Posts Tagged ‘Uganda’

Since the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, John Akii-Bua Has Held the Uganda Record in the 110 Meters-Hurdles

May 29, 2017

The literature mainly attributes the 110 meters-hurdles’ Uganda national record to Jean-Baptiste Okello, courtesy of his personal best of 14.48 seconds that he established at the Olympics of 1960 in Rome. However, there is proof that John Akii-Bua established the national record in 1970 at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. This record seems to have stood it’s ground for nearly fifty years!

The 20 year-old Okello and the 21 year-old Aggrey Awori represented Uganda in the high-hurdles event in Rome at the Olympics of 1960. The first round of competition, then the quarter-finals, then the semi-finals, and later the final, were all held on the same day September 3rd 1960. The preliminary round consisted of six heats, Okello was entered in the first heat, Awori was entered in the sixth heat. There were five to seven hurdlers in each heat, and the fastest four of each heat would qualify for the second round (quarter-finals). In his heat, Okello was second (14.59), he therefore moved on to the next round. Awori did not fare as well, he finished in fourth place (15.36), but still qualified for the quarter-finals.

The quarter-finals were divided into four heats, each heat with six hurdlers. The fastest three in each heat would qualify for the semi-finals. In the first heat, in which Okello was placed, he finished second (14.48), and hence qualified for the semi-finals. This was a new and impressive Uganda record. Awori was eliminated after finishing fourth in the third heat (14.94).

The semi-finals consisted of two heats, each with six athletes. Okello featured in the first heat. The fastest three in each heat would move on to the final. Okello did not progress to the finals, after finishing fifth here (14.59).

Near the end of the Games, Awori and Okello would be part of Uganda’s 4x100m relay team. They were disqualified in the first round. The other sprinters were Samuel Amukun and Gadi Ado. The four youngsters were the only Uganda competitors at the Olympics in Rome. Among the four, only Samuel Erasmus Amukun and Aggrey Awori would move on to representing Uganda at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Awori would establish school records in the sprints, the long jump, and the high hurdles at Harvard University, and he later become a prominent Uganda civil servant and politician. Amukun became a prominent geologist in Canada.

Some have contended that Aggrey Awori holds Uganda’s 110 meters-hurdles record. He did finish the high hurdles in a meet and Harvard record of 14.2 seconds in early May 1965 at the Greater Boston Collegiate Track and Field Championships at the Harvard Stadium (Editors 1965: 8). The issue is that it was in the 120 yards-hurdles. That is very approximate, but not exactly 110 meters. Also, the conditions were not recognized or ratified by an international athletics body. There was also the factor of favorable winds.

Hidden in the annals is the 110 meters-hurdles national record that golden Olympian John Akii-Bua, who also holds the national records in the decathlon and the 400 meters, set at the 1970 Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh. The Games took place from July 16th to 25th. It is commonly known that Akii-Bua finished fourth here, in the final of the 400 meters-hurdles, the beginning of his meteoric rise to stardom.

In Edinburgh, there would be three rounds of 110 meters-hurdles’ competition, including the final. Each round consisted of seven hurdlers, and the fastest five in each heat would advance to the semi-finals. Akii-Bua was placed in the first heat of three heats, he advanced to the semi finals by virtue of his fourth-place finish. He finished in 14.39 seconds, clearly a new Uganda record. There does not seem to be evidence that any Ugandan has ran faster than that in the event. The winner in this heat was notably British legend David Hemery who had won gold at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico city where he simultaneously set a new world record.

At the Commonwealth Games of 1970 in Edinburgh, there were two semi-final heats in the 110 meters-hurdles; and Akii-Bua was placed in the second one, each consisting of eight hurdlers. The first four fastest in each semi-final heat, would advance to the finals. Akii-Bua failed to make it to the finals by finishing fifth in 14.43 seconds. But even this timing was faster than the Uganda record that Jean-Baptiste Okello erroneously holds (14.48)!

David Hemery would win in the finals (13.99) and claim gold.

Works Cited
Editors, “Harvard Wins Again, Fiore Sets Record.” The Heights, Volume 45, No. 25 (1965): 8.

Book by Jonathan Musere–“Henry Morton Stanley: Emergence of the Pearl of Africa”

March 5, 2016

Welsh-born Henry Morton Stanley who was raised in an environment of deprivation and torture is depicted in “Henry Morton Stanley: Emergence of the Pearl of Africa,” by Jonathan Musere.

Against insurmountable odds, short and hard-headed Stanley gradually rose to eternally become internationally signified as an adventurous soldier, journalist, geographer, explorer, discoverer, prospector, colonialist and diplomat.

In this account Stanley is followed from his beginnings, to his migration to America where he would participate in the Civil war, to his travails along the way, and to his sailing to many parts of the world. Stanley loved to be impressive and perfectionist, he longed to be in the thick of where the action was. His ambitiousness drew him to famous figures and financiers. He would be assigned to find explorer-missionary Dr. David Livingstone in east-Central Africa, he accompanied the British Commanders during the Ashanti War and in the Battle of Magdala.

Ariko The African environment that Stanley recorded, just like the people, would vary from hostile to hospitable. Stanley came across slavers and slave traders, Hindis and Banyan, half-castes and coastal Negroes, chiefs and kings, herders and settled communities. He was always eager to take notes.

Stanley wrote and moved fast, he recorded what he observed in numerous detailed and voluminous journals and books. He managed his crew impressively; he intricately described individuals, groups, and places. Among the individuals and communities that he was quite impressed with were Lord Rumanika of Karagwe, Mtyela Mirambo of Unyamwezi, and Mutesa of Buganda.

John Baker Muwanga and Oscar Joseph Nsubuga: Two Uganda Boxing Legends

October 28, 2015

John Baker Muwanga, one of the best regarded of Uganda’s boxing champions, was born on April 2nd 1956 in the vicinity of Kampala, growing up in Nsambya. Joseph Nsubuga, another of Uganda’s renowned former boxers, was Muwanga’s older half-brother.

Equally unique and fascinating is how Muwanga started boxing, how he progressed, and why and how he hang up his gloves.  His pathway to boxing started when his half-brother Nsubuga who was born in Kenya in the early 1950’s showed up in 1963 at the family home in Nsambya while accompanied by his sister and mother.  The father of the children had been employed by East African Railways and Harbors where he worked in Kenya. Muwanga was delighted to have an older brother around. Nsubuga had dabbled at boxing. Soon, Muwanga would accompany Nsubuga to the Police Boxing club in Nsambya, a few times. But Muwanga was not impressed with the sport. Also, Muwanga’s mother would soon vacate the house, taking with him Muwanga and one of his sisters to live elsewhere. He soon ended up being a pupil in Mugwanya Preparatory School (Kabojja), a boarding school; and thereafter he was transferred to the sister school St. Savio Primary School on Entebbe Road.

At Savio in 1969, Muwanga ended up fighting a bully who happened to be the son of a politically prominent person. Muwanga was expelled from school as a result. His father was very furious, and assured him that he would never amount to anything. Meanwhile brother Nsubuga was making steady boxing progress, Muwanga got the attention for just happening to be the brother–although he was put down as comparatively weak and not  as tough as his boxing brother. It is here that Muwanga decided to try boxing. He was matched with play opponents, he was badly beaten and laughed at. People from northern Uganda were reputed to be good fighters, and Muwanga was discouraged from continuing with boxing on the grounds that such boxers would, “kill you for nothing.” But the taunting just made Muwanga the more determined to disprove skeptics.

Muwanga dared to enroll in the national junior championships which were held at the Nsambya Police shed. He would represent Nsambya Boxing Club. At that place and time, those days, medical tests were not up to standard and were not taken seriously. Muwanga was allowed to box. He was matched with an opponent Tilima from Naguru boxing Club. In the fight, Muwanga did not prove himself; his opponent who was much better than him did his best not to humiliate him. Tilima even pretended to be knocked down, even when he had not been hit.  Muwanga writes (Personal communication, 10 June 2014):

“What a show!!! This guy tried everything not to humiliate me but failed people laughed until tears run down there cheeks. The guy even pretended to be knocked down by the air of a punch I had swung some 10 inches away from him. He got a warning for that. I lost and the crowd laughed.”

Muwanga’s associates would laugh at him because of that fight.  This caused him to strive the more to become a good boxer.  Early on a Sunday he decided to go to Kampala Boxing Club in Nakivubo. Muwanga writes, “I went to KBC in Nakivubo, determined to learn how to box or die” (Personal communication, 10 June 2014). The club was closed.

Muwanga returned to KBC early the next morning. There a fellow James Bond Okwaare made fun of how Muwanga had boxed. Okwaare was quickly rebuked by the national coach Erias Gabiraali. Muwanga started training there as he got to know some of the national boxers who dropped in.  These inclued Ayub Kalule, Cornelius Bbosa Boza-Edwards, Mustafa Wasajja, Ben Ochan,  Alex Odhiambo, Ochodomuge, and David Jackson. Even Muwanga’s brother Nsubuga would drop in. In concluding words Muwanga writes  (Personal communication, 10 June 2014):

“One day I was shocked to hear that my brother was going to Scotland [Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, 1970] to represent Uganda. I could not believe, not only that other urchins from the ‘village’ were also going, to make the pie sweeter boys from the slum next door which was Katwe Kinyoro, the likes of John Opio were also in the team!!! There was justice in honest sweat, hard work and discipline…the rest is history.”

At the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh,  on July 18th 1970,  16 year-old Joseph Oscar Nsubuga (lightweight) was defeated by points decision by Olympian Kenneth Mwansa of Zambia in the preliminary round.

At  the Commonwealth Games of 1974  held in Christchurch, 20 year-old Nsubuga now a light-welterweight defeated Philip Sapak of Papua New Guinea. This happened in the preliminary first round on January 27th  when the referee halted the fight early after Nsubuga had quickly overwhelmed his opponent. However, in the quarter-finals that were held two days later, James Douglas of Scotland defeated Nsubuga by points and thereby halted Nsubuga’s quest for a medal.

Months later, in August 1974, Nsubuga, fighting as a middleweight, would win a bronze medal at the inaugural World Amateur Boxing Championships in Havana. Nsubuga had moved up to the middleweight division.

The TSC Tournament was held at the Dynamo-Sporthalle in Berlin during October 3-7, 1974. In the quarter-finals, Nsubuga fighting as a middleweight beat Zaprianov (Bulgaria) by points. But in the semi-finals he was beaten, by points, by Peter Tiepold of the German Democratic Republic. He settled for the bronze medal. here Ugandans performed remarkably well: James Odwori (flyweight) and Ayub Kalule (light-welterweight) won gold; Vitalish Bbege (welterweight) won the silver medal.

Nsubuga would debut as a professional in May 1975 whereby he moved to Finland then to Norway; he would mostly fight in Europe. Nsubuga stopped competing in 1981 after he was knocked out by famous future world champion Davey Moore. Nsubuga’s most signified fight was his spirited gladiator battle (non-title bout) with renowned Panamanian Roberto Duran on January 13th 1980 in Las Vegas. The Panamanian seemed to be tiring, but Joseph “Stoneface” Nsubuga was knocked out at the end of the fourth round. He retired from boxing in 1981 with an impressive record of 18 wins and 3 losses. Nsubuga passed away in Helsinki on May 4th 2013, aged 59.

During the 1970’s while at Namasagali College in Kamuli District in Uganda, Muwanga displayed himself as a skillful, dreaded, and popular boxer. At the amateur national level, he is said to have defeated renowned future world champion and fellow Ugandan Cornelius Boza-Edwards (Bbosa) twice. In April 1973, the annual Golden Belt Tournament took place in Bucharest. Most of the winners and silver medalists turned out to be Cubans and Romanians. It was here that Muwanga, aged 17, first participated in international competition. Here Muwanga, together with his accomplices on the Uganda team–Ayub Kalule, Vitalish Bbege, and James Odwori–all won bronze medals in Romania. Later in the same 1973, Muwanga fought for Uganda twice in two Urafiki (Kenya vs. Uganda) tournaments; he was victorious. Muwanga soon became overwhelmed when the veteran Ugandan boxing legend Alex Odhiambo, who had heretofore been so critical of the younger boxer, subsequently gave him the nod and the thumbs up!

At the local level and during training, Muwanga did fight Odwori and another famous Uganda boxer “Kabaka” Nasego several times, but he did not win. Among the Ugandans he beat were Vincent Byarugaba, and several others. Muwanga’s stint as a national amateur boxer were from 1973 to 1977 when he was also a student at Namasagali College; thereafter he attended Oslo University while he fought as a professional. Muwanga recalls that at training camp, where behavioral attitudes varied from boxer to boxer, as admired example the skillful Odwori was particularly talkative, whereas Ayub Kalule preferred action to words (Personal communication, 29 October 2015):

“…guys like Ayub Kalule…preferred action to talk, a phenomena in my opinion. James Odouri talked a mile a minute but, had the rare ability to back up whatever he said. A very rare quality. We called him ‘Kasuku’ [parrot] behind his back.”

John Muwanga, as a light-flyweight represented Uganda at the inaugural world amateur championships held in Havana in August 1974. Notably Kalule and Nsubuga here won gold and bronze, respectively. Muwanga was eliminated in the preliminary round by a points decision in favor of Bejhan Fuchedzhiyev (Bulgaria). Quite notable is the aspect that a massive six of the Uganda contingent in Havana had studied at Namasagali–one of the few schools in Uganda that embraced boxing. In addition to Muwanga, those boxers that did attend Namasagali included Nsubuga, Odwori, John Byaruhanga, Vincent Byarugaba, and Shadrack Odhiambo.

Muwanga’s national status continued to rise and at age 20 he was selected to represent Uganda at the summer Olympics in Montreal.  Most African countries, twenty-eight of them, boycotted the Montreal Olympic Games of 1976 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to bar from the Olympics countries from which athletes had participated in sporting events in apartheid South Africa. The New Zealand Rugby team was then touring South Africa. Countries like China, Iraq, and Guyana also withdrew; although with China it primarily had to do with a political name recognition issue–non-recognition of “Republic of China” vs.  “Peoples’ Republic of China.”

The Uganda boxers withdrawn from participation because of the boycott included Baker Muwanga (bantamweight) alongside Venostos Ochira (light-flyweight), Adroni Butambeki (flyweight), Cornelius Boza-Edwards (Bbosa) (featherweight), David Ssenyonjo (lightweight),  Jones Okoth (light-welterweight), Vitalish Bbege (welterweight), and John Odhiambo (light-middleweight). Non of these pugilists had represented Uganda at the 1972 Olympics held in Munich. Vitalish Bbege had won gold at the Africa Boxing Championships held in Kampala in 1974.

Muwanga started his professional career in Norway in April 1978, and ended it in October 1982. He mostly boxed as a lightweight. All his bouts took place in Norway, aside from the final two that took place in Finland. He did not lose any of the bouts but he likely would have liked to be exposed to more intensive competition and to also box in western countries where there are more top contenders and champions. A factor was the banning of professional boxing in Norway, this officially effective from the beginning of 1981.

Muwanga ended as undefeated as a professional boxer with 15 wins, 0 losses, with 6 knockouts (Boxrec.com). He regrets to some extend that he did not flourish as much as he would have wanted to as a boxer, but at the same time he is grateful that boxing took him to places and opened to him many advantages. He writes, “…my boxing career, in my opinion was not as exciting as I wanted it to be but I’m not complaining it opened a lot of doors for me and got me into places I never thought I would see…” (Personal communication, 10 June 2014).

Jonathan Musere

John Munduga: Famous Uganda Boxing Champion

October 26, 2015

Pugilist John Munduga, a Lugbara of northwestern Uganda ancestry was one of the nation’s top boxers during his amateur career of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. He was conspicuous for his lean build and tallness. Though he was in the lower weight classes, he was slightly over 6 feet tall. He has been regarded as one of the most skillful of Ugandan boxers. He would dabble as captain of the Uganda boxing team as he represented Uganda in several regional tournaments. Munduga competed at the summer Olympics that were held in Moscow in 1980, and he was there the national captain. As a professional, he fought in Europe and the United States where he brawled with several famous and top boxers. Munduga had a very high knockout ratio, and he remained undefeated for a relatively long time. He now resides in his native Uganda (in Naguru where he was born) where he is a high school coach and trainer–notably at Kololo High School near Kampala. During 2000, he was the national coach of the Rwanda boxing team.

Munduga was born on January 15th 1961 in Naguru near Kampala in Uganda where he studied at St. Jude Primary School where he played soccer. But he, early in life, became interested in boxing when he hang out at the Naguru Community Center near Kampala. He became a school boxing champion for several years, and then a national junior champion at age 11.

In 1977, Munduga represented Uganda at the annual Kenya vs. Uganda Urafiki Tournament. He won in the fight. He was summoned by national coach Grace Sseruwagi to get into residential training with the novices. Munduga excelled by beating his opponents then he was selected as the youngest on the team of Ugandan boxers to Thailand to fight in the international King’s Cup. Munduga impressively won a bronze medal.

In January 1978, at a Uganda vs. Poland match in Kampala, Munduga defeated Roman Gotfryd after the bout was stopped.

At the All-Africa Games of 1978, held in Algiers, Munduga lost in the second round to Kenyan Steve Muchoki who is renowned to have in the past beaten James Odwori, and having become am amateur world Champion. He tehrefore failed to move into the medal bracket.

Munduga represented Uganda at the Feliks Stamm Memorial Invitational that was held in Warsaw from November 9-11 in 1978. In the quarter-finals, the Ugandan defeated Jose Luis Rios of Cuba by 4:1. In the semi-finals Munduga beat Yuriy Prokhorov of the Soviet Union by 3:2. In the finals Munduga triumphed by beating Leszek Kosedowski (Poland) by 4:1. Here again, he won the gold. Out of the five Ugandan boxers at this venue, only Munduga was victorious.

At the Poland vs. Uganda Dual of February 1979, held in Warsaw, Munduga triumphed over the Pole Kazimierz Adach. Here boxers like Mugabi, Odwori, Butambeki, and Siryakibe were defeated.

Still in February 1979, Munduga was triumphant in the town Schwerin in German Democratic Republic where a dual match was held against Uganda. Munduga here defeated Lutz Kaesebier. Of the other Ugandan boxers, only Adroni Butambeki was triumphant.

Munduga was a 19 year-old when at the 1980 Olympics held in Moscow he was pitted against 25 year-old Nelson Jose Rodriguez of Venezuela in the first preliminary round of the light-welterweight contest. At just 5’5″, Rodriguez was about half a foot shorter than Munduga. The Ugandan triumphed on this July 21st 1980 by winning on points.

Munduga’s next Olympic battle would happen on July 26th, and here in the second preliminary he would box against Farouk Chanchoun Jawad of Iraq. Though much shorter, 25 year-old Chanchoun who was more experienced, would knock out Munduga in the second minute of the first round. The Ugandan claims that he started well, but then was unfairly punched in the neck and fell unconscious. Chanchoun is famously known to have been the Asia champion thrice. Munduga would take the position of 9th overall in the light-welterweight division.

But though Mugabi would win Uganda’s sole medal at the Olympics in Moscow, Munduga clearly stands out as the Uganda amateur pugilist that triumphed most for Uganda during the late 1970’s. He comes to mind as a very hardworking, skillful, dedicated and disciplined during a time when Uganda’s significance in boxing was quickly slipping down. After the Olympics in Moscow, Mugabi left for London to train as professional under the management Mickey Duff. There, Mugabi would recommend Munduga to boxing officiants, and during a training session in Uganda in preparation for the traditional annual Urafiki dual between Uganda and Kenya, Munduga escaped camp that was under the tutelage of national coach Grace Peter Sseruwagi and took off for Europe. The rest is history. Sseruwagi was undoubtedly not pleased.

The World Boxing Council (WBC) rankings of July 24th 1987 ranked two Ugandan “Johns,” who had also represented Uganda at the Olympics, as among the top ten contenders for the world Super welterweight crown. Lupe Aquino of Mexico was the champion, John “the Beast” Mugabi was the top contender, while John Munduga was ranked as the sixth top contender. Apart from theoretically being rivals for the crown, the two were probably sparring partners given that they were both managed by Mickey Duff in Tampa in Florida. Mugabi, as a welterweight had won Uganda’s only medal haul at the Moscow Olympics–a silver in the welterweight division. On the world professional scene, Munduga would get to be nicknamed, “the Matador.” Munduga would talk of his boyhood friend Mugabi as one who “had a big punch early…at 9, 10 years, he used to knock boys out…was the only one that age who could” (Berger 1986).

Munduga started boxing as a professional in Germany, in November 1981, where he fought the first fourteen of his professional fights. Here he fought a cross-section of boxers from near and far, and he established an 85% record in these fights from 1981 to early 1984.

Thereafter he started competing in the United States whereby his first battle here was with Tommy Rogers in Tampa. He knocked out Rogers, then continued with his typical trend of knocking out most of his opponents up to when he battled Leland Hart whom he beat by points in Atlantic City in May 1986. At this stage, Munduga had a clean and imposing record of 24 wins, 0 losses, with 18 knockouts.

The next fight would be a scheduled 10-rounder with renowned American Mark Breland, a very 6’2.5″ welterweight who had won Olympic gold at the Olympics held in Los Angeles in 1984. He was two inches taller than Munduga. A very popular figure, 23 year-old Breland dabbled as an actor, and he had a very impressive streak as USA amateur champion. On June 21st 1986, Breland was pitted against the Ugandan who was two inches shorter. This happened at the Sands Casino Hotel in Atlantic City in New Jersey. Munduga was then ranked as ninth on the list of contenders for the welterweight crown, by the World Boxing Association (WBA), and sixth on the list of junior middle-weight contenders, by the WBC.

Munduga believed that it would be advantageous for him to land punches on Breland because the two were about equal in height. Munduga added that Breland had never fought an opponent as skillful as himself and he added that this was a big fight for which he had trained hard for. Breland, stating that he had fought many tall fighters during his amateur days, most of whom he had stopped, opined that it was tougher to fight short boxers. He had to bend lower to fight them, and bend even lower when they duck. Breland also regarded Munduga as the typical European fighter who would not be much of a problem, one who stands erect and comes right at you. According to Breland, Munduga had a good jab and looping right, but he was not much of a good puncher. Breland fought his first professional fight, only two months after he had won the gold medal at the Olympics in Los Angeles. He was touted to be “the next Sugar Ray Leonard,” an image that he would eventually not measure up to.

The first round revealed that both were right-handed, conventional style boxers. The taller and longer-armed Breland used these too his advantage of keeping Munduga at bay with these advantages though Munduga keeps attacking. In the first round the two were mainly feeling each other out for the pattern, the round was roughly even, but Breland uses the arm advantage to win.

In the second round, Munduga is rocked with a hard punch in the first few seconds, and he stumbles. Breland is very aware of it and he gradually moves in to attempt a knockout punch. Munduga has slowed down and he is indeed slightly hurt. But Munduga keeps attacking while the opponent’s typical reach keeps him away from scoring much. Breland’s height, slenderness, stance, and rocking blows remind one of a younger Thomas “Hitman” Hearns.

In round three, Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali, Don King, and Jesse Jackson are seen in the high capacity 15000-audience that has come to see an Olympic celebrity box. At this time Breland was undefeated in 12 fights, but his knockout ratio was far less spectacular than that of Munduga. In this third round, Munduga is perplexed as to what tactics to use, but he courageously keeps going after Breland though he keeps running into the long-range punches of Breland.

In the fourth round Munduga becomes much more aggressive, but he is getting tired. However, Breland is apparently more fresh and gradual, like he is waiting for the chance to deliver the onslaught. Still, in this fourth round, Munduga delivers his best punches of the round, and they seem to slightly rock Breland off balance.

In the fifth round, Munduga displays more courage and confidence. He even rocks Breland when he is against the ropes, and he goes on to speed up on the attacking.

In the sixth round, the slugger Munduga is again the aggressive one and he keeps attacking Breland as he hopes to get through teh opponent’s longer arms. Breland displays patience but awareness of his opponents rising confidence. He seems to wait for Munduga to become reckless and careless and leave his head open to blows. Indeed the moment comes in the sixth round. As Munduga further delivers powerful blows, Breland takes the upper hand and delivers solid killer uppercut and right-left-right bows to Munduga’s head that knock him down senseless on his back. The medical team quickly moves into the ring to attend to Munduga whose left eye is quickly closing up. The fight is decisively over; the referee Paul Venti did not bother to count him out. Munduga was hereby defeated for the first time in his boxing career. The boxing world mostly remembers Munduga because of this fight in which he displayed courage and skill against a famed and seasoned boxer.

Confident and victorious Breland remarked after the fight (AP 1986: 32).

“His plan was to come forward, hit and get hit. I knew he was a good puncher, but I punch pretty good too. His game plan was taken away and you can’t adjust in the ring unless you are real smart.”

Five weeks before the fight with Munduga, just after he had knocked out Ricky Avendano in the first minute of the first round, Breland was asked about how he rated himself, and he replied (AP 1986: 19).

“I really don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t want to be rushed into a title fight. Maybe a year or a year and a half from now. I want everything to be perfect.”

Between 1987 and 1990, Mark Breland became WBA welterweight champion, then he lost the title to Marlon Starling, then regained it, then lost it to Aaron Davis. Breland retired from the ring with an impressive 39 victories, 3 losses, and 1 draw.

Munduga’s head had been clobbered badly by Breland, he collapsed heavily to the floor. This fight, which is the most attached to Munduga, had virtually desrepaired and destroyed him. It took Munduga nearly six months to contest again. he admits that after this fight he was damaged, no longer himself, and he somewhat lost interest in boxing. In comparison, Uganda’s Mustapha Wasajja was never the same again after he ws knocked out by Michael Spinks; John “the Beast Mugabi” was never the same again when he was knocked out by Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

Next, in Las Vegas, he won in a mediocre fight with Alvaro Granillo in December 1986. His very last major fight was with undefeated Darrin “Schoolboy” Van Horn who was a student at the University of Kentucky, and a future International Boxing Federation (IBF) world champion. In Frankfort in Kentucky, more than a year since Munduga had performed in the ring, Van Horn knocked out Munduga in the seventh of a scheduled 10-rounder in February 1988.

Munduga fought his last three professional fights in Germany and Belgium, and he lost all of them by knockout to unheralded fighters. His last recorded fight is of November 1989. He had lost his luster. Munduga is recorded as having won in 25 fights in which 18 were by knockout. However in all the five fights that he lost, he was knocked out in each of them. Many had expected so much more from this formerly high-ranked boxer. Peter Grace Sseruwagi, Uganda’s most renowned boxing coach, describes John Munduga as “the most talented boxer that I have ever coached.”

Between 1987 and 1990, Mark Breland became WBA welterweight champion, then he lost the title to Marlon Starling, then regained it, then lost it to Aaron Davis. Breland retired from the ring with an impressive 39 victories, 3 losses, and 1 draw.

Works Cited

AP. “Breland Wins 12th Welterweight Bout.” The Index Journal. May 16 1986.
AP. “Breland Floors Munduga in Sixth.” The Index Journal. June 22 1986.

Berger, Phil. “Mugabi: At Boxing’s Front Door.” New York Times. March 2 1986.

Jonathan Musere

The 1971 US-USSR-World All-Stars Track Meet at University of California, Berkeley: John Akii-Bua, Steve Prefontaine, Pat Matzdorf, Judith Ayaa, and Other Athletes

March 10, 2015

The US-USSR-World All-Stars Track and Field Meet took place on Saturday, July 3rd 1971, in Berkeley at the Edwards Stadium of University of California.


Very recently, on May 30th 1971, John Akii-Bua had commendably reduced the 400 meters-hurdles African record to 49.7 seconds in Kampala, and thereby gained a reasonably significant level of attention. But there was some skepticism about the timing and the track conditions, given that the event was contested on a somewhat unknown and unrecognized African track. Nevertheless, in Berkeley, 21 year-old policeman Akii was considered a major contender for the gold medal. The other two favorites were Wes Williams who was regarded as USA’s top contenders, and Russia’s Vyacheslav Skomorokhov. Williams had at the recent national AAU championships finished second in the 440 yards-hurdles  (which is four yards longer than the metric lap) in an impressive 49.3; while  Skomorokhov who finished fifth in the foregone 1968 Olympics had a 49.1 personal best in the intermediate hurdles.

Eventually, Akii-Bua of Uganda, representing  the World, won (50.1), second was University of Washington’s Jim Seymour (USA) in 50.5, Roger Johnson (World) was third (50.9), Vyacheslav Skomorokhov (USSR) was fourth (50.9), fifth was Wes Williams (51.0) of USA, followed by Yuriy Zorin (USSR) in 53.3.

Akii-Bua’s remarks are mentioned (AP 1971: 19).

“I have been practicing hurdles with both…right…and left leg. I think those who hurdle with only one leg aren’t versatile enough…. I don’t have any set plan to run so many steps in between the hurdles. I just go over them when I get there.”

In the men’s 4x400m relay the USA team (Edesel Garrison, Frederick Newhouse, Tommie Turner, Darwin Bond) triumphed (3:02.9); the World’s team (Alfred Daley, John Akii-Bua, Laighton Priestley, Garth Case) was second (3:08.4); while the USSR team (Boris Savchuk, Yuriy Zorin, Dimitriy Stuklaov, Semyon Kocher) was last.

Judith Ayaa of Uganda, representing the World, participated in the women’s 4x400m relay. This time, the USSR team won (3:36.0). The Soviet runners were Lyudmila Findgenova, Lyudmila Aksenova, Natalya Chistyakova, and Nadyezhda Kolesnikova.  Second an in 3:38.1 was the USA team (Esther Stroy, Gwen Norman, Cheryl Toussaint, and Jarvis Scott). Finishing third in 3:44.1 was the World all-Stars team of Ayaa, Penny Werther, Allison Ross-Edwards, and Yvonne Sanders.

Major highlights at the international track meet included the setting of a new world record in the high jump (7 feet, 6.25 inches) by University of Wisconsin’s Pat Matzdorf (USA); and a new national record in the 5000m (13:30.4) by USA’s Steve Prefontaine (University of Oregon).

Overall in points, the USA won, USSR was second, and the World All-Stars team was third.

Works Cited

AP (July 14, 1971) “For America-Russian Track Duel: U.S. Runners Weren’t Ready,” in “Odessa American.”

Jonathan Musere

Judith Ayaa: Outstanding Progress in the Breaking of the 400-Meters East Africa and Africa Record

March 10, 2015

Judith Ayaa was the dominant female sprinter at the East and Central African Athletic Championships from 1968 to 1972. During the same span of time, she was not only the 4-time 400m champion, but she also often competed in and won in the 100m and 200m. She won the gold in the 100 meters in 1968 in Dar-es-Salaam. In the middle of August 1969, in the same ECA championships this time in Kampala, she was victorious in the 100 and 200 meters and was part of Uganda gold-medal winning 4x100m relay team. Her victory in the 400m was a new Africa record–53.6. By virtue of this personal best time in 1969, Ayaa was in 1969 ranked amongst the world’s top 10 female 400-meters sprinters.

Because there were a relatively low number of women competing in the 400m at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, only a semi-final and a final would hereby take place. Ayaa was on July 22nd 1970 lined up in the second of the two heats of the semi-final . She won in quite an astonishing time–52.86–a new Africa record. The time ranked her as eleventh best in the world in 1970.

The final would take place on the next day. But having been the fastest among the semi-finalists, Ayaa had perhaps ran too fast. She perhaps ought to have ran in relaxed stride, just fast enough to be among the top four of either of the semi-final heats that would ensure their qualifying for the finals. In this first semi-final heat, Sandra Brown of Australia finished second in a full second behind Ayaa. The first semi-final heat in which Marilyn Fay Neufville of Jamaica won in 53.05, was apparently one of more tactfulness and relaxation.

In the final, diminutive 17 year-old Neufville won in a world record–51.02. Neufville won by an astonishing over two seconds ahead of silver medallist Sandra Brown of Australia who finished in 53.66. Neufville thereby shaved of by nearly a second the previous world record of 51.7 set in 1969 by Frenchwomen Colette Besson and Nicole Duclos. Judith Ayaa, overtaken after slowing down near the end of the race, likely due to fatigue after her unnecessary exertion in the semi-finals, was third (53.77) in a photo-finish behind Sandra Brown and captured the bronze medal. The fatigue had likely cost her at least the silver medal; but the Commonwealth bronze would be one of Ayaa’s most cherished international possessions!

In 1970 at the East-Central African Championships held in Nairobi, Ayaa won in the 100-meters in 11.8, the 200-meters in 24.1, and the 400-meters in 54.0.

Ayaa was a competitor at the USA-Pan African Track-and-Field Meet held from July 16-17, 1971 at Duke University in Durham. She won the gold medal after finishing in 54.69.

Still in 1971, at the ECA Championships in Lusaka, Ayaa won in the 400-meters (54.7); and she was part of the Uganda gold medal victorious teams in both sprint relays.

Ayaa competed in Dante Stadium at a Pre-Olympic Meet in mid-August 1972 in Munich, a build-up for the forthcoming Olympics in the same city of West Germany. Also called the “Hanns-Braun Memorial International Pre-Olympic Invitational,” this track-and-field meet spanned two days.

20 year-old Ayaa, participated amongst the 3 heats of the women’s 400 meters. The top overall finishers would be signified. Altogether Ayaa’s time was second best–52.68–a new Africa record. In early September 1972, in Munich at the Olympics, Ayaa was again timed in 52.68 seconds when she finished third in the quarter finals and advanced to the semi-finals. She thereby equaled her personal best and Africa record. Ayaa would be eliminated  from advancing to the Olympic finals when she finished 7th (52.91) in a semi-final heat.

At the pre-Olympic meet in Munich, on the second day of the meet, Ayaa additionally competed in the 200-meters and finished fifth. Results were (AP 1972: 66):

1. Marina Sidorova (Soviet Union), 23.78; 2. Karollne Kaefer (Austria), 23.99; 3. Vilma Charlton (Jamaica), 24.04; 4. Una Morris (Jamaica), 24.11; 5. Judith Ayaa (Uganda), 24.12.

Judith Ayaa would fade away from the international competition limelight after 1973. The President Idi Amin Dada handed her the Uganda flag in her capacity as team captain for the national team that was bound for Lagos for the All-Africa Games in January 1973. She was expected to win in the 400m. But possibly due to injuries, sickness, or inadequate training, she did not compete in any of the individual sprints in Lagos. But she possibly competed in the women’s 4x400m relay in which Uganda won gold.

Much more had been expected of this young elite African athlete, one of the few African women to reach such a pinnacle during that time of the dawn of women power athletes. It would take three decades for Ayaa’s Uganda national record in the 400m to be broken. After more than four decades, the present Uganda record (52.48) by Justine Bayigga, established in 2008, is only 0.2 seconds lower than the national and African record that Judith Ayaa set in 1972.

Works Cited

AP (August 17, 1972). “Second Day of the Sports Festival,” in “San Bernardino County Sun,”  page 66.

Jonathan Musere

Henry Morton Stanley Takes Credit for Naming Uganda the “Pearl of Africa”

February 17, 2015

“Since my return from Africa, I have persistently maintained that so long as there are no facilities of transport between Lake Victoria and the sea, nothing in the way of progress can be hoped for from East Africa. Just as Stanley Pool on the Congo is our objective in West Africa, we must take the Victoria Nyanza as our objective in East Africa. The first commands the commerce of 16,000 miles of river banks; the second is the centre of a region which is inhabited by millions of the finest people in Africa. The lake has 1500 miles of coast line of its own. At one point it is but 150 miles from Lake Tanganyika; from Beatrice Gulf it is only sixty miles; from Lake Albert it is barely a hundred, and the navigable Nile is also within easy reach; so that by this lake we have, roughly speaking, access to about 3000 miles of lake shores and 5000 miles of river banks. To join these with the sea would be a scheme equal in importance and prospective advantages to that of the Congo, because, though we should not at once control so vast a region as the Congo, the natives of these parts are so immeasurably superior to those of Western Africa, that we should only have to appear with our goods in order to establish a vast trade. I take but little interest in the region through which the railway must run, because of itself it is scarcely worth a thought. I regard the region as only a means to an end. By itself it is not worth the luxury of a railway. The point to be reached is the fresh-water sea beyond. Let that be made accessible and the intervening region becomes naturally of great value. We may be sure that those who need fat pastures, farm-lands, and cheap labour will not neglect the opportunities provided for them by the railway.

It is the “Pearl of Africa” that is our object. I applied that somewhat  grandiloquent term to Uganda because of its frequent use by the Portuguese, who spoke of Cabinda at the Berlin Conference as the pearl of the Crown of Portugal. Many have sneered at it since, and dense-headed travellers have tried to account for the term by adducing the fertility of the soil and the variety of its products; but the truth is that the term aptly illustrates the superior value of Uganda because of its populousness, the intelligence of its people, its strategic position for commerce, and for spreading Christianity–all of which make it pre-eminently a desirable colony for a trading and civilizing nation like ours.

No one, however, has called Uganda a paradise. It is simply a superior region of East Central Africa possessing unusual advantages by its position between the Three Lakes and the Nile, and inhabited by a remarkably intelligent people, who, because of their undoubted adaptability, are more capable of being trained, educated, and civilized than any other between Assfian and Cape Colony. I have twice crossed the continent; I have tested to the full the capacities of the best Congo tribes, the Zanzibaris and Wanyamwezi; I have had hundreds from the West African coast tribes under me; I have been into Upper Egypt, Ashanti, and Abyssinia; I have had two hundred Zulus in training; but I have met none who impressed me so much with their mental, spiritual, and moral capacity as the Waganda. Remembering these qualities, look over the map of Africa and tell me where there are such possibilities as with such a people, occupying such a country as they do. Had the Waganda, held together as they have been by their traditions, nature, and customs, inhabited the country of the Basutos, or the Zulus, or the Matabeli, they would long ago have made their mark as a progressive race; but being where they are, stretched along the northern shores of an inland sea, and dominating the whole of the intra-lake region, it is a marvel to me that English people are so slow to perceive the uses to which Uganda and its nation may be applied. Administered by a British Commissioner, assisted and directed by British officers, educated by British missionaries, and trained in industrial crafts by British teachers, Uganda and its people are as capable of astonishing Central Africa as the Japanese have astonished the Far East.

In 1862 Speke and Grant found the entire Waganda nation clothed in home-made robes of brown bark cloth. Thirteen years later the king and his court, the chiefs and officers of the army, were dressed in the finest white cottons, cloaks of broad cloth and fez caps, and were inclined to the Mohammedan religion. In another thirteen years some 5000 had become Christians, and many of them were able to read and preach the Gospel. Cloth dresses had become almost universal, firearms had become common. In the last six years the progress has been still more rapid. The Christians have trebled in number; they possess a cathedral and nearly 200 churches; the art of reading and writing has been acquired by many hundreds, and a perfect mania for instruction has developed among the young.”

 

Henry M. Stanley

Work Cited

Stanley, Henry Morton. “The Uganda Railway” [Excerpt]. Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art , vol. 79 (1895): 719-720.

Jonathan Musere

Vitus Ashaba, Judith Ayaa, John Akii-Bua: Presence at the 1972 Hanns-Braun Pre-Olympics Invitational Meet in Munich

December 23, 2014

A Pre-Olympic Meet in 1972, a tune-up for the upcoming Olympics, took place in Munich in West Germany in mid-August. Elite athletes from many countries, arrived in Munich approximately ten days before the 1972 Olympics, to participate. The track-and-field meet that spanned two days is also dubbed the “Hanns-Braun Memorial International Pre-Olympic Invitational.” The Ugandan athletes that would commendably perform well were hurdler, sprinter and former decathlon athlete John Akii-Bua; sprinter Judith Ayaa, and steeplechaser and middle-distance runner Vitus Ashaba.

The competition began. 22 year-old Akii-Bua, perhaps relaxing and bidding his time in cautiously avoiding the dangerous hurdling in which athletes are quite injury-prone, settled for the 400m flat, other than his 400 meters-hurdles specialization.

Most of the top results at the Invitational were published in the “Oakland Tribune” (1972: 44)

The men’s 400 meters’ lap involved four heats, and the best overall times were signified. Overall in performance, Akii was placed third (46.18) behind top finisher Fred Newhouse of the USA (45.47), and second-placed was Kenyan legend, Charles Asati (45.77). Fourth overall was Horst Schlbske (West Germany) in 46.25, and fifth was Leighton Priestley (Jamaica) in 46.30.

Surprisingly, up to this time, although he had longed to, Akii had never competed with 400 meters-hurdles USA champion and national record-holder Ralph Mann. The barrier race involving the two was inevitably eagerly anticipated. Ralph Mann was slightly ahead of Akii-Bua in terms of personal best performance in the intermediate hurdles. Akii-Bua was reasonably familiar to the track community in the USA where he won in all the numerous 400mh events that he had so far competed in during 1971 and 1972. Akii was regarded by the Americans as Ralph Mann’s main rival at the 1972 summer Olympics. In the August 1972 issue of “Sports Illustrated,” it was predicted that at these forthcoming Olympics, Akii would win in the 400mh, Ralph Mann would be second, and that Kenya’s William Koskei who had won a silver medal for Uganda at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh (Akii finished fourth) would win the Olympic bronze.

Eventually, in the 400 meters-hurdles at this meet, Ralph Mann won in 49.85, James Seymour (USA) finished second (50.02), third was William Koskei (Kenya) in 50.46, fourth was Mike Murey (Kenya)  in 50.42, and fifth was Richard Bruggeman (USA) in 50.63.

Judith Ayaa, aged 20, competed among the three heats of the women’s 400m at this pre-Olympic invitational. The best overall performances were signified. Overall, Ayaa’s performance was second best and she posted 52.68 which equaled the Africa record that she had established during the semi-finals of the event at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1970.

Yvonne Saunders (Jamaica) was the fastest 400m sprinter (52.34), third after Ayaa was Nadeshda Kolesnikova (Soviet Union) in 52.90, fourth was Karoline Kaefer (Australia) in 52.98, fifth was Penny Hunt (New Zealand) in 53.31.

The other Ugandan who performed quite well at the invitational was 29 year-old Vitus Ashaba. He finished fifth in the 3000 meters-steeplechase and his time of 8:50.08 was a new Uganda national record. In an event that has for decades been dominated by Kenyans, legendary Benjamin Jipcho (Kenya) won in 8:27.43, 1968 Olympic champion Amos Biwott (Kenya) was second in 8:30.70, third was 32 year-old legendary Kipchoge Keino (Kenya) who was quite new to this event (8:32.70), fourth was Werner Schuman (West Germany) in 8:45.89.

Weeks later, the ever versatile Keino would win the steeplechase gold at the Olympics, ahead of Jipcho and Biwott, in a new Olympic record. Ashaba would improve on his Uganda record by five seconds

Other elite competitors at the sports meet included sprinters Valeri Borzov (Russia) and Lennox Miller (Jamaica), and middle-distance runner Mike Boit (Kenya).

Works Cited

Associated Press. “U.S. 400 Quartet Eyes 38.5,” in “Oakland Tribune” (August 16, 1972).

Jonathan Musere

Judith Ayaa: East and Central African Championships, the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, and the USA vs Pan Africa Meet

November 18, 2014

Judith Ayaa was born on July 15, 1952 in the sub-county Koch Goma in Nwoya District in Uganda. During an era when African women participation in athletics was in its prevalently nascent and amateur stages, young Ayaa became a resounding name amongst African women track stars. Ayaa became the first Ugandan woman to win a Commonwealth Games’ medal. The female Ugandan Commonwealth Games’ medallists who followed in her footsteps are three: Ruth Kyalisiima (Kyarisiima/ Kyalisima) in Brisbane in 1982 where she won the silver in the 400 meters-hurdles (57.10), gold-medallist Dorcus Inzikuru in the 3000 meters-steeplechase in Melbourne in 2006 whereby she established a Games’ record (9:19.51), and bronze-medallist Winnie Nanyondo who was third in the 800m (2:01.38) in Glasgow in 2012.


Judith Ayaa’s career on the track would be short-lived, though of significant fulfillment.

The record of Judith Ayaa in the East and Central African Athletic Championships is amazing. In 1968 (Dar-es-Salaam), Ayaa won gold in the 100 meters sprint, finishing in 11.5. The following year in mid-August 1969, Ayaa cemented and confirmed her formidability by in the same championships (Kampala) winning in the 100 meters (11.8), the 200 meters (25.0), and the 400m (53.6). Jane Chikambwe, considered an athletics legend in Zambia won silvers behind Ayaa in the 100m and 200m. Here in Kampala in 1969, Ayaa was part of the Uganda 4x100m relay team that won in 49.5. In the same year, based on her personal best time of 53.6, Judith Ayaa was ranked amongst the world’s top 10 female 400m runners.


In 1970 at the same ECA Championships (Nairobi), Judith Ayaa did not slip behind. The slim young woman with the “Mercedes-Benz” body again won in the 100m (11.8), the 200m (24.1), and the 400m (54.0s).


It was at the Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh in Scotland in 1970 that Judith Ayaa established herself as an international female athlete to be reckoned with. At these Games, Judith Ayaa notably competed in the 100m and the 400m. On July 17th, Ayaa was placed in the first of the five 100m preliminary heats. He performed reasonably well, finishing in second place, behind Jenny Lamy of Australia, in 11.92 seconds. But the semi-finals, the next day, were not as fruitful for Ayaa. She was placed in the second of the two semi-final heats, and was beaten into sixth place (11.93) and eliminated from advancing to the finals. The finals, later in the day, were won by Raelene Boyle of Australia, followed by legendary Alice Annum of Ghana, and then Marion Hoffman of Australia for the bronze medal.


There were much fewer competitors in the 400m so there would only be two rounds of competition. On July 22nd, Ayaa was placed in the second of two heats of the first round. Ayaa won in a relatively astounding time of 52.86 seconds, a new Uganda and Africa record. The finishing time by Ayaa ranked her as eleventh in the world in 1970. Alice Annum who had been scheduled to compete in the same round, did not start.

Ayaa advanced to the finals that would be contested the next day. But perhaps she had ran too fast instead of running while relaxed but enough to be amongst the top four of each round that would automatically qualify for the finals. Sandra Brown of Australia, was second, and a full second behind Ayaa. The other semi-final heat in which Marilyn Neufville won in 53.05, was of more relaxation and tactfulness.

The finals the next day witnessed diminutive but legendary 17 year-old Jamaican Marilyn Fay Neufville, winning in a world record of 51.02. Neufville won by an astounding more than two seconds ahead of silver medallist Sandra Brown (53.66) of Australia; she reduced the previous world record of 51.7 established (1969) by Colette Besson and Nicole Duclos both of France by nearly a second. Judith Ayaa, overtaken after slowing down near the end of the race, likely due to fatigue after her unnecessary exertion in the semi-finals, was third (53.77) in a photo-finish behind Sandra Brown and captured the bronze medal. The fatigue had likely cost her at least the silver medal; but the Commonwealth bronze would be one of Ayaa’s most acclaimed international possessions!


Marilyn Neufville’s superb career would be short-lived because of physical injuries and inconsequential surgery. At the 1974 Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch in New Zealand Neufville was 6th in the finals of the 400m. And at the Olympic Games of 1976 held in Montreal in Canada, she participated in the first round of the 400m and qualified for the next round, but she did not move forward into the next round because of injuries.


The next major event for Ayaa would be from July 16-17, 1971 at he Wallace Wade Stadium at Duke University in Durham in North Carolina. It was the USA versus Africa and the Rest of the World Meet (sometimes referred  to as the USA-Pan African Track-and-Field Meet). The event that attracted a high capacity crowd of a total of 52000 spectators was of a unified African team together with other nations (fourteen nations altogether) versus the USA team. Perhaps the main attraction was 1500m Olympic gold-medallist Kipchoge Keino who was revered and renowned for his track rivalry with American middle-distance legend and 1500m world-record (3:33.1)
holder Jim Ryun. Here at Duke, Keino intended to break this world record.


Other internationally acclaimed runners in the competition included Kenyan Amos Biwott (steeplechase Olympic champion), and long-distance Tunisian legend Mohammed Gammoudi. Ugandan hurdler John Akii-Bua of Uganda who was hardly known internationally, was also there to compete.


Judith Ayaa won the gold medal at these USA-Pan Africa Games in 54.69. Second was Gwendolyn Norman (USA) of Sports International in 55.42, third was Jarvis Scott (USA) of Los Angeles Mercurettes in 56. 0, and fourth was Titi Adeleke (Nigeria) in 59.52. John Akii-Bua won in the intermediate hurdles, establishing an Africa record (49.0) that would be the world’s best time for 1971. Smooth-sailing “flying policeman” Akii  became signified as a contender for the forthcoming Olympics in 1972 in Munich. Simultaneously, Ayaa  gained international acclaim though not to the level of Akii. Kip Keino failed to break the world record in the 1500m, but he clearly led and finished in quite an excellent 3:34.7.


Other notable competitors at the track and field meet included Americans Rodney Milburn and Ron Draper (high hurdles), Kenyans Robert Ouko (800m) and Benjamin Jipcho (steeplechase); Steve Prefontaine (USA) and Miruts Yifter (Ethiopia) in the 5000m, and John Smith (USA) in the 400m.


Still in 1971, at the East and Central African Championships held in Lusaka in Zambia, Ayaa was the winner in the 400m (54.7). She was also part of the Uganda gold medal winning teams in the relays: 4x100m (48.7) and 4x400m (3:50.5).

The next major challenge for Ayaa, the Olympic Games of 1972 held in Munich in Germany would prove to be interesting. In the first round, Ayaa in lane two came in fourth (52.85s) thereby qualifying for the quarter-finals. In the quarter finals, Judith Ayaa was drawn in lane 7 in her heat two of four heats. The first four finishers of each heat would move on to the semi-final. Ayaa comfortably finished third and established a Uganda and Africa record of 52.68. The Uganda record, Ayaa’s personal best, would stand for more than three decades. Of note, in these quarter-finals, Ayaa beat 26 year-old Colette Besson of France the diminutive surprise winner in the same event at the previous (1968) Olympics in Mexico City. Besson was in lane 3 and her 5th place finish disqualified her from advancing to the next round.

Ayaa moved on to the Olympics’ semi-finals. She was in lane 2, and finished in 52.91 seconds, a 7th place finish. Ayaa had put up quite a commendable performance, but the international competition was formidable, and Ayaa was eliminated in what would be her first and last Olympics competition. The eighth competitor, Christel Frese of West Germany, fell during the race and did not finish.


In 1972, Ayaa became a 4-time gold medallist in the 400m at the East and Central African Championships. This time, in Dar-es-Salaam, Ayaa’s winning time was 55.7. She was part of the Uganda team that won the gold medal in the 4x100m (48.7).


After 1972, Ayaa’s performance record would become lackluster. She got married and started having children in close succession, and neglected sports. The tumultuous regime of Amin made the situation worse. Athletes were far less financially compensated for their toil and injuries, than they have increasingly been in the recent decades. Ayaa’s demise was far from glamorous; it was disheartening. At some point later in her life, while looking after her two young children, Ayaa struggled, and sometimes begged on the streets of Kampala. She would crush stones for a living. Akii-Bua, also a national team-mate with Ayaa at the Olympics in 1972, would be instrumental to the drawing attention to and the intervening in the plight of Ayaa. She was located and a European benefactor helped with expenses. Unfortunately, in 2002 Ayaa would die young at 48 or 49, at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Ironically, Akii-Bua who was also then not faring well, had died at about the same age of death as Ayaa, earlier in 1997 at the same hospital.


Ayaa’s reign on the women’s track was short but is superb and enduring. Trophies and national and regional competitions in northern Uganda have become commemorated in the name Judith Ayaa.


Jonathan Musere

The 1875 Meeting of Henry Morton Stanley, Linant de Bellefonds, and Kabaka Mutesa: The Invitational Letter of Recommendation for Uganda

October 26, 2014

Colonel M. Ernest Linant de Bellefonds [Bey], son of the renowned French engineer Louis Maurice Adolphe Linant de Bellefonds who executed numerous projects in Egypt including the Suez Canal, was an emissary at Gondokoro (Equatoria headquarters of the Anglo-Egyptian colonial administration) of General Charles Gordon [Pasha]. The Colonel, accompanied by forty Sudanic-Nubian soldiers, arrived in Rubaga at the court of Kabaka Mtesa (Mutesa) Mukabya of Buganda in April 1875 where he also met Henry Morton Stanley who had quite recently arrived at the court. At the time Mutesa had become oriented to Islam after Zanzibari Arabs had taught him and showered him with gifts. Mutesa became perplexed by the foreign religions and divisions, but decided to simultaneously embrace elements of both Christianity and Islam. Stanley, determined to convert Mutesa fully to Christianity, was so impressed with the enlightened kabaka whom he styled “Emperor,” quite impressed with the elaborate organization of the Buganda kingdom-state, with the culture, the attire, and the politeness of the Baganda. The landscape was beautiful, the natural resources bountiful, and Henry Stanley is widely credited with becoming the first to proclaim that B-Uganda was the “Pearl of Africa.” Stanley’s proposal to invite British missionaries, educators and technicians to come to Uganda to further the development was corroborated as positve by Linant who happened to be a French-Belgian Protestant, and Mutesa concurred. Stanley drafted the proposal to be sent to England, handed it to Linant who would be the messenger. The two Europeans parted on April 17th 1875, Stanley intent on completing the circumnavigation of the Lake Victoria Nyanza [Nyanja]. Unfortunately, on his way northward, Linant’s expedition was brutally attacked and Linant was killed by the Bari in Sudan at Laboreh on August 26, 1875, not far from Gondokoro. Among the grievances of the Bari were the recent raids by Nubian slave-traders. Linant’s body was crudely disposed of on the bank to rot in the burning sun. By a stroke of luck, Stanley’s letter was recovered still intact in the knee-high boot of the slain Linant. The blood-stained letter was sent to Charles Gordon in Khartoum, he would forward it to the “Daily Telegraph” England. Bloody mayhem in Uganda would ultimately be the result of Stanley’s observations and recommendations for Buganda. The British Special Commissioner to Uganda–Henry “Harry” Hamilton Johnston summarizes it: “Truly Stanley’s letter, the blood-stained sheet, of paper found in the boot of the murdered de Bellefonds, was big with fateful results for the Kingdom of Uganda” (1902: 223).

Stanley’s proposal (1876: 152-153), which follows, though written in April, would draw enthusiasm when it was published in November 1875.
——————————————————————————
Mtesa’s Capital, Uganda, April 14, 1875

I must not forget to inform you and your readers of one very interesting subject connected with Mtesa, which will gratify many a philanthropic European and American.

I have already told you that Mtesa and the whole of his Court profess Islamism. A long time ago–some four or five years–Khamis Bin Abdullah (the only Arab who remained with me three years ago, as a rearguard, when the Arabs disgracefully fled from Mirambo) came to Uganda. He was wealthy, of noble descent, had a fine, magnificent personal appearance, and brought with him many a rich present for Mtesa, such as few Arabs could afford. The King became immediately fascinated with him, and really few white men could be long with the son of Abdullah without being charmed by his presence, his handsome, proud features, his rich olive complexion, and his liberality. I confess I never saw an Arab or Mussulman who attracted me so much as Khamis bin Abdullah, and it is no wonder that Mtesa, meeting a kindred spirit in the noble youth of Muscat, amazed at his handsome bearing, the splendour of his apparel, the display of his wealth, and the number of his slaves, fell in love with him. Khamis stayed with Mtesa a full year, during which time the King became a convert to the creed of his visitor–namely, Mohammedanism. The Arab clothed Mtesa in the best that his wardrobe offered; he gave him gold-embroidered jackets, fine white shirts, crimson slippers, swords, silk sashes, daggers, and a revolving rifle, so that [John Hanning] Speke and [James Augustus] Grant’s presents seemed of necessity insignificant. Now, until I arrived at Mtesa’s Court, the King delighted in the idea that he was a follower of Islam; but by one conversation I flatter myself that I have tumbled the newly-raised religious fabric to the ground, and if it were only followed by the arrival of a Christian mission here, the conversion of Mtesa and his Court to Christianity would, I think, be complete. I have, indeed, undermined Islamism so much here, that Mtesa has determined henceforth, until he is better informed, to observe the Christian Sabbath as well as the Moslem Sabbath, and the great captains have unanimously consented to this. He has further caused the Ten Commandments of Moses to be written on a board for his daily perusal–for Mtesa can read Arabic–as well as the Lord’s Prayer, and the golden commandment of our Saviour, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” This is great progress for the few days that I have remained with him, and, though I am no missionary, I shall begin to think that I might become one if such success is feasible. But, oh that some pious, practical missionary would come here! What a field and a harvest ripe for the sickle of civilisation! Mtesa would give him everything he desired–houses, lands, cattle, ivory,etc., he might call a province his own in one day. It is not the mere preacher, however, that is wanted here. The Bishops of Great Britain collected, and all the classic youth of Oxford and Cambridge, would effect nothing by mere talk with the intelligent people of Uganda. It is the practical Christian tutor, who can teach people how to become Christians, cure their diseases, construct dwellings, understand and exemplify agriculture, and turn his hand to anything like a sailor–this is the man who is wanted. Such an one, if he can be found, would become the saviour of Africa. He must be tied to no church or sect, but profess God and His Son and the moral law, and live a blameless Christian, inspired by liberal principles, charity to all men, and devout faith in Heaven. He must belong to no nation in particular, but the entire white race. Such a man or men, Mtesa, King of Uganda, Usoga, Unyoro, and Karague—a kingdom 360 geographical miles in length by 50 in breadth–invites to repair to him. He has begged me to tell the white men that if they will only come to him he will give them all they want. Now, where is there in all the pagan world a more promising field for a mission than Uganda? Colonel Linant de Bellefonds is my witness that I speak the truth, and I know he will corroborate all I say. The Colonel, though a Frenchman, is a Calvinist, and has become as ardent a well-wisher for the Waganda as I am. Then why further spend needlessly vast sums upon black pagans of Africa who have no example of their own people becoming Christians before them? I speak to the Universities Mission at Zanzibar and to the Free Methodists at Mombasa, to the leading philanthropists, and the pious people of England. Here, gentlemen, is your opportunity–embrace it! The people on the shores of the Niyanza call upon you. Obey your own generous instincts, and listen to them; and I assure you that in one year you will have more converts to Christianity than all other missionaries united can muster. The population of Mtesa’s kingdom is very dense; I estimate the number of his subjects at 2,000,000. You need not fear to spend money upon such a mission, as Mtesa is sole ruler, and will repay its cost tenfold with ivory, coffee, otter-skins of a very fine quality, or even in cattle, for the wealth of this country in all these products is immense. The road here is by the Nile, or via, Zanzibar, Ugogo, and Unyanyembe. The former route, so long as Colonel Gordon governs the countries of the Upper Nile, seems the most feasible.

With all deference I would suggest that the mission should bring to Mtesa as presents, three or four suits of military clothes, decorated freely with gold embroidery; together with half-a-dozen French kepis, a sabre, a brace of pistols, and suitable ammunition; a good fowling-piece and rifle of good quality, for the King is not a barbarian; a cheap dinner-service of Britannia ware, an iron bedstead and counterpanes, a few pieces of cotton print, boots, etc. For trade it should also bring fine blue, black, and grey woollen cloths, a quantity of military buttons, gold braid and cord, silk cord of different colours, as well as binding; linen and sheeting for shirts, fine red blankets and a quantity of red cloth, with a few chairs and tables. The profit arising from the sale of these things would be enormous.

For the mission’s use it should bring with it a supply of hammers, saws, augers, chisels, axes, hatchets, adzes, carpenters’ and blacksmiths’ tools, since the Waganda are apt pupils; iron drills and powder for blasting purposes, trowels, a couple of good-sized anvils, a forge and bellows, an assortment of nails and tacks, a plough, spades, shovels, pickaxes, and a couple of light buggies as specimens, with such other small things as their own common sense would suggest to the men whom I invite. Most desirable would be an assortment of garden seed and grain; also white-lead, linseed-oil, brushes, a few volumes of illustrated journals, gaudy prints, a magic lantern, rockets, and a photographic apparatus. The total cost of the whole equipment need not exceed 5000 [pounds] sterling.
Henry M. Stanley

Works Cited

Johnston, Sir Harry. The Uganda Protectorate. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1902 .

Stanley, Henry M,”Letters of Mr. H. M. Stanley on his Journey to Victoria Nyanza, and Circumnavigation of the Lake,” in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. 20. 1875-1876 (134-159).

Jonathan Musere