no – let’s actually bury the MPs using this money, but do it properly

ABOUT the burial of our honourable Members of Parliament costing so much money, or even the idea that they are being planned so well, I think we should all calm down a little bit.
To be quite frank, there seems to be insufficient information in the public domain around the Ushs50million for the burial expenses of Parliamentarians.
The ‘worst case’ scenario has it that somehow we have allocated Ushs50million for the burial of each Member of Parliament just in case they die. The ‘best case’ scenario is that we are paying an annual insurance premium that will cover burial expenses of up to Ushs50million in the event that a Parliamentarian expires.
Neither of the two options should be of direct much concern because we all, whenever we get any special-ness accorded to us, go for the very best benefits we can find – all costs be damned.
Just think of an average wedding day, for instance, when the bagole ride around in limousines the cost of which (just to hire for the day) is more than our average monthly pay (for the couple) – and that’s just one small bit of it. Most of us know that when we are appointed to the leadership of any organisation we will get a large, new four-wheel-drive vehicle regardless of how well that organisation is doing profit-wise. We like our benefits and perks, whether we are Parliamentarians or not.
So rather than gripe about this decision, how about we approach this Ushs50million for burials a little differently?
For instance, let’s insert some rules into this benefit:
Let’s agree that the money be allocated and spent on burying our honourable Ugandans provided that it is all spent strictly within the Constituencies that they represent. They can only, therefore, receive the cash inside a banking hall located in their own Constituency – which means that all MPs should ensure that at least one commercial bank or financial institutions opens a branch in their Constituency before they (the MP) die. In the same vein, all fuel will be issued for redemption at fuel stations located within the burial Constituency itself – nowhere else.
All the Orders of Service for the event must be printed within the Constituency (printing company with electricity investment opportunity); and the wreaths must all be made from there as well, using flowers grown there by Constituents (a new line of business and employment, no doubt, in most of these places); and all the food must be prepared from within the Constituency by local people who must prove that the food being served was grown within that very same Constituency; plus the chairs, tents and public announcement system for the event will be hired from there as well.
As for the caskets, I know a guy in Kabarole called Vianney Byaruhanga (0774162930 or 0702162930) from ‘Replica Designs’ who makes fantastic caskets that look and feel exactly like the imported ones sold by the high end funeral homes in Uganda. He is an artist and craftsman who is plying his trade up there in the village and providing these funereal items at only a small fraction of the cost of the imported ones, and is always flabbergasted that Kampala people prefer to spend larger amounts on imports rather than on his.
Can we have one Vianney Byaruhanga in every constituency? Of course – especially if we invest part of that Ushs50million into them.
Just as we can have more ceremonial suits and dresses being designed and produced here if the rules of the Ushs50million burial monies state that the honourable Parliamentarians can only be buried in clothing made in their Constituencies – otherwise if they get buried in colourful shorts or other clothing bought in Boston during UNAA conventions then they forfeit the clothing segment of the Ushs50million…
This Ushs50million, by the way, can be a very useful Constituency Development Fund if used properly. Since our Members of Parliament are most probably the most organised persons in our Constituencies, hence their being chosen to represent us, they certainly will display the habits or organised persons – such as having pre-planned burial grounds managed by a will and testament complete with codicils along the way. If we used even Ushs20,000 of that Ushs50million every month in developing those burial grounds, planting flowers and shrubbery to beautify them, and generally setting an example for the rest of us ordinary mortals so that we do the same.
By the time we get to the burial of the Honourable MP their burial grounds will be so well-appointed that the ceremony will be held in an atmosphere befitting of their honourable lives here on earth, simply by applying the Ushs50million appropriately.
And that’s the last element of this Ushs50million Parliamentary Burial Expense, for now – accepting it is good practice if it is implemented with a lot of planning linked to the other elements of our society and economy. Allow them to do it right so that they can quickly move on to planning for the rest of us and also to other more important things.
If they can finish this kaboozi quickly then maybe the next item on the Agenda will be a National Health Insurance scheme, or a National Investment Scheme of sorts that would emulate the formation of an investment club amongst Members of Parliament that would see more companies coming onto the Stock Exchange being funded by their vast amounts of investment funds from the savings they make by not worrying about the things the rest of us have to deal with.

tourism is everybody’s business – on world tourism day

baby-gorillaWHOEVER in Uganda coined the phrase “Tourism is everybody’s business” meant very well and should be explained better.
Tourism IS everybody’s business, in any nation that values the business of tourism.
We, all of us and everybody, plug into tourism both as beneficiaries and contributors to the business in more ways than most people actually recognise, and if we all stopped to think about it starting this World Tourism Day then we would all be the better for it.
Follow the path of Mr. & Mrs. Joe and Mary Tourist, from a foreign country of your choosing.
Before they actually make their holiday plans and decide on a country to visit, they are most likely going to do a little bit of research on the countries on the list. Regardless of what their passion is – be it walking with gorillas, trotting alongside chimpanzees, whitewater rafting, zip-lining in the Mabira, eating muchomo and Rolleggs, or going on game-heavy drives, they will want to check which country has the best offers.
The offers they will google for will not only be activity related but the additional things as well – security, hospitality and friendliness, efficiency, the general atmosphere and so on and so forth.
They will not restrict their google search to what the governments or politicians or hotels and restaurants say, but they will also check what the bloggers post and the tweeps from the different countries say, as well as what other people say about Ugandans in general.
That’s the ‘Word of Mouth’ element.
Their source of tourism information will also include ‘everybody’, as ‘everybody’ will have operated as country marketing and public relations officer by way of what they say about the country.
After the bookings are done, Mr. & Mrs. Joe and Mary Tourist head over to the country and arrive at the airport or border crossing point. Of course the people that they interact with are principally the government and commercial officials that handle their transportation and other things, but there are other aspects of their arrival into the country that ‘everybody’ has an input into.
See, the ordinary travellers in the various queues and in the same general area as our tourists form part of the pleasurable (or otherwise) experience that the tourists enjoy. I’ve been to countries where I’ve seen people turn their faces to the side and spitting heavy amounts of disgusting material onto the floor, with no-one batting an eyelid. I mentally began preparing to cut short that particular trip right there as soon as it had began, just because of that experience.
When the officials at these various desks are polite and courteous Joe and Mary Tourist will not be surprised because they expect them to be so – they are being paid and have been trained to be this way. When the ordinary people milling about them are also polite and courteous then our tourist couple will be writing blog posts, tweets and WhatsApp messages back home saying, “This place is great!”
Meanwhile, those polite and courteous everyday people that smile at Joe and Mary Tourist with no ulterior motive have no idea that their demeanour is marketing Uganda much more than a paid television campaign probably would.
And, in most cases, they do not realise that their unintentional efforts get rewarded directly by way of Joe and Mary Tourist spending money.
First, the bookings they make always attract a certain amount of taxation that goes into the coffers that the government collects from to build roads, fund schools and hospitals, and spend on other essentials such as defence and security.
Then, when Joe and Mary Tourist buy a cup of freshly ground Ugandan coffee on arrival at Entebbe International airport, or pork ribs at a stop en route from Entebbe to Kampala, or take a taste at a roadside market of their first washed and massive fresh and organic fruits and vegetables grown right here in Uganda, the money they spend goes straight into the economy, having originated from whatever country they flew in from.
Plus, everything they consume and purchase is in most cases grown or manufactured or processed by locals who find themselves earning a living because Joe and Mary Tourist have chosen to visit Uganda,
That is very different from the money you and I spend while we go about life in Uganda, because all we are doing is re-distributing the wealth that is already within the economy. A thousand Uganda Shillings in my pocket right now at my typing desk in Kahangwe, Hoima may go to the receptionist at Shiyaya Tours & Travel to pay for something there but that doesn’t change the amount of money in circulation within the Ugandan economy. But when Joe and Mary Tourist bring in a thousand Uganda Shillings from their country of origin they are increasing the amount of money in circulation inside the Ugandan economy.
Besides the amounts that we get to keep in our pockets as direct earnings from Mr. & Mrs. Joe and Mary Tourist, a certain portion of the money they spend goes into the coffers of the government because the various bits of that money are taxed by way of VAT and other commercial taxes levied on all these items – from the drinks and eats they consume to the crafts they buy and the fuel used to convey them from place to place.
So the beneficiary of tourism is not just the commercial entities engaged in tourism and the people employed directly by the sector.
Understanding this chain of benefits from the tourist to the ordinary Ugandan is an essential part of the efforts of the Competitiveness Enterprise and Development Project (CEDP) intervention in tourism.
Creating this understanding among ordinary Ugandans will better gear us to directly identifying what opportunities are available to us as a result of increased tourism, as well as how we can directly contribute to that increased tourism.
The World Bank alongside CEDP, has invested US$1.5million in hiring three PR and Marketing firms to promote Uganda as a tourism destination – specifically in the UK and Northern Ireland, Germany and parts of Europe, and the United States of America.
The efforts of these PR and Marketing firms will result in increased numbers that must be met with increased production and servicing across the industry – right from the additional mouths to feed to the need for much higher quality products – accommodation, transport, activities and more.
The performance indicators for the CEDP initiative are an increase of tourists to 1,500,000 (one million five hundred thousand) international visitors into Uganda, up from 945,000 in 2010 and 1,206,000 in 2013.
As those PR and Marketing firms go about doing their promotion and representation of Uganda abroad, we – the private sector – should be finding out what else Joe and Mary Tourist might be interested in, so we offer it to them almost intuitively and have them saying the right things about Uganda to their friends and relatives and perpetuating the Word of Mouth cycle.
Because Joe and Mary Tourist, once they have visited Uganda, will join the team ‘Marketing Uganda.
You see, Tourism is everybody’s business – including the tourists themselves.

entebbe is now in a country called malta – another missed opportunity if we don’t wake up quickly

ON July 26, 1976, The New York Times reported that at least six American film makers were “planning movies on the spectacular Israeli commando rescue of hostages at Entebbe Airport near Kampala”. Forty years ago.

The news story was titled, ‘6 Film Studios Vie Over Entebbe Raid’, which famous raid had happened just THREE WEEKS BEFORE on July 4, 1976.

So, within three weeks those guys were tuned in enough to be thinking about the movie rights and the opportunities that came with the filming.

“…a fierce competition has developed among the producers for Israeli Government cooperation and endorsement…” the story continued.

Forty years ago.

The story available online, and even named the studios – Universal, First Artists, Mery Griffin, Warner Bros, Paramount and the independent Elliot Kastner.

A couple of months ago Uganda hosted Israel at a high level event led by the leaders of both countries – Yoweri Museveni and Benjamin Netanyahu, whose own brother Lt. Col. ‘Yoni’ Yonatan Netanyahu led the 29-man assault unit and was the only Israeli soldier who died in the raid, and provided a very emotional backdrop to the event.

There was some talk then (in July this year) about another movie being shot at the old airport at Entebbe.

Part of the actual story involves the fact that the Israelis abandoned the plan to attack via Lake Victoria because it was infested with crocodiles – a clear opportunity to showcase our abundant wildlife tourism.

But let’s not get sidetracked.

There have already been many movies, novels, plays, video games and studies about the raid on Entebbe, which is described as one of the most successful military operations by those gallant Israelis. It is a poster child for heroism and military prowess.

These include, after a quick Google: ‘Victory At Entebbe’ (1976); ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ (1977); ‘To Pay The Price’, a 2009 play that opened on Broadway in New York; the computer game ’Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear’ features a re-enactment of the Entebbe Operation; the 1988 video game ‘Operation Thunderbolt’; the 2003 Bollywood movie ‘Zameen’; in the Chuck Norris movie ‘Delta Force’ the hostage rescue scene was inspired by Operation Entebbe.

None of those movies or media forms was shot in Entebbe or any part of Uganda – at least part of ’The Last King of Scotland’ was. In ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ the Uganda scenes were shot near Eilat, in Israel, and the Ugandan soldiers were played by Ethiopians in Israel.

Do you know what it means when a movie gets shot in your country?

Think back to the part of the story where the commandos abandoned the Lake Victoria plan because of crocodiles. Even a vignette about that part would do well, with a specific focus on the crocodiles and perhaps with some giraffes or buffalo in the background (I know they are not in Entebbe but that’s why we don’t all shoot movies).

Or even think of the stars who act in these movies and what it would mean for a country if they came to Uganda to act a movie, spending a few weeks here in the process and leaving with good impressions of the food, people, weather and tourism opportunities. Around the movies themselves, these guys do numerous interviews and profile recordings, during which they talk about much more than the movies alone – pushing the #VisitUganda agenda with its related off-shoots ranging from the Rolleggs street food to the zillions of other things we have to offer.

In fact, while the movie is being shot here a clever country marketing strategy would be to make sure that the big names are interviewed while here and right in the middle of these activities. In front of magnificent falls, with lions and giraffes in the background, up a zip-line in the Mabira, driving a Land Rover at Fort Patiko, kneeling in the Kasubi Tombs, biting through some sugar cane…the options are myriad, as usual.

So are the big names that have been involved so far, yet did NOT engage with Uganda at all – Peter Finch, Charles Bronson, James Woods, Robbert Loggia, Chuck Norris, Lee Marvin, Robert Vaughn, Kirk Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Anthony Hopkins, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor… In fact there are even heartstring tugs such as the fact that Peter Finch, who portrayed Yitzhak Rabin in ‘Raid on Entebbe’, died just five days after the film was released.

And this year, the names so far suggested for the movie Entebbe are Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl and Vincent Cassel.

But then, where are they going to shoot the movie? In Malta.

We had the opportunity and it seems to be passing us by, for some reasons that give me a cloudy headache. Conversations were started, meetings were held, ideas were mooted. But now we are hearing that the movie named after the historical, scenic, clementine town of Entebbe; the actual location of one of the world’s most touted military hostage rescue operations and which still holds the very same buildings and tarmac and brilliant greenery that saw the action, sweat and blood, will be shot in Malta.

I am not even sure whether Malta is in Europe or the Middle East, but I do know that they will have to build things to make it look like Entebbe – which will cost more money. And they will get people who are non-Ugandans to act as those nameless Ugandan soldiers, so much so that we will probably hear them making outbursts in some guttural gibberish to sound “African” and one of those phrases might catch and become the language “Ugandan”.

The movie Entebbe is being done by Working Title Productions and StudioCanal, massive names in the world of film, and will be directed by Jose Padilha, another big name most recently associated with ’Narcos’, a successful Netflix series now in Season Two. The internet is so resourceful that you can even find out how to reach him – I shot off an email to his lawyer, Susan H. Bodine of Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, offering to help set this up (fingers crossed that she will respond…)

This movie even has offshoot story lines; for instance, the raid took place on the Independence Day of the United States – July 4 – and the Israelis also made use of some US military equipment, so we could even bring in the Americans.

In 2007 the Civil Aviation Authority announced that the Entebbe Old Airport would be turned into an aviation museum and a domestic operations terminal built next to it right after CHOGM in a project that would cost Ushs7billion.

The income from a movie being shot here, even before we imagine how many more tourists would visit Uganda with more income as a result of the movie, would be far more than enough to cover that Ushs7billion cost.

See, the income that comes in when a movie is shot in your country includes the cash they spend on food, travel and accommodation, and also the cost of setting up their scenery boards and other movie props, as well as the income earned by Ugandan actors, and all the movie set extras. The list is really long; and shooting a movie is not done in just a day – for weeks and months we could be earning that money nationally.

So what do we need to to right now?

Get up and talk to Working Titles Productions so that they use Uganda for at least a portion of this movie! Also talk to URA to get rid of the taxes that discourage film people from using Uganda, since we can tax all the other things that movies bring into the country. Also, talk to UTB and UIA and the Ministries (Foreign Affairs, ICT & National Guidance and Labour, Gender and Culture) to have a joint meeting of professionals to get more movies into Uganda!

Either that or we get a town in Malta to be named Entebbe, so that there is a little logic to this.

my uber uber uganda driver is a national leader – one way or another

Photo by Simon Kaheru – taken in the back seat of a Land Rover Discovery…
THE day a Land Rover Discovery came to fetch me as a taxi was an Uber day – in more senses than one.
I occasionally do things like this to test out systems and scenarios so that when I am asked questions I have answers that make sense to a visitor (see, I use so I need to be knowledgeable).
For some reason I had this nagging need to set off three hours early for a radio programme, and as I like being on time for things I didn’t need too much encouragement even though I did feel a little strange about being a little too early this one time.
So I decided to get an Uber to a point where I knew my favourite snack to be sold, at the bottom of Eighth Street, from whence I would take a short, leisurely stroll to my final destination. Plus, I needed to see how the Uber map would react to my command – but it didn’t let me choose my random spot, so I had to select a marked location close by.
For a couple of weeks I’ve been discovering that not many Uber drivers in Kampala trust or use the digital maps and pins that come with them, and I had raised a complaint about it before.
It irritates the hell out of people who don’t like: a) Using the phone to talk b) Giving those endless directions during which neither you nor the person you are talking to are clear about the reference you are making – if the guy doesn’t know left from right and you don’t know kkono from ddyo, okikola otya?
On stepping out of Endiro Coffee I ordered for the Uber, because that is a location where one is likely to have a car show up within a matter of seconds, so before clicking the Uber button you don’t have to factor in the time it takes to pay the bill, shut down the computer and walk through the gauntlets of “Let’s have a coffee some time” and “Hey! You also come here?”
Seconds later, my phone rang and the number on screen was uber organised in a way that made me pause – should I take the phone call then miss the Uber guy’s call?
A number with 444 444 was likely to be…what? An MP? Sudhir’s other PA? Google?
I answered, planning to make it quick, and as I did so I noticed a dapper looking chap not too far away from me in a nice-looking jacket and speaking into a phone.
“Hello, Simon…?”
“Yes – Simon speaking.”
“Hi. This is Charles – Uber. Your pin said you were at Kisementi but you know the parking here is bad. Where will you be, exactly?”
“Right at the entrance of Endiro.”
“Is that on the main road itself?”
I thought so, and replied in the affirmative.
I then saw a flash of brown as someone dove into a silver Land Rover Discovery II – like the one I owned till quite recently.
What would life be like, really, if there was a Land Rover Discovery on Uber?
I shook my head to clear out the fantasies, then waited for the Uber.
Even thinking that the fellow I had seen on the phone was an Uber driver was off-centre.
Uber was supposed to be disruptive, and had presumably introduced newer, neater cars and drivers into the taxi eco-system. Even campus kids were driving taxis, apparently.
The average Special Hire taxi driver in Kampala was an annoying, irritating muyaye-type fellow. The average one, not all of them.
The first Uber guy I used this morning, for instance, was definitely a Special Hire taxi driver who had slipped through whatever filter Uber uses to get us uber-neat chaps and cars.
His car, a Platz, was not only filthy but had its paint peeling off. He found it difficult to follow directions, even in Luganda, and when he eventually arrived and I opened the door I was confronted with a dirty pinkish-brown rag at the foot of the back seat, and an empty mineral water bottle.
He seemed to think this was normal but I refused to let it pass even though I did feel a little awkward knowing we were going to do a trip for which I would pay a third what I used to pay just weeks ago.
He cleaned up the two offending items, and left the dust intact, then proceeded to drive gladiator style through traffic while insisting on a conversation over which route to use. His gold-coloured Samsung looked very high end but he only looked at it to answer a phone call and then check the fare at the end of the trip.
“You decide, boss. I need to listen to this podcast,” I said, of our route, before succumbing to a coughing fit as the Air Conditioning kicked in with a movie-style special effects dust storm.
When we got to my destination I had to give the guy a lecture and told him I was “with Uber” (technically, true, being a customer with the app) and that we were doing random sample rides to test whether drivers were following all the rules.
He was visibly scared and promised to drive better, but my faith in the entire service was uber-low by the time I was rating him (they don’t have a ‘0’ for ‘Fire this guy’, so I had to go with “terrible”).
The disruption that Uber brings to Kampala’s ‘special hire’ taxi system is therefore very welcome when we have the right type of Uber chaps zipping around in those cars – for various reasons, not least of which is promoting our tourism sector and making life comfortable for travellers.
The Silver Discovery, meanwhile, went past smoothly and I wistfully remembered the good days in my own, as I watched it sail past and go towards Lohana Academy.
And two minutes later, it was back…
“Really? YOU are my Uber?”
“Yes, sir!” the fellow responded brightly.
I hopped in, sliding perilously along the shiny clean leather (maybe faux) seats as he punched buttons on his iPad screen in its holder, and kicked off the journey. None of that “Where are we going?” stuff.
“But you guy!”
I had to ask.
“What engine do you have in this thing?”
It was a 3.9Litre V8 engine, which is really a four-litre engine. Those are the engines where they say the moment you start up the car a litre of fuel goes out the exhaust pipe.
I owned a car like this for many years, and made very acquaintances with many fuel pump attendants along the way. They even got to know my children, I spent so much time there.
“I just love Land Rovers!” he said, with an enthusiasm that made me suspect he was doing Uber just so he could drive this thing around bila profit or even logic.
“I used to drive a Range Rover, but I sold that one and now I have this. It’s a great car!”
Encouraging him to join Land Rover Uganda, he told me he had tried doing so and even wanted to attend our event back in May but had missed it.
I promised to help and he handed me his business card – that said he was a “Verkstallande Direktor”, as I interrogated HOW this arrangement made sense. WHO does a taxi service in the city while driving a car with THIS engine? Disruption was one thing, but this was just madness.
Even before I bought my own V8 I did a lot of mathematics to justify the purchase to myself, and consistently operated in a manner that ensured it was profitable – which is why I still know how to avoid traffic jam scenarios by simply avoiding certain engagements at certain hours.
He told me it made sense, and explained how – including how he only makes himself available for specific jobs and whatnot.
And what is a “Verkstallande Direktor” anyway? What witchcraft is this Uber engaging us in, where people casually charge less than Ushs10k for a trip that I used to bargain DOWN to Ushs30k? Where the drivers are on campus and have degrees?
Last week a chap told me he owned the Premio he was cruising, having inherited it from his mother, and that even though he was earning less that week than he had when Uber had just come in, he was okay because the rental income from the apartments…
What is this jadu? And seriously, what is a  “Verkstallande Direktor”?
It’s Swedish for Chief Executive Officer. See, we have taxi drivers operating in Swedish now and yet they charge far less than those ’special hire’ taxi drivers did.
Uber is not (really) jadu – it is this guy who is even more different, as I see when I flip the business card and find that he runs a company that does Electronic Security System Installations in Sweden and Uganda.
“I have done many things, and I am yet to do more. After I left the army I went into private business and I found myself in Sweden and Finland, but I had to come back to Uganda to do things here,” he said.
This is where I started to make an appointment to buy him a coffee on Friday morning. By the time I was handing him the Ushs8k for the trip and tipping him an extra Ushs2k out of some irrational guilt – which he thanked me for – he was telling me of his plans to introduce cable cars in Mbale. I had to make him stop, confirm the Friday morning coffee, then check my bags to make sure that he really didn’t have some jadu to make my laptop turn into a stone or something.
And I had to take another photo of the car – just in case, because, now cable cars?
Photo by Simon Kaheru
We agreed that I would call him Friday morning to work out that coffee.
Which is why he tried to call me on Thursday evening (using his secondary number that has 44 444) then sent me an SMS saying I had neglected to set the appointment.
Seriously, what energy did this guy have?
Friday morning I called him up, he eventually made it to where I was, and immediately launched into his story.
Charles Lwanga Bbale, but in the army, he said, he was listed as Lwanga Emmanuel ’Speed’.
He wasn’t as neat as he was inside the Discovery, but still had an impressive presence in spite of his being small-bodied. His loud voice helped, and I really wished he had kept it down a lot of the time.
The tone of his voice caused the waiters and waitresses some visible consternation and occasional alarm, and some of his stories were so hair raising that at one point a young waitress said, “Eh! Wano ‘kanveewo!” and fled.
That was when he was telling me about the time he walked 256 kilometres in six days. As a communications technician with the UPDF he got deployed into the Democratic Republic of Congo during the Kisangani tours, and once got into a disagreement with a superior that could only be resolved in one of two ways.
He chose the one that didn’t involve dying at that young age, and set off on foot from a location called Ango, near the Central African Republic border on May 5, 1998.
“I had my rifle, sixty rounds (of ammunition), six tins of beans, two tins of beef, some medicines, mosquito repellant, and some coffee. In the mornings I would find a place where to warm water, then mix coffee. People don’t know but coffee helps you fight off sickness and also keeps you alert!”
Clad in his military fatigues, a pair of jeans (it was the DRC) and a waterproof jacket, he put a dangerous tail off his tracks by taking a fake route for 5 kilometres before cutting through a forest to pick up his actual route all the way to Buta.
No – he had no map and no compass. No – of course there was no Google Maps.
The medicine came in handy because it was currency. Life was so hard in the DRC that people would do ANYTHING for a pill to treat ANYTHING.
When he got to a river called Uele he found the crossing to be 500m. He exchanged the mosquito repellant for a boat ride and enough goodwill to stop the people there killing him either on the spot, or as they crossed the river, or when they got to the other side. Apparently the majority of them suffered from serious skin diseases because of nairobi fly bites or something, so his tube of mosquito repellant was priceless.
After that he met a band of chimpanzees that blocked his path and seemed to be planning to rip him apart. The confrontation ended by him firing off two rounds to scatter them.
Then he met a band of pygmies with hunting dogs, which they seemed to be setting upon him.
“Those ones wanted to eat me, and I knew I was in serious trouble.”
He fired off another two rounds.
That was when the waitress fled.
I had to cut the story short, his fluency in Lingala and Swahili be damned, because we had about 100 kilometres more to go and this could easily have been just day two of his trip. If only they had Uber in the DRC back then, oba?
In the army, his number was RA23470, and when he was promoted to Second Lieutenant (one of only five Non Commissioned Officers to get promotions then) while in Kisangani in November 1999, he was given RO8480. But that lasted only two months because someone in the records office did a switch and he found himself dropped back to Sergeant.
It was annoying – especially since his promotion had been communicated by no less than the State Minister for Defence at the time, Steven Kavuma (now Deputy Chief Justice).
“Afande Kazini was not amused. He said, ‘Who is this Lwanga that the Minister is the one telling us about his promotion?’”
So there was no help in getting the promised promotion effected, even though there were some awkward phone calls and radio messages to and from Kampala – stuff he arranged quite easily since he was in the communications section of the tactical unit.
But after all his trials and tribulations, this was the final straw, and Emmanuel Lwanga ‘Speed’ (his name in the Army) applied to leave the army.
That ended a journey that had began in 1988, when he joined the army as a ‘kadogo’ (child soldier) at a tender age.
He said he was born on February 2, 1978, at Ndejje in Kampala off Entebbe Road, which would make him ten at the time he joined up – first as a cadre at one of the training schools, before being regularised as a soldier.
“I admired soldiers a lot. I had an uncle in the Uganda Army who was just a sergeant but he was very smart and very disciplined. You would see him in his car and leading troops and you would just say, ‘Yeah!’. I had to join. But later on I would see soldiers and wonder where the professionalism went. In Congo I even saw a Captain slapping a Major in front of a Colonel and nothing happened!”
(He named all three officers involved – two are still alive and one is still serving. A man needs to verify such stories before writing out the names.)
His admiration for soldiers was somewhat helped along by his father, who he says was a trailer driver plying routes from Mombasa to as far off as Burundi and even Zambia, being a collaborator with the NRA/M rebels.
“There is a time he disappeared for three years and we just knew he was in the Bush but we didn’t know what he was doing,” Lwanga says.
That’s why Lwanga spent time with his uncle, a sergeant instructor at the kadogo units in Mbarara and Bombo.
Along the way he wen to various schools – one in Iganga because it was along his father’s route, and there he became one of the big boys in the school.
“We were with the sons of Oyite Ojok, and Kalule Setala’s son. We used to have guns in school, man! But I was always the first in every class!” To be fair, I was sometimes sceptical as a child whenever my own father told me about being the first in class, but I proved that to be true in various ways. Here I just had to allow – and the man is the first in the class of Uber Uganda drivers, as far as I am concerned.
Eventually he was sent to St. Elizabeth Namasuba Primary School where he says he was such a superb student he scored the school’s first ever first grade in Primary Seven.
“I scored 12 and got a Grade One – their first ever. The headmaster, Vincent Kayima, was so happy; and begged me to repeat so that I get an even better grade. I was even Head Boy. But I had gotten a place at Lubiri High School through my uncle, who was on the Board there, so I had to go to Senior One,” Lwanga narrates.
But to do his headmaster a favour, Lwanga ALSO did Primary Seven again – while studying in Senior One. And just because he could, he also tutored his classmates so that they would do better as well.
And he scored a Grade 11 in his second round of Primary Seven – while passing Senior One well enough to go on with school. The story gets garbled but it involves more military training, the cadre identification programme that got him trained and deployed as a technician even though he did various other pieces like a Marine course in Yugoslavia, he says.
His stories of army life piece together somewhat, and it is clear he has some interesting heroes even though he doesn’t say so himself.
“Like Sekandi? Vice President Sekandi? People think that man is just there a civilian, but they don’t know what he has done in his life. That man was a fugitive here in Kampala, and the government was looking for him because of being a rebel! For six months he was hiding at our home in Ndejje, in the boys’ quarters! I was there, and I saw him for all those six months,” he says.
Sekandi, it turns out, is his maternal uncle – brother of his mother – the same one that got him the place in Lubiri.
“People don’t understand why Museveni cannot let Sekandi go but that man is very loyal. When he says he is going to do something he does it. He is serious. He was with Museveni in Sekandi – you ask him what he was doing there. People don’t know Sekandi!”
I certainly didn’t. I looked away a little, and focused my eyes on the lapel pin of the Uganda flags that he had on his jacket, so I didn’t have to share my views or get my eyes read.
Eventually, as I tried to wind up the ‘coffee’ having agreed that a book needed to be written about his life, we talked about seriousness or the lack of it and he mentioned how ridiculous it was for a man such as himself to display so much seriousness and then get turned down at the last minute over minor details.
I had to probe, in passing, what he meant.
“For these last Presidential campaigns I collected signatures in 77 (seventy seven) districts of Uganda. Do you know how serious you have to be to do that?”
I did, and I considered that if I knew a little about the last campaign I certainly would know if this gentleman had been behind initiatives to gather nomination signatures in 77 (seventy seven) districts since that is more than half the country.
“Really? Who did you work under?” I asked, mentally running a checklist of what I may have missed.
We looked at each other for a few seconds.
“And the Electoral Commission turned me down at the last minute because of a cheque. Silly excuse, just!”
Forget pennies and shillings, the entire bank vault dropped.
THIS was Charles Bbale Lwanga, Presidential-Hopeful-2016-turned-Uber-Driver-cum-Verkstallande Director!
I know. This story has to end, but his actual story just won’t.
“Were you serious?” I asked, solemnly.
“Of course!” he said, even more solemnly, “We were groomed to be leaders! I was a cadre of the NRM and we were prepared and trained to take over leadership of this country. And I have not given up!”
His Party still exists, apparently, the Ecological Party of Uganda, backed by the Swedish Green Party which also set up the African Green Federation of which he (Lwanga) was Treasurer until some scandal in 2013 that had him removed without grace.
“Back in 2006 I joined up with Samson Mande and other Ugandans to change policy towards Uganda and other African countries, and we even got the Swedish government of the Social Democrats changed in 2006,” he claims, with a long story that I refuse to reproduce here.
“I am now Party President of the Ecological Party of Uganda and we are grooming our next generation!”
I had to google him and even found myself on the same page as him, with an alarming theme that gave me two minutes of worry back then. Just two minutes.
Ours is a small world, after all.
Also, I must confess that it is pleasing to see political cadres (he says he was among the first 1,000 people to register the NRM as well) engaging in ‘normal business life’ in a manner that makes them stand out the way he does, and that we can point at a presidential hopeful – would that he had made it to ‘Candidate’ status – finding his place in the business world in Uganda.
He handed me his feasibility plan for the Cable Transport System in Mbale, which he says should kick off next year. It makes for sensible reading and can certainly be implemented in Mbale, Sironko and Kapchorwa as it says the feasibility study proves.
But for now, his story took up so much of my world that I had to first be satisfied that we have some good Uber drivers out there with cars that make us happy and will make any tourist happy. I DID consider how much more lively Uber would be if they recruited more of our former politicians or politicians-in-waiting – and the rest of us would drive around much easier than walking to work…
If Uber has any billboards or any Above The Line advertising planned, then here’s their first outstanding real-life candidate – Charles Lwanga Bbale Emmanuel ‘Speed’, and they can choose any pun to go with that nickname as well as catchphrases like, “If you can’t be President, you can still drive an Uber…”

katwe is our land of opportunity, and phionah mutesi will be our queen

If you didn’t read this first one here about the Queen of Katwe, then start there.
THE day is finally upon us, more or less. On October 1 and 2, the movie ‘Queen of Katwe’ will premiere in Kampala, Uganda, and it will make its European debut at the BFI Film Festival in London on October 9, 2016 – Independence Day!
This is not an occasion for us to scramble for tickets to attend the event and show off our newest purchase of imported clothing and make up – NO!
 So far, with the limited time available to an individual human being such as myself, reading through the tens of thousands of positive comments about the movie and its themes, focus, content and elements reminds me of what I said on these pages back in January – let’s wake up and use the opportunity given to us by the gallant Phionah Mutesi and her supporters in this cause.
The movie premiered in Toronto, Canada at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and will enjoy what is called a “limited release” in North America on September 23, 2016. A “limited release” in the world of entertainment means that the movie will play in selected theatres across North America (the United States of America) so that the film owners and promoters gauge exactly how well it will be received before they blitz it full on to the rest of the world.
Not only that – from the comments it is receiving, this movie might make it to the Oscars…meaning that if we play our cards right we might be mentioned at the world’s most watched movie event some time next year – watched live in more than 200 countries last year.
This is not a joke, and it is not a minor achievement either, so our involvement should not be just tweeting and posting it to Facebook, #Uganda! Start planning how to promote this country’s offerings to those 200 countries at the next Oscars, lazima.
There are some short-sighted (mentally) people who have failed to see this for what it is and have therefore not even done the most simple of tasks like even creating a Map of Katwe…
Where is Katwe, exactly? Where is the house in which Phionah Mutesi was raised? Where is the first chess board she used ever, in her now globally famous life? What did she eat as a child growing up that made her so intelligent? Was it a Rolleggs (pronounced Rolex, but no-one ever sued for trademark infringement because of pronunciation)?
Should we be tagging our Rolleggs promotion onto the movie ‘Queen of Katwe’? Of course – THAT is what this opportunity means. The forward thinking people in charge of promoting Uganda, or interested in making some money out of both global and local events will see this.
See, while some characters here were making fun of Uganda’s Rolleggs activities last month, others were launching the dish in European capitals so well that we have in the last three weeks seen organic photographs of Rolleggs vans, menu cards and billboards taken in Denmark, Washington DC and London.

Viral photograph sent by WhatsApp

My sincere hope is that those were taken in establishments owned by Ugandans who will be sending some of that money here to invest on the Stock Exchange or in poultry farms in the village, but even if that is not the case, we still have what economists call backward linkages.

Thank God that while the majority of us sleep or gripe when these things happen, there are some who spot the smallest sliver of opportunity and turn it into massive returns. The photograph from London (I think it was) showed a menu board offering up the Rolleggs as “Ugandan street food”.
That may look like a small matter but the chain of events involves someone walking down the street and spotting this then thinking, “This ‘Uganda’ place has street food? Interesting. I should Google it…”
Which means we should be working at making sure that when someone googles “Uganda” henceforth, they find the right things to make them gather up their money and bring it over here as tourists or business people or shoppers or hungry people with a penchant for Rolleggs in their different formats.
If, on their flight down here in an aeroplane that has in-flight video options, they watch the movie that is hot off the reels (‘Queen of Katwe’), they will spot David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga wearing those beautiful Ugandan outfits and will figure that they should get themselves some of those while they are here.
As they think that they will be listening to the soundtrack and even though Alicia Keys has stolen the show by recording “Back to Life” spontaneously to much acclaim, she has said A LOT about Uganda. She even posted a photograph of herself wearing a gomesi, so our designers should be stitching up a storm to receive all her fans’ orders for their own editions of that beautiful dress style, along with other clothing as colourfully depicted by all the actors in the movie.
Have our Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Export Promotion Board and Uganda National Bureau of Standards been holding meetings and workshops with the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda to actualise these possibilities?
Ask them. Send them emails asking them how YOU can benefit and get involved in turning this potential and possibility into actuality and profit.
The whole of Canada is now talking about Queen of Katwe and Uganda, so get in touch with the Canadian High Commission to establish what queries they are getting about Uganda so you are in position to respond and deliver whatever the Canadians find interesting in Uganda basing on what aspect of the movie excited them.
After the entire world has watched it, really, what will our excuse be? It’s bad enough that more than half of the movie was filmed in South Africa…let’s not have the same percentage of the opportunity and benefit go elsewhere as well.
YOU are a resident of Katwe. Phionah Mutesi is YOUR Queen.