there is NO ZIKA in Uganda


Aedes Aegypti
The Aedes Aegypti – from http://www.outbreaknewstoday.com

THIS Zika virus is pissing me off quite a lot.

The damn thing is causing excitement and concern in Brazil and other Latin American countries, and people have contracted its related diseases in the United Kingdom and the United States.
NO ONE in Uganda has contracted the disease.
In the last 70 (SEVENTY) years there have been TWO (2) people who got the Zika disease in Uganda.
But believe it or not, Uganda has entered into the story. You haven’t noticed yet, but there is already at least one travel advisory that affects us РUgandans.
THIS has pissed me off, of course, because those less discerning than most will immediately assume that we have Zika viruses floating about in the air over here, and will begin to avoid us. Or they’ll come up with some silly extra airport checks for people who have been to Uganda, or have names similar to ours.
There is no predicting what could happen.
The last time a strange, scary disease broke out in West Africa we had sanctions and cancellations in East Africa. There is 7,000 kilometres of very bad road between Sierra Leone and Uganda, but people in the UK still felt that it was worrying enough for the disease to exist THERE, for them to avoid coming HERE. Sierra Leone is closer to the United States than it is to any East African country, but ignoramuses would still be more scared of coming here than going to the US.
(That statement about distances from Sierra Leone might or might not be true – so go and read up on the continent of Africa a little bit, just to be sure. The one about ignoramuses is true.)
But that’s not what is churning bile into my throat.
The casualness around which people Рjournalists inclusive Рare talking about Uganda in this story is infuriating!
It took just a couple of days for people to misread the Wikipedia statement, ‚ÄúThe virus was first isolated in April 1947 from a rhesus macaque monkey that had been placed in a cage in the Zika Forest of Uganda, near Lake Victoria, by the scientists of the Yellow Fever Research Institute.‚ÄĚ
Personally, like most of you who haven’t just heard about it from the title of this damn blogpost, I first heard of the Zika virus and the Zika forest about two weeks ago Рin that order, separated by a couple of days.
On Monday the World Health Organisation declared Zika an ‚Äúinternational public health emergency‚ÄĚ and by that time Uganda was on maps labelled ‚ÄėAreas with current or past evidence of Zika‚Äô (see http://www.nytimes.com – I won‚Äôt be supplying the link).
Within these last two weeks we have had journalists and ‚Äėscientists‚Äô (or science officials) make comments that simply fit into the expected narrative but don‚Äôt tell us much that is accurate or even useful.
They could have read the Wikipedia article in full, as well as embedded links therein such as this scientific-looking link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819875/
before launching into the Zika Forest for their stories, but…
Take this story headlined, ‚ÄúUgandan forest where Zika hides‚ÄĚ, complete with a photograph of an old Uganda Virus Research Institute ¬†(UVRI) signpost in front of a patch of grass in what is clearly NOT a forest <‚ÄĒincomprehensible. The height of laziness is in NOT taking a photograph of even a single TREE for an article ABOUT a forest.
That article states with confidence: ‚ÄúMost local cases of the virus were mild, resulting in a rash, fever, and red eyes. Global health authorities barely took notice until an outbreak on the Micronesian island of Yap in 2007.”
Yap is NOT in Uganda. The Micronesian islands are NOT in Uganda. There are NO LOCAL CASES OF ZIKA that the story cites, but that sentence, by-lined by AFP, is on the internet even though in Yap, according to the Wikipedia article on that outbreak, 73% of the island’s population above the age of 3 (three) had recently (by then) contracted the disease!
Later in the story the AFP states, ‚ÄúUganda‚Äôs health ministry is keen to point out that there have been no known cases of the disease in that country, and that the outbreak in the Americas did not originate in East Africa.”
This is because it is true, though the story indicates that it is just a claim.
Why not, ‚ÄúThere have been no known cases of the disease in Uganda (in recent years) and the outbreak in the Americas did not originate in East Africa.‚ÄĚ?
The reporter could have done some simple research within the Wikipedia article and benefitted from this sentence: “There are two lineages of Zika virus, the African lineage and the Asian lineage.[19] Phylogenetic studies indicate that the virus spreading in the Americas is most closely related to the Asian strain, which circulated in French Polynesia during the 2013 outbreak.”
But the AFP could not be bothered.
And it even closes the story with, ‚ÄúThere is no vaccine against Zika, which has spread to over 24 countries in the Americas.‚ÄĚ <‚ÄĒthe Americas – it has become like Africa. Would you imagine, reading that phrase, that anyone in the United States has contracted a Zika-related disease? Or that anyone in the United Kingdom has one? You think the AFP story would mention even that most amusing detail of how Brian Foy, a biologist from the Colorado State University, in 2009 returned to the US from a trip to Senegal and sexually transmitted Zika on to her?
Nope.
It doesn’t even mention that SIX (6) cases have been confirmed in the United Kingdom Рwhich detail I have only discovered today! I thought it was three Р3 Рuntil this afternoon of February 2, 2016 when I surfed through various links to get to this one.
See, the text on the discovery of Zika in the UK says things like, ‚ÄúZIKV does not occur naturally in the UK. However, as of 29 January 2016, a total of 6 cases have been diagnosed in UK travellers.”
Did you notice the use of ‘ZIKV‚Äô there, instead of Zika? That‚Äôs deliberate so that you find fewer instances of internet searches linking the word ‚ÄúZika‚ÄĚ to ‚ÄúUK‚ÄĚ.
This is from an official government release – and our Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs and Tourism should take a leaf from this and have all public officials comply; take A LOT OF CARE when making statements about matters sensitive.
The United States‚Äô Centre for Disease Control (CDC) announced that, ‚ÄúNo locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the continental United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers.‚ÄĚ <‚ÄĒagain, distancing themselves as a country from this disease, and suggesting that ‚Äúonly travellers‚ÄĚ (which they mis-spelt) have it.
Meanwhile, it would take me (I am too simple) too long to establish how many travellers to the US have actually been diagnosed with the virus, but I bet they are more than Uganda’s ZERO!
The UK reporting also keeps talking about ‚ÄúUK travellers‚ÄĚ so that in your mind the disease is never RESIDENT there.
It is RESIDENT elsewhere. Maybe in the ‚ÄėAmericas‚Äô or Africa – and the same advisory states that travellers should avoid travel to ‚Äúareas where any mosquito-borne diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, malaria and Zika are known to occur‚ÄĚ. <‚ÄĒ see? It has started already!
But if anyone tries to cancel a booking to Uganda on the basis of this advisory, then please point them to this link from CNN which states with authority that, “the Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, ‚Äúwhich are found throughout the U.S. and are known for transmitting dengue fever and chikungunya, may also transmit the virus, the CDC said Friday.”
 
So the UK advisory discourages travel to the United States, as much as it discourages travel to Uganda.
The BBC also sent a team to the Zika Forest – where they also met the same guide, poor Gerald Mukisa, who is now quoted everywhere.
The Associated Press report of the same site states that the Zika Forest ‚Äúis, now fittingly, a research site for scientists‚Ķ‚ÄĚ even though everywhere else on the internet states that it has been a research site since before 1947! <‚ÄĒbut that‚Äôs a small point, so ignore it.
Or, maybe just to get into the meat of things, it might not be ‘now fittingly’ – the reason they probably chose the Zika forest as they would any other part of the world to conduct such trials back in the early 1900s, might be¬†the availability of specimen such as the¬†monkey.
The longer version of the AFP report, meanwhile, quoted one Julius Lutwama, 56, described as ‚ÄúTop UVRI scientist‚ÄĚ who says: ‚ÄúZika virus has always been a mild infection. Out of say five or 10 people who are infected, only one or two may actually show some fever that is noticeable.‚ÄĚ <‚ÄĒ WHAT THE HELL?
The BBC text report on the same subject quoted the very same Dr. Julius Lutwama saying that only two cases of the virus have been confirmed in Uganda in the last seven decades. SEVENTY (70) years.
‚ÄėThis is because the types of mosquitoes that would transmit the virus to humans don‚Äôt often come into contact with the general population, says Dr. Julius Lubwama, a leading virologist at the Uganda Virus Research Institute.‚Äô reads the story.
So is it only two people as the BBC quoted Dr. Lutwama saying, or “out of the five or ten people”, as the AFP quoted the very same Dr. Lutwama?
I called up the Uganda Virus Research Institute and was told that there was only one Dr. Lutwama but was told he was out of the country Рhopefully in Geneva attending the emergency meetings that resulted in the WHO declaration. I was given his colleagues number, one Dr. John Kayiwa, but he didn’t answer his phone and I had to post my blog so I went on reading, only to find this in the  BBC article:
‚ÄúBut as Dr. John Kayuma, one of the laboratory managers told me, one of the reasons why there are few recorded cases in Uganda could be because not many people have been tested for it. ‚ÄėIt is possible that there could be several people, or so many people out there with the Zika virus infection, but because many people do not seek treatment in the hospitals, we could be missing out”‘
They don’t stop there.
‚Äú‚ÄėAnd also the surveillance has probably not picked them out. There‚Äôs a possibility that there are more cases out there.‚Äô”
THAT is the kind of comment that has me shaking my damn head.
(Pause for breath).
And the story ends on the dramatic note of: ‚ÄúIn the meantime, Dr. Lutwama and his team say they are keeping an eye on the type of mosquitoes in the country in case any of the ones that are good at spreading the disease enter Uganda.‚ÄĚ
THIS is the BBC?
They can’t spell Dr. Kayiwa’s name right Рso marks off for that.
But then, do you see how the narrative is being kept alive here? That ‚Äúit is possible‚ÄĚ that people have the disease ‚Äúbut they have not been checked?‚ÄĚ ¬†We are to think that people are walking about possibly suffering from Zika but they have not been tested for it so cue music of impending doom and sickness?
Quite simply there is NO story here unless someone finds that damn monkey that was the subject of those tests. While looking for it, though, please take in our thousands of other monkeys and apes, the magnificent wildlife, the great scenery and the extremely pleasant hospitality of Ugandans who are so kind we will smile and say what you most likely want to hear just to make you feel at home – sometimes to our own detriment.
At the back of your mind, please be aware that ‚Äúit is possible‚ÄĚ that very many people out there have a cold, or mild forms of malaria, or even cancer, but they have not sought treatment in hospitals.
Brazil is there with 4,000 cases of babies born with microcephaly (the birth defect that the Zika virus is said to cause), the United States has 30 cases, the UK has six, and we are here saying ‚Äúsee Uganda‚ÄĚ?
It is these reports that have me looking a little more seriously at bloggers, or what some people call conspiracy theorists, because those ones appear to put more effort into their work.
Like one Jon Rappoport, who blogged last week: ‚ÄėIs the dreaded Zika virus another giant scam?’
Rappoport, unlike our international journalists, goes into the science behind the Zika virus, and the tests that would have to be conducted before certain declarations are made, and then even raises links that answer the question, ‘Why did we not know about this between 2007 and 2016?‚Äô (let alone 1947 till now!). Why is it spreading so fast and frenzied in Brazil and Latin America?, and then (read his blog, by the way, rather than wait for me to reproduce it here) the link to pesticide use in Brazil and so on and so forth.
Then there‚Äôs sheezacoldpiece, who posted, ‚ÄėThe Zika Virus – What They‚Äôre Not Saying‚Ķ‚Äô, in which the blogger raises a vaccine that the Brazil government introduced in 2014 and says ‚ÄúThe recent outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil is now being linked to genetically modified mosquitoes developed by the British biotech company Oxitec, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”
Leaving the corporate bodies out of it for a while, the blogger raises a point some other people have raised in the comments on Zika Рwhat is the role of science in all this? Even in the 1947 tests, according to this scientific narrative Рhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819875/ Рtells you that they were not just walking through a forest and noticed a monkey shivering with an attack of the Zika.
There must be some scientist out there who can decipher for us the meaning of the phrase, ‚Äúwas first isolated‚ÄĚ; does that not indicate that there was some clinical laboratory work going on that could have involved placing a sample or something into the monkey in order to study its results?
I am clearly not a scientist.
But also, if, as the bloggers suggest, the microcephaly or Zika disease is a result of additional factors beyond just a thirsty band of mosquitoes then our scientists have lots more work to do than monitoring the borders to ensure that these vectors don’t get in.
Reading https://brazilianshrunkenheadbabies.wordpress.com/about/ you will find a lot of blogger-insight (see links at the bottom of that page) that sensibly argues how the use of medicines or pesticides untested for your area or blood type or genetics can create such alarming results.
As for the journalists, we have even more work to do so that we are more convincing than the bloggers and conspiracy theorists; if we can‚Äôt even spell a name right when covering such an ‚Äėimportant‚Äô story, how the hell are we expected to be believed on the science?

the versatile blogger award


versatile-blogI’VE collided with this assignment quite by random and will endeavour (FACT ONE – Endeavour Uganda was the name of the first company I ever registered right after I finished my University Degree; it was a tourism promotion company that could, if we were ever struck by the need, build ships)…<—I apologise for using those three dots so early¬†in this one-post relationship (FACT TWO – I tend¬†to use those three dots a lot because I am shy – in real life and also when writing. I can’t explain that quirk because¬†most people¬†seem to have a very different idea about me, both in real life and when reading what I write…anyway, prepare to step out of the parentheses to complete the sentence we started at the beginning of this paragraph and connect the dots)…to stick to the rules.
(FACT THREE РI sometimes appear to stickle, most manifestly when writing and editing, but also in real life. It amuses my children, and irritates my wife though she is secretly happy whenever I do it…I think…, and it infuriates the ordinary mortals I come into contact with, most especially those who find comfort in mediocrity because they discovered long ago that lowering one’s standards makes it easy to appear to excel Рwhich makes me a problem to them in presence and in fact.)
The rules of this assignment are straightforward, from what my nominator Рa word I doubt having ever used before Рposted, and I paste them below so that the persons I nominate Рcalled nominees, which is a more popular term Рfind it easy to carry this tradition on until we are called up to receive this Award to much fanfare narrated by a trending twitter hashtag and featured on millions of timelines:
RULE 1. Thank the person that nominated you and include a link to their blog.
(FACT FOUR РI give thanks A LOT! My daily prayers are  almost a litany of thanks to God, and if there is one thing I want to pass on to my children it is the readiness to give thanks; I had it passed down to me by my parents, to whom and for who I give thanks, and I give thanks to God that I have been given the opportunity to teach my children how to give thanks.)
I therefore find it easy to give thanks to Joel for nominating me Рand for being such an avid blogger and a serious Ugandan (which I have only surmised from reading his blog these so many months).
RULE 2. Nominate at least 15 bloggers of your choice. When considering a fellow blogger for the Versatile Blogger Award, keep in mind the quality of their writing, the uniqueness of their subject matter and the level of love displayed on the virtual page.
(FACT FIVE РContrary to the last bit of this rule, I do not believe there is a high level of love displayed on my virtual page, which makes me comfortable blogging. I am extremely uncomfortable with public displays of affection, which discomfort began dissipating when I started being a father. Now, visually step out of the parentheses for the rest of this…)
First of all, right there before you visually stepped out of the parentheses I was itching to use the phrase¬†‚Äústep over‚ÄĚ but that would have required me to use the singular for that pair of parentheses,¬†which word I cannot find at short notice.¬†‚ÄėParenthesis‚Äô refers to a¬†word (look it up yourself) rather than one of the brackets that¬†form the pair of parentheses I have had you hop in and out of.
Back to the Rule, though, luckily for me, it does not say that the ‘level of love‚Äô displayed needs to be high or low, so I will therefore use my discretion to select my nominees, who are:
(I do not like leaving so many people out, so these are the fifteen who have come to mind this evening, and I left out an eleven-year old boy just so I don’t appear overly nepotistic, but I have him in mind as I type this:)
7. Stompie (You guys don’t know this name) 
10. Norah
12. Paul
13. Aur
15. Zelah
This list is too short for it to be fair, and everybody who isn’t on it must not develop those uncomfortable, unhealthy feelings, because we need not justify why we chose who we chose…we being nominators (twice in one day!). Today being a Saturday, my thoughts were mostly themed along lines that probably reveal themselves in the collection of bloggers I have chosen. (FACT SIX: I love Uganda and always try to find a way of highlighting our positives, or correcting our negatives so we can stand out. This is where my family lives, and so I must make it my paradise, so that my family can be happy. The objective that some call ’the pursuit of happiness’ came to me in childhood because of our social and political environment, that was so despondent that we little people had to find ways of fighting back with our spirits. Being happy was hard, but not impossible, and that’s why I found myself voluntarily avoiding negative influences Рsince life around me had more than enough of them without my adding to them by watching sad movies or reading thrillers in which children died and crime went unpunished. To this day, there are many popular icons of entertainment I have deliberately let go by just so I can be happy; likewise, and more seriously, I go down paths unpopular for most just so my family can be happy…because if we are all happy, Uganda will be happy.)
RULE 3: Link your nominees and let them know about their nomination.
QED. I like the way this either stands for Quite Easily Done or Quod Erat Demonstrandum. Don’t ask which teacher in my past wrote the latter onto my answer sheet because that is as irrelevant to this post as this post would be to the question I was responding to that warranted said abbreviation elaborated in latin.
RULE 4: Share seven facts about yourself. You will find that I have done so, and a little bit more because, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I am a Writer. (FACT SEVEN: I am a writer. I have always been a writer. Just the day before yesterday I was thinking back to when I first started writing Рat the age of three or four…yes, I kid you not, and I believe the evidence exists somewhere in the files that my father fastidiously keeps arranged in cabinets locked up tighter than cash-laden safes. Cash holds less value in our home than our memories do, and many of those memories have been recorded, in writing and photography. I am a writer, I know, because I would rather put my feelings down on paper by medium of lead and ink than speak from the mind. My pens are in my last will and testament. Buying a pencil is still as exciting today as it was back when I was a child Рmore, actually, since I can afford more pencils now than I could back then. I have notebooks that serve the function of comforter blankets, that I reach for when anxious to be assuaged by the sight of blank pages on which I can squeeze words in the event of a disaster. If the world suddenly threatened to come to an end, would I get to write about it? I hope so. Because I am a writer. A writer who blogs. A blogger who writes.) 

all hail the queen of Katwe


IF you don’t know Frozen, you either have no children, no TV, a very low media appetite, or all of the above.

That makes you commercially unimportant in the global scheme that the promoters of that movie designed and implemented well enough to take over the world of entertainment and commerce so decisively that the movie is reported to have grossed more in revenue in one year than some countries do in decades.

Your irrelevance to the global economic equations of the world’s premier businesspeople aside, you must – at least – have heard of Disney. The Walt Disney Company? Again, if you haven‚Äôt, then even your ability to read (especially in the English language) is a miracle you should be proud of.
Disney has been behind the world’s biggest entertainment projects for years and years; besides their amusement parks, we can focus on only their movies to get to the point here:
Their animated movie The Lion King made US$313million in the first few years after its release, while the musical (performed on stage) made US$6.2billion (BILLION!) in three years from ticket sales alone, and was seen by 75million people! Toy Story 3 grossed US$1.063 billion in 2010. Frozen earned $398.4 million in the United States and $674 million internationally to take the title. By March 2014 it had grossed US$1.072 billion in revenue after opening in Japan – and has continued earning since.
Disney knows how to make money out of entertainment. Let’s not even talk in detail about their amusement parks and merchandising, because there is too much information out there.
One Frozen statistic that flummoxed me was to do with a dress of one of the Elsa dolls; this dress that had retailed at US$150 sold out and started going for US$1,000 on eBay…secondhand, in some cases!
Then also, in one day in 2014 in the United States, Frozen sold 3.2 Million DVD and Blu-ray Discs. In one day.
Much more importantly, they make massive amounts from franchises. One US authority reveals that:¬†Mickey Mouse brings in $4 billion in sales a year;¬†the Disney Princesses (Jasmine, Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Mulan, etc. – I name them for a reason that will become apparent shortly) $4 billion; the “Cars” and “Winnie the Pooh” each $2 billion a year; and “Toy Story” brings in $1 billion a year.
Still with me?
This is one of Disney’s releases of 2016, about Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, who rose from Kampala’s slums to international chess stardom.
The movie will be released in April and will star Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo (that black agent in Spooks) Рand also feature Madina Nalwanga playing Phiona Mutesi, Ntare Mwine, and Maurice Kirya.
You guys!
Disney is going to feature a movie about Uganda (go back up a few paragraphs and read those figures again).
That means they are likely to make good amounts of money doing so while giving us – the entire nation – free publicity to make what we will with it.
Even if we just found a way of squeezing one of our promotional phrases onto the DVD covers, we would benefit greatly.
But let’s go to Katwe, first. Not many of us Рyou reading this Рspend time in Katwe or can identify it apart from the tarmac bit we drive through on the way from Entebbe.
Now that it is going to get Disneyfied, the people at the Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda Tourism Board and Uganda Investment Authority need to look up quickly and do some work there.
Create some Katwe trails so tourists enthralled by the movie can come visit and walk through Mutesi’s home(s), eat the food she ate, and jump over the dirty bits of road she skipped through as a child.
Speaking of food, does the Rolex appear in the movie? Luwombo? Katogo? Spiced tea with Cassava and gnuts? All Uganda‚Äôs restaurants and hotels should introduce a ‚ÄėKatwe Option‚Äô onto their menus. This is the time to officialise Ugandan cuisine onto the world market and sell it in a big way so we have Rolex stands in New York, London, and at Disneyland!
That same Disneyland is where a lot of the merchandising rakes in the dollars, but let’s be clever over here and create Queen of Katwe chess boards, gomesis, bags and other merchandising.
Speaking of which, remember those Disney princesses named above?¬†I have detested having to buy them for my daughters and nieces, and seeing the adulation beaming out of their eyes, but I will LOVE doing so for a doll named Mutesi…
Kudos to that young lady for putting Uganda on the map so well by usurping great odds to excel in a field so unexpected.
Phiona Mutesi! The Presidential Awards Committee should take that name and spell it correctly.
So should the media; our biggest celebrities and heroines are in the slums and villages, not in nightclubs and cities.
PHIONA-MUTESI
Phiona Mutesi: Our Queen of Katwe – Photo from i.huffpost.com

never downplay the importance of good, expensive equipment


THE¬†visit¬†to¬†Uganda¬†by¬†Pope¬†Francis¬†was¬†highly¬†successful¬†–¬†possibly¬†even¬†more¬†so¬†than¬†the¬†other¬†countries¬†can¬†say¬†–¬†but¬†for¬†those¬†with¬†noses¬†to¬†the¬†ground¬†there¬†were¬†some¬†hard¬†lessons¬†to¬†be¬†learnt¬†–¬†lessons¬†we¬†only¬†ignore¬†if¬†we¬†do¬†not¬†wish¬†to¬†develop¬†more.
My¬†favourite¬†lesson¬†was¬†one¬†I¬†have¬†been¬†keenly¬†aware¬†of¬†for¬†many¬†years¬†–¬†NEVER¬†downplay¬†the¬†importance¬†of¬†good,¬†expensive¬†equipment.
And before you bring out a tub of popcorn in anticipation of a duel over television broadcasting, let it be known that I am talking strictly about photography today.
Photography¬†because¬†the¬†avaricious¬†side¬†of¬†us¬†welcomed¬†the¬†Pontiff‚Äôs¬†visit¬†due¬†to¬†the¬†tourism¬†value¬†it¬†brought¬†to¬†Uganda¬†as¬†a¬†nation¬†and¬†East¬†Africa¬†as¬†a¬†region.¬†See,¬†there¬†are¬†more¬†than¬†1.2billion¬†Roman¬†Catholics¬†in¬†the¬†world,¬†and¬†one¬†World¬†Bank¬†study¬†says¬†Uganda¬†receives¬†about¬†1.2million¬†visitors¬†into¬†the¬†country¬†every¬†year¬†–¬†which¬†figure¬†includes¬†anyone¬†dropping¬†in¬†for¬†a¬†day¬†or¬†staying¬†overnight¬†en¬†route¬†to¬†somewhere¬†else.
Now, the Pope’s visit to Uganda was full of blessings and was rather exciting for all of us who lined up to wave at him and shake his hand, but back to the avaricious side of things and my lesson:
NEVER downplay the importance of good, expensive equipment.
The¬†night¬†before¬†he¬†arrived,¬†I¬†fortuitously¬†received¬†an¬†email¬†notification¬†from¬†a¬†service¬†I¬†signed¬†up¬†to¬†months¬†ago,¬†offering¬†me¬†some¬†used¬†camera¬†equipment¬†that¬†cost¬†at¬†least¬†a¬†couple¬†of¬†thousand¬†pounds¬†sterling¬†each¬†for¬†the¬†cheapest¬†items¬†–¬†lenses¬†–¬†and¬†more¬†than¬†ten¬†thousand¬†pounds¬†for¬†heavier¬†ones¬†–¬†cameras.
My eyes opened wide at the costs listed there, but I took an interest anyway.
The¬†very¬†next¬†day,¬†I¬†was¬†surrounded¬†by¬†the¬†international¬†media¬†following¬†the¬†Pope¬†and¬†had¬†whipped¬†out¬†my¬†own¬†digital¬†Single¬†Lens¬†Reflex¬†camera¬†with¬†a¬†‚Äėbig‚Äô¬†lens¬†to¬†take¬†some¬†shots¬†when¬†I¬†felt¬†shrivelled.¬†Some¬†of¬†the¬†lenses¬†those¬†photographers¬†lugged¬†around¬†obliterated¬†my¬†view¬†of¬†the¬†entire¬†Popemobile!
Now, regardless of what you are talking about, equipment is important, and our neglect of the investment required to own and run serious equipment will always hold us back.
One of my first useful steps at one government office I worked in was the acquisition of a digital camera and memory card. I misappropriated (or re-appropriated) money meant for some other mundane and very traditional purpose and bought the damn camera along with a card and a rechargeable battery.
The¬†complaints¬†thereafter¬†sounded¬†serious¬†at¬†first¬†but¬†were¬†muted¬†by¬†my¬†brutish¬†nature,¬†and¬†after¬†a¬†couple¬†of¬†weeks¬†the¬†difference¬†in¬†our¬†public¬†visibility¬†was¬†so¬†vivid¬†–¬†both¬†in¬†the¬†quality¬†of¬†photography¬†we¬†were¬†producing¬†and¬†circulating¬†and¬†in¬†the¬†speed¬†with¬†which¬†we¬†had¬†photographs¬†out¬†–¬†that¬†I¬†heard¬†some¬†colleagues¬†in¬†a¬†totally¬†unrelated¬†department¬†trying¬†to¬†take¬†credit¬†for¬†the¬†purchase.
The¬†cost¬†of¬†the¬†camera,¬†memory¬†card¬†and¬†battery,¬†I¬†should¬†add,¬†was¬†the¬†equivalent¬†of¬†a¬†couple¬†of¬†meals¬†our¬†delegation¬†would¬†have¬†signed¬†for¬†–¬†thus¬†the¬†early¬†complaints¬†over¬†my¬†actions.¬†But¬†the¬†value¬†it¬†gave¬†us¬†far¬†superseded¬†that¬†of¬†the¬†film-roll¬†cameras¬†that¬†my¬†unit¬†carried¬†till¬†then.
Now, confronted by the gigantic lenses of the international press corpsIMG_1193IMG_1195

img-20151202-wa0043.jpg following His Holiness the Pope, I had to check the prices of some of them online and found them even more daunting than the ones sent by email the night before.

But then, I thought, double checking the number of Roman Catholics that were bound to be following news of the Pope’s visit and who would possibly see the high quality photographic depiction of his presence here, that cost would have been quickly offset by 1% of them if, as a result of good photography, they chose to visit Uganda and each spent less than US$1 here!
NEVER downplay the importance of good, expensive equipment.
The massive lenses enabled those photographers to get high quality shots of whatever they wanted from tens of metres away, while our photographs had to be taken from close range.
We¬†couldn’t¬†compete;¬†and¬†if¬†they¬†chose¬†to¬†take¬†shots¬†of¬†only¬†the¬†ugly¬†bits¬†of¬†the¬†country¬†while¬†we¬†focused¬†on¬†the¬†vast¬†number¬†of¬†beautiful¬†parts,¬†their¬†submissions¬†would¬†defeat¬†ours¬†in¬†number¬†and¬†quality¬†–¬†just¬†because¬†we¬†don‚Äôt¬†have¬†the¬†right¬†equipment.¬†In¬†fact¬†the¬†event¬†organisers,¬†sticking¬†to¬†internationally¬†set¬†standards,¬†kept¬†providing¬†media¬†platforms¬†for¬†camerapeople¬†and¬†positioned¬†them¬†at¬†distances¬†that¬†inconvenienced¬†some¬†of¬†us¬†very¬†greatly¬†while¬†the¬†international¬†press¬†corps¬†simply¬†clicked¬†their¬†tongues¬†and¬†got¬†to¬†work¬†shooting.
NEVER¬†downplay¬†the¬†importance¬†of¬†good,¬†expensive¬†equipment¬†–¬†and¬†since¬†we¬†always¬†go¬†for¬†the¬†best¬†when¬†buying¬†jets,¬†cars,¬†guns¬†and¬†whatnot,¬†it‚Äôs¬†about¬†time¬†we¬†started¬†doing¬†so¬†when¬†buying¬†photographic¬†equipment¬†as¬†institutions¬†and¬†individuals¬†wishing¬†to¬†portray¬†the¬†best¬†parts¬†of¬†Uganda.

the pope is secure – why aren’t you?


SOMEONE at Namugongo Martyr’s Shrine on Saturday made a remark with some measure of wonder and not little happiness, that has stayed in my mind till now.
The line was something like: “Whereas we‚Äôre accustomed to hearing developed countries issue travel advisories and security notices against countries on the African continent when we are engaged in national elections, Uganda is hosting the Pope!”
This Pope, meanwhile, must be a source of headaches for his security team in the way he operates, yet at the same time that should be a source of comfort for everybody.
At Kololo, for instance, I noticed the bullet proof side shields being removed after a lengthy discussion between the SFC and  Vatican security shortly before @Pontifex arrived Рthat wasn’t an oversight Рit was deliberate.
IMG_1299
Before
IMG_1370
After
I checked this morning and found that there is, indeed, an advisory on Uganda by the United States government but it is NOT a travel advisory – it is just a ‚ÄúSecurity Reminder‚ÄĚ.
US Security Reminder over Elections
We have to pat ourselves on the back quite a lot for being so solid that we can achieve this – and applaud our security services a lot more than we pat our own backs.
While doing so, however, we also have to take up issue with some of the international media and set them right on this specific matter.
I don’t like joining in the chorus against the international media whenever they report wrongly about Africa and countries on this continent because I have a day job that would suffer greatly if I took away so much time to address this.
Media houses like Fox News are not worth responding to because their basic stance is anti-racial-harmony <‚ÄĒa new term I have coined in order to avoid accusing people of being racist.
We must acknowledge that on the continent we do create a lot of opportunity for the world to continue calling us violent, conflict-ridden and so on and so forth.
But we must always stress that this is NOT true of the entire continent and certainly not true of every single African on this soil.
Checking online for the approach the international media took to the issue of security gave me the results that I expected, but a couple of juxtapositions were really amusing.
Sky News reported, back in September, that the United States had thwarted a security threat to the Pope ahead of his visit there, and that: “The US Department of Homeland Security has said the visit will be a National Special Security Event – meaning the Secret Service will head the planning of security.”
Meanwhile, the¬†@Pontifex¬†US visit was that country’s “largest security operation in US history“, according to a former Deputy Director of the Secret Service.
The same Sky News, however, describes the Pope’s visit to the Central African Republic, “the most dangerous destination on his three-nation Africa tour”and talks about, “he was greeted by acting CAR president Catherine Samba-Panza under tight security, with roads leading to the airport bristling with troops and security forces.”
Which country in the world would the Pope visit WITHOUT security, and which President would receive him under ‘loose security’?
Plus, what is this nonsense of “the most dangerous” as if the other two countries are dangerous¬†but just less so?
In the US, Sky News reported, “New York officials announced …¬†a series of new security measures ahead of the visit, including airspace restrictions, screening checkpoints and a ban on balloons, selfie sticks and backpacks at papal events.” even though in Uganda we had a blast without any such restrictions.
Compare this:
Pope US Security
The United States
With this:
IMG_1454
Uganda

According to Reuters,¬†“Protected by the heaviest security ever seen on his trips, Pope Francis on Sunday preached reconciliation in the divided Central African Republic, a nation racked by bloodshed between Muslims and Christians.” <—that last part is our fault, stupid fighting Africans!

But in the story, they say, “Central African Republic’s government is deploying around 500 police and gendarmes to secure the visit. More than 3,000 peacekeepers from the MINUSCA U.N. mission will also be deployed and French troops will be on alert as well.”

And there are only 900 French troops in that country, the same story says.

Now, in the United States leg of his tour a couple of months ago, “In New York, security screening will be just part of ‚Äúlayers and layers and layers of protection‚ÄĚ the pope will receive during his visit, including a deployment of 6,000 extra police officers and specialized counterterrorism units, said John Miller, the NYPD‚Äôs top security official.”

So…what do YOU think about YOUR security, where you are?