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Museveni and African hairstyles

Museveni hosts Miss World Africa, Uganda’s Quiin Abenakyo

THE LAST WORD: Why the President’s emphasis on hairstyles to assert the African identity addresses the form and ignores the substance

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | On December 30, 2018, President Yoweri Museveni tweeted thanking Miss World Africa, Quiin Abenakyo, for heeding his “advice” to keep her hair “natural”. Museveni claimed that this asserts her “African identity”. “God beautifully created Africans and there is no need to add or subtract anything,” the President tweeted.

I replied saying he had tweeted his comment in English, itself a foreign language, yet he could have done this in Runyankore, Lusoga or Swahili. Many responded saying the President used English to reach all Ugandans since it is not only our lingua franca but also the official language of Uganda. Granted! But Museveni could have tweeted in all the languages of Uganda, and they are not many.

We must note that language in an expression of a people’s culture. Therefore language is the most effective instrument to destroy the identity of a people. As Amilcar Cabral argued, to dominate a nation by force of arms is, above all, to take up arms to destroy, or at least neutralise and paralyse its culture. Culture is much more expressed through language than through hairstyles.

The two biggest assaults on African identity during colonial rule were religion and language. Adopted foreign hairstyles, dress codes, bleaching etc. were merely derivative. Chinua Achebe’s `Things Fall Apart’ presents the impact of the Christian religion on African society in one of the most compelling dialogues of African literature. Obierika tells Okonkwo: “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. But now he has won our brothers and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

The Christian conquest of our souls was made more effective through language. In the English language, everything negative is black: blackmail, blacklist, black book, black market, black sheep or black Monday. Meanwhile words like whitewash give positive imagery of whiteness. Hence the African Christian can be heard praying loudly: “Wash me redeemer, I shall be whiter than snow.”

Indeed, there are very many contradictions regarding Africanising names, languages, practices, institutions, dressing and hairstyles. For example, Museveni always wears suits, which are not an “African” dress code. The institutions of the state of Uganda that he leads are not an assertion of African identity but a copy and paste from Western nations. The ideologies he has always embraced – initially Marxism and later neoliberalism – are not African. He is a Christian, a religion that was imposed on us through colonial conquest. His name Yoweri is the vernacular version of Joel from the Bible. Indeed, the names of his daughters – Diana, Natasha and Patience – are not African either.

Secondly, in `Sowing the Mustard’, Museveni blames former president, Milton Obote, for not promoting Swahili as a national language for Uganda the same way Julius Nyerere and Jomo Kenyatta had done in Tanzania and Kenya respectively. Obote led Uganda for a combined period of 14 years while Museveni has done 32 years. Therefore, according to Museveni’s standard, he carries the blame for keeping English as our lingua franca for this long.

So if we have accepted a non-African language as our official language (in spite of its degradation of everything African or black), adopted a non-African dress code, embraced non-African religions (Christianity and Islam), and use non-African institutions, why should we not use non-African hairstyles? Indeed, non-African institutions dominate our policy-making processes to wit the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and bilateral donors such as USAID, DFID, SIDA, etc.


  1. I strongly believe that Ms.Abenakyo was crowned Miss Africa in the recently held Miss world beauty contest in China because of Uganda’s economic ties with China. It was more of a reward for Uganda for having been a reliable and loyal business partner.

    Is there anything wrong with artificially enhancing one’s looks especially if they feel insecure about their appearance absolutely no Why do do want to appear in public with cracked tooth Rajab?.Most celebrities like Kim Kardarasian,Tina Tunner,Meliana Trump,Janet Jackson all look good coz they are cautious of their appearance.

    In Ankole for example, a lady with a dark teeth gum is considered beautiful,in Buganda a lady with a gap between her teeth is considered beautiful yet some dentists think she has a dental problem.

    Back to the article about corruption how come the biggest economies in Africa like Nigeria,S.Africa,Kenya have the highest rate of corruption yet their economies are big?Have you Adhola and Rajab ever heard of any Ugandan whose bank accounts have frozen in the Virgin Islands or in Swiss Banks?

    • But Winnie you must be smoking shisha in some hole in Katanga. Rajab who you address was mentioned in a case I don’t recall but most likely a mosque in Katwe and a woman who was killed. Anyway the entire horde is in Murchison bay and whenever they are brought for mention they talk of wanting mbu special check-up by high-cost medics and the judge sends them back.
      Adhola must be retired, he will go before UPC you bet and UPC is on last painful leg to disintegration.

  2. African Models like Awek Lek,Deng have made lots of money from international designers like Chanel,Christian Dior,Lactose,Trump Models just coz of their unique features however of late, African/Ugandan women suffer from inferiority complex which is as a results of pressure from men and society. In Buganda for example, 95% of the women have bleached their skin coz most Baganda men prefer light skinned women for example ;the wives of most prominent Baganda men are light skinned for example Bebe Cool,Chameleon ,Kabaka,Bobi Wine. Bambi women are under alot of pressure to be light skinned men need to balance their preference for light and ebony skinned ladies.

    The Origin of Breaching was as follows:Back then,the most marketable prostitutes were Russians coz they were pretty and of course light skinned so African women who wanted to the join the booming prostitution market in Dubai couldn’t compete favorably coz of their skin tone ever since, that mentality has never left our minds.

  3. It is pretty evident that this room is so lonely and empty…….
    And it is is also pretty evident that the boredom is deafening……
    The topic is ‘Abenakyo’ (be natural) and the theme is ‘hairstyle’ but pull in ‘Rajab’ to lighten up the room. President Museveni must have borrowed this prank from an old tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (Jeanne Marie 1748). The story goes that once upon a time there lived a humble family that lived in indigent conditions. It is told that one day the father of Beauty was caught picking a flower for his daughter from the garden of the Beast. The Beast was actually an enchanted prince whose beliefs in true love had led him to his current outlook. He believed that true love existed beyond material wealth. The Beast decided to play honesty with the Beauty. This led the Beauty to grow fonder and she finally fell in love. The trick had worked for the Beast and he regained his ‘Prince hood.’ With due respect to the first lady, President Museveni could be playing the game of the ‘Beast and the Beauty’ on Abenakyo. At 75years old, President Museveni could be playing’honesty’ on Abenakyo in an attempt to be ‘Prince Charming’ once again.
    My name is Rajab Kakyama and I am the “lightbulb” of this empty room.

  4. Dr Eng Kant Ateenyi

    Hahahah –

    Winnie, thanks for ‘resurrecting’ Rajab – oba from where —–.

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