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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tribute | Daily Monitor @25!

"Hi. I like your writing style. This is superb", read an email from Dora Barungi, the then editor of Sunday Life, a weekend pullout that came out every Sunday, almost a decade ago.

It was her response to an article I had written about School times, a series that was eventually aped by The Observer.

Barely out of campus with an IT background and an old school belief that mainstream writing had no business being my favorite pastime, here I was, getting endorsed by a doyen in the profession.

This was the spark that subliminally ignited my passion. My confidence shot through the roof. And thus I cut my writing teeth, eventually going on to start my first blog shortly after.

Today, Daily Monitor turns 25, and what a ride it’s been for the guys in Namuwongo. While I certainly wouldn’t be the right person to tell their tale, I’ve had my fair share of memories.

I won’t go much into press and other freedoms they might have battled along the way, for I probably know only a fraction of what they went through.

Nonetheless, this should be a toast to this feat, to all the excellent stories they’ve churned out, and to everything else that has been great about them.

Charles Onyango-Obbo’s "Ear to the ground" (that article in which he likened Burundi's Pierre Buyoya to Gustave, the menacing crocodile on the Burundi side of Lake Tanganyika remains my all-time favorite), Fulham fan Kevin Patrick O'Connor’s "Roving Eye", Austin Ejiet’s captivating satire in "Take it or leave it" and Muniini K Mulera’s remain some of the best columns I have read to-date.

I cannot forget Harry Sagara’s humorous tales from Panyimur, complete with that cartoon that had an upward-pointing Winklepicker.

There was always something gripping about John Abimanyi Kiggundu Zedekiah’s features and his writing style, a guy I first knew as an exuberant Christian hip-hop fanatic we called Chilly Willy/Sting in high-school many years ago.

These, and some of our recent favorites like Daniel Kalinaki are the reason we continue to support Daily Monitor.

I'll sign off with special shout-outs to recent "veterans" like Jacobs O Seaman (who has since found greener pastures elsewhere), Andrew Bagala(current favorite Investigative journalist), Andrew Mwanguhya and Atukwasize Chris Ogon (my current favorite cartoonist).


Bon Anniversaire, Daily Monitor. May you continue to thrive for many more years!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Society | Face to face with Kifeesi: A tale of one stolen phone!

"Ku Wilson osanga banyumye, naye nga basiba kiwaani" (On Wilson Road, you’ll oft find them all neat and spruced up, but theirs is a life of deceitful trickery), sang Bobi Wine in "Kiwaani", arguably one of his greatest hits, in 2007. 

10 years since I first came across this jargon, I find myself silently humming to the song on one tepid morning, right in the middle of our beloved metropolis.

The subject of my expedition is an iPhone, a pricey handset that had been snatched from a Caucasian colleague during peak traffic hours on Kiira Road the previous evening, before taking off on a boda. 

The assailant is a dark-skinned slender male with bloodshot eyes, probably between late 20s to 30 years of age, that we shall call X. 

Now, iPhones come with that security feature that allows the user to report the phone as having been stolen or lost.  It then flashes a message on the screen, notifying whoever is in possession of the phone to return it to its rightful owner (I am still Android, unfortunately, so I don’t exactly know how this works). 

X, having possibly tried to unlock the phone in vain, chooses to call the contact. But his rather "charitable" act won’t come cheap. He wants a ransom of sorts, a cool 500K UGX before he can release his catch. A deal is struck, and the phone is to be collected from Pioneer Mall.

My Caucasian buddy is not familiar with this part of town, and that is how an apprehensive me gets sucked into the recovery process (you just do not go to meet a guy who violently wrestled away your phone, in Ugandan speak, "fwaa"). 

Minutes later, we set off for the mission. 

Having mentioned Pioneer Mall, X now asks the person on the other end to find him at Wilson Street before changing to Mutaasa Kafeero at the third time of interaction. 

It’s at Mutaasa Kafeero that a light-skinned, neat and burly chap accosts us, inquiring to confirm if we had indeed come for the phone. 

We had seen him skirt around the initially agreed meeting point but hadn’t really taken note of his movements, for he could have been just another City dweller scouring for his next meal. 

"I have worked with security circles before", says he, switching to a Nkore dialect once we are done with the pleasantries. "Once in a while, I run a few errands for police when they need me", he adds, before the topic changes to our subject of interest. 

It was at this point that he says he is going to hand over the phone, but not in the presence of my buddy. 

Nerves. 

What if he chooses some dungeon as the handover venue before asking for more ransom, this time from my own family? I ponder. 

More nerves.

I then wear that veneer I usually assume when I am not sure of the person I am talking to. "So, boss, where do we go from here", I ask. It would be the next street, just below Wilson (the name skips my mind). Like a normal business transaction, he checks the ransom and confirms the amount.

He beckons one of his boys, another slender guy who emerges from the opposite side of the street, left hand seemingly girded. 

A couple of interactions between the two, later, I have the phone in my hands before handing over the ransom. 

"We sometimes help you people to recover your phones – if you cooperate", he says. "I have a group of boys running this, and most times I have no idea where the phone could have been stolen from. The other day we helped some Mzungu woman get her S6 back", he adds.

It turns out that the phone theft business is run by a racket of well organized gangs who choose what to do with every new acquisition, depending on the brand, perceived value or the victim’s attitude. 

If you show up with some security detail of sorts because you want to show your might, chances are that you’ll never meet these gangs or their representative. So you simply forget the phone. 

By changing location, the guys are actually monitoring your movements, just so they are sure you are either alone or they are safe. 

"How about the other items in the wallet – the Credit Cards et al", I ask. He says he would help track them, trying not to show assurance he knows where they were being kept. 

I pretend to believe him. Contacts are exchanged. "0752 xxx xxx. You can call me Hashim London", he signs off before we go separate ways. 

Barely 24 hours later, "Hashim" calls. He has traced the items. And he wants an additional 200K UGX!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tech | Ransomware: Technology’s most devastating cyber-attack, and one man’s accidental break

If you’ve been following recent happenings in the technology world, you must have come across this. You must have heard about some "virus" that attacked and disabled health systems in the UK, leaving thousands of patients stuck in limbo.

Running under the name "WanaCrypt0r" or WannaCry, the ransomware demanded that users pay $300 worth of cryptocurrency Bitcoin to retrieve their files, though it warned that the “payment would be raised” after a certain amount of time.

The orchestraters of this malware were creative enough to craft translations of this ransom message in at least 28 languages.

Ransonmware, for the uninitiated, is a type of malicious software that carries out the (cryptoviral) extortion attack from cryptovirology that blocks access to data until a ransom is paid.

It displays a message requesting payment before it can be unlocked. Simple ransomware may lock the system in a manner that is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse (Wikipedia).

Around the globe, Wannacry continued to wreak havoc in many a system, harvesting estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.

This was until one security expert inadvertently stopped the malware in its tracks. The tech world’s latest hero, a 22-year old reclusive security specialist who chooses to hide behind his tech blog – Malware Tech – is as a security researcher at Los Angeles-based Kryptos Logic.

Malware Tech studied the malware’s behavior and noticed that as soon as it installed itself on a new machine, it tried to send a message to an unregistered Internet address, or domain name.

The malware contained code that pinged an unregistered web address, and if it didn't get back a message saying the address didn't exist, it would turn itself off.

The bulk of his work was done as soon as he had identified this. His next step was to register the domain and see what would follow. Little did he know that by doing so, he had inadvertently stopped what is believed to be one of the world’s biggest cyber-attacks in recent times.

Computers that were already infected with the ransomware weren't protected but the ransomware stopped spreading except in isolated systems, said Craig Williams, a senior technical leader at American security company Cisco Talos.

Are we out of the woods yet?

Not yet, Malware Tech warns. “This is not over. The attackers will realize how we stopped it. they’ll change the code and then they’ll start again. Enable windows update, update and then reboot”, he adds.

Obviously the guys that did the first code aren’t - in Ugandan speak - “sleeping”. One slight modification of the code and the world’s rear will be on fire again.

The folks at Microsoft certainly foresaw this when they released a security patch a couple of months back – March 14, 2017 – to be exact, though computers that have not installed the security update remain vulnerable.

I had stubbornly procrastinated patching my Windows (because I was trying to avoid the several restarts that come with these), but I have finally been cornered after the VPNs I use got locked until I have the required fixes in place.

Is your system patched and protected? 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lifestyle | Masappe


Just how this word found its way into the already rich Luganda slang vocabulary remains anybody’s guess. But with the proliferation of Congolese in this dusty city of ours, one probably needs to look no further.

Deriving its origins from the French abbreviation SAPE – Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (literally: Society of fun-lovers (Ambiance-Makers) and Elegant People), it has come to be associated with anything showbiz, or simply anything that reveals one’s snobbish side. 

Many colonial decades ago in what we know today as Congo Brazzaville and DRC, privileged young men found employment in homes of colonial chiefs as house boys, valets and butlers, and were awed by their masters’ attire and way of life.

The impression was so lasting that some would end up opting to starve and be paid in clothing instead, just so they could acquire the swag that came with looking cool.

Catching the bug next was a good chunk of the then emerging intellectual elite as office clerks, messengers and young civil servants jumped onto the bandwagon, sacrificing portions of their salaries to own souvenirs of expensive clothing.

Today, the most conspicuous Sapeurs we know are Congolese artistes, many of whose dressing styles have gone on to trigger a wave of cultural influence across the continent. The spelling and usage has since evolved to read what we now know as "masappe/amasappe".

So, the next time someone says "Olina amasappe", just know you’ve have been branded a poser.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Commentary | Issa Hayatou hungers for more

Power corrupts, they say. But someone should probably do a study on this psychological disorder that appears to afflict many an African leader.

Having successfully negotiated his way round the CAF statute that bars officials from serving past 70, the Cameroonian now has the green light to seek a re-election that could see him extend his reign to 32 years, having been at the helm of African football since 1988.

That he needs a monthly trip to France for dialysis treatment (he underwent a kidney transplant in 2015) should be reason enough for him to take a break and enjoy some of that fortune he’s built over the past 28 years.

Even if he hadn’t (which is unlikely), he should be having a handsome commission off that $1 billion CAF broadcast deal that he helped sell to French media company Lagardère Sports, using his son as a proxy (the firm would later charge an arm and a leg to any country that wished to relay the tournament, which is partly why UBC couldn’t afford the service).

His most recent victory in 2013 had been won at a canter (after – reportedly – buying his way to victory). But 2017 promises to present him his toughest challenge.

Criticism and opposition appears to spring from all corners, from soccer luminaries of yesteryears like Ghana’s Abedi Pele to FAs like Nigeria, as well as regional soccer bodies like COSAFA. 

Still stuck in no man’s land is CECAFA (no surprises, there), who are yet to decide whether they either want to see the light or blindly go for "No Change".

The biggest challenge to Hayatou’s throne comes in the name of Ahmad Ahmad, the Madagascar FA boss who shows no signs of withering to his machinations.

The latest to join the "Hayatou Out" brigade is Souleiman Hassan Waberi, the Djibouti FA chief. Weberi hopes to have the rest of the CECAFA members on his side.

But FUFA’s Moses Magogo insists theirs remains a secret vote – which most definitely means he will be going with whoever greases his palm better. We can only wait and watch the space.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tribute | Fare thee well, Bonney Katatumba

“Katatumba Academy /
Is the School for you and me / “

Thus went a Radio Uganda jingle for Katatumba Academy, back in the day, circa 1997. This was one of the several ventures that fallen businessman Bonney Katatumba tried a hand at.

Katatumba Academy, back in the day, held annual quiz competitions for schools within Nkore region. Pleasurable moments like these usually gave us opportunity to mingle with students from other schools in semi-picnic setting, and (probably) set our hormones on a test drive.

Such galas were, generally, fun. People had fun and drank and ate to their fill. We did trivia and everything else that a good quiz competition should feature. Winners walked away with prizes, courtesy of the school’s management.

Colorful tales from peers who had been there before always beguiled a teenage me, making me look forward to the day I would have my chance.

It wasn’t to be long.

I still remember the day like it was yesterday. A five-man delegation of myself, John Mark Ssebunya, Amos Nuwagaba, Chris Mukwaba and a fifth guy (I forget the name) floored our competitors with a record margin, emerging top of the pack. Among the prize items we took were five crates of Coke (which was a still a big deal, then).

So we made a colorful return to our school with swag, each of us feeling like a young Jesus during that triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

This was one of my earliest memories about Bonney Katatumba. Today, the good old businessman succumbed to a combination of pneumonia and Asthma in what should be a sad day for anyone who knew him, and/or had interacted with him on one way or another.

Since condolences to the bereaved family. We grieve with you. And may the good lord comfort you during this difficult moment.

Rest thee well, Bonney.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Music | The truth behind Mbilia Bel’s legendary hit, Nakei Nairobi

Nakei Nairobi (I am going to Nairobi) actually had two versions. In the original version, Mbilia Bel sang about Duni (Elodie), a childhood friend who had gone to stay in Nairobi, a friend she now missed.

She heard about the issues this friend was facing in a foreign land, so she decided to go and bring her back to Kinshasa.

When Moi executed his madness of banning foreign music, Tabu Ley - who had written the song - decided to twist the original version and come up with a Kiswahili version.

The new lyrics were changed to mean entirely something different from what had been originally sang about. This new version went like: "Tuende Nairobi, tumuimbie baba Moi (Let’s go go to Nairobi, so we may sing for baba Moi").

Listen to the original version and you will see the differences. The song talks about a certain Duni, in the chorus;

"Nakei Nairobi, po na salisa Duni /
Nakei Nairobi; /
Na ko zonga na Duni"

Meaning:

"I'm in Nairobi /
To lend a helping hand Duni /
I'm in Nairobi /
I will bring Duni"

You also realize that she talks about her and Duni having grown up together, like twins and stuff.

"Na yoki Nzambe motindo ya mpasi, ba nyokoli yo /
Yaka pembeni nazali se wayo ya motema /
To vandi bo mwana, to meseni nga nayo, Dunia /
To bandi bo mwana, ki moninga na miso ya mama /
Ezali mabe nayoka okomi na pasi naza te /
Na koya na kenya na ya ko zwa yo tozonga /
na Kinshasa. Ya Elodie, mapasa /
lokumu ya famille o ti wapi? /
Ya Elodie, mapasa /"

Meaning (translation may not bring out the exact picture, but you get the point);

"I have heard of the problems that now bother you /
Come to me, my heart is your home /
From the childhood we’ve been there for each other, Dunya /
A childhood friendship, born under the watchful eye of my mother /
It is terrible to heard that you fall sick and I am not able to help you /
I will go to Kenya to bring you back to Kinshasa /
Please Elodie, my twin /
What have you done to your family’s name?" 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lifestyle | Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem! That’s what is on my mind, this morning.

Taken from Book 1 of the Roman poet Horace's work - Odes (23 BC), Carpe Diem is Latin for "Seize the day" (I love poetry, but I haven’t read this particular book – in case you were about to mistake me for some pedantic poetry aficionado).

It is an abridged form of the phrase: "carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero", meaning "Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow" (Wikipedia).

If you – like me – grew up in the village in the late 90s and early 2000s and happened to have followed Sports shows on Radio Uganda (Green Channel, to be exact), you must have heard about some guy called Kenneth Musisi. Musisi worked alongside the likes of Sam Mpoza (who has since joined NTV).

One Tuesday evening, Musisi said he had a "grand announcement" to make. He said he would be introducing someone "we should get used to", on his show, the following week. Someone who would step in whenever he was away. He would also co-present with him, once in a while.

That person was Innocent. Innocent Tegusuulwa. One thing led to another, and Innocent later found his way on Bukedde TV. He’s since turned into a motivational speaker of sorts, among other trades.

He is the guy who coined that now famous Luganda mantra: "Toli Mwavu, omutwegwo gwe mwavu" – which may be translated to: "You are not poor; You just have a poor mindset".

Tegusuulwa seized his moment, and has since never looked back. Today, he is certainly a bigger brand than the man who introduced him onto the scene (does Musisi still do sports, anyone?).

His is one of the several examples anyone could give you off-the-cuff, of different people who have gotten chances and taken them with both hands.

Chance knocks once, they say. But sometimes several of them come your way. Opportunities that have capacity to turn your fortunes for good.

Sometimes the magic bullet to your quest for success could lie in that one opportunity. Take it and your dreams could come true, pretty much sooner. Bungle it and you’ll be left licking your wounds. Forever.

#TheRoadNotTaken

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Business | Quality Supermarket Ntinda Closed



So, Quality Supermarket Ntinda has folded. 

It looks like the purchasing power for the folks that shop from, or stay around Ntinda was overestimated. Or maybe the projections were wrong. 

For a business in such a prime location, one would have expected them to stay afloat. After all, a couple of competitor stores remain in business and – seemingly – doing well.

The guys at Tuskys’ seem to have gotten over that rotten chicken scandal and turned their fortunes around – at least going by the shopping traffic. Capital Shoppers does remain solid, too. 

Now, since management deemed it wise not to communicate the reason for this move, we shall be left to speculate on what could have gone wrong; 

1) Variety and pricing. Each of the other competitors had a better variety of products. 

Quality Supermarket had no food section, aside from a small area of the building that featured cakes and – seldom – oily beef Samosas.

Compare this with Tuskys and Capital shoppers that have a wider range of services ranging from food to bits of furniture and other products. 

Unless I had a particular item I wanted from Quality, it was always going to be difficult for me to make Quality Supermarket my first port of call. 

2) Business hours. For the few times I tried accessing the place past 9PM, the staff were always in retirement mood. 

It wasn’t uncommon to find those mean-looking security guards manning a wet entrance with puddles of filthy water. 

If you went to Quality Supermarket wearing some thin-soled footwear, you were almost certain to earn yourself a free muddy footbath. 

Cleaning for the next day would have commenced already. 

3) Parking. Despite the seemingly ample parking at the complex that housed the supermarket, it wasn’t always easy to find parking. 

This could also probably be due to the different businesses in the area. The guys who occupied most of the parking were probably doing different business, for the tills almost always had no queues.

4) Probably the landlord saw it fit to increase rent, and the guys couldn’t cope. This is another theory that has been thrown around. We can only speculate. 

Any positive points? 

It certainly wasn’t always gloom at Quality. Some items were fairly priced. They also had a knack of having that one item that would have eluded you elsewhere in the neighborhood.

They had some decent cake, and their in-house bakery had that 1Kg bread that always felt 1.5 times heavier than the 1Kg inscribed on the sachet.

Oh, and the customer service wasn’t exactly as awful as that at any of those Mega Standard Supermarket branches.

Music | 18 years later, the Lingala Influence on our music still lives on

"Natamboli na mokili yo, oh! /
Nzambe, pesa ngai nguya. Nakobala mwasi kitoko" – Jaribu (Fille ft Samie Rich, 2016)

"Natomoni miso na ngai na likolo namoni te, lokola yo" – Ujuwe (David Lutalo, 2015)

"Mo, motema. Motema na ngai /
E-leli yo, mingi /
Elingi mingi, nakokende/
Linga ngai, Cherie /
Linga ngai, oooh!" – Mutima (Keko ft. Charmant Mushaga, 2014)

"Nalingi mwasi kitoko, kobina na ye tonight" – Pretty (David Lutalo, 2014)

"Ma big big God-o /
Tango nyonso azali Nzambe kitoko /
Tango, tango nakoyemba nakokanga, eeeh /
Afanya na nakembo /
...
Big big God-o
Maboko likolo, likolo, likolo likolo /
Likolo, likolo, likolo,likolo,likolo / " – Big God-O (G-Way ft. Cooper, 2013)

"Olobi ndenge nini, bana Congo, bapewe fasi" – Beyi Kali (Jose Chameleone, 2004)

These and many others highlight the heavy prevalence of Lingala undertones in most of today's local music.

Did they say they were doing away with anything Congolese in our music? Looks like the influence just won’t go down without a fight, seeing as our artistes still smuggle in a few Lingala lines in some of their songs (Okay, guys like Charmant aren’t exactly ours. We just "import" them from DRC).

Once in a while. you’ll have artistes go full circle with the instrumentation and all (Ragga Dee’s Muziki and Daxx Kartel’s Lyomboka).

Probably this is the point where we have to give credit to our Naija "brodas" for doing some bit of genre reinvention, albeit the fact that it is, also, almost getting overdone.

Some still manage to sound a bit fresh though – like "Rihanna" (Awilo Longomba's collabo with Yemi Alade) – while others have already become too monotonous.

DJ Coublon – the Nigerian producer responsible for songs like Applaudise (Iyanya), Marry Me (Frankcee), Laye and Woju (Kiss Daniel, both), springs to mind.

You listen to one song and you’ve listened to them all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Culture | Noun Similarities (Continued)

If you’ve followed Ugandan music for some time, you must have listened to a certain song called Maoko na Maoko (Shona for "hands to hands") by Jose Chameleone.

But did you notice the similarity of the wording to a couple of other Bantu languages? "Maoko" sounds similar to its Kinyarwanda equivalent – Amaboko (You may come across alternative names like "Umukono". Both apply).

Coincidentally, this Kinyarwanda version is similar to its Lingala equivalent. Only the first letter is removed in the plural form (Maboko).

The singular versions, however, differ. While the Kinyarwanda version for a single hand is "Ukuboko" (or "Umukono" as earlier explained), the Lingala version is "Liboko".

Once in a while, you'll hear your favorite Congolese musician singing "Maboko likolo" (Hands up in the air). Now you know what they mean by that phrase.

Different languages, similar nomenclature. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lifestyle | Of school, development and other "fees"

As if normal fees were not high enough already, schools came up with what they collectively call development fees. This, I have seen on fees slips for a couple of schools.

The figure for Gayaza High School is "a modest" 290,653 UGX. A modest 290K because it pales in comparison to St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK), whose development is so special that anyone who wishes to have their child admitted at the school will have to fork out all of 500,000 UGX.

So, what exactly does this development fee entail? Any teacher, student or school administrator in the house?

Is it the normal development as understood by a layman like me? Like, does the school have such specialists that they will look into the kid’s eyes and tell that he is not meant for school and he is better off becoming a footballer or a gym instructor?

In the event that they realize the child won’t turn into some bald-haired professor, does this fee ensure that the same child achieves their maximum potential elsewhere?

Is it part of this fee that funds printing costs of the letter that the school will write to the parent telling them that their child will achieve little else even if they did books for the next 50 years?

***

In the midst of all this, some parent somewhere hasn't garnered the guts to ask all this stuff. They are hustling for the 500K – in addition to the other fees – just so their child will go to school like the rest of his peers.


Somewhere in this city, in an unfortunate corner of one boiling bedroom that has been turned into a temporary war-zone, some guy has been declared "not man enough" because he hasn't raised enough money to cover the required school fees.

On one side of the bed, he sits, rather desolately. Arms folded and head bowed, he takes in barb after another. He secretly hopes that Xavier, his beer buddy eventually cracks that deal he’s been chasing so he can lend him the top-up or else his kid’s friends will also know that he is not man enough.

If the deal doesn’t materialize, he will coil himself on his side of the bed like a frightened schoolboy and stifle tears for the rest of the night.

The prospect of another barren day is so unnerving that little blood will flow to his South over the next couple of days. Which means no recreational action in the house until the financial graph goes up again.

A couple of months later, they'll be back for a two-week holiday and the cycle resumes. This will go on until the child is done with Education.

If you are lucky, this will mean graduation, probably with flying colors. If you are lucky enough, they'll even get a job. But if you are not, you could be having one of an upcoming artiste, a pastor or a vagabond (among others) on your hands.

Or they could turn out to be an entrepreneur – which (most likely) means a future motivational speaker. One who'll be telling school kids to focus and work very hard and persevere and not lose hope, and that things will turn out fine if they work hard.

Happy School fees week!