Sex, lies and Ugandan politics: Mama Tendo is no longer a parenting site

Wednesday July 17 2019

It is a Ugandan thing to hide from real issues and seek inconsequential diversions.

It is a Ugandan thing to hide from real issues and seek inconsequential diversions. Is it any surprise then, that a women’s platform that started out as a parenting forum turned into a sex chatroom? ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG 

JOACHIM BUWEMBO
By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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If you search for Mama Tendo online, you will find that she is probably the most active social media presence in Uganda, with about a quarter of a million hyperactive women members.

(The oldest Ugandan online group called Ugandans-At-Heart with half a million members started as an e-mail list-serve in the 1990s by our diaspora citizens, but still has no specific focus.)

Over a decade ago, a young, freshly married journalist got pregnant and started publishing her maternal health journal.

She delivered a baby named Tendo (gracious marvel) and continued with the journal of his step-by-step development.

She then became a much sought-after parenting speaker and coach. Expectedly, Mama Tendo became a social media forum for mothers to share stuff on parenting, nutrition, etc.

Along the way, relationships became the dominant topic and more recently took a radical turn towards an explicit quest for survival, like how to get out of this unexciting affair, how to get a rich but obedient husband...Unlike your agony aunts of mainstream media, Mama Tendo became quite raw.

A woman raises a complaint about her less than superb husband and gets a few hundred practical tips on how to ditch “the bastard” by close of day. Some of their problems are too graphic to be even alluded to here.

Mama Tendo is equally well followed by men. Sometime ago, I commented on one of their posts but had to stop abruptly when my daughter called reprimanding me severely for letting my name get anywhere near “that forum.”

Presumably, she was also following it; how did she see “our name,” in a Mama Tendo debate and acted forthwith to protect it?

But Mama Tendo is being typically Ugandan; our people tend to go sexual during politically complicated times.

In 1980, a wealthy Kampala road contractor launched a dubious political movement whose mission was to promote sexuality.

Its name cannot be printed here but it became immensely popular in the city. That was a tricky election year, with the government army and the “occupying” Tanzanian army heavily in favour of one party against another mass party whose supporters were being clobbered and killed.

It was also risky to openly support the smaller third party of radical reformers who went on to wage war soon after the polls. So the “sex” party became an excuse for people who did not want to state where they belonged.

We are now in the era of shamelessly greedy legislators. From 1986, the ruling National Resistance Movement infused massive energy into the emancipation of women, who today hold a third of parliamentary seats. It means women can set a pro-women condition to support any major motion, including constitutional amendments.

But there has never been a women’s position on any important issue before Parliament, not even the murders in Greater Kampala that exclusively target young ladies. Yet a third of the MPs are specifically elected as women, not just as candidates.

No wonder women in politics are sometimes seen as a bunch of self-seekers who forget about women’s issues once elected.

It is a Ugandan thing, women included, to hide from real issues and seek inconsequential diversions. Is it any surprise then, that a women’s platform that started out as a parenting forum turned into a sex chatroom?

Joachim Buwembo is a political and social commentator based in Kampala. E-mail: [email protected]

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