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.
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.

Pierre Nkurunziza: the man of ironies could learn something from Yoweri Museveni

Nkurunziza from

BURUNDI’S Pierre Nkurunziza is a man of ironies.
His political party is called the National Council for the Defense of Democracy, but he is right now caught in the headlights of accusations that his election to a third term of office is most undemocratic – even though Burundi’s Constitutional Court ruled that he was within his legal rights to stand for another term.
Before being appointed President he was even Minister for Good Governance in the transitional government there, but today his adherence to governance principles is being held questionable.
For a sports enthusiast who normally shows up on public kitted out in colourful track suits and who’s a common figure on public soccer pitches playing footie, it was weird last year to hear that Nkurunziza had banned jogging because of security risks associated to the exercise.
Indeed, after the announcement, opposition members from the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) were jailed for jogging, as their run had reportedly turned into a political demonstration.
And the chatter in Kampala when it was announced that the mediation over Nkurunziza’s third term deadlock would be run by Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, was that it most most ironic because of the number of terms Museveni himself has served as President.
For Museveni, though, Burundi presents more nostalgia than irony, and as he arrived in Bujumbura for the talks, he might have either felt a small twinge of it or triggered some in Burundians.
The nostalgia of the Barundi must lie in the number of Presidents they’ve received at Bujumbura airport since the mid-90s to mediate in political conflict there. Counting from the top, they’ve hosted Presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (all more than once).
Museveni’s own nostalgia, on the other hand, is not over the political battle he faced when he stood for the Presidency in 2006 and in 2011, as all indications are that he will be on the ballot paper again in Uganda come 2016.
Instead, it must be linked to the number of times he has been at the helm of mediations for peace in Burundi – which goes back about twenty years when, at the behest of Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Museveni got Burundi’s Sylvestre Ntibantunganya to reach a settlement with his opposition that settled tensions for a few weeks before it fell apart again.
In the years following that, Museveni featured starkly in the negotiations, pushing a hard line that eventually swept away the more radical players accused of genodical tendencies, and those labelled coup plotters.
Back then the Tanzanians took lead in managing the peace process mostly because they found themselves hosting heavy flows of refugees that had crossed the border, as well as funding a large deployment of Tanzanian military personnel to secure said borders so the violence didn’t follow the refugees.
Museveni, though, always at Nyerere’s side in the mediation continuously spoke of the need for Burundi to be settled in order for regional cooperation to become a reality, since Rwanda had been sorted out – cutting his teeth further as a regional leader.
The opportunity was the first in which African leaders took full charge of resolving a conflict on the continent, which also gave Museveni a further boost to his anti-imperial ideologies.
Since then, he has been central in conflict resolution in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Somalia and now, again, in Burundi.
This time round, though, the concerns Museveni faces are much greater in number and scope.
To start with, the reasons for the conflict in Burundi are too close to home – just months to national elections in Uganda, political upheaval over a tussle for the presidency is the last thing Museveni and many other Ugandans  would want to see, after all these years of relative calm.
The closest to civil upheaval Uganda has seen in the capital city came in 2011 after the national elections, when opposition politicians launched a volley of demonstrations veiled as attempts to “walk to work” because, they argued, economic conditions were so bad they couldn’t afford fuel. Ironically, like Nkurunziza, the protests threatened to make the economy worse by paralysing business in the city centre.
The government clamped down hard on the “walks”, deploying squads of anti-riot police with water cannons and tear gas canisters, while frequently jailing demonstration leaders. The message was clear – the sight of demonstrators on the streets was unwelcome, especially so soon after North Africa had hosted so many to the detriment of the countries themselves.
When Nkurunziza left Burundi in May for crisis talks in Tanzania demonstrations broke out on Bujumbura’s streets leading to the attempted coup or coup announcement.
The glee with which the opposition in Uganda received the news of his toppling was worrying enough for any sitting President to be concerned.
Allowing any opposition leaders or groups of youths to casually exhibit a sustained defiance to leadership would be highly problematic for Uganda, where the population of the youth is a sometimes scary 70%.
If Nkurunziza needed to be removed, it had to be through peaceful, regularised means otherwise there was a chance that the ghosts of the Arab Spring would return to wreak havoc.
Luckily, Nkurunziza returned and restored himself into the seat but shortly thereafter noises were made about Rwanda possibly being involved in the attempt to remove him.
Museveni was keen to put a stop to those noises as a priority, otherwise East African Cooperation would suffer.
Besides the political worries, Museveni is also keenly aware of the dominoes of instability caused by the combination of conflict and refugees from Burundi through Rwanda and Tanzania into Uganda, which even now probably hosts the largest number of refugees in East and Central Africa – close to 500,000 of them from every other country.
And, most importantly, Burundi is a good opportunity for Museveni to emphasize the importance of his philosophy that African countries must first settle security issues before tackling democracy and their economies – quite distinct from some views that democracy should always come first.
As he quipped about Somalia a few weeks ago: “If you say defence is not connected to agriculture, then I invite you to start a coffee farm in Somalia.”
Whereas Museveni’s mediation in Burundi was focussed on a political solution, the defence and security angle was so central that when he left Bujumbura his assigned placeholder was Uganda’s Defence Minister, Crispus Kiyonga.
Nkurunziza did not need a veiled message from Uganda about what would happen if war broke out afresh today. He knows first hand how adept Uganda is at deploying troops and holding ground more than two borders away from their own, as Burundi has run peacekeeping operations side by side with Uganda under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The disputed election has taken place and the expected result has been achieved.
But what Nkurunziza now needs to learn from Museveni is how to hold his Presidential seat and his country together two terms away from the peace accord that first brought him into power, as the old man has managed quite comfortably these many years hence.
– a version of this article ran in the Sunday Independent of South Africa on July 26.

happy independence week, only IF you are fully independent

Photo downloaded from

The felicitation “Happy Independence!” this week did not apply to you if you’re not yet fully independent.

Full independence is hard to define on a national level but my simple mind associates it with breaking away from colonial ties, ceasing to be dependent on foreigners for ordinary, everyday stuff that we should surely be able to do for ourselves, and projecting Uganda with a positive confidence that puts us level with the best the world has to offer, where we can.

Ironically, this Tuesday (Yes! THIS past week!) the Princess Royal – NOT Ssangalyambogo of Buganda – launched a charity hospital ship on Lake Victoria, but on the Tanzania side. I heard it on BBC (again, Yes! That’s the British Broadcasting Corporation…smile) and listened to the commentator say how the ship was “bringing medical care to residents of the area’s 3,000 islands.

For real – it’s here:

The “first ever ship of its kind on the lake”, said the enthusiastic reporter, will run for about 25 years to come…since it is second hand, having been put to work for decades in the UK – like many of your cars, electronics, furniture, clothes and even underclothes!

“I feel good,” said one of the shiny-faced residents after the calm Princess Royal had said some things about the gift, and after comments by a British gentleman with a white beard who was actually a Reverand and ticked all the stereotypical boxes required to make the scenario look exactly as expected.

It was as if the British monarchy had timed this gift because the thousands of examples here called Non-Governmental Organisations, and the percentage of our national budget that is funded by ‘development partners’ are not enough to illustrate our situation.

Full independence means being able to look that gift carefully in the eye and work out whether the ship wasn’t just being dumped cleverly onto Lake Victoria as wrapping around some admittedly much-needed medical equipment.

It also means being capable of providing medical services for all our people rather than having to rely on handouts of this nature, especially on the same lake that hundreds of tycoons spend weekends whizzing across in luxury boats loaded with fine whiskies, imported salmon, cream cheese and crackers, and leaving expensive whiffs of eau de toilette in the wind behind them.

Full independence means not thinking like the colonialists wanted us to think; it means breaking away from the education system that has made us the way we are, and it means being more than the native Africans they came to liberate with religion and basic education. This education point requires a long treatise that will be handled later, but that tackles the colonial idea that the African brain was limited and could therefore only be trained to do simple things following clear instructions.

Full independence means understanding economics well enough to harness our resources from production to consumption. It means knowing well enough to produce well enough to supply our own market, and those larger ones elsewhere; it means adding value to what we produce by way of simple and complex processing.

And full independence means, on the consumption end, NOT buying foreign products where local ones exist and in good comparison and competition. It means government procurement officers, or even private ones, buying Star Cafe and Good African Coffee BEFORE Nescafe.

Full independence is when you buy more locally manufactured products thanimported ones because they are of good, if not better, quality and because the money you spend doing so stays within this economy and is used to grow it. It’s realising that hardwood floors made in Uganda by Ugandans can actually be much smoother, warmer and more beautiful than ceramic tiles imported from China or Spain (and #SpainIsNotUganda); and that furniture made in Uganda Uganda Flagcan actually be steady, nice and durable – (the carpenters themselves should realise this first).

And it’s not being so daft as to walk through shopping centres and believing the phrase ‘Made in England’ is proof of good quality, “China” means ‘fake’ and Uganda doesn’t even exist. 

Going back to ceramic tiles versus wooden floors, being fully independent means defining ourselves by our situation rather than that of foreigners; our houses are constructed based on foreign concepts and considerations – brick and mortar as if we are prone to wintry weather requiring such insulation, instead of our natural materials suited for tropical Africa.

It goes back to our colonial education, which is still being rolled out till today – just check your children’s schoolwork or ask them a simple questions such as ’How many seasons do we have?’

I was pleased when my own gave a lengthy explanation that included the four usual suspects from Spring to Winter, and then our equator-based dry and wet seasons as separate, but I know they still suffer some vestiges of colonialism – and I will do my best to free them of these by the time they get to adulthood.

They will NOT be like the middle class pretenders highlighted in my favourite read this week – a blog post ( that explained why Eddie Kenzo is so disliked by a mentally colonised middle class that believes his inability to speak english is reason for ridicule.

(I am a grammar nazi myself, but I only police those who have studied the full thirteen years from primary one to senior six, and those employed in professions that require them to be grammatically astute – such as journalism.)

The ridicule instead, should be aimed at those who didn’t realise that this week they should have mourned, reflected and re-adjusted themselves. Don’t get me wrong – we HAVE made some good strides, but we still have very long way to go before we can really celebrate mbu Happy Independence!

let’s all go on a national retreat these next two weeks

“Why can’t we take on one task and finish it? We are here just talking here, barking there and finishing nothing.”

That’s the ultimate Quote of the Year for me.

I bet you can’t guess who said it but let’s see what options could come to mind:

Your workmates at the office, on any given day? Very likely candidates, but not in this case. 

Your plumber, perhaps at an annual meeting of all the plumbers you have used in the last fifteen years? Very, very, very likely, but again not in this case.

Your carpenter, same as the plumbers above?

Continue guessing:

“Why can’t we take on one task and finish it? We are here just talking here, barking there and finishing nothing.”

According to The New Vision (my only source because, sadly, I was not present when it was said) these are the words of President Yoweri Museveni at the start of a Cabinet retreat this week.

The old Cabinet list

I read the paragraph five times and found my hope in the future of Uganda was bolstered. First of all, the fact that the Cabinet had gone on a strategic retreat, with a Professor of Management (a non-Cabinet member) and the head of the National Planning Authority, was exciting. This normally happens at large corporates whose success we see in their profitability, ubiquity and other matrices that are a result of efficiency.

Then to hear that their Chief Executive was addressing them with tough words so squarely and openly that the journalists in the room could relay it to us, the shareholders: fantastic! In fact, we don’t even hear such news from big-name corporates, even at Annual General Meetings; which means that our Cabinet is way ahead of them and will most likely be more efficient at delivering public services than telecoms and breweries are at supplying retail markets!

Management consultants always tell you stuff like, ‘Acknowledging a problem is the first step in solving it.’

And the fact that this was said by no less than the President of the entire country himself means that we ALL should sit up and take notice.

Now, normally the process here involves the top executives holding their strategic retreat and setting the ‘global’ goals, objectives and targets for the year, together with over-arching strategies to achieve them. Then, they return to their departments and hold departmental meetings and brainstormers to share the strategies and targets. These are cascaded downwards until even the lowest cadre staff are aligned towards the main objectives, and even contribute to the methods and tactics to be followed in achieving them.

The Cabinet retreat ended on Wednesday, so they will be cascading down their goals, objectives and targets until you and I are brought on board to deliver our bit for the country. Hopefully this will happen very soon so that in these two weeks ahead we ALL go on a retreat to assess what we’ve done in 2013 and what we are going to do in 2014 to make Uganda a success.

We certainly can’t afford to just go on holiday and make merry.

And mind you, this is serious and the government also seems to be serious about it. 

In fact, the very day that the President delivered the phrase above, the Prime Minister was quoted at an event saying, “The greatest problem we face in the Uganda public sector, especially the traditional public sector, is complacency. Our service delivery apparatus is largely outdated, yet we tend to do nothing about it. We wait to be ‘caught off guard’ rather than be pro-active.”

And this is true not just about the public sector – even the private sector is largely like this. I run a couple of small companies and find I face the very same problem.

As I told one of my disgruntled clients last week who was protesting that of all people I shouldn’t be inefficient, I can never be efficient provided anyone I work with is inefficient.

Because the whole is only as good as the sum of its parts, we can’t go on complaining about the government or our leaders and sit back complacently waiting for them to change for the better – we’re part of the system.

And so I say again, now that they’ve finished the first stage of their strategising, let’s follow in the footsteps of our leaders these next two weeks and on top of echoing the salutation Merry Christmas, say: ‘For God and My Country.’