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.


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-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:


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





Read that one again, please?

And then take these:




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:


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:



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


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 daily idiot chronicles

I GOT served my daily dose of idiot at Jinja’s Igar petrol station on Saturday afternoon.

This wasn’t the day’s first offering of idiot, of course, because I had left home at 0835hrs and driven all the way from Kampala to Jinja; this was just my first personal serving. Custom-made to suit the theme of life dealing with people such as the designated idiot of that hour.

The earlier ones were too random and numerous to warrant much focus – most of them were driving the five thousand cars that failed to observe a basic traffic courtesy of lining up to wait for the cars ahead (mine inclusive) to go through a random road block caused by road construction works on two points along Jinja road.

Speaking of those road construction works, someone20140531_102141 needs to explain why the most chicken-brained people in the land get assigned the task of supervising those works. Where are all the intelligent engineers and construction technicians? Where are the ones who can guide traffic in a manner that doesn’t cause thirty-minute build-ups and the creation of five-lane traffic channels on a two-lane road?

So my interaction with idiots had began in the morning, as usual.

The fellow’s name was Isma, I discovered when I parked, because the lady serving fuel called him up quite deliberately when I said I needed to put coolant into the radiator.

The manner in which she called him made me believe that he was the expert at these things, and most likely a mechanic with many years’ experience. I didn’t pay him too much attention as I sought permission to run into the shop to buy a snack for the drive back to Kampala. Both Isma and the lady waved me on and after seven minutes (five of them unnecessarily spent standing at the counter) I was back to find he had emptied the bottle of coolant fluid into the container, and was now pouring in a bottle of water after it.

I absent-mindedly watched the chap pour two more bottles of water before it hit me that we were being quite inefficient. To refill the bottle of water, he kept having to go inside the building all the way to the sink near the toilets.

If you’ve ever had a dry radiator you will know how many trips he was probably going to have to make. At the third bottle, I suggested to him that a small jerrycan would do the job better, to which he remarked with a high pitched laugh: “I didn’t know it would take so much water!”

And off he went to get another bottle-full.

Long story short, I took up my seat to start the engine as is part of the process when one’s putting a coolant mix into the radiator, and began on my little snack.

Shortly thereafter, I saw the bonnet beginning to go down and was a little (very little, to be honest, but a little all the same) surprised that he had ferried enough bottles of water to complete the process.

He placed the bonnet down and then shot me a look of quick, uncontrolled panic.

Our eyes locked for a few seconds during which I read his thoughts clearly.

He was thinking just two words, most probably in Lusoga: “Awwww, shit!”

The bonnet wasn’t shut properly, and, recovering from his panic quickly, he tried to press down on it to force it shut.

Now it was my turn to panic because it was clear he had done something wrong and was going to try and force it correct. As I unstrapped my seat belt and opened the car door, he slapped the bonnet and said something like, “Genda; kati enywedde.” (Go; it’s properly shut.”)

It clearly wasn’t.

I had to nudge him off the car to stop him pressing down on the bonnet, and within seconds had figured the problem out.

You know the rod that holds up the bonnet of a car to keep it up as you work on the engine? And you know how there is normally a clip  that holds it back when you are closing the bonnet?

Isma, my designated idiot, did not know this.

Working at a petrol station or garage does not automatically equip one with such knowledge.

Peeping under the bonnet, I noticed the cover of the Coolant bottle perched on part of the engine, and I looked around me to see that Isma had tossed the coolant bottle onto the ground. Worse, the bonnet rod which he had tossed generally into the engine area without clipping it to the bonnet, was now caught in something and so the bonnet would neither open nor close.

Actually, what was worse was that he was now trying to get his little hands under the bonnet to tug at something in order to pry it open.

“That’s all we need to do,” he kept muttering in Lusoga and Luganda.

To avoid the consequences of assaulting him, I sent him off on his way and physically had to push him off before he finally left it alone. He sulked off and declared to the rest of his colleagues that I was being obstinate and refusing to take his advice.

The impertinence was the last straw, and I charged over to explain that I wouldn’t need his bloody advice in the first place if he had shut the bonnet properly, and that the advice was as wrong as it was un-needed!

Eventually I got the bonnet open and cooled down enough to invite him back to pick up the empty coolant bottle, take the bottle cap out of the engine, and study how the bonnet rod mechanism works, before driving off. I felt like a good Christian, having forgiven him, and forgot all about him for a while.

Five minutes.

Ten kilometres later, my dashboard lights exploded to indicate that the car was overheating, and the engine failed.

Parking off the road in a safe bush, I opened the bonnet and realised that my run-in with the idiot had proved ME to be an even BIGGER IDIOT for not double checking everything before driving off.

He had placed the radiator cap on and twisted it slightly into place, but certainly hadn’t closed it tightly as the instructions written on it clearly stated. All the water he had poured into it during the trips with the coolant bottle had evaporated into the Jinja air. Much like any intelligence he might have had at birth, since his head had clearly never been screwed on right.

The scene of the idiocy
The scene of the idiocy