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The disappearing Miss Uganda

By Vision Reporter

Added 12th October 2011 04:26 PM

Nobody ever made any money organising the Miss Uganda pageant, so why do they do it?

The disappearing Miss Uganda

Nobody ever made any money organising the Miss Uganda pageant, so why do they do it?

 

THE DISAPPEARING MISS UGANDA
By Kalungi Kabuye
At the end of this year’s Miss Uganda pageant two months ago, the latest organiser and holder of the Miss World license, Brenda Nanyonjo, stood alone on the ramp and shed a few tears. It was an emotional moment for her, having successfully hosted the event after coming very close to death in last year’s terrorist bombings at Kyadondo Rugby Club.
We all felt for Brenda, and gave her a standing ovation. In her remarks she said that many people did not believe that, together with her brother Kevin, she could do it. But the question, as it stands, is not whether she could do it, but why she did it.
Why would anybody in their right minds fight for the chance to organise this event that has over the years lost most of its credibility? Let us have a quick re-cap of what has happened over the years (elements of this story also appeared in the October 2010 issue of the City Beat magazine).
Some form of beauty pageants were organised in the late 80s, but the organisers were accused of picking girls from the red-light districts, and nobody took them seriously. Not till the winner of Miss Uganda 1993, Linda Bazalaki, took over the organisation did a semblance of seriousness appear.
But controversy reared its head again in 1995 when it turned out the winner, Betty Nantunga, did not have her father’s blessing. He threatened to take the organisers to court, and shipped Nantunga off to India for university. Bazalaki found the heat too much, and she quit.
A group of young Kampala guys took it over, and organised the 1996 contest, won convincingly by Sheba Kerere. Kerere was the first winner to get a car as part of her prize, although rumours of unpaid cash prizes circulated.
Kerere’s term seemed to be going on well, till the time came to go to Miss World. She went to the UK and had her outfits designed there. After she came back the designer sued her for tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid bills.
When Kerere handed over to Lillian Acom the next year, she gave her successor one piece of advice, “stay away from expensive designers.”
By that time the young group of Kampala guys had got tired of the organisation, and apparently owed everybody money, so they quit. Acom was to be Miss Uganda for the next four years till Sylvia Owori came to town and picked it up.
Owori’s turn at the license, which lasted four years, brought showbiz to Kampala but it had its controversies. Victoria Nabunya won it in 2001, and then was suspended for one month for not cooperating with the organisers. Then Nabunya’s father came out and said she had disowned him. That drama played out in the papers till her term came to an end.
The next winner was medical student Rehema Nakuya, who became a doctor during her term. There were complaints that Owori wanted to give credibility to the pageant, and so chose Nakuya, who never was in the training camp because of her studies.
The next winner, Aysha Salma Nassanga, was quite a likeable girl till the media claimed she was in fact Senegalese, and not Ugandan. Her parents, a Senegalese father and Muganda mother, were forced to come out into the open in defence of their daughter.
But by the time Barbara Kimbugwe won it in 2004 even Owori was feeling the pinch. All sorts of rumours did the rounds about why she gave it up, although there is talk that she did not give it up willingly but lost it to Solaya Zalwango, then based in the UK.
Zalwango did not show face for a whole year, and her representatives organised it for her. Praise Akankwasa was chosen from a hastily called and organised contest that lasted all of one Saturday afternoon at Bat Valley.
Praise never got the credibility she sought as Miss Uganda, and now regrets ever taking part. The daughter of a priest had a torrid time with the tabloids, and there was talk of family misunderstanding with her father.
Zalwango finally made it to town in 2007. Monica Kansyate won the title, but amidst claims of favouritism, and she quickly lost rapport with the organisers. The car she won got into serious mechanical condition (there were rumours of an accident), and she accused the organisers of not repairing it.
Dorah Mwima won in 2008, and she said afterwards she felt abandoned by the organisers.
The next year came UK-based Ugandan Joyce Church, and there was confusion as to who actually owned the license, was it her or Zalwango?
The girl that had won the Miss Uganda-UK, Maria Namiiro, also took part in the Miss Uganda contest, to the derision of many. An undercover journalist participated, and her revelations of what went on in the camp; and her assertion that Namiiro seemed to already have been picked for winner, and that she acted more as an organiser than a participant, soured matters.
Namiiro was indeed declared the winner by judges brought in from the UK, and a public outcry ensued. Church threatened to sue the newspaper the undercover journalis

THE DISAPPEARING MISS UGANDA

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