a little bit more about that colonial racism and Kampala…just a little bit

Benard Acema* whipped up quite the storm this week with his post The Racism Behind Kampala; most of the responses being the “What? How Could I Not Have Seen This Before?!” kind that satisfied the mind of a person who yearns for social change out of consciousness.

Some of the responses, though, ranged from those stating there could NOT have been racism in Uganda to others who claimed to have read all six thousand (6,000) words and taken away just one sentence in summary.

My favourite response came from Frank Morris Matovu, an Architect whose reaction was to calmly upload onto his Facebook wall more than ninety (90) pages of a 1955 book titled, ‘Town Planning In Uganda; A Brief Description Of The Efforts Made By Government To Control Development Of Urban Areas From 1915 to 1955‘, by Henry Kendall OBE, F.R.I.B.A., M.T.P.I, Director of Town Planning, Uganda.

Benard Acema’s intellectual and literary effort has proved̀ invaluable in many respects, including possibly causing a change to our education curriculum if the noises made by some of the people in charge are anything to go by.

Benard Acema tells me he had not read Kendall’s book by the time he wrote his thesis.


Those with literal minds and short fuses should go with the first dictionary definition of the word above, when dealing with Benard Acema’s work. The young man did what few others essay (no pun), linking his observations to thought and realisation and a little bit of research and then leading the rest of us to discovery.

Benard Acema’s thesis will be further dissected, proven or contested by various others in the worlds of social media, academia and even public administration, all of which will exclude me for now.

I only came here to share a few pages from Kendall’s book to aid your reading of Benard Acema, and to tell you to get a soft copy of the same directly from Frank Matovu. (He does not sell the book, but to aid his work compiling and storing such works, please feel free to make a modest contribution by way of Mobile Money to his number – 0758 483 934.)

But before you read the book, don’t be afraid of words like racism, colonialism and imperialism. Acknowledge the fact that they were a reality back then when the colonialists first took over Uganda. Nothing about that should be surprising. What we need to do, as many of the commenters said, is get rid of those ‘isms’ and their negative impacts where they may exist which includes dealing with both the big and the small items. 

define-colonialism define-imperialism

Do all three ‘isms’ still exist in Kampala, or Uganda? Benard Acema had valid points to make in that regard, that led to all that debate.

And now, on to the historical facts about settlement in Kampala (and other urban centres), and the question of racism or otherwise:


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





Read that one again, please?

And then take these:




Mind you, the mere mention of race might not necessarily prove that there was racism afoot, but again that was the reality of those times, as stated later on in the book from the actual Minutes of a meeting of the Central Town Planning Board:

the-principal-of-racial-segregation racial-segregation-again

Naguru, for instance, was reserved for Africans:


And even if race was not the only consideration there was a way, for a while, of working the formulae out that kept zones racially distinct using economics – since certain professions or trades seemed to be restricted (I said ‘for a while’) to particular races. The restriction of construction styles in some residential areas meant that if you couldn’t afford to build a certain type of house you couldn’t live in a certain neighbourhood…

the-development-of-kampala-viii This planning was neither restricted to Kampala alone, nor Uganda as a country.

In Jinja:



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


The same applied elsewhere, in many different ways, but as thousands of Ugandans have declared this week: It WASN’T OBVIOUS!

Which is why I still applaud for Benard Acema, because he tells me the thought occurred to him and kept niggling till he had put his thoughts down in writing – and they appear to be quite accurate. THIS is the stuff that academic study and problem solving is made of. The man clearly did not waste his education, and my hope is that he will continue with it at the same pace while the rest of us play catch up or raise younger children to be like him.

In the time being, all history, social studies and political science teachers, please make some small changes to your teaching texts?

*Benard Acema – Note that I use his name in full so as to ensure it is never forgotten, such that we all strive to educate our children to these heights so they are known for good work such as this.

where did that mould that produced this fantastic generation go?

Metusera Tibigambwa Katuramu

MANY eloquent and free-flowing eulogies flowed last week from the time Owekitinisa Metusera Amooti Tibigambwa Katuramu passed on till after he was laid to rest.

For a man of his stature and longevity, it was not surprising that everything said was full of praise and acclaim.

Katuramu’s grandchildren read out a poem in memory of the old man, titled ‘Paradoxes of a man of God’ (Philip C. Brewer) that in full described him well, and I especially liked: 

“Strong enough to be weak, wise enough to say I don’t know!…, Important enough to be last…, Great enough to be anonymous…, Leading enough to serve.”

ImageThe nobility in him stood out because of his humility. His poise, even in his sick bed, made us stand firm whenever we left him with his beloved wife Atwooki fussing dutifully and maintaining the tidiest of homes.

The Hoima LC5 Chairman, George Bagonza Tinkasiimire, delivered a short but pointed speech the crux of which went (in Runyoro): “Akacuba k’abantu mulingo gunno, kabuulirra nkaha?” which, loosely translated, meant: “Where did the mould that was used to make people like this disappear to?”

And he narrated how some years ago this noble old man had shown him his tax certificates going back fifty (50) years. Tinkasiimire marvelled not only at the steadfast nature of this senior citizen, but at how meticulous he had been in keeping a full, clean and clear record as evidence of what we already knew about him.

Later, Katuramu’s daughter, Amooti Deborah, told us how her father took her to task when she co-owned a government vehicle. The man found it hard to believe that his adult daughter, whose salary he estimated he knew, could afford the car. She had to present to him all her documentation before he let her keep it – such was his consistency in integrity.

But during the farewell ceremonies, there were five almost-surreal minutes that disrupted that semblance of tidiness, assaulted my sensibility, and made Tinkasiimire’s question stick out.

About six minutes before Tinkasiimire’s eulogy, Vincent Makumbi Nyanzi, Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President, had arrived at the funeral ceremony.

Even as his official Mitsubishi Pajero drove up the neat driveway, in Kaitira, Hoima, I hesitated to believe the ministerial flag waving off the vehicle pole on the left hand side was at half mast out of respect for the old man we were bidding farewell.

That respect, I felt, would have been better communicated by an earlier arrival at the ceremony and a much less conspicuous entry; but his driver came right up the house as is the propensity of ‘big’ men’s vehicles, and the thought occurred that if this had been Katuramu, he would never have attracted so much attention.  

Even as I was making a mental comparison, the doors were flung open and I was startled to see a yellow jerry-can right there amid passengers in the back seat. Not in the boot, but next to where the Minister of State was seated, right up against his leg.

My breath caught at the back of my throat much as yours has, reading this; I watched the bodyguard step out of the car and took my time studying the jerry-can long enough to arrive at the suspicion that it held either a) honey or, b) locally brewed alcohol, or c) fuel. The people seated around me did the same and started murmuring about the same jerry-can.

It looked like all the other yellow jerry-cans of that nature – grubby, suspect, and being in the back seat area of a Mitsubishi Pajero: very misplaced.

Quite unsettled, I went up to one of the State Minister’s entourage to confirm that the jerry-can didn’t hold Petrol, the worst of the three bad options in mind, and he smilingly responded to allay my fears:

“No, sir. It’s diesel!”

His back was to the ceremony, and his boss walked down the middle as he said this, across the well-manicured lawn in the shadow of a very neatly-planted copse of Pine trees providing a lovely backdrop for the ceremony in front of the home.

I was faced with a mountain of flabbergast.

The fellow lost his smile when I pointed out that he was in charge of the Minister’s well-being and should not have allowed the jerry-can to be in that place, and I cannot confirm that the offending receptacle was later relocated. I also have no idea about the boot of the Pajero – maybe there was a cow back there…or a brood of chickens…a fish pond, perhaps?

Minister Nyanzi, meanwhile, was once Minister of State for Industry and Technology and also Minister of State for Economic Monitoring.

If I continue with this I will lose my mind…

We need help. We need to work out: “Where did the mould that was used to make people like Metusera Katuramu disappear to?”