let’s identify and use our icons to promote Uganda more


THE first time I visited South Africa (the Republic) was in 1999, and the guys at the airport were still heady with the end end of apartheid – and to be frank, so was I.

Unlike myself, they couldn’t help bringing up Idi Amin when they read my Passport, even though I felt I deserved better as a Ugandan.

That entire visit I found that most people, including some random Zambian I met atop of Table Mountain, only linked the word “Uganda” to “Idi Amin” even though on interrogation I found that the Zambian HAD been to Uganda and met with serious Ugandans in the medical profession with no link whatsoever to our former President.

This is not about Idi Amin.

For about five years I found South Africans using different icons to relate to Uganda, but this week I was met by a Customs chap who responded to my being Ugandan (seeing the t-shirt) with, “Matooke! Did you bring Matooke?!”

The excitement of his exclamation could have been linked to the expectation that he would catch me bringing in this agricultural contraband and therefore earn some commission or bonus, but after I calmly denied he slapped my suitcase and smiled.

“Matooke tastes good, braa!”

I smiled and went along my merry way since it was late in the night, but the memory came back to me the next morning.

Through the years these icons have included enseenene (delicious tasting fried grasshoppers), which a number of South Africans find entertaining even though they and their cousins in Zimbabwe eat stuff like mopane worms; and Anne Kansiime who came up last year, proving the power and reach of our continental media.

“She’s a funny one, that one! Tell her I said hi!” said the Immigration chap that night.

At one point the icon they recognised most was our President, and I was relieved when instead of “Idi Amin!” they’d go, “Museveni!” This was about the time they seemed to learn about Uganda’s contribution to the apartheid struggle in the past.

Most Ugandans don’t know about this even now. I recall meeting some young South Africans back in my much younger days in some dark place in Kyambogo. A few hours in we realised they were complicated characters when they introduced knives into an equation that involved liquids of a potent nature.

The night ended without too much mayhem, and we didn’t become friends. Years later, I woke up in a dormitory somewhere and found myself face-to-face with one of those South Africans. He was back in the country to continue receiving the type of support that eventually led to these exclamations of “Museveni!” from his compatriots when I introduce myself as Ugandan.

When I was leaving South Africa the last guy at the security checkpoint asked me about David Obua. I smiled and we chatted briefly about this Ugandan.

This week’s declaration of “Matooke!” pleased me, and along the way I asked a few other South Africans about their knowledge or liking of the foodstuff – at least three of them confirmed it.

This is not about Matooke.

It is about icons – our national icons, and how much more we can do to identify and use them for diplomacy, tourism, investment and even our individual self-esteem. An ‘icon’ is “a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.”

The fact that we have positive sounds about ordinary things like enseenene and Matooke means we have lots more to offer the world than we realise or make use of.

Our Ambassadors and Tourism afficionados could keep us notified what these icons are so we take advantage of them at every turn and corner. If Matooke is the big thing from Uganda in South Africa in 2017 then every Ugandan flying down there could go with a recipe book and a sample packet of matooke crisps or something even more innovative, and sell more Uganda out there.

If.

urgent: a non-violent way of achieving REAL independence in Uganda, learning from India


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FIRST, go to your calendar and mark the day October 2, 2017. Then, set it to ‘Repeat’ annually.

Then read this: I received a phone call from a frustrated-sounding Renu Varun the other day, who introduced herself as “Goodwill Tourism Ambassador of Uganda to India”. Long story cut short, she insisted that we meet face to face and I acquiesced. I really do not like meetings.
She was bright and lovely from the start, but I still demanded firmly that she explain the words on her business card that read, ‘Obuntu Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. She told me ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam‘ was the Indian equivalent of ‘Ubuntu’ – that oneness of humanity that we espouse over here, and they over there.
Her story was simple yet complicated.
When she arrived in Uganda in 2015 she was blown away by the people and the country and the spirit of peace. Within a couple of months, she had immersed herself into a project to get Uganda and India closer intertwined by way of increasing tourism from India to Uganda or, at least, by Indians in Uganda.
She was so amazed by the story of a young man called Victor Ochen, and the fact that he was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, that she put two and two together and decided it would be most fitting for him to be celebrated at a ceremony held at the place where a world icon of peace had been laid to rest.
According to his wishes, Mahatma Gandhi, assassinated in 1948, had some of his ashes scattered at The Source of the Nile in Jinja. (Next year, we have the opportunity to mark 60 years of that event right HERE, but that’s a whole other discussion).
Renu, seeing the link between Gandhi, Ochen and Jinja, contacted the Gandhi family and they agreed to give Victor Ochen a tunic made off the very hand loom that Mahatma Gandhi himself used to make his own tunics off of.
Gandhi at the Loom
That tunic was airlifted to Uganda and, in a ceremony attended by the Indian Association of Uganda and officiated over by the Indian High Commissioner to Uganda then, given to Victor on October 2, 2015. Victor Ochen owns a tunic woven off the hand loom of Mahatma Gandhi, handed to him where Mahatma Gandhi’s remains were scattered. He is special.
Did you mark this date? It is October 2. That is the day, in 1869, on which Mahatma Gandhi was born. Because of that it is marked globally as the International Day of Non-Violence.
Monday October 2.001
After Victor received his tunic, Renu shared her big idea – Uganda needed to mark the ‘International Day of Non-Violence 2017’ in a grand way leading up to Independence Day celebrations, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance at the Source of the Nile in Jinja. During the 2017 ceremonies, millions upon millions of people in India would tune in and pay attention to the event and Uganda, thus taking a further interest in tourism opportunities here.
See, in 2017 (she has been explaining to all and sundry since back in 2015) India would be marking 100 years of their Swadeshi Movement – the equivalent of what we are calling ‘Buy Uganda, Build Uganda’. Their Swadeshi Movement was a successful boycott of British products and establishment of Indian nationalism, industry and what Gandhi described as “the soul of Swaraj (self-rule)”.
How appropriate it would be, she argued, if on October 2, 2017 Uganda became the world’s home of the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’ celebrations and marked it at the Source of the Nile in Jinja by launching the ‘Buy Uganda, Build Uganda’ (did I hear Zimba Uganda?) Movement while marking 100 years of the Swadeshi Movement?
Very appropriate!
Swinging back to the Peace part of this, did you know that Uganda’s allocated SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) is Goal 16: “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”? Think about how all this ties in.
Not only that, Renu told me, Uganda’s special place in the minds of India is so deep-set that the cover photograph used on the Indian Government website of the India Africa Forum Summit in 2015 – the biggest held so far – bore a photograph of the Indian Foreign Affairs Minister shaking hands with only one African Foreign Affairs Minister – Uganda’s Sam Kutesa.
India Africa Summit Front Page
Meeting a very high ranking Indian government official in India one day, she said to him, “We talk about Gandhism every day here in India, but in Uganda they live Gandhism!”
Did you mark the date, by the way? It’s October 2, 2017 – at the Source of the Nile in Jinja.
By the time our coffee was done, I still didn’t know the theme of this year’s Independence Day celebrations or whether Ugandans would be wearing foreign-made suits and ties to celebrate ‘Independence’. Also, there was no confirmation of a government-sponsored or organised event at the Source of the Nile in Jinja on October 2, 2017.


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I have heard, though, that His Royal Highness the Aga Khan will be a Guestof Honour at this year’s Independence Day celebrations. Why is this significant?
At some point in his life, Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned in the Aga Kahn Palace in Pune, in India. After launching the ‘Quit India’ Movement in 1942. Read some of the story for yourself, off the plaque at the Palace itself:
Aga Khan Gandhi Plaque
Seriously, Uganda, all the elements are coming together so well that we don’t have to wait for another announcement, as peace-loving, tourism-propelled Ugandans who are lauded the world over for being a haven of peace in the Great Lakes Region and the world’s shining example of refugee handling and regional conflict resolution.
This is not for the Government of Uganda to hire tents and public address systems and then prepare speeches by a Guest of Honour. All of us can go out there and talk Peace and Security and Buy Uganda Build Uganda/Zimba Uganda.
Renu had an interesting idea: If the Parliament of Uganda declared that for that week all MPs were required to dress up strictly in traditional garb or clothing made in Uganda, surely a message would be sent. Perhaps some of them might wake up on the eighth day and feel like NOT going back to clothes made in China, Turkey and Bangladesh?
What about in our own private companies? Can WE not do the same for that one week?
Starting on:
Monday October 2.001
October 2, 2017 – International Day of Non-Violence at the Source of the River Nile, all decked out in Ugandan made clothing, eating Ugandan food and picking up from 100 years of Swadeshi to make Buy Uganda Build Uganda (Zimba Uganda) a success that will make INDEPENDENCE on October 9 much, much more meaningful!
Shiyaya Coupon Book Advert FINAL.001

uganda: time to open the national office of event planning and fill it wisely…but urgently


Museveni Selfie
Photo from http://www.matookerepublic.com

IF you were like me and found it surprising that there was a major Commonwealth event taking place in Kampala this week, then please accept my sympathies for missing yet more opportunities for this country.

According to the official website: “The Commonwealth brings together government ministers, senior officials, young leaders, and youth workers from across the globe for the 9th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting.”

The meeting involves the Youth Minister’s meeting, the Youth Forum and the Youth Stakeholder’s Forum. This meeting, I have discovered, takes place every four years in a different country each time – and the one in Uganda this week is the 9th in the series.

There are 52 countries in the Commonwealth, so a basic mathematical analysis into this means that the next time Uganda might get a chance to host such an event will be the year 2181.

These thoughts came to me because during this week I also received news of the Tokyo Olympics 2020. This news was broken to me NOT by way of a sports publication but through an ICT magazine – www.computerweekly.com.

The article in this magazine was titled, ‘How Japan is gearing up to secure the Tokyo Olympics’, and explained a non-obvious link between computers and the world’s biggest sporting event.

The story told us that the ever-efficient Japanese, hosts of the 2020 Olympics, were focused on securing electricity and communication systems THREE YEARS ahead of the event, to ensure there are no cyber attacks or system failures in 2020.

Three years to go, and they are already planning for contingencies. Some articles even state things like, “The 2020 Olympics are around the corner…

The Japanese have planned their 2020 event to such levels of detail that even the possibility of cyber interruptions is being looked into.

When I remarked on this to a youthful colleague, on the day the event opened and a photograph circulated widely of the grey-haired Kirunda Kivenjinja at a podium opening the event, he laughed.

“Even you, “ he said, “You can’t claim to be good at planning, so don’t start that kaboozi…”

He was right about one part, but we really have to stop and think a little bit.

The Permanent Secretary for Youth, Gender and Culture, Pius Bigirimana, wrote an article about the Conference and concluded with: “Let me also mention that right now and in days to come, all Commonwealth focus will be on this important event and this will further showcase Uganda to the world.”

Right.

Another youth asked me, when I mentioned the Conference to her, whether it was really trending worldwide on the social media platforms that most youth spend their time on.

Luckily, the President himself stepped forward with a selfie stick and created at least one superb image that went viral for hours on end via digital media, starting with his half million Twitter followers.

The rest of the stats of impressions and views of the hashtag @9CYMM are pathetic.

Yet we knew FOUR YEARS AGO that we would be hosting this most important event in the country with the world’s youngest population. We knew FOUR YEARS AGO that this event would make Uganda the focus of at least 52 countries for a long period in the run-up to the Conference, then during the three days of the Conference and meetings, and thereafter when they return to their homes, and update their Facebook walls and photo albums. We had FOUR YEARS to plan our hashtags, and menus, and itineraries and millions of other opportunities.

I say millions of opportunities because there are millions of youth in Uganda alone who could each have been brought on board in some small way to take advantage of this event – not necessarily by attending it, but even by tweeting it or gramming (from Instagram) elements of the meetings, or using the hashtag to promote bits of Uganda that would be highlighted to the millions following @9CYMM in the 52 Commonwealth countries.

Mind you, this opportunity is so massive that we are amazing in the way we have let it pass. From a tourism or investment point of view, for instance, the Commonwealth countries are english speaking and can communicate with us rather easily, and have certain other similarities that make it easier for them to send their nationals here to benefit us. Plus, many of them presumably don’t have stringent visa requirements and other prejudices that would keep other ordinary people from bringing their funds to Uganda.

I’m sure some segment of our millions of youth here would have appreciated the opportunity to make souvenirs for the people who came for the Conference to buy. Better still, they would have certainly been happy to take them round the country on tours, and sell them Rolexes and other home grown delicacies. Even just Re-Tweeting or Liking posts about Uganda so that the rest of the world’s seven billion people get a good impression of this country would be putting this resource to good use.

I checked the impressions of the hashtags and googled for the #CYMM and was disappointed at the numbers. Little of the above was done.

As usual, though, I took up hope. Since the Japanese are global experts at getting precision right and exact, should we not aspire to be like them? Perhaps we can take some lessons from their Tokyo 2020 Olympics planning and then apply some of them to our upcoming events. Maybe we can create an office in charge of events planning, whose first role would be to compile a list of all events coming up in future.

For instance, what are the Independence Celebrations on October 9 this year going to look like? What about the UMA Exhibition in the first week of October? These events are just two months away but try googling for the theme or other aspects around them and see. THAT is what the Office of Events Planning would concentrate on. Identify opportunities around events, publicize them so that the general public can work out more, and make them nationally profitable.

Since we have up to 2181 for the next @CYMM, we can even send a few people to Tokyo 2020 specifically to pick up ideas from the ground there, for use in 164 years’ time. We appear capable of waiting another three years, since we allow these opportunities to casually go by without batting an eye lid.

may you have a hakuna mchezo year ahead!


m7-ak47-1Hakuna Mchezo.
Those were my two favourite words of 2016, amid all the politicking, partying, hustling, bustling and struggling to live life the way we have lived it this year.
When the phrase was first used there was as much skepticism around it as there was hope. Some of us were afraid that the skeptics would not just hope the intentions of the phrase would fail, but work to cause this failure just so they could say, “See? We told you so!”
With that in mind, we should have done our best to ‘win’ by ensuring that the attitude of Hakuna Mchezo takes effect in every aspect of life within the territorial borders of Uganda.
We did not.
Our biggest error was taking ‘Hakuna Mchezo’ to be a governmental tenet or slogan. As usual, we pretended that all the mchezo that causes us to suffer takes place in government offices, so we focused our limited Hakuna Mchezo attention on government offices.
We should, indeed, demand for a total cessation of mchezo when it comes to the work of the government and its delivery of social services to the tax payer.
BUT alongside that demand for Hakuna Mchezo from the government we ourselves should make ‘Hakuna Mchezo’ a guiding principle in whatever we do.
For the government, the ‘Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo’ declaration was made at the start of the current term of office, in May, and the President highlighted 23 (twenty three) strategic guidelines for all government departments to follow to achieve Hakuna Mchezo.
Indeed, shortly after that declaration government leaders went on a retreat (in July) and returned with more declarations of commitment to Hakuna Mchezo. In fact, the first couple of Cabinet Meetings that followed cited the Hakuna Mchezo guidelines directly as the Ministers made their resolutions.
By December, sadly, not enough of us were using the phrase. I was dismayed to hear that  a government ministry throwing a Christmas Party at Hotel Africana had to cut budgets from other departments and agencies to gather money for the fete – just weeks after another government department had issued guidelines telling Ugandans to avoid lavish spending during this period.
Our mchezo, even outside of the government, is significant and needs addressing urgently.
If you are in the habit of not doing your work – office, business or personal – satisfactorily, that is mchezo. If you hold meetings without preparation and follow-up actions, that is mchezo. If you do not keep time, and don’t stick to your word after giving it, that is mchezo. If you idle away the days in pursuits that are not befitting of the time your parents spent teaching you the difference between right and wrong; or the money spent on your schooling, that is mchezo.
Mchezo is not taking things seriously in a way that hampers serious work and development. Mchezo is failing to plan ahead – such as we should be doing now (belatedly) for 2017. Mchezo is not putting aside for a rainy day even though it is obvious we will have some in days to come. Mchezo is spending all your money and borrowing more just to celebrate Christmas yet the New Year starts off with the need to pay school fees and December’s mortgage deposit.
Read the State of the Nation address of 2016 again, in it’s full detail and you will find more items that constitute our list of mchezo. In fact, NOT reading such documents and keeping track of what our leaders say and pledge is also part of mchezo.
That list needs to be shortened – by you and I.
We haven’t yet arrived at Hakuna Mchezo by a long shot, but if we make this slogan the one New Year Resolution we take on as a country, government and citizens alike, to the point that we start naming children, roads, schools and other large, highly visible items after the phrase ‘Hakuna Mchezo’, maybe we will get there.
May 2017 be the year of real Hakuna Mchezo – INTO the future!

good Ugandans can be friends with good Spaniards


If you’ve ever heard of #SpainIsNotUganda, please don’t think me a hypocrite because of the following:
This week the soccer legend Patrick Kluivert visited Uganda for the first time in his life as a crucial step in the set up of a promotional tour that will open Uganda up to tens of millions of potential tourists and investors in coming years.
The story behind the story, though, is a tale of good Ugandans versus bad Ugandans and how one group triumphed over the other for God and Country.
It all started with a good Ugandan, a young chap reportedly called Joseph Baguma who applied to join a soccer academy in Spain run by Rayco Garcia Cabrera, a soccer talent scout, and passed the trials easily.
Baguma was the first Ugandan ever to join the academy, and played so well that he got even more of Rayco’s attention – so much so that the soccer scout told his mother about the young man, and the old woman got Baguma to move out of his hotel and into her home.
And Baguma talked about Uganda a lot, even though he was based in England; before long Rayco was convinced that he could find more talent of this nature if he came over here himself.
After consulting his colleagues – the Patrick Kluiverts, Johann Cruyff’s and Lionel Messi’s – Rayco Garcia took a contact from Baguma and flew to Entebbe.
Within hours he was blown away by the beauty of the place, the hospitality of the people, and the promise of tourism – much the same way Kluivert was when he arrived this week – the story of every visitor to Uganda.
He kept spotting talent whenever he saw children dancing, playing soccer, running about – see, the things scouts look out for are not just accomplished soccer players already assigned teams. To his eyes, most of the bare feet he saw kicking balls in Uganda were golden boots gleaming in the sun!
But the contact he had been given was a bad Ugandan. For two weeks, Rayco was shuttled from fruitless meeting to fruitless meeting, achieving nothing close to progress in the way of securing interest in opening up a talent academy in Uganda, or hosting the Barcelona Legends to a promotional game here.
Instead, he got asked for money to set up high level meetings, and even the small things seemed odd to him – like the way his contact always had a meal in front of him when they met, but was never around to deal with the bill.
He couldn’t understand why the Ugandans were not seeing what he saw. When Uhuru Kenyatta happened upon him at a hotel in Kampala a couple of weeks ago, within minutes the Kenyan President had stopped everyone and whispered urgent words of invitation for Rayco to drop everything and go to Kenya.
Because of the talent he kept seeing, he stayed on a few days more, in spite of the phone calls from back home asking him to head back to business.
On his last night, he had drafted a letter of frustration to share with his management team back home, when another contact, Basketball’s Ambrose Tashobya, suggested that he meet with Tourism’s Amos Wekesa.
Those two good Ugandans turned the tide round.
Amos (please note that I am on first-name basis with him) cancelled Rayco’s flight out and insisted that the man stays another week to see some of the tourism attractions, and accomplish what brought him.20150824_153259
A few days later, the Barcelona Legends team captain himself was intown and within hours they were chattering excitedly about building an exclusive high-end lodge that would be patronised by the world’s biggest names in Sports, a set of town houses for world soccer’s biggest names (Barcelona players first, of course), a soccer academy based somewhere in Uganda that would feed the one back home…
…and the next day they were shuttling between meetings with more good Ugandans – including the Prime Minister and President who within hours had confirmed government support of their promotional tour during which they would visit the national parks, nature reserves, and lots more.
This is no small feat.
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Barcelona FC is the second most valuable sports team in the world,
worth US$3.2 billion, and the world’s fourth richest football club in terms of revenue, with an annual turnover of €484.6 million.
More importantly, the official club Twitter handle has more than 15million Twitter followers, and each player has an average of 10million – if this December all those people receive tweets from their small gods declaring Uganda to be beautiful, peaceful, hospitable, promising and a must-visit…
Well, this week I met both soccer stars; and one of my favourite conversations involved a sincere and earnest apology from Rayco Garcia Cabrera for #SpainIsNotUganda – it certainly isn’t, but we can be friends on some level for God and Country.