the coffee stain on the neat, snazzy shirt of the village mall


If you’ve seen me on an ordinary morning you will notice one of many coffee thermos mugs I leave home with. One day last week I realised late in the morning that the thermos mug had leaked a little bit and stained my shirt.

The shirt in question is a neat number I bought at far less than it would appear to cost, and therefore gets special attention when I open the wardrobe door. I had an important meeting to attend that day and that shirt had therefore left its hanger.

On noticing the coffee stain my spirits fell momentarily, but the meeting was nigh so I soldiered on, adopting an awkward posture with my elbow on the table for the duration. For the rest of that day I ensured all interaction with serious but impressionable people ranged from strictly unavoidable to none at all.

See, if the coffee stain had appeared on one of my ordinary shirts then I would probably not have noticed it at all, let alone adjusted posture or schedule to hide the fact. I only felt squarely uncomfortable because the shirt in question was the type even a moderate Sapeur would more than glance at, immediately thinking of ways to add colourful accessories.

To a serious person that day, spotting a coffee stain on that shirt would have made them think me to be quite careless, shabby and even immature. What kind of adult fails to control a coffee mug for the short distance between the table and his lips?

The stain came to mind this week when, for about the fourth week running, I walked to the Luthuli Avenue entrance of the Village Mall in Bugolobi and found that it was STILL not fully operational because of a small flood of unnatural water from a burst pipe or clogged sewer nearby.

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The open drain as seen on May 11, 2017 (Photo: Simon Kaheru)

When I first saw this mini-flood there was a line of cars trying to get into the Mall and being re-routed to other entrances. A few days later some authorities had dug up the neat paving blocks at that point, to check what was happening.

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The pavers neatly stacked by the side, thanks to the neat-minded authorities in charge of this (Photo: Simon Kaheru)

Weeks later, the dug-up paving stones were still piled up to one side, and there was a gaping hole in the ground filled up with water and revealing the innards of the road. Confounded drivers were still rolling up to gain access, and puzzled security guards were still routing them to other entrances with that “What can’t you see?” attitude.

I stopped and asked the askaris how it was possible for this to be happening here, at an upmarket Mall in the capital city, in an otherwise wealthy neighbourhood. Undeveloped land in Bugolobi goes for about US$1million an acre. You pay Ushs10,000 for 300mls of coffee at that Mall, and meals are an average of Ushs25,000 a plate and their french fries travel on aeroplanes to get here. They even have shoes that cost Ushs2million a pair (two shoes only) and their pizzas were endorsed by a Cabinet Minister, no less!

And yet for more than a month this Mall can suffer a gaping hole in the ground filling up with extremely unhygienic water and other substances. The thought that a housefly taking an afternoon dip in the dark pool of water swilling about in that hole could thereafter alight onto the edge of my coffee mug at the nearby cafes, or onto the fork conveying food into my mouth was discouraging.

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The swimming pool used by houseflies and other germs en route to your plate or coffee mug (Photo: Simon Kaheru)

Of course the people leaving the Mall after buying Ushs2million pairs of shoes would be doing so in while driving sleek cars but even splashing through the muddy seepage should certainly make them feel awkward.

But the askaris reported that there had been no angry gatherings of proponents of tourism, health, environmental management, urban management or even mere customers of the Mall, all protesting this ongoing state of affairs.

They couldn’t confirm which officials were responsible for fixing the problem but said “they” had visited and taken the pavers apart after the flooding had started, but had not been back since. I established from elsewhere that the people at the KCCA had taken responsibility and had promised to fix it.

The problem, it would appear, is mostly to do with storm waters and a clogged drainage system. But instead of fixing the problem urgently, for some reason we are all waiting for the heavy rains to come to an end first.

This is what is causing the stain on the neat shirt of Bugolobi’s most prime commercial location, making you think: “What kind of careless, shabby, immature adult fails to control a coffee mug for the short distance between the table and his lips?”

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.

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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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get rid of street vendors but by turning them into enterprises


THE conversation about street vendors somehow always ends up being political and linked to the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
The issue is certainly political in origin, and its management falls squarely under KCCA but those can’t be the only two focus points in dealing with the issue – and it IS a seriously disturbing issue.
Back in the early nineties when Uganda started building straight tarmac highways we heard the President complaining that residents upcountry were only using those roads to dry their cassava and maize, and it was a laughing point. His stress point then was that those roads needed to be used to transport produce to markets, rather than as pre-processing platforms.
The irony is that roads are designed to make connections that improve economics, and we – the educated elite – are clearly failing to make the right connections here, while ’those people’ have made a quick connection to improve their economic situation.
The Street Vendor problem, from the point of view of the elite chap driving home in a nice, air conditioned car having finished grocery shopping in the comfort of a large supermarket, is one of irritation and aesthetics. They make those neat pavements look shabby, and also get in the way, causing anxiety that they or their customers could stumble into the road and get knocked.
The pedestrian walking home might think the same, in addition to being worried that they might step on the wares of the vendors and get asked to pay for the damages. To avoid that risk, the more cautious pedestrian might choose to walk along the main road where there is a risk of getting hit by vehicles, but in that case the vehicle owner would be liable to pay any fines or compensation, since the congestion will make it easy to stop them should an accident occur.
The regular traders are unhappy about all this because they have to pay taxes and license fees where these street vendors don’t, and then their legitimate entranceways for which they pay rent get blocked by the very same street vendors who go ahead to ‘under-cut’ them with lower-priced items, thanks to their decreased overheads.
On the way to my home outside of the city centre, the street vendors even have night-time lighting from the solar powered installations KCCA put in as they re-did our road, so they can work late into the night.
It’s a mess of an affair, and within minutes of any discussion around it there is talk of politics a la, “Nanti those are voters…” and medioconomics a la, “How do you expect them to survive…?”
First of all, the fact that those are voters means that all parts of the government need to get involved in solving this ‘problem’, also because those elite or ‘rich’ people, the pedestrians who aren’t vending, the ‘legitimate’ or licensed traders, and so on and so forth, are also voters.
So yes – the issue is political in nature but only because it involves the management of society, not because we need to please people in order to make them vote a certain way or another.
The management of society involves administration as well as setting and managing (the right) expectations.
Each and every one of these people we casually refer to as ‘street vendors’ is a potential business unit capable of being built into a much larger enterprise. By the time they are engaged in selling whatever they are selling, they have a certain amount of enterprise, a motivation to go for profit, the mathematical skills to calculate it, and the energy to work.
So rather than deploy just the enforcement people from KCCA, what about we deploy business enterprise experts from the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda and Business Uganda Advisory Services to register and help develop these guys? Add to them a couple of business professors from the likes of the Makerere University Business School, and people from the Youth Livelihood Programme to fund their business expansion into places that are compliant with the law, and people from the Uganda Export Promotion Board to make them export.
Ridding the streets of these vendors means get them into a more formal, profitable setting and not into KCCA garbage skips.

mwe abagagga, give us back our pavements!


The other day on Twitter a discussion kicked off around container-carrying trucks being inappropriate for the middle of the city or residential areas such as Nakasero and Kololo. 

And one tweep (it’s not impolite – that’s what we call people on twitter) jumped in accusing us of being elitist because there are floods in Bwaise that need attention. But his problem was speed of wit.

So even if you are from Bwaise and other such areas, the following should be of much interest, but stand warned that it is elitist. Before moving on, however, I think the elitism of this matter is well-placed here based on the assumption that this publication is bought mostly by the elite.

It’s just an assumption because I am keenly aware that there are more high-priced residences on hills such as Kololo, Nakasero, Bugolobi, Muyenga, Naguru, Ntinda et al, than the copies of newspapers sold on Sundays. You see, people like me assume that those residences are occupied by people whose status in life should have them buying and reading newspapers on a regular basis – not just when they go to their offices and find the company or organisation has made the purchase.

We’re not always correct; so back to my elitist issue: 

Some of us have taken to jogging or walking the streets for health reasons – especially many who live in the areas abovementioned.

While doing so, we face threats to life from open manholes and insensitive drivers, for which a group of us initially blamed the Kampala City Council (and now Kampala Capital City Authority). It was their fault, we said, that manholes weren’t covered, and that we don’t have pavements or sidewalks.

Jog-walking round part of Kololo this week I dodged a couple of open, surprisingly-placed manholes but spent more time and effort dodging cars as even in this most expensive part of Kampala there are no pavements.

Additionally irritating is a section of Prince Charles Avenue (very posh name but…) that is living in Amin’s regime or Obote II or the early days of the NRA/M when soldiers and senior government officials hadn’t yet grasped the concept of power belonging to the people.

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Half the road section has been cordoned off for more than a year with soil-filled drums and concrete pipe sections. KCCA’s twitter handle (@KCCAUG) explained this week that, “Work is set to start on the retaining wall on this road. Half closure was done for safeguard.” Whatever that meant, even when the road is cleared, there will still be insufficient pavements or sidewalk space.

The fault, however, is not KCCA’s. Not directly. We selfish property owners have confiscated public land by erecting walls close to the kerb and planting what we sometimes call “the Imageoutside compound”. (The KCCA should reign us in one of these days and demand that homeowners re-create common spaces and respect them – but that’s another call to action altogether, and very soon we will have to join hands in making the call and also helping the people at KCCA take the necessary action.)

It definitely started in the days when people with strong peasant mentalities suddenly found themselves to be ‘landed’, moreover in the city. Plus, the same mentalities made us/them drive cars to wherever they went so there was never a thought given to theImage need for comfortable perambulation (love that word!). 


Have you ever seen a mugagga walking down the road to buy sugar or toilet paper? See, we send the maid or drive to the supermarket!

And mind you, the concept of relaxation by taking an evening walk…that was stuff we saw when we were children. 

And as a child I also walked from home to my city primary schools and most times had reasonable pavement space for my little feet, but have noticed over the years that this kept steadily decreasing to today when most of my walking or jogging has me competing with cars and boda-bodas all being operated by insensitive, crazy people whose mentality is still very close to their villages or days long-gone. 

Today’s children are more at risk as they walk to school, than we were. As are maids, gardeners and other non-resident domestic workers employed by the same house-owners who have taken over pavement and road reserve spaces.

Unless this health-exercise trend grows quicker.Image

You see, if more and more residents of these houses in Kololo, Nakasero, Bugolobi, Muyenga, Naguru, Ntinda et al begin jogging or taking strolls in the evenings, they will realise the need for pavements and sidewalks. 

(And by now, I trust you will be in agreement with me that even this elitist issue has an impact or reach on people in Bwaise and other such places…)

it’s a garbage life; seriously, we are eating rubbish


This is about rubbish. Literally about rubbish, no political satire or irreverent dribble. 

I have spent a total of thirty minutes behind garbage trucks in Kampala this week. I have complained, talked, written and prayed about this before, and whereas I am not giving up soon I am beginning to accept certain smelly, unhygienic facts about the lives we lead.

ImageThe most significant trip I made behind an open-ended garbage truck took place on Tuesday afternoon, following one managed by ‘Nabugabo Updeal Joint Venture’. This extravagantly-named outfit has a website – www.nabugaboupdeal.com – that says they are the “Best Waste Management Service Provider in Uganda”. 

And THAT is what almost made me give up on the idea that we will be one day rid of all this smelly rubbish. 

The four chaps on the back of the truck were standing right in the garbage and hopping off occasionally to collect bags of garbage that belonged to them. In between stops, they were engaged in such jolly banter that I almost envied them, as I was alone in my vehicle and conversation-less. 

I had just had my lunch and because of the narrowness of the road and their slow progress, was forced to watch the steaming garbage pile up. I was happy that my car radio was functional; otherwise if I had to listen to some radio presenters I would have cracked – see, you should only be made to stand so much garbage…

Outside my office, I finally stopped having to follow them but as I was reverse-parking into my spot I was horrified to see one of the fellows jump off the truck, walk straight up to the courier/messenger/tea-fellow of my neighbour’s office, and SHAKE HIS HAND! 

He didn’t just give him five or ‘bonga’ – he SHOOK HIS HAND!

I almost lost control of my vehicle as my mind exploded with visions of germs transferring from garbage man to courier/messenger/tea-fellow and from there to wherever he had been sent to deliver envelopes or a flask of tea. 

Petrified, I observed them in conversation so long that it ended and the garbage truck left with its diseased contents, allowing me to recover my wits enough to summon the courier/messenger/tea-fellow. 

Dropping my window (I always keep them up and the air conditioning on because of the high propensity for being behind a garbage truck), I made as if to shake the courier/messenger/tea-fellow’s hand and…he OFFERED IT TO ME!!!! 

(Take a pause to go and relieve yourself. There are many ways to ward off nausea, but take a walk and get some fresh air). 

Startled at my vehement withdrawal, he confessed to not having even thought about his pal’s occupation even though the man was clad in really filthy green overalls and had literally jumped out of a pile of garbage to say hi to him. And, of course, he had not noticed how black his friend’s hands were! 

“Put that phone into your pocket immediately and go and wash your hands!” I instructed, a little frantically, and as luck would have it the phone rang as if on cue…and he was raising it to his face when I screamed at him not to. 

The rest is biology.  

ImageI washed my hands maniacally when I got into the office, and have stopped taking handshakes. That courier/messenger/tea-fellow has delivered envelopes to me before, and I dread the thought that his garbage friend takes this route daily on his route…

Gloves cost about Ushs2,000 a pair – and my house has been re-stocked.  

From a discussion I had with the managers and staff of another garbage collection firm, Bin-It, some companies actually give their employees protective wear such as gloves but they choose not to wear them – which is not to say that they wouldn’t have shaken hands with my neighbour’s courier/messenger/tea-fellow…

 

www.nabugaboupdeal.com carries photographs of employees at work and none of them ever has gloves on their hands.

On the website, they explained of their “Gabbage (sic) Collection & Disposal Services:”

“Our suite of waste collection services stretches past the old-fashioned standard skip delivery and pick-up to the provision of a simple, integrated platform that is responsive to the individual needs of our customers.”

I don’t know what that means – it’s a rubbish statement. Pretending to take the garbage away while dropping bits of it in the road and sticking it to our hands, envelopes and tea flasks.

Gasiya tuu.