it’s not witchcraft, Uganda is blessed…gifted by nature!


Maggie, Conrad, Simon & Reynado next to the trophy
Coca-Cola officials welcome the FIFA World Cup Trophy and prepare to take it off the jet onto the tarmac at Entebbe International Airport.From Left: Maggie Kigozi, Conrad van Niekerk, Simon Kaheru & Reinaldo Padua

IF I write or speak about anything other than the FIFA World Cup Trophy this week I will be cheating an entire country – Uganda. We may not have won the actual Trophy yet, but we certainly came top when it came to displaying passion, discipline, orderliness and relating love to the sport called football.

These little victories count on their own, even though the bigger ones like winning the actual Tournament and bringing that Trophy home would weigh way more in value than its dollar equivalent on the open market.

First of all, I won’t mention Coca-Cola too much in this so that I avoid a conflict of interest around my regular employment and this apparent public service and because by now you all know for sure who is ferrying that Trophy around the World.

If I hadn’t had a link to the company I would certainly have been in the running to join the social media “influencers” who went to South Africa to ride along with the Trophy on its dedicated plane.

It wasn’t necessary – I got to bask in the glory of the trophy right here in the warm and wet tropical climes of Uganda – starting on the plane that ferried it here. More importantly, as the President happily said when he was unveiling the Trophy and sending it off on its merry tour of the Pearl of Africa, everybody in the world saw and enjoyed the beauty of Uganda because of this Trophy.

From my close proximity vantage point I can confirm that the excitement in Uganda outshone that in most other countries. At the Kampala Serena Hotel I was tickled to see a lady bringing her children in their school uniform to take photographs next to the pull-up banners set up for the evening event. She had gone through loads of traffic to do this, and had no intention of asking for tickets to the event. They took their photographs and left for home – happy and excited to have been part of this in some small way!

Felicity George, the FIFA Partnerships Manager, said this quite clearly to us when she arrived at the Company Plant in Namanve. She was quite taken aback to see so many staff wearing their Uganda Cranes t-shirts and lining up in an orderly manner to take their photographs with the Trophy.

She spoke to a few of them and they were quite clear about their love for their country and the sport we call Football. She was impressed – out of all the countries she has visited on the Trophy Tour, she said, only Ugandans turned up in their national football colours!

We did well there all through, Ugandans – right from Entebbe Airport and on the roadside.

Taking the Trophy to the Plant for the company staff to enjoy its presence was a touch apart from what happened everywhere else in the world; more heart-tingling was the procedure the Managing Director insisted on – giving priority to the staff of Plastic Recycling Industries and Rwenzori Bottling Company first, and ensuring no hierarchical methods were used to manage the queues.

All through, the FIFA Security chaps in charge of the Trophy were thoroughly excited by the traditional dancers and their varied display of dances. One of them, on the second day, asked me why the dress and dances were so different and gave me the opportunity to explain how many cultures we had in Uganda and part of our history.

The FIFA World Cup Twitter account has about six million followers, and the World Cup itself was viewed, in 2014, by more than three billion (3,000,000,000) people! Imagine if just one percent of those, following this trophy, took up an increased interest in Uganda’s cultures?

The realisation that the Trophy Tour had turned so many eyeballs onto Uganda for those two days caused one fellow at State House to quip, “Eh! How many other things can we bring to Uganda so that we do this?!”

He got the point quite quickly when he noted how excited everyone was at all levels to take photographs with the Trophy.

President Museveni himself walked into the room so early that he took most by surprise, and then gave the Trophy and its attendants so much time and prominence that there was a full photo session on the stairs of State House for the staff and media to enjoy – which HE set up on his own.

Those staff and media, and all other Ugandans who took photographs with the Trophy, number close to ten thousand or so people. Now, if each of us uploaded our photographs to the internet with a positive comment about the country and an inviting message, imagine how much support that would give to the efforts of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA).

Even our Uganda Managing Director, Conrad van Niekerk, was taken aback at the energy levels generated by the Trophy. He was Managing Director in Ghana back in 2010 and when the Trophy visited that country he didn’t see them exhibiting such celebratory measures or turning out in national colours even if THEY WERE PARTICIPATING IN THE WORLD CUP FINALS!

“Uganda is simply amazing!” he kept remarking, at every step of the Tour.

If we all tell our tale of how marvelous Uganda was – even during those two days – believe me the benefits would be mind-blowing. The FIFA crew declared us to be blessed, for instance, because they could not understand how their plane left Cape Town an hour late but managed to land in Entebbe earlier than scheduled!

Then, every time the weather seemed set to destroy the events here, everything just went on smoothly; on one day when the trophy was at Century Bottling Company and being set up a drizzle started and clouds formed to the backdrop of climatically induced rumbling but everything changed as soon as the EmCee announced Conrad’s welcoming speech.

The clouds seemed to draw back as he walked up centre and raised the microphone to his mouth, and the EmCee laughed and accused someone there of engaging in witchcraft.

It’s not witchcraft. Uganda is blessed. We are gifted. By Nature.

perseverance: apply for everything all the time


LAST year I met a most amazing fellow who chose to settle in Uganda after getting here by way of more work, money and experience than the vast majority of us will ever know, living an existence that the vast majority of us almost cannot stand.

Paul Anderson would confuse the average Ugandan. When I met him he was dressed as casually as a backpacker and toting the type of bag and envelopes that make most be-suited, neck-tied Ugandans roll their eyes and look the other way to avert requests for jobs and other favours.

A few minutes into our conversation I began to notice that he was quite different, and probed further. His story is really, really long and fascinating – including the millions of United States dollars he has made over time versus the choice he has made to live a life that costs a couple hundred dollars a month in various parts of Uganda that many of you struggle to avoid.

His entire life story is not the subject of what triggered these particular thoughts; there was one bit of our discussion that morning that returned to me last week when a young lady I admire posted a tweet that deserves a lot of attention.

Paul Anderson is an author and philosopher, having studied life in a very deep manner. I am still on standby to get involved in one of his projects, and left him that day with many thoughts bouncing about in my head.

One of these was his astonishment at the lack of energy among some of our youth and the need to make them realise it.

In one example, he told me of an otherwise intelligent and seemingly capable young lady he met who was in despair at having failed to secure a job a couple of years after completing her university degree. She had studied a banking-related course and was eager to work in a bank at some level.

Paul asked her how many applications she had put out and her response was, something like, “About six.”

“In two years?”

She confirmed so. See, she explained, the banks she applied to were simply not responding or giving her the job(s), and the others hadn’t advertised any.

He was unsympathetic. She could have applied to three times that same number and still didn’t deserve sympathy, he said.

If she really wanted to work in a commercial bank, he told her, what she needed to do was to list all the commercial banks and financial institutions in Uganda and then apply to ALL of them. After doing so, she needed to run a time-table and visit each and every one of the banks to secure personal audience with a manager and ask for a job.

“With a degree in hand, the right attitude and the right amount of persistence, even if nobody offered her a job they wouldn’t chase her off outright,” he reasoned. After that, he said, she needed to write them a follow-up email, wait a few months, and then go back to ask again.

With all the commercial banks in Uganda, she needed to pester them consistently using her time table until one of them gave in and offered her something – anything!

That approach has stayed on my mind for a while and I believe it could work more times than fail – especially since it involves slogging until success is achieved. Just two weeks ago I wrote the big word “Perseverance” on the blackboard of a classroom of wide-eyed eight-year olds, then explained it to them.

Hence my stop-and-think-hard-then-applaud-loudly reaction last week when @Kemi_stry – full name Kemiyondo Coutinho – tweeted:

“I apply for something every week. Yup. Every week. Now think of how many things I announce that I have actually gotten. I hustle for more than I receive. As it should be. You never know which one is the door. So keep trying that key in all of them.”

No wonder, I thought to myself, she does so well.

I have only met her properly once, in circumstances I cannot go into right now and trust she won’t ever tell anyone about (Madamoiselle/Madame/Boss – PLEASE DO NOT!), but I have interacted with her online for a long, enjoyable time.

She is in the business of Creative Arts and Entrepreneurship and is on a roll right now. Last week, her short film “Kyenvu” won the Best Narrative Short Film Award at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival 2018!

She is teaching the world the meaning of the Luganda word “kyenvu” (google it!) – which puts Luganda up there on the list of languages being used globally to describe colours and emotions and milkshake flavours. I have proof – the word now exists on http://www.imdb.com, the website where all movies of note get listed.

Thanks to @Kemi_stry and her team, there is a whole cast of Ugandan names up on that site as well, together with Ugandans who produce, direct and score movies to global standards!

I haven’t yet watched “Kyenvu” but I can tell that it tackles important themes squarely – sexual harassment – and raises one’s attention to subliminal ones – such as race issues in our settings.

I am not surprised that “Kyenvu” is winning awards because @Kemi_stry is that type of go-get-em person. Once, in the past, we had a very short conversation about her joining the national broadcast system. The discussion was understandably very, very short due to the candid but positive approach we both seem to take most times.

She went her merry, determined way, persevered, and today, in the age of the “Black Panther”, she has the world at her feet and is choosing what colour to make it.

farewell, lyrical soldier #RIPMowzeyRadio #RIPMozeyRadio #RIPMoseRadio #RIPMosesRadio


AS usual, I am playing a Radio and Weasel song.

Today it’s for a very, very sad reason and I am playing every single one of their songs that I have in my collections – legal and pirated alike. It is going to take me hours, they have so many!

I even found myself going back to Facebook to post a message to my wall rather than rely on my weekly auto-posts from this blog.

#RIPMowzey FB Update

(The wrong things about this death are so obvious I don’t feel like getting into them here and now.)

It’s been more than a decade since these young men burst into our ear drums to get our feet shuffling, hips swaying and mouths twisting in pretence that we could actually say those lyrics the way they did.

It didn’t matter what song they belted out, it HIT. I can almost trace events and people over the past ten or so years by what Moses Radio & Weasel (oba Mowzey & Weasel) song I was listening or dancing to at the time.

And that’s another thing about the Goodlyfe Crew that bugged me and I had made a note to one day fix – their atrocious spellings. It always irked me that they were not at all bothered by the spellings that came up around them – Mose and Moze and Moses or Weasle and Weasel and Wizzo…

I liked them so much I ignored that and always stayed true to the beat.

I was living and working briefly in Germany when they dropped Zuena while that other Nigerian guy had a similar sounding tune rolling at the same time, but my choice between the two was quite simple to make because of phrases like, “Ku lukalala abakwegomba, Zuena ndi namba emu; ku counter y’omutima gwange gw’ali mu namba emu! I miss you, you, you should get some time ne twogerangamu. Lin’ekkomera bwonsibidde temuli kalungi n’akamu!”

To this day, I have Bread and Butter on ALL my gym and jogging playlists – and I thank those boys for that melody buli daily.

“Sweet, baby olinga butter ku mugaati; olinga enkuba etonya ekiro ku mabaati!” <— hands up if you have ever used that to tune someone?

Radio Hand Up
(Borrowed from djkanji.com)

Shortly after that Radio used the word, “dinisa” and my stomach developed butterflies of nostalgia. People don’t talk like that any more!

Speaking of tuning, did you hear Dudu and those bits that will hands-down melt the hardest of hearts?

I hear, “Come let’s go dancing in the rain; my Dudu! Dudu, your like the air that I breathe! Dudu, you’re like water, Dudu you’re my life…!”

Then: “…Something about your face that can never be forgotten…you de make me feel defeated!”

Get Amaaso and try it out on your love interest then report back here to tell me.

“Ag’amaaso? Ag’amaaso go gali nsuul’ekiggwo! Amaaso go gankuba ng’omugo. Bw’enebaka ndoota ng’amaaso go gegamez’omuddo! Olulala nakulaba nga ntambula ne nneetega…”

I mean!

In Kuku: “Girl I’m singing this song about you; got something I’ve been wanting to tell you: njagala kuwandika linya lyo ku pillow; njagala kuwandika linya lyo ku njuba!”

Try singing that while dancing and there is no way the rhythm will elude you, walahi!

And by the time you break out into: “You are sweeter than Kuku! You’re the salt in my soup-u! Girl, you are sweeter than Kuku!” your deal is sealed for sure – think of the red hearts in their video of this song and just smile at his cheeky look as the lyrics flow out.

Even in real life he was cheeky, and funny – the few times I interacted with him. I only saw him once in the daylight, so you can imagine how merry everyone was (in my experience) around him.

In every one of their songs with romantic lyrics he had the fun, naughty and catchy lines and outshone his partner but there was never a hint of bad blood all through the years.

It certainly helped that he had this voice that conveyed the electricity flowing through his wire thin body, opposite Weasel’s gruff voice and buff-ish look. The name Radio made absolute sense when he started singing like that.

If you’ve ever made a dance mixtape or played a party you know full well the impact of punching in a Radio & Weasel intro to make the dancefloor know they are coming up.

The entire house normally goes electric, frantic, frenzied and in dance paka chini kesho subuhi mode.

“People are you ready?” as in Magnetic is enough to make people lose their minds in agreement – any day, any where…except today. We were not ready for Moze Radio to go like this.

The Goodlyfe duo had it going for them, wabula. Uganda Telecom used them for just Talk and Talk and people thought MTN was finished!

“They will talk but they can’t do the walk. Like Michael Jackson I’m a master of my moonwalk…” he sang, reminding me of how sad we felt when MJ went.

“Ebyange byenkola Mukama yandagilila! N’amanyi saffuna ago manyi gabalwanyisa Kambikwase… kambikwase… Almighty!”

Now he’s gone to the Almighty, joining his brother AK47, with whom they did Jah Guide

At some point I even hoped they would get a national medal of sorts for putting Uganda on a very good map – https://skaheru.com/2013/07/07/radio-weasel-jotham-musinguzi-you-are-true-ugandan-heroes/

Their reach went far and wide – they ruled Kenyan dancefloors with all their songs even before Amani teamed up with them on Kiboko Changu; I danced to them in Zambia on many a night even before they had met General Ozzy to redo Potential.

Speaking of which, that boy had Potential that actualised itself but wasn’t fully capitalised by the time he left. Moze Radio should have gone on making even old men such as myself aspire to insert Luga-flow into our normal conversations, pull dance strokes we can’t explain to people who know us well, and shake our heads at the wit and cheek in his lyrics.

In Ability he sung, “Olina ability; kozesa opportunity! ‘coz opportunity comes once in a lifetime!”

He certainly had many opportunities but they’ve all gone because of a Kiduula – another catchy tune with some eerily prophetic lyrics that he could have heeded in life to avoid this painful departure.

And it’s really painful because we all knew that there was more coming from the duo – surprisingly catchy tunes that don’t sound too different from the last ones but that are quite distinct thanks to Producer Washington (who was reportedly with him on that fateful night) and the entire Swangz Avenue crew.

Every year that they released something new it was refreshing – Nakudata to Ntunga through to Bikoola. I honestly assumed they would be doing it Neera, n’eera and it’s painful to realise that they aren’t.

The year of Bwondekawo, we we laughed and applauded and danced equally in amazement that they had come up with that tune with that exact phraseology – and the next time I saw it was at the junction of Kaguta Road leading to Rushere: “Mzee Bwogeza notulekawo, tujja kwekola ekintu!

No-one gave Radio that warning. And he’s gone.

Rest In Peace, lyrical soldier!

Moze Salute

we all need to be bleeding hearts for blood – #GiveBloodUG


2018-01-07-PHOTO-00042721
Blood donors should all be declared heroes. (Photo by Simon Kaheru)

A COUPLE of weeks ago I was back at the Nakasero Blood Bank – the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services – to make whatever little contribution I could in a dire situation.

The family of the highly respectable lawyer, Gerald Kakuba, were looking for blood group O- so he could undergo surgery. He lived a long and well-accomplished life, impacting very many other lives in a way that made us all proud to have had any link to him in life.

Sadly, he passed on and we celebrated his life and departure in fitting form.

Nevertheless, a bad taste lingered on with the thought that if we had had enough O- in supply he could have gone on a little longer. The taste got worse when we heard that he had been an avid blood donor from early on in his childhood.

While standing in the compound making calls and sending mobilisation messages, I was hit by deja vu. Pausing for thought brought the reason to me quite clearly:

Exactly a year ago we were in exactly this same position for another friendly parent and all the elements were the same: no Blood Group (or Type) O-; surgery pending; frantic mobilisation; kind, helpful but hapless staff at the UBTS lamenting a ‘national blood shortage crisis’…

A year had gone by and almost nothing had changed – besides the fact that people would die, perhaps.

The issue with Blood Group O-, we always get told, is that it is quite rare and yet is the universal donor type – which means that Blood Group O- is compatible with all other Groups.

See, Group A+ is compatible with two other Groups; A- with four; B+ with two; B- with four: O+ with four; AB+ with only one; AB- with two; and O- with ALL EIGHT. 

blood-group-chart-images_11

So people with Blood Group O- carry the most selfless or generous blood type, yet they can only receive blood from Blood Group O-.

The logistics of medical blood use complicate matters a little bit here because donated blood will only stand usable for 35 days – and if Blood Group O- has been banked and any other Blood Type need arises, then the rare blood type will be put to use.

That means that even if all the pitifully few people in Blood Group O- continually donate their own blood in case their own need it, there will always be a high chance that it will be used up by somebody else.

UNLESS the rest of us who belong to the common Blood Groups pile up stocks of our own blood so we don’t use up the Blood Group O- one.

It may appear straightforward but it isn’t so in implementation. See, nothing is changing. Last week the NSSF people ran their (apparently annual) blood drive and collected just over 4,000 units of blood – same number as last year, same time.

Last year the ‘blood shortage crisis’ was attributed to children being on holiday and therefore collections being lower, because most collection drives target schools and schoolchildren. Same thing now.

Also, knowledgeable people said, during the holiday season more blood is used up because people do more life-threatening things and hospitals work harder at keeping them alive.

Year in, year out.

And annoyingly, regarding those life-threatening things we do, more of us out there will tell you what our favourite drinks are yet we have no clue what Blood Group we belong to!

Why don’t we learn, change, do things properly?

Luckily for some of us – those who DO find blood or need it when it is in supply – the passion, anxiety and earnestness of the people at UBTS hasn’t changed either. But neither has their tendency to wring their hands, ask for more help and hope for the best.

But nothing’s changing for the better.

In the process of our collection efforts last week, we established a WhatsApp Group for Blood Group O- people and we hope to keep growing it so we have a donation roster that will keep the Bank in a continuous, reliable supply of the stuff.

It is a hopeful, optimistic, yet very small intervention. A more serious one would be for ALL our organisations to keep track of all our Blood Groups (or Types) and ensure we ALL get onto the roster for donation.

For NSSF to be in the headlines over blood donation with 4,000 units (applause, applause!) while the entire Civil Service has more than 300,000 employees working there and NOT being seen donating should be considered irritating, if not outright shameful.

We ALL need to be bleeding hearts about this, before our hearts need that blood and stop pumping because it isn’t available in the bank.

this year, let’s get the youngsters to save (for) Uganda

this year, let’s get the youngsters to save (for) Uganda

AT some point in December I was gallivanting round my neighbourhood and spotted a pile of curious-looking little boxes in a carpentry workshop.

My first thought was that they were some type of ‘Piggy Bank’ savings box made in a rudimentary but apparently effective manner for the use of little children. I had no clue what gave cause to that being the first option to come to mind, as I had been feeling irritated for months by the specific direction commercial bank advertising here takes.

I have watched this for years, and like any other ordinary Ugandan lacking in astute personal finance skills, have fallen prey. See, we don’t encourage saving money as much as we do spending it in this country.

As late as November 2017 I was catching radio adverts with high tone melodious backdrops to hyper lively voices enticing people to apply for loans to “win” stuff like “free TVs and airtime”.

The concept has always angered me especially because we appear to have a large population of people who are gainfully employed to levels that enable them to sign up for these loans, and yet not insufficiently intelligent to avoid the debt trap.

I have imagined many a time before that commercial banks would be better served by encouraging people to save more money and get them to take loans for things that will enable them to earn the money they need to pay back with interest. But I am no banker and certainly not an economist of the lofty levels that cause banks to make huge profits, so I probably can’t advise them properly.

If life were fair, though, the authority that supervises public advertising – like the Uganda Advertising Authority (it doesn’t exist – we have the private-sector Uganda Advertising Association instead) would monitor and veto all advertising that hoodwinks people in any small measure.

If life were fair there would certainly be no hope for a campaign that gets people to participate in a lottery while becoming indentured for a major portion of their productive future.

This stuff went through my mind swiftly as I walked over to the carpenters with the little boxes to establish what they were for – and I was blown away by the declaration that they were “Savings Boxes”!

The carpenters were surprised at my demand that they explain their motivation for making those particular items. The plain little boxes, made of the cheapest wood possible and clearly put together from off-cuts, cost just Ushs2,000 each.

I bought the entire lot and have gone back thrice since in four weeks.

My mission? To distribute as many of the boxes as possible to all nieces and nephews I come across in the next few weeks, along with a quick tutorial in saving money and a pledge from them that they would spend 2018 filling their allotted boxes with savings. They also get to colour and decorate their boxes so that they are personalised and fun to own.

Their parents are conscripts, and will find themselves having to provide pocket money and other revenue in exchange for work done by the children while avoiding child labour breaches. Weekend outings will not involve money being spent on fast food and sweets, but put into the hands of the children with reminders that they should keep some for insertion into the savings boxes.

My experiences with this approach have been so successful that I don’t directly suffer expenses such as mobile phone and airtime purchases. The children have allowances of their own that they bank daily using a journal system.

It is satisfying to see it in action – as first happened when one rolled out a ledger and ordered for an iPhone online – but also inconvenient when they rack up high numbers and come collecting together!

Nevertheless, while I keep lowering the radio volume when commercial bank adverts start encouraging people to take loans to spend on consumables, I will also be pushing this savings box initiative so these little ones are less likely to enter into the debt traps that many of our lives have become.

The next step in my plan will involve teaching them about interest on savings. By coincidence this week, one of my colleagues at work, Conrad Van Niekerk (a charming fellow of South African origin but Ugandan spirit) told us of the practical lessons his mother – a banker – taught him.

Once, when he had just left home and was setting himself up, he borrowed 600 Rand from her to buy a television, and saved up over a few months to pay her back. When he hit the mark he walked into her bank office proudly and handed her the money in full, beaming with pride at how impressed she would be.

She took it, gave him a warm motherly smile, and then replaced it with the seriousness of a banker, “That should be 623 Rand and twelve cents – but you can keep the 12 cents!”

He paid the interest.

My children have no idea how soon that story is coming their way…but with THEM earning the interest from their savings, rather than having to pay it when they borrow money.