Adieu Shadrack


The earth is insatiable. It keeps on swallowing and nothing can ever fill its belly. We are all headed for the same exit, no matter what the rate of our movements but still, many times we all stop and marvel (or rather acknowledge with horror the rate at which our friends fall by the wayside).

And this is not even about us. We fight against the urge to personalize this feeling but it is never really about us. Until it is our turn.

An Old Boy from my school was clobbered by suspected robbers Friday. He had only been transferred to Eastern Uganda from a bank job to another that he was looking at as the next step in career climb.

Shadrack Makanga was killed on Friday “as he returned from Busia and his body was dumped on the roadside,” the post from a friend went, throwing a big community of old students of Busoga College Mwiri into a chill.

Ans so, the same question comes up; why do we have to live like this; why do we let impunity continue with no sign that those charged with ensuring our security are doing their jobs?

Ugandans have been taken for granted for so long and it is probably a systemic failing. That does not lessen the pain of losing friends in such senseless ways.

The robbers who killed Shadrack probably would not have thought about it one second before they carried out their ghastly act but Shadrack was a gentle soul. What I remember of him was a constant smile and a ready joke. All the time.

This here was a man on the verge of greatness. We should stop asking why not him and go on straight to when will the perps who did him in be caught and brought to justice.

Because only justice will satisfy us. Only when we know the killers have been an example of, only then shall we probably have some rest.

After school, I only ran into Shadrack a couple of times. He was one the more mindful Old Boys who genuinely asked about the life I was leading and I always felt I needed to be straight with him. I felt he was someone I considered a friend even when he was in the same A class as I back in school.

The way his death was broken to his family was also heart rending. The police found a utility bill in his vehicle, which had been driven off in the direction of northern Uganda. Around Nakasongola, the idiots managed to overturn the car. The number on the utility bill belonged to his landlord, so when the call came in, that’s how news came of Shadrack’s death.

The outpouring of emotion on social media is telling. Old men are crying over this latest murder. Byron put the outrage in words: “Its just annoying. A guy takes up a small job in the banking industry, works his way up to managerial level, contributing to society his tiny bit…this hard work n contribution is put to an end by thugs…just to gain where they did not sow…

Rest peacefully, comrade. We’ll meet on the other side.


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Ugandan roulette

The picture of President Museveni and Pope Francis in the paper yesterday spoke many words. Here were two different figures of varying importance in the wider world, sitting across from each other and smiling for the camera.

I wondered what was going on in the heads of both of them at that moment.

For Museveni, who has admittedly lost all the luster of yester-year on the international stage, this was a much-needed photo-op. One wonders how long it took to secure that meeting. Huh huh!

Going by the publicity Francis has garnered in the last 20 months, we know whose PR people were working overtime to make the meeting a reality.

For the Pope, the urge to look at the Holy Chronometer must have been strong and he had to fight to keep the Holy Eyes on his guest and the camera. Here was an African leader who had been described as a has-been, who wanted some badly needed face time.

After granting such time to many others, surely the Pope could spare some time for a brother, no?

And then I read the tweet from the president: “I and Pope Francis held a one-to-one meeting that lasted one and a half hours. I later introduced the First Lady my wife.” I doubt Museveni sent that tweet. I have so many doubts about that whole social media effort the proles in Nakasero are trying to impress upon us anyway. #okbye.

Did the Pope express excitement after Museveni gave him a copy of Sowing the Mustard Seed; did he have to read up on the importance of the Uganda Martyrs so he could contribute intelligently to the conversation; did someone have to come to the Pope and announce self-importantly that there was another meeting the Pope had to be at (Surely, the tricks used by girls who want to extricate themselves from a date that’s nose-dived are not alien to the Holy father’s mind)?

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Of bad investments and long waits

Every time I hear or read anything about the National Social Security Fund, my hackles rise. It is something I am very interested in but at the same time, I know it is the cause of so much stress to many people.

Tales of how the company is sitting on a goldmine worth $1.1 billion get us excited thinking of how much that means. Or maybe we do not really think about what that means.

A little while ago, I was on the other side fielding complaints from people who were being ‘tossed’ over their retirement benefits of money the organization should have remitted to them. I always tried to keep attentive but the whole business with the delays was beyond me.

Now the tables have turned and I am the one in the shoes of that old man who treks from Ibulanku to Kampala to get his retirement benefits. The Jajja with dust covered shoes who, once in a while, finds his way to the Monitor offices in Namuwongo in hopes that his plight will force NSSF to have some mercy before Jajja dies.

The reassuring stories from NSSF are enough to make one save their entire fortune with them if they decided to become a bank. “You will get you money in only 10 days,” they say in their documents. And it all sounds too sweet.

I guess I need to hanker down and wait until someone does what they are supposed to do. Having witnessed the agony of friends who had to wait six months and more before their emigration benefits were remitted, I guess it is still early days for me.

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What makes the man

Not a question. What makes a man is different from one society to the next. This should have been strongly brought to the fore in recent weeks after news of the Chinese billionaire who supposedly said people who get to their mid thirties still poor are dumb. Not those exact words but that’s the impression I got.

Maybe that’s the case where he is. It is said China’s history has contributed to the current situation where majority have savings from decades of thrift and the government is trying to encourage them to spend some of that money.

Where I come from, I have seen men toil for years, from as early as 12 years old to fend for a family. The different catastrophes that were visited upon my country – mad men with guns and the willingness to use said guns, plus a healthy helping of disease – forced many of Uganda’s children to grow up too fast.

I wouldn’t describe a guy as dumb if he wakes up at 5 a.m. to fetch water for paying clients before he can dash to school, after which he needs to get back home to prepare ugali for his siblings since his parents have since died and he is the one everyone is looking at for survival.

That guy has all the raw materials to become a billionaire but fate will not let him. In some places it is called karma. There was no way Oedipus could have avoided the tragedy that was written into his future. Many times you can run all you want but you can’t hide from your fate.

Sometimes, it is easy to generalize and paint strangers with a wide brush but we must understand that we do not know half of what the next guy is going through.

I stopped criticizing drunkards, who society blames for the failure of their homes.I need to understand what motivates a man to turn away from ideals he held dearly a few short years ago before I rain down fire and brimstone.

A man who works hard the whole day making strategies for the government then ends up on the bar stool after he knocks off work is an easy target. How can he be swigging all those beers when there’s no food at home?

Many times, what makes a man is his history. No matter how bright someone is, sometimes if you are born in the deepest end of Ibulanku, you will grow up and die there having never come close to your full potential.

Sometimes, a man is made by those who come along and hold his hand and he tries to find the stepping stones in the rushing river.

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The type of man who’s always on the road

IMG_20141017_163848There are a number of these statues in this little town I live in. They are innocent and all seem to point to a certain goodness of heart that the people do not even know they have.

Coming from a background where there is a lot of vitriol in the air, where you wouldn’t want to shout about your successes because the trolls are probably just itching to steal your blessings, this all seems new to me.

In the village, when you build a house or when your son gets lucky to get a big city job, it is probably wiser to shut the hell up about it since you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night in a Udomo situation.

Now, I know someone will shake their head and wonder what kind of village this could be. Well, some people are lucky to come from communities that are supportive of their sons. They want them to win at all costs and they contribute whatever they can to that effort.

But hateration is real in many parts of Uganda. You cannot run away from that fact.

I have been shocked by the willingness of people here to share the most private details of their lives with strangers…on the bus or at the Post Office as they wait in line for their turn to be served.

This small town serenades its residents on Main Street every hour. If you look closely, you’ll notice the speakers on the pole – they are on all the poles on the street, belting out Say You/Say Me or some such sweet tune as you wait to cross to the other side. Today, I had to wait to cross as Nesta broke into I’ll play your favorite song/ dahhhlen’

IMG_20141017_163709It could be that I am just still going through a culture shock – in a strangely positive way as most people go through culture shock in devastating fashion. I am not complaining though.

This is not necessarily the final stage of the journey, I am not naive to believe it is. Already, I am hearing calls from hundreds of miles away asking me about my next move. They should have taken a good look at my background a bit more carefully, I say.

You don’t ask a staying guy what their next move is when they’ve just put down their hat. I am laughing a lot these days at the avalanche of job offers from back home. It is like they all suddenly came out of the woodwork on cue.

Until I pick up my hat, there’s no moving from here.

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Heart strings

In an ideal world, there are no greys in life. Everything is straight forward and there is no point in stopping to quizzically ponder the ramifications of every single chess move. The world is a deft player, mind but in the ideal world, there are no uncertainties.

Instead, we live at variance with the ideal; everything goes wrong and we are always advised to pack an extra pair of underwear.

But there are days when the stars are perfectly aligned. It’s not always beginner’s luck, mind. Arguments for the world conspiring to see you win the first time you cast a die are all good and noble but the truth is sometimes you will hit a run. And you never walk out on a good luck run.

Living away from home brings a certain clarity with it. Yeah, people have said for eons that you need to walk in the shoes of a ‘summer’ for just one month to understand why they act the way they act. You might even have close family that have lived that life but you just cannot comprehend until it is your turn to turn the wheel.

Being so many miles from home makes the heart grow fond…more than just moving from Kampala to Kigali or Nairobi. You get to follow everything about home like a hawk. You don’t want to blink.

You get to recognize a good luck run when it comes. You get to differentiate between certain wins and uncertain losses. You learn to count your money under the table.

This amiable gentleman I met today, for instance. He’s got an interesting story to tell; his father was born in Ethiopia and he then moved to Sicily then ended up in the USA. He was a citizen of the world and there was a fire that drove him.

Strangely, the Ethiopian’s son has a hunger he cannot explain for Sicily and Ethiopia. He never really lived there for any considerable amount of time, only visiting, but he wants to go there when he has the chance.

I have family in other parts of the world. I have always wondered what it feels like to have to make your home far away from home. Now I think I am beginning to understand.

The hunger for home just doesn’t quit.

But there’s a way to win. As others try to work the year round to go to some place without a soul, we can work towards going home at least every once in a while, just to smell the earth and run our fingers through the red dust. Just to hear the happy laugh at random roadside tables set up so the guys can while the hours away over nyama choma and Nile Special as the traffic jam subsides.

Even that terrible jam on Entebbe Road, made worse on  days the Big Man is going to be traveling to or from State House.


Yes, even that hustle becomes desirable when the clarity hits. It all sounds like something out of a Bob Marley song.

That picture, held in the deepest recesses of our hearts, makes the toil worth it.

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I am Sam…Sam I am

In Dr. Seuss’ best selling book, a strange looking creature is hounded around to kingdom come by Sam, who wants him to try his green eggs and ham. Of course the character refuses. I mean, who would look on green eggs and ham and readily accept?

It brings to mind the troubles of the day. Today I read a rambling if strangely worded indictment of the able Katikkiro of Buganda by the Balangira, who accuse him of a list of atrocities. I had to keep on going back to those first heady days when he was the toast of the town to check if this was the same person.

But then again, what do I know; I am just a Mukopi and here are the Balangira, the divine custodians of ennono za Buganda.

We are told to try out new things. We are told to be adventurous as this is the way of the world today. If we do not go out of our comfort zones, we shall remain stagnant. There is a whole library of books written on the subject of stagnation. Cue Who Moved My Cheese?

The problem is that the voices that actually believe in change; in the power of a new idea, are in the minority. We read the paper or listen to the powerful lectures from world renown speakers and nod in agreement. But should we be next in line to take our serving of green eggs and ham, because we have never tasted it, we crinkle our nose and move on.

The point is to understand that when we move from home, we are going to meet new people and we must interact with them. We must push the childish thoughts that only our mothers know how to prepare a dish of pillau; there are women from the Coast who kick ass when it comes to pillau.

It is funny the things that are being said about Katikkiro Mayiga. That he’s not a Muganda and that his ancestors came from some far off land and camped in Buganda. It is Besweri Mulondo versus Buganda all over again…same script different cast.

Or not. This may all be a figment of some hothead’s imagination. I hope it is.

From the very start, we all knew this Katikkiro was going to be different. He was polished and he was outspoken. He had swag and he knew it.

Mayiga. Culled from Daily Monitor

Mayiga. Culled from Daily Monitor

The Kabaka chose to go down this road with eyes wide open so, what bee has entered the Balangira’s bonnet now.

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