we will soon have boulders thrown at us if we aren’t mindful of the disadvantaged


WhatsApp Image 2017-12-01 at 20.24.22
The smaller rocks by the roadside. Photo by Simon Kaheru

OF recent I have taken up a new daily commute down a road that presents nostalgic value that will be the subject of another tale some day.

This marram road, going through a small trading centre whose real name I am yet to establish, helps me cut my commute by about half on most days.

Sometimes, though, the strategy is confounded by external factors such as heavy rain and truck drivers who care very little about anything five metres away from their steering wheels.

One such time a couple of weeks ago, a couple of container carrying trucks got stuck into the muddy marram and blocked progress at rush hour. We found ourselves turning around and following a fellow who knew a route that went through a village called Kireku – and I still don’t know how we knew to follow that driver.

As we navigated the narrow dirt road squeezing past houses angled randomly, we got to a group of little children chanting and waving us along. I was astounded when I got close enough to hear their chants.

“Mutuviire! Mutuviire! Mutuviire!” they repeated, all smiles as if they were singing that “You are wellokam” song. (‘Mutuviire’ means, “Depart from us” or “Leave our space”!)

There are horror movies that follow this theme – using small children doing surprisingly cold things while smiling to catch you off guard. I drove home silently pondering over who could have coached those children to gather and chant like that.

Back in the day, or in most other places (I presume) little children like that would wave smilingly at you as you drove past.

Then last week, driving through the dust in the evening behind one of many reckless drivers along that road, I noticed him swerving quickly into the centre of the road. I normally drive slowly because of visibility through that thick brown dust, and I am outnumbered by the stupid, selfish people who speed right through it from one end to the other.

Those are the drivers who don’t care at all for the residents along that road, always raising piles of dust that settles quickly onto the clothes, food and wares of the people living and operating in those shacks, kiosks and houses set admittedly too close to the road.

The idiotic driver in front of me that day, who was speeding behind an equally idiotic driver, was forced to swerve quickly into the middle of the road because of the realisation  that there was a boulder in his path. I saw that boulder, about three metres high and a couple of metres thick, in good time and calmly evaded it.

In the morning, going the other way, I noticed that there was an increasing number of such rocks and boulders in the road. They were placed specifically at points designed to force drivers to slow down and raise less dust or splash less water, depending on the weather.

That was a fair enough intervention, I thought to myself, and even though I could only imagine the discomfort of the residents from the speeding  vehicles I was worried about the malice involved in placing the rocks and boulders.

Many of the small piles were positioned, like the boulder of the evening before, in such a way as to trap cars one way or another. That malice, was borne out of those residents being fed up of the mindlessly selfish manner in which drivers speed down that road raising dust or muddy water with little regard for the little people living and working right there.

Personally, I continue to drive carefully and pledge to always be mindful of those residents so that I don’t run into one of those boulders, and I hope other drivers take this into account as well.

I have a lot to say about how mindless we are as road users, and how we will fully deserve to run into massive boulders one day. Those who speed around with convoys and sirens, the ones who skip lanes and create traffic jams, the ones who drive up on our miserable pavements and push pedestrians off…the list is long.

And I fear this is not just about roads, but soon we will hear more chants of “Mutuviire” from the most unlikely sources. And if we are not well mannered enough to think of others as we do what we do, we should be scared or threatened into being mindful of the little people by the side of the road…before they pick up those boulders and actually throw them at us.

where did OUR ancient, efficient medical prowess disappear to, that we need missionaries today?


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Photo from http://www.wral.com

THE year is 2017, the month October, just a couple of days ago. I opened up an emailed link to a story about a team of medical professionals from the United States of America who are performing surgeries at a hospital in Kampala.

Every day after that, I have received daily updates from and about this team of medical professionals.

It is good work, of course, whenever a life is saved, an illness cured, or a pain relieved. I can’t complain about that – ever.

But when I read lines like, ” Many people are watching as these surgeries are also meant to be training for medical staff here in Kampala, that they may continue the work after the Americans leave…” and “Some have had symptoms for years, as long as a decade and didn’t have the money to get treated, or could not find a doctor with the expertise needed.” and ” having the American surgeons from Duke come here and getting these surgeries is truly ‘a miracle.'” I get a little uncomfortable.

I can’t blame the Americans, of course, for positioning as saviours in most situations – it is a status they have enjoyed for most of my life, at least. Most of the movies and stories we have grown up on have them saving the world from Adolf Hitler to aliens from outer space.

My discomfort was at the memory of discovering some years ago that a foreign historian had recorded the fact that hundreds of years ago there were people here in Uganda conducting the equivalent of Caesarean Section operations.

One book records, “In 1884, British doctors were therefore intrigued to learn that a sophisticated abdominal procedure had taken place five years earlier in the African kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitanga, whose inhabitants had experienced minimal contact with the rest of the world until the 1860s.”

That “Bunyoro-Kitanga” was actually “Bunyoro-Kitara”, and please note already that the British doctors were surprised that even WITHOUT lots of contact with the outside world, these Africans seemed capable of doing things.

Continues the book, “In a lecture to the Edinburgh Obstetrical Society, medical missionary Robert W. Felkin (1853-1926) described a caesarean section carried out by Banyoro surgeons at Kahura, Uganda in 1879. Both mother and child had survived, and the expertise involved came as something of a surprise to those who saw Africans as a bunch of savages wandering about waiting for someone to come and civilise them.”

See, up until that point, most operations of that nature only saved the child and NOT both mother and child.

In that surgery by my long gone relatives, anaesthasia was conducted using banana wine, and had special knives for the purpose – some of which are now “part of the Wellcome Collection in London”, a museum of sorts there.

Book Extract

It is confounding to even consider how we got from there to today’s situation where troops of foreign doctors come here to conduct surgeries and everyone hopes that the lessons stay with us. To a day where we have headlines about a mother losing her child in a hospital because of “lack of supplies”, and many unwritten stories about mis-diagnosis and patient mishandling left, right and centre.

Our Makerere University is listed on www.topuniversities.com with a favourable ranking on the continent specifically for Medicine. And I know for a fact that there are many Ugandans out there being lauded for their professionalism and dexterity at medicine and science.

AND we have so many medical professionals winning awards and accolades out there for outstanding research and even life-sacrificing bravery when things like Ebola break out on the other side of the continent.

So why, oh, why, do we still have missionaries coming here to save Ugandans and show us how it is done? Why aren’t we sending missionaries from Mulago to Kaabong to do surgeries there? Or even, from that Bunyoro-Kitara university of medicine whose name I cannot find anywhere, to Puerto Rico where they don’t even have electricity right now? Why aren’t our scientists re-discovering and re-creating anaesthetic methods out of the Banana Wine as our ancestors did as recently as 1879?

What will it take for us to re-discover our belief in ourselves to actually do the professional work that we are equipped, educated and expected to do, in a manner that makes us stand out for the rest of the world? What is that missing ingredient that will make all Ugandans of all professions and walks of life – medical, military, journalism, administration, education, political even – do their utmost best so we emulate those doctors of Bunyoro-Kitara in 1879 who amazed the British by their skill and knowledge?

So many questions, yet the answers can’t come quickly enough amid this haze of politics and whatnot.

urban planners in kampala, please HELP?!


From redpepper.co.ug - Bukoto-Heights-Apartments
Bukoto Heights Apartments (Photo from http://www.redpepper.co.ug)

Dear Urban Planners and People In Charge of decisions such as which buildings of what type go where and how, Please HELP? The only way we can stop begging you to help is if you implement the stuff you went to school to learn.

I haven’t been to those schools or gone through the academic process you did, so I can’t say for sure that you are taught these things in those official forums; since I presume you live and work in places like Kampala, I hope that you share the pain most of us do.

Having just resumed driving my own vehicle last weekend, I was unprepared for the entire experience of getting from one place to another in one emotionally sound piece – and I can only blame the urban planning people.

To start with, leaving home was more difficult because there are yet MORE apartment blocks going up in the area where I reside. This means that there are MORE motor vehicles being parked in the neighborhoods there overnight, and needing to leave in the mornings for life. It also means that there are MORE motor vehicles visiting the neighborhoods during the day, and occasionally MORE celebrations during the day.

It is paragraphs such as the above that I would assume get written down in text books and notes of people studying urban planning. See, some of the buildings contain apartments with three bedrooms, for instance, which means that they will probably be occupied by a family. That family, in an upscale neighborhood, will almost certainly consist of two adults both gainfully employed in busy jobs that will require them to have a different car each.

When urban planners and those people who approve construction projects don’t take that into consideration and therefore demand that the investors in these apartment blocks create sufficient parking space, we end up having our already narrow neighborhood roads crammed with cars parked by the roadside.

Because the already narrow roads don’t have pavements or sidewalks, pedestrians walk weaving through the roadside cars and suddenly pop up in front of you on the road as you carefully drive through trying to avoid scratching cars on either side. Luckily, you are incapable of driving at speeds that could occasion vehicular bloodshed, but the anguish of avoiding said bloodshed tends to pile up.

By the time you leave the residential area and make it onto the main roads, therefore, you cannot be in a mellow frame of mind, and that makes you less prepared to deal with the discourtesy of your fellow motor vehicle operators. The rapid accumulation of motor vehicles at specific points of the road necessitates the deployment of traffic officers to create a semblance of order but they are normally as lacking in humour as you, the drivers, are.

One can’t blame them as much as the urban planners, whose fault at this point is the failure to increase the number of road connections from point to point in order to ease the flow of traffic. Where I reside, for instance, there are only three roads leading to the main roads, but many others that are called “Closes” because they close up at the gates of private residences.

These residences, urban legend has it, are mostly illegal – having been constructed smack in the middle of a road that should connect to other roads as the urban plans indicate.

The urban plans probably include some maps and should be in the custody of the urban planning people who would, under normal circumstances, take the necessary corrective action so that life is made easier for all Ugandans. I cannot explain why it doesn’t happen, which is why I go about my business as normally as last weekend when I went through this anguish to visit a relative on the other side of town.

En route to my destination I stopped over at a supermarket to pick up a small gift and was directed to the basement parking of the so-called Mall housing the supermarket. As I descended into the dark pit of the building I switched my car lights on and noticed that many of the pillars holding the building up were chipped at the edges.

A car emerging from the basement made it clear why. Within seconds I found myself in a panic because the departing vehicle turned a millisecond too early and was suddenly stuck in position, as was I because of another vehicle behind mine, and another behind that one, all causing a fresh traffic jam from the road into the basement of the building!

I’m certain that in our minds we all bore colourful thoughts about the urban planning people who approved the plans that created a basement with pillars placed so close to each other and the walls. The fellow in the departing car, though, became the most aggrieved when his car chipped off another bit of the edge of the pillar as he tried to make his escape from the dungeon.

Some of this would have been avoided, I’m sure, if the urban planners had considered the nature of the tenants and users of such buildings before approving plans; if each and every one of the tenant shops in that building had one car parked in the basement full-time, then the hundreds of shoppers driving in would always be squeezing their cars in between the spaces left over and against walls and pillars.

That’s another reason the urban planners need to revisit those lessons about public transportation systems and how they fit into the arrangement of buildings in towns and cities. Malls placed in locations far removed from where mass transport stops exist will most certainly be used by car owners – otherwise how are people to carry their shopping home?!

HELP US, we beg you, and revisit all your learnings from school?

leadership is in a crisis from the united states to anywhere…even Uganda


POLITICAL Leadership the world over is taking a hit.

The Leader of the world’s Super Power is a petulant, foul-mouthed, misogynistic character whose ascendence to the top seat in the world’s so-called bastion of ‘freedom’ appalled the most idealistic of us out there.

Despicable Donald Trump
From http://www.businessinsider.com 

 

 

 

It was simply a sign of the times to come. There are many words we employ to describe people who behave the way this world leader does; some polite yet very apt – like ‘despicable’ – while others are too rude to be put into print.

For a long time, closer to home, we have seen these signs manifesting themselves mostly because of the activity that has taken centre stage for long years of political campaigning.

 

Sadly for us, the political activity and campaigns continue to focus more on the campaigns and attainment of positions and titles of ‘leadership’ rather than the results of that leadership.

This Tuesday was less surprising than disappointing, and not because of the usual reasons.

Having been locked up in a Leadership Retreat to discuss matters of seeming importance that would not be affected by the lifting or not of Age Limits anywhere in the world, I emerged from the Board Room in the evening to an amazing array of astonishing videos and social media messages.

The first stood out because of the vivid colour involved. Initially I took it to be some masterful disinformation and sabotage; how could I just believe that an adult who is currently in the public eye could dress up all in bright yellow and drive a bright yellow vehicle of a distinct make and model, then park it by the roadside and not expect to be recognized?

Abiriga Peeing
Someone urinating against a wall in public (From http://www.newvision.co.ug)

Even more, would I not be intellectually careless to simply accept it to be true that the brightly-clad adult would then stop close to the Parliament building where the world’s eyes are focused for the nonce, and still not think that someone would notice them?

More to that, in this day and age of frantic and ubiquitous social media activity and heavy smart phone penetration, what self-respecting grown person would stand up against the wall and engage in a spot of public urination?

Before passing verdict, I trawled through my messages for important ones and was flabbergasted to get to a video clip that purported (I use this word very carefully, because I must tell the children that all this is made up fiction) to be an interview with the same yellow-clad gentlemen suspected of public urination.

I watched the video once and decided that the words could have been doctored, even though the phrase “I was badly off” sounded authentic. I even found a Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Ordinance 6 of 2006 that read that any person who “commits a nuisance by easing himself or herself in any street or place of public resort…where he or she may be seen by the public…” commits an offence.

Offence of Easing Oneself.jpg

Abiriga Criminal Summons

A short while later, I realized that I was subconsciously trying to avoid addressing the images and footage of Representatives of the Ugandan population engaged in a scuffle that involved hurling chairs about the ‘august’ House. That word ‘august’ means “respected and impressive”.

One person on Twitter lamented at the possibility of the children of any of the people in the Parliamentary fight footage seeing their parents fighting with their workmates, in suits and ties.

Two other video clips depicted other national leaders running from security officials, and others involved insults and disparagements befitting of an American President.

Here’s the one of Odonga Otto being chased by Parliamentary security officials: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go2GNg0bEj4

Here’s the one of Moses Kasibante being chased by a policeman after jumping off a police pick-up truck: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvIeob4oUxA

There was no salvaging the day, in general, and I urged my phone battery to die quietly so I could rest.

The next morning, a friend of mine expressed his dismay over a snafu with an Operation Wealth Creation project upcountry that meant his mother was going to lose an investment worth Ushs100million.

See, the rains have started and she is ready to plant crops but…and as we were chatting I quickly checked to find out whether any Leader has recently given guidance to the Ugandan populace on agriculture, agribusiness, investment or any other ‘developmental’ issue.

Even though just six months ago we were talking about the drought being a national disaster, we are into the wet season and there is no noise being made about growing food crops and other such unimportant matters. We are all about ‘Politics’.

Finding that the Age Limit debate has dominated the conversation, I checked for a copy of the Bill that is causing so much national excitement that we have lost control of our adrenaline and bladders. All the intellectuals out there should surely have dissected it quite considerably left, right and centre?

Like most of you out there, I couldn’t find it, and I am not interested enough to really chase it down because supporting it is the least of my worries and has not been made desirable in any way, while opposing it appears both cliched and just as distasteful in action, as evidenced on Tuesday.

Indeed, today most everything to do with Politics (not Uganda, yet) is as undesirable and distasteful as finding old men engaged in public urination. In terms of Leadership, we are really badly off right now.

uganda: let’s delete the word ‘potential’ from our national dictionary


ON Wednesday morning I jumped out of bed as a rainstorm raged on outside trying to make it difficult for the lazy-minded to leave their beds.
I could have done with a few extra minutes of sleep that morning but the night before I had said something on a radio talk show about how unjustified it was for most of us to sleep at all, given the amount of work we needed to do to develop Uganda.
The thought that someone could call me out for spending longer in bed than I had publicly said was necessary drove me to my desk, so I was watching the storm through the window over the top of my computer as I made my day’s plan, thinking how happy the farming community must be about this weather change.
Only three people these past two weeks have spoken to me about the rains having started: My primary farming advisor (who is also my loving mother) , reminding me to make the necessary adjustments; my regular supplier of tree seedlings (@GreeningUganda), making a pitch for increased sales as per our standing arrangements; and the third, a friend’s highly energetic domestic employee, in a conversation.
This robust domestic employee, at a lunch party over the weekend, had me helping him move garden furniture because it was threatening to rain. “But are you sure it’s going to rain?” I asked him, to which he responded with a vigorously confident, “The rainy season has started. It will rain.”
The confidence with which he spoke stayed on my mind all through the sumptuous luncheon, and I thought to myself that this domestic worker must have had an agricultural background – like many of us do.
The neat, sprawling gardens in which we lunched were beautiful and vivid in colour and variety, and seeing this domestic employee flit about to and fro in the foreground of the floral compound made me wonder whether, with his knowledge of agriculture and vast amounts of energy, he would be using the rainy season to grow any crops, herbs, or spices for future luncheons to be had.
The potential of it all, I thought to myself, was massive!
Potential.jpg
Immediately, I mentally slapped myself round the back of my head. ‘Potential’. I am a little fed up of that word, in our context.
It means, my dictionary says, “having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future; and latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.
 
An hour or so later, I read an article that underscored why I dislike that word so much these days.
 
Uganda has potential to feed 200 million people – US envoy’, read the headline, followed by: “Uganda’s fertile agricultural land produces a wide range of food products and has the potential to feed 200 million people in the region and beyond,” said (Deborah) Malac.
This figure of 200 million was published by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations in August this year, and we have had tens of thousands other declarations of ‘Potential’ around Uganda.
We need to delete the word Potential from our national dictionary as soon as possible. If we don’t then we’re going to stay stuck at this Potentiality forever and ever.
Why does it irritate me?
Because we never seem to leave the Potential box and keep making headlines out of it instead of, ‘Uganda land deal boost for Centum’, as reported this week about Kenyan investors Centum buying up 14,000 acres of land in Uganda to grow maize and soya beans.
Those Kenyans are not dealing with just ‘Potential’ any more. Back in February 2011, a Centum official talked to a Ugandan newspaper about the Potential in Uganda, and today they are putting money onto the ground.
On the same day the newspapers were talking about that ‘Potential’ to feed 200 million people, I saw a news snippet about food relief being taken to the Kigezi region (for people affected by floods, not hunger) and sighed.
At that point, certain we won’t delete the word ‘Potential’ from our vocabularies soon, I stopped fretting over its existence.
Instead, I picked up my phone and contacted the friend who had hosted me to lunch over the weekend, to advise him to get his energetic domestic fellow to take advantage of the rainy season and plant some food-related things somewhere in the massive space surrounding his beautiful house now that the rains have started.