we need to become serious – on a national level. all of us.


Child in front seat
NOT Uganda – but an ignorant parent doing that daft thing of having a child sit on their lap in the front seat as they drive. (Photo from quora.com)

Forgive me because I am angry about the Lake Victoria Boat Tragedy that has consumed us in many ways for over a week. My anger is as justified as yours, having lost a close relative in the tragedy, besides other people I knew.

But I am not as angry at how unnecessary this tragedy was, as I am irritated by how many bright ideas everyone suddenly seems to have about how it could have been avoided yet we risk life and limb daily in so many ways.

Too many people in this country do not take life seriously – or, said differently, too many people in this country don’t take the avoidance of death seriously.

Among the people rightly and loudly declaring that the boat operators should have provided life jackets and the victims should have worn them, for instance, are people who we see every single day driving round without seat belts even if these seat belts are provided in their motor vehicles.

Some of these people, in spite of their education levels, often drive around with their infant children seated in the front seat of their cars – highly discouraged by all safety experts and even casual observers who might not be educated but can think critically. To make matters worse, most of these children wouldn’t be wearing seat belts in the back seats of those vehicles either!

Many other Ugandans hop onto boda-bodas in Kampala’s stiff traffic and flatly refuse to wear helmets. Some will use flimsy reasons like the lack of hairnets to presumably protect them from lice as if lice is a bigger problem than the effect of slamming one’s head against the ground at a high rate of progress.

The number of stupid things we do that put our lives at risk every single day are confounding and probably cause more deaths on a daily basis than the highly visible tragedy that hit us so hard this weekend.

Few of the people on that boat appear to have lacked a university degree, meaning that they knew – from primary school lessons – about the need for life jackets, and other safety measures. Too few of us think about this every day.

Because we tend to think more of what is on the surface than the foundation of things, too few of us are ready change our behavior so that we save more lives – including our own.

Some people have said the capsized boat was poorly maintained – which is highly likely to be true, judging from reports I heard more than a year ago about the same vessel. So, how many of us are maintaining our personal vehicles properly every single day – equipping them with all the right protective equipment including fire extinguishers and even first aid boxes?

When we buy our second-hand, twenty-year old vehicles, discarded from other countries mostly for reasons of the personal safety of their original owners and the environment of their countries of origin, do we first clean them out and tool them for roadworthiness in Uganda, for our own personal safety and the environment of this country?

Yes – go and check, then come back to finish reading this.

Vehicles aside, our disregard for preservation for life in spite of all the schooling we undergo is a sign of the concept of education in this country not being translated to life in the real world.

That’s the only explanation that can work for any educated person to entrust the lives and upbringing of their children to a person whose wage value per month is LESS THAN the equivalent of the cost of one week’s groceries in the very same home.

Look, we educated people employ domestic staff whose pay is so low that they wear second-hand underwear and in most cases live unhygienic personal lives of their own, but we expect them to handle our food and our children without passing on a single germ.

During the burial ceremony of Isaac Kayondo, one of the young victims of the Black Weekend, one speaker who went to help with rescue efforts narrated his interaction with askaris at the Marina where boats launched from. It was clear what the caliber of the Askari he spoke to was, and that there was no way the fellow could have stopped a vessel unworthy for travel.

The harrowing stories from the rescue efforts, also, made me think – how many friends do I (read YOU) have who can perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should the need arise? Or any other form of First Aid? Can I (read YOU) do it myself, if a friend is in trouble?

I have even more questions but the right answers to all of them is a change in the way we behave and apply our education to ensuring we live long, healthy, productive lives.

a generation that moved the nation


Malaika Nnyanzi is an erudite and elegant, beautiful and brilliant young lady. She is smart in most respects and so well-spoken that she is often called upon to direct events of a mostly glitzy and glamorous nature.

The World Premiere of the movie 27 Guns was one such event.

The set up in the Metroplex Mall changed that nowadays-dreary venue into a glittering hall offering an array of displays all in support of the story that the movie re-created.

Malaika fitted in very well with the smartly-dressed guests, all in their black bow ties and flowing evening dresses. With her co-EmCee of the night, Dr. Mitch Egwang, she chaperoned our thoughts and kept the tempo high and befitting of a movie premiere of this nature, graced by Citizen Number One – the President himself.

She said one of the most profound things of the night – of which there was no shortage – at the end of the viewing:

“On behalf of all the millennials here and out there, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you! I would NEVER EVER have realised what the Bush War meant, what sacrifice, pain and heriosm went into this.”

Her voice was shaking as she said this, and the hesitant microphone didn’t help either. Like most people in that cinema hall, her eyes were quite moist.

Walking out of the camera flashes of the Premiere Reception floor into that dark cinema to spend an hour under flashes of AK-47 and mortar shell fire on screen silenced us all. Going from an hour and a half of looking at three hundred people in smart formal wear into that cinema hall to watch a small band of rag-tag, unkempt men and women in assorted military fatigues was disorienting.

The juxtaposition of the two settings was probably unintended but worked quite well – as will the juxtaposition of the normal, day-to-day lives of the type of people who will be walking or driving off the streets of Kampala into cinema halls to watch 27 Guns.

The movie is not the normal, hero-based fiction that we normally go to cinemas for, but it is not a documentary, as such, either. It is based on real events and recreated according to the accounts – written and verbal – of the people who were there.

In your seat, for those more than one and a half hours, you develop a high sense of trapped anguish along with the combatants and civilians of the time – which, besides the millennials, was most of us in the hall sent back in time.

Malaika’s situation was understandable and proved the success of 27 Guns. If these couple of hours just watching that movie makes one feel this way, imagine what it was really like back then for the people who actually spent all those years in the thick of that action?

But there are two aspects to this movie, that should both be taken seriously.

The Opening Prayer at the Premiere was delivered by Lorna Magara, who captured both quite clearly, “…that this movie will specifically speak to our people, young and old – reminding us of our history and God’s grace over us all these years.” and that the movie be, “…shot out as God’s arrow, silencing every contention against Uganda, speaking not just for Uganda and it’s people but resounding across the world on behalf of all the African people!”

See, after the idea formed and grew in her mind, Natasha Karugire started putting together the elements required to make a movie of this nature but kept getting repulsed and questioned by the world outside of Uganda.

There was so much skepticism about the possibility of the story being interesting on its own and more interest in fictionalising it, that she pulled back and decided to do it herself. Using Ugandans in Uganda and keeping it authentic and realistic. Just as she promised when Isaiah 60 Productions was launched – this was an opportunity for Ugandans to tell their own stories to the world by themselves.

She packed up her crew and cast, headed for the Luwero triangle and months later her strategy had worked, just as the Bush War did 32 years ago. Malaika Nnyanzi’s little speech made that quite clear.

27 Guns Image

kamwe, kamwe, nigwo muganda…you will never get enough of this


Kamwe, Kamwe from newvision.co.ug
Photo from http://www.newvision.co.ug – thank you!

The day Rita Kenkwanzi called my number was extra busy for many reasons and ordinarily I would have left my phone at home to avoid distractions.

I took her call, having no clue who was on the other end, and she quickly introduced herself then explained that “Ralph” had given her my number. I don’t know many Ralph’s but that situation wasn’t critical. She was calling, she said, to thank me for mentioning her book in a recent article and to give me a personalised copy of ‘Kamwe, Kamwe, Nigwo Muganda…and other lessons from my father‘.

“Thank you, but you can simply autograph the copy I have,” I said, but she insisted her end.

It didn’t make sense to me because from my reading of her superb book she was young and very intelligent – surely she should be trying to make as much money off the publication as possible?

We eventually met last weekend and she confirmed my feelings – about the money objective and many other things.

Like its author, ‘Kamwe, Kamwe, Nigwo Muganda‘ is simple but brilliant, elegantly put together, pointed, positive, unconventional and difficult to get out of one’s head.

When I first started reading the book I got to the second page when I first paused to think about who and how old the author was. I was pleased that she was going to teach me about one of our cultures, and excited that the learning was going to be so eloquently put.

A few more paragraphs in and my mind had began to boggle at how rich this book actually was. I sensed a kindred at her attitude when one publisher she approached with the book asked why her father qualified to be written about.

“Who is he? Is he a politician? Musician? Is he a public figure perhaps?” asked the publisher, who Rita has asked me not to reveal at any point – a pledge I made without elevating it to a promise.

She went ahead until she got it done – which is another reason this book is so meaningful. If more of us out here were like Rita Kenkwanzi this country would reach middle-income status before the promised deadline.

That was one of the reasons I gave her to encourage her to print and sell more copies of ‘Kamwe, Kamwe, Nigwo Muganda‘.

The other, more serious one, is the reason for the book. She decided, at her father’s 65th birthday celebration, that the man meant so much to her that a speech at the dinner just wouldn’t be enough.

For about three months she combined her literary skill, remarkable energy, curiosity, some money, her old soul and a deep-rooted love of her parents and her culture, and emerged with ‘Kamwe, Kamwe, Nigwo Muganda‘.

“Friends, we are here,” she writes at the start, “I could have harnessed all my energies to writing a brilliant collection of essays about Nelson Mandela or Kwame Nkrumah but neither of these men took my face in their hands and wiped the traces of soup from the edges of my mouth, before teaching me how to hold my spoon correctly.”

Even stopping there, one would already be a better person.

Rita Kenkwanzi defeated that publisher whose thinking is deep inside an awkward box most of us reside in here in this country; the idea that we only say good things about people we care about when they have died; that we only write or talk about people when they have achieved big things; that our expression of thoughts, ideas and feelings should be verbal rather than written…

I suggested to her that ‘Kamwe, Kamwe, Nigwo Muganda‘ was the exact opposite of a Funeral Order of Service – it is much more complete; more carefully put together than most; celebrates the life of a person who is living and has therefore read it; and, most of all, it is complete in many ways funerals don’t allow us.

Her father, Christmas Benon Godfrey Kataama, ‘Chris’ for short, is the key focus of her book but Rita introduces us to a large section of her family going back generations. It is a history lesson delivered in a lively fashion by a lively spirit. And she did it so well that there are more people out there following suit!

When I finally sat down with Rita I was taken aback by how consistent she was. ‘Kamwe, Kamwe, Nigwo Muganda‘ reveals how introverted and yet cheeky she is, which she proved when she told me the Saturday plans I was interrupting.

More: when my pet dogs came frolicking around her she froze in terror – proving the bit in the book when Chris returned home during a lunch hour and she lost valuable time opening the gate for him because the dogs were loose in the compound.

He talked her through it and she let him in, and reading that episode made me warm at the thought of how many fathers raise their daughters in this way – guiding them through their fears, encouraging them to try the impossible, and never giving up on the job.

The more time you spend with her, the more you realise how old this young lady’s soul is. I shook my head when she held up her Polaroid-type instant camera and showed me the last prints she had taken because she “like(s) capturing the moment in the moment…”

Actually, one of the reasons she even read the first article in which I mentioned her book was her old soul and her love of reading. That article was my take on the superb book, ‘The Call Of The Peacock‘ by Mahendra Mehta – and it’s here: https://skaheru.com/2018/07/05/heed-the-call-of-the-peacock/

In that article I mentioned the book, ‘Dream Half Expressed: An Autobiography‘ – written by Mehta’s father, Nanji Kalidas that inspired many to venture out and chase their dreams.

One of those that was inspired by it found a very old copy of the book in his father’s library and has since read it many times over is a mutual friend – Isaac Kayonde – who turns out to be quite close to Rita. Rita herself has been eagerly waiting to get access to it.

When she turned up she had the copy, carefully enclosed in a cellophane wrapper, and presented it to me for my holding and viewing (NOT reading) pleasure. That pleasure will only be exceeded by my one day reading the words in that book.


But back to ‘Kamwe, Kamwe, Nigwo Muganda‘, I insisted to Rita that she had to print and sell more copies of the book, so that more Ugandans could enjoy and be influenced by it. She was reluctant – her introverted side in control. Her father is quite the same way, and had tried to reject the book as “Too much” when she first presented it.

We argued the point, over printing and selling more copies, till she agreed – provided the proceeds went to a charity or to funding school libraries in her home district.

She is a determined young lady, so I know that this shall come to pass – just as many more of us will be writing our own books to celebrate our loved ones while they are still with us here on earth.

Kamwe, Kamwe, Nigwo Muganda‘ may have started a revolution that many will thank Chris Kataama for. – because he raised her and enriched her life to inspire this beautiful publication.

suffer the little children…or NOT!


Children In Dangerous Situations
Modified from memegenerator.net

SATURDAY afternoon, as I was driving from a brief Daddy-chore, I got to Kintu Road in Kitintale and joined a brief queue of cars on either side whose occupants mostly had the hairs on the backs of their necks standing on horrified ends.

My view was better than that of the people in the cars behind a large truck at the head of the oncoming queue. The three cars ahead of me facing that truck were all small salon vehicles whose occupants were certainly as petrified as I was at what we saw.

Standing in the middle of the road in front of the large truck was a little boy, not more than one year old, dressed in a dark blue shirt and matching pair of shorts. Having been alive for so short a time, he had no idea how close he was to dying at that very point.

Human beings generally believe in the supernatural because of the way that truck driver managed to spot that little boy in the middle of the road and actually stop before flattening him to the tarmac.

All the cars stopped and stayed still until someone, who turned out to be a fairly random man, came from across the road and lifted the little fellow to safety. The women who formed the welcoming committee on the other side of the road received the infant without much fan-fare.

One elderly one called to a younger one who made quarrelsome noises down at him and then, fueled by the various remarks by her neighbours in the collection of houses and rooms nearby, pushed him to the ground with the instruction, in Luganda, that he should “Go back and stay there!”

The poor fellow, not comprehending why this was happening to him, burst into tears, picked himself up, and shuffled with his dust-covered back towards the area his mother had pointed to. One minute ago he was on the flat, hot tarmac dancing a baby jig with all those fantastic vehicles whizzing past while someone played loud music nearby, and the next he was covered in dust and being hit over the head.

The lugezi-gezi kicked in and I had to strike up a conversation, but not with the errant young mother – with the elderly one who I insisted should have known better and had a responsibility to guide the other.

She started by explaining that the child had followed his unknowing mother and then strayed, but I cut her short – at which point she summoned the offending mother.

No – I wasn’t going to arrest her even though she deserved it, I said, as the offending mother also tried to explain that the little one had just followed her…I lost my patience a little bit and explained that it was mostly poultry that walked around and expected their young to follow in a straight line, but that even THEY check occasionally.

It took many more minutes of conversation till they both agreed that children should be treated with a little more care. I was neither convinced that mother would change nor decided that I should go back on a daily basis to check up on the boy’s upbringing.

2018 and children are still being raised to the background tune of “Nja kukuba!”?

Yep – that phrase many people of past generations heard as they pranced around and frolicked: “Nija kuteera!/Nta kupiga!” and so on and so forth!

The offending mother, in this case, confessed to being 22 years of age and agreed that she didn’t know better. She couldn’t look me in the eye, out of what I hoped was shame but feared might be fear – which was why I had asked to speak with her elder friend, neighbour and possibly mother.

She was only raising her child the way she knew children were raised. By not being given too much attention for too long. By not being held by the hand at every step of the way. By not being repeatedly given emotional validation. By not getting any soft treatment when they make mistakes of any nature.

Because life is harsh and hard.

That cycle has to be broken – not by raising children who are spoilt and soft and won’t make a success of themselves in the harsh world. But by teaching them responsibility and the positive values that make us a positive people.

By stopping them from getting into harm’s way when they are young and tender, but teaching them how to survive should hard come to them when they are older.

used schoolbags from Japan? we aren’t really learning how to develop our country, are we?


Ashinaga

IF you missed this story last week, let’s go back a bit: ‘Japanese NGO complains about high taxes’.

The story says that this NGO, Ashinaga Uganda, “threatened to stop the importation of learning materials for children from Japan to Uganda, if the Government keeps imposing high taxes on the materials.”.

The Ashinaga Director, Yoshihiro Imamura, complained because this year they imported 400 schoolbags into Uganda and got charged Ushs17million in taxes for it.

Quick mathematics make that appear to be a tax of Ushs42,500 levied against each and every schoolbag.

I smiled when I read that because I’ve written on these very pages about a lady called Rose Nakitto, of Mulago, who makes schoolbags and rucksacks out of kitenge and other bits of cloth right here in Uganda. Her bags go for as little as Ushs35,000 each —> and the story is here again for your information: https://skaheru.com/2016/08/19/get-yourself-a-rose-nakitto-or-a-ricci-everyday-asap/.

In those articles about Rose Nakitto, I mentioned a Japanese business called ‘Ricci Everyday’ that does the EXACT OPPOSITE of this Ashinaga Uganda – they make bags IN Uganda and export them to Japan. Their bags are of a very good quality (they sell some in Uganda) and earn respectably large amounts of money for the Ugandan women who use their hands to make them.

So my sympathies for Ashinaga are zero for this particular element. According to their website they do quite a lot for orphans in different countries, which efforts started in Uganda.

Thank you, Ashinaga – don’t stop trying to do good.

But, in the process, let’s avoid the unhelpful bits and also look at ourselves as Ugandans and feel a little ashamed, while applauding the Uganda Revenue Authority for being so stringent with this tax collection.

They might have arguments backing them such as the need for a punitive tax to stop other countries using up our landfills instead of their own. Or that the Ushs17million will be used to set up factories for the manufacture of materials so that we export brand new schoolbags to export to Japan.

See, the Ashinaga explanation of what they are doing is that they collect used schoolbags from children in Japan and donate them to orphans here.

“The Japanese Ambassador to Uganda, Kazuaki Kameda, said bags in Japan were given to children as a congratulatory gift for admission into primary school,” reads the story.

That is a good tradition – and we must presume that those congratulatory gifts in Japan are brand new, ‘Made in Japan’ schoolbags and NOT second-hand ones imported from another country.

We already import second-hand cars made in Japan but mostly because we don’t manufacture them here (yet). But schoolbags? I won’t even go into what the possible costs are of collecting and loading and transporting these second-hand schoolbags is, compared to Rose Nakitto’s Ushs35,000.

And that’s why some of us have to feel shamed by this. Do we really lack 400 Ugandans who can’t buy schoolbags from Rose Nakitto and donate them to these orphans? At Ushs35,000 each, these schoolbags cost about as much as a higher-end buffet lunch or a couple of drinks at a snazzy Kampala ‘lounge’.

I know I can list 400 Ugandans whose daily fuel budget is the cost of this schoolbag – you know yourselves.

There must be 400 Ugandans, surely, who can each put a new schoolbag onto a boda-boda and send it to Nansana at an extra cost of Ushs10,000 – that’s the cost of a cheap bottle of whisky, a couple of cartons of water, a few kilos of sugar…

Let’s see – what would I choose between a programme called “the Japanese Schoolbags for Primary School Children in Uganda” in 2018 for 400 orphans in Uganda to receive second-hand bags across 365 days of the year and Ushs17million tax plus the opportunity to create a local schoolbag industry?