Monthly Archives: May 2015

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The MP beating all odds

At the rate our MPs are making headlines, we ought to have a newspaper dedicated to reporting only about them. You know that things aren’t ok when your beloved leader isn’t getting as much space on the front page as your MPs. The MP confidential – bringing you MP news every day. What did your MP have for dinner? Why is he asleep in parliament? Why is her contribution to the debate totally unrelated to the topic of discussion? Why doesn’t his suit fit? Why does he duck when he sees some guys who claim he owes them money? Is she honestly defending that proposal? Is she really kneeling to make a point? Does he know the microphone is on or are we listening to what should be his private musings?

Actually, a newspaper may not be enough; we might need an entire series – the MP. We’d start it off very dramatically with the star delivering a passionate speech about rule of law and how the current debate on the floor goes against everything that Benedicto Kiwanuka and all our political forefathers fought for. We’d have close-ups to show a vein popping on his neck with every word, sweat collecting on his brow and his moustache shaking violently, as though seized by some need to make a point of its own. The series, episode by episode, would go on to explore political mafia, loan sharks, learning how to use iPads, tailors who sell ill-fitting suits, and constituents who present the most interesting needs. We’d tastefully cram this into season one and end with a twist I can’t reveal here. Season two would then be entirely about the campaign race – drawing the manifesto, calculated distribution of sugar, salt, soap and mobile money. We’d cover the MPs late nights and early mornings and the tension that arises from this nomadic lifestyle. We’d look at the strain our MP is under – personal, emotional, and financial. You’d see your MP in a light those humour and satire writers don’t show.

That series and newspaper aside, our MP this time was in papers for demanding for a 40% pay rise. One of the major reasons fronted for the increment is the high cost of covering different costs on behalf of their constituents. I guess that seals it; if doctors and teachers need that pay rise they’ve been asking for for a while, a good place to start is by asking constituents to take their problems to them.

MPs demand for pound of flesh

MPs in our ruling party recently supported an unchallenged re-election run for our beloved leader. He, our star, was signed-off as the party’s sole candidate. We received the news the same way we receive all news of gallant acts of servitude to the nation – with beaming smiles and popping imaginary bottles of champagne. The real bottles cost too much. If we still had goats, we’d slaughter them and eat in celebration. Sadly, we ate all of them during the Easter festivities and the kids they left behind are still too young.

This week though, our celebrations were cut short when it was reported that our dear MPs have now asked for Shs 300 million each as a reward for that act. Talk about party poopers. What will it take to get uninterrupted celebrations around here? We’d already made orders for more food than we can eat or afford and then this? *sigh*

So, the MPs (no longer ‘our dear MPS’ or even ‘our MPs’) want the money for their own re-election campaigns. For 260 MPs, this, altogether, translates to almost 80 billion shillings. We aren’t sure where this sum will come from ( or whether our beloved leader will agree to the demand ) but if the tax payer ends up carrying the burden, he/she can take comfort in the fact that the money will, going by statistics, most likely end up as salt/sugar/soap for the rest of the populace. At its core, the MPs are probably being patriotic and using this as a wealth re-distribution technique.

You’ve got to hand it to our leader though – how do you deal with MPs making such wanton demands? Do you call in the circus to distract them? Do you let some loan sharks into the room to scare them? Do you give them an Oyo handshake to shake them off? Do you surround yourself with some mean-looking individuals from the army and then invite the MPs in for discussions? Do you use some proverbs in your mother tongue to confound them?

The bigger question though is, why are they doing this to our friend and leader? Don’t they know there’s a lot more on his plate (and we aren’t talking rolex)?

Bringing wayward termites to book

The chief administrative officer of Abim district told members of parliament recently that termites had eaten vouchers accounting for 900 million shillings. I think it was unfair to drop such information on the MPs unceremoniously; for news like that, a press conference followed by a huge feast are in order. These were clearly well-read termites that knew, probably from poring over Chinua Achebe’s No Longer At Ease, that “If you want to eat a toad (or vouchers) you look for a fat and juicy one”. No one’s taking time to investigate the termites (maybe because they have big heads so they won’t come in for questioning) but I’ll save the police some work by using some rudimentary crime-solving skills acquired from Google searches.

First off, to get away with that much loot, these termites had to have had someone on the inside. This person fed them information on where the loot was and then found creative ways to distract his (or her) colleagues over the days that the lawless insects were at work. I’m not sure how they distracted everyone but if I were forced to guess, I’d say they asked everyone at work to participate in a talent show. While everyone showed off their talents in one room, The Mandible Gang (that’s the code name for the termites in this case file) bit their way through those vouchers.

The villain, playing dead

The villain, playing dead

How do we identify this person who aided and abated The Mandible Gang? You are looking for someone who usually hangs out near mounds (or ant hills). Also, they usually have conversations with themselves (in reality though, they are speaking to termites but we just don’t see them).

Some bits of this case are still a mystery, even for me. Why did The Mandible Gang only go after vouchers and stay away from other equally delectable pieces of paper like termination letters and letters communicating salary deductions?

Why did they do it? Was it some form of protest? Was it Christmas in termite land and they were feasting? Do they have something against civil servants? Were they paid by someone?

It is my earnest hope that this information will be used to bring these pirates to book otherwise it may become a trend. They should be locked up in bottles in prison for a while then released for our scientists to study them and see if we can deploy them against our enemies.

Why you should sign-up for the MTN App Challenge

The MTN App Challenge will take place from 29th-31st May, 2015. One weekend of all-out geekery. Fast internet, no sleep, free food and the Mobile Money API! Seems like Ug geek heaven – all that’s missing is probably TV chicken and performances by Radio & Weasel. *cough* Tusaba ba organizer *cough*


Anha, what is it?

It is an opportunity for you to start something built on top of MTN’s architecture.

How does it work?

You, in your ninja costume, waltz in on Friday 29th with your laptop and an idea. After you wolf down some food (and put some in your laptop bag for later), you pitch your idea. Your idea is of course so hot, 3 other people will gravitate towards you even without knowing it. They’ll just find themselves drawn to you. You are now a team of 4: a developer, marketer, project manager & designer.
You get to work – planning, executing, fighting, silent treatment, back to planning, then executing…repeat.

You don’t notice the sun go down or come up. You only look up to eat food (and put some in your laptop bag for later).

Sunday’s here. You present your app to the judges (and the audience that can’t believe that awesome lives here here in Uganda). They are wowed. They, collectively, say “Wooowe, that’s going to blow up the Ug mobile space. Ayayayaya”. Your team wins. You smile for the cameras and give a speech thanking God and your team that’s lucky to have you. You’ll also thank your mentor throughout the app challenge, Peter Kakoma, for being such a profound help by  constantly showing you funny YouTube clips whenever you got stuck as a team.

Why should you join?

I did some research this morning on the costs of getting access to some of this stuff on your own.

SMS channel

  1. Apply for short code from UCC                 $250
  2. UCC Annual license fees for short code  $2,000
  3. Set-up fee for one telecom company    ~$3,500

USSD Channel

  1. Apply for service code from UCC                     $250
  2. UCC Annual license fee for service code        $10,000
  3. Set-up fee for one telecom company           ~ $350

Source: UCC Short code requirements

Android/IOS mobile applications

Deployment costs are negligible but integration to the telecom charging system to charge users’ airtime  (as one avenue of commercialization) requires a number of approvals (as you can imagine).

The challenge avails you all these channels. I think that all factors considered, it is a great opportunity for any start-up hoping to solve the commercialization puzzle.

Details of the challenge, in more serious lingo, can be found here: MTN App Challenge Details

If you want to go straight to registration, here’s the App Challenge Registration Form

Unrelated, I’m running a very very brief survey. 2 questions. It’ll take you less than a minute. Kindly fill it in here: Kakoma Survey

When your faith takes some blows

I wrote this shortly after the Fight of the Century. My schedule though has sent a few blows my way since. Here it is though:

Watching boxing only featured on my to-do list on the nights I felt I needed to prepare for an alien invasion; I’m sure no alien can take an uppercut and stay standing. Since alien invasions only take place in the US, my to-do list never, ever featured watching the sport. That’s until MayWeather Promotions carefully injected a cool video into my Facebook newsfeed and I was sucked into the global ‘Fight of the century’ buzz. Several days later, I emerged from the darkest parts of the internet with a full-grown beard, a gruff voice and red eyes struggling to stay open – the interwebs had only let me out because my body was shutting down after going so long without food.

From all the stuff I’d watched and read, my contributions to the lunchtime pre-fight debates generally rose above the when and where. I had a few whys under my belt too. And from the stuff I’d seen, I loved Pacman’s 500 blows per second; they make for great YouTube viewing. Mayweather though, seemed billed to take the day and up till a few hours to the fight, I was in his corner. My preference wasn’t based in any way on boxing statistics or any of that stuff I suppose ardent fans use – I don’t think any late-comer to the bout, like me, can comfortably say that their choice of whom they were backing was based on anything beyond emotions.

Power tip: You can tell a late-comer to the sport from how they refer to the fight. “Let’s go watch the match” vs “Let’s go watch the fight”.

My backing changed during the pre-fight interviews. With Mayweather flashing money and bragging while Pacquiao, a believer, flashing his Jesus T-shirt, cheerful and just seeming like a nice person to be around, I crossed the ring. There and then, for me, the fight quickly escalated to God vs Money. It wasn’t physical anymore; it went spiritual -David vs Goliath. Surely, God would show this money-trusting showman what’s up. One blow, delivered early, to later be referred to as the “Blow of God”, much like the “hand of God”, would put Mayweather in his place – on the canvas.

The fight starts. And I wait for that blow. Of the 6 of us watching the fight, only 2 are with Pacman. Just like Mayweather, his fans are loud (that’s my story). Round 1. 2. 3. Nothing yet. In round 4, Pacman delivers some heavy stuff that leaves Mayweather momentarily dazed. In that instant, Mayweather tries to think happy thoughts. Round 5. 6. More spurts of brilliance but still no blow of God. If I had a room to myself, I’d probably have broken out in prayer at that point, calling God to swoop down and deliver the blow Himself. With 5 people around, it isn’t an option. Round 7. 8. 9. Mayweather’s loud fans now mellow down; a deep respect for Pacman has walked into the room and hushed all the bad things they were saying initially. We now wait with bated breath on the outcome. 10. 11. Pacman has done quite a bit of chasing; Mayweather is giving Usain Bolt a run for his money.

mayweather_vs_pacmanAnd then it is over. May had weathered the storm and come out on top. And suddenly, my relationship with God was shaken. It didn’t take much to rock my faith boat very fiercely. Why had such a good evangelism opportunity gone unused? Why had Pacman, who’d stuck his head and heart out very boldly for God gone out like that? Why should I trust God if someone like that, on a platform that big, can be left hanging? What would everyone now say about my God? Why hadn’t we (It wasn’t just Pacman anymore, it was we now) won? At that instant, I was scared to keep trusting – Pacman had done everything right.

In my head, 2015 is the year of God showing off; LeCrae, a Christian rapper, for the first time in history, topping Gospel and Billboard charts was just act one. This global showdown was supposed to be act two.

I was quite low. I went to church a few hours later but the storm was still raging; that one result had managed to shake loose all those things He’d done for me. All from a fight I didn’t care about a few months prior. *sigh*

In all this, I kept thinking that God cared about the Mayweather whose ways I didn’t think highly of. That Christ died for him too; that Christ loved and cared for him too. And that Christ could be reaching out to him. I used a right hook to get rid of that thought.

Wisdom though came from my wife when she reminded broody me that at the cross, the bystanders were probably just as angry and confused as I was; probably angrier. They asked why Christ had done all those miracles but He didn’t save himself. “Come on Jesus, come off the cross, save yourself, show these naysayers!” the believers must have pleaded. “Deliver the blow of God!” I pleaded. They, like me, didn’t see that victory had indeed come – though not in the form they wanted.

I still don’t know what the victory here is. I do know that Pacman showed up; he didn’t skip training and wait on the blow of God like I might have. He showed up and gave a very spirited performance. He was a great sportsman about it and embodied a lot of humility. He smiled through everything, took selfies with fans and was the kind of bold believer I will be when I grow up (and get boxing gloves, and have to fight).

I have a new respect for Mayweather though. He was, Usain Bolt antics aside, very, very smart about the way he went about the fight. I’ll definitely stay up to watch his next fight- and I’ll be in his corner this time.