The tragedy is as obvious as day; the irony, on the other hand, keeps slapping us in the face as events unfold.
I found the tweets by @HSM_Press, said to be the Twitter handle of the Al-Shabaab fellows, callous and hateful; to declare reason for killing innocent civilians just doesn’t make sense, but to hear the Al-Shabaab people and all the so-called “Islamist” terrorists when they erupt in violence of the nature attributed to them today, the free world does this all the time in Afghanistan, Iraq and nowadays, Somalia.
It is an uncomfortable position to be in, trying to weigh their reason with their irrational actions, and ours with our rational actions, and one even feels hypocritical just beginning to listen to the likes of Al-Shabaab.
Yet when their Twitter account of today was suspended (the third time they’ve had this happen to them) a little bit of irony flashed across my computer screen at the thought that “freedom of expression” and “tolerance” has its limits.
As indeed it should – because these despicable fellows today have attacked and killed innocent civilians, traumatised children – including mine who are in another city and country but are now sleeping restlessly as I type this out sitting on the floor of their room where I have been forced to camp so they feel safe.
If God were running things like Twitter, then Al-Shabaab as a group would be suspended, what with all the comments thrown up about them that finally got them suspended after just ten or so tweets today (and about 50 in all since they opened this particular account), because they are too self-centred to be allowed to exist alongside other people. Their actions keep showing that they don’t believe anyone has a right to exist if they don’t agree with what they think, say or do.
But then here’s irony again – if God were running things like Twitter, then even the US would probably get suspended, because then perhaps all the angry chaps wearing bomb-vests and whatnot would simply sign up numerous Twitter accounts and ‘Report User’ till the deed got done.
God (the real one in the real world) knows that I looked for a ‘report’ button when I came across the USAToday report of today’s (yesterday’s) attack in Nairobi, because I could not believe the self-centredness in it.
Read the headline, “Americans among injured in deadly Kenya mall attack“.
By the time that was up, we were all lamenting that more than 30 people had been killed and 300 were injured – and none of us had talked about the nationalities of these people. Actually, we had heard reports that the attackers had singled out non-Muslims as legitimate targets for their shootings, and we had expressed a range of emotions running from anger to hatred – and then this headline flashed at me off my computer screen.
Americans among injured…
If an American had slipped and grazed his knee while fleeing the scene of the attack, it was more important than the pregnant woman reportedly shot and declared dead on arrival at one Nairobi hospital (and I don’t know her nationality yet!).
And you know why that is all the more ironic? Because that’s the kind of thing the hateful Al-Shabaab people keep saying about their mortal enemies, the “Kuffars” (to quote their earlier tweet) or kafirs, as we used to say.
We, on the other hand, are so selfless that hours into the siege at Westgate, @newvisionwire reported confidently: “Breaking News: 3 shot dead in Afghanistan…” with the usual irrelevance brought on by gobbling up ‘international’ news and forgetting what is all the more important to us here, at home in East Africa.
Up to now, 0100hrs, thirteen-plus hours after the attack began, we are wondering whether there are any Ugandans on the list of dead and wounded…or are there only Americans?
Either way, we are angry. Very ANGRY at the self-centredness of people who only care about themselves…
Do you ever fall upon a news storythat is so unbelievable it makesyou go back to cross check against another, which is also so unbelievable that you go back further to cross check more, and then the mind threatens to boggle?
One story last weekend announced the wedding of Severino Twinobusingye and would have gone past me if it were not for the juxtaposition of two sentences at the start:
“…in a quiet simple ceremony. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi attended both the church ceremony at Rubaga Cathedral and the reception at Sheraton Hotel Kampala…”
I laughed a bit at the irony of a wedding being covered by a national newspaper being called “quiet and simple”; then I suddenly had to sit up and pay attention.
“I am, therefore, his non-biological father…” Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi is said to have declared at the wedding, which is the point at which I had to go back to check whether said Severino was not the same lawyer who petitioned the Constitutional Court over Parliament asking Mbabazi and two other ministers to step aside over “oil allegations”.
For that, the Court Registrar, Elias Kisawuzi, announced an award to Twinobusingye and his team of Ushs13billion shillings.
An uproar followed, during which the figure was brought down.
To Ushs11billion shillings!
Not really laughing much anymore, I was struck by one explanation for this in another story on the court case over the payment: “…Mugisha demanded 12billion as taxation and Bakiza, an assisting counsel, asked for Shs8billion claiming that the matter was of great national importance…”
Bakiza? There have not been many Bakiza’s in the media in Uganda so…yes! Chris Bakiza, formerly Director of the Police Criminal Investigations Department…and this is where the mind boggled, so I turned back to the Ushs12billion being justified because “the matter was of great national importance“.
On the way there, I had a second look at an interview Severino did with Daily Monitor about his life where, to be fair, he had already declared his close link to Mbabazi.
I was trying to reconcile the “Ushs12billion” to the case being “of great national importance”, but Twinobusingye said a few things in his interview that stuck out as well.
He undertook the case, for instance, because he “thought he had a responsibility to contribute to our jurisprudence” –not for the money.
“The infamous October 2011 parliamentary recall for oil debate was a mob justice (sic) at its worst, violating cardinal principles of civil discourse and civility. It required somebody very courageous to go to court and stop this miscarriage of justice and impunity…” (Memorise this phrase)
He also revealed, in that interview, that he filed the case against the government when he was a government employee – Election Management Officer, with the Electoral Commission for eight years.
“I resigned soon after filing this Constitutional Petition 47 of 2011 because to me Uganda was more important than a small job at the Electoral Commission. I could do without it and moved to save Uganda from a crisis…”
A patriot! A self-less patriot!
A Patriot with an understanding of economics, I think, because he says, “the two arguments that informed the Court’s consideration of the award: The subject matter; in this case the value of Uganda’s entire oil wealth, and the cost of overthrowing the legitimately elected government.” (Eh?!)
“We asked for a very small figure of about Ushs23billion, not trillions of shillings…and court in its wisdom gave us that very little money, just peanuts of about $5million.”
And by the way, Severino is highly aspirational and should therefore inspire many Ugandans; according to this interview, he was a Nutrition and Early Child Development Projects Manager in Rukungiri and Kanungu, before joining the Electoral Commission, and now knows US$5million to be “peanuts”.
Which must be true because, he says, “…I earn on average Ushs30million per month in my legal chambers, sometimes more.”
Considering that he opened up those chambers in January 2012, he will have earned a minimum of Ushs630million in his legal chambers by end this September, in a country where the per capita income is US$1,400 or Ushs3.6million (a year); and where doctors earn Ushs1.2million as monthly salaries and graduate teachers about Ushs450,000.
He is not doing badly at all! Now, as he makes his way back from his honeymoon, let’s find a way of getting this selfless patriot with a personal per capita income of 100 Ugandans even before getting the Ushs12billion, I mean Ushs11billion award, and who considers the “great national importance” of things, to undertake the biggest private Social Responsibility project in Uganda, and ‘give’ the Ushs11billion back to the people of Uganda.
Before somebody very courageous goes to court to stop this miscarriage of allocating public funds to expenditure such as this Ushs12billion award…oh, sorry! I mean Ushs11billion.
IN the late 1990s when banks in Kampala were staid, conservative, stuffy buildings with thick walls, intimidating, heavily-spectacled employees and strict closing hours, Greenland Bank did the unthinkable and kept their doors open for a couple of hours longer than usual.
To make matters worse, they lowered account opening fees and without a frown let everyday people inside their glittering banking hall enclosed in air-conditioned glassy walls rather than concrete blocks.
And so it was that one day I was inside the jam-packed Kampala Road banking hall, trying to reach the counter through the mayhem of customers unaccustomed to queues and a semblance of order, when one Prince Ahmed Kimbugwe (recently deceased) walked in.
I knew this gentleman to be involved in Greenland but had no idea what his job title was. He made it a few inches into the banking hall, stood there with a pained look on his face, and then plunged into the crowd and asked us one by one:
“What are you doing?”
Within minutes he had worked the problem out, whipped out a wad of small notes, and started dishing them out while telling them in Luganda, “Zziizo; Kati genda!” (There it is; now go!”)
He had realised that the bulk of that throng that was overwhelming what was probably Kampala’s most impressive air conditioning system at the time, was there to withdraw between Ushs1,000 and Ushs2,000! By expensing perhaps Ushs100,000 he very greatly eased life in the banking hall, leaving still many of us to queue up but in better breathing space; a short-lived solution, but one nonetheless.
Commercial banking in Kampala has advanced by leaps and bounds since, but there are still some lengthy queues that simply don’t move.
Until this Friday I was a customer of a bank with such queues. On Monday, weeks after I had made the decision to leave this bank, I witnessed a mini-riot led by a foreign businessman at their Forest Mall branch.
“What are you doing?” he raved, “What are all those things you are stamping, walking here, walking there. Why are you doing so many things behind there?! I want money and I am too busy to come and stand here for two hours while you stamp papers and walk around!”
This type of tantrum, I had discovered months ago, was useless. When you leave the office manager’s seat and take on the role of Bank Agent you uncover mysteries such as why your junior employees who acted as Bank Agents disappeared for so long when they went to the bank.
Stifling an urge to call up former employees to apologise for all the times you suspected they were doing a second job elsewhere when they claimed they were at the bank, you develop the skill of doing emails off your phone and drafting month-end reports while in the queues at this bank.
When I first started doing bank visits, I hopped from branch to branch till I realised that I was simply losing even more time in traffic. My decision to drop the bank entirely was arrived at after I threw a tantrum and was offered a short-cut by a floor manager that STILL took thirty minutes to effect!
But I will not name the offending bank here (but you can insert your guesses in the comment box below) because I believe they haven’t done anything wrong; you see, they have a right to their policies and apparent inefficiencies. Perhaps their slowness of execution is designed to safeguard our…I mean your, if you’re still a client/customer, money.
And if you don’t like it, as I didn’t, then you are free to leave – as I did, and I walked over to the angry foreign businessman to interrupt his tirade with that small piece of advice.
Especially because there are other banks here – and I’m pleased to say that the two I now use are both Ugandan – that understand customer care well enough to send you a‘relationship manager‘by boda-boda or office shuttle to collect your money transfer/tax/utility payment/forms once a month, and will email you your bank statement should you prefer that to going over to queue up.
Walking out of my big bank was so thoroughly enjoyable it got me in the mood of walking out on other places where my expectations aren’t met – telecommunication and internet companies with bad network services, restaurants with food as sullen as their staff, politicians with nothing to offer their people in terms of progress, development or even an ideology that gives us something to look up to...the list is long.
The path to alternatives isn’t.
I DON’T find it easy expressing admiration for countries that are not Ugandan but the Chinese today receive a sounding round of applause for being extremely serious about anything that they approach.
Generalising to include all Chinese is wrong, of course, but as we say in Ug: “Just allow!”
These guys have caught my attention today because of a chap called Yang Dacai, who has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption.
The applause is not just because a thief has been jailed, it’s the manner in which the story was put into motion and followed through that had me marvelling when the story broke on BBC right there in my car (on the radio).
This despicable fellow came to public light because he was smiling at the scene of an accident in which 36 people died in August last year.
People were enraged and the photograph went down the Social Media tubes at the speed of a tweet. I didn’t see it nor hear of the outrage, mostly because at that time in Uganda we were probably engulfed in some issue or another – perhaps embezzlement charges to do with Kazinda (I can’t even remember his second name as I type this) or Christopher Obey.
But, this fellow’s wrongly implemented smile wasn’t the only issue.
Some people looked at the photographs and then at more photos of the same guy and then started asking, “How come he has so many different watches?” which question turned into, “How come that guy’s different watches are all so expensive?”
The graphic put up on the BBC website tells you how serious this is:
Brother Wristwatch, meanwhile, is not a major public figure – he was just the head of some government work safety body in Shanxi Province<— yeah, I had also never heard of this province before.
Got to the part in the story that reads, <<Yang Dacai was accused of taking bribes and “holding a huge amount of property”, state media said. He admitted taking bribes and said he could not explain how his immense family fortune worth 5m yuan ($817,000; £527,195) came about.>>?
US$817,000 = 14 years in prison.
As a percentage of China’s GDP, that’s 0.0000111643%. <—I am serious – I double checked the mathematics six different ways.
Again, US$817,000=14 years in prison.
And the evidence used to begin the investigation was simply that first photograph, followed by a careful perusal of many other photos in which the watches were clearly spotted.
And all this was started by civilians banging kaboozi.
How can you not admire this?
Next? Are you going to go back over the years of newspaper coverage and society shows on TV in Uganda to get people to explain where their cars and houses have come from?
You, yes, YOU!
I thought so.
But another thing – this week Dacai was charged, but he was first fired last year for the inane smiling he did, and after investigations had run a good course, he was also kicked out of the Communist Party.
Applause, applause! It turns out that your political party won’t protect you when you are suspected to be corrupt – they throw you out.
And NO, before you interject with the thought this this was just a lowly member of the Communist Party thrown to the fishes so that China can claim to be serious about corruption, the following are also under probe right now:
Jiang Jiemin, former head of the China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s biggest Oil giant; Bo Xilai, Party Head in Chongqing;
Should I ask again what you are going to do?
I won’t ask, but I’ll tell you what some senior government officials in China did: they stopped wearing wristwatches. And it’s so serious that, “global luxury watch sales have seen double digit falls in demand from China and Hong Kong, two of the top markets…”
THAT story is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23541923.
My hands are hurting from all the applause right now, but the pain inside me from how little we are doing over here is much, much greater.