Time change


This morning we had a re-enactment of that opening scene in Home Alone when the parents jump out of bed and stare at each other for a beat before all hell breaks lose. Okay, maybe not that awesome but it felt that way. We thought we were late for church and so we rushed through our Sunday morning routine like Energizer bunnies.


I am sure there are many stories told by immigrants to the West of how they were fooled by the sudden time change and how the showed up too early for appointments, only to be looked at like they had a loose nut.

We were at church in good time alright. Only we were there too early. See, the clock in the living room was still on Daylight Saving Time. I have been educated that now, we are on something called standard time and the clocks have been set back an hour.

As I type thins, it is 7 a.m. in Uganda. As people go to work catching up on the latest from the different radio stations, in taxis and on boda boda rides, it is 10 p.m. here and I am just getting ready to sleep.

Small matter but that got me thinking perhaps this is the real reason the West has always been ahead of Africa in development. Your circadian clock does not get yanked back and forth like this without you getting creative about it.

Others have argued for the influence of geography on development but I can see it now upfront. When you have 12 constant hours of daylight all through the year and 12 for the night, it is easy to take things for granted.

The different daylight hours in parts of the world where daylight hours change force people to think fast, I believe.

When you have a business, you know you have only a few hours before your clients turn in for the night. It starts getting dark at 5 p.m. around this time of the year here. Probably this explains the difference between African Standard Time (read late all the time) and Mzungu Standard Time (no patience for late idiots).

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Chilly night of the ghouls

Ruh-roh, Raggy! Don't worry Scoob.

Ruh-roh, Raggy! Don’t worry Scoob.

Halloween Night was a sad affair in this part of Kansas. The cold made it close to impossible for monsters to come banging on our door in search of candy, and probably that’s a good thing. Who wants monsters standing at their door?

We knew that this holiday was always going to be a hard paper. Back home in Uganda, when the papers carried pictures of people dressed up in their competitively scary costumes, it was always the same statement: “Eh, didn’t know it was Halloween last night!”

I never really got used to the idea that people can go out to celebrate the holiday, especially seeing as it attracted only pretenders. If people in the West have this fascination with ghosts and devils and they think their children should learn about them early on in life, well, I never saw that becoming a serious Ugandan affair.

Mentions of the origins of the day would inspire ear worms of that musician from Somalia who sang of the jokes that African American gangsters peddle when they go on about how they are hardened by the streets of Compton. If they wanted to see real hard knocks, they should live a month in Mogadishu, he told them in many words.

Same principle here. Coming from a culture that glorifies animism, I bet many Africans look on the jokes that go on every October 31 and sigh with impatience. Back home, the ghouls are for real; talk about spooky things happening at a distance; child sacrifice and demon possession were never something to joke about or to wear costumes about. That’s the real Halloween.

So I drove home trying to be extra careful not to run over any crazed child running into the road thinking everyone is possessed by the spirit of Halloween.

The little people in our home did not even bother to whine about being let out because they knew there would not be any of that at home. They had Winnie the Pooh and Princess Anna costumes but that was just about it. They wore them to the church do that the Pastor organized earlier in the week.

It was funny to see how a culture can be thoroughly entrenched. At work, everyone, except moi, brought a dish and then when they’d all served up on the goodies, they sat in the boardroom to talk all things Halloween.



I was trying to beat a deadline so I didn’t sit in on the conversations, but I really wanted to. Just to know what kind of talk is done by people who have been brought up in the Halloween culture. Well, I guess there are other chances for that.

The weather had other ideas though. It had already been predicted that in the evening, we would have temperatures as low as 42 degrees Fahrenheit but at the end of the day, we were doing 38. That was definitely not a good encouragement for trick-or-treating.

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Ghost of a revolutionary

News of the power shift in Burkina Faso is trending. Since the common people decided enough was enough and and kicked the president, Blaise Compaore out, it has been a mad house on social media.

It is laughable, agreed, how Compaore has got his comeuppance, you’d think. We have been told by those who have written about the country of Thomas Sankara, that Compaore was some sort of a Brutus to Sankara’s Caesar. So if he stabbed the darling of Africa’s young people in the back, many are saying good for him that this is happening.

The Beeb reported that after reports he had relented, Compaore later thought twice about that decision and refused to budge. It had all started out with something Ugandans are far too familiar with; politicians tinkering with the law so that the incumbent (Compaore has been in power for 27 years) could seek another term of office.

Many Ugandans are giddy with excitement because of some similarities with the Burkina Faso story. Of course there are those who have always wanted to be Burkinabe just because Thomas Sankara was such a rock star. Since my days in Primary School, I have heard of the heroics of Sankara with kids singing songs in praise of the soldier.

Sanakara. PICTURE: Koulouba

Sankara. PICTURE: Koulouba

But the 27 years of Compaore and the fact that he was seen by many in the country as trying to further impose himself on the country when everyone is eager to see his back could not have been lost on many Ugandans.

The easiest place to throw invective against politicians is Twitter. For Ugandans, it is still Facebook because it allows us to say a lot more given our love for words. So the similarities have been flying a dime a dozen with many chiding Ugandans for not seizing opportunities.

It is also noteworthy that many are calling for Ugandans to “pick a leaf” from the Burkinabe. This is where I draw the line.

If Ugandans got fed up with their situation, it would be their decision to make if they stormed the different Bastilles that hold the freedom they yearn for. If it went down the way it has in Ouagadougou, Ugandans would do it knowing freedom comes at a steep price.

We would be unfair to fan flames of revolution from afar, which many on the outside have been doing. When the shit hits the fan, it should the one who turned the fan on to get smeared; the cheerleaders are too far to be affected, in many cases.

The noises coming off the internets (emphasis mine) are similar to those made when Muammar Gaddafi was about to fall. The excitement was palpable and you would have thought the Kampala government was falling in the next one month. I should add though that its hard not to laugh when goofs like this surface.

twit M7

But we forget the realities of war. When regimes are entrenched, they do not just lie down and let you have your way with them when you tell them to. There is a price. My argument is to let those who know the clear and present danger make the noises, not those in the comfort of Western capitals.

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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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