James Zikusoka), not to mention many non-Basoga who benefitted from the generosity and warm hospitality of the Basoga people.
Busoga has literally built Uganda especially if you include the electricity and manufacturing industries of Jinja.
"Busoga declined economically and socially in the 1970s/1990s, especially with the departure of the Asians. However, this doesn't undo our rich history,”Balidawa noted. It is partly for this reason that the campaign aims at inspiring future Basoga generations to emulate the pioneering spirit and successes of their forefathers. Thanks to social media's instrumental role in championing the cause, what started as a response to Zikusoka's son being teased at school has resulted into a global campaign. It is backed by people from all walks of life inclusive of pro-Busoga Associations in the Diaspora.
Its stronger is the US and the United Arab Emirates where over 5,000 followers have embraced the 'Proud to be a Musoga' T-shirts as a vehicle to assert their pride.
Ultimately, the movement has acted as a catalyst to unite different Basoga groups within Uganda and in the diaspora; to work together to create and invest in development projects. These businesses projects will restore dignity, wealth back to the impoverished Basoga.
One example of Basoga group is Twegaite, a US based organization that has aggressively taken on the promotion of Busoga's tourism endowments to the US market
The ‘Proud to be a Musoga’ (P2BAM) initiative is a campaign to restore 3 objectives:
The program is the brain child of Moses Zikusoka, a 50 year old ‘Musoga-Brit’, who has shared his life between Uganda and UK, and who wanted to honour this late father’s legacy, give something back to community and leave behind for his children.
Started by Moses Zikusoka in response to two different events – 1) The death of his father, Rev. Canon. Engineer James Zikusoka, a pioneering Musoga who rose from the ranks of village life and to become the first registered civil engineer in Uganda and 2) As a result of his eldest son, Terrence, being teased at his primary school about being a Musoga.
As a result, Mr. Zikusoka was concerned about his legacy as he approached 50 years of age. He started to question what happened to Busoga, for a once proud and prosperous region to decline in all area, and also about the state of Busoga that we as parents were leaving our children in the future. He was conscious that his generation, unlike that of his father, had let Busoga down.
On an even more personal note, Mr. Zikusoka conducted a self-analysis that led him to question his self- identity given the fact that although he was born in Uganda of 2 Basoga parents, he was now dual culture, Musoga and British, having lived overseas for over 30 years and was conscious of being out of with being a ‘True Musoga’.
So the ‘Proud to be a Musoga’ campaign was partly for his own benefit as well as a way of giving back to Basoga at large because many of his friends and family identified with his situation of lack of identity and yet a strong willingness to give back to Busoga.
But it has since grown into a movement that has embraced all of Busoga, both at home in Busoga and Kampala, the Basoga in the diaspora, and the Friends of Busoga.
Solving Busoga’s myriad problems of lack of identity, past glorious history, abject poverty, divisive politics and declining social economic standards in education, health, roads etc is not easy and needs to be tackled in small steps and in the following order - pride, unity and development.
Without self-awareness and self-belief (pride), a people are easily divided and cannot unite for a common purpose. Without unity development is at best individualistic and slow with few trickle down benefits to the majority of Basoga. And this has been the case with Busoga over the last 40 years.
This is the first challenge facing the Basoga / Busoga. Many times when one walks into a public office in Kampala we hear people talking Lusoga amongst themselves but when you join also speaking in they switch into Luganda. And believe me in virtually every single public office in Uganda has at least on Musoga staff.
It seems that the biggest culprits amongst the Basoga denying their identity are those Basoga living in Kampala who emigrated there in the 1970s/1990s after the Idi Amin economic and subsequent liberation wars. The Basoga felt the need to completely assimilate with Buganda either for personal survival and preserving life with some changing their names, others intermarrying etc. In the process inadvertently these ‘Kampala Basoga’ denied their heritage. It was ‘not cool’ to be a Musoga or being a Musoga was not seen as an advantage to getting ahead.
Basoga in Kampala were afraid to lose their status, jobs, friends, money etc. if they came out as Basoga
This was a curious phenomenon given that in the 1970s / 1980s Busoga had some of the best schools in Uganda and produced many leaders - academics, civil servants, professional and the first Prime Minister, Vice President and President etc. Basoga were universally applauded as being amongst the best brains in Uganda. But the decline in education / services got progressively worse as Busoga sunk to its lowest economic level in the 1990s / 2000s when the remaining industries relocated to Kampala resulting in more poverty and decline. And in politics Busoga was seen as weak and divided especially during the 6 year Kyabazinga vacuum following the death of the late Henry Muloki.
So Busoga went from being the ‘food basket of Uganda’ to ‘basket case of Uganda’. Jinja went from being the most planned / organised / cleanest city in East Africa to being run down, dirty, potholed and with the darkest streets in Uganda, very sad given that Jinja produced 80% of Uganda’s electricity. Schools that once produced Presidents and Kings became bottom of the schools league where no one wanted to take their children.
So the decline in Busoga has been a very sad case in loss of pride of a people.
Busoga was once one of the leading educational and economic regions of Uganda but fallen into steep decline and now being revived.
|Strong Cultural Heritage & Melting Pot Mix||Industrial Decline|
|Many Basoga ‘1sts’ - Contributed to Kingdom, National & International Development||Services Decline (Education / Medical / Infrastructure)|
|Reviving Industry e.g. Steel, Sugar Milling||Mbarara Overtakes Jinja as Uganda’s 2nd City|
|Repositioning as EA’s ‘Adventure Capital’||Becoming Nationally Irrelevant?|
|New Services (Education, Medical, Transport, Energy)||Long Term Moral Decline?|
|Source of the Nile||High population growth and density|
|Bunyole||Leveraging Basoga / ‘Friends of Busoga|
Big Disconnect - Between the rich cultural, economic history of Busoga’s past and its potential for the future.
Socio-Ethnicity - Crisis of Identity - Who / What is a True Musoga Today? Can Busoga Forge a New Identity / Relationship the between the Urban / Diaspora Musoga and the Rural Musoga?
Economics - Repositioning Busoga In New Business Opportunities - Build on regional strengths of Ordered Jinja City, Electrical Power, Fertile Soils, Abundant Water to Consolidate Sugar production but also Reposition itself in Hospitality and Tourism.
Politics - Make Politics More Inclusive - From Politics of Individual Survival To Collective Responsibility - Political Agenda - driven by local politicians who are incapable / unwilling to pursue national agenda (education, jobs etc) vs. Kampala (Driven by self-preservation); Diaspora (Scared away by local politics and lack of information).
All About the Mindset.
Psyche of Region - Busoga is stuck in a time warp; Jinja still best planned city; But melting pot culture is what built Jinja (British, Indian / Arabs; foreign farm labourers, indigenous Basoga factory workers.
Senior citizens - Still remind themselves; Youth - Not aware of past.
New Jinja - Return of Indians; No more factories; Influx of new foreigners (from west); Tourism (driven by Whites); What is the Basoga doing? Still waiting for factories to provide them with jobs.
Psyche of a People - Lack of self-belief (despite glorious past or bright future). No need to be an island of poverty in a sea of riches.
Don’t want my sons to be ashamed of calling themselves Basoga. Want to be able to dispel stories like jiggers with national statistics; Want Basoga in Kampala to proudly acknowledge their heritage and identity (in 1970s many Ugandans denounced their citizenship due to the infamy of Idi Amin).
Challenge – No doubt the Basoga have lost their sense of identity
Having identified the problem around Basoga identity, we had to discover the target audience for the campaign. Although the campaign identified 4 target groups – Basoga in Busoga, Basoga in Kampala, Basoga in the Diaspora and Friends of Basoga, it was decided that the group that needed to restore pride the most was the Basoga in Kampala. It was going to be a difficult task to find the Basoga wherever they worked, identify and target them, get them to admit to themselves and more so the entire Uganda and the world that they were Basoga.
Basoga in Busoga - The Masses - Represents the 70% of the global Basoga population (total 4 million) and comprises of the Basoga youth (70% of the total population under 30 years - Total 2 million+).
Basoga in Kampala - The Influencers - Represent 20% of the Basoga in Uganda. Left Busoga during the decline years and settled for a better life in Kampala at a cost of supressing their Kisoga identity. Their behaviour actions influences national opinion about the Basoga.
Basoga in the Diaspora - The Financiers / Investors - Represent 5% of the global Basoga population and are part of the Brain Drain in the 19702 / 1990s and Nkuba kyeyos in 1990s / 2000s+. They are the key to the economic revival of Busoga.
Friends of Busoga - The Legaciers - Represent 5% of the global Basoga population - Not ethnically Basoga but Basoga by assimilation (lived / worked in Busoga) during the boom years of the 1960s / 19802 when Jinja was a Jobs Magnet.
The campaign quickly integrated the 2nd objective that of uniting the Basoga.
A campaign communication tool had to be devised – A Proud to be a Musoga t-shirt - to help identify Basoga wherever they are in whatever capacities, and to encourage those who may still be shy to come out. Fortunately it was an attractive design with bold letters ‘Proud to be a Musoga’ and with a thumbprint to signify personal and unique identity.
For the wearer it signalled a boldness to wear such a ‘shouting ‘t-shirt, an opportunity to tell the world. I am a Musoga. Am here ready to be counted. For the Busoga region it was a rallying call to Basoga to unite and a return to the nostalgia of the glory days of Busoga.
The first phase of the campaign was to embark upon an endorsement phaseof key Basoga personalities and influencers / decision-makers – politicians, musicians, sports people, civil servants etc.
The campaign was promoted exclusively on social media and word of mouth.
From a lowly start in which everyone was reluctant to wear it, following the endorsement campaign by key personalities n Busoga, gradually the youth were attracted to the t-shirts because it spoke to them, and the design was attractive for people to feel confident in wearing it.
The P2BAM campaign has succeeded in recruiting and winning over the Kampala Basoga. It has been so successful that it is warming to see ordinary Basoga in Kampala wearing the Proud to be a Musoga t-shirt, from boda-boda riders, corporates on dress down Friday. And back in Busoga in the villages, the t-shirt has even been worn at funerals.
The P2BAM campaign has also succeeded in also attracting the Basoga in the diaspora who have nostalgic links with the glory days of Busoga and long to go back after many years of exile. But are often disappointed by what they hear and see and wonder how they can contribute to the restoration of Basoga. Basoga in the UK, all over Europe, Dubai, South Africa and the US have all embraced the Proud to be a Musoga campaign.
And indeed the P2BAM campaign has also progressed to target the fourth target audience, the Friends of Busoga, who were not ethnically Basoga but who had fond memories of growing up amongst the friendly, welcoming and hospitable Basoga, especially of Jinja. For them, a Friend of Busoga t-shirt was designed for them. This has been a very difficult target to win over as although they are proud of the hospitality of Jinja and the achievements whilst working in Busoga, they see the restoration of Busoga as largely a Busoga affair. They will only join in the Restore Busoga bandwagon when they see the Basoga themselves ‘walking the talk’, and investing back in Busoga and not in Kampala or indeed only in the diaspora. (It is sad that when prominent Basoga are returned to be buried in their villages, mourners are greeted with homes not even with electricity or running water!).
The campaign quickly realised that the disunited Busoga had an opportunity to unite through the newly crowned Kyabazinga in September 2014. After all he had all the elements to unite Busoga - Born Royal (grandson of Nadiope), young 27 years old (70% of Basoga are under 30 years), intelligent, highly educated, exposed, youthful and very good looking (always a plus for his women subjects an admirers). Decided to rally the campaign behind hi and support his reign. That is why we designed a Long Live Kyabazinga to commemorate his first anniversary and return after his year long MBA study in the UK. Have since supported all his initiatives and campaigns.
The Kyabazinga is the best opportunity Basoga have to unite, despite ongoing divisions and break away support for Prince Columbus Wambuzi, son of the late Kyabazinga Wako Muloki).
The campaign has also tried to unite the different Basoga groups like Abasoga Nseete, an organisation of over 3,000 Basoga students at different Ugandan universities and colleges.
The campaign has also tried to restore unity amongst the Basoga in the diaspora, reaching out to Basoga in all corner of the world. And being part of different organisations like Busoga Yaiffe in the UK, participating in the launch of the Olwekobaano and the Olugada. (Indeed P2BAM played a key role in the organisation of the visit of the Kyabazinga to London in September 2016).
Moses Zikusoka has since moved back to London in 2016 for family reasons the newly created Proud to be a Musoga website which is an initiative of The Ideas Factory a company incorporated in Uganda.
The initiative is there to help;
Restore Pride - For the older generation, pride is about nostalgia, the youth (it is about a sense of identity / being part of fad / trend).
Developing Unity – This involves working with different existing Basoga groups – Busoga Yaiffe, Abasoga Nseete, Olugada, Olwekobaano, Kingdom and Busoga events.
Have been part of the organisation of the Olugada Cultural Gala (July 2016) and planning for the Olwekobaano UK (September 2016) when the Kyabazinga visited.
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