urban planners in kampala, please HELP?!


From redpepper.co.ug - Bukoto-Heights-Apartments
Bukoto Heights Apartments (Photo from http://www.redpepper.co.ug)

Dear Urban Planners and People In Charge of decisions such as which buildings of what type go where and how, Please HELP? The only way we can stop begging you to help is if you implement the stuff you went to school to learn.

I haven’t been to those schools or gone through the academic process you did, so I can’t say for sure that you are taught these things in those official forums; since I presume you live and work in places like Kampala, I hope that you share the pain most of us do.

Having just resumed driving my own vehicle last weekend, I was unprepared for the entire experience of getting from one place to another in one emotionally sound piece – and I can only blame the urban planning people.

To start with, leaving home was more difficult because there are yet MORE apartment blocks going up in the area where I reside. This means that there are MORE motor vehicles being parked in the neighborhoods there overnight, and needing to leave in the mornings for life. It also means that there are MORE motor vehicles visiting the neighborhoods during the day, and occasionally MORE celebrations during the day.

It is paragraphs such as the above that I would assume get written down in text books and notes of people studying urban planning. See, some of the buildings contain apartments with three bedrooms, for instance, which means that they will probably be occupied by a family. That family, in an upscale neighborhood, will almost certainly consist of two adults both gainfully employed in busy jobs that will require them to have a different car each.

When urban planners and those people who approve construction projects don’t take that into consideration and therefore demand that the investors in these apartment blocks create sufficient parking space, we end up having our already narrow neighborhood roads crammed with cars parked by the roadside.

Because the already narrow roads don’t have pavements or sidewalks, pedestrians walk weaving through the roadside cars and suddenly pop up in front of you on the road as you carefully drive through trying to avoid scratching cars on either side. Luckily, you are incapable of driving at speeds that could occasion vehicular bloodshed, but the anguish of avoiding said bloodshed tends to pile up.

By the time you leave the residential area and make it onto the main roads, therefore, you cannot be in a mellow frame of mind, and that makes you less prepared to deal with the discourtesy of your fellow motor vehicle operators. The rapid accumulation of motor vehicles at specific points of the road necessitates the deployment of traffic officers to create a semblance of order but they are normally as lacking in humour as you, the drivers, are.

One can’t blame them as much as the urban planners, whose fault at this point is the failure to increase the number of road connections from point to point in order to ease the flow of traffic. Where I reside, for instance, there are only three roads leading to the main roads, but many others that are called “Closes” because they close up at the gates of private residences.

These residences, urban legend has it, are mostly illegal – having been constructed smack in the middle of a road that should connect to other roads as the urban plans indicate.

The urban plans probably include some maps and should be in the custody of the urban planning people who would, under normal circumstances, take the necessary corrective action so that life is made easier for all Ugandans. I cannot explain why it doesn’t happen, which is why I go about my business as normally as last weekend when I went through this anguish to visit a relative on the other side of town.

En route to my destination I stopped over at a supermarket to pick up a small gift and was directed to the basement parking of the so-called Mall housing the supermarket. As I descended into the dark pit of the building I switched my car lights on and noticed that many of the pillars holding the building up were chipped at the edges.

A car emerging from the basement made it clear why. Within seconds I found myself in a panic because the departing vehicle turned a millisecond too early and was suddenly stuck in position, as was I because of another vehicle behind mine, and another behind that one, all causing a fresh traffic jam from the road into the basement of the building!

I’m certain that in our minds we all bore colourful thoughts about the urban planning people who approved the plans that created a basement with pillars placed so close to each other and the walls. The fellow in the departing car, though, became the most aggrieved when his car chipped off another bit of the edge of the pillar as he tried to make his escape from the dungeon.

Some of this would have been avoided, I’m sure, if the urban planners had considered the nature of the tenants and users of such buildings before approving plans; if each and every one of the tenant shops in that building had one car parked in the basement full-time, then the hundreds of shoppers driving in would always be squeezing their cars in between the spaces left over and against walls and pillars.

That’s another reason the urban planners need to revisit those lessons about public transportation systems and how they fit into the arrangement of buildings in towns and cities. Malls placed in locations far removed from where mass transport stops exist will most certainly be used by car owners – otherwise how are people to carry their shopping home?!

HELP US, we beg you, and revisit all your learnings from school?

leadership is in a crisis from the united states to anywhere…even Uganda


POLITICAL Leadership the world over is taking a hit.

The Leader of the world’s Super Power is a petulant, foul-mouthed, misogynistic character whose ascendence to the top seat in the world’s so-called bastion of ‘freedom’ appalled the most idealistic of us out there.

Despicable Donald Trump
From http://www.businessinsider.com 

 

 

 

It was simply a sign of the times to come. There are many words we employ to describe people who behave the way this world leader does; some polite yet very apt – like ‘despicable’ – while others are too rude to be put into print.

For a long time, closer to home, we have seen these signs manifesting themselves mostly because of the activity that has taken centre stage for long years of political campaigning.

 

Sadly for us, the political activity and campaigns continue to focus more on the campaigns and attainment of positions and titles of ‘leadership’ rather than the results of that leadership.

This Tuesday was less surprising than disappointing, and not because of the usual reasons.

Having been locked up in a Leadership Retreat to discuss matters of seeming importance that would not be affected by the lifting or not of Age Limits anywhere in the world, I emerged from the Board Room in the evening to an amazing array of astonishing videos and social media messages.

The first stood out because of the vivid colour involved. Initially I took it to be some masterful disinformation and sabotage; how could I just believe that an adult who is currently in the public eye could dress up all in bright yellow and drive a bright yellow vehicle of a distinct make and model, then park it by the roadside and not expect to be recognized?

Abiriga Peeing
Someone urinating against a wall in public (From http://www.newvision.co.ug)

Even more, would I not be intellectually careless to simply accept it to be true that the brightly-clad adult would then stop close to the Parliament building where the world’s eyes are focused for the nonce, and still not think that someone would notice them?

More to that, in this day and age of frantic and ubiquitous social media activity and heavy smart phone penetration, what self-respecting grown person would stand up against the wall and engage in a spot of public urination?

Before passing verdict, I trawled through my messages for important ones and was flabbergasted to get to a video clip that purported (I use this word very carefully, because I must tell the children that all this is made up fiction) to be an interview with the same yellow-clad gentlemen suspected of public urination.

I watched the video once and decided that the words could have been doctored, even though the phrase “I was badly off” sounded authentic. I even found a Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Ordinance 6 of 2006 that read that any person who “commits a nuisance by easing himself or herself in any street or place of public resort…where he or she may be seen by the public…” commits an offence.

Offence of Easing Oneself.jpg

Abiriga Criminal Summons

A short while later, I realized that I was subconsciously trying to avoid addressing the images and footage of Representatives of the Ugandan population engaged in a scuffle that involved hurling chairs about the ‘august’ House. That word ‘august’ means “respected and impressive”.

One person on Twitter lamented at the possibility of the children of any of the people in the Parliamentary fight footage seeing their parents fighting with their workmates, in suits and ties.

Two other video clips depicted other national leaders running from security officials, and others involved insults and disparagements befitting of an American President.

Here’s the one of Odonga Otto being chased by Parliamentary security officials: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go2GNg0bEj4

Here’s the one of Moses Kasibante being chased by a policeman after jumping off a police pick-up truck: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvIeob4oUxA

There was no salvaging the day, in general, and I urged my phone battery to die quietly so I could rest.

The next morning, a friend of mine expressed his dismay over a snafu with an Operation Wealth Creation project upcountry that meant his mother was going to lose an investment worth Ushs100million.

See, the rains have started and she is ready to plant crops but…and as we were chatting I quickly checked to find out whether any Leader has recently given guidance to the Ugandan populace on agriculture, agribusiness, investment or any other ‘developmental’ issue.

Even though just six months ago we were talking about the drought being a national disaster, we are into the wet season and there is no noise being made about growing food crops and other such unimportant matters. We are all about ‘Politics’.

Finding that the Age Limit debate has dominated the conversation, I checked for a copy of the Bill that is causing so much national excitement that we have lost control of our adrenaline and bladders. All the intellectuals out there should surely have dissected it quite considerably left, right and centre?

Like most of you out there, I couldn’t find it, and I am not interested enough to really chase it down because supporting it is the least of my worries and has not been made desirable in any way, while opposing it appears both cliched and just as distasteful in action, as evidenced on Tuesday.

Indeed, today most everything to do with Politics (not Uganda, yet) is as undesirable and distasteful as finding old men engaged in public urination. In terms of Leadership, we are really badly off right now.

uganda: let’s delete the word ‘potential’ from our national dictionary


ON Wednesday morning I jumped out of bed as a rainstorm raged on outside trying to make it difficult for the lazy-minded to leave their beds.
I could have done with a few extra minutes of sleep that morning but the night before I had said something on a radio talk show about how unjustified it was for most of us to sleep at all, given the amount of work we needed to do to develop Uganda.
The thought that someone could call me out for spending longer in bed than I had publicly said was necessary drove me to my desk, so I was watching the storm through the window over the top of my computer as I made my day’s plan, thinking how happy the farming community must be about this weather change.
Only three people these past two weeks have spoken to me about the rains having started: My primary farming advisor (who is also my loving mother) , reminding me to make the necessary adjustments; my regular supplier of tree seedlings (@GreeningUganda), making a pitch for increased sales as per our standing arrangements; and the third, a friend’s highly energetic domestic employee, in a conversation.
This robust domestic employee, at a lunch party over the weekend, had me helping him move garden furniture because it was threatening to rain. “But are you sure it’s going to rain?” I asked him, to which he responded with a vigorously confident, “The rainy season has started. It will rain.”
The confidence with which he spoke stayed on my mind all through the sumptuous luncheon, and I thought to myself that this domestic worker must have had an agricultural background – like many of us do.
The neat, sprawling gardens in which we lunched were beautiful and vivid in colour and variety, and seeing this domestic employee flit about to and fro in the foreground of the floral compound made me wonder whether, with his knowledge of agriculture and vast amounts of energy, he would be using the rainy season to grow any crops, herbs, or spices for future luncheons to be had.
The potential of it all, I thought to myself, was massive!
Potential.jpg
Immediately, I mentally slapped myself round the back of my head. ‘Potential’. I am a little fed up of that word, in our context.
It means, my dictionary says, “having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future; and latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.
 
An hour or so later, I read an article that underscored why I dislike that word so much these days.
 
Uganda has potential to feed 200 million people – US envoy’, read the headline, followed by: “Uganda’s fertile agricultural land produces a wide range of food products and has the potential to feed 200 million people in the region and beyond,” said (Deborah) Malac.
This figure of 200 million was published by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations in August this year, and we have had tens of thousands other declarations of ‘Potential’ around Uganda.
We need to delete the word Potential from our national dictionary as soon as possible. If we don’t then we’re going to stay stuck at this Potentiality forever and ever.
Why does it irritate me?
Because we never seem to leave the Potential box and keep making headlines out of it instead of, ‘Uganda land deal boost for Centum’, as reported this week about Kenyan investors Centum buying up 14,000 acres of land in Uganda to grow maize and soya beans.
Those Kenyans are not dealing with just ‘Potential’ any more. Back in February 2011, a Centum official talked to a Ugandan newspaper about the Potential in Uganda, and today they are putting money onto the ground.
On the same day the newspapers were talking about that ‘Potential’ to feed 200 million people, I saw a news snippet about food relief being taken to the Kigezi region (for people affected by floods, not hunger) and sighed.
At that point, certain we won’t delete the word ‘Potential’ from our vocabularies soon, I stopped fretting over its existence.
Instead, I picked up my phone and contacted the friend who had hosted me to lunch over the weekend, to advise him to get his energetic domestic fellow to take advantage of the rainy season and plant some food-related things somewhere in the massive space surrounding his beautiful house now that the rains have started.

urgent: a non-violent way of achieving REAL independence in Uganda, learning from India


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FIRST, go to your calendar and mark the day October 2, 2017. Then, set it to ‘Repeat’ annually.

Then read this: I received a phone call from a frustrated-sounding Renu Varun the other day, who introduced herself as “Goodwill Tourism Ambassador of Uganda to India”. Long story cut short, she insisted that we meet face to face and I acquiesced. I really do not like meetings.
She was bright and lovely from the start, but I still demanded firmly that she explain the words on her business card that read, ‘Obuntu Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. She told me ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam‘ was the Indian equivalent of ‘Ubuntu’ – that oneness of humanity that we espouse over here, and they over there.
Her story was simple yet complicated.
When she arrived in Uganda in 2015 she was blown away by the people and the country and the spirit of peace. Within a couple of months, she had immersed herself into a project to get Uganda and India closer intertwined by way of increasing tourism from India to Uganda or, at least, by Indians in Uganda.
She was so amazed by the story of a young man called Victor Ochen, and the fact that he was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, that she put two and two together and decided it would be most fitting for him to be celebrated at a ceremony held at the place where a world icon of peace had been laid to rest.
According to his wishes, Mahatma Gandhi, assassinated in 1948, had some of his ashes scattered at The Source of the Nile in Jinja. (Next year, we have the opportunity to mark 60 years of that event right HERE, but that’s a whole other discussion).
Renu, seeing the link between Gandhi, Ochen and Jinja, contacted the Gandhi family and they agreed to give Victor Ochen a tunic made off the very hand loom that Mahatma Gandhi himself used to make his own tunics off of.
Gandhi at the Loom
That tunic was airlifted to Uganda and, in a ceremony attended by the Indian Association of Uganda and officiated over by the Indian High Commissioner to Uganda then, given to Victor on October 2, 2015. Victor Ochen owns a tunic woven off the hand loom of Mahatma Gandhi, handed to him where Mahatma Gandhi’s remains were scattered. He is special.
Did you mark this date? It is October 2. That is the day, in 1869, on which Mahatma Gandhi was born. Because of that it is marked globally as the International Day of Non-Violence.
Monday October 2.001
After Victor received his tunic, Renu shared her big idea – Uganda needed to mark the ‘International Day of Non-Violence 2017’ in a grand way leading up to Independence Day celebrations, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance at the Source of the Nile in Jinja. During the 2017 ceremonies, millions upon millions of people in India would tune in and pay attention to the event and Uganda, thus taking a further interest in tourism opportunities here.
See, in 2017 (she has been explaining to all and sundry since back in 2015) India would be marking 100 years of their Swadeshi Movement – the equivalent of what we are calling ‘Buy Uganda, Build Uganda’. Their Swadeshi Movement was a successful boycott of British products and establishment of Indian nationalism, industry and what Gandhi described as “the soul of Swaraj (self-rule)”.
How appropriate it would be, she argued, if on October 2, 2017 Uganda became the world’s home of the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’ celebrations and marked it at the Source of the Nile in Jinja by launching the ‘Buy Uganda, Build Uganda’ (did I hear Zimba Uganda?) Movement while marking 100 years of the Swadeshi Movement?
Very appropriate!
Swinging back to the Peace part of this, did you know that Uganda’s allocated SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) is Goal 16: “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”? Think about how all this ties in.
Not only that, Renu told me, Uganda’s special place in the minds of India is so deep-set that the cover photograph used on the Indian Government website of the India Africa Forum Summit in 2015 – the biggest held so far – bore a photograph of the Indian Foreign Affairs Minister shaking hands with only one African Foreign Affairs Minister – Uganda’s Sam Kutesa.
India Africa Summit Front Page
Meeting a very high ranking Indian government official in India one day, she said to him, “We talk about Gandhism every day here in India, but in Uganda they live Gandhism!”
Did you mark the date, by the way? It’s October 2, 2017 – at the Source of the Nile in Jinja.
By the time our coffee was done, I still didn’t know the theme of this year’s Independence Day celebrations or whether Ugandans would be wearing foreign-made suits and ties to celebrate ‘Independence’. Also, there was no confirmation of a government-sponsored or organised event at the Source of the Nile in Jinja on October 2, 2017.


his-highness-the-aga-khan.jpg

I have heard, though, that His Royal Highness the Aga Khan will be a Guestof Honour at this year’s Independence Day celebrations. Why is this significant?
At some point in his life, Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned in the Aga Kahn Palace in Pune, in India. After launching the ‘Quit India’ Movement in 1942. Read some of the story for yourself, off the plaque at the Palace itself:
Aga Khan Gandhi Plaque
Seriously, Uganda, all the elements are coming together so well that we don’t have to wait for another announcement, as peace-loving, tourism-propelled Ugandans who are lauded the world over for being a haven of peace in the Great Lakes Region and the world’s shining example of refugee handling and regional conflict resolution.
This is not for the Government of Uganda to hire tents and public address systems and then prepare speeches by a Guest of Honour. All of us can go out there and talk Peace and Security and Buy Uganda Build Uganda/Zimba Uganda.
Renu had an interesting idea: If the Parliament of Uganda declared that for that week all MPs were required to dress up strictly in traditional garb or clothing made in Uganda, surely a message would be sent. Perhaps some of them might wake up on the eighth day and feel like NOT going back to clothes made in China, Turkey and Bangladesh?
What about in our own private companies? Can WE not do the same for that one week?
Starting on:
Monday October 2.001
October 2, 2017 – International Day of Non-Violence at the Source of the River Nile, all decked out in Ugandan made clothing, eating Ugandan food and picking up from 100 years of Swadeshi to make Buy Uganda Build Uganda (Zimba Uganda) a success that will make INDEPENDENCE on October 9 much, much more meaningful!
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tourism promotion? uganda has it all except, apparently, the ‘capacity’ to turn potential into reality


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IN the month of May, after the Innovation Africa Digital conference at the Speke Resort Munyonyo, I wrote an article about how Uganda needs to stop missing events and meetings, so we bag more benefits from them.
In that article, I wrote “in September, Uganda will be hosting another massive gathering of ICT people, at ‘Capacity Africa 2017’. They were here last year and loved it so much they chose to return instead of rotate to another African country.”
They did – and were here from last weekend.
Some of them might still be here, though many have flown out.
I attended the Conference, at the Kampala Serena Hotel, and even got to be a Speaker, besides interacting with Managing Directors, Chief Executive Officers and other high-sounding titles of companies engaged in providing internet access around the world.
More importantly, I pushed and prodded the visitors to go out and spend their money on tourism, entertainment, and shopping of local products.
At last year’s version of the event, I took some people to tourist hotspots like Bwindi and Jinja, and they told a few of their friends about it so we benefitted from the word of mouth factor.
I will deliberately not name anyone in this particular article, so that all the people involved stop and think about their lives, as I am thinking about mine.
I was flummoxed one evening when I bumped into one of the topmost Tourism Promotion people in Uganda at the entrance of the Serena as I was walking towards the marquee holding an evening drinks reception event for the delegates.
“Chief!” he said, after finishing a lengthy phone call with one of his superiors as I listened in, “What’s happening here?”
I told him. I wasn’t arrogant enough to assume that he had read, at random, one of my articles that mentioned ’tourism’ and ‘Uganda’, or that he had a Google alerts system set up for those two words posted online together.
Now that I have typed that sentence out, I am going to suggest to him that this would be a good use of his government-provided internet access. It would enable him to monitor all online mention of ‘tourism’ and ‘Uganda’, so he can take advantage of all opportunities and ideas and whatnot around those two.
I urged him to walk with me and led him down the Serena walkway to a point where we could look down onto the marquee, which was full of people buzzing with drinks and hor d’ouvres.
After I told him what we were doing he saw no reason whatsoever to take the conversation further along his line of work, and left.
Very late into that night, I met five of the delegates who had come in early so they could go to see Mountain Gorillas and had spent the week enthusing about the experience.
Minutes later, I met another delegate from Spain whose favourite holiday destination was Cape Town until last weekend when he arrived in Uganda.
“You guys!” he shouted above the music and in between dropping kisses onto the cheeks of one of the ladies in the group, “This country is amazing! You don’t know what you have got here! The weather is always great! The people are wonderful – beautiful (another kiss on the cheek)! And you have wildlife and rivers and lakes?!!! This is my favourite country in the world!”
He is coming back on holiday. I confirmed this with him the next day as we drank water in clearer circumstances.
But then, shortly after that a young Ugandan fresh out of university approached me with an angry tale about a delegate he had met on the flight into Uganda who was excited to be coming to Kampala.
This young Ugandan was having breakfast at the Acacia Mall when he spotted the fellow alighting from a boda boda, on the roadside.
He was astonished and went over to find out what was happening with this foreigner, then noticed that he was wearing a shirt bearing the hotel logo.
His luggage had gone missing, the delegate explained, and he was now searching for a forex bureau so he could change money and buy some clothes for the week.
The young Ugandan helped with directions and watched the delegate leave, and berated me – ME – over issues such as:
Why did the prestigious hotel NOT give this guy forex services, instead of sending him out on his own? By the time they had provided a shirt for him, surely they could have enquired into how to solve his problem for him. Why is there no ready information everywhere – right from the airport – about where to find things like forex bureaux? How is it possible that a delegate to a Conference of this nature can get onto a boda boda so casually and be gallivanting around town without…

 

I cut him short. 

Next week he will be meeting with the top Tourism official to state his questions directly to him, in my absence. I will be too busy emailing as many of those delegates as possible, inviting them back here on private visits and encouraging them to enjoy Uganda at length in the near future.

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