Assassinations in Uganda since 1962

Three weeks ago, the nation was stunned by the assassination of Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga. He was brutally shot with his brother as they drove home in Kawanda, Wakiso district. The incident was the latest in a series of murders that have taken place in Uganda in the last few years targeting high profile people. For the purpose of this writing, the Merriam Webster dictionary defines an assassination as “murder by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons.”

I compiled a list of assassinations that have shaken Uganda since it acquired independence in 1962.

Brig. Pierino Okoya

Brig. Okoya was a young army officer who rose through the ranks to become deputy army commander in the first government of President Milton Obote. At the time of his assassination, he was also the commander of the second infantry brigade based in Masaka. He travelled to Gulu on a personal errand on Jan.23, 1970. On the evening of Jan. 25, he made a brief visit to the Air Force Officers Mess in Gulu where he had a conversation with the Base Commander Capt. Smuts Guweddeko. A few hours later, Okoya was shot dead with his wife at their home in Gulu, a few kilometres away from the army barracks. His murder remains unresolved but it is widely believed that his boss, then army commander Idi Amin, plotted his assassination as a forerunner of his coup a year later in 1971.

In December 1969, Obote had survived an assassination which was said to be engineered by Amin. Following the killing, two inquiries were instituted; one by the army and one by police. Both probes heavily implicated Amin, and Guweddeko and another officer were sent to Luzira prison. However Amin overthrew Obote a few months later which marked the end of the inquiries. Amin released the two officers and promoted them whereas those behind the inquiry were killed.

Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka

By the time Kiwanuka became Chief Justice, he had already made a name as an ambitious politician since he was the chief minister of Uganda as it agitated for independence. His ambition and fearlessness made him a target in Amin’s reign of terror. Kiwanuka was at his office at the high court chambers when he was kidnapped by state agents on Sept. 21, 1972. Four days later, he was shot dead by Amin at State Lodge Nakasero and his remains have never been located. Kiwanuka was appalled by Amin’s disregard of the rule of law and his constant criticism of the regime led to his brutal demise. Kiwanuka’s murder led to international condemnation of Amin’s regime but locally there was more fear and anarchy as several critical people were killed and many others fled into exile. Among the many honours of the former Chief Justice is a street in Kampala named after him.

Shaban Nkutu

Nkutu was a minister in various capacities in the Obote I government who was murdered by Amin’s soldiers during a purge of Obote-era officials. Like Kiwanuka, he was abducted from his office in Jinja in broad day light on Jan.11 1973 and summarily executed later that night at Gaddafi Army Barracks. Nkutu’s body was dumped in River Nile but retrieved later by state agents and buried in an unknown location. Decades later by sheer chance, one of the grave diggers met a relative of Nkutu leading to a mind-bending process of exhumation. On Feb. 12, 2005, the remains of Nkutu, draped in the national flag, were reburied in Bugweri, Iganga district. President Museveni and then Deputy Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, attended the function.

Janani Luwum

The former archbishop of Church of Uganda was paraded and killed in Kampala on Feb.16, 1977 with two other officials; Erinayo Oryema and Oboth Ofumbi, the Inspector General of Police and Minister of Defence respectively. Luwum was accused of being an agent of Obote on top of being a leading critic of Amin. He was murdered after a few days in detention at State Lodge Nakasero. Later the bodies of the three men were placed in a stage-managed accident.

In 2015 the government and Church of Uganda agreed to celebrate the life and honour the martyrdom of the former archbishop every February 16 as St Janani Luwum Day. On Jan. 12, 2015, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali launched the Janani Luwum Memorial Charity at Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala. The church also asked the government to designate the birthplace and resting place of Luwum- Mucwini village in Kitgum district, as a pilgrimage and tourism site. A new 16-storey commercial suite built by Church of Uganda on Kampala Road is also named after Luwum. However the West Minster Abbey Cathedral in the U.K., which is the parent to the Church of Uganda province has for the last 41 years celebrated Luwum’s life and martyrdom. A chapel was named after him right from when he was martyred and a statue to him unveiled in July 1998.

Maj. Gen. David Oyite-Ojok

Oyite-Ojok was the Chief of Staff of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) in the second regime of Obote and effectively the lynchpin of the army. On the morning of Dec.3, 1983, he prepared to fly to the jungles of Luweero to commandeer a mission to flush out Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) guerillas. He set off from Nile Mansion (now Kampala Serena Hotel) with five other army officers in a Bell Augusta-412 helicopter. Col. Alfred Otto was the officer flying the helicopter, and shortly after take-off, the chopper crashed in Luweero not far from rebel territory, killing all on board. The incident dramatically changed the fortunes of the guerilla war and led to the eventual collapse of the Obote government. The incident also set off a slew of conspiracies on what could have transpired; from faulty mechanics to a plot by then vice president Paulo Muwanga, or Obote to eliminate Oyite-Ojok. The three were mired in power struggles. However the abiding theory is that the crash was not an accident. President Museveni visited the scene of the crash in September 2007.

Andrew Kayiira

A former leader of the Uganda Freedom Movement, a rebel group fighting Obote II, Kayiira was killed not long after he was acquitted of treason charges. Kayiira was shot several times at the home of his friend, Henry Gombya who worked for BBC at the time. On the night of March 6, 1987, Kayiira was having dinner with Gombya, and the latter’s wife and three children when the house was attacked by gunmen. In the ensuing melee, Gombya fled the house while the wife and children hid in the bedroom. It is alleged that the gunmen busted Kayiira from one of the rooms and shot him in the arms and left side of the body. Kayiira had made peace with the new Museveni regime and even served as minister of energy but suspicions remained around him which led to his arrest in October 1986 and a treason charge.

The murder of Kayiira sparked several investigations including one by Scotland Yard, a special British investigations unit, at the request of President Museveni. The report by Scotland Yard was never released. In January 2007, as the 20th anniversary of Kayiira’s murder neared, the Democratic Party released its version of the report which implicated the government of Uganda. The government also released its version absolving it any of any wrongdoing. It almost turned into a circus as various reports did the rounds claiming to be the authentic report of the murder investigation.  In 2009, responding to a request to Kayiira’s friend Gombya, Scotland Yard officially declined to release the report stating that releasing it could jeopardise diplomatic relations with Uganda. Gombya however maintains that the NRM government orchestrated the murder.

Maj. Gen. James Kazini

Kazini, a battle hardened former army commander was found dead at dawn in a shanty house in Namuwongo, Kampala, with a deep cut to his head on Nov.10, 2009. Immediately after, a woman named Lydia Draru, turned herself in confessing to have murdered Kazini. She was tried and convicted for his murder but speculation remained rife on who the actual killers were. Many doubted how a young woman of average size like Draru could have physically subdued Kazini who had fought many gun battles, to the point of bludgeoning him to death. Kazini was disgruntled at the time he died. He had been un-deployed since 2003 and was facing a possible conviction in the General Court Martial for abuse of office and insubordination. In short, he had fallen out with the security establishment. Speculation still abounds that he was bumped off by highly trained assassins.

Andrew Felix Kaweesi

The former Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) was shot dead in his car on March 17, 2017 as he left home in Kulambiro, Kampala at 9am. His assassins were riding on motorbikes when they opened multiple rounds of fire on Kaweesi’s car killing his bodyguard and driver too. He had served as the commandant of Kabalye Police Training school in Masindi, commandant of Kampala Metropolitan Police and Police spokesperson, his last posting. His killing saw President Museveni make an unprecedented assertion: that the police was full of criminals- a scathing indictment of then Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura. It also marked the start of Kayihura’s troubles as his right hand men were arrested one by one, including those belonging to a rogue outfit called Boda Boda 2010 which was in bed with the police. It climaxed with the sacking and arrest of the former police chief on March 4 and June 13 respectively.

 

 

 

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Marriage, travels and fruits

So the other day on a sunny Saturday, my friend Ronnie and I boarded a bus off to the beautiful land of Fort Portal for the kuhingira (give away ceremony) of a very good friend. It was really a great time, anyone who labours Monday to Friday will appreciate the blessings of such a trip especially if they work in Kampala.

It was my second time in Fort Portal, such an amazing town. The first time I was there was last month and it was just for a few hours as I awaited my journey to Semliki game reserve which is next door in Ntoroko district. There was something about Fort that made me instantly like it, maybe because friends had always talked fondly about it and its legendary neatness. We found the people hospitable, accommodation was good and the scenery amazing.

Back to my friend’s do. I relish travelling and I would look for any excuse to do so. The trip was a God-send, just what I needed after all the incessant running up and down KLA. Held at Kalya Courts, the give-away was memorable, the weather was lovely save for the later drizzles, the set up perfect, the bride and her entourage pristine. Since we arrived a few hours later, Ronnie and I missed something at the time for dining and we had to do ours after the function.

I love traditional functions, they provide lessons for many of us in our generation whom people feel are out of sync with culture. It was the first time I was attending a function of this kind of someone from my class. It dawned on me that school is way behind us! The next weekend she wed and looking back- everything happened so fast. Seeing all this made me think about settling down in a serious way. It may not make sense to some people but get married actually makes one mature up. You ditch some habits and get the right priorities. This is not according to research but from those who have been there. Ha!

Interesting how she and I used to talk about marriage, and how it turns people into all kinds of creatures. Now there she was, all glammed up in white with parents and in laws giving her marriage tips on her big day. I sat down wondering whether we would still talk as much now that she was ‘locked’ but I was nonetheless truly thrilled for her.

****

My trip to Semliki was one of a kind. Shocking as it may seem, I had never been to a national park or anything of the sort. I jumped at this trip like a first time flier. It was a reward-I had been voted best performer by colleagues at the office. It helped that everything was on the house. Who wouldn’t be over the moon at the prospect of staying at the $180 a night Safari lodge? The serenity, the wonderful Uganda Kobs, open grassland, the food and how can I forget the lovely staff; George the lodge manager, Ismail the chef and Simon the tour guide who knows each tiny detail about all animals and birds. It was renewal interacting with nature miles away.

Semliki does not have much wildlife compared to places like Murchison or Queen Elizabeth but the magic is in the fresh breath and tranquillity that calms your nerves and spirit once you enter the reserve. The lodge is a wooden marvel. The tents are housed in well-built and firm structures with running water surrounded by trees that gives you an exquisite feeling of life in the jungle.

Oh Semliki, that was one hell of a rejuvenation!

 

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On March 23, something unique and joyous happened. It was the #ACMEAwards night. Journalists, foot soldiers of the media convened for their Oscars. All dressed up in awesome jackets, shiny gowns, they dropped off their usual kit; notebooks, pens and cameras and warmed up for a night of celebration and honour. We wowed everyone when our team walked away with the most coveted prize and a number of other awards and certificates.

After all the hard work and frustration we go through, it was a time for us to unwind and make light of our travails. It was so motivating for me to personally walk away with two certs that night, both for runner up in Investigative and Business/Finance category. That’s before I hint about the cash prizes.

We go through a lot to get stuff (weird how journalists whine about their hustles like it is smooth sailing for everyone else!)… but it is true. I really went home a satisfied man that night. The last few months have really been rewarding. Hope the blessings keep raining through.

 

 

 

 

An election that never was, growing up and Uganda in the next five years

We have just returned from the most contentious election Uganda has held since 1980. Disillusionment. Anguish. Rancour. Frustration. That is just to sum up the feeling of many Ugandans about the election where President Museveni was declared winner en route to his fifth term in office. The entire electoral process was a fraudulent one, the intimidation and impudence on the part of the state and ruling party left everyone agape.

On the day of voting, a lot was already off the rails. Main opposition candidate Dr Kizza Besigye was arrested for looking out for an irregularity—checking out a house he suspected to be a centre for election malpractice. How does the police react? By whisking him off and placing him under house arrest! How can an election meet the bare minimum of standards when you incarcerate one of your opponents just as vote counting is beginning?

The Electoral Commission then goes ahead to declare the incumbent winner with a massive 1800 polling stations not yet tallied. Kampala and Wakiso which are opposition strongholds, ballots arrive one hour to end of voting time, disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people. Untallied votes are also in areas where Besigye has solid support. This is obviously not a case of lighting striking twice in the same place. It was a well-orchestrated plan meant to suppress people’s political expressions.

Not to forget the numerous reports of polling stations where votes cast appeared more than registered voters. The election was a shambolic exercise. It was fraud. Daylight robbery. News of the EC Chairman declaring Museveni winner was greeted with grief. A scary silence engulfed the nation. Clearly, one tiny group thwarted a democratic contest. The hashtag #UgandaDecides suddenly became a joke because it is as clear as it can get that majority of Ugandans did not decide their next leader. Museveni’s electoral invincibility (as some of his apologists like to call it) was debunked!

So many people are bitter about the manner in which the election was conducted. It further dampened people’s views about this government with not a single thing left to redeem it. Granted, no election is without glitches as that would be an unrealistic expectation but this was way out of hand. All observer groups were unequivocal on how the election fell way below any set standards.

For some of us who were voting for the first time, we were given all the disincentive not to stand in queues for the next election.

We will shun the next sham!

 

*****

 

So recently I celebrated my birthday and oh boy what a delight it was. I had thought of throwing this party as far back as November so it really meant a lot to me. Turning 25 gets you thinking on lots of stuff. At the last election, I didn’t even register to vote not because I was at school but because I felt so disenchanted from the whole process including the candidates. Perhaps I did not crave change as much as I did this time around.

I decided to vote just a few weeks to this election. The tide of change that blazed through the country swept me off my feet. I even had doubts about whether I was on the register, after I confirmed, I was armed all the way to the polls. Five years makes a tremendous difference.

In 2011, I was a naïve F6 leaver looking to make the most out of a never ending 8 months. I signed up for a six months computer course which I quit after just one month. Which vacist can endure such a lock-down? Going for the course wasn’t my decision anyway. The most worthwhile thing I did was learning how to drive. The rest was the endless wandering anyone with that time could do. Between then and now, I have been to university, got a job and made myself some useful contacts.

Now is a different ball game. I am at a day job with tricky prospects but nonetheless fruitful as a going concern. The chase to be something, someone is more fierce. I am thinking MA, starting a business, doing something that will suck me out of my routine. But that is the issue with this life stage, all you ever do is procrastinate. In a few years, I will be making 30 and the thought of it is scary, I wonder why. It is like even before you make 30, everyone is asking these questions like they have a stake.

 

*****

Going forward, I think these five years are going to be the most difficult for President Museveni and Uganda. Opposition to his rule is going to be louder and I see more schisms emerging in the ruling apparatus. Perhaps another Mbabazi is going to fall by the wayside. There is no doubt about Museveni fatigue in this nation. Even his most loyal supporters want to see him retire. So many people in the establishment are going to start asking themselves questions about what’s in it for them. I mean if you have been around a leader who has been President for 30 years with him not showing any signs of slowing down, it is only natural that you start looking beyond him.

Museveni will be forced to be more accommodative of those opposed to his rule. International pressure is also piling on him to bend, some may dismiss the voices from abroad but Museveni will have to deal with questions of legitimacy in his next five years. He will continue to dangle ministerial and other inducements before critical opposition figures but this will only get him so far. Instead, it will serve to amplify the voices calling for him to bow out.

There will be more scorn from the citizens directed towards government programmes and actions. Social media will continue to be an avenue for dissent and an arena for slaying government officials every other time a graft scandal breaks or when we see glitches in anything remotely related to government.

With a Police Force that has turned against the people, Museveni will crack down on voices of dissent but they will not go away. With a parliament of 400 MPs, we are going to have a public discourse dominated by the destination of wantons of cash. Uganda will continue to be a laughing stock on Twitter and Ugandans will join the bashekyi online. We have regressed so much with this election and people are so devoid of hope. People’s patriotic fires have burnt out and they can only retreat to fend for themselves.

Oh Uganda!

 

 

 

 

From the ashes of January

Like always, January has been a tough grueling month; the heat was unrelenting, the money hard to come by, the occasional rain unsettling and the presidential candidates continued to slag it out on the campaign trail with more brazen theatrics. Frankly, the more I see these guys doing their thing, the more disenchanted I feel about the voting process. Prancing on the pulpit, punching the harmless air and making hopeless promises to impoverished wanainchi, one cannot help but wonder about the show these people always put on to stay the course.

With the financial squeeze that is typical of the beginning of the year, everyone just holds onto their last pennies like their life depends on it, which means no side deals to make and coupled with the reality of most people’s energy levels being so low at work, it makes life in February a lot worse. So if people are so broke in January, what explains bars bursting at the seams with people toasting with beer mugs to the joy of a new year? Well someone once said, live within your means even if it means borrowing to do so!

In the thick of this ‘credit crunch’, my suits guy showed me a really awesome suit and I had vowed to take it come what may. I was getting it on the cheap, it was the right size and vintage black, the kind that Mike Ross wears in Suits but I felt really bad after I decided to forego it. With all I had spent before Christmas, this buy was going to deplete my account. It was such a painstaking decision to forfeit but doing otherwise would have meant me totally grassing till payday which is honestly embarrassing for someone of my financial discipline. Ha! Isn’t someone allowed to gloat at the beginning of the year to keep that positive energy going? I was not doing badly anyway but that was the broke story of my January.

This is peak time for the political season that kicked off immediately after the nominations in November. Then it was about crowds, and longtime contender Kizza Besigye constantly steals the show with the sea of humanity that attends his rallies. It appears it is still about crowds anyway. Wherever Museveni and Besigye go for campaigns, the discussion is first about the crowds they attracted before what they promised (Interesting how one can still make promises after 30 years).

On a positive note, the highlight of the nation this scorching month has been the presidential debate and the surprises it served us. Who knew Abed Bwanika was such an astute chap with his views on revamping education or promoting fish farming? Benon Biraaro had always been that quiet brainy guy but we also got to see the visionary he is especially with that LIFT program of his meant to raise $3bn a year and provide 500,000 jobs annually. It sounds utopian for a country like Uganda but at a presidential debate, we want to hear groundbreaking ideas. And true to what Biraaro said, it was the only chance for the candidates to have a level playing ground.

This brings me to the poor showing Mbabazi, Besigye and Baryamureeba put up. Frankly put, they were dismal. Mbabazi’s baggage haunted him on the night, Besigye was inevitably caught up in his defiance rhetoric and his ideas on health, the economy and women emancipation were hardly thought-provoking. Barya for all his renown as an educationist gave a poor account of himself.

Joseph Mabirizi earned himself clown of the nation award and for me Maureen Walube Kyalya in spite of whatever she fluffed raised an important issue-on women. Kyalya raised a red flag on the women movement in this country? Why are the many “intelligent” women not offering themselves for the highest office? The feminist movement has gone in slumber and usually wakes up when there are cheap political points to be scored. Stella Nyanzi, a feminist and lecturer at Makerere University not too long ago rubbished Kyalya’s candidature and said very unsavoury things about her as a person.

The presidential debate was a democratic gain event for our insufferable political process and helped to rally the nation around a healthy conversation. And since one candidate didn’t show up, no one talked about him. One fundamental fact stands out: Uganda does not owe anyone anything. Lastly, there should be an improvement on the moderation at the next debate. We should have a “debate” amongst the candidates and not a back and forth between the candidates and the moderators.

 

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In a sad turn of events, the Grim Reaper claimed the life of Mr Edward Kasisiri, my former mathematics teacher at Kampala Quality P/S and also the school’s founder. One of the greatest personalities I have ever known, Mr Kasisiri was a great mathematician. Teaching mathematics was his life’s joy but he was also a great story teller, a friend and someone with an incredible sense of humour. His love for his students, his passion for education and his knack for tidiness will all never be forgotten. You will always be in my thoughts Mr Kasisiri. Rest in perfect peace Director.

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One of my highs this month was an eye-opening history lesson I got by binge-watching Narcos, a Netflix docudrama about the life and times of Pablo Escobar, a Colombian drug lord who built from scratch, a highly lucrative criminal enterprise. Escobar had the entire Colombian nation on tenterhooks, and in his world it was either plato o plomo (silver or lead) you either accepted bribes or you were showered with bullets if you crossed paths with him. What is remarkable is the phenomenal performance of Wagner Moura in his role as the ruthless drug baron. Moura’s deep menacing voice is a bonus to the brilliant portrayal of the trepidation in which everyone lived around Pablo and the little regard the drug king had for life or anyone who disagreed with him.

Even more captivating is the way the convoluted drug war in South America and the US is depicted on Narcos. In the 1980s when Pablo was at the height of his power, the US was more immersed in the Cold War against Communists but in the midst of it, something more insidious was building up; thousands of kilograms of cocaine were ending up in the US and Pablo was raking in over $30billion a year. As he controlled the Medellin cartel, Pablo killed over 600 police officers and bought off others including lawyers, judges, senators, media name it and was even ranked by Forbes as one of the richest people in the world.

Narcos has been acclaimed for its cinematography, great acting and historical accuracy. A great way to relax by watching a high quality show and it does not get any better than this show. Netflix is shaking up things, hope the competition is taking notes. And who said television could not teach?

Happy new month!!

 

 

 

 

 

Museveni: 30 years of self-aggrandisement

By Ian Katusiime

Over his 30 year reign as President of Uganda, Museveni has placed the desire to retain and consolidate power over and above everything else. He has consistently gloated of how no one has the capacity to unseat him whether militarily or democratically through an election.

Museveni’s journey from 1971 when he founded FRONASA, an idealistic liberation movement to 1986, when he captured power after leading a five year guerrilla war, was the climax of unbridled ambition and a deep sense of nationalism.

The then 41-year-old was received with so much promise and enthusiasm from Ugandans for liberating the country from tyrannical past regimes. The reception from Africa and the wider world was even more effusive. He was feted by the West as a new generation of African leaders alongside Paul Kagame and late Ethiopian Prime minister Meles Zenawi.

But as Museveni made himself comfortable around a modest State House and preached austerity, he soon realised the futility of this in the long haul. The demands of ruling a third world nation dawned on him and it was not long before he repudiated his Marxist beliefs and the new NRA government went on a privatization spree.

The economy rebounded impressively and the Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaged at 7% per year in the 1990s through to the 2000s, according to World Bank statistics. Museveni equally won praise for scaling back HIV/AIDS preventions at a time when the disease had decimated thousands of Ugandans.

However a new Museveni was emerging amidst this boom and regeneration. Previous hopes of him serving only 10 years faded and he began to turn into the real and cunning politician he was always meant to be. He romped to victory in his first election in 1996 and although it seemed unfathomable that he would contest in four more elections, it all looks like a well laid out agenda in retrospect.

In the 2001 election, as he faced his first daunting challenge from Dr Kizza Besigye, a former Minister and political commissar in the government, Museveni left no doubt about how he would deal with any threat to his stranglehold on power. The 2001 polls provided arguably the most violent campaign. Kalangala Action Plan, a ragtag outfit manned by Kakooza Mutale, a fanatic supporter of Museveni, caused mayhem as they flogged supporters of rival candidates. And so did an overzealous Brig. Henry Tumukunde who has reprised his role in the 2016 campaign period.

When Museveni tactfully amended the constitution to banish term limits in 2005, it seemed like only nature would stop him from taking part in an election on top of winning it.

Museveni today

Now with a largely partisan Police force blocking Besigye and Mbabazi, the leading opposition candidates from visiting hospitals, churches, going on radio and disrupting their rallies at whim, with an Inspector of General of Police he fondly addresses as a “true NRM cadre”, and an Electoral Commission Chairman who wouldn’t look Museveni in the eye, some surmise the election is Museveni’s to lose.

He remains popular with voters across the country- although the latest Ipsos poll gives him a worrisome 51% lead in the latest Ipsos poll and Besigye at 32% but Museveni has still made imperial measures to retain this support.

In March last year, he appointed a 73-year-old Philemon Mateke as State Minister for Regional Affairs. Mateke hails from Kisoro district and he is said to be a kingmaker in the wider Kigezi sub region. Apparently, the former Minister of Education in the Obote II regime initiated several developmental projects in the area that earned him enormous clout. Sources say Museveni rushed off to appoint Mateke as Minister after being tipped off that Mbabazi was courting him for support in the region. This has been one of Museveni’s oldest tricks. Just two months ago, he appointed to Cabinet three people, including a Deputy Prime Minister, all from the same region in eastern Uganda.

Museveni in the last ten years has envisioned himself as the be-all and end-all of Uganda. On several occasions, he has used the analogy of a hunter who captured his prey and is now unwilling to let anyone else tamper with it. Then next was Uganda’s oil, discovered in the Albertine region in 2006. “I cannot trust the opposition with my oil”.

From calling the opposition “wolves”, past leaders “swine” and mystifying his vision for the country, Museveni has painted a self-portrait of revolutionary invincibility.

Granted, Uganda is an ethnically diverse country, riven with long running tensions, in part to its colonial history, something Museveni has exploited optimally. For nearly every conflict that has emerged, Museveni has sought to directly be the arbiter, the all-generous chief to whom all communities are beholden.

But also, the Ugandan society being a melting point of different social groups has abetted Museveni’s long stay in power. Whenever aggrieved by regulation issues or whatever the case maybe, boda boda riders, taxi drivers, market vendors, women groups et al as long as they make up the numbers will only reach ‘consensus’ after meeting Museveni. Same applies to elders say from Rukungiri, Soroti to plead for a son of the soil who has fallen out of favour with the regime.

When the Muslim fraternity in Uganda had a severe division in 2006 owing to a fight over property ownership, Museveni had to intervene to save the situation. A picture of Sheikh Shaban Mubajje       (Old Kampala faction) separated by a seat from the late Sheikh Zubair Kayongo (Kibuli group) facing Museveni at his country home could not have been more elaborate.

In the last three months, Museveni has managed to pull a series of moves to lure back some key people to his court. On Independence Day, former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya announced his backing for Museveni saying he did not see anyone in the opposition coalition (The Democratic Alliance) with presidential potential.

Around the same time, UPC President James Akena, was losing identity as a party leader and appearing more as a stooge of Museveni. The 2016 elections have no UPC presidential flag-bearer, something odd for a party which had the presidency twice.

Former Prime Minister Mbabazi who made many foes in government is now a target of unrestrained attacks, a game where Museveni is the ultimate winner. Bukenya, Jim Muhwezi, Kahinda Otafiire have all ganged up against him. Bukenya claimed that he gets nausea at the mere sight of seeing Mbabazi campaigning. Otafiire and Muhwezi who fought numerous internal wars with Mbabazi are in their element denouncing Mbabazi.

Pitting one rival against the other has been Museveni’s story of power play. While campaigning, Museveni has revealed that Mbabazi failed to run the government and the party when he was Prime Minister and Secretary General respectively but without batting an eyelid, he says his government and party have performed well generally.

The NRM is marking 30 years now under the theme “NRM’s committed stewardship: a remarkable legacy for Uganda”. The NRM’s biggest achievement has been national stability. Uganda has not suffered a ravaging civil conflict. The LRA war was fought in the north and has since been effectively defeated. NRM apparatchiks boast of UPE, peace and security, a highly respected army globally and of course a constantly growing economy.

But under Museveni’s reign, we have witnessed an extremely repressive Police and an autocratic state. Whether it is students belonging to the unemployed youth brigade or women activists protesting, they are crushed with the same brute force. Under NRM, Uganda has borne the brunt of arguably the most incompetent and corrupt government.

Not that corruption is only at government level, the private sector is equally rotten, could even be worse. But the fight against corruption has been ineffectual due to a leadership vacuum. Some people argue though, that it is through graft that the NRM government sustains its longevity, which is a shame. Honestly, is that how you inspire a citizenry, especially the youth to turn up and vote?

The abject state of disrepair most health facilities have sunk to, with Abim Hospital currently the poster child of our country’s dysfunctional healthcare, the neglect UPE schools have suffered is what NRM wants to call a remarkable legacy. Teachers have become probably the most disillusioned government employees.

Credit is due to Museveni for his incredible role as an elder African statesman. He has been key in resolving conflicts; South Sudan, pacifying Somalia and the fact that his Western partners keep turning to him to fix troubled spots on the continent. But truth be told the question of his true legacy can only be answered back home.

As Museveni marks 30 years in power, the jury is still out on what his legacy will be 30 years from now.

 

 

Personalities to look out for in 2016

The year, 2016, is for all intents and purposes, going to be shaped by the February 18 presidential elections. Will it be incumbent Yoweri Museveni, fourth time lucky for Kizza Besigye or could Amama Mbabazi break the former Prime minister jinx in East Africa by winning a presidential election? We take a look at these and other personalities in various categories of sport, music, business et al who will be major newsmakers in the year ahead.

Politics

President Yoweri Museveni

On Jan 26, 2016 President Museveni will mark 30 years in power. This milestone comes at a time when Museveni is also facing his toughest election since 1996. Unlike in the previous elections in 2001, 2006 and 2011 when Museveni faced Kizza Besigye as his only formidable challenger, this time round, his former right hand man and ex-Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has joined the fray. Museveni is currently in the thick of a presidential campaign where he hopes to neutralize the threat of a rerun posed by Mbabazi and a resurgent Besigye. 2016 provides us the most anticipated election and people will be keen to see whether Museveni can command the army and Police, forces at his beck and call, to put their guard down and salute the President-elect in the event that Museveni loses the election.

Dr Kizza Besigye

Besigye’s fourth presidential campaign has been received with compassion and roaring support if the huge crowds of people at his rallies and the money he collects during the campaigns is something to go by. The FDC presidential flag-bearer has branded his campaign as one of “defiance” and has insisted that he will ‘’take back power to the people’’ once elected President. Besigye remains popular with the masses and he is likely to continue with his defiance campaign if he does not win the election. He will be a major figure to watch in 2016 as Ugandans go to the polls when he is offering himself for the topmost job in the country for the fourth time. Just like in 2011 when Besigye launched the Walk to Work protests, Besigye is likely to resume his street activism of protests against a regime he has fought over everything, especially so considering that he does not trust the Electoral Commission to preside over a free and fair electoral process.

Amama Mbabazi

Mbabazi sent the NRM leadership into a tail spin last year when he declared that he would stand for President. Although his campaign has relapsed in recent days, pundits have said that Mbabazi has been running a well organised and sophisticated campaign. The year 2016 will define Mbabazi’s political future and it remains to be seen what tricks Mbabazi pulls to upstage Museveni and Besigye in the most hotly contested election in Uganda ever. Barring a Mbabazi victory, analysts are saying the former NRM Secretary General could slide into political oblivion because of the unlikely factor that he will delve into political activism Besigye-style. Mbabazi’s entry into the race has stirred debate with his supporters and sympathisers saying he will lure perennial non-voters who are disgruntled with the Museveni-Besigye ‘village quarrel’ as some put it. Mbabazi’s much talked about foreign backers have also fuelled speculation about the extent of his financial muscle, something that gives much needed ammunition to his presidential bid.

 

 

Eng Badru Kiggundu

This year, all eyes will be on Kiggundu who has been Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission since 2002. Enough controversy has been generated over the decision to use the National ID to compile the voter register and Kiggundu’s head is now on the chopping board over missing names on the register. Opposition politicians led by Besigye have dismissed his neutrality and Kiggundu’s liaison to work with Police on candidate schedules at some points has not helped matters. Previous omissions by the electoral body have caused consternation and this year, both during and after the election, Kiggundu and his team will face several questions depending on how the election is conducted. Kiggundu, a former Makerere University don will be handling his third presidential election and considering that parliamentary polls will take place on the same day, his role is cut out.

Kale Kayihura

As Police Chief, Gen Kale Kayihura has effectively become a regime guarantor. The Police have enormously boosted its resources and machinery at the expense of civil liberties. As the race to the 2016 polls heats up, Kayihura will be under watch from observers here and abroad who view him as an NRM cadre and someone who has kept regime opponents under bay with massive surveillance and brute force. ‘Crime Preventers’, an outfit he created to ostensibly provide community policing has been deployed to beef up support for President Museveni and to coordinate other illicit security operations for the regime. Critics say these actions have made Kayihura the most partisan IGP ever. With Museveni’s unwavering confidence in his Police chief, Kayihura is not about to disappear from the political scene anytime soon. Also the heightened insecurity and looming terrorism fears in the country will inevitably keep him in the public eye.

Charles Peter Mayiga

As Katikkiro, Mayiga’s reign has been no like no other. Whereas most of his predecessors were outrightly political in their manoeuvres, Mayiga sought out a way of enhancing entrepreneurship by fundraising for the Kasubi tombs through collecting “etofaali”. This scheme endeared him to the top brass in government because it restricted his political activism. Now as the nation heads to the polls in a few weeks, the last thing the government would want is a Katikkiro who is critical of its policies, with the potential to inflame tensions between Buganda and the regime. Many say, relations between the government and the Buganda Kingdom have improved with Mayiga as the face of the Mengo establishment. Mayiga’s message of unity and entrepreneurship to Buganda and the nation make him stand out.

 

Erias Lukwago

Kampala Lord Mayor Lukwago has vowed not to give up the fight for his office. Lukwago spent the better part of his tenure locked out of office and he sort of renewed his hostilities with the government when he secured a nomination for his second term as mayor. Currently, the mayoral race looks like a no contest perhaps it is the reason Lukwago is on Besigye’s campaign trail. With his loyal supporters, Lukwago will carry on with his vehement opposition to government in the year ahead and will certainly remain a force to reckon with as far as Kampala politics is concerned.

SPORT

Stephen Kiprotich

Kiprotich has basked in global spotlight since his triumph at the 2012 London Olympics when he won a gold medal in the marathon race, the first gold for Uganda in 40 years. After winning more gold in 2013 at the World Athletics Championship, the attention will once again be on the 26-year-old long distance runner from Kapchorwa on whether he can repeat his heroics at this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Micho Sredojevic

Uganda’s quest to qualify for the biennial Cup of African Nations tournament after a 39 year absence is pegged on Micho, the Serbian coach who has been managing the Cranes since 2013. Despite the endless squabbling that has dogged Ugandan football and the constant last minute failure to qualify, some fans believe Micho could be the man that takes Uganda to AFCON 2017. Micho has been praised for identifying young talent and is also helped by his knowledge of a number of Ugandan players and coaches due to his earlier stints coaching local clubs. He will remain a key figure on the sports circuit due to his role as coach of the national soccer team.

City Oilers

 

The City Oilers team surprised everyone when they won the National Basketball League in their first season in 2013 after being promoted. Since then, the new team has been in sizzling form and has wrapped up three league titles in quick succession. Fans, coaches and sports pundits have all stood in awe of the Oilers’ pool of talent, professionalism and organisation that has enabled them turn the tables in the basketball dominion. Kami Kabenge, has led the players in the team that have set alight the hoops scene. Coached by Mandi Juruni, the Oilers have been tipped to dominate basketball for years to come.

Farouk Miya

Miya helped his club Vipers FC win the Azam Premier League in the 2014/15 season. The youngster also has been the surprise star of the Cranes campaign in the qualifiers for World Cup and AFCON. His goals against Togo, Nigeria catapulted him to national attention and talk in football corridors says he could be joining any big side in South Africa anytime.

 

Culture/Music/Entertainment

Sheeba Karungi

A former member of ‘Obsessions’ dance group, Sheeba has been a revelation since her breakout hit ‘Ice cream’ three years ago. She has been the pulse of the music industry with songs like Twesana, Go down low, Otubatiisa and her determination and zeal in the highly competitive industry has paid off. It is hard to think of a better entertainer than the patra-wearing dancehall artiste. Music enthusiasts predict that ‘Sheebaholics’ (her fans) will revel in more of her immense talent and star power.

Anne Kansiime

The comedian from Kabale could be Uganda’s biggest entertainment act on the international scene currently. Kansiime’s social media pages are awash with a litany of awards she keeps winning every other time she jets out of the country. Her Facebook page has 1 million likes, the highest for any Ugandan entity/celebrity and boasts of 87,000 followers on Instagram. She has become an African darling after doing a series of shows in Uganda and regionally together with her thick Kikiga accent. Kansiime will certainly laugh her way throughout the year along with her multitude of fans.

A Pass

A Pass (real names Alex Bagonza) has created a new dancehall rhythm that has got music lovers grooving to his hits whenever they are played. A Pass has led a new generation of Ugandan artistes with songs like Tulikubigere, Memories, Tetubatya that have made the traditional big three of Chameleone, Bebe, Bobi look outmoded. A pass’s songs with their lyrical power have been massive hits across all age groups. Fans of A Pass say the best of the silk voiced-artiste is yet to be seen.

 

Eddy Kenzo

Kenzo shot to international stardom in 2014 with Sitya Loss, a song one could say has overshadowed him courtesy of its creative dances, also bringing overnight fame to the talented children who starred in it. Kenzo made more international news when he scooped a BET (Black Entertainment Television) International Viewers’ Choice Award in 2015. His eccentric fashion sense has also seen him pick up fashion accolades in Uganda. As his songs continue to dominate the airwaves, many say he is definitely a man to watch on the music scene.

 

 

Business/Finance/Management

Tumusiime Mutebile

Museveni surprised many when he renewed Mutebile’s term for the fourth time. As the elections draw closer, so does financial speculation which equally affects activities like the dollar rate and inflation. This puts Mutebile in sharp focus as Bank of Uganda Governor. Mutebile and colleagues spent last year battling a struggling shilling and dwindling exports; factors that are mutually reinforcing. The country enters the year with spiralling Central Bank Rates and Mutebile will have the unenviable task of mitigating all these factors for economic activity to pick up again.

Jeniffer Musisi

Some people’s influence goes without saying. You cannot open a newspaper, listen to radio or watch television without seeing the word KCCA or seeing Musisi’s image. Controlling a city authority puts you in charge of people’s movement, business, way of living etc one way or another. The Executive Director of KCCA will certainly make impact with whatever KCCA does or comes up with.

Allen Kagina

Kagina is now in charge of UNRA, a government agency renowned for its rot and mismanagement. People say she is changing things if the restructuring of last year can be used as an example. Due to her work at URA years ago, some think she should tutor a managerial course others say she is a media darling who escapes scrutiny. But anyway, Kagina is a management guru whom we all expect to revamp the image of UNRA and develop a functional road network across the country and instill integrity in the road construction business. For someone who enjoys the President’s unshakeable confidence, she will be at UNRA for as long as she wishes.

Sudhir Ruparelia

Sudhir’s business empire has relentlessly expanded in the various sectors where he has interests; banking, forex, education, hospitality, real estate, insurance and horticulture. His influence continues to be felt in East Africa where he is among the top five wealthiest individuals. Employing over 10,000 people in Uganda with an empire of more than 20 companies, Sudhir is arguably the biggest individual taxpayer in the country and his property portfolio means that the decisions he makes will have a bearing on Uganda’s economy.

Amos Wekesa

Wekesa has been on a roll as a tourism ambassador for Uganda. He wears a Uganda Cranes jersey whenever he travels abroad as a way of selling Uganda’s image. Last year, Wekesa played an influential role in bringing former Barcelona FC players to Uganda to take part in a charity football match. According to Wekesa, one major problem hindering tourism in Uganda is that the country does not value human resource. He says every ten tourists who come to Uganda create one permanent job. Wekesa owns Great Lakes Safaris, a tour company that has been in operation for 14 years now and it is a safe bet, Wekesa will be a mainstay whenever tourism is involved.

 Richard Byarugaba

Fresh from celebrating NSSF’s 30th anniversary, NSSF MD Byarugaba is a man in high spirits. Last year, NSSF unveiled a 10 year strategic plan where it promised to increase the fund’s size to Shs20 trillion. Museveni has also scoffed at plans to liberalise the pensions sector and said NSSF should enjoy a monopoly and be allowed to build on its gains with its current portfolio of Shs6trillion. Byarugaba says the workers fund plans to diversify its investment and venture into areas like infrastructure and private equity. With all these grand plans in the pipeline, Byarugaba will be on the radar of the media and public especially regarding the history of NSSF where workers savings, worth billions of shillings have been misappropriated.

Robert Kabushenga

Kabushenga, the CEO of Vision Group has carved a niche for himself as an urban ‘mutembeyi’. He has led a number of fundraisers in the recent past for notable causes such as the Papal Walk and a reward for golden boy Kiprotich. As CEO of one of the largest media companies, Kabushenga has a say on what goes on at New Vision, Urban TV, Etop, XFM, Orumuri and the Bukedde enterprise and by extension influencing millions. His closeness to the Buganda Kingdom also puts him at the centre of many activities considering the position the kingdom occupies in the political and social set up of Uganda. Whether it is making executive decisions, leading fundraisers or coalescing social networks, Kabushenga is a man you cannot wish away.

Andrew Mwenda

Celebrated journalist Mwenda has been an opinion leader in Uganda and beyond for years now. Whenever he speaks, he is accused of having “changed” or “joined government” and he rebuts by saying he is not married to his views! Others say his objectivity has come under scrutiny due to his closeness to the ruling classes in Rwanda and Uganda. Nonetheless, his following seems to grow with every other controversial thing he says. As a media owner and a power broker in both Rwanda and Uganda, Mwenda continues to pull levers in nearly all levels of government largely in part to his intellectual prowess.

Kin Kariisa

The CEO of NBS Television made a mark last year as the station poached key staff from rival stations and acquired high tech equipment that made their live coverage a stand out player in the television industry. Under his watch, NBS drew the envy of other players when they won exclusive rights to broadcast the Pope’s visit(that decision being another story altogether)  in November. As media stations up their ante to cover the February polls, people like Kin Kariisa will call the shots in a high stakes affair to provide coverage to every development. By virtue of NBS’s fast growing pace, Kariisa will be a man whose impact will be felt both directly and indirectly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Press

Ian Katusiime is a budding journalist with The Independent covering politics and business. He spoke to The Quest about life, career, his plans for the future and a lot more. We bring you the excerpts.

Who is Ian Katusiime?

Ian Katusiime is a 24 year old journalist currently working with The Independent. He is ambitious, hardworking, curious and critical. I am generally an easy going guy who takes on life as it comes.

Did you always want to be a journalist?

Yeah it was a dream I always had right from secondary school. I was always inspired by people who work in the media and tell stories. I love communication and I think it is an amazing way to change the world and make a difference in our lives. How you tell your story can change your story.

Who inspired you as you came through?

I admired most of the people who worked in the media when I was growing up. But Aldrine Nsubuga, Ernest Bazanye, Timothy Bukumunhe were my first inspirations when I was growing up. Then later I discovered other people like Andrew Mwenda who have impacted on me greatly and of course a number of others in the media business.

CEO

Some people say journalism is dead. Actually that social media has buried it.

Haha really? No I think it is an exaggeration. I do not remember a time when journalism was not under attack. It is true journalism has plummeted especially the quality compared to twenty years ago but there is still some inspirational journalism if you look around. Social media has posed a challenge to the profession and fashioned something new-citizen journalism. But we should look at social media as a way of enhancing journalism and not as something destructive. There are times when we will always be required to put on our investigative hats as journalists.

Uganda is 53 years old. Is it yet Uhuru?

Huh! We have a trek to accomplish. The most important thing is economic independence but a lot of Ugandans are mired in debt living in the rat race and so is our government. Until we learn to live a life that is economically amiable, we are still a long way to go. The average employee builds their own house after 30 years. As for politics, do not take me there because our leaders have a lot of immaturity!

What is the one thing that puzzles you about Ugandans?

I think we are a people that are constantly fighting. There is too much conflict going around, I don’t know any public office that is doing business normally. MPS, pastors, media houses, FUFA, the opposition amongst themselves, there is a state of constant acrimony everywhere, perhaps it is the new ‘normal’. We just fight tooo many unnecessary wars.

Do you think social media has fundamentally changed our lives?

Eh so much! I don’t know anyone who can spend a day without checking their social media pages. You walk through your timeline and you feel like you talked to each of your friends through their posts and tweets. There is just something mysterious about it that keeps you glued. It kills the physical interaction at events. It makes you live in a virtual world but you keep in touch. It is either the hashtags, the social media wars, the trolls, the memes, the battle for supremacy such as who gets more followers, as superficial as it may sound but somehow it keeps life interesting.

 People say change could finally come in 2016. Could it be the time?

It is hard to call. The man (YKM) is still grounded across the country. The opposition seems to be more opposed amongst itself than to the incumbent. Personally, I have always believed that the lesser the candidates in the race, the better chance of springing a surprise against President Museveni. It will not help a disillusioned electorate to see four other candidates other than Besigye and Mbabazi standing in the race against an all-powerful incumbent. For as long as the status quo remains, I will stay away from the polls.

What do you value most in friends?

I value partnership among friends. A friend should be able to support you in your endeavours and you the same. But of course today, most of our friendships are premised on the fact that you went to school with someone without you having ever done much with them apart from sharing nudes! But loyalty is also important, people should not forget their friends and forsake them just because they have upgraded to a new job, bought an expensive car or got married.

Reading a book versus watching a movie

Honestly, I would rather watch a movie. I know this will not win me plaudits. But I rarely find time to read books let alone complete them. Movies bring instant gratification, sometimes you just want to get that thrill that knocks you over. I have read some great books along but I read a lot more stuff though through papers, magazines and online stuff.

Fast and Furious 7 vs Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Probably the biggest movies of 2015. I was glad, Furious 7 came out, it was such a wonderful tribute to the late Paul Walker. The scenes were heart-stopping, what amazed me most was that the airdrop scene was real! That was just off the hook. I had dropped my guard on the Mission Impossible franchise having stopped on MI3 but I couldn’t miss this one. I am not really a Tom Cruise fan but he was simply outstanding on this one. Hard to predict, impeccable acting and equally jaw-dropping scenes. Tough call this one.

TIME vs The Economist

Interestingly, I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool Economist, if you catch the drift, until this year. I always led the debates of why The Economist was the most incisive publication. Perhaps it still is but I discovered something about TIME this year, I have found a personal connection in reading their stories more than I used to while reading Economist. This is a conversation I always have with friends for instance on who has better covers, intros and anecdotes. But since this year, I have kept TIME. They redesigned their magazine and I never miss reading a copy each week.

Are you still an ardent radio listener?

Yeah of course. Radio is still a big part of my life. I have listened to all the top stations at great length. These days I listen to Radio One’s morning show and I feel like each station out there has always created its own band of listeners. I used to think when you work on radio, you have to keep to keep reinventing yourself but it feels like you just have to maintain your listenership because it is a crowded industry. I grew up listening to Capital, KFM, Sanyu where the presenters kept on crossing from one station to another and the radio kept its listeners. Then there were new entrants like Radiocity, XFM and lately there is Galaxy FM, Digida, they seem to have captured significant segments of the market; I don’t know how they do it but it is a very dynamic industry where keeping at the top is extreme hard work. I listen a lot to political talk shows and sports too. Radio is still around.

 What phrase do you mostly use?

“Not really”, “Are you serious?”

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Hopefully I will have attained a Masters’ degree somewhere and doing a number of media related jobs. But I also want to run my personal businesses, have the freedom to do as I wish. I hate being told what to do. I hope to make a difference in other people’s lives through my work, travel the world, discover new opportunities and be someone of value. You know.

Managing Expectations

 

Of late, I can hardly sustain interest in anything be it projects, people, pastimes and whatever I develop a liking for. It never lasts. It fades soon, pretty soon. A few months ago, I had lost interest in blogging never mind that I am yet to cap year while at it.

Almost all the girls I liked or merely had a thing for, it takes one single incident, insignificant as it maybe for me to lose all the interest and enthusiasm I had. What the hell is wrong with me? I simply cannot understand. My levels of concentration have drastically plummeted. There must be something wrong.

Thinking aloud could maybe provide an answer. Could it be that some of my expectations have been awfully thwarted and have subsequently made me feel like this? It has nothing to do with relationship pursuits though. I know this is the part where ladies say it is that time of the month. But let us not even got there.

Anyway along the way this year, I realised one thing, a number of people are unhappy because they simply fail to manage their expectations. Either we expect too much from people or we think that the world is meant to bequeath us with some pot of gratitude just to compensate us for the times we feel we have been utterly screwed!

Hell No!

You are entitled to nothing in Frank Underwood speak.

Many times, we fall on hard times but we forget that the worst could have happened. When you lose a job, know there is a guy out there who has spent the last seven years grassing and has never received anything like a salary let alone hear of an allowance. So take heart and stop whining. You are still on track boss.

Let me share here. I thought I would be earning a million shillings by the end of the year with three other side jobs, lucrative enough for me to be able to buy a car by mid next year. Okay now that is just silly, idealistic and delusional at worst.

Second scenario. Earlier this year, I applied for a scholarship to go and study a Master’s degree in the UK in Oil and Gas Economics. To begin with, that is one hell of a discipline in which I have no footing. And here is the worst part, I was obviously competing with economists, guys who have been working in the petroleum sector for years and some other experienced staffers in their respective fields therefore I was up against real competition here.

Still, I thought I had put in my best in the application to clinch this rare opportunity and flee this country and its endless sagas. Wapi! So I call up a cousin of mine who scooped this scholarship a few years ago to help me check up on the progress of the application. Guess what? The next time I called her, she told me someone had called her asking for tips on how to ace the interview! The news left a lump in my throat. It finally dawned on me that I still had more time canvassing these streets attending press briefings.

Right from the time I applied in February, I always envisioned myself hopping onto that plane around September headed for the UK to start my Post Grad studies. Of course by now I am over it, my mind fully set on next year’s round which I will apply for in a heartbeat.

This and a few other incidents have however taught me to always jump at opportunities however small they maybe and also to appreciate to whatever you have because you just never know when it is your time to shine and get that opportunity you have always yearned for.

Another important lesson is that we tend to look at people and admire or envy them in whatever position they are. Many a time we think other people are more blessed or always have their way in life when this is really furthest from the truth. And this is when the saying “Comparison is the thief of joy” makes perfect sense. Too often, we just want to revel in other people’s success or take credit for their work or worse disparage whatever they have put together because it massages our own frustrations. Urgh! Okay enough sour graping.

Sometimes, it is best to carry one’s own cross and do away with people and their unending shenanigans. Trust me, it is so much relief when you get away from people for a certain amount of time. Expect less from people, and the disappointments will be tempered.

One of the most important pieces of advice I have ever been given is from my dad when he told me “In life you journey alone”.

So go conquer the world and do not give a shit about al people’s voices, remembering that every time you fail at something, the worst possible thing did not happen. You still have a shot.

“Luck is the residue of design”-Branch Rickey.

Friendship

 

“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” Hubert Humphrey

I bet that is how friendship has made all of us feel. Friendship is very important and it is even more important that we keep our friends. Friends give meaning and purpose to our lives. They enrich our lives with laughter, companionship, tales, jokes, memories, help and anything about.

You wonder, what life would be without that one friend you call up on short notice and meet over coffee or for a couple of drinks at your usual joint. You know, the friend you just text to gush about that hot chic that came by your workplace. We all need friends to appreciate the simple things in life.

Over the years I have made a number of friends and lost some (with whom we stopped talking) due to different reasons. But I read a quote somewhere that had me looking at past friendships in a new light. The writing tells us not to rue the friendships that ended but rather to cherish the memories they left. We have all had friends who have wronged us, some to the point of utter betrayal and even questioning whether they were really our friends. For instance I had a good friend while at campus and we talked a lot about different things and did a lot of stuff together and I was really annoyed when I had to end this friendship over a debt he stubbornly refused to pay.

Another crucial thing is that we ought to respect friendship by not crossing certain lines. Sometimes we crack silly jokes or say and do things that ruin friendships. We ought to be careful about the way we broach certain topics like sex, ethnicity, love, career and of course family. So this gets me to the issue I really want to put out here.

Over the last couple of months, I have fallen head over heels for a friend of mine. Trouble is she is seeing a good friend of mine. Recipe for disaster? I know! But I cannot help it, I am madly in love with this girl and woe unto me if this friend finds out on what I am scheming; to snatch his girlfriend and ride off into the sunset.

He and I always talked about ‘them’ back then when their thing was blossoming as it also did the rounds on campus. Now here I am with endless flattery and lavishing his woman with all sorts of cheesy romantic tales.

One thing that I have always asked myself is how come nearly all the girls I fall for are in relationships? Is it that girls who are taken appear more attractive? I always paint myself in this silly corner of trying to unseat someone dating a girl I find insanely attractive. It has happened countless times. It is not about to stop.

I do not know honestly if I am abusing this friendship or whether what I am doing is morally absurd since this guy is a pretty good chap despite the fact that we have not talked in a long time. And ever since I got close to this girl, there has been a distance between my friend and I. Although the two are unrelated. I do not want to go into the right/wrong discourse because there are times when one cannot control what happens.

She is madly in love with this guy but I am not relenting. I am in full pursuit. I am going berserk on this. I want her ALL. Irony is that sometime back I was giving the heads-up to another guy who was chasing her. Now here I am. This life!

I feel like I am being a terrible friend and it is quite paradoxical that I am writing this but this is how I can distill my thoughts. I texted another friend about this dilemma and he texted back, “Let that be her concern” in reply to the spill over from the whole thing. Jeez, some people can spur you on.

Both these two are good people and good friends but I am in such a ditch. I am puzzled. But life is what happens when you have other plans. So here I am, posing as the quintessential friend yet I harbour this crazy thought that could ruin everything with the likely possibility of me walking away empty handed. Damn!

Que sera sera.

Let me leave you with a dose of philosophy on friendship.

“Friendship is an art, few people have a natural talent for it.”
– Phyllis

Obama is a great President

Barack Obama is left with 16 months before he leaves the White House as the first black US President. A lot has been said about his legacy especially in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal he clinched recently. Americans are divided over the olive branch he extended to what many in the West call a rogue nation in the realm of North Korea.

I think Obama has shown, more than any other leader in US history, that diplomacy is actually a viable strategy especially in this era where nukes seem to be what every leader brings to the negotiating table. Then, Obama has achieved an even more significant victory; the historic restoration of US relations with Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility. Now, Washington and Havana host the other country’s embassies, something that was unfathomable in the days of the latter two administrations of George Bush and Bill Clinton.

By ignoring hawkish people like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama has given a new dimension to the overblown importance of US-Israel relations.

Although race relations in America have come under more scrutiny during Obama’s presidency, this surely cannot squarely be blamed on him being indecisive or simply failing to reign in on Police brutality. Now almost every other killing of an unarmed black US citizen comes with a murder charge. Times are changing. These killings may not be stopped anytime soon since there is a general consensus of them being racially motivated! It is even likely to get worse in the next presidency.

The events in Ferguson, Missouri a year ago sparked a nation-wide debate about race and justice in America. It led to an entire lock-down of the town of Ferguson. My sympathies go out to black police officers who must be battling serious compunctions of serving in a force that is deemed racist and gratuitously violent towards a minority. ABC’s hit show Scandal had to theme an entire episode on the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen whose death brought America to its knees.

Obama as President may not have a magic bullet for a wayward Police Force with tendencies of institutional racism but we must commend him for exercising conscientious leadership and thoughtfulness in the midst of what looked like a civil war.