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.


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.

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.

It’s amazing how reading the book ‘Dead Aid’ by Dambisa Moyo has suddenly made me very aware of how the misuse of development aid is destined to keep us poor and dependent. I have not had to wait more than two weeks before the the personification of this fact appeared in the form of the hideous deputy prime minister Gen. Moses Ali.

The issue at hand was the revolt by young members of parliament who would simply not approve a world bank loan because they felt that the reason it was being sought was did not seem to be for the benefit of Ugandans. In short they were saying that we do not need to borrow money if we do not need it.

Common sense, one would think. That was until the honorable retired general Moses Ali stood up and told the rebellious members of parliament to just approve the loan and leave the discussion of the details to another time as the World Bank wanted the agreement signed within the next two days!

When the MPs jeered and booed, he responded by saying he could not understand how Uganda could refuse money when it is being freely offered, other countries might get the money instead. The fact that generations of citizens will be committed to paying off the ‘free’ loan was clearly lost on him, or was it? I guess that fact that the fat political classes have been feeding off the carcass of tax payers for years has insulated from the realities of life, or worse they are far too thick to grasp the basics of economics.

The scenario deteriorated even further today. Apparently the Uganda government Spends close to $150million a year on the treatment abroad for Ugandans. Why this is shocking is that this figure is equivalent to the amount that multilateral donors loan to Uganda to support her health services. And therefore as we get more indebted the same money is used to send people abroad for treatment rather than improve health facilities in the country.

But the real devil is in the detail: Who exactly is being treated abroad and for what ailments? The answer is simple, only the well connected senior government officials and their close relatives have a chance of getting approvals from the medical council and the treasury to access this funding. It’s very telling that the permanent secretary for ministry of Health says ‘ you cannot tell people where they should be treated’!!!! With public funding??? I was speechless.

One can only imagine how much would be needed to put Mulago Hospital back on her feet, how much would it take to provide maternity kits in every district hospital, ow much would it cost to provide an ambulance at every health centre. The truth is the people who can bring about change don’t really care, they borrow money in our names and then use it to send their daughters to Germany to have their babies. Dead AID indeed.


I have always wondered was president Obote a conservative or a liberal? In the same vein could one use those labels to describe Jomo Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni or Olosegun Obasanjo?
It is very easy to say that Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda were leftist in their political persuasions, but were they really in the western sense of the word?

I wager that when one describes an African politician as conservative one would really be describing a traditionalist in the social sense of the word and not the political. They would be bound by hard core traditional views on family, the role of women and very likely tribal exclusion of others. indeed a conservative politician is invariably a tribalist, or isn’t he?

I wager that when one describes an African politician as a liberal, one would really be talking about their agreeability, openness, weakness etc.

Both types of politicians could pursue a capitalist path, free market models or socialist cooperatives. Both could be dictators and intolerant of opposition, both could easily hobnob with NATO and the Warsaw Pact or Cuba or north Korea. our economies are so underdeveloped that I guess labels are meaningless at this stage. We can only pick and choose a little of everything and hope it works.

20120411-150347.jpgNow that we are well into the year of our lord 2012, I have to taken stock of my literary endeavours over the last 12 months………..my book list, that is.
So here it is:
Books I have read:
1. The lunatic express by Charles miller
2. The fear index by Robert Harris
3. Lustrum by Robert Harris
4. Archangel by Robert Harris
5. The good husband of zebra drive by Alexander McCall Smith
6. Dead AID by Dambisa Moyo
7. Spud by John van de Ruit
8. The correct line: Uganda under Museveni by Olive Kobusingye

Books I hoped to read but have now lost interest:
1. One day I will write about this place by Binyavanga Wainaina

Books I hope to read in the next 12 months:
1. Things around your neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2. The Saturday big tent wedding party by Alexander McCall Smith