may you have a hakuna mchezo year ahead!

m7-ak47-1Hakuna Mchezo.
Those were my two favourite words of 2016, amid all the politicking, partying, hustling, bustling and struggling to live life the way we have lived it this year.
When the phrase was first used there was as much skepticism around it as there was hope. Some of us were afraid that the skeptics would not just hope the intentions of the phrase would fail, but work to cause this failure just so they could say, “See? We told you so!”
With that in mind, we should have done our best to ‘win’ by ensuring that the attitude of Hakuna Mchezo takes effect in every aspect of life within the territorial borders of Uganda.
We did not.
Our biggest error was taking ‘Hakuna Mchezo’ to be a governmental tenet or slogan. As usual, we pretended that all the mchezo that causes us to suffer takes place in government offices, so we focused our limited Hakuna Mchezo attention on government offices.
We should, indeed, demand for a total cessation of mchezo when it comes to the work of the government and its delivery of social services to the tax payer.
BUT alongside that demand for Hakuna Mchezo from the government we ourselves should make ‘Hakuna Mchezo’ a guiding principle in whatever we do.
For the government, the ‘Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo’ declaration was made at the start of the current term of office, in May, and the President highlighted 23 (twenty three) strategic guidelines for all government departments to follow to achieve Hakuna Mchezo.
Indeed, shortly after that declaration government leaders went on a retreat (in July) and returned with more declarations of commitment to Hakuna Mchezo. In fact, the first couple of Cabinet Meetings that followed cited the Hakuna Mchezo guidelines directly as the Ministers made their resolutions.
By December, sadly, not enough of us were using the phrase. I was dismayed to hear that  a government ministry throwing a Christmas Party at Hotel Africana had to cut budgets from other departments and agencies to gather money for the fete – just weeks after another government department had issued guidelines telling Ugandans to avoid lavish spending during this period.
Our mchezo, even outside of the government, is significant and needs addressing urgently.
If you are in the habit of not doing your work – office, business or personal – satisfactorily, that is mchezo. If you hold meetings without preparation and follow-up actions, that is mchezo. If you do not keep time, and don’t stick to your word after giving it, that is mchezo. If you idle away the days in pursuits that are not befitting of the time your parents spent teaching you the difference between right and wrong; or the money spent on your schooling, that is mchezo.
Mchezo is not taking things seriously in a way that hampers serious work and development. Mchezo is failing to plan ahead – such as we should be doing now (belatedly) for 2017. Mchezo is not putting aside for a rainy day even though it is obvious we will have some in days to come. Mchezo is spending all your money and borrowing more just to celebrate Christmas yet the New Year starts off with the need to pay school fees and December’s mortgage deposit.
Read the State of the Nation address of 2016 again, in it’s full detail and you will find more items that constitute our list of mchezo. In fact, NOT reading such documents and keeping track of what our leaders say and pledge is also part of mchezo.
That list needs to be shortened – by you and I.
We haven’t yet arrived at Hakuna Mchezo by a long shot, but if we make this slogan the one New Year Resolution we take on as a country, government and citizens alike, to the point that we start naming children, roads, schools and other large, highly visible items after the phrase ‘Hakuna Mchezo’, maybe we will get there.
May 2017 be the year of real Hakuna Mchezo – INTO the future!

peace and goodwill to all trolls and mankind this Christmas- salaama!

Image from

THE season of peace and goodwill is here! It’s finally Christmas time and even if the main holidays fall on the weekend and everybody seems to be dead broke, we are going to enjoy everything that comes to us this Christmas.

Not the food, drink and gallivanting, because there might be less of that than usual, but mostly the warm feelings that come with this season.

Christmas is a time of cheer, merriment and peace and goodwill to mankind – which is even stated somewhere in the Bible.

Personally, since I don’t have enough money to distract me this year round on the usual frolics I am going to focus quite a lot on the Biblical teachings around Christmas, while reflecting on the most salient points of 2016 as I plan for 2017.

This year has been tough in too many ways to focus on in one article – what with the tight economy; the harsh weather and its after-effects; the dirty and angry politics; and the development of lots of acrimony amongst ourselves especially on social media platforms.

I’ve worked out ways of contributing personally to changing each of those aspects I listed as the tough points of 2016, but this Christmas season will focus on the last bit – that acrimony that we have developed amongst ourselves especially on social media platforms. I have two weeks of this ahead of me, which should help set a tone that should change the way I interact with others on these social media platforms.

This Christmas, in the spirit of peace and goodwill to mankind, I am seeking forgiveness from everybody on my social media network who I may have insulted, angered, irritated, trolled and bullied. I am deeply sorry if I ever tweeted, posted, re-tweeted, typed and sent any message that offended you during 2016 – regardless of how justified or correct I may think I was while doing so.

And in the same vein I am sending special Christmas and season greetings to all the people and ‘friends’ on my social media network who have insulted, angered, irritated, trolled and bullied me. I forgive you unreservedly and pledge to forget all the negativity we have gone through during the year 2016. (Many of these people or characters are called trolls.

Peace and goodwill, trolls and mankind!

I am going to focus quite seriously on social media relationships during this Christmas season because, as I often explain during presentations and discussions, I interact with many more people on social media platforms than I do physically. That interaction, however, is many times not as meaningful as the physical interpersonal ones are – but it does have far-reaching effects. 

A brief, light-hearted but negative comment posted on a social media platform could actually destroy a career or reputation and I am afraid of being responsible for any suffering out there just because I have internet access and sometimes wake up on the wrong side of the bed. And I also must let go of any angst I may feel towards you for something you may have said or written in a fit of anger, frustration or even temporary insanity.

I pledge, during 2017, to pay keen attention to the way I speak or write to people and contacts on my social media networks – Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and all other platforms. It’s not going to be an easy task but I do have some methods up my sleeve, and I have had quite a lot of practice (dealing with many children over a number of years helps a lot – including my time as a child surrounded by other children).

I realise, in my approach, that the acrimony and negativity of this year’s interactions might have a lot to do with the other tough points of the year: the tight economy puts everybody in a bad mood, as Bob Marley sang in ’Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)’; the harsh weather kept frying up our brains and heating tempers up or stopping them cooling fast enough; and the political campaigns polarised us and created a heightened negativity even in developed economies like the United States.

So next year I will use my social media platforms only if all other factors are well aligned:

When I am dead broke I will not turn to twitter et al, not just because I won’t be able to afford it but to avoid taking my anger and frustration to others. Instead, I will try to find a positive stimulus and also be one for others who may be in the same empty financial boat.

When the weather is harsh – hot or windy and other such adjectives – I will not reach for my gadgets unless I am sitting in the shade or a point of comfort that will calm my temperament.

And when an issue is highly political, I will step back a little bit and not respond too quickly; rather than dig my heels in on my stance and issues, pushing others to do the same, I will listen more and try my best to appreciate the other side’s position so that we discuss rather than quarrel. 

And with that my slogan on all social media platforms henceforth will be ‘Peace and Goodwill – Salaama’, in the hope that everybody I interact with gives me some in return.

Merry Christmas!

young Ugandans are doing great things out there

ON the day of the ‘Expats In Uganda’ cocktail issuing the ‘Amateur Photography Awards 2016’, the young man in charge of marketing GEMS Cambridge International School asked me, “How come you are here?”
I wasn’t sure whether he was asking me because he knew my discomfort with evening events away from my headquarters or whether I was inappropriately present since I was neither an expatriate nor an award-deserving amateur photographer.
At that very point he was interrupting my silent admiration for the young lady behind the little booklet ‘Expats In Uganda’ and, who was making her remarks at the podium. The first time I met her, I honestly believed she was doing work at a clerical level but quizzed her with caution that I thanked God for when she revealed all.
Grace Atuhaire, young as she was, was walking the streets and approaching people with courage to get her project underway and seemed to be doing quite well at it by the time we met.
So I told the gentleman from GEMS, Solomon Rachkara, why I was at the event: I enjoy seeing young Ugandans doing great things with a passion – whether they succeed at it or not. Grace has succeeded so far, and with her energy and passion she is bound to go much further.
As we were chatting, another young fellow joined us at my earlier behest. This young fellow is one of my most hardworking cousins and we had unsuccessfully been trying to meet for weeks over an idea he had.
Hours later, we were eating roadside chicken (heated up a little extra to avoid anatomical interferences to our discussion) and reflecting on how surprised the chicken roaster was when we gave him a tip of Ushs2,000. The tip was because the chicken roaster had graciously accepted our demand for extra heat and also because he didn’t have change and the process of finding it would have taken more time than the value of Ushs2,000 when compared to what we needed to discuss.
We talked over many things that night and I marvelled, again, at how enterprising young Ugandans are. This cousin of mine, Arthur Luwuge, had just returned from a self-funded trip to Kigali where he had gone to attend a launch event and see that city he had heard so much about.
Hearing that he had taken official leave from work and drawn money from his bank for such a trip was different from what I normally hear about urban young people and their proclivity for spending money on partying and retail shopping. More astonishing for me, though, were the details of the event he had gone to attend.
I had heard and read a little about the Kigali Heights project and was impressed by the images and details around it, but this was the first I was hearing that there was a Ugandan involved. One of the magazine reports read, “Kigali Heights is the result of a dream born in 2010 to build a state of the art retail and office development in the heart of Africa. Denis Karera, Managing Director of Kigali Heights Development Company, and partner Michael Idusso, knew where they could turn this dream into reality.”
Arthur told me how many years ago Michael kept talking about such big projects and tried to find a way of implementing them here in Kampala City. The closed-mindedness of certain people in positions of authority made it difficult, and one thing led to another till Arthur was sitting at the launch and watching his age mate taking the President of the country round the US$36million facility.
Arthur had gone there for inspiration, and he certainly found it. He himself, as I mentioned, is highly enterprising – we were eating our roadside chicken inside a small design studio he runs, and which is equipped with furniture made inside a workshop he owns. He started the workshop when he left home to buy his lovely daughters a set of bicycles and found some second hand carpentry equipment on sale.
He bought that instead, and now has a brand of furniture I will tell you about another day, made exclusively out of used wooden pallets.
We need to support more of these young people so that we celebrate more ventures of different heights; and eventually get even the roadside chicken sellers operating restaurant-type outlets, making sure the food is hot and receiving tips as a matter of course.

things are tight

Things are Tight!
Walking through a number of malls, coffee shops and restaurants at random these three weeks past revealed them to be alarmingly empty most hours. I made it a point to drop in on at least three different popular eating places at lunch time thrice a week and the numbers were just not there.
At one restaurant I dawdled a while over a bottle of water and the free Wi-Fi and observed only two other people having a meal for lunch, and one pizza being carried out by a delivery man.
A most generous assessment would put those three meals plus my bottle of water at just over a hundred thousand shillings in revenue for that hour. During that time, the staff were in place, electricity was powering the lights, fridges and other equipment, and there were certainly other costs running in the background.
The emptiness in these places is strange because we expect the Christmas season to have started off in earnest, what with the children being on vacation. But it should not be surprising that this is happening. The economic forecasts have been telling us this for months, and whereas we have talked about it before, we need to go on talking about it and changing our habits.
Perhaps the absence of patrons means that they have read the signs and reacted wisely by adjusting their spending.
Personally, I am now packing more of my own home made meals and avoiding fuel-based travel whenever possible, besides other measures.
If many more people react this way then the malls, coffee shops and restaurants should be reading the signals and changing their methods as well. This is the time for them to look more closely at their running costs and start switching off lights,
Switching off lights is no small matter. Those small leakages – business or personal – tend to pile up. In these difficult days we all need to keep an eye on the small stuff because we cannot afford to waste anything any more. For businesses, it is now appropriate to run campaigns within the company for all staff to adopt prudent ways of utilising resources, and hope that they take a hint and carry the habits home with them, rather than the office sundries.
Also, the commercial places should start shopping wisely for their supplies, goods and sundries. in one of the hotels I passed through this week I was bemused to find they had laid out butter cubes imported from the Netherlands.
This time I didn’t whip up a froth at the manager to explain that if they had bought their butter from a local source then perhaps the owners of the cows that supplied the milk, plus the processors of the butter, plus the company that supplied it would have enough money to dine at his or her establishment.
Of course we understand that the procurement cycle might mean that they already have full stores, but now is the time to do some window shopping for cheaper stuff sourced locally just in case this dry financial spell runs on for too long.
And, finally, there is a lot of creativity needed now. The global business gurus always argue that times of difficulty call for an increase in marketing activities. This is not obvious to everyone, so it needs a little explaining because it applies both to businesses and individuals:
Right now we are competing for a small amount of money going around. The best way to increase your chances of getting any of it is to be highly visible or squarely in the way of its path. If you’re a business, advertise more, run more activities and events of a visibly creative nature and make your customers offers they cannot refuse.
If you’re just an individual seeking an income, perform harder at work so that you stand out and avoid being dropped when downsizing begins – which is very likely soon! Or network harder with the right people so that should there be any opportunity for you to earn more, you get it.
Things are tight, people, but we can work round them and do more than just survive.

security needs to be ‘gulu gulu’ from now on, but I’m grateful to these guys

Me with the MacBook Pro that went, a few weeks before the incident, a few metres away from where it actually happened. Photo by Pius Kwesiga.

A FEW days ago I met with the inconvenience of being visited by Property Re-allocation Operatives taking advantage of an unbelievable amount of luck and surviving narrowly because of the casual ineptitude of their should-be nemeses.

I could have written, “The other day my stuff stolen by some lucky thieves who got away because the security wasn’t at its best…” but I don’t want to point fingers and sound angry at people who I cannot demand more from fwaaa like that.

The thieves made off with my Rose Nakitto bag with a Macbook Pro in it (Serial Number C02J9385DQK), a notebook with very special handwritten notes in it (please return this? A reward awaits – seriously), a pen, my wallet with cash and identity cards, a bag of medicinal drugs, and some other personal items.

It happened at an up-market shopping mall, in Kampala. The thieves were two females, whose efficiency is commendable in many ways. In all, I was away from the station for just three minutes. During those three minutes I walked to the toilet and back, killing two minutes in hurried chit chat with people I met along the way.

I never stay away from my laptop (or other) bags for long because I am afraid of them being stolen – and this is the first time it has ever happened in many years of my conveying one wherever I go.

Normally I will have my laptop out and plugged into the wall in order to make it awkward for a snatch and flee theft. But I had completed my meeting and walked away leaving the bag with a lawyer friend who was unfortunate to be on the scene this way.

As soon as I left the first female took the seat behind him, on the verandah, and tapped him on the shoulder to borrow a pen. That went too quickly, apparently, so she whipped out an identity card of sorts and struck up a conversation about crossing the border using the random card.

It didn’t get far before she quickly said her thanks, stood up, and left hurriedly.

I returned a minute later and asked after my bag, at which point his eyes lit up as the conversation finally made sense, and this is where we began dealing with the private security guards. Having made it to the most likely exists within seconds, we lost precious time trying to get them to focus on the need to trace or chase after the thieves.

During the many seconds it took to get it through to them why we were moving urgently, one of the guards thought we were simply striking up a casual conversation, and even started a story about a similar incident having taken place some time back, perhaps at a different location in a totally different country. I shut that one down quite quickly and tried to be as professional as the investigators are in all those television crime thrillers we enjoy reading and watching.

That was part of my problem, I realised, but could also become a solution because next year I will be getting some of these security guards to watch these dramas so they understand where we get our expectations from.

After a few minutes of frantic ‘preliminary enquiries’ we realised that one of the thieving females had actually used the exit we were at, and determined the direction in which she had gone – mostly thanks to a bystander who confirmed that the woman fitting our description had appeared odd (read ’suspect’) rushing about the way she had. By that time we had waded through very many unnecessary questions and comments from what eventually became a gathering of private security guards, allowing the perpetrators of the crime to get further and further away with their loot.

We arranged access to the CCTV (closed circuit television) monitoring room and retreated there to do some more scientific scrutiny and within minutes realised we had to take over the manipulation of the technology.

The poor fellow in control, another private security guard, seemed to have a limited appreciation of what the video cameras and computers were capable of doing besides forwarding and rewinding at different speeds.

By the time we identified the thieving females I knew there was no catching them that night.

In the process, though, we got told that some of the cameras covering critical parts of the Mall were in boxes right in that room where we stood, and would be installed the very next day. I was too irritated to get into the reasons why the cameras were still boxed and not being installed that very minute, let alone from the time they had been delivered!

I won’t even go into the analysis of the footage we reviewed.

As I said at the start, I found it hard to complain too much because I know that these fellows are not paid a lot of money and probably don’t get the training we believe they should have.

I actually once started drafting a “Letter to the Random Askari” but stopped halfway because not only was it condescending, it was downright escapist from their reality.

This Christmas I am tipping security guards (government and private) in a special way just to say “Thank You” to them for all the times things haven’t gone wrong, rather than blaming them for the times they did go wrong.

And next year I’ll dedicate a little bit of energy to helping them operate more efficiently where I can contribute, so that they can do even better than they already are doing.