The Observer (Kampala)

11 November 2012

Uganda: We Need More Books Like Museveni's Katondoozi

editorial

A book co-authored by President Museveni and three others was last week launched in Kampala. Katondoozi, essentially a Runyankore-Rukiga the thesaurus, was put together by Museveni, Prof Manuel Muranga, Alice Muhoozi and Gilbert Gumoshabe.

The quartet must be commended for this initiative. As society evolves and transforms, traditions, customs and languages tend to get relegated to the periphery if not completely forgotten in the blind quest for modernisation. Yet that is like forgetting who we are as a people. Moreover, modernisation and culture are not mutually exclusive. Language for one is an essential part of our culture.

Many children born to Ugandan parents in Kampala, other towns or abroad today can hardly express themselves in their parents' vernacular dialects. That is most absurd. Initiatives like Katondoozi would help conserve our cultures, customs and languages. Yet commendable as it, it is a drop in the ocean. First, it covers only Runyankore-Rukiga out of the dozens of languages spoken by indigenous Ugandans. Secondly, many other aspects of our rich cultures are crying out for preservation too.

The government ought to play a more robust role in this endeavour as this is too important a task to be left to individuals or private actors. For instance, one could argue that Katondoozi was made possible in large part by Museveni's involvement. A more inclusive government initiative would be more sustainable. The lure of modernity must not tempt us to forget our roots.

One of the few things the western world admires about Africa is the rich cultures. Indeed, cultural tourism is gaining more traction in Uganda and the rest of Africa. We can't therefore, afford to turn our backs on the treasure that is our heritage.

With older people dying and younger people taking their place, it's more important than ever before to preserve our heritage. Luckily, with modern technology, we have what our ancestors lacked: various ways of storing this knowledge. From books to videos, it is now so much simpler to bequeath onto our children and grandchildren what we inherited from our ancestors.

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