Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch

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Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Son Of Africa Dr. Shaka Ssali

When I was carrying out some academic research on my beautiful continet Africa. I came across an interesting email with a lot of facts about a person who has been of interest to me ever since I was a boy. This is a man whom I personally consider a mentor though we have never met face to face, but his African accent always reminds me home. It reminds me that you can be who you are and yet outdo the excellence and average performance. You can maintain your root and your love for Africa and still find your own place in the elite society. This man I am talking about is Dr. Shaka Ssali. Many people who developed the liking for him when we were still high school students, we continued thinking that he is related to Shaka of South Africa but when I discovered that he is a Ugandan from not far from home. I remembered my history teacher "Le Monsieur Mushakamba" who hailed from Butaro that he told me that the reasons why Zulu people of South Africa refer to the Cape Raven as Gatcha for Gatcha Butelezi is because they originated from Central and East African area.The word Gatcha in Zulu and AGACHA in Kinyarwanda translate the same kind of a bird called a Raven. He assured that might have been named after Shaka of Ishyaka pronounced as Ishaka by the people of Bakiga region. This includes Gisenyi,Ruhengeri,Byumba IN RWANDA and Bufumbira,and Kigezi in UGANDA.

When I read this email from the person who real knows him I learnt alot that I would have otherwise not known. I felt I should republish it so that you too can get a chance to know our African hero a man who sees no boundaries but Africa Dr.Shaka Ssali in action.

Salaam Waleikum! Ndugu A.K. I am grateful to you for having raised these issues about Shaka Ssali's background. I had never for a moment thought that his names would cause concern to anyone. I have known Shaka and his family since we were young boys. He was a very famous athlete and most people who grew up in Kabale in the 1960s knew him as one of those athletically gifted boys on the soccer and track fields. So it would not be hard to verify the truth about Shaka. All one needs to do is to call anybody from Kabale aged 45 to 80 yrs and they will verify the truth that I am about to tell you about the Kabale Kid. Here are the facts: His ethnicity: Shaka Ssali is a Mukiga from Kigezi. He has never, ever claimed to be a Muganda. This is the first time that I hear anybody suggesting such. The reason why he did not know the Kiganda clan or Muziro to which his name was assigned is very simple. He did not need to. Now, knowing Shaka, I am sure he would be very happy to be called a Muganda, Acholi, Mugisu, or Zulu or any other African nationality. Indeed I would not be surprised if he has at one time or other jokingly "claimed" to be related to the Baganda, something which many of us who have lived in Buganda do quite frequently. [Many people call me "Mulira", a name to which I answer with a smile and pride. I would rather be called Mulira than Michael. And by the way, I may be even be related to you! Now that you say it I better find out what "my" Kiganda Clan is.] What about his names? Shaka Ssali is the son of the late John MuSHAKAmba, of Mwanjari, Kabale, Kigezi. His father was a well-known and respected businessman who, among other things, had a bar [where many of us were introduced to the potent liquids], a stone/sand quarry and a big lorry. The man we know as Shaka Ssali was born in Kabale, at a time when the Archdeacon of the Native Anglican Church (later Church of Uganda) was a wonderful Muganda gentleman called Rev. Ezekiel Balaba. The very much loved Balaba had a son called Ezera Ssali, and it was after him that Mushakamba, a Mukiga, named his son. It was fashionable to give children names that were considered exotic, or belonged to important people. Just like people named their children Charles after the British monarch's son, Mushakamba, named his son after his hero's son, Ssali. So the Kabale Kid has been called Ssali since he was less than one week of age, after Balaba's son. [My own father, who worked in Balaba's home to raise his own school fees, was baptized Ezera, copying Balaba's son's name. Kigezi is full of Ezeras and Zekyeris.] It is impossible to put in words what Ezekiel Balaba meant to the Bakiga, especially Abakristaayo. Don't forget that Buganda had a significant influence on many parts of Uganda, especially during the colonial era. You might be interested to know that I, a Mukiga from Kahondo ka Byamarembo in Kigezi, had an uncle called Kabaka. That was his name, presumably borrowed from Buganda. A very prominent Kabale businessman is called Mr. Balaba. He is a Mukiga from near Lake Bunyonyi. You know that former presidential candidate Dr. Besigye's first name is Kizza. He is from Rukungiri and not a Muganda. One of my schoolmates at Makerere Medical School was called Kaggwa, a gentleman from Acholi. Furthermore, there is a transition area in the West where names are shared with Buganda. So you find Wamara,(Wamala) Kavuma, Mukooza, Kakooza who are Banyankore. My late brother-in-law, a Munyankore was called Kakooza, and his brother is called Mulindwa. Their Luganda is worse thine mine! All this to show you that to us the name "Ssali" is not an issue whatsoever. The name "Shaka" is derived from his father's name, and NOT from the Zulu king's. However, the fact that the SHAKA part of his father's last name was the same as the great Zulu king's name was perfect for him. From his childhood until the late 1980s, he was called Mike Ssali. I am therefore not sure what you mean by "derived names". The records at Kinkungiri Primary School, Kigezi High School (Primary), Kigezi High School (Junior), Kigezi College, Butobere and Kololo Secondary School will show that there was a boy called Michael Ssali. This is one of those facts that need not detain us any longer really. The FACTS: The Kabale Kid is a MUKIGA, who was once called Mike Ssali, but who, like very many of us, chose to discard his "European name", [slave name to be exact] and adopted an African name, a meaningful African name, derived from his father's last name. These are facts that I will very gladly attest to in any court of law and before any Mullah or Rabbi. The allegation that Shaka "assumed his Ssali name from using someone else's academic credentials from the ministry of education" is very false and can only be advanced by those who are either not familiar with his career or are informed by malice. You see Shaka DOES NOT have an O-level certificate, something that amuses him to no end. He has talked about it many times. I have written about it before. [Check the 1992 issues of the defunct Weekly Topic where a profile a wrote about him was published.] The only Ugandan certificates that "Mike Ssali" has are the Primary Leaving Certificate and the Junior Leaving Certificate. You see, he was expelled from Kigezi College when he was in Senior Two. He then went to Kololo Secondary School where he DROPPED out in Senior THREE to join the Uganda Army in 1968, during Obote I. He trained as an Officer Cadet, became a Lieutenant and served in the army until 1974. He was attending a course in Greece when his biological uncle, Mr. James Karambuzi, was publicly executed by firing squad. Karambuzi was one of then guerrilla leader Yoweri Museveni's collaborators in Kabale and a true hero of the struggle. {See: Sowing the Mustard Seed, by Y.K. Museveni.] James Karambuzi's execution greatly affected many of us, and it depressed Lt. Ssali. He would soon join those who plotted a coup to overthrow Idi Amin in 1974. The coup failed. Like many officers involved in that coup, he was not caught, though he was soon discharged from the army together with many other officers. [See Cross to the Gun, by Col. Rwehururu, published by Monitor Publications last year. It gives a very good account about the personal struggles of many professional soldiers/officers in the Uganda Army under Idi Amin.] Shaka spent the next two years trying his hand at business, mostly in the Kigezi area. He did not do well in this effort. So in 1976, Mike Ssali, a school drop-out, ex-soldier, unsuccessful businessman, left for Germany to find work, new opportunities and personal safety. He eventually arrived in New York City in July 1976, without any academic certificates of any kind, without much money, but with a determination to succeed. We must save that story for another time, except to tell you that it really is a classic poor immigrant's struggle in a foreign land. I mean how did this high school drop-out end up with an honours bachelor's degree and two masters degrees (SUNY, Albany) and a PhD (UCLA) - all in a mere 10 years? It is his unusual journey against all these odds that probably makes people who do not know him summon fiction to explain what is by all measures a very extraordinary life and journey. I can understand. May I also comment on your last point? You wrote: "Benon, I am not digging dart for a potential presidential candidate, but we need to be careful before we endorse him, and excite the Baganda when in fact his royalty may not include Buganda." I can state with great confidence that Shaka's loyalty is to the human race, to Africa and to Uganda. Ask those in Washington who know him and they will affirm this. It goes without saying then that his loyalty is to all communities [Acholi, Ashanti, Buganda, Gikuyu, Kigezi, ...........Zulu etc.] that constitute those entities. To be sure, Shaka has little interest in parochial nationalism. I mean it when I say that the man's loyalty crosses all boundaries and cleavages. While our ethnic identities are important building blocks for our African family, and while I believe that we should celebrate and value our various nationalities, I personally would never support a person just because he/she shares my ancestral heritage. Personally the questions that I always ask about an individual or group or cause are: Is the person good? Is his/hers/theirs a right and just cause? It is a view that I know Shaka Ssali shares. Let me reiterate that to my knowledge Shaka Ssali is not seeking the presidency of Uganda or any other elected office. He really does NOT need endorsement for anything at this time. And lastly, is it not interesting though that someone would quibble with an African being called an African name (from a nationality that is three kilometres from his birthplace), but that someone would have no quarrel with an African being called "Michael" or "Michelle?"
Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. Let's keep in touch. Sincerely, Muniini K. MuleraOmunaBusiro!


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