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Archive for May, 2012

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Last week the UPDF capture Major General Caesar Achellam, the number three in the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony’s vehicle of terror and misery. This man is a “big fish”, were the words of the Ugandan army’s chief spokesman. He went on to say that this man did not Get to that position by digging potatoes.

What that really means is that for the last fifteen years this man has overseen the destruction of villages, rape of women, sexual enslavement of prepubescent girls, abduction of villagers of all ages and murder…….mass murder! Of this there is no doubt. So one wonders why there is a scramble to offer him amnesty for his crimes!

In Uganda there is a constitutionally constituted ‘Amnesty Commission’ that regulates the provision of mercy to armed rebel groups. However it’s modus operandi is not very well known to the public, All one hears is that ex rebel so and so has been granted amnesty from prosecution. This is no South African style ‘truth and reconciliation’ process whereby purveyors of evil have to publicly confesses there deeds and then apologise to their victims and request them for their mercy.

Those who have already benefited from a well meaning, but warped process include several of Joseph kony’s henchmen and Maj. gen. Caesar Achellam is set to go down this path as well. The legal officer from the Amnesty Commission has already been quoted to say that he is eligible for amnesty if he only applies for it! The army has made it clear that if he cooperates and spills the beans on the LRA and the devil incarnate who leads it then amnesty from prosecution is a foregone conclusion.

A frequent fact that keeps be thrown about this man is that he is not one of the 5 LRA commanders who have been indicted by the ICC. It’s almost like this exonerates the man of his deeds.
Yet where is the justice in this for the victims of this murderous cohort, no one seems to have ever been punished for all the mayhem they have poured on the people of Acholi for two decades. Achellam did not surrender, he was captured. Achellam has not apologized, he even went so far as to say at a press conference that during his warfare training days he was told there is no such thing as saying sorry!

So why would Norbert Mao, MP for Gulu and the bishop of Gulu diocese all call for his amnesty? It boggles my mind. Have we followed the path of forgiveness too far, is it not time to take the road less travelled and charge this man in a court of law. He should be tried and and his conviction followed by punishment that fits the crime. Being the personification of evil, Maj.Gen. Achellam will have very few suitable punishments to choose from! Enough with the ‘let bygones be bygones’.

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This being the golden jubilee year of independence inUganda I could not help, but go back to a picture that has intrigued me for ages. It’s was taken from the first anniversary celebrations in 1964 and the usual pageantry was out in force. The picture from the past that caught my attention was a float by the British American Tobacco company and it featured people all dressed up and smoking away, clearing trying to sell the idea that it was glamorous to smoke.

How politically incorrect that is today does not begin to describe the scene especially when one notices that actually there is a lady among them………smoking away too! She must have been pretty brave as till this very day very few women in Uganda smoke and definitely not in public.

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I got a reality check two weeks ago when my sister told me that my beloved niece has homework to do after school everyday. No big you would think until you realize that my niece is 4 years old and at nursery school!

I was horrified, but my sister was resigned to this state of affairs because she hoped her daughter would get into one of the top private primary schools and this would require little young Missy to score 90% on the school’s entrance exam! My head was spinning, wondering how far have we sunk that a child needs to score 90% to gain admittance to primary one.

The reality is that the tip of the iceberg has simply popped up a lot earlier than it usually does. My rude awakening occurred a few years ago when another set of nieces and nephews returned from school with more homework than I can ever imagine ever doing. Four or five different sets are the norm, including one which requires that they show evidence of having read a news item in the day’s newspaper……the kids copied the newsprint word for word, regardless of whether they understood it or not!

The books school kids carry have got so numerous that the school bags now have wheels! The homework is so plentiful that in order to complete it before bed time one must start as soon as you arrive back from school. Now considering the Kampala traffic jam that means they get home at 6 pm and have to get studying immediately if they are to be in bed by 9pm. They sad thing is that these school kids are up every morning at 5am if they are to beat the traffic jam, so this works out to be a 16 hour study day……in primary school!

The devil in the detail is even more worrying. The drive to gain a school an academic reputation drives management to cram more and more lessons into a working day almost always at the expense of music, dance, drama and sports which have literally disappeared from the school activities. I have always asked friends how any schools in Kampala still have a choir…. Nobody knows but I am sure the results of such a survey would tell a sorry tale, one where the liberal arts have lost all respect.

I remember asking my nephew whether he played tennis, chess, drums or swam etc. His answer was the same: ‘I am not a member off the tennis society, not a member of the chess society, music society nor the swimming club’. This begs the question how does a child know which activity they would like to pursue if they are not exposed to everything first?

The worst part of all this academic rat race is the issue of after hours coaching. It has been so ingrained in kids and their parents that academic successs can not be had without being coached even during the school holidays. The dark side of this was exposed when a lady, concerned by her son’s unexpectedly poor performance in a particular subject, went to the school and sought out the teacher concerned. Without batting an eyelid the teacher informed her that her husband had not ‘facilitated’ him during this term!

There in lies a dangerous scam whereby teachers down grade your child’s test marks and then offer to ‘coach’ them to success. The trick is to always pick a bright student because they actually had no problems in the first place and will easily show ‘improvement’ with ‘coaching’. What this does to a child’s psyche is debatable, but I would wager that it does not build confidence nor self esteem.

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There are few pleasures I savor more than a cup of well made cappuccino and Dorman’s coffee shop has fed me this delight for years. slowly,but surely I am hooked on coffee: the taste and the aroma. And like my friends who can tell the difference between single malt and blended whiskey I can do the same with coffee. So when I am confronted with badly brewed coffee I can tell in a sip.

The Dorman’s chain has managed to maintain a level of consistency in it’s brewing of coffee and I have not much to complain about, however this has been constantly broken by the chain’s branches at JKIA. One is situated in the international departure lounge and the other is located just outside the international arrivals area. There is also one in the domestic departure loung.

The cappucino’s there cost much more than in the city, but taste absolutely awful. I can’t ever remember finishing a cup and always feel cheated. The funny thing is I have kept buying a cup of coffee whenever I am at the airport hoping that this time I will get the Dorman’s taste, unfortunately I have finally thrown in the towel and headed for the Java coffee shop at the extreme end of the departure gates.

After a bit of digging I found out that the coffee shop outlets at the airport are actually run as a franchise by the Nairobi Airport Services (NAS) and they are making a mess of it. The service is rough and impolite and the coffee, as mentioned before, speaks for itself. What I can’t understand is why Dorman’s would allow a franchisee to muddy their name or is it that JKIA is so ‘far’ from town that they can’t supervise effectively. This might really be the case because even the Java coffee shop staff are not as friendly and efficient as their city based colleagues or is it the lack of air conditioning in the area?

What ever the reason bad coffee is bad coffee and I am through hoping it will improve.

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