Monday, January 26, 2009


Kampala’s self styled moralists and Christian movements have been up in arms against social evils e.g. cross-generational sex. Premarital sex, fornication, drug abuse, homosexuality, that are threatening to eat at the heart of our youth’s moral fiber. The campaign against cross generational sex especially in the main stream media and on Kampala’s streets has been unrelenting despite the ever increasing numbers of young ladies especially university girls comfortable with older men. Furthermore, on weekends, the halls of residence at universities are turned into arenas for beer drinking binges and reckless sex escapades. The rates of abortion and consumption of after-morning pills, though unofficial are astronomically high as evidenced by the mushrooming drug shops and shanty clinics around Wandegeya- a suburb around the ivory tower. Truthfully, the picture is quite gloom.

However, for me this campaign by the moralists is quite puzzling. They claim we need to go back to the basics and appreciate the traditions and norms practiced by our forefathers and parents at large. These include virginity, marriage, respect for elders, etc. Ironically, the twenty-something kids who are being crucified for throwing morality to the gutters, are born to yesterday parents-parents who grew up cherishing virginity, marriage, respect for the human body etc. Our parents didn’t have drugs in their times, any MTV or Channel O to influence their mode of dress and behavior in the adrenaline-filled teen years. How they failed to instill the cherished values of our African culture into their children, we will never know. What I find quite strange is how they have since gotten away with their failed role at better parenting and passing on these values to their children and next generations at large.

Globalization has equally played a role that is strangely ignored by Kampala’s moralists. With globalistion, MTV, fashion magazines and internet found their way into family living rooms, school entertainment halls and thus always had to influence the way our generation would dress, talk and later on deal with our sexuality. Our parents, born and bred in yester-years were not ready to adapt to the phenomenon that globalization is. Parenting of yester-years was never going to be relevant in the fast world. Sex education should have come earlier to the dining table and discussed openly not left to the equally puzzled and old traditional aunties. At best, parents left this role of sex education to school teachers and what a mistake! Many a pupil usually have a strong resentment to the school teacher, so it was always going to be a tall order for school teachers to offer the best sex education.
Our parents should have repackaged their parenting manual to suit the modern times. Unfortunately, they didn’t or they were equally overwhelmed by the pace of modern times.

The HIV/AIDS scourge equally exacerbated the situation. Many children were orphaned at tender ages and at worst, left with HIV-born siblings. For the first time, we had new unfortunate phenomena in our African cultures- child mothers, child parents etc. This was unheard of in the days of our fore fathers. In days gone by, orphans were a responsibility of the extended family, but in modern times, this was never going to happen. The extended family was no more, especially in urban centers. So we had a generation characterized by children as young as ten (10) trying to elk a living for their siblings, and attain an education with minimal moral guidance and support from relatives etc. In some scenarios we had relatives trying to grab the properties, land etc left by these children’s parents thus creating family tensions and hatreds. The children would never attach much sentiment to family ties and values, thus the death of the role of family in child upbringing. So today we have, every one pointing a finger at today’s poorly bred children and dotcom kids, but we forget, may be our parents didn’t equally stand up to the challenge. The rest is history.

Rugaba Agaba

Monday, January 19, 2009


(My take on Obbo’s “Amin’s kids, we lived and died before our time.”)

Charles Onyago Obbo arguably Uganda’s best social-political commentator, last week, in his weekly column in The Daily Monitor-Ear To The Ground, penned a piece on the gap between his times and our times, the folks born slightly before or after 1986 when Museveni’s NRA took Kampala.
The NRA took up arms against the Obote II government contesting the 1980 elections. The five year guerilla war in Luweero and the final takeover of Kampala in 1986 has shaped the lives of many a youth born between 1980 and 1990 i.e. the five years during and after the Liberation war. Many a child born between 1980 and 1986 didn’t have a normal childhood. Am told the basics like sugar, salt, rice, soda etc were scarce or when available, parents had to endure long cues to get them. It was probably a time of few excesses. You see, when there is only a kilo of corn flour left four the next three days’ meals, and a three year old puts forward his cup for a refill of the sugary morning porridge, it will be disappointed, it will be told that it will have some more in the evening, and the mum instructs the maid to take him out to play, amidst the kid’s resenting cries and screams. This was common occurrence in many a homesteads because of shortages and scarcity of food stuffs and other basics. Sunday-afternoon-family outings with the kids were rare or far in between because of insecurity, scarce resources etc. Am sure some kids had some parents, uncles disappear or aunties, sisters raped by soldiers and goons taking advantage of the insecurity. This is probably true for both rural and urban populations at the time. Other kids had their parents run to exile and had to stay behind with abusive and mistreating relatives or guardians. Schools were ransacked by both the NRA guerillas and Obote forces and bags of beans, corn flour etc taken, school trucks or the headmaster’s pick-up taken away for a national cause. A story is told of how the NRA “borrowed” the Ntare School truck during the armed struggle. So to some extent, the pre-Museveni kids had a fair share of these turbulent times.

For those born after 1986, times were probably a bit better but the situation was still gloom. Along came the AIDS/HIV scourge that left many kids with single parents or orphaned or worse still, orphaned and left with a sibling born with HIV. Many of them ended up being mistreated by greedy relatives who wanted to take off with their parents’ belongings, missed out on education due to lack of school fees etc.

So today, you have many 20-30 year olds battling with siblings that their parents left behind, legal and physical fights with relatives over family property, frustration over poorly paying jobs, unemployment etc. A considerable number, have careers and jobs but the problems persist, they have walked themselves into debt and borrowing traps with bank loans and are sandwiched by pressures to take care of relatives, siblings etc. Furthermore, HIV is threatening to wipe us out. Recently, after getting two malaria attacks in less than a month, the doctor I was seeing inquired when I had last had an HIV test, the results, whether I had chest pain, diarrhea, difficulty while urinating, increased heart beat etc-probably signs of HIV. He was quick to add that today it is a normal question in clinics and hospitals. He said he was alarmed at the number of young people, who are infected and most times don’t even have a clue. Young girls and boys, even below 16 years of age, and from well to do families are being eaten away by the scourge that HIV is.

Our education has offered us little to write home about. We are taught to pass exams and later graduate with good grades to work for dream corporate entities. We are not harnessed to be innovative and inventive. The environment is not healthy to develop new ideas, concepts and innovations.
We are saddled in debt trap(Borrowing from banks, money lenders etc) courtesy of an insatiable desire for nice cloths, shoes, cars, Phones, technology gadgets and fancy lifestyles that most times we may not afford. Many fresh graduates, at their first job, rush to grab a salary loan from a local bank and head straight to a car store to buy a 2nd hand Japanese auto mobile. On a monthly basis, they have to remit a considerable sum to the bank to service the loan; their expenses go up considering fuel and car maintenance, fancy lifestyles etc. Then they have to keep borrowing to stay afloat and keep up appearances. The rest is history. They are stuck with a worthless car, peer pressure to stay up there, a bank loan to service, a boring job they can’t leave because how else will they service the bank loan. So, you have all these face book kids, just keeping faces, it’s a world of appearances Charles. We may be spoilt of choice, but the choices are equally poor.
Rugaba Agaba