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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

Mentorship | 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xU2S8mOpIk (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?"

"No"
"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?"
"No"
"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.

Perhaps.

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

#OfStubbornCheques
#OfBossesWhoFlyOutWhenTheyArerSupposedToBeSigningCheques
#OfPeopleWhoNeverRunOutOfExcuses
#OfPeopleWhoFeelBadHonoringTheirDebts
#OfDelayedGovernmentPayments

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;

"Wawasa?"

"Olina abaana?"

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

"Wazimba?"

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!

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?"