Monday, August 25, 2008



For the last two weeks, Professor Ali A. Mazrui in his Saturday Monitor article has attempted to look at Makerere University on the global scene and trace its roots and roles in the globalisation culture. It made interesting reading- a masterly piece, the kind you would expect from the distinguished academician. Well, the Professor’s notes have got me thinking...
The Faculty of Computing and Information Technology, Makerere University will play a significant role in shaping of our politics and economy in the next decade or so.
Before you shrug me off for bordering on the insane, hear me out. Let us start with a few basics and facts.

Faculty of IT has the most spacious, modern and architecturally glamorous buildings on the famous hill. The newly constructed six-storeyed block has over 300 square meters of office space, Six large computer labs (arguably the largest in Africa) each of 800 square meters- 1000 seat capacity, twelve (12) lecture theatres, conference rooms, lecture rooms, office rooms, 1800 square meters of circulation space etc. The building is equally a symbol of power, grace and sophistication.

The CIT faculty with over 4500 students constitutes close to twenty five percent(25%) of the total university student population at Makerere. In Africa you can never undermine the power of numbers. Furthermore, more than thirty percent of the annual applications for entry at Makerere are for a programme/course at this faculty.

It is the only faculty that runs/operates 24/7 programmes in Uganda and arguably in East Africa at large. There are programs and lectures conducted at night and all day long, this is the first of its kind in Uganda's university education sector.

The faculty has the highest faculty budget ahead of Engineering, Medicine and Law faculties. With an annual budget of close to Ugx 10 billion, the faculty, has a budget bigger than more than half the Districts in Uganda. It also has a vast number of donors and partners at its disposal. These include but not restricted to European and Asian IT entities, Corporations, Software giants e.g Micro Soft, Cisco Systems Inc., Google Inc., IBM, Rockefeller etc.

The Faculty Dean, Professor Venansius Baryamureeba was recently voted the top ICT Educator/Academician in Sub-Saharan last year 2007. In him they have an astute manager, gentleman, organiser, and result-oriented leader.

Now, let us get to the crust of the matter.
It is clear that IT and Computer technologies will shape the way of life and culture for the next generation (it has already shaped today way of life-globalisation). Banks, Businesses, Government corporations and entities, Education and Learning centres, Health and Insurance providers, Law enforcement agencies etc. have embraced or are embracing the Information superhighway technologies. Uganda Police recently entered into a partnership with the faculty (ICT Makerere) to train a good number of the law enforcers in Information technology and Computing. Uganda Revenue Authority is in advanced stages of making the border posts in Malaba, Katuna, Nimule etc. interconnected through IT and thus operational 24/7. The Land Registry Department is planning to computerise its systems and records, the Electoral Commission once flirted with the idea of creating a computerised National Register using IT and finger print technologies. With a sober leadership at the commission, this idea could be revived. All banks and financial instiutions have since embraced the IT and Computer technologies- ATMs, e-banking etc.

So, the faculty of ICT-Makerere, has the world and Uganda in particular at its feet. Annually, the faculty churns out thousands of professionals and technologists that innovate and develop programs and work on IT systems and networks that are integral to today's work place.

Computing and Information Technology will soon or later be at the centre of the mode of operations in many sectors of our economy and politics at large. Yes, politics! Recently two issues came to the fore in the mainstream media. The Dean of the Faculty IT-MUK, Prof. Baryamureeba claimed that some top administrators at MUK are witch-hunting him (New Vision-unconfirmed date). He seems to have firmly set his eyes on the Vice-Chancellorship contest later this year or early 2009. Secondly, it has been indicated in some sections of the media that he has a soft spot for the opposition- specifically the FDC. Considering the bickering going on at the hill between NRM leaning lecturers/moderates and their extremist colleagues, Makerere is slowly but surely courting an explosive political dimension.

Furthermore, the accomplished Professor, harbours dreams of being a Head of state/President of Uganda. Now, imagine he becomes the next Vice-Chancellor (very likely) and leads MUK back to its “Africa's Harvard” status and glory (he undoubtedly has that ability), and continues to flirt with the opposition, he will undoubtedly have a legion of admirers and an ever growing middle class that may prefer their kind(an elite) for a president. During his tenure, Makerere may become an independent entity, have government sponsorship swiftly abolished and academic standards improved. Furthermore, you will have research and innovation in major fields of IT, Engineering, Agriculture, Medicine etc. taking root at the mighty university as Uganda braces itself for economic take-off. President Museveni and his historical comrades will be retired at their country-side ranches/farms, and today's NRM Youth League will be in charge because they are the only ones who can be at the same footing with their elite colleagues considering the ever increasing elite and middle class opposition.

Andrew Mwenda- the CEO Independent Magazine, once wondered why the NRM with its vast resources, access to Information and communication tools e.g TV, Radio, Talk shows, Internet etc. is reluctant to engage the opposition in debate on policy issues, economy and political reforms at these fora instead of unleashing paramilitary outfits to clamp down on opposition and media houses. The young and elite section of NRM which appreciates free debate and discussion on national issues doesn’t pull any strings (at least for now). They are equally frustrated with the old guard that doesn’t seem to be throwing in the towel any time soon.

So, soon or later, they will find solace in their fellow elites-so enter the professor, and a growing number of professionals, workers and middle class that sees him as a mentor, gentleman, organiser, astute manager and leader, sophisticated to be on the same footing with Gordon Brown, Barrack Obama etc. Imagine a man, whom, all your bankers, corporates, business community, security agencies, western agencies, donors, multi-national organisations, NGOS, regional trade blocs, middle class, professionals etc. respect for his abilities to lead and transform society. President Museveni has continuously shunned the Kampala elites and middle class , he seems to prefer the up-country rural folks. So grace your self for a script scribbled in paradise, finally, the elites may have their man as head of state.

Someone once said, “When Makerere sneezes, Uganda catches a cold.”

Look out for the next time the mighty university sneezes.

Rugaba Nicholas.
Social Commentator based in Gulu, Uganda.
+256(0)701 382 492

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kampala- The Epitome of Disorganisation

A story is told of a certain European ambassador, who after serving his term in Uganda/Kampala, before going to West Africa on another diplomatic mission, one evening while having coffee at Nandos with his new-found African belle, attempted to describe Kampala and our economy at large. Apparently, he said, if you stand in the middle of Kampala (may be Nandos along Kampala road) and you jog in any direction for twenty minutes you will find yourself in a slum. Whether, in his description, he did justice to our CHOGM City is a debate for another time. We don't know whether he said this in an attempt to convince his Ugandan belle to go along with him and say bye to the pot-holed and dusty city, but one true thing is that Kampala is one huge mass of organised confusion.

In Kampala, you have guys putting up storeyed buildings without proper parking spaces, water and sewerage systems,lifts, air conditioning and ventilation facilities. In Kampala, your favourite muchomo joint is between a Computer accessories shop and a lunch-time prayer house, and opposite a new banking hall. There is no proper planning and zoning in Hon.Ssebagala's city. It is in Kampala where affluence kisses extreme poverty. You probably know that friend of yours who stays in a posh uptown apartment, but the neighbourhood is a filthy ghetto with malnourished children, overflowing sewage, plastic and wood shacks for houses. It is in Kampala where you have illiterate folks selling tomatoes, cabbages, mangoes, jack fruit etc on the tarmac/floor(Nankasero market). You could argue that they are the most shrewd entrepreneurs and the informal sector can't be ignored but the thing is they don't have a place in global commerce,business and trade that Uganda intends to embrace, they wont help Uganda take off - short and clear.

Kawempe, Wandegeya, Katanga, Kalerwe, Kinawataka, Katwe etc are all within easy rich of the CHOGM city but they are the true definition of confusion. A majority of people who work and/or reside in these ares have no or limited access to social infrastructure e.g access roads, water and sewerage lines,toilets, parking spaces. These areas are chronically congested and most of the buildings are ram shackled, old,filthy, dirty etc. Some are even made of mud and wattle! Yes mud and wattle in Kampala City.

Strangely, the price of land in these areas has since gone through the roof, so Kampala's middle class may not afford to buy these plots. It's majorly top politicians and Kikuubo traders who can afford to pay the exorbitant prices-they are the ones who have the money or businesses to help them secure loans to purchase such plots and put up commercial buildings. Unfortunately, it is this same class that dreams big but thinks small (all the pun intended), they are okay with putting up shopping malls and storeyed office blocks without parking space, water and sewerage systems, lifts, ventilation, lighting etc. The guys with the money have the least knowledge of how best to design, create and implement environmentally friendly developments, and they don't want to engage professionals who are best suited to handle these projects.

So the middle class, in this dilemma-they cant afford the run-away land prices and they don't like the congested and noisy slums that come with the neighbourhood in the above mentioned areas. What have they decided to do? They are buying prime properties and land in the outskirts of the city, where the estates and shopping centers are organised. Private developers are turning vast virgin acres of land into organised housing estates and shopping/trading centers with access roads, water, power, parking spaces, recreation centers. All over Kira, Gayaza, Namugongo, Seguku, Nalumunye, Najera etc- Urban estates and centers are developing far from the confusion and disorganization that Kawempe, Wandegeya, Katanga, Katwe and Kalerwe have to offer.

In future, (if not now)Information Technology, will undoubtedly shape the way we do business, trade, work, study and communicate,so in future we will have a lot of e-banking, e-commerce, e-learning etc defining our economy. You will have guys doing their work at home in the calm and quiet estate outside town and just sending it to their boss in Nairobi, New York, Seoul etc. A lot of work will be done online as we embrace Information and Computer technologies,so ladies and gentlemen, don't stress, you may not need to travel to Ssebagala's city every day to do your work, compile reports, design and create projects etc.May be once or twice a week-that shouldn't be bad for you to go through the congestion and madness.
Rugaba Nicholas- Social Commentator.

Friday, August 8, 2008



Kampala is fast growing into East Africa's top entertainment hub and top musicians' favourite destination. All the big guys have been here- UB40, Akon, Wycliff Jean, Shaggy and Collie buddiz. With the local musicians soon going into a frenzy of album launches in the near future, we can be rest assured to receive at least three more world re-knowned Jamaican reggae artists/ musicians between now and early 2009 ,to grace their shows. My Kenyan neighbour here in Gulu, has put me to task to explain why Ugandans apparently have a lot of money to throw around in music shows, rugby games, beach parties, beer binges and endless bar hopping. It is a complex phenomenon-it is equally complex to make sense of it all. I have failed to give her a credible explanation.

It is no doubt that this Kampala middle class and/or wannabes (read- Campusers, Bafeele, mid-corporates) grace these social events religiously. But you wonder, where do they get all the time and money spent on these morally compromising and hugely overrated shows and events.
You have guys who go to rugby matches but can't tell, the difference between a scrum and a line out. Hordes attended Wycliffe Jean's show in Kampala recently, but just a handful know when the guy learnt how to play the guitar, later on his last album title. What do you love about the game or the musician if you cant know the intricate details about your so called passion?

The moral bit- I have been in some circles where it has been indicated to me that if you want the easiest casual and reckless sex binges, try the mushrooming Kampala house parties and a certain rugby club on Jinja road. Apparently young ladies and/or campusers are easy pick for all and sundry, young men are willing to bed as many as their car can carry. So, the so called middle class in Uganda/Kampala that is supposed to innovate, generate ideas, engage the politicians etc has taken the immorality scale a notch higher. House parties that are characterized by excessive alcohol consumption, sex binges, nudity etc are now common in uptown neighbourhoods that are inhabited by the “sophisticated” middle class.

I tell you what! Its a slice of Las Vegas in our humble Uganda. You may say, am adamant to embrace modernity and global trends, (or even backward) but I think we can still embrace modernity and globalisation without compromising our values, morals and traditions.

A cold beer after a hard day's work has never been wrong in our society- the problem is when one consumes gallons of the frothy drink to appalling levels. Theatre, dance and drama are richly enshrined in our cultures, not passa passa that is known worldwide for its nudity content- women and men dancing half naked. You haven't seen anything yet- next year the dance show will explode into its true being.
Nicholas Rugaba.
Construction Engineer with a humanitarian agency in Northern Uganda.
+256 772 382 492