my uber guy is going to parliament


uber-redesign-russellwarwickJUST before Janani Luwum Day I took a short Uber to my last meeting of the day and chose not to plug in my earphones. I do that, sometimes, to listen from somebody fresh and, in this case, certainly more interesting than most people in the meeting I had just been discharged from.

Public transport operators fit in this category just as bartenders in movies do, and my chap that evening did not disappoint. I can’t recall why he got to musing over who pays for our national holidays and celebrations, but he was quite disturbed.

He wasn’t too bothered by the loss of revenue facing him because of the public holiday, he said. His concern was that somewhere, somehow, the money he spends on taxes was not being utilised properly. Every time he tuned into the news and saw government officials making speeches, he said, in front of crowds under marquees and tents, he felt he was losing money.

He reeled off a few random days in his recent past that had him thinking this, including Tarehe Sita Day.

Besides, he pondered, was he really expected to go to Church the next day to celebrate the late Archbishop Janani Luwum?

I was impressed by his thought process and pleased that I hadn’t plugged those earphones in. We had a brief discussion in which I told him he should take charge of his affairs and deal with his concerns as a good citizen should.

Voicing these concerns was a good beginning. Next, he needed to go straight to the people who determine how his taxes get spent. Luckily I didn’t need to detail for him how he and I actually fund the government; he struck me as being a university graduate with some enterprise that allowed him to also drive an Uber.

Nevertheless, like most of us he didn’t know which government office paid for all these events – but I had a clue and explained the allocation ministry by ministry for the most obvious events. Then I advised him to occasionally visit websites like www.budget.go.ug to see in real-time where the government is spending money and how.

Then, I suggested, he needed to find his Member of Parliament and tell him what he – the tax-paying citizen driving the Uber by which the government collects from fuel, airtime and corporation taxes – preferred for the money to be spent on.

This was the perfect time to engage in that exercise, I explained, as the national budget for the next financial year was in the process of being finalised. The key was to get to his MP, which detail he wasn’t sure of to start with, prompting a little more discussion of elementary civics. (This subject should be taught right from nursery school in this country.)

By then we had arrived at my destination and I feared it would be too complex for me to go into the nitty gritty of the process without losing my shirt to Uber waiting fees, so I suggested he follow the first step and establish exactly who his Member of Parliament is through www.parliament.go.ug.

I was pleasantly surprised when he emailed me a week later (for real!) to say he had discovered his MP was Paul Kato Lubwama (Independent). I was also saddened that the exercise had come to a seemingly abrupt end because the gentleman’s email address was not listed. His phone number was, though, so I hope my Uber guy invested in the airtime necessary to follow his concerns through to some end and prove that the citizen’s duty was carried out.

Even if he did stop at failing to send an email, this time round, my Uber guy had learnt something new quite at random and worked at it to make a difference to his society and his country.

shiyaya-easter-2017-flyer

taking a delicious peace to the world from the villages of Uganda


MONTHS ago, in response to an article I had written about books, a side-conversation began on email in which I was introduced to one Richard Sobol, about launching a book he had written on Uganda.

He already has four books about Uganda – ‘One More Elephant‘, ‘Breakfast In The Rainforest‘, ‘Abayudaya‘ and the one in question last year, ‘Delicious Peace‘.

The tone of the conversation seemed to suggest that the books were not already available or even known in Uganda even though they were about this beautiful country and its fantastic people.

I prodded a few people in our tourism sector but there was no interest whatsoever in his recent book even though books as a medium of communication are taken quite seriously in the ‘developed’ world, so much so that editors painstakingly comb through manuscripts to erase marketing-poised mentions of brands and other items that could benefit too much.

Breakfast In The Rainforest‘ (2010), for instance, is available on Amazon Online at US$7.99 (Ushs28,000) and piques the interest of most readers in the mountain gorilla. In fact, a couple of online reviews end with people saying they wanted to visit after reading it – even though it is classified as a children’s book.

By the way, Sobol is a photographer-writer, so his books are very visual.

Breakfast In The Rainforest‘ even carried an afterward by the actor Leonardo Di Caprio, to prove how popular Sobol’s work can be; and his other collaborations have been endorsed by the architect Frank Gehry, Robert F Kennedy Jr., and carried by publications like Time, The New York Times, Paris Match, Audubon, and National Geographic.

So I looked more keenly into his recent book, the one my contact, Author and Librarian Cathy Kreutter, was suggesting be promoted in Uganda.

Delicious Peace‘ led me straight to Namanyonyi, in Mbale, where the book is set, and I wasn’t reading it – I started at a YouTube video documentary about it that featured a 48-year old peace-loving coffee farmer in Mbale called J.J. Keki.

j-j-keki
This is J.J. Keki (Photo from: http://www.jewlicious.com)

He is also a musician, he said, over a video shot of himself singing with his village mates playing some simple instruments behind him. He wore a skull cap that I thought was a katalabusi but got distracted at that point in the video because suddenly I was watching the September 11 plane attack on the World Trade Centre!

 

Then this J.J. Keki, Mbale farmer-musician, told us he was in the United States and right at the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001 when the planes struck! He wanted to tour the place but it was hit and he had to flee the subway while watching the second building fall. Covered in dust, he fled along with thousands of others.

“That is when we learned that there were terrorists and these terrorists were connected with religion. When I flashed back to Uganda I said we should begin something. We have coffee, so maybe we make a co-op of Muslims, Christians, and my religion, I’m Jewish, and then we can teach the world how to work together,” he says.

Enter Peace (Mirembe) Kawomera Grower’s Society – the focus of ‘Delicious Peace’, a film about peace, harmony and coffee.

I was flabbergasted.

The rest of the story is gripping – not like the television dramas we hear about at award ceremonies, but if you respect peace, innovation, hard work and the triumphs that seemingly simple people achieve where complicated, rich, highly educated, urban-dwelling people many times fail to be useful, then you must watch that video, read the book, and read about Mirembe Kawomera.

I found that Mirembe Kawomera has been so successful as a coffee growers cooperative that they became certified as Fair Trade coffee suppliers into the United States – though not without challenges, as you will discover.

Plus, their music is on an album released by the Smithsonian Folkways project (in 2012) at US$16.98 (Ushs60,000).

“Village guitar groups and women’s choirs sing to stress the transformative impact of Fair Trade prices and to encourage their neighbours to join the coffee cooperative. Accompanied with xylophone, drums and other traditional instruments, these farmers sing of the benefits of interfaith cooperation and, through music, teach new cooperative members how to produce great coffee,” says an album description.

And more: “J. J. Keki, the founder of the cooperative, says: ‘Use whatever you have to create peace! If you have music, use your music to create peace. For us, we have coffee. We are using coffee to bring peace to the world.”

And they are doing it in Lugweri, Luganda, Lugisu and some English.

Is he on the list of national medal recipients? I haven’t heard his name yet. Is he on the list for a Nobel Peace Prize, in this world where the whole President of the United States can see no way of bringing people with divergent religious beliefs together? Not that I have been told or can find on the internet. Is he or is the cooperative even on a list of special exporters maintained by the Uganda Exports Promotion Board and Uganda Coffee Development Authority? Ask them – their email addresses and phone numbers are online, and so are the names of most of their officials.

On what list are J.J. Keki and the people of Mirembe Kawomera (Delicious Peace)? My list of good Ugandans doing simple things to make this country look and sound good.

I respect them highly for that, and thank them for giving me another brand of coffee to try and buy rather than any imported brand with a name that means nothing as important to me, personally, or all of us, nationally, as Mirembe Kawomera (Delicious Peace).

 

a little bit more about that colonial racism and Kampala…just a little bit


Benard Acema* whipped up quite the storm this week with his post The Racism Behind Kampala; most of the responses being the “What? How Could I Not Have Seen This Before?!” kind that satisfied the mind of a person who yearns for social change out of consciousness.

Some of the responses, though, ranged from those stating there could NOT have been racism in Uganda to others who claimed to have read all six thousand (6,000) words and taken away just one sentence in summary.

My favourite response came from Frank Morris Matovu, an Architect whose reaction was to calmly upload onto his Facebook wall more than ninety (90) pages of a 1955 book titled, ‘Town Planning In Uganda; A Brief Description Of The Efforts Made By Government To Control Development Of Urban Areas From 1915 to 1955‘, by Henry Kendall OBE, F.R.I.B.A., M.T.P.I, Director of Town Planning, Uganda.

Benard Acema’s intellectual and literary effort has proved̀ invaluable in many respects, including possibly causing a change to our education curriculum if the noises made by some of the people in charge are anything to go by.

Benard Acema tells me he had not read Kendall’s book by the time he wrote his thesis.

define-thesis

Those with literal minds and short fuses should go with the first dictionary definition of the word above, when dealing with Benard Acema’s work. The young man did what few others essay (no pun), linking his observations to thought and realisation and a little bit of research and then leading the rest of us to discovery.

Benard Acema’s thesis will be further dissected, proven or contested by various others in the worlds of social media, academia and even public administration, all of which will exclude me for now.

I only came here to share a few pages from Kendall’s book to aid your reading of Benard Acema, and to tell you to get a soft copy of the same directly from Frank Matovu. (He does not sell the book, but to aid his work compiling and storing such works, please feel free to make a modest contribution by way of Mobile Money to his number – 0758 483 934.)

But before you read the book, don’t be afraid of words like racism, colonialism and imperialism. Acknowledge the fact that they were a reality back then when the colonialists first took over Uganda. Nothing about that should be surprising. What we need to do, as many of the commenters said, is get rid of those ‘isms’ and their negative impacts where they may exist which includes dealing with both the big and the small items. 
define-racism

define-colonialism define-imperialism

Do all three ‘isms’ still exist in Kampala, or Uganda? Benard Acema had valid points to make in that regard, that led to all that debate.

And now, on to the historical facts about settlement in Kampala (and other urban centres), and the question of racism or otherwise:

the-development-of-kampala

Of course there was land reserved for Africans and other land for non-Africans.

the-development-of-kampala-kibuga

the-development-of-kampala-ii

🙂

the-development-of-kampala-iii

Read that one again, please?

And then take these:

the-development-of-kampala-iv

the-development-of-kampala-v

the-development-of-kampala-vi

Mind you, the mere mention of race might not necessarily prove that there was racism afoot, but again that was the reality of those times, as stated later on in the book from the actual Minutes of a meeting of the Central Town Planning Board:

the-principal-of-racial-segregation racial-segregation-again

Naguru, for instance, was reserved for Africans:

the-development-of-kampala-vii

And even if race was not the only consideration there was a way, for a while, of working the formulae out that kept zones racially distinct using economics – since certain professions or trades seemed to be restricted (I said ‘for a while’) to particular races. The restriction of construction styles in some residential areas meant that if you couldn’t afford to build a certain type of house you couldn’t live in a certain neighbourhood…

the-development-of-kampala-viii This planning was neither restricted to Kampala alone, nor Uganda as a country.

In Jinja:

jinja-residential-areas

45

And, again, economic reasons were part of the equation:

50

The same applied elsewhere, in many different ways, but as thousands of Ugandans have declared this week: It WASN’T OBVIOUS!

Which is why I still applaud for Benard Acema, because he tells me the thought occurred to him and kept niggling till he had put his thoughts down in writing – and they appear to be quite accurate. THIS is the stuff that academic study and problem solving is made of. The man clearly did not waste his education, and my hope is that he will continue with it at the same pace while the rest of us play catch up or raise younger children to be like him.

In the time being, all history, social studies and political science teachers, please make some small changes to your teaching texts?

*Benard Acema – Note that I use his name in full so as to ensure it is never forgotten, such that we all strive to educate our children to these heights so they are known for good work such as this.

the racism behind Kampala


A short while back I received a message from a young fellow called Benard Acema, requesting that I run an article here on this blog under my own pen name because the content suited me (or words to that effect).

I automatically thought, “Er…no!” but kept an open mind as decency would require, and encouraged him to email the content.

I was both flabbergasted and flattered, and by the time you are halfway you will understand why.

Here it is, by Benard Acema, with only a few mild alterations made since I first received it:

Kampala’s Racist Design and its Mental Effects on Ugandans Today

When politicians blame Uganda’s problems on Colonialism, most Ugandans especially the young people will inevitably (with immediacy and precision) sneer at such “old peoples” comments and say how these politicians simply have failed to move on and are blaming their failures on a “long ago” past.

But my question is…is it long ago though? Think about it, a 55 year old man is older than Uganda as we know it from Independence in 1962 to today as you read this.

So instead of dwelling on the “past”, I have decided to bring it forward to today, to the present to show you how this affects us today and how a lot of it is the reason many young people fail to succeed in Uganda or have to overcome incredible odds just to make it.

Let’s start with the inevitable question…Is Kampala’s design really racist, as the title suggests? And does this hard-wired design hold us back?

BUT…Aren’t we all black Ugandans now and does colonialism still really affect us today? If so, how?

Why don’t we just move forward and forget the past?

Let’s look at the actual design, the brick and mortar, the physical landmarks left behind, and we’ll begin to see the motive for the design and that still permeates through to this day.

Kampala City was designed by a German man named Ernst May who lived here between 1934-1954 (right in the middle of colonialism) and to think that our parents and grandparents were already born during and before this time in the 20’s, 30’s 40’s and 50’s.

We can speculate why the British used this German man to design Kampala, having been at war with Germany in the Second World War at this exact same time period. Was he a Nazi racist designer who understood how to do this or was he on the oppressed side of the war, which would make it a pity that he would undertake this? Either way, the design is here so lets look at it.

First of all Kampala was designed with a boundary “Ring Road” that encompasses only two hills of the city – Kololo Hill and Nakasero Hill. This ring road goes around this area only.

From Kira Road Police Station up towards Kamwokya straight to Mulago roundabout to Wandegeya onto Bombo road joining Kampala road and runs all the way down to Uganda House from where it joins Jinja Road and runs all the way along Jinja Road up to the Lugogo Indoor Stadium (now the MTN Arena) from where it turns left onto Lugogo Bypass Road (Rotary Avenue) past Kololo Secondary School and back up to Kira Road Police Station.

That is the ring road around Kampala that I will be talking about in this article.

map-001-ring-road-around-kampala

In the image above, the Green zone is the “White Area” in the ‘centre’ and the Asian Buffer of Three Streets on the Perimeter is the “Red Boundary”.

Now, the way that this design was put together ensured that the British (and any other white people) would have to live inside the ring huddled up on the inside. And naturally of course, not wanting any contact with the black natives (that would be you the Ugandans now reading this), they “insulated” this “Ring” with a “Three-street” line boundary of Asians. I’ll show you how…just follow along.

Lets go back to Kira Road Police Station; all along the boundary of this ring (everywhere) you have an “insulated” perimeter wall of precisely “Three streets-in” of Asians before you get to the inner “White Communities”.

Look at it like this, you have Kira Road from the Police Station going up towards Kamwokya (which is the actual dividing tarmac), then you have Bukoto Street on the “inside” and again further in you have Kanjokya Street. These three “layers of streets” are what would be considered an “Asian Insulation” that the British put between themselves and Ugandan black people – and even to this day this “insulation” still stands (even with Ugandans living on both sides of it now).

Notice how the majority of Kira Road, Bukoto Street and Kanjokya Street buildings are Asian owned as you move along heading towards Kamwokya stage and onwards slowly towards Kisementi and the present-day Acacia Mall?

This Asian community still stands to this day.

As you stand at the Kamwokya taxi stage on your way towards Kisementi, on your left all the property is Asian owned (where Kololo Polyclinic is, then a DTB Bank Branch, a Mahindra Distribution Office, Bank of Baroda, Cavendish University…all this, Ugandans by pass this everyday without ever noticing and putting this together). To your right, on the other side of the road just foot steps away is the largest slum area in the country, Kamwokya slum, there is even a stage across the road called Kasasiro stage (garbage stage) right by the road side where all the waste from the Asian houses used to be dumped across on the Kamwokya side.

Now any Asian (specifically Indian) reading this article in Uganda will immediately get nervous and apprehensive but you need not be, this is about the Ugandans just being aware of the colonial British past and how it affects them today so they can move on with some understanding.

Ugandan Businessman Andrew Rugasira of Good African Coffee dedicates an entire Chapter in his book “A Good African Story” to addressing the issues of race and colonialism in Uganda’s past and how these things affected him indirectly and directly “today” in getting into the coffee business not only in Uganda but in the United Kingdom as he tried to export this coffee. (This book is a MUST read for all Ugandans – “A Good African Story” by Andrew Rugasira).

We as Ugandans are not going to be successful in moving forward before we address head-on the demons of the past. There will be finger pointing to supposed “Dictators” like Idi Amin who sent the Asians away in the 1970’s but as we can see today some Ugandans have given the Chinese “businessmen” the same 90days or just a few months to leave the country.

This shows you that Idi Amin was not the problem per se but this deep rooted psychology of a city designed to oppress the Ugandan and to put the Asians in a precarious position in the middle of all this; this pain and oppression that Ugandans feel and whose origins they do not realise but react to every so often.

The British know this. They designed it. The same British are the ones who trained Idi Amin. Amin saw this and now the British call Amin a Ugandan Dictator. Were the British, in all this, really “innocent”?

When the British uprooted themselves and left, the Asians were left between two groups of very upset Ugandans. The elite political class who took over everything the white people owned, and the downtrodden citizens who lived outside the ring which sandwiched the Asian community in the middle of a very precarious position (physically and mentally).

So, the rise of someone like Idi Amin was an inevitability that was going to happen for sure. For the British to lie that it surprised them, is for them (the British) to be hypocrites (they knew it was coming). For the Asians to say they were “shocked” at what Idi Amin did to them is also for them (the Asians) to be living in complete denial as to what was on the ground. They were accomplices to the British crimes against Ugandans and should instead have put the British to task for using them and abandoning them inside a Lions Den of angry, oppressed Africans.

The inevitability of the return of that boomerang thrown by the British could be seen coming a mile away.

So for this never to happen again, not only should Ugandans be aware of this history and its implications today, but the Asians (Indians, Chinese businessmen in Kampala today included) should be aware of this pain and oppression that exists (mostly mentally today).

We all (whether it’s the Asian community or the clustered white community in Kansanga, Kabalagala and Muyenga) need to find out how we can best understand this instead of just dismissing it. When you hear phrases like ‘Asians are rude’ or ‘working for Asians is horrible’, you need to address this attitude with utmost seriousness so that the bubble never rises to the surface again.

I was at Tuskys in Ntinda just the other day and an Indian man cut the line to the checkout and this one lady behind me just lost it…its like a switch just went off as she started to fire a barrage of insults at this man. “Is that how you do things in your country?” she charged.

Looking him dead in the face. “I am tired of these people, they’ve done this to me every time and I am now tired!” speaking about his cutting the line in front of her. I am not sure this would have been the same reaction had a black Ugandan been the one to cut the line.

Nothing an Indian does in Uganda is isolated, it’s always “them”. If one is rude to an employee, its not just that employer, it become “Indian employers” and this is an issue the Indian community must be honest about. It makes the good guys get lumped in with the bad apples.

A simple example of the physicality of this is…stand at the Mahindra building or DTB or Cavendish or Baroda in Kamwokya and walk up to the first floor of these buildings. From there, look down at the vast slum of Kamwokya barely 30 steps from the door, across the road. That slum has stood like that for the last 50 plus years, and at some point you have to begin to wonder what those people in that slum looking up at you are really starting to think.

The Ugandans living on Kololo Hill won’t feel this way because of course they don’t have to, they have a better end of the deal. Again just like in Colonial times, this leaves Indians sandwiched in the middle. Maybe you should take a stroll down there and look up at your building and see what you think the message that is being sent down is.

Can DTB, Baroda, Mahindra, Cavendish and the Asian business community reach out to that community in some way? I don’t know. Sponsor a clinic in the slums, perhaps? Maybe  a maternity centre, or a sanitation project? Should the Asian community work with the KCCA on this?

When a movie like Queen of Katwe is telling an inspirational story of the struggle of one girl growing up in one of the worst ghettos in Kampala but no one bothers to find out how all these people ended up in Katwe in the first place right next to a well built Old Kampala occupied by the Asian community back then…then we have a problem.

And also not forgetting the irony of having the movie directed by an Asian-Ugandan (without taking anything away from Director Mira Nair’s incredible talent). But the effects of this era are everywhere around us and this movie almost feels like it has a ring around it…with the “inside” white people at Disney not wanting to associate “Directly” with the black Ugandans so they had to put an Asian Director to be the final contact with the “blacks” (I am obviously stretching it here…maybe not that much…since Tendo Nagenda was the production head but you do see my point and the very real similarities of this situation).

Anyway moving on with the design, as you leave Mawanda road (which is entirely an Asian community) and head on down towards the British High Commission you’ll notice all the Asian buildings on the right side of you towards the “Uganda Museum”. I put that in quotes because the “Uganda Museum” is not Ugandan, it was a museum meant for the amusement of the British ruling class, built in the compound of a primary school (think about that…a primary school) – Kitante Primary School – a school built for the children of the British.

What still bothers me to this day is the elitist mentality still permeating from Kitante Primary School pupils and former students (and this is where I get to the part about how colonialism affects us today).

We have these “Blankets and Wine” wannabe picnics at the very Museum grounds built by the colonialists and do exactly what they (the Colonialists) did at these grounds…which is have picnics with their families there and have dates with ‘blankets and wine’. Oh, the irony! Any kids who grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s in Kampala will remember this “picnic craze” (someone needs to break out the real history here and tell the truth).

kitante-primary-school(British Kids attending Kitante Primary School with the Golf Course stretching to the Background behind the school without any fencing separating the two…notice the basket the mom is holding, Ugandan kids still carried these baskets to this very school in the 80’s and 90’s, completely mimicking what the British did).

All this reminds me of something I read about.

When studying rapes and kidnapping victims, authorities would often realize that if there was a more prolonged time in captivity, the victims of those kidnappings and rapes after an extended period of time began to get closer to their captors and even started to develop intimate feelings towards them and obsess over them. Sometimes, when they were finally rescued the victims did not want to accuse their captors of any wrong doing and instead defended them vehemently to the authorities, excusing and trying to explain away the horrible events of rape and kidnappings.

This is a lot like Uganda and many ex-colonial countries being obsessed with British life, wanting to be just like your captor, the one who raped you. You laugh at anyone who doesn’t speak the “Queens Language” well. You make sure to have your “High Tea” and “Evening Tea” promptly everyday.

This can be seen globally, from the Americans being obsessed with British Royalty and British Pageantry as though these were not the same British who colonised and ruled over them. Think of Nigerians completely obsessed with anything British, making all that wealth in Nigeria and going to invest it  buying a street of buildings in London instead of back home. It is beyond me. Again like I said, the obsession with your rapist and your captor. To this day, one of the best selling movies out of Nollywood is a movie titled “Osuofia in London”.

So, why does a Kid from Kitante Primary School somehow feel a little more superior to a Kid from say City Primary School (which is now Arya Primary School near Kisementi) and why does another from Nakasero Primary feel the same way towards one from Buganda Road?

This can all be traced back to colonial times where the white children attended Kitante Primary School while the Asian children attended Arya Primary School or City Primary School. After independence, the politicians in power wanted all their children to attend Kitante Primary School and not Arya or City Primary because they somehow wanted to feel the sense of superiority over the Asians by attending a “white school”.

It’s pathetic, I know, but also true, that even as Ugandans we needed to get some sort of self-esteem boosting from doing something “white people” did just to feel good about our selves, but the real question is…would you blame these parents and most importantly, would you blame a kid who had nothing to with where they ended up for primary and it has somehow helped with their self-esteem today?

Just as you would not blame an Asian Kid for feeling 100% Ugandan because he was born here even when others saw him otherwise. He still calls Uganda home and feels every bit Ugandan as you and me.

What we have to keep from is having to make that kid feel superior to other Ugandans kids which then perpetuates that historical cycle and vice versa with the Ugandan black kids. That’s why the historical perspective is so important.

So onwards we proceed towards Wandegeya (with a large hospital on your right ’Mulago’ ready to cater to these communities) all the way to the Wandegeya Police Station. I’ll pause here for a second and allow you to visualize the placement of all the police stations along this perimeter. You have Kira Road Police station, Wandegeya Station, Central Police Station, Jinja Road Police Station and back to Kira Road Police Station.

These police stations were not designed and placed there at this perimeter line for community law and order, they were designed by their very placement to protect the “Ring” from the outside or from having Ugandans crossing over into the white neighborhoods, let alone the Asian ones.

From Wandegeya onwards towards Norvik Hospital and Bat Valley, Buganda Road…again we find the “three-street-perimeter Asian buffer” with Bat Valley on the other side of the road, Norvik Hospital on the upper side, Buganda Road Primary School, which still has the names of the Asian owners on the wall of the school to this day (Norman Gordhino is the name.)

Moving along Bombo Road where Asian owned properties line both sides of the road with few Ugandans inserting building like ’Sure House’ in there. The owner, Sebaana Kizito, was only able to do that because he was the Mayor of the City then until much later when the likes of Nalubega Plaza found their way there too.

Then you have Watoto Church, which was not a Church back then but rather an Asian-owned Cinema that Canadian Missionaries headed by Pastor Gary Skinner helped buy from the Asian owners for the Church premises that is now Watoto Church. The whole of Buganda Road is Asian from the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) building all the way to the Central Police Station on both sides of the road, including the Buganda Road Flats.

Back to Kampala Road and 80% of the building lining both sides of Kampala Road are Asian owned starting from Odeon Cinema or Fido Dido building on both sides to Shell Capital –  a few Ugandans like Mabirizi fixed buildings in there only recently.

On to City Square with the Centenary Bank building (Mapeera House) there (which is new) then Crane Bank House, Kampala Boulevard House, Amber House, Bank of Baroda, Tropical Bank, Former Steers Fast-food House, Diamond Trust Bank House, Charm Towers, the vast majority of the prime real estate along Kampala Road is all Asian owned.

And as we head on to Jinja Road you still see that “three-street-Asian-buffer” with Nasser Road, Nkurumah Road, Kampala Road and Parliamentary Avenue. (The Government decided to house its Ministries along the Asian owned properties that now make up the Parliamentary Avenue.) Again between Kampala Road and Parliamentary Avenue you have all Asian buildings all the way down via Esso corner with Victoria University and up to the entire Dewinton Road all the way down to Shell Jinja Road and only broken by Wavah’s Spear House and Nema House.

Then we reach an interesting round about, which is the roundabout older Kampalans know as “The Yard” where “Centenary Park” is, just below Airtel house. Next to Airtel House you will notice the only Cemetery that is “Dead Centre” (pun intended) in the middle of the city and that is…you guessed it…the “white cemetery”. The white people cemetery had more prime real-estate than actual living Ugandans!

Onwards up towards Jinja Road Police Station and to the Cricket Oval in Lugogo. Very few Ugandans even stop to ask what two cultures are most obsessed with cricket (That would be the British and the Asians, so we can be sure that Oval was never designed to cater to any Ugandans.)

And with that we find our way back onto the Lugogo By Pass (Rotary Avenue) and as you approach the outside of the perimeter opposite City High School, you will now find the Asian Cemetery and Cremation center.

Also interestingly as you move along Lugogo By Pass Road past Tata House you come across the New Kensington Housing Estate which ironically was the City Dump and Landfill for all the garbage generated from the Hill of Kololo by the British all the way down. Again old Kampalans also know this Kensington place as Kasasiro or Garbage dump (scavenged daily by the slum dwellers of Naguru go-down), en route to the Kira Road Police Station.

All these racist markers are hard wired onto our streets, actual physical landmarks you can’t ignore and it doesn’t take long for a foreigner to walk into Uganda and know all the “White Areas” of the past (with the Victorian architecture on houses in Kololo and Nakasero Hill) and all the Indian Architecture lining the Asian “boundary areas”.

White people come into Uganda and are automatically inclined to want to live within this perimeter because of the hardwired names of these places. They are attracted to living in Kololo and having their tea at Acacia.

Now let’s look at some of the naming of the streets in the City and how this affects the everyday mindset of the Ugandan.

Again we’ll start from Kira Road Police Station. The road is called Kira Road (an indigenous name), the second street in is Bukoto Street and the third street in is Kanjokya street but something very strange begins to happen to the names of the streets after this “Asian three-street buffer” is done. After that you get to the fourth street and all the street names become British names.

For example the very next street after Kanjokya street is…’Prince Charles Drive’…and that is when you know you’ve entered what used to be a white community area.

As you head on further inside towards Kololo Hill. You’ll see McKenzie Vale, Baskerville Avenue, Roscoe Road, Elizabeth Avenue, Hesketh Bell Road, York Terrace, Philip Road, Ridgeway Drive, Windsor Crescent (along which you find none other than the British High Commission even today as you read this).

But as you get back out to the perimeter towards the Asian buffer the Ugandan names start sounding again, like Buganda Road, Nakasero Road, Kampala Road. One minute you’re on Baskerville Road but as soon as you cross the road to the other side, you’re on Naguru Rd.

That is the psychological mindset I said was holding Ugandans back, is it any surprise today that to feel “important” one has to try to live within these areas or at least have some association there?

Here is now where you find Uganda’s top judges living alongside the top politicians, military leaders, and even the State House (or Lodge) in Nakasero, the place the President of Uganda lives in, is nestled between three roads named Ternan Avenue, Princess Avenue and Victoria Avenue. This is where the State House of the Nation is located. Rather telling, right?!

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(Streets in Kololo with British Names…also the entire green space is the Independence Grounds, and the Uganda Golf Course. The Golf Course is a total waste of the city’s prime real estate and the independence ground was an airfield to evacuate white people quickly in case of emergencies)

So…Are we independent?

Physically we are but mentally there are a lot of Ugandans who still need to deal with it as it now presents subliminally. One has to actively search it out. The way it manifests every day is in small things like saying, (and the reason I am talking about this area specifically is because this area affects the entire country), “Top politicians live here, the President lives here, Supreme Court Justices live here, the Governor Bank of Uganda lives here…”

If this mindset enslaves them too what do you expect the rest of the Ugandans to do? What happens when your Supreme Court Judge wants to live on Queen Elizabeth Avenue and not want to be associated with living on Naguru Road? It’s subliminal but that’s where the most mental power is derived from.

So, onto things Ugandans will say that shows you this mental enslavement:

Saying, “Me, I only take my children to Kololo Hospital or to Nakasero Hospital when they get sick.”

Saying “My favourite ‘pass-time’ is golf,” played between two “previously white communities” on prime real-estate that would build incredible housing and facilities for Ugandans on the lawns of the Golf Course Fairway. Instead, we hang on to it (the golf course) as our pride and joy, depriving hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be created if an entire satellite city were built and tucked into the golf course land (with schools, Churches, houses, hotels, shopping centers and play grounds with parks for the kids living in Kampala that need open safe playgrounds.

Just imagine how much business Centenary Park, Oasis Mall, Garden City and Golf Course Hotel alone generate every single day…now Imagine that this was stretching all the way across the entire golf course land, the development to the city would be mind blowing, but here we are barring anyone except the “exclusive members” of the “club” from going onto the golf course grounds.

Then we make our way to go and relax at “Fairway” Hotel sipping on a Johnny Walker (because it makes us “feel” important).

We still call that spot along Entebbe Road…”Queensway” as we refuse to raze it down and remove “Her Majesty’s” Clock Tower and yet it impedes traffic flow along Entebbe Road and causes a massive bottleneck for road users everyday. (Who are we serving here…Ugandans or former colonial masters?)

We build all our Houses today with a “Boy’s Quarter” without even realizing that the “Boy’s Quarter” is where the Black Ugandan Servants to the White People lived because as you may be aware the word “boy” is one used only by racists towards black people. Young or Old doesn’t matter…as their rooms where called “Master’s Bedrooms” or “Master Bedroom” which was the room or rooms in the “main house” where the “master” lived.

Today we have Ugandans building houses with “Boy’s Quarters” and “Master’s Bedrooms” without even thinking about it (I am sure they’re some white people “Bazungu” who see this going on in Uganda but won’t say anything and just look at Ugandans doing this like…WTF are they doing)…build a guest house not a “boy’s quarters”.

We think we are better because we attended Lohana Academy, Kitante Primary School, Nakasero Primary School and anything inside that Ring, we give the Queen guided tours of Kitante Primary School 50 years later just because its where the “white people” used to study.

We still sing songs about “London Bridge” and “My Fair Lady” and the “General McNamara” in our primary schools. We teach more European History and Geography in our High Schools than African History and Geography. Students know more about Napoleon than they know about Lumumba and yet they live in a Hall named after this very Lumumba at the University.

We can’t wait for our functions to be held at the Sheraton Hotel or the Serena Hotel, we feel good when our offices are located at the Crested Towers or our house is located along Elizabeth Avenue or Prince Charles Drive.

We refuse to give due respect to the “John Babiiha Road” as it was appropriately renamed by the City and instead insist on calling it by its colonial name “Acacia Avenue” because it sounds cooler and more westernized, not “local” like Babiiha. Is it a wonder then that the two most prominent racially charged incidents in Uganda’s bustling night life happened on this “Acacia Avenue” with one such racial incident at the Irish Pub O’leary’s where Ugandans where being turned away if they did not show up with a “white friend” and another at the now defunct “Mish Mash” where the proprietor yelled at Ugandans that they were ruining her place that was meant to cater to only “white tourists” and “white people” living in Kampala?

Maybe if the place was named ‘John Babiiha Road’ these “Bazungu” may finally get the message that this is Uganda. But as long as we keep pandering to their egos that is what we should expect. Name changes change attitudes. Just ask the former members of Northcote Hall in Makerere University, a simple name change to Nsibirwa Hall erased a volatile and rebellious past from the hall and pacified it almost immediately to one of the most serene and docile halls at the campus.

We want to do our shopping at “Acacia Mall” and not Kamwokya market across the road because we think it demeans us and makes us “local” and lastly we equate the word “local” with all things bad and evil and backward and shameful all because we are mentally enslaved and find it hard (impossible even) to move on and never support anything ‘Local’.

The “learned people” then go and “protest” at a “National Theatre” that was built by a colonial governor for the entertainment of white Parliamentarians (without realising the National Theatre was part of the compound of the Parliament with no fences or separation, just like it was with Kitante Primary School, the Museum and the Golf Course which where all essentially within one large compound inside of the “white area”.

Why else would we be ashamed? This mentality unfortunately has tricked down to tribalism in the Country where giving you a house for rent or a job may come down to how your name sounds.

And most are willing even today to give you a Job if you’re named “Acacia Avenue” and not to a name like say “John Babiiha” just because ‘Babiiha’ doesn’t sound cool enough or like someone I like to associate with. Just listen to how people in Kampala (maybe you included) talk about a place like Karamoja with the same elitist nose up in the air attitude that the entire Africa would be talked about in the halls of the House of Lords in London. They are backward, uncivilized, barbarians…completely oblivious to how full of themselves they are just because they made it to Makerere University and got a Masters Degree in English and Literature and don’t care about a single vernacular African proverb.

But we can change, just like the conscious leaders of Kampala today who will name a road in Nakasero ‘Lumumba Avenue’ or ‘John Akii Bua Road’ and another in Kololo named ‘Malcom X Avenue’ right next to Elizabeth Avenue (who knew the Queen of England’s neighbour would be Malcom X?) in solidarity with what was and is going on around the world and acknowledging this past as well.

I say we should rename the roads at the British Embassy Idi Amin Road and where the American Embassy is at Nsambya to Martin Luther King Jr. Road just so we can get that psychological message across, otherwise what point is there in me growing up and having a childhood along Elizabeth Avenue, my former colonial oppressors name, if not to torment me everyday with the past?

The British Embassy’s Physical Address in Kampala should read…Plot 1, Idi Amin Road. Kamwokya, Kampala instead of one on “Windsor Crescent”. (That should put some hair in their nostrils) Just like the President of Uganda leaves the State House in his motorcade and drives onto a road named Victoria Avenue (shame).

Without understanding this past and what it does to the psyche, we as Ugandans cannot embrace a bright future from this 2017 moving forward and we will never be truly independent in our minds.

Fifty years plus down the road and it finally took the guts of a one Jeniffer Musisi to break the barrier of this design and finally upgrade and expand the city, and where did she start…you guessed it…From Kira Road Police Station going up towards Bukoto – a road which remained only double-laned along the perimeter and as soon as you started going up to Bukoto it was single-laned which caused night mares in traffic for years.

And for it to finally be double-laned now in 2016-2017 (which seamlessly connects to Lugogo Bypass double-lane by the way is testament to the fact) all the way to Kira Town completing the actual Kira Road that hasn’t been completed all the way to Kira Town for almost seventy (70) years.

Most young people think Kira Road ends at the Police Station and that is because of that psychological shift when moving from the double lane Kira Road or Lugogo Bypass road on to what was a single land road going up to Bukoto.

She has also had to take it outward using Jinja Rd to Nakawa and now to Ntinda and slowly expanding it and hopefully these past boundaries will be truly blurred helping Ugandans, especially Kampalans, finally move on from the past.

She went down to Kamwokya Ghetto and upgraded the roads, went into Kisenyi and Katwe and upgraded the roads…she went into the very ghettos that were designed to hold Ugandans back and upgraded those roads and in so doing begun to free a lot of minds and got many to believe in themselves again.

People are starting to feel good walking inside Kisenyi albeit for all the problems that still exist on that upgraded road or in Kamwokya and in Katwe, property prices in these ghettos are going up daily, new businesses are springing up every week and true development and hope with it is finally in sight.

People now feel good owning property in Kisaasi and Kyanja because of upgraded infrastructure with roads, water and power lines, improvement of sanitary conditions and so on. This KCCA finally seems to get it as the “new Kololo” now shifts to these areas whose “local names” sound sweeter everyday.

Just like we changed the “Airstrip” which was a real airstrip to cater to the white Kololo residents was changed to ‘Independence Grounds’ and redesigned by the UPDF so should every road in Kololo be renamed beginning with Elizabeth Avenue and Prince Charles Drive as we truly become Independent from the British…in our minds.

(Just so you know…this is how racism is designed in cities around the world. Paris is “ringed-in” too with the blacks living outside the ring in designed ghettos, so is London, so is New York with its five Boroughs, no one has to tell you in which Borough the Black people live, and so is Los Angeles…do you think the Los Angeles riots in 1994 just so happened to have Black people clash Directly with Asians?…this was no coincidence as Asians are also placed between the Black and the White communities in the U.S. as well. An Asian buffer ring is being placed around every black community in the U.S as well. Imagine, that we feel it here fifty years on and the white people are not even here, now imagine what the Black community in the U.S feels right now…unbelievable…with railroads and highways slicing and dividing white from black communities everyday)

Lastly I would like to name the ghettos designed around the ring in Kampala (many think it’s a mistake, coincidence even, that Katanga is where it is or that Bwaise just happened by accident).

Kamwokya Ghetto is just footsteps on the other side of the road from the ring and we can see this all around the ring in Kampala with Mulago-Katanga Ghetto opposite Nakasero Hill, and along Bombo Road (look behind City Oil on Bombo Road and you’ll see one of the Biggest Ghettos in the Middle of the City).

As you get to the city everything from Kampala road to Old Kampala is Asian owned buildings mostly (now dotted with many Ugandan “plazas” and as you can see it in the city with Ugandans relegated in the past to areas of Kikuubo, Old Taxi park, Nakivubo, Katwe and as we move along Kampala Rd we see on that side of the hill the Ghettos of Kibuli and Nsambya, Railway grounds. As you go up towards Jinja Road and Lugogo Bypass, you have what used to be the infamous Naguru go-down Ghetto which is still there right opposite the plush Kololo suburb. Even the Naguru Hill itself with all the “new money” building up the hill (which just started in the 90’s from land that was left to fallow) is still no match to the Kololo hill that looks down upon it because no one was allowed to build on the “Hill” across from Kololo Hill. Ugandans could only live in the valleys like Naguru not the hills.

I have finally come to the conclusion that these places are not just hard designs on the streets of Kampala but mental barriers that prevent us from moving forward while still comfortable in our own skins…“feeling white or feeling British” on the inside which unfortunately many kids growing up in areas such as Baskerville and Elizabeth Avenue begin to feel like…when their inner “white mentality” (due to all that western television and wannabe imitation life) begins to get ashamed of their “actual black physical body and skin” and then you have a real conflict on your hands.

Actress Lupita Ny’ongo (Queen of Katwe) alluded to this, she found herself in this precarious situation growing up…she sounded British, felt British, is the daughter of a former Kenyan Ambassador and Senator in Kenya but looked very Kenyan and African and that is where the real battle began for her as she has explained numerous times in interviews…

She also said at an Essence Magazine event, “As a young girl I prayed to God to make me white or light skinned as I slept in the night but I would wake up in the morning and still find myself black.” And until Lupita dealt with this “complex” did she FINALLY break free and begin to truly succeed, something you thought should have been obvious growing up in the elite upper mid-class family that she did in Kenya.

And this is happening all across Africa with many Nigerians preferring to give their children two British names or two English sounding names instead of having any indigenous sounding Nigerian names.

This is the mindset that Africans and Ugandans finally have to break from. We need more names like Rukahana Rugunda or Odongo Otto if we are to truly be mentally free. Why would a Ugandan kid be named Charles Cooper Jr?

So the next time you walk into “Acacia Mall” or should I say “John Babiiha Mall” to buy your little girl a small white barbie doll…think about this very carefully or the next thing she will be asking for is a blond wig, blue contact lenses and skin bleaching cream and kneeling by her bed side at night praying to God to make her white by morning.

Lastly, the irony of having to write this entire article in “English” is not lost on me. So just like me, I suggest we simply eat the chicken and leave the bones. (I would throw a watermelon reference in there just to make everyone uncomfortable but you get my point).

 

Again, this is by Benard Acema.

All I can say is:

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it is you – Uganda – so take what is yours!


MY neighbourhood in Kampala is quite active when it comes to community issues. In recent months, the range of issues has included road safety and personal security, both of which featured groups of skaters that nobody could readily identify as either residents or friends of residents.

We have had varied views about the skaters for a while – some more vehement than others.

And this week, immersed in a totally unrelated conversation many kilometres away from my neighbourhood and the skaters, I was relieved that no drastic action had been taken against the skaters.

The kaboozi took place within the KFM studios as I was waiting for a talk show to commence. One of the producers there, Sean Oseku, mentioned a skating ramp in Kitintale and went on with what he was saying but I failed to follow him.

“What do you mean ‘a skating ramp in Kitintale’?” I asked, incredulous. 

The skaters in my neighbourhood do not use a ramp; their high nuisance rating by some neighbours was partly because they were skating right on the road itself and presenting accident risks for motorists.

“There is a skating ramp in Kitintale…” Sean told me, and then gave me directions that really surprised me. He was talking about my neighbourhood skaters! They had a ramp?!

I normally see skating ramps in movies and countries like the United States where youths are encouraged to participate in such sports especially in communities where deliberate efforts are required to stop children being idle, because the adage says that gets the devil working.

The last time I saw one, though was at an event in Kololo, Kampala, when the Mega Dairy people erected a movable ramp as part of their stand next to mine, complete with child skaters. That had impressed me, and excited all the children in attendance.

And as Sean continued his tale he mentioned that Moses Byaruhanga, Presidential Political Assistant and proprietor of Mega Dairy, was one of the benefactors of the skaters – the Uganda Skateboard Union.
Marvelling at how small the world was turning out to be, I flicked open my tablet and sought out the actual topic of conversation.

Out there in the big, wide world is a musical hit doing quite well on the global charts that has garnered more than 1.8million YouTube views so far. The song is “Should’ve Been Me” by Naughty Boy, Kyla and Popcaan.

Right from the opening shot of the video I knew Uganda was involved. The little boy in the frame made me think immediately of Madina Nalwanga, of ‘Queen Of Katwe‘ fame. The rest of the video just finished me – including the bits shot in my neighbourhood!

There is something happening around and about Uganda that is giving us global prominence in a way we are almost not ready for. We need to wake up to what it all means.

The entire video is a cinematographic feel-good, dreams-can-come-true, triumph-amid-tribulation four and a half minutes that hits the mark dead-centre. It is Disney-ish yet not Disney. We have dust but also tarmac. We have poverty but hope and energy. Big boys give way to small boys, and encourage them. Even signs of menace turn out to be caring protection, as the Uganda Police characters in the shot are kindly guarding skateboards overnight.

There is something about Uganda, that would make these musicians choose to focus their entire music video on this place. We need to wake up to what it means.

Our conversation that evening traipsed around how Uganda keeps getting these big and small bits of admiration, acknowledgement, accolade and affirmation.

We need to do more of it ourselves, and celebrate the good stuff we have. And when others do it for us, we need to learn how to take the advantage they so readily give us.

Wondering about the value of this small opportunity? To advertise on YouTube for 1.8million viewers would cost a minimum of US $180,000 (Ushs630million). The song was only released in November 2016, and the video in December, so these are early days yet. In European charts alone the song has reached popularity in Belgium (35 on the singles charts), Hungary (33), Ireland (95), Scotland (47) and the UK (97).

Let’s not wait a few more seconds, minutes, days or years then start crying “Should’ve Been Me”. It is YOU, Uganda! Take the advantage!