Our latest podcast features David F.K. Mpanga, the Deputy Chairman at Bowmans, a top tier Africa-wide law firm, and co-founder of top tier law firm, A.F. Mpanga Advocates (now Bowmans Uganda) on his book, The Politics of Common Sense. David is a barrister of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple and an advocate of the courts of Uganda with almost three decades of experience. David is also the Minister for Special Duties in the Buganda Government, an institution headed by the Kabaka of the Kingdom of Buganda.
David speaks about how he decided on the title to his book, beliefs and perspectives which he had that were challenged as he wrote his book, the origins of negative tribalism on the continent, the importance of strong institutions in governance and why young Africans cannot afford to be apathetic when it comes to politics. He also speaks about his love for music, how he started deejaying as a hobby and his Mixcloud channel.
The Politics of Common Sense is available at Aristoc and Bookpoint (in Kampala, Uganda), and will be available for purchase on Amazon soon.
*The transcript below has been generated through software, and may contain errors. Viewpoints with Brenda is designed to be heard. We strongly recommend that you listen to the episode for context and speech emphasis before quoting the text below in print.
BN (00:21): My guest today is one of the most brilliant legal minds out of Africa, Uganda to be precise. David F.K. Mpanga is the deputy chairman at Bowmans a top tier Africa-wide law firm. He’s a barrister of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple and an Advocate of the Courts of Uganda with almost three decades of experience. David is also the Minister of special duties in the Buganda government, an institution headed by the Kabaka of the Kingdom of Buganda. David is also the author of The politics of common sense, an F1 enthusiast and a huge supporter of the great Arsenal FC. I’m super excited about this conversation. We fortunately or unfortunately, will not be boring anyone with talk about the practice of law today. But we’ll be talking about some of the themes in David’s book, The Politics of Common Sense, which have had a profound impact on me. So, David, welcome to the podcast. I know my introduction has been a little bit short. So please tell everyone a bit more about yourself.
DFKM (01:18): No, thank you very much, Brenda. Thank you for having me. And it’s a great pleasure to be here with all your listeners. I don’t think that your introduction has been a bit short. It’s actually been very long, because I can introduce myself as just David Mpanga who practices law and has a few views here and there, and traveller in life. This is probably the best way I’d introduce myself.
BN (01:38): Yeah, you’re being very modest. But we’ll take it. So I’m going to ask you a bit about the writing process first before I jump into all my burning questions. I’ve been so impacted by your book. I’ve read it a couple of times. How did you come up with the title The Politics of Common Sense?
DFKM (02:00): The title was accidental, as many things are found in life, that have taken on a life of their own. It was an accidental situation that’s a sad situation, unfortunately, because of a very good friend of mine, a lady called Helen Kanzira Wiltshire. I was in law school with Helen, I found her at the Law Development Centre. And then Helen married Ernest Wiltshire, who happens to be one of my partners at A.F. Mpanga, Bowman’s Uganda. We were very tight and a very close squad of people, starting this law firm, just three of us, Ernest, Fred Mpanga, and myself, all from the Law Development Centre in the same year. I was older than them, but we sat in the same year, and they were friends with Helen as well.
DFKM (02:49): Helen was having a baby in October 2007, if I’m not wrong, in Paragon Hospital, when she lost her life. She lost her life to bleeding, I think it’s called postpartum bleeding — a condition that can be resolved I’m told by experts by a single shot of either vitamin D or something that enables the body to start coagulating again. In profound shock and sorrow, I was standing in church, talking about Helen, and talking about a tragedy that a mother, a young mother should lose her life to such a preventable and well-known condition. And I talked about the need for better healthcare. But of course, in emotion and shock, you can get carried away. So, I put a caveat on the things that I had just said about the need for better healthcare the need for hospitals that work by saying that what I was talking about was not politics, it was just common sense. We shouldn’t be debating whether we need good hospitals, whether our wives or mothers or sisters should die, friends should die in hospitals or not. We should be talking about how many hospitals can we afford, what basic priorities should they cover. But we shouldn’t be talking about whether we need hospitals or not. We shouldn’t be debating healthcare, it’s essential. And when I was asked to write in the Daily Monitor on what was initially called “a panel of experts” by David Spire Sepuuya, I particularly asked a little bit like this conversation, not to be writing about law. I’m a lawyer and I enjoyed practicing law. But I don’t like doing it in my spare time. And I don’t like writing about law. I’m not I’m not a legal academic. I sell my opinions. I decided to write on observational, if I may call it that, politics. Things that I think, affect us all in different ways, profound ways, and things that maybe can’t be addressed by people who are in the heat of competitive politics, people who are in the heat of office seeking or office bearing. And those things seem to me to be, as I said at that funeral service, common sense.
DFKM (05:02): So, as I started writing in The Monitor on a more regular basis, I was asked to give a title to my column. Everybody knows about Charles Onyango Obbo’s famous Ear to the Ground- it’s been running for maybe 30 years. All these columns have a title. So, I just thought that The Politics of Common Sense made sense, if I may put it that way, because what I was trying to put across was that there are few things that we never really think about, or that we assume that everybody’s thinking about. And those things have a profound effect on our daily lives. And, left unsaid or left unobserved, the public square debates tend to be partisan, tends to be people building their own careers, political careers, tends to be somebody paid by a particular interest group or sponsoring a certain view, rather than just sitting there, and saying things like, you know what, let’s talk about healthcare. Let’s talk about corruption and the failure of governance, let’s talk about a number of things that I thought were pertinent. So that’s where the title The Politics of Common Sense came from.
DFKM (06:08: And then as time progressed, I suddenly realized that it seemed like I was going around in circles, and using different examples to say, more or less the same thing or things. And that’s where the idea of stopping this weekly column came from and compiling these essays in themes in a thematic order, adding some essays that I’ve not published, for whatever reason, maybe are too long, they couldn’t fit in 800 words, maybe I didn’t think they were, you know, really for a wider audience.
DFKM (06:40): And then when I put them all together, and then another, a whole different theme, came to me the fact that there is this element of time, and it seems that every so often, we’ve come through, and we do the same thing, and we seem to face it, as if it’s never happened before. We seem to do the same things in reaction to it. And as a result, we come up with this justification that all history repeats itself. But is it because history repeats itself or is it because we human beings, we Ugandans we Africans tend to react in the same way faced with similar circumstances? And in that, again, you start getting things like, you know, the repetitive theme of the effect of the colonial state, the functioning, or the failure there or how it impacts on us as natives in our ethnicities, how it impacts on our lives as Africans in relation to global geopolitics, or even regional geopolitics. And suddenly, it made sense to me. So, I, together with Sam Obbo, and later with Nyana Kakoma, kind of rearranged these chapters or these essays and came up with chapters and came up with themes that I hope make sense.
BN (07:51): Did you find that there were any beliefs you had or any perspectives that changed as you wrote or as you compiled these essays into the book?
DFKM (07:59): Yes, Brenda. The biggest thing, and somewhere in this book, you’ll find the quotation of George Bernard Shaw which says, “Every once in a while, you should have a question mark, on long held beliefs”.
DFKM (08:10): One of the profound beliefs that we all have is, we believe that we come from countries. You introduced me as coming from Uganda, you come from Uganda yourself. Now, behind that is a whole set of assumptions that you know, this is a country or a nation and it functions. It has history and all these things. And as I wrote the columns as they were coming up, and then as I compiled them, you find that, you start questioning very seriously the functionality, for example, number the assumptions behind the states that we call our homes. It’s something that’s sometimes one has to be careful saying out loud, because you know, people get cognitive dissonance when you question certain things that they take for granted and suggest things like, you know, many of our states are not functional, but for external support, but for geopolitical recognition. In a global world order would there be a country like the Central African Republic? We can see failure elsewhere, but we can’t necessarily see it in our own backyard.
DFKM (09:17): The foundation has so many flaws in it. These states were not built to support or work and protect our interests. They’re not meant for us natives. They’re meant for somebody else, that somebody else stepped away and stopped running them directly. But doesn’t mean that suddenly because you know, this is matatu that was placed on a highway is being driven by a pilot, it will take off. It’s a matatu. It’s a taxi, it will not run off the runway, it will just keep going back and forth. No matter how fast its equipment, no matter how straight its driven, no matter how skilful person at the wheel is. The thing that was created is unfortunately dysfunctional. And that then leads you to understand things like why we have corruption, massive corruption, and lack of ownership in the public square. People kind of feel that government is something that hovers over them, it doesn’t come into my home. It doesn’t give me a language, it doesn’t give me a mode of dress, it doesn’t give me a traditional food. It doesn’t tell me how to name my child how to, you know, it doesn’t give me burial rites or funeral rites. It just hovers somewhere. And maybe the closest it gets to anybody’s home is as police close by. And that’s coercive.
DFKM (10:33): So, it also helps you understand things like why maybe there’s a failure in understanding rights and obligations. I spend a lot of time in the book talking about our obligations as citizens. But my citizen obligations and things that one thinks that this is common sense, might not come naturally to a person who doesn’t feel like they belong in this particular citizenry. And so certain things that we view as immutable and completely, not debatable in, say, our own native communities. If, you know, being a Muganda, the thought of marrying within my clan is completely taboo, regardless of the fact that there really isn’t an actionable sanction. But why wouldn’t I think of the Constitution, removing term limits or removing age limits, or modifying the constitution for the benefit of one individual or a small set of individuals? Why wouldn’t I think, or does anybody think about those things in the same way, as we think about say marriage within our clans, or some people touching, or shaking hands with your mother-in-law? It’s because one thing is perceived to be something that’s written on paper that can be changed. The other thing is believed to be like a normative statement that is true and will not be changed, and a number of other things.
DFKM (11:56): But I think to me, the biggest thing that came out of this process is, you know, of this process is those assumptions that underlie many of the things that we do, need questioning and when you question them and look closely at them it’s shocking. I think second, as I said, is the issue of time, the future and the present, and the past are kind of all intermingled. We are facing the same problems. I got two essays that I added to this, in the chapter called From the Archives, which are written by my father when he was in exile. My father was in exile because Uganda and Buganda were not getting along, Uganda was dealing militarily with issues that could have been dealt with politically or legally. And he wrote these two essays on tribalism, the essays that could be said, with different modifications, or written about any modern African post-colonial country. They were true in the 60s and 50 years later, they’re still true. That’s the unfortunate thing that we are, we’re living our father’s forefathers, our forebearers, dreams and nightmares all at once, and maybe bequeathing the same to our children. It makes me sad in my midlife, it really does.
BN 13:04: That, I think was one of the most profound things for me, as I read the book, you know, what your term the Growing Block Universe Theory of Time. And the fact that as I kept reading, there’s literally an essay for every single current affairs event, not only in Uganda, but on the African continent as wide and the world at large. And some of these essays were written as long as a decade ago. So, you know, it’s just a bit shocking sometimes and a bit unnerving, that we’re going through these things over and over and over again, and we’re doing the exact same thing over and over again, you know, it’s like there’s no end to all of this.
DFKM (13:39): Yeah.
BN (13:40): You touched on this briefly, but it’s something that I also found quite poignant is that the essays written by your father in chapter 10 and one particular essay of yours in chapter two, which is Decide now or Pay Later on the Kenyan general election? And this whole topic of tribalism. Why is tribalism swept so under the rug? These assays, as you said, almost 50 years apart. Nobody talks about tribalism; nobody wants to tackle and why are we tiptoeing? And what can we do to address this because I think tribalism is quite a big issue in Africa generally.
DFKM (14:16): This is the point that comes from how the states we’re living in we call our homes came about. We were going about our own business, if I may use the example of my own great grandfather to who my father was there and I’m heir to my father. So essentially in Kiganda culture, I am him. Nuwa Nassamba, was you know, guy going about his own business as the Arabs came here in the reign of Ssekabaka Ssuna II. Ssuna was the father of Muteesa I. Muteesa I is more famous because Mutesa I was the first Kabaka to welcome the Arabs. Sorry, the Europeans. Ssuna welcomed the Arabs, interfaced with the Arabs. Muteesa I interfaced with the Europeans.
DFKM (15:00): You’ve got to imagine a person who is going about their business. And their worldview is, this is the world, this is the universe where they are, in the centre of Africa, you know. Close to the equator on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, bounding Bunyoro, Ankole, Busoga, Lango, and generally maybe the issue of expansion or defence is around these people and maybe also now the beginning of trade with the coast. And out there is, as we now know, from another part of the world, great powers, dividing Africa based on a map in a ballroom or a meeting room in a hotel, or a palace in Berlin. And that exercise, that paper exercise, as it came onto the ground, as it was effected on the ground, essentially meant that communities where rent asunder talk about the people of Kisoro, DRC and Rwanda. Talk about northern Tanzania. Talk about people on the eastern side of Uganda who, until 1923, the Ugandan border went all the way to Turkana. But in 1923, for reasons we don’t know, the border was moved further down, by the back, west, if you’re in Kenya, east, if you’re in Uganda further back anyway. And so, the Awori family have some Aworis in Uganda and other Aworis in Kenya. And it goes like that all around the borders, you know, communities being split.
DFKM (16:33): It’s not just the communities or the borders that were split. It was also the communities that were within the borders that never sat down, to have a discussion about whether to join together and form one state, or how a state will be run, how power in that state will be divided their relationships to each other. They were just simply put within a geographical boundary, quite random. None of our forefathers can tell us why Uganda’s boundaries as now enshrined in our Constitution, run the way that they do. So, if you need an explanation of whether Migingo is in Uganda or in Kenya, you have to go to London. They’ll tell you that, you know, when we were designing this country or these two countries, we run the boundary line in this way, and the waters in Kenya and island is in Uganda, whatever the case may be. But it meant that communities that had the internationally recognized right to self-determination — to determine freely and of their own volition, their political, social, economic, and cultural status. To determine whether by war because it was state making has been by war all over the world. By war or by treaty, who they want to be with and who they don’t want to be with. People were just put into these natural resource concessions. Because the people who run the Berlin Conference wanted natural resources in Africa. That’s why they come in the first place.
DFKM (17:58): Now, the whole idea of negative tribalism, tribe is a pejorative term. I don’t belong to a tribe because they’re no tribes outside the southern hemisphere, apparently. If you’re Welsh, you’re a nation. If you’re Cornish, you’re a nation. If you’re from Liechtenstein, but there are fewer people in Liechtenstein than in Busoga. But Basoga are a tribe, and the people of Liechtenstein are citizens. If you can answer that in a way that doesn’t mean that the people who are in a tribe are somehow “other”, please come and help me understand it. But the way I understand it is this whole thing of labelling us tribes instead of nations or communities or kingdoms, to my mind was the beginning of this problem of negative tribalism. In fact, putting us in one big concession, a territory that’s been fenced off, arbitrarily. Cutting some people off from their people. You know the Bakonjo from the other people in DRC, you know, their kith and kin. Rendering minorities, or rendering you remote from the centre. Because if you’ve determined that Uganda is going to be run from Kampala, there’s a person who is a Lugbara, who has been working, living and their universe, like Nuwa Nassamba’s, is in that what we can now call the West Nile region, but also is in what is now DRC, is in what is now Central African Republic, and maybe goes all the way to South Sudan and maybe goes all the way to Central African Republic. These people are suddenly made remote. They all have to fight for this winner take all prize of running the colonial state. This is what is the beginning of tribalism. This is what causes this negative tribalism that we see.
DFKM (19:42): If you found five black Africans in, you’re in Kuwait, in the UK, wherever they might be. You’re all getting on. You’re all very happy to see each other you’re telling each other about your native dress. You’re talking to each other about your native languages the similarities and differences. You’re talking about your foods, you invite each other to particularly important days in your culture, etc. There’s that cross pollination, everybody loves each other. What happens to us when we are here? Why do we get tribalism? And we get that problem when we are made to compete on a zero-some basis for the resources that we consider to be ours. So, if you have to compete for power, based on, there’s a Uganda where it’s level, everybody’s the same, and they all just black people, which is how the white people who set up these nations, so called viewed us as just black people. Then they tell you, you must lose all your culture and all these backward things. It’s a white supremacist position. It is actually racist position. But if my having a vaccination for my child, if my having a school if my having a road, if my having electricity, depends on my proximity to this power structure, if it depends on how well this power structure considers me, and maybe it can be mobilized to support somebody to get in and then work for us to “eat”. As we all see, you know, in a quite vulgar way, that’s where tribalism comes from.
DFKM (21:20): So, these essays, just bring out that point that, look, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with our communities. We’re not bad people. There’s nothing backward about our native being. We should be proud of this. What is wrong, and what is injuring us is not in our DNA is something that was imposed on us, and that will refuse to question and in refusing to question and address it on our own terms, we’ll still have states that tried to make us into pale, excuse the pun, pale imitations of Europeans rather than serve us in our native African state, in our African way.
DFKM (22:00): So, because our states do not reflect us, they don’t serve us. They’re not designed for us. They oppress us. They have made us oppressors. And they have made us jealous holders of power. There’s a very, very good essay, I talk about it, maybe two or three times in here, called The Inevitability of Instability, by James O’Connor and written in 1967. The Inevitability of Instability speaks to why each and every African colonial state is a problem. And the points that are made in there on tribalism, on nepotism on lack of respect for the rules of the game, so hence, the constant breakdown of constitutionalism and the rule of law. All these things just turn to that point that these states were not made for us. They’ve just not worked for us, and they can’t work. That’s our problem.
BN (22:53): Yeah. What do you say about when you’re out of the whole continent, and you’re out here, you’re very happy to see an African or Ugandan or a Kenyan. Nobody even cares. about the tribe. Hopefully, we’ll get there.
DFKM (23:08): And Pan-Africanism based on us as we are on an honest reckoning of who we are, and how we associate would actually work very well.
BN (23:17): Yeah.
DFKM (23:18): In my view, because there’s no reason why a Kikuyu would want to dominate, a Lugbara or a Lugbara dominate if the basics were guaranteed, at ground level. There’s really no problem. The problem is you have to capture power at the top of this artificial structure, and then hold it because if you don’t hold it, somebody is going to take it away from you. And they’re going to oppress you and deprive you of the things that you think you’re entitled to. So, you oppress others in order to keep those things and it is perpetuated.
BN (23:54): You also write about, you know, immortality in the first few pages of your book on the late Meles Zenawi, and also in your essay on despots, not learning from gruesome fate of other despots. How can us as the next generation of Africans try and prevent this whole despotism that’s so entrenched in parts of the African continent right now?
DFKM (24:15): The biggest problem with hubris and thinking that trees can grow to the sky is perhaps a symptom of the point that we’re making earlier that people come to power instrumentalize their communities to get into power. They tell whoever it is that they’re with, that let’s get in, in order that let me use an example of myself that the Baganda may “eat”, or the Banyankole may “eat”. But the Baganda don’t “eat” in that sense, though. The Banyankole don’t “eat” in that sense. It’s just me, using people as a vehicle to get to a certain point. When I get into that point, as the leader, I then delude myself about my ability to resist time, about my ability to resist mortality even. And I don’t build institutions, because you see things that are meant to last are built institutionally. If you want to do something that will end quickly do something that’s made to measure against your body.
DFKM (25:17): But many times, unfortunately, our states are not bespoke to the person. The strong man builds things around themselves so that they themselves are the only people who understand. The only person in that particular entity who understand how things run. This actually goes down to micro levels. It’s I think, in my theory, one of the reasons why we don’t generally have intergenerational wealth grown amongst African families, at least in Uganda. Because many times the entrepreneur, who many times again is a man, knows how a thing is run, but doesn’t teach anybody, not even his wife, or wives, as the case may be. So, everybody knows is this big business and it works. But I’m the only one who understands that I’m the only one who knows the creditors. I’m the only one who knows the suppliers. It’s not institutionalized. There’s no board, I answer to nobody. I’m the chairman, the CEO, the CFO. Everybody below me just kind of runs as I juggle these things at my whims. My juggling skills might be good, good enough to perpetuate a regime for several years.
DFKM (26:28): But eventually, the difficulty that we’ve never been able to solve is mortality. Mortality does catch up with us on a small scale and on a macro scale. And when it does regimes collapse, situations, adversely change because there isn’t succession planning. Talking about succession planning requires institutionalization. If I plan things in a way that envisions that I might not be around, many times it diminishes me as the kind of giant omnipresent being that I’ve wanted to present myself in order to maintain myself as an autocrat. So, the thinking that will change us, and rid us of that is an understanding that, without institutions, we cannot build anything that lasts.
DFKM (27:16): Our issues, as I’ve said, intergenerational, they’ve been going since my great grandfather first came face to face with white people who are doing something that they were running from Berlin. They have been very successful in positing and doing things institutionally. And, in fact, universalizing their interests, and making it look like their interests of being on top are the way that human development and human progress is supposed to be. They’ve really, really made it, you know, embedded it into an institutionalized global system. We, on the other hand, try to fight these things, one person at a time, a small clique at a time, and we cast aside our institutions, we denigrate them on the basis that we’ve imported from out there. Call them antiquated whatever it is. And they are traversing the modern world using their institutions, which they’ve modified over the years to face the challenges that they’ve come across them to look at the new boundaries and borders that they’ve created. And we have jettisoned everything, hope that we can cut and paste and then somehow, miraculously, these things can work for us.
DFKM (28:34): So, what do I mean, for example, by institutions. When we talk about the political space at all by political parties, but where do you find political parties that advocate for an interest and have an ideological foundation bedrock? Those are issues that we need to confront. That’s the proper institutionalization. But which institutions should we strengthen? In your introduction, you said, I work with the Kingdom of Buganda, I work with the kingdom of Buganda, in the kingdom of Buganda, because of my descent. True. But because I ideologically believe that these are the cornerstones in each of our ethnic groups. These are cornerstones in our communities that we’ve thrown away, that we need to be bringing out to build solid, wider spanning institutions. We need to modernize them to bring them to date, in order to face the challenges that we face together. But if we think that the way that we’re going to institutionalize is by mimicking Westminster, mimicking the Democrats and Republicans in the US, trying to be Christian Democrats, as in Germany — we’ll never succeed. We’re not Germans, we’re not Americans. We’re not British. Our history is not the same. Development is not unilinear. The path to progress is not unilinear. What constitutes my progress is not what constitutes yours, Brenda. Yet, if we were to look at our basic interests and the things that threaten us, as peoples, they’re the same across the continent more or less. And if we used our building blocks and built bigger, longer spanning institutions, I think we might be able to get rid of this hubristic effectively futile belief that one strongman can make change, who can hold things together. They can’t for longer than, you know, the span of a human life.
BN (30:22): You actually took the next question right out of my mouth. Because I was going to ask you obviously about something you pointed out in your book about just us as Africans just not having a coherent strategy to deal with the 21st century and what the role of the institutions would be in this case, and I think you’ve put it pretty well. We need to build institutions like these, in order to deal with the other issues that we’re you know, we’re facing on the continent.
DFKM (30:47): We’re faced with a big threat. We didn’t learn from the first round of imperialism. None of us really understands the range of the threat. So, we think that if we ally with one wing of white power or another, we will survive, we won’t. So, if whether it’s the Chinese, the Americans, the Arabs — none of them, premises their growth on our happiness and prosperity. All of them premise their growth and development. On us remaining, how we are or just marginally improving. If we are to actually improve and thrive, then we must find ways of building long intergenerational institutions here, which will defend our own position and allow people to manage to guarantee their freedom by explaining to their adversaries that they’re human and deserve better.
BN (31:46): For us younger Africans, although I keep saying I’m not so young, but I keep like insisting. How would you encourage younger Africans or young Africans, you know, to carry this mantle of change in the midst of all the apathy and the frustration that people are having with leadership in their countries?
DFKM (32:04): I think the first thing to do would be to discourage apathy. Because if you’re apathetic, you’ve already lost in this game. If you think that things can somehow change themselves, because you don’t like them, they seem bigger than you, you’ve lost, you’ve lost. It’s like a lottery, you’ve got to be in it to win it. Then the next thing is, you’ve got to be in it with an understanding of the challenge that you have the misconceptualization of Africa’s problem as being the colour bar, the fact that the white people were running these countries for themselves and black people couldn’t live in Nakasero, couldn’t go to certain hotels, couldn’t send their children to certain primary schools. Unfortunately, and I don’t say this, to denigrate. All that gave us the wrong answer to our challenge, we need to understand our challenge as it actually is. Whether we’re being run directly here by white people, or being run indirectly by Western Europeans, Arabs, or Chinese or Indians, you know, whatever. If we’re being run for the benefit of somebody who is not us, we are not being run properly. So that you know whether directly or indirectly. If you understand the nature, then you start positing and doing things that are solution to your problem.
DFKM (33:28): I think the other thing that we need to understand is, young people need to understand, is that this is an intergenerational struggle. Many people will not see the fruits of a struggle. But if it’s started and conducted in the way that it should be, progress will be made in that struggle, and eventually it will yield. But it requires, you know, a lot of thinking. It requires action. And it requires an understanding of every individual, each and every man and woman’s personal responsibility in that game. The worst thing I think that can happen is somebody’s thinking “I can’t change this”. And apathy is really, you know, the enemy’s biggest tool. Apathy is not the answer. But doing nothing because I can only do little is also not the answer. I’ve got to do little. As long as I’m doing it with clarity as to what it is that I’m trying to solve. That’s our key.
BN (34:22): I want to ask you a little bit — this is really pivoting from the book on to the more fun stuff. You’re moonlighting as a DJ, Daudi. How did you get into the DJing and your Mixcloud, and what is the creative process? I’m so curious.
DFKM (34:40): Human beings are multifaceted. We do many things. And I’m sure you now sit on panels to interview people to join your law firm. I remember Brenda interviewing you if that shows how old I am. For the ILFA, International Lawyers for Africa.
BN (34:58): A whole decade ago. Yes.
DFKM (34:59): Although you were a bright eyed and bushy tailed lawyer. And we always asked, “what are your hobbies?” For me, my interests outside reading books and being a lawyer have always been in some way, shape or form, connected to music. I love music. I really, really love music. I can listen to a song and tell you where I was when I first heard it. I mean, not every song of this particular song. Where I was when I first heard it, what mood I was in, what I did to acquire it, you know, back in the day when you have to go out, go out and buy a cassette or an LP, where I bought it, different mixes of it, who produced it. I mean, I find that whole thing very interesting.
DFKM (35:40): For the longest time I was compiling playlists. I used to make tapes. When we had cassette players if people know what those are. I used to make tapes for my friends. I had an uncle, late uncle John Masembe, who used to make tapes for me. So, I might have inherited that also from him. But I really loved, and I’ve still loved music as life went on. And I always thought that it would be nice if I could be a DJ. But you know, qualification for law and working hard and other things always made it impossible for me to pursue that. But middle life — I’m 50 now, midlife challenges you and makes you want to do things. And as I approached 50, I thought myself, I want to do one of two things. Aside from writing this book, finishing this book, I wanted to learn a new language, or I wanted to learn a new skill. And I toyed with the idea of going back to school to learn French. And then suddenly, I was at a Christmas party. I was, as I tend to do, I don’t dance a lot, but I listened to the music, and I watched the DJs. And I listened to their selection and wonder why did they select this with that? What would be a good song to come after that? If they’re playing genre that I enjoy these particular two DJs were playing at office Christmas party. And they must have been surprised when I feel maybe a little bit disconcerted that I was hanging around the DJ booth. They tend to like you know, younger ladies to do that. I was asking them questions, and I was kind of watching. And so eventually I just got over myself and I asked this guy if he could teach me. And he was kind enough to say yes, he could. And he said look into the Christmas period was very busy for them, as you can imagine those Christmas 2019. But when Christmas season was done, he’d be happy to start teaching me. So, in January 2019, after I also had a bit of a trip somewhere. So I was out of the country, then I came back. I got in touch with him and again, he was very surprised when I got in touch with him. I said, look, I was very serious. I’d like to learn. So, I said Well, I’ll bring some equipment over and we’ll start where should we meet? So, I called him to my office on a Saturday afternoon. I said just come around my office, it will be empty. And we’ll use the boardroom and stuff. And so, I started. He was surprised, I think, because I knew the music genre of music that is mostly like 70s 80s 90s 2000s R&B some house and stuff. But he was specializing in R&B, the so-called oldies. So, he was surprised at how well I knew the music. I knew that music because of the longstanding interest I totally abandoned and there if I wouldn’t just run down the list of songs as they’re stored. I tried to pick out certain songs because of certain beats or a certain resonance. So, he encouraged me to buy equipment of my own, which I did. And as soon as I did that, I was able then to practice.
DFKM (38:31): Little did I know that the Coronavirus was that we’d heard about and gestating somewhere in halfway across the world was coming towards us. Then in March or April after I’ve done a few lessons, maybe one a week, for about three or four weeks. We were locked down. And in the lockdown, we suddenly had lots of time on our hands. So, I started practicing a lot. And the practice made me better. And I’ve actually been very honest, in the sense that I’ve got maybe 75 recordings up on SoundCloud. I learned how to upload those onto SoundCloud. And I hope if you were to go there and listen to them, just look in SoundCloud for DaudiM, you will see some progression in my skill. And that’s because I was practicing, I was then watching YouTube videos, I was just playing around with a controller. It gives me great satisfaction and joy. I love it. It surprises people like you.
BN (39:26): Not surprises me because I know you love music. And we share, we swap playlists every now and then so DJing surprise me not the love of music. So, David, I just wanted to you know, thank you for coming on the podcast. There is one essay particularly in your book on mental enslavement where you write about Afro-optimism and I feel like this has sort of been the one that grounded me, as to how I’m choosing how to tell the African story on this podcast. Trying not to focus on what you know everybody’s interests for Africa is and what we need to do to exploit opportunities for ourselves. And at the risk of generalizing, you know, to just better tell the African story. So really, I’m just thankful that you took the time. And hopefully, maybe next time we’ll talk about something else. Maybe your next book.
DFKM (40:17): Well, thank you very much for having me. It’s a great pleasure and privilege. I know that you’ve had more illustrious guests than me. I also want to encourage you on this new journey. It’s a little bit like my DJing. So, you’re lawyer and now a media personality.
BN (40:33): I’m being called a podcaster by the gen Z’s; I think I’ll just claim it. Yeah, no, it’s been an interesting time. It’s been as just like, you know, just a lockdown hobby that started as we started our second lockdown here in Kuwait. But yeah, I’m growing to love it as much as you’re growing to love your DJing. So hopefully, I’ll keep it up.
DFKM (40:55): And you never know these things. It doesn’t seem like – it’s a long way away for you. Retirement these days is just about shifting, shifting careers. I’m going to become an elderly DJ in 10, 15 years. And you might, and you might have a new career in podcasting.
BN (41:13): You know, podcaster senior. Yeah. And thank you. Thank you so much, David, for coming on.
DFKM (41:21): Thank you very much for having me. Thank you very, very much.