Monday, July 19, 2010



Hassan Hislow
I used to think I was Ugandan, but my nationality has now been questioned. I met an old friend on my recent return to the country, who asked what my tribe was. Well, I couldn’t believe this was coming from him!

What a question, I thought having studied with him; he must have known my tribe. While growing up as children, we used to play soccer, swim and even talked about girls together , so I knew we were close friends. But why was he asking about my tribe at this age? Could there be something wrong – I thought.

In truth, this friend of mine knew I was a Ugandan of Somali origin, but insisted on asking. Perhaps he might have forgotten my tribe; since it was long that we saw each other. Maybe he could be suffering from loss of memory, I consoled myself. So I asked him, friend, haven’t you known my tribe this long? He laughed and said aren’t you from the Al-shabaab tribe…. I mean the Somali’s who bombed our city recently.
After hearing this, I immediately realised relations between Ugandans and Somalis were getting strained as a result of Sunday’s twin bomb blasts in Kampala-which Al-shabaab claimed responsibility.
Well, being a party animal that am, I straight away sensed danger, and made a decision to limit my travels around happening spots in the city – since I was from a tribe accused of masterminding the cold-blooded attacks in Kampala.

As I thought what next, a question came to my mind, why was I born here? If a person you grew up with can associate you with terrorists just because you belong to a certain tribe. What would others do? I mean those (people) who don’t know me. I feared there might be retribution meted on members of the Somali community in Uganda. Regardless of the fact that Uganda is my country, I decided to take my personal security very seriously; I knew I was being segregated for the actions of a few evil minded terrorists who happen to belong to my tribe.

On Wednesday morning I received a call from an Australian Documentary maker. He wanted me to show him around, but I was afraid. I was afraid because many Ugandans could not differentiate between Somalis and Al-shabaab. Some think all Somalis are members of Al-shabaab, yet this is not true. Al-shabaab is made up of almost all nationalities in the world-though its top leadership consists of Somali’s.

I’m aware many Ugandans are grief-stricken as a result of this cowardly terrorist attack. I humbly appeal to you to remain tolerant of Somalis living in your midst. Not all Somalis are involved in terrorist activities. Somalis are grateful for the hospitality you have offered them.
Those behind these ruthless attacks are simply a bunch of heartless individuals determined to strain the good relationship enjoyed between the two countries. Remember Uganda has always enjoyed a good relationship with Somalia.
Let’s unite once more as a nation irrespective of tribe, political affiliation or religion and fight as one. May the Almighty God heal those nursing both physical and psychological wounds.

For God and my country

Hassan Isilow is an independent Journalist.