This city belongs to its residents and not landowners. We will continue to support libraries and meeting and learning spaces that are made accessible to the poor. They are a beacon of socialist power amidst an increasingly exclusive and exploitative capitalist city management team bent on privatizing all spaces for the accumulation of wealth of political elites who live in mansions.
Our staff, Makerere students, readers, and other allies and users of Nana Mwafrika’s Knowledge Cave decided to rally some support to celebrate her and transfer her books when an NRM regime cadre, the fascist owner of Bagala Building in Ntinda, refused to accept her rent money for the services she provides to the city at her own expense. Under threats of forced eviction and break-ins on the basis that Nana was friends with an imprisoned feminist academic, we pooled our resources together and transferred thousands of books to a new location for the Knowledge Cave. We sang and will continue to sing against landlords (who wants to join a new tenants’ rights union?!) and their ever-growing corruption, classism, bullying, and malfeasance.
Says Nana, “I am finally out of the space that had become a torture chamber. I hadn’t violated anything in my lease at that deteriorating building, and on no grounds at all, the landlord threatened to break in and destroy these books and evict me. I’m so grateful for all who showed up. I am used to doing things alone, so this was a real show of solidarity.”
Nana, who lost her uterus to police brutality, has been systematically singled out and targeted by the dictatorial Museveni regime she critiques. She is a mother to many, especially her biological children, and continues to stand up for the rights of Ugandans.
Despite the repression, threats, and arrests that have occurred in doing so, Solidarity Uganda continues to support the formation of unions for tenants, hawkers, informal workers, and small businesspeople. The only way we can reclaim this city is by amassing collective power and resisting the daily oppression we face as city residents. Succeeding will require building our knowledge on how to exercise this power, a gift the likes of Nana have offered us.
In her own words, “We must teach children and adults to read not to merely pass exams, but to read for leisure or for teaching self. This saga wasn’t easy on me. But we have carved a path to read ourselves out of bondage.”