Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Winnie Byanyima and Dr. Besigye’s “Congolese girlfriend”.

On Winnie Byanyima and Dr. Besigye’s “Congolese girlfriend”.

I was in my final year of primary school at a Catholic/Christian founded primary school just a few kilometers outside Mbarara town, when Uganda had its first Presidential and Parliamentary Elections under the NRM regime in 1996. I remember one evening quite vividly. At around 5pm, together with my friends/school mates, as we headed home after school, we found a buzz of activity at Rwebikoona, a small/shanty town (back then) 3kms from Mbarara town on the Mbarara- Kasese highway. There was a lot of activity, boda-boda cyclists riding at break-neck speed, a long motorcade complete with a singing, cheering and chanting youth, women and men waving posters, leaflets etc. There was equally an excited crowd on the road side, singing, cheering and waving at the one figure that stood out from the long motorcade. A woman, with her torso sticking out the roof of a posh SUV, donning an African garb complete with stylish head gear, was all smiles and waving back to the singing and cheering crowd. I couldn’t get close enough to have a clear stare at this lady, but followed the motorcade all the way to their destination - Kakyeka stadium, a stone’s-throw-away from this shanty town, and venue for a joint campaign rally for the Mbarara Municipality Member of Parliament contest.

Fast forward to the rally, I managed to squeeze my small figure in front of the hundreds of people squatting or seated at the front, just a few yards to where the candidates were seated. Mr. Kigyagi, Winnie Byanyima’s rival in the contest was giving his speech, but at that age, I couldn’t make sense of or identify with his rumblings. When he was done, amidst his supporters chanting and singing, the MC called on Winnie Karagwa Byanyima to step forward and “talk to her people”. There was more, cheering and singing from the crowd as she strolled to the podium. When she held the microphone, the crowd calmed down a bit, and she said “Abanya’mbarara ninyenda kubassima munonga rukondo eyimunyerekyire kaddi konku mushazireho ngu mbajwekyere omu palaamenta…(My beloved Mbararans, I want to thank you for the love, support and for choosing me as your Member of Parliament…) The crowd went bananas. The cheering was deafening, the singing and jubilation was crazy. For over five (5) minutes, the crowd couldn’t stop cheering and singing, despite her pleas. The way she said it with composure, calmness, and a healthy dose of confidence had every one going crazy. It was a priceless moment for me, and i realized she was not your ordinary woman, she was something special.

Later, I religiously interested myself with her top notch debate on Capital FM’s Capital Gang every Saturday, when it was the crème de la crème radio talk show in Kampala. Together with some of her colleagues in the 6th Parliament, she formed Reform agenda cum FDC and went on to marry FDC President Rtd Colonel Dr Kiiza Besigye. Along the way she got her fair share of rough tidings courtesy of the NRM. In Dr. Kobusigye’s book, The Correct Line? Uganda under General Museveni, the writer claims at the height of the 2001 presidential elections, the NRM folks were spreading rumours and propaganda to the effect that Anslem Besigye – Winnie and Besigye’s son had died. I will never understand why a sitting regime would ever think of bringing a humble and innocent young soul into this dirty game of politics. Winnie has since settled in New York on a diplomatic posting at the United Nations. She last contested the Mbarara Municipality MPship in 2001 and beat NRM/President Museveni’s grandly supported candidate Ngoma Ngime, only to resign the seat in the 7th parliament. Nowadsys, she is seldom in our politics and media. Her husband Rtd Colonel Dr. Kiiza Besigye is body and soul into everything political in Uganda. I was quite disappointed that she couldn’t come over to lend support to her hubby as he got nominated and starts his country-wide campaign trail. That is not too much to ask.
I guess she has given the NRM rumour/ propaganda desk a lease of life. Don’t be surprised if along the way, the bold Red Pepper runs a headline claiming a certain Congolese woman has bewitched Winnie Byanyima over Kiiza Besigye. The story may claim, Winnie is having nightmares, can’t sleep and has checked into an uptown rehab centre in New York to recover from the trauma and crazy beatings by ghosts sent by Kiiza Besigye’s “Congolese girlfriend”. Of course all this would be bullshit, but it will have the moralists, conservatives and elders wondering why Winnie Byanyima can’t show up to be with her man in his most challenging and trying times. Then pub talk and the rumour mill will be awash with stories on who could be Besigye’s next wife or Uganda’s next first lady for that matter.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dr. Kobusigye, Engineer Badru Kiggundu, Hon Nandala Mafabi and LAVIT

On the Correct line?, Kiggundu’s Election prayers, Hon.Mafabi and LAVIT.

I did not know any of FDC President Rtd. Col. Dr. Besigye’s siblings apart from Musasizi Kifefe who died after endless battles in court and detention in Luzira prison and numerous safe houses over terrorism/ treason charges. Am sure not so many people knew either. So Dr. Olive Kobusigye, Dr. Kiiza Besigye’s younger sister’s book – The Correct Line? Under General Museveni has kicked off a mini storm in the mainstream media and in Kampala’s elite circles. Apparently, the book is critical of the Museveni regime and puts to the fore, scenes and incidents in our society and political sphere etc that are in stark contrast to President Museveni’s preaching and assertions on the rule of law, freedom of expression, human rights etc. For example, today General Museveni may say, let the Kabaka be, let him freely talk and engage with his subjects, only to unleash a paramilitary outfit the following day to disperse a cheering/singing/dancing crowd waiting to receive His Majesty Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi in a remote town 60 kms outside Kampala. But for me, that is not my point of interest. What puzzles me is why a government of the day or government officials for that matter, would want to confiscate a consignment of books purported to be critical of the regime, by locking them up or holding them up in a safe house for that matter. Needless to say, you don’t lock up information in this era and age. With mobile phones, internet, social networking etc, any attempt to block a book from hitting the book stores is a sad and mediocre endeavor. So the government realized they were playing “dog-chasing- its own tail”, and decided to let Dr. Kobusigye be with her books, but they had already accorded her free advertisement and publicity. I mean, how else would ordinary mortals in the country side or upcountry towns, offices etc be interested in her book if it weren’t for the media frenzy and hullabaloo over Kagina - Kivejinja’s seizure of the book. We are not known to love reading. If Museveni’s lieutenants hadn’t seized that consignment for even a single day, that book would be gathering dust in Aristoc Bookshop and Dr. Kobusigye’s home store.

Engineer Badru Kiggundu and his team organized a prayer session at Kololo airstrip to pray for peace and stability before, during and after the 2011 general elections. Why is kiggundu calling on divine intervention for guidance and support during next year’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections? I think the guy is preparing us and asking God to help him be strong enough to announce a Dr. Besigye victory come February 2011. You wonder why Kiggundu and Co. seem worried this time round. In the last two General elections, they have been at fault - not reigning on NRM candidates acting with impunity, hijacking polling stations and materials, beating up, arresting, intimidating and killing opposition candidates, agents and supporters. The courts of law have put this on record. And kiggundu is not your 100m athlete or budding footballer that you can argue will get better with time. He seems to perform poorly with each passing year. But like any elite professional, he seems bent on redeeming his legacy and thus is calling on God to give him the guts to declare Dr. Kiiza Besigye winner next time round. The NRM folks seem to have smelt this already, no wonder their Chairman and party top dogs, snubbed this national prayer event at Kololo. Keep your fingers crossed, 2011 is not for the faint hearted.

In light of next year’s Presidential and General elections, if the electoral commission ensures and delivers a fair contest in this political arena of ours, two gentlemen will be back in the august house. Hon Nandala Mafabi, MP for Budandiri East and also chairperson of Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and Hon. Nabetta Igeme, MP for Jinja West and more importantly Director/ Project Manager of the LAVIT project (Lake Victoria Information Technology Park). These two guys are the true symbols of the two ironies that define our society today. Hon. Nandala Mafabi as head of PAC is endlessly putting government officials and accounting officers to task to explain fraudulent deals, loss of money, corruption, value for money etc in the spending of tax payers’ money. CHOGM, Road Sector, Finance etc have been fodder for him as he puts government big fish to task to explain their fishy deals and accountabilities or the lack of it. But that is as far as he goes. He and his opposition colleagues, despite their best efforts to ensure better accountability and procurement procedures in government expenditures, they don’t have a critical mass in the house to bring the perpetuators of corruption, fraud and bribery to book. All they do is bark, bark and bark. None of the guys indicted by the CHOGM report will ever be questioned by the police or even disciplined by the party. Hon. Mafabi’s efforts are to waste. PAC is fighting a lost battle. This brings us to Hon. Nabetta, a guy who purchased 200 acres of prime land on the shores of Lake Victoria from the Uganda prisons for a paltry Ugx 10,000,000. The land is intended to for the Lake Victoria Information/communication and Bio-technology park. The park will be complete with real estate products, ICT research and innovation centres, biotechnology institutes, airport etc and will create over 10,000 jobs directly, boost trade and commerce in eastern Uganda, develop appropriate ICT tools etc. The picture is rosy, the intentions are great. But then Hon. Mafabi and his PAC team come in, procurement guidelines were flaunted, the land was given away for peanuts, etc. This is where I get lost on whom to side with. The argument for good accountability vis avis procedures that may frustrate a good-intentioned project is our biggest challenge today. Temangalo was a good investment deal, it would give an opportunity to pension contributors to own homes/ property – the NSSF argued. For this, they wanted us to forget that there was influence peddling, irregular procurement procedures, political influence etc all perfect recipes for frustrating even the best of intentions. The citizenry don’t understand why the roads authority and ministry of health would return money to the treasury when our roads are a mess, hospitals lack drugs and basic equipment. Would we rather spend the money fraudulently and come up with a shabby job or would we rather have tax payers’ money stashed away safely in the treasury, away from the filthy hands of corrupt technocrats and politicians, as we engage better planning mode? Give me the latter any day.

Friday, September 10, 2010



The NRM-O or better still the National Resistance Movement Organisation is yet to conclude its elections and still has the volcanic national delegates’ conference too. The trouble is still cooking in the pot. Gunshots in the Bukedea elections, tear gas at the special interest groups conference in Namboole, intrigue and fighting in Kampala, rigging, disappearance of ballot papers and boxes, ballot stuffing, poor planning, etc the NRM have officially conducted the biggest sham of a n election in Uganda’s history, not even a village secondary-school election can be that bad. However, amidst all this gloom and chaos, there are multitudes of dividends for the party and country at large.

President Museveni has killed more than two birds with one stone, he has tested the waters. The popular sentiment especially in Buganda and the central region at large of Twakoowa literally meaning we are tired of the Museveni regime has been probably buried. It is clear more than ever before; the local populaces at the grass roots have expressed their undying love for the party. The support is there, the numbers are overwhelming, all the party captains need to do is put their ship in order and cruise to victory come the 2010 elections.

Secondly the NRM primaries will probably do the country and our general elections next year a big favour, surely we would be stupid and insane to allow it to go worse than what we have witnessed with the yellow brigade. They have unknowingly offered us a shock absorber, I guess the next year the electorate and candidates will be a bit cautious, calm and restrained so as not to descend to chaos. Better still, am sure our brothers and sisters in the IPC- Inter Party Coalition, FDC, Jeema, DP and UPC will surely want to beat the NRM at organizing better grass root elections free of rigging, ballot stuffing, intimidation, poor logistical organisation etc. This can only be good for our young multi party democracy. The NRM have soiled their reputation so bad that everyone wants to beat them at the democracy credentials they claim to champion. We need our politics to mature into credible contests based on difference in development policy and initiative.

Furthermore, by adopting universal adult suffrage for electing party leaders and flag bearers, the party has set the wheel rolling for entrenching accountability, democracy, institutionalization in the party and country at large, the intentions are great but the execution has been disastrous. The former was always the hard part; the latter should be a walk in the park next time round. They have learnt their lesson, though the hard way. It is an all time low for the party. But the future is bright. All they need to do next time is get their logistical issues in order, clean the voters register/ yellow book, deliver election materials in time and in a transparent manner, then they will ne enroute the promised land.

But they also need to do some soul searching and try to understand kind of people they have on the movement bus, iam not sure all the people aboard the movement bus have imbibed the movement ideology and thus are convinced it is the best on the political menu. Surely it is the best on the “eating” front, there is a strong belief that joining the NRM or appearing to support it is a step towards having a slice of the national cake, but considering the level of voter bribery with liquid cash in the full glare of national TV cameras, we are not sure these folks want their share of the national cake through legitimate means. People have sold land, animals, borrowed money to finance their contest in the NRM primaries. With the general election involving other party candidates around the corner, their expenses will go through the roof. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to realize that the only way they will break even is by dipping their yellow-gloved filthy hands into the national till right from the central government through the districts administration down to the sub counties. The NRM is unofficially entrenching corruption in our politics and economy at large for generations to come.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We need a Kabaka for Buganda not for Baganda

We need a Kabaka for Buganda not for Baganda.
Since Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi’s foiled visit to a remote Kayunga district, in eastern Buganda, in September 2009, Uganda’s political landscape has changed quite noticeably. Following the army/police/ military blockade against the Kabaka’s advance team (Prime Minister’s entourage), bloody riots by Baganda youth, Buganda enthusiasts and city goons erupted in Kampala and its suburbs, claiming over thirty lives and unprecedented loss of property worth billions of shillings. CBS radio- Buganda’s mouth piece was closed by government for allegedly inciting ethnic tensions and airing sectarian prejudices. After heavy military and army deployment, Kampala returned to sanity. The president met the Kabaka for the first time in over two years, and reconciliations attempts were made.
With the presidential and general elections early next year, the September 2009 events are threatening to shape Uganda’s political landscape now and in the near future. Kabaka Mutebi’s allies, ministers and henchmen have since jumped into the political arena with blessings from the king himself. Kabaka Mutebi has also used every available forum to urge Baganda to register to vote for next year’s general elections. A pressure group, “Ssubi lya Buganda 2011” (Hope for Buganda 2011) a brain child of the Kabaka’s allies and henchmen is already on the campaign trail gunning for support for candidates that subscribe to Buganda’s ideologies, demands and whims. It is now clear to everyone and more importantly to the NRM regime, that the Kabaka is not a king for launching clan or youth boxing and soccer tourneys, officiating at commissioning of village markets, or popularizing tree planting campaigns. Kabaka Mutebi wants political, social and economic power. He wants a slice of Kampala’s booming real estate business, he wants to influence policy on land, taxation, trade, manufacturing, governance, media etc. So he has dispatched his trusted comrades in the political contests en route the Promised Land (read federo).
But more than ever before, we need a Kabaka for Buganda not for Baganda. From the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, Buganda's boundaries are marked by Lake Victoria to the south, the River Nile to the east, Lake Kyoga to the north and River Kafu to the northwest.[2] To the west, Buganda is bordered by the districts of Isingiro, Kiruhura, Kyenjojo, Kibale, Hoima and Masindi. This implies the great Buganda Kingdom is composed of the following districts- Mubende, Masaka, Luwero, Nankasogora, Nakaseke, Kiboga, Entebbe, Wakiso, Mukono and Kampala. The later three are the centre for Uganda’s economic functions, business, enterprise, administrative infrastructure, health care and tax centres, tourism and recreations hubs, education facilities etc. Furthermore, Buganda is currently inhabited by over twenty local tribes and equal proportion of foreign nations ranging from Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, Ethiopians, French etc all engaged in various sectors – administration, civil service, government, enterprise, trade, business, tourism, education, farming, construction, transport, real estate, diplomatic missions, media, humanitarian work etc. So a Kabaka that can’t stick to cultural issues like language, norms and mannerisms, way of dress, exhibition shows, traditional cuisine etc but decides to seek political and socio-economic power and influence, ought to be king/ Kabaka for all the subjects in his territory not just one ethnic tribe(Baganda in particular).
Kampala/ Buganda have the potential of being a regional and international hub for business, tourism, trade, education and enterprise. It hosted the CHOGM in 2007 and is slated to host the 15th African Union Summit in July 2010. With the East African Common Market that comes with a market of over 150 million consumers, free movement of people, goods and services, I want Kabaka that concerns himself with infrastructure development, better trade and business environment, improved tax policy, human resource development, easy access to information technology facilities etc nothing more nothing less. The East African Common Market, COMESA, and all other aspects of globalization that we cherish e.g international trade, media, sport, education, tourism, enterprise, IT, technology advancement, commercial agriculture, entertainment etc have no place for identities as shallow as Banyakole, Baganda, Masai, Jaluo, Hutus etc. We need to see ourselves as global thinkers, entrepreneurs, sportsmen and global citizens at large. I want a Kabaka for the above mentioned in Buganda. We need such a Kabaka; anyone else won’t take us to the promised land (political and Socio-economic prosperity).
Agaba Rugaba

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ghana's "African" exit at the World Cup

Ghana’s " African" World Cup Exit.
Ghana’s heart-breaking exit from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa has drawn commentary and criticism in many sections of the African media and community chat rooms at large. I can understand the anger and disappointment at Asamaoh Gyan’s failure to convert the decisive penalty kick and Ghana’s failure to negotiate the penalty shoot-out, what i find nauseating are the endless claims that this was an African problem, an African exit and apparently African tendencies and attitudes were written all over it. It is absolute bull crap. Either this is myopic football analysis and or low self esteem on the part of our African commentators or just some souls that haven’t recovered from the shock that came with the defeat.

Football history shoots down any attempt to claim this is an African problem or the so-called African tendencies had anything to do with Ghana’s world cup exit. Legendary Italian striker Roberto Baggio missed a decisive penalty at the 1994 World Cup in USA against Brazil. I watched Del Pierro miss tonnes and tonnes of one-on-one encounters with French goal keeper, Barthez at the European Championships Final in 2000. He wasted chance after chance like a sixteen year old kid from a soccer academy. John Terry missed the decisive penalty against Man UTD in the 2008 Champions’ League final. We all know what that penalty would have meant to John Terry, Chelsea FC and a certain Russian billionaire –Abromavich. The AC Milan team that suffered that shock defeat from a resurgent Liverpool on that crazy night in Istanbul, Turkey was not manned or managed by any Africans.
Michael Ballack has captained or been at the centre of teams that have failed at the final hurdle. I guess he is known to be the chief bride’s maid in European football. He lost a Champions League Final with Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea against Real Madrid and Man UTD respectively. He has lost a World Cup Final and Euro Championships Final against Brazil and Spain respectively. He is not African by any chance.

Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to rock this World Cup but he didn’t come to the party. Lionel Messi who was supposed to step on the podium (at this World Cup) and receive the mantle from Diego Maradona as this century’s best footballer, didn’t even get on the score board. His biggest contribution was to create an offside goal for Carlos Tevez against Mexico. Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerard, Fernando Torres, Robinho, Andrea Pirlo, Pato, Ricardo Kaka etc have all had poor shows at the World Cup. I don’t know whether these guys have this so-called African DNA engrained in their fiber. They even don’t have African grandparents.

I mean football is full of near-misses, bad days, bad decisions, disappointment, adrenaline-rush-moments etc they are part of the game, and they are good for the game. They engrave the passion in the game and needless to say, they keep the human face to this sport that we love so much. Our lives are characterized by near misses- many people miss being admitted to colleges & schools, getting their dream jobs, making that breakthrough in business, meeting their true love etc. It has nothing to do with one being African or not. To think otherwise is absolute redundancy.

Agaba Rugaba

Saturday, January 9, 2010

On “beef” in Uganda’s Music Industry.

On “beef” in Uganda’s Music Industry.

It’s now cliché to say Uganda’s music industry has grown over the years. The growth of course is undoubted- the quality of music has improved, the videos are much better and the musicians themselves are celebrated personalities in society- I mean, the sane ones have families (wife, children and a home), engage in charity work and community awareness programs, are socio-political activists, etc. You can go to a music store in London and get a Jose Chameleone CD on the shelves, or watch Bebe Cool perform at the Mandela Birthday Festival on You Tube or better still, down load an audio documentary from the BBC website on Bobi Wine creating awareness on sanitation and public health in Kampala’s slums. But that is as far as the fine points go. Beneath this sparkling surface lies an intoxicating cocktail of hatred, raw manners, drugs, sex, fear, intrigue, back-stubbing, primitive competition and all the other things that could ever define a jungle empire. This has fueled feuds, fights and scuffles amongst the captains and lieutenants of the Uganda music ship. The media and society love to call it beef and at best, refer to all these unfortunate skirmishes as publicity stunts probably plotted by the feuding parties. We are made to believe that a fight between Bobi Wine and Bebe Cool is an agreed arrangement and it is for their own good, it keeps the fans interested either in their music or lifestyle or probably their fighting skills. This is arguably the saddest creation of the media on our music industry. For crying out loud, some of these guys have ended up on hospital beds or police cells after these feuds. At best, some have been summoned to courts of law but the more enterprising ones, have hit studios to release songs about these feuds and probably the latter has shaped the opinion and view of society on these fights.

Bobi wine & Bebe Cool Vs Jose Chameleone

This is probably the first beef story the media brought to us and arguably the first beef feud on the Ugandan music scene. Bobi Wine and Bebe Cool were still comrades under the Fire Base Crew and couldn’t see eye to eye with Jose Chameleone and his Leone Island. It gave birth to the hit Futula apparently aimed at Jose and his then heartthrob-Dorotia. Jose came up with Befula song considering that he had gone through the same hustles with Bebe back in Nairobi in the mid 90s.Bebe and Jose seem to be on talking terms today.

Bobi Wine Vs Bebe Cool.

I can’t claim to know when and why they parted ways. Bobi stayed at Fire Base Crew and became the de facto president, Bebe cool went on to form his own label Gagamel. Back then, they both seemed to have mutual respect for each other’s work and both couldn’t be under the same roof with Jose Chameleone. Recently, Bebe seems to be comfortable in Jose’s company but the animosity with his former comrades at Fire Base Crew has reached alarming levels. At the height of Bebe and Zuena’s mini-break-up, Bobi released a song taking a swipe at Bebe’s marriages woes. Bebe Cool later released his hot single- Bogolako after getting back with wife Zuena. The epitome of this beef came to the fore late last year when they held their album launches on the same day – a feat never seen before on the music scene here. The debate on who got the biggest crowd on the night is still raging on in newspaper social pages and on radio shows at large.

Jose Chameleone Vs Goodlyf (Mose Radio & Weasel TV)

This is the closest you will get to brotherly love gone sour. Jose groomed the two guys under his Leone Island and when the boys mastered their art, they left to do their own thing. And boy! They have really hit the charts. Jose has never been impressed probably because they didn’t acknowledge his mentorship, support and tutelage. And the boys don’t seem to have any apologies. Recently, with the Beenie Man show in Kampala, some media houses compared the Beenie Man and Bounty Killer feud to the Chameleone and Goodlyf beef. This feud also gave birth to run-away hits like Bayunda, Sitani all aimed at each other. But it is believed that deep down in their hearts; the Goodlyf guys cherish Jose Chameleone and appreciate him. We wait to see them on the same stage at peace with their mentor.

Bebe Cool /Gagamel Vs Goodlyf.

This will probably be the mother of all feuds this year-2010. Undoubtedly, this has been boiling in the pot for some time and the beef was well served on New Year’s Eve celebrations at the Hotel Africana in Kampala. Apparently, the promoter had advertised the same show under two different themes and posters- Mr. DJ Concert and Music 2010 concert for the same time and venue. With the Mr. DJ concert- the Goodlyf guys were like the main act and with the latter show, Bebe Cool and his Gagamel Crew were intended to be the main act. To use the cliché, the rest is history. The Zuena and Ability songs by the Goodlyf guys have a thing or two to say about Bebe Cool’s life. (At least that is what I have been made to believe). Bogola Ko, Cartoon and Monkey and Kiwoko songs by Bebe Cool and two of his Gagamel Label members respectively, are in more ways than one aimed at the Goodlyf guys. If the Hotel Africana fight is the harbinger of things to come, we should grace ourselves for a shock. Soon someone will have blood on his hands.

This beef game is undoubtedly immortalized by two famous American HIP HOP and Rap artists- Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur. Unfortunately, the feuding claimed their lives and a few of their comrades on the sides too. The debate of who killed who, or how who plotted for whom is still a strong one in music chat rooms and on music blogs all over the world. Some people even claim Tupac Shakur is still alive. I hope we won’t get to that in our humble Pearl of Africa.

Rugaba Agaba

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kampala…the Ultimate Experience.

Kampala…the Ultimate Experience.
In years gone by, Kampala- the capital city of Uganda was defined as the city of seven hills. I cannot claim to know which these famous hills are, but one thing am sure of today is that Kampala is dotted with far more than seven hills. The development of the real estate sector and budding middle class has transformed the geography of this city. Many posh residential neighborhoods and estates are now perched on virtually every hill or raised stretch of land in Kampala. However, whereas Kampala was then defined by the seven famous hills, today as a city on the global scene and growing cosmopolitan culture, Kampala is truly defined by far different aspects than hills. In this I attempt to come up with the ten (10) things that define this dusty and filthy city of ours. They are highly opinionated and egocentric with an attempt to claim authority on the matter.

Kampala road.

Well, Kampala city wouldn’t be complete without Kampala road. It runs through the heart of the city and the central business district. It is approximately a stretch of 2km or less, but this has equally been a subject of debate. Where does Kampala road begin and/or end? However, my conviction is that it stretches from Fido dido up to the DFCU Bank branch just opposite Railways. (I may be wrong with my conviction)Kampala road plays host to almost all other things that define this city- businesses, Office blocks, shopping malls, cosy coffee cafes, red-light districts, book stores, banks, etc. Like many other roads in this country, it has its fair share of potholes and these have given all radio presenters a lease of life, I mean if you have nothing to say on radio, then just talk about potholes on Kampala road, you are sure you will get phone-ins and thus a lively morning show. It is on Kampala road that you will see the latest fashions, style and wear, either on a mannequin in a fancy cloths boutique or a 22yr old girl attempting to champion MTV lifestyle. I mean, you meet someone and they look like they have just popped out of a Rihanna music video. Can’t we be more original? You will also run into guys who have since returned from the diaspora and are now living it large. (We like to call them nkuba kyeyos).They are the real deal- the real deal. They drive the latest American cars (mbu they ship them along as they come for holidays), party Monday to Sunday, have huge real estate investments in Kampala’s suburbs and speak like our brothers from the Caribbean. So that is Kampala road for you-complete with potholes, MTV wannabes, Nkuba kyeyos, banks etc.

Nandos and Mateos.

I will admit, since time immemorial, I have had trouble pronouncing these two correctly or incorrectly. Sometimes I will pronounce them with a z, like Nandoz, Mateoz and so do so many other people I know. However, more importantly at least I know what goes in there. For a brief history, Nandos is arguably the first fast food/ take away restaurant in Kampala and it played host to the biggest detoothing dates in this city. (De-toothing in Kampala speak means gold digging schemes- beautiful young lady vs. rich old man) Stories are told of how Makerere University babes wouldn’t give you a second look unless you suggested chips and chicken for dinner, and no one did Chips & Chicken except Nandos.(that was before some crafty guys in Katwe-downtown Kampala came up a machine that does chips/French fries, and everyone was in the chips and chicken business).Nandos revolutionalised the dating culture in this city.
They held the key to many relations. Now they do more than just chips and chicken. They do burgers, cakes, African coffee, Cappuccinos, Espressos, African tea, juice and many other things that in can’t pronounce or imagine how they taste. Upstairs (but there are no stairs), may be just up slope, sits their cousin in business, Mateos(z) - a cosy up-market bar/restaurant with fine décor, fancy furniture, plasma TVs, exotic cocktails and great music. People who are well travelled say, it is like a slice cut from a street in west London. That goes a long way in defining its rating. These two places are the true symbols of Kampala’s mushrooming cosmopolitan culture. Here you will meet tourists and expatriates with their African lovers trying to get a feel of back home, Kampala’s yuppies winding down after a hard day’s work, new lovers in a corner whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears and of course, a Nkuba kyeyo fresh from the states or UK, Japan, Indi- looking every inch like Akon-complete with bling bling, baggy jeans, heavy scented perfume and a swanky Nokia phone. You may also meet a journalist from one of the international media houses, trying to edit his story on conservation of environment in Uganda over coffee or a beer.

Sex and the city

Do not be tempted to think about the famous New York sitcom about three or four elite ladies that were so liberal with their sex lives. Kampala just loves sex. From the dungy hang outs in the city suburbs where nude dances are hidden under karaoke shows, to Speke road-Kampala’s undisputed red light district, sex trade is on a slow but steady rise. No wonder, a few years ago, we had a honorable legislator in our parliament suggesting legalizing this age-old trade. Thank heavens sanity prevailed but it is an issue still murmured in the corridors of power. I can’t claim I know the reason for this steady rise in casual sex, sex orgies and reckless sex. But I can offer my suspicion-The budding middle class. In my years at university, i used to see all kinds of posh cars parked at girls’ hostels and halls of residence from Thursday all through the weekend up to Sunday evening. Am told the state of affairs has not changed at all. Universities, colleges and institutions of higher learning are endlessly flocked by young and hot blooded men, and rusty old men looking for young ladies to satisfy their sexual appetites. It is a story of willing and consenting arrangements. The girls need the goodies and money offered by the working class boyfriends and sugar daddies- to keep up appearances and the guys just want a little fun. So you have all these relations that are purely based on a strong materialistic and financial policy- sex for money. However, few of these end up in long term relationships and marriage. My former workmate in Gulu once told us a story about a security guard to his hostel who regularly bought a certain prostitute from the nearby bar. After three such dealings in one month, the lady rejected the guy’s payment. “Why don’t you use the money to buy household items and I start cooking/washing for you?” She asked the security guard. “You think i enjoy this work?” She questioned. The rest is history. They are now married with three children to show for it. Not all bad enterprises are entirely bad.

To be continued…