Three years ago I made the decision to suspend reading fiction and start reading nonfiction, especially BIOGRAPHIES. I started with International biographies and have since read the biographies of successful personalities in fields running the gamut from Politics (MAO ZEDONG) to sport (MUHAMMAD ALI) to Music (MADONNA) to acting (MARLON BRANDO) et cetera. After sometime I sought to read about some local personalities, and quickly discovered that Ugandans did not have the culture of documenting the lives of their ICONS. Whereas there have been many eminent Ugandans whose lives I would have to read about, I am saddened that the lives of our famous musicians like PHILLY BONGOLE LUTAAYA, Sports icons like JOHN AKIBUA, and politicians like MILTON OBOTE have never and will perhaps never be documented. Nevertheless, in my quest for Ugandan biographies, I have been able to find some gems that I believe should be widely read, three of which I will share with you below:
The Bell is Ringing by Martin Aliker (Fountain Publishers, 2018)
This fast-paced narrative is of a true power-broker, who has been friends with the most influential world leaders, written in a simple but punchy style that will keep you turning the pages all the way to the end, and leave you wondering how one man’s life can be so eventful, consequential and influential.
‘A few years later in 1997, my telephone rang at midnight. Late night calls always make my heart sink….Then the mellifluous voice of Nelson Mandela came on the phone, ‘young man I want you to find John Garang for me. Shocked and confused I blurted out, ‘yes sir, I will find him for you.’…
‘I had no idea where John Garang was. He was not my friend and I had no dealings with him, yet I had to do something. After all the request was from the president of South Africa, so I picked up the telephone and called State House Nakasero. I told the operator I needed to speak with the president, but he told me it was late and the president had retired to bed… ‘wake him up, I have to speak to him.’ The poor man put me through to the president, I apologized for calling him so late and told him that Nelson Mandela had just called me and wanted to find John Garang for him…’
Sowing the Mustard Seed by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (Macmillan Education; Third Impression edition (January 3, 1997)
The narrative of the longest serving president of Uganda is sometimes bogged down by too much exposition, but beneath the verbosity and sometimes clumsy back and forth flips between the events, lies a truly inspirational story of a genuine patriot, who right from his youth was focused on setting his country on a path to peace and prosperity, and whose involvement in the politics of the country started soon as he graduated from University.
‘I therefore started working in the President’s Office, in the Research Section, headed by Wilson Okwenje. The Permanent Secretary was Mzee Wacha Olwol…The work involved was to use open sources like newspapers and magazines of the whole world, to identify articles or any other material that could help the government reach better decisions….I liked the work because it involved a lot of reading of the very subjects that I liked best – politics, economics, liberation movements’ issues and so on.’
The Story of an African Entrepreneur by Gordon BK Wavamuno (Wavah Books, 2000)
This exceptionally well-written story shows you the resilience it takes to be a successful businessman, and the tenacity it takes to bounce back after one’s business is almost destroyed by the unfortunate events unfolding during the tumultuous periods of our country – plagued by coups and war and messy government and more war.
OSCAR RANZO is a Fellow of the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa, USA. He is the author of twenty children’s books as the well as the popular Adventures of Babi and Bobi, which was serialized for three years in The Sunday Vision.
In 2012, he started a literary social enterprise, the Oasis Book Project, with the major aim of sparking interest in local literature – by publishing children’s books with high literary and artistic standards and selling them cheaply to schools and parents.
The project has since been working directly with primary schools in Central Uganda and has so far published twenty-five children’s books, all of which are currently being read by children in over two hundred schools. In due course, Oscar has employed 10 permanent workers and many more part timers, who are all passionate about promoting the consumption of local literature in the country. In 2014, Ranzo won the ‘Enterprising Teachers’ Award from The New Vision, for the positive impact of the Oasis Book Project to the education sector in Uganda. In 2018, his book, The Jewels of Amuria won the award of Children’s Book of the Year and in the same year he was hired by Ladybird Books as a consultant on their Key Words for Africa book project.
Oscar’s wish moving forward is to expand the scope of his social enterprise and reach out to the underprivileged children in rural schools. His mission is to grow OASIS until it becomes the market leader for children’s books in the region. His vision is a future in which every child in Uganda begins their reading journey with an OASIS book.