let’s make Entebbe great again!


1-EntebbeAirport.jpg
Photo from: entebbe-airport.com

HEARING the lamentations of travelers to Uganda these past few weeks as they come through Entebbe International Airport is disheartening.

Especially in light of the talk we engage in about how Tourism will be Uganda’s economic savior the way it has worked for South Africa, Dubai and all those other markets with sensible tourism-fueled budgets, strategies and plans.

My first memory of the airport at Entebbe goes back to 1983 when, walking through the crowded terminal with piles of suitcases, we kept getting stopped by an ugly breed of armed men. I took serious issue with one of them when he depressed a button on the belly of my little sister’s doll that made it recite phrases designed to amuse infants her age.

The fellow was startled and turned his rifle up, then demanded that a full inspection be conducted by half the armed Company present. It was scary but we went through the steps safely and were let through while absorbing many unpleasant smells and a rancid atmosphere.

We have come a long way since then – but we haven’t gone far enough. It is difficult to explain why we should be so desperately lousy at something so obviously simple.

I honestly believe that the most basic Customer Care and Marketing people could swing the airport experience around to the advantage of the entire country within hours if given the opportunity.

If the Civil Aviation Authority people unleashed some young students in these disciplines and gave them three hours to change Entebbe for the better, I am certain they would do a better job of it than we currently endure.

At some point last year I found myself there a few hours before my scheduled flight, as usual, and ran my device batteries down. As I was way too early for access to the check-in counters, I was sequestered in the cafe on the departures level.

I was already in a bad mood because of the ridiculous prices that string of cafes charge for their annoyingly small cups of hot drinks and pitifully limited range of weakly-imagined snacks.

Again, what kind of ‘Tourism’ are we selling to the world if our airport snacks cannot spell and say and communicate ‘Uganda’? Sausage rolls and meat pies? We sometimes appear to be in need of intellectual support to deal with some of these matters.

That day, walking around the hall with my plugs in hand flabbergasted me when I failed to find a functional socket across the floor. It was strange – especially in 2016. I took the issue up with people right up to somebody educated and was told the sockets had been removed because “people were charging mobile phones here” and it was a security concern.

I was flummoxed because in this information age the availability of sockets for electricity to power gadgets that get you online is sometimes more valuable than the availability of food (even food as bad as the one in the Cafe’s there).

What kind of terrorists are we dealing with that can walk in with their mobile phones and chargers and power banks but would be deterred by the lack of sockets?

It was angering, but then eventually I got to the more difficult aspect of travel through the airport – the final gate of the departure lounge. For some reason, after going through all the belt dropping and shoe removals, at Entebbe you enter into a mini-sauna without air conditioning or sufficient air flow.

Why is that room is so hot and stuffy?

I have never had the opportunity to properly fight that battle, but here is a new one introduced in the last two weeks:

A furore has arisen over an annoying process change at the Entebbe International Airport Arrivals hall that is described in detail by many people, but best of all by Amos Wekesa, Tourism Prince.

His recount of the process makes one’s blood boil even more than the departure gate upstairs.

Early this week he returned and found he and his fellow passengers had to take their bags up and lift them onto the luggage scanner, then lift them off again after going through the security check point. The queue is very, very, very long because everybody has to take each and every one of their bags through this process. Amos was miffed this week to see elderly ladies, tourists visiting Uganda, struggling to lug her bags up and down.

He jumped in and offered to help her and a number of others, and during the process got thanked profusely by one of the Section Managers, who was tired of being abused by angry travelers.

To his credit, this manager told Amos that one of the measures they had decided to take was to stop any government official from trying to skip to the front of the queue claiming that they were “VIPs”.

“These travelers suffering here are paying money to come to Uganda to enjoy themselves, and they are being made to line up and carry suitcases after flying long hours. Then some government people who are using our money to travel try to jump the queue?!” the fellow said, livid.

I applauded.

And I also regretted not having been there to suggest that we could do small things in that uncomfortable hall to ease the pain that travelers are facing as they enter into Uganda. For instance, how about distributing some free bottles of water or banana juice? Or installing some nice fans to keep the air cool? Or playing some nice Ugandan music in the background to keep the soul calm?

Surely there are very many things we could have running in that space to keep tempers calm and the spirits uplifted as people come into the country?

I certainly don’t know everything but I know first hand how difficult running a public institution can be. Nevertheless, my sympathies are limited over the lack of these small actions and over exaggeration of others (such as the need to search every corner of every bag) that rub everyone the wrong way.

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

🙂

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Read that one again, please?

And then take these:

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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.

entebbe is now in a country called malta – another missed opportunity if we don’t wake up quickly


ON July 26, 1976, The New York Times reported that at least six American film makers were “planning movies on the spectacular Israeli commando rescue of hostages at Entebbe Airport near Kampala”. Forty years ago.

The news story was titled, ‘6 Film Studios Vie Over Entebbe Raid’, which famous raid had happened just THREE WEEKS BEFORE on July 4, 1976.

So, within three weeks those guys were tuned in enough to be thinking about the movie rights and the opportunities that came with the filming.

“…a fierce competition has developed among the producers for Israeli Government cooperation and endorsement…” the story continued.

Forty years ago.

The story available online, and even named the studios – Universal, First Artists, Mery Griffin, Warner Bros, Paramount and the independent Elliot Kastner.

A couple of months ago Uganda hosted Israel at a high level event led by the leaders of both countries – Yoweri Museveni and Benjamin Netanyahu, whose own brother Lt. Col. ‘Yoni’ Yonatan Netanyahu led the 29-man assault unit and was the only Israeli soldier who died in the raid, and provided a very emotional backdrop to the event.

There was some talk then (in July this year) about another movie being shot at the old airport at Entebbe.

Part of the actual story involves the fact that the Israelis abandoned the plan to attack via Lake Victoria because it was infested with crocodiles – a clear opportunity to showcase our abundant wildlife tourism.

But let’s not get sidetracked.

There have already been many movies, novels, plays, video games and studies about the raid on Entebbe, which is described as one of the most successful military operations by those gallant Israelis. It is a poster child for heroism and military prowess.

These include, after a quick Google: ‘Victory At Entebbe’ (1976); ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ (1977); ‘To Pay The Price’, a 2009 play that opened on Broadway in New York; the computer game ’Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear’ features a re-enactment of the Entebbe Operation; the 1988 video game ‘Operation Thunderbolt’; the 2003 Bollywood movie ‘Zameen’; in the Chuck Norris movie ‘Delta Force’ the hostage rescue scene was inspired by Operation Entebbe.

None of those movies or media forms was shot in Entebbe or any part of Uganda – at least part of ’The Last King of Scotland’ was. In ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ the Uganda scenes were shot near Eilat, in Israel, and the Ugandan soldiers were played by Ethiopians in Israel.

Do you know what it means when a movie gets shot in your country?

Think back to the part of the story where the commandos abandoned the Lake Victoria plan because of crocodiles. Even a vignette about that part would do well, with a specific focus on the crocodiles and perhaps with some giraffes or buffalo in the background (I know they are not in Entebbe but that’s why we don’t all shoot movies).

Or even think of the stars who act in these movies and what it would mean for a country if they came to Uganda to act a movie, spending a few weeks here in the process and leaving with good impressions of the food, people, weather and tourism opportunities. Around the movies themselves, these guys do numerous interviews and profile recordings, during which they talk about much more than the movies alone – pushing the #VisitUganda agenda with its related off-shoots ranging from the Rolleggs street food to the zillions of other things we have to offer.

In fact, while the movie is being shot here a clever country marketing strategy would be to make sure that the big names are interviewed while here and right in the middle of these activities. In front of magnificent falls, with lions and giraffes in the background, up a zip-line in the Mabira, driving a Land Rover at Fort Patiko, kneeling in the Kasubi Tombs, biting through some sugar cane…the options are myriad, as usual.

So are the big names that have been involved so far, yet did NOT engage with Uganda at all – Peter Finch, Charles Bronson, James Woods, Robbert Loggia, Chuck Norris, Lee Marvin, Robert Vaughn, Kirk Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Anthony Hopkins, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor… In fact there are even heartstring tugs such as the fact that Peter Finch, who portrayed Yitzhak Rabin in ‘Raid on Entebbe’, died just five days after the film was released.

And this year, the names so far suggested for the movie Entebbe are Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl and Vincent Cassel.

But then, where are they going to shoot the movie? In Malta.

We had the opportunity and it seems to be passing us by, for some reasons that give me a cloudy headache. Conversations were started, meetings were held, ideas were mooted. But now we are hearing that the movie named after the historical, scenic, clementine town of Entebbe; the actual location of one of the world’s most touted military hostage rescue operations and which still holds the very same buildings and tarmac and brilliant greenery that saw the action, sweat and blood, will be shot in Malta.

I am not even sure whether Malta is in Europe or the Middle East, but I do know that they will have to build things to make it look like Entebbe – which will cost more money. And they will get people who are non-Ugandans to act as those nameless Ugandan soldiers, so much so that we will probably hear them making outbursts in some guttural gibberish to sound “African” and one of those phrases might catch and become the language “Ugandan”.

The movie Entebbe is being done by Working Title Productions and StudioCanal, massive names in the world of film, and will be directed by Jose Padilha, another big name most recently associated with ’Narcos’, a successful Netflix series now in Season Two. The internet is so resourceful that you can even find out how to reach him – I shot off an email to his lawyer, Susan H. Bodine of Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, offering to help set this up (fingers crossed that she will respond…)

This movie even has offshoot story lines; for instance, the raid took place on the Independence Day of the United States – July 4 – and the Israelis also made use of some US military equipment, so we could even bring in the Americans.

In 2007 the Civil Aviation Authority announced that the Entebbe Old Airport would be turned into an aviation museum and a domestic operations terminal built next to it right after CHOGM in a project that would cost Ushs7billion.

The income from a movie being shot here, even before we imagine how many more tourists would visit Uganda with more income as a result of the movie, would be far more than enough to cover that Ushs7billion cost.

See, the income that comes in when a movie is shot in your country includes the cash they spend on food, travel and accommodation, and also the cost of setting up their scenery boards and other movie props, as well as the income earned by Ugandan actors, and all the movie set extras. The list is really long; and shooting a movie is not done in just a day – for weeks and months we could be earning that money nationally.

So what do we need to to right now?

Get up and talk to Working Titles Productions so that they use Uganda for at least a portion of this movie! Also talk to URA to get rid of the taxes that discourage film people from using Uganda, since we can tax all the other things that movies bring into the country. Also, talk to UTB and UIA and the Ministries (Foreign Affairs, ICT & National Guidance and Labour, Gender and Culture) to have a joint meeting of professionals to get more movies into Uganda!

Either that or we get a town in Malta to be named Entebbe, so that there is a little logic to this.

the parking lot chap and the five year old IT expert


From entebbenews.com
From entebbenews.com

Last week I returned from a trip out-of-country to a comedic reception at the Entebbe Airport Long-Term Parking Terminal.

I found myself starring in a comedy of errors so deep that I suspected someone had paid actors to stage it. For a panicky while after I got there, the chaps managing the parking system couldn’t find my receipt and therefore car keys. Eventually, though, we discovered them after working out that the fellow who had taken my keys on the morning I left had registered HIS name on the system instead of mine.

Too tired to properly psycho-analyse him in front of his colleagues, and eager to get to a dinner arrangement in Kampala, I politely swept up my keys and walked over to where I had parked – in the furthermost corner of the parking lot.

There, I found that a vehicle had been parked right behind mine and was blocking my exit. I could not understand how this had escaped the notice of the parking lot attendants, since my car was not the common type, or why they had let me walk all this way with my luggage without even a word of warning.

I stood there amazed that they hadn’t followed me all this way to unblock the car, and noticed that a colleague of mine was also having a bit of a struggle. So I went over to see if I could be of help.

His car, not blocked by any other, had refused to respond to his key remote fob. It was clear to me that his car battery was dead, but to confirm this we had to go through a couple of hours filled with high-level comedy during which ‘the man with the key went’ and someone else even licked a dry cell to test whether it was functional.

In the background of the comic action, I caught a story over my car radio that slapped me with irony.

It was about a five-year old child called Ayan Qureshi, who is now the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional.

Microsoft IT certification has not become any easier – this five-year old child just knows his computers so well that he passed the IT Exam.

As the BBC people marvelled over this computer-savvy toddler, we discovered in the parking lot that the reason my colleague’s car battery had run out was whoever parked it had left the interior lights on for four days or so. You would imagine that a fellow working at a parking lot would know this basic rule of car management, even if he didn’t stand any mental risk of earning Microsoft IT Certification as a young child.

To make matters worse, when we finally got the bonnet open, one of the parking lot employees exclaimed that he had been right all along because when my colleague was parking his car there had been someone else there whose vehicle had suffered a similar mishap.

“Don’t you remember that guy you found here? It was the same problem…!” the chap said with misplaced triumph in his voice.

So I chose not to be unfair to the fellows in that parking lot by comparing them to young Ayan Qureshi, since not every five-year old in the UK is like him anyway; especially after I heard him say, over the radio, “My plan is to set up an e-valley in London…”

It would be grossly unfair, I reasoned, to compare these parking lot attendants who had so little of a plan for managing their few square metres of space that they could register you wrongly, block you in by parking awkwardly, and then allow your battery to run out by simply forgetting to flick a light switch off.