Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Perspective | The marvel that is the BBC

Every month has its own unique memories and December, for me, is no exception.

This December marks twenty years since I rescued my old man's transistor radio from its misery because we (the radio and I) were kinda idle at the time and could certainly do with each other's company.

It was in the same month that I discovered, and fell in love with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio. BBC became my principal source of my information because 1) I neither had access to nor knew how to use the internet and 2) I still required a visa to sneak out and watch the English Premier League.

Allan Green, Jonathan Overend, Alex Capstick, Tim Vickery, Nishat Adat, Julian Marshall and Russell Fuller became personal favorites.

I barely went a week without listening to one of Network Africa, Focus on Africa, Sports World, News Hour, From Our Own Correspondent, or Letter from America among a multitude of others the station had to offer.

It was partly because of my then infatuation with BBC that mzee tasked me with giving him highlights of the day's news. In 2004, there was a coup in Haiti that had then-president Jean Bertrand Aristide ousted by rebels under the command of a certain Guy Phillipe.

On the evening the news came through, I had wandered to Tanzania-based Radio Free Africa via Medium Wave transmission and gotten hooked because RFA played awesome Rumba in the evenings. I was still anganzi when mzee asked me about the coup.

You should have seen me sweating.

My explanation of the ousted president having a complicated name fell on deaf ears because I had done French in O-Level and therefore there was no way I could fail to grasp what should have been a simple name.

Rating BBC's programming as decent would be an understatement. They are excellent. The catalogue, the layout, the presentation and everything else in between is simply top-drawer.

But if there's one thing that has fascinated me most about BBC, it's the length of service for the average employee. Whereas some had their careers cut short by the cruel hand of death (Rest in peace, Raphael Tenthani, Komla Dumor) a good chunk of the presenters I first heard in 1997 are still active.

Julian Marshall (any relation to the long-serving staffer – Marion Marshall, anyone?) has done his thing for a whopping forty years, yet he still sounds as fresh as when I first heard his voice in 1997.

James Alexander Gordon did the Sports Report classified results in his trademark baritone for a cool 41 years before succumbing to cancer at 78, while Alistair Cooke did "Letter from America" (among others) until his very last breath, literally, before succumbing to lung cancer at 95 – a career spanning 58 years.

Twenty years since I first knew BBC, I have finished school, got employed, changed jobs no less than five different times and Paul Bakibinga's voice is still on radio.

What could be the magic behind this staff longevity at BBC?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Perspective | Superstition

One corporate guy was said to pass wind from the workplace elevator by 06:30 hrs every morning. It was meant to bring him good fortunes that included, among others, job stability. Maintain this, and his job was his for as long as he wanted it – or so he had been told.

Another, a married guy, had this not-so-eye-candy side chic he wouldn’t let go of because maintaining her on his “payroll” came with good fortunes. Every time he parted with some cash, he got several times more. His deals always came through. She was his godsend.

A number of (successful) men have said the same, of their partners. They are, in their own words, the kind of women that come with "natural blessings".

Some of these fortunes have been attributed to Aerva Lanata, a naturally occurring herb with a host of medicinal alleviations including but not limited to kidney stones, jaundice, cough, asthma, and headache as well as an antidote for rat poisoning, the herb locally known as Olweza in Luganda.

So lauded has it been, that its importance was extended to being used as a talisman against evil spirits, for good-luck as well as for the well-being of widows in the Ganda culture.

Olweza is one of the main components of the herbal concoction – Ekyogero – in which new-born babies are cleansed to protect them against the aforementioned misfortunes.

If one’s partner appears to bring good luck, the common perception, albeit sometimes used jocularly, is that they were showered with the herb. Thus the common phrase: "Yanaaba Olweza".

Every once in a while, you’ll meet this guy who won’t wear a certain color of shirts on a particular day of the week. You probably know of someone who will turn back at the sight of a startled black pussy-cat in the morning.

Others silently follow some rituals in certain spheres of their lives. People do car-showers (for lack of a better phrase) because the car needs that initiation ceremony.

So they eat, drink and make merry while some guy is busy concealing dry herbs in the glove compartment.

Others do animal sacrifices at every significant milestone of their construction projects. Someone gets to the wall-plate level and some innocent goat, somewhere, has to give up its life because the house is being "immunized" against misfortune.

Some give to charity not because they have big hearts but because they believe giving comes with good fortunes.

Superstition. Do these things really work?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Perspective | Five things we've learnt from Zimbabwe

Unless you've been living in some extraterrestrial black hole, by now you should be knowing about the new guy at the helm in Zimbabwe.

Gone with the Wind is the mercurial Robert Gabriel Mugabe, and in his place is Emerson Mnangagwa, the man who also goes by the nickname "the crocodile".

Is this all we ought to know about the country that was once known as Southern Rhodesia?

#1 Not every Zimbabwean speaks good English

Their literacy levels have been praised ad infinitum. Critics and social media "experts" waxed lyrical about how organized they were, in their celebration of Mugabe's departure.

Many hyped the populace's composure and articulation and the apparent absence of violence as many chose to quietly wish for change. Which is fine; but they didn't have to exaggerate this – or did they?

We still have Zimbabweans with their indigenous accents. Zimbabweans who still speak like part of their tongue is glued to the floor of their buccal cavity. Zimbabweans who were "heppy" to "hev" a new president.

#2 Ammara Brown

You've probably never heard of her. I hadn't, until Mugabe happened. This sultry songstress was among the hordes of people interviewed by the BBC in their quest to make the most out of the then ensuing drama in the country.

The 29-year old's style borders on Afro-pop, and calling her the Di'ja of Zimbabwe wouldn't exactly be far-fetched. If you like Di'ja, you'll love Ammara.

My pick of her collection is Akiliz, a song inspired by the legendary Greek fable about Achilles. Born destined to die in infancy, Achilles' mom – Thetis – was to cleanse him in the magical river Styx in order to avert his looming demise.

Thetis did, but did so while clutching her young son's heel – meaning the heel was never protected.

It would become the vulnerable point that eventually led to his death after he succumbed to a poisonous arrow, giving birth to the famous noun: "Achilles heel".

One's Achilles' heel symbolizes their weakness, and Zimbabwe certainly wasn't short of these.

Maybe, just maybe, Mugabe's touted eloquence and past (independence heroics) could have been Zimbabweans' Achilles' heel, blinding them into according excessive respect to their geriatric ex-president.

Ammara Brown cryptically says the song was inspired by a personal experience she won't disclose. It's a song many a Zimbabwean just may relate to.

#3 Southern Africa is still one big (Bantu) family. Largely.

It may not be the only linguistic similarity, but this is what caught my attention – Mnangagwa's nickname. Zimbabwe's new president is also known as "Ngweenya", Karanga for crocodile.

The Bemba in Zambia call it Ngw'ena, while their neighbors to the north – the Nyanja – call it Ng'ona. Peering further North, "Goonya", the reptile's native name amongst the Ganda/Nkore in Central and Western Uganda almost makes the entire stretch from South Africa to Uganda look like one big, extended family.

#4. It’s safety first, for the average Zimbabwean

They had been invited to take part in the CECAFA football tournament slated for 03/12/2017 in Machakos, Kenya, and had confirmed participation.

On the dawn of President Uhuru Kenyatta's inauguration, a stray bullet struck a 7-year old boy during opposition protests in Nairobi (63 Kilometers from Machakos), killing him instantly.

The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) immediately declared the situation in Kenya "volatile" and withdrew its participation.

#5 Was Mugabe's resignation a case of religion being mightier than the gun?

He had been held hostage for a couple of days, and Gucci Grace initially said to be enjoying sizzling sausages in Neighboring Namibia (she was later reported to have been present, eventually, moments before Mugabe's resignation was couriered to Parliament).

The 93-year old held onto his position, refusing to give in to General Chiwenga and his collection of power-hungry schemers until he was talked into it by a Jesuit priest, a one Father Fidelis Mukonori.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Perspective | Letter to 16-year old self

A couple of weeks ago, I inched a year closer to retirement (or death – whichever way you view it, for death remains the ultimate retirement for all of us – unless you are another Prophet Elijah).

In the past, for many of us, such days passed without a whimper. We quietly went through our days, seldom pondering on a few aspects of our lives, and mostly letting this pass like “just another day”.

No pomp. No flowers. No cake. No hullabaloo.

Then we grew old and grew up and started setting annual resolutions and goals and objectives because society suggested so, struggling to avoid depression while at it.

Several years later, we are still here, still living on the edge and trying to get accustomed to (this) our new lifestyle.

Happy belated birthday? The champagne has since left its ice and found a new address elsewhere. Nonetheless, we still have a few "words of wisdom" we’d love to pass on to our virtual 16-year old selves.

Your key decisions start NOW.

Between 17 and 19, you are probably preparing for your A-levels. At this point, your focal point is the As you envisage, a course or two after, and little or no long-term focus thereafter. This is the time you choose your path. Get a mentor so you won’t end up doing things you’ll never need in future.

Kinship is overrated

Anywhere after 17, you’ll fall out with people you once deemed dearest. Your brother, uncle, sister or cousin will screw you up and you simply won’t be able to do anything about it. But you’ll soon discover bosom buddies who won’t need blood relations in order to turn out nice. That is the world, for you. And you gotta get used to it.

University is just another phase

Between 19 and 23, you are likely to be at University. The world will be your oyster. It's going to feel like a different ballgame, initially. There’ll be this newfound freedom that gets you tingly and itching to do some mischief or forge some kind of premature self-alignment – depending on your company.

You’ll take weed and get away with it. You’ll drink yourself silly and crawl to your bed without the admonishing halo of your dad hovering over your sorry self at 03:47 AM. You'll miss class as long as you eventually get the grades.

You will spurn chance after another and still have another life. You’ll make new friends. Your class will feel like family until you graduate and realize it was all a façade.

You’ll never get to see some of them ever again. Some will show up every once in a while. Others will forget you, while the rest will keep tabs on you (while secretly comparing notes of their progress with yours).

Live and date right: 23-35

You’ll leave University and get eventually get a job – if lady luck smiles your way. So you’ll have the means to abuse every vice you craved when you still survived on that University allowance and handouts from your parents.

You are now in the cooperate world, living your dream. This is where you meet scheming females who’ll ask if you are circumcised, barely thirty minutes into your maiden date.

You’ll eventually find one with whom you are compatible, and after six months of bar and restaurant hopping, your friends will wake up to a flood of SMS spam reading: "Trevor and Trudy invite to the launch of their wedding preparation meetings at Casablanca […]" (usually at the behest of Trudy, because she is two-months knocked-up and her parents will be cheesed if there's no wedding in sight).

When are you building?

After 30, your peers start itching to know what you are up to. If you have no house yet, they’ll want to know where that money is going.

You’ll begin to feel like some public property where everyone feels entitled to know what is taking place in your life. Some will judge you, while others will gossip about you.

This is the stage where you start to sieve friends from acquaintances.

Death is real

From 25, you may want to get an emergency plan and let you kin know. The era of your loved ones freaking out at the mention of an insurance plan if and when you eventually meet your creator should now belong to the past. You’ll need a decent send-off. And this needn’t be a burden to your family.

Oh, and even if you don’t go soon, you are likely to lose a loved one. And you wouldn’t wish this to happen when your coffers are yawning and you have no plan B.

Plan and Invest

There’s possibly no excuse why you have no safe landing in case your career goes south, after 25. You may not have the ultimate entrepreneurship acumen, but you’ll certainly have cushioned yourself against the thud of sudden (financial) fall.

You’ll run into debt – the size of which may partly depend on your decision making and your income. At every level, there are folks surviving and living to see another day. By all means, try to avoid debt, if you can.

Join partnerships. Join an investment club. Or a SACCO. Buy land. Try treasury bills. Raid the stock exchange. Sell charcoal. Grow dodo. Anything. As long as it reduces your financial burden by a coin or two.

More discovery

After hitting 35, you want to feel you’ve got it all figured out until you repeatedly catch yourself making a schoolboy mistakes. Like investing in something that the world has since declared a bad idea. Like investing in the latest Ponzi scheme even after you’ve previously lost in ten of them.

Life is an eternal learning process in which you’ll learn new lessons every day. Like the fact that despite several Togikwatako protests, our resident leopard isn’t going anywhere.

Like eventually discovering that Cayenne Bar and Restaurant serves the best goat ribs in town, after several calamitous experiences elsewhere.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Tribute | How I joined the Telecom Industry

"Aah! So Zain is giving you job. And you are leaving?" screamed my Naija boss, hands clutched against both temples, eyes dilated in an apparent facade of surprise. The company had since rebranded to Airtel, though many – including my then boss – still called it Zain.

I’d just broken news of my impending exit after two years of protracted contract negotiations that had eventually realized a "massive" UGX 200,000 increment.

Often jolly and cordial, the incessant haggling was starting to make him behave like a parsimonious love-child of Arsene Wenger and your average corporate auditor.

On March 14, 2011, Airtel Uganda ran an advert in one of the dailies looking for "Team leader: RF Network Planning".

I didn't not have the exact qualifications, having done IT and Computing. But I had finally got one thing I had been seeking for some time – the email address where I could channel my overtures.

Getting the email address meant that I would not have to physically whore my skills looking for non-existent job openings, lugging brown envelopes in town and going through the rigorous security checks at the company’s premises.

So I sent in my application to the said address, hoping it would not be served with an express ticket to the recycle bin.

It did not, thankfully, for I would receive a call from Julie about two months later, summoning me for an interview at the company premises.

"Hello. We received your CV, and we have a role we would like to interview you for", said a silky voice at the other end of the line.

Long story short, a skills audit from Julie’s technical team gave me the nod, officially assuming my new role on May 16, 2011.

I was now set for the long-awaited switch that forms a significant part of the manuscript for my book – Diary of a corporate slave – part one of which I hope to complete once I get the necessary muscle to hire Nick Twinamatsiko’s Kisana Consults for the final edits and subsequent publishing.

As the Talent Engagement Manager, Julie was the equivalent of a talent scout in professional football. Once she was done snaring you, you would be handed over to other HR functions of the resource talent conveyor belt that was Airtel Uganda.

One of these functions was "Learning and Development" (or something similar), a department that was efficiently run by goggle-eyed Marie A Lutaaya as the resident specialist.

Marie had this never-ending catalogue of in-house and online courses that you had either had to do or forfeit part of your annual bonus – if you didn’t cut the grade (of course I always chose the former, partly because I wanted the bonus).

I particularly liked the 3G training because our lecturer had bungled this bit at University.

Marie and Julie ran HR (and their lives, to an extent) like a pair of Siamese twins in a rollercoaster professional journey that sees them run rings around one of the biggest banks in town today.

Born on the same day of the month, exactly 731 days apart, Human Resource Management’s dynamic duo turns X and X+2 years respectively, today.

So here’s to you, Julie and Marie; to a delightful and fun-filled birthday. May you live long enough to continue being the excellent professionals you’ve always been!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Perspective | On parenting and career advice

"Hello. Meet my son. He is currently doing *mentions course* at University. Please mentor him. I want him to be like you".

You’ll meet this kind of people, every once in a while. Senescent, doting parents who visit places and attend social events with their post-teen kids in tow. Caring parents in search of their kids' role models.

They track their progress, forecast the future and hope they’ll be useful to themselves once they are done with school.

Today’s parent will see this one guy who has seemingly made it and they'll want their kids to take the same career path. So they begin to draw fancy imaginations of what the children should or shouldn't do.

It's probably easier if the prospective mentee is at University and already half-aligned in their direction. You could you do your best the guy turns out better than you. Which is fine, because you become one of the family’s heroes and every time you show up at theirs, chicken breast and gizzard will end up at your platter.

For many of them, any career outside of the colonial courses (Medicine, Law or any of those Engineering disciplines) is tantamount to failure.

It becomes a different ballgame when some high school adolescent that you are supposed to groom into an Electrical Engineer ends up with a Bachelor of Arts in Arts degree.

From that moment, you'll always be viewed with suspicion. If you are feeble-minded, this is when you begin to feel your villain moment.

So the next time you bump into the parents at another gathering, you'll be given the kind of look security operatives give Bobi Wine when they suspect he's about to have another interview with Aljazeera.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tribute | Danz Kumapeesa: A life gone too soon!

Two months ago, the cameras focused on his ailing frame on a hospital bed for a planned fundraising drive. It would be the last the world was seeing, of youthful music producer Danz Kumapeesa.


At 22, life is only beginning for an average Ugandan who has gone through our education curriculum. It’s the age where many are either in their final year at or fresh out of University, lugging those dreaded brown envelopes around town in optimistic search of corporate employment.

At this point, every contact made looks like the ultimate gateway to that white-collar dream. So we save telephone contacts of every seemingly “connected” corporate, from people wearing cheap Chris Adams deodorant sprays to those who "can't stand anything other than" Roberto Cavalli.

This is the age where every single dream still looks valid, despite having no proper meals, surviving on Rolex and those half-brick sized mandazi we used to call Drogba.

It may also be a breakthrough stage; a watershed career moment that sees one scale the first of many heights they'll scale if they maintain the momentum.

At 22, Daniel Mukisa – the producer we knew as Danz Kumapeesa – had the (music) world at his feet, churning out club bangers at will and seemingly destined for a bright future.

Once, I wondered who or what this Danz Kumapeesa was, for the byline featured in just about every Ugandan hit song. He had become that ubiquitous!

He and Nessim (23) were probably the youngest, renowned producers in the Ugandan music industry.

Danz was the brains behind songs like Musawo (Winnie Nwagi), Mbozi za Malwa (Bebe Cool ft. Sauti Sol), Tuseyeya (Grace Nakimera), Nkubanja (Lydia Jazmine) among others.

A few months back, he fell into an ambush of thugs who clobbered him to coma, sustaining head injuries that left him bedridden for over three months. The 22-year old eventually passed on yesterday, October 07, 2017.

Rest thee well, Danz Kumapeesa.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Showbiz | S-Square Split - The Background

Peter and Paul Okoye, the popular Nigerian singing duo we know as P-Square, are said to have gone separate ways - again.

This is the second time this is happening. The last time they went ballistic, Peter owned up to having started the fire, eventually issuing an apology, here: (he's since deleted the original video).

He happens to be caught in the eye of the storm again, along with his wife Lola Omotayo. This time they want out. For good.

The reasons given for their split are as varied as your average mechanic's explanation for some shoddy work when a car he's worked for two bloody days keeps throwing tantrums.

From issues pertaining to Peter's choice of spouse (Lola Omotayo, a former business development officer six years his senior) and lack of creativity to differences in career preferences, almost every aspect has been fronted.

But the twins are not about to make it official. They have since gone ahead to record separate music projects, heightening the speculation none of the two appears willing to talk about.

Paul's most recent single,"Call heaven", is done in RnB while Peter has an Afro-pop track called "Look into my eyes".

I spoke to a Naija buddy of mine, someone who has followed the duo for some time. He opines that it could largely be down to a clash of egos, and the fact that most of Peter's songs never get the attention he thinks they deserve.

Paul is the more creative of the duo and is the one who has written a huge chunk of their most successful albums. He is also an introvert of sorts, and would rather spend a night in the studio than gloat over his achievements on social media.

Peter, now re-branded as Mr. P, is the loud mouth. It is the reason every endorsement deal (one of those being with telecom giants globacom) he signs finds its way into both mainstream and tabloid media.

Paul is the guy who has a low tenor and does the opening verses on songs like "Beautiful Onyinye", "Ifeoma" and "Bring it on", while Peter sings in a high-pitched tenor. He is also a better dancer and openly confesses to having a particular penchant for the same.

In P-Square, the general unwritten rule is that whoever writes the song does the opening verse. This is largely because whoever writes the song does his verse first and the other one comes in later. So you can do the maths and make your judgment on who, between the two has bigger hits. 

Paul may or may not be getting the kind of endorsements Peter is getting (As a fan, I hope he is), but one thing is clear - he's got the talent to stay afloat.

Whether this is real or a mere marketing strategy is anyone's guess at the moment. I just hope it does not spell the collapse of their estimated $120 million-estate.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Commentary | Of Anite, Abiriga and Yellow logic

Evelyn Anite once read a bedtime tale between two guys that went thus;

Bob and Jim met at the bar. Jim says, "You know what, Bob? I want to go back to school for further education."

Jim goes back to school. On his first day, his teacher who tells him he’ll be learning four basic subjects: English, Math, Science, and Logic."

"Logic? What’s that?" he asks. I’ll explain it this way, his teacher says; "Do you have a lawnmower?"
"Yes, I do", Jim replies.

"Well logically, you must have a yard".
"I do have a yard!"

"Then logically, you must have a house."
"Yes, I do have a house!"

"Well then, logically, you must have a wife."
"Oh yes, I do have a wife!"

"Then, logically, you must be heterosexual."
"Hell, yes! I am heterosexual!!!" screams Jim.

Jim is both excited and surprised that his teacher got to know all this stuff about him "just because he did own a lawnmower".He now believes he understands what logic is all about.

At the end of the day, he goes to the bar. He can't wait to see Bob again.

"Hey Jim!" (Bob wanted to know what Jim learned). "How was your first day at school?"
"I learned all about English, Math, Science, and Logic."

"Logic? What’s that?"
"I'll give you an example; Do you own a lawnmower?"

"Then you must be gay."

Anite recounts the tale to an absent-minded Abiriga who is probably still reeling from his haunted past as a UNRF rebel.

He certainly cannot be gay because, among other women, he'd been running with a certain Inzikuru (not Dorcus) and even got biological evidence to support his claim.

"What do you mean?" he prods more.
"Well, let me bring this closer to home"

"Do you support NRM?"
"Then you must be broke".

And just like that, Abiriga got his eureka moment, embarking on a project that would see him paint everything around him yellow. Clothes. Cars. Cows. Cats. Gadgets. Beddings. Et cetera.

So last evening as he was taking his (yellow) Volkswagen beetle for an evening ride, he got a call of nature in the middle of town. Right next to him was an imposing structure whose fence had been given the wrong paint.

"Why should a perimeter wall of the mighty Ministry of Finance have DP colors?" he wondered. And that is how he ended up here, giving this unfortunate wall a yellow coat of his pee.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Commentary | Debt in the Corporate World

"There's some money I am expecting. I’ll sort you out as soon it comes in" – Ugandan proverb.

Casually thrown around by corporates with little or no intention of honoring their obligations, this phrase could easily pass for the most abused promise in this (our) banana republic.

It could be a debt, payment for services rendered, rent or otherwise. It probably justifies the existence of people like Moses Kirunda (the "baddest" bailiff in town, in case you didn’t know).

It’s been adopted by just about everyone who settles here; Nigerians, Congolese, Kenyans, South Africans, etc.

Just about everyone.

Most times, the blame shifts to a bad employer (who never pays on time), the government, a boss who is "still out of the country", or some stubborn cheque that just refused to mature, choosing to bounce so people won’t settle their dues.

When a 50-something year old fronts this as their excuse for not paying up, you may be inclined to believe them (though there is an increasing number of crooks in this age bracket).

But when someone below 40 says the same, you may need to say a little prayer and set a reminder for hounding them until they come through.

Some may be justified – the cheque could actually be held up somewhere – but others simply choose to blame a non-existent source of funds.

Now, the latter category happens to predominantly feature the bright chaps. Creative folks who are simply good at conjuring up unique excuses every time that reminder comes their way. Innovative young corporates who are always on the verge of clinching some $1 million deal.

Do cheques simply beef them? Are they just so unfortunate that they end up with bad jobs? Or are they such bad decision makers that they always end up choosing the wrong deals?

Probably they and honesty don’t mix. They are immiscible. Like oil and water. It’s their nature. God created them that way. So we should embrace and accept them the way they are.


Government should probably all collect Ugandans who just trust "fwa"" and lock them up in Nalufenya for fanning this vice.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Commentary | Of Angola’s Dos Santos, cronyism and an impoverished citizenry

For the first time in 38 years, many an Angolan will finally get a chance to vote a new president after Jose Eduardo Dos Santos chose not to contest in today’s election.

Dos Santos’ move leaves Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) with a new flag bearer in Joao Lourenco, the current minister of defense and his long time crony.

It’s a move that critics believe will still leave Dos Santos with as much influence as he’s always had, seeing as he’ll remain MPLA party president.

Dos Santos leaves at a time Angola’s oil reserves are still estimated to be in excess of seven billion barrels, perhaps enough to last the nation another twenty years.

The 74-year old has probably had enough, having allowed his relatives, cronies and political allies considerable leeway to plunder one of the country’s major resources (oil overtook Agriculture as the leading export since 1973).

Isabel dos Santos, his daughter and firstborn with an estimated net worth of over $3.5 billion, was appointed as head of the state oil company – Sonangol – in 2016, while Jose Filomeno – his son – is the chairman of Angola's sovereign wealth fund.

Despite its oil wealth, most of Angola's 22 million people still live in abject poverty. The gulf between the two classes is best epitomized by the largely unoccupied Nova Cidade de Kilamba, a residential estate consisting of 750 eight-storey apartment buildings and sitting on 5,000 acres.

Kilamba has since been christened the ghost city because majority of the Angolan populace simply cannot afford the property rates in the area. This was worsened by credit access complexities in the former Portuguese colony.

It’s a situation Dos Santos tried to manage in 2013, when he launched a state-backed mortgage scheme to help middle class Angolans access credit to buy their own homes and prompt price drops in the empty city. The properties range from $100,000 - $200,000.

Such a gulf, perhaps, is one of the biggest reasons many of the impoverished Angolans living beyond the confines of country’s elite will be rooting for UNITA, formerly a rebel outfit founded by Jonas Savimbi and now headed by Isaias Samakuva.

Whereas Dos Santos may have reached his satiety point at 74, a certain peer of his to the far North East restively awaits the start of commercial production of "his" (thick) oil before he can call it a day.

After 38 years, the country that gave the world Sam Mangwana, Cabo Snoop (music), William Carvalho, Rio Mavuba, Manucho (football) will finally give its people a new president.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Commentary | Aaron Aroriza, the birthday boy & the Ugandan Corporate dream

Before I saw the light, I once aspired to live that textbook 1-2-3-4 dream of the average Ugandan corporate; 1 wife, 2 children, 3 bedroom house and a 4-wheel drive SUV, partly because many in our generation seem to have been conditioned to live that way.

Every University alumni you meet a few years after campus will ask the same questions;


"Olina abaana?"

"Have you bought some ka land somewhere (Fat-Boy calls it "in the middle of nowhere")?"


We'll soon raise a generation of robots, at this rate. People who do things just because everyone else around them is doing the same.

Now, one of the people supposed to mastermind the "3" in my then blueprint was Aaron Aroriza, a fine Architect with the brains and experience to match.

Once, I casually asked him how much I needed to put up a basic house. He had set up something cost-effective and decent that I felt I could ape and "live happily ever after".

"10 million and you should be good to start. Then you take one step at a time", he said.

Every time I took a stroll around my suburbia with family, I showed them one of his projects and remind them about how the brains behind that project will soon be camping at mine.

Nature, lady luck or "hard work" (like those mystery Pakasa tycoons want us to believe) soon handed me what I thought was enough to tickle Aaron’s fancy, only to discover that my friend had moved on (from small projects, not the profession).

He now rolled with the big boys, and my fantasy house now looked like the equivalent of a servant’s quarter’s extension that probably did not deserve his full attention.
The man I had last seen pushing a humble Kikumi now moved around in a mini-monster of an SUV that roars and the rest of the road users listen.

Aaron turns 30-something today (Is men’s age supposed to be kept confidential as well?) in what should be a merry-filled day for the unassuming Architect.

Happy birthday, chief. When I grow up, I want to be like you.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Commentary | Sauti Ya Africa finally coming of age?

When I first heard about them, seven years ago, Sauti Ya Africa were doing renditions of classic and opera music, with a few staggered original compositions of their own.

They were doing this kind of genre you would never see advertised for shows like Ekiggunda, where every homosapien that has been to a Ugandan music studio gets a chance to arouse the weed in the crowd; from wannabe satirists like Mathias Walukagga to musical slay queens like Winnie Nwagi and Irene Ntale.

I was mulling over an artiste that would perform at my impending wedding and I had failed to get Silver Kyagulanyi’s contact. So we settled for this relatively unknown bunch of talented upstarts as our plan B.

A friend had recommended them, and my mind was like "why not?" We set about hunting for them in a fruitful search that ended with myself at one end of the negotiating table and Ben Katumba at the other.

Ben is one quarter of the singing quartet that is Sauti Ya Africa. They were supposed to have been our version of Sauti Sol, but they got lots of swag before actually becoming famous. And that is how they ended up where they are.

Calm and collected, he looks you in the eye with the valor of a heavyweight boxer and the guile of a Mossad operative. He makes you imagine he is even listening to things you are about to say. I finally thought I had interacted with an artiste who would note down every detail of our agreement.

A deal was struck, and they were to do five songs. Two of them were to be of their choice while the other two would be my own. The fifth was supposed to be a surprise composition to my wife in, largely, a choice and tone of my words, done in pop genre.

Come D-Day, and one of my choices was been ditched. Of course I couldn’t run off the dais to remind them of our agreement, though they delivered on the surprise song for the bride.

Those who knew their type of music had fun, while those who didn’t went to sleep every time they stepped on stage.

"Bano abantu abaatwebasa otulo ku mbaga yo wali obajje wa?", asked one of my friends a few weeks after the wedding.

A couple of years down the road, and they were doing shows in almost every country that appreciates music, and had transformed into a pricier outfit.

The latest release from their music repertoire is "Amaalo", a song that has had music critiques like Timothy Kalyegira (who probably considers himself too sophisticated to review Ugandan music) and Dennis Asiimwe wax lyrical about their talent.

The transformation, of course, extended to their lifestyle. A phalanx of musical hopefuls that once hauled themselves in a tired Mitsubishi Challenger now moves in a fleet of Pearl White Toyota Mark Xs.

One day, I should accost them and demand for my song.

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!