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How to meet the Pope

Pope Francis recently told the Uganda government the things he wants and does not want during his visit to the country in November. The list was the kind to make any politician squirm – he won’t sit with any other passenger in his car, he won’t use a big 4×4 SUV vehicle, he won’t meet any political leaders apart from a brief meeting with the president and only to discuss religious matters and he won’t sleep in a hotel. Prior to this, it was reported that government had budgeted at least Shs60 billion for VIP cars.

With rules that strict, it immediately seems impossible to meet the man of God. That notwithstanding there are still a few ways you as a politician can meet him. It is election season so a selfie with the Pope would do wonders for your campaign. Here are a few ways you can approach this mission impossible *play the soundtrack *

Dress up as an ordinary citizen and stand among the crowd on Entebbe Road to welcome him. When the Pope’s being driven past you, make sure you stand out like a rolex in a 5-star restaurant. Wave more than the rest. Say some words in Latin. Carry a placard. Do something. The point here is for him to see and remember your face – that’s all.

Then move onto phase two. When he goes to conduct mass, make sure you spend the night in the chapel. This will ensure that you get a decent seat, close enough to hear every word he says during service. These words are what you’ll use to make conversation when you finally get a chance. For example, you could remark at how well he kept saying, “The Lord be with you”.

Now, you need to make initial contact. Get in line for Holy Communion. Make sure that when you get there, you say a few words to him.

Now to seal the deal, we move to the final phase – a full conversation. Since he won’t allow any passengers in his car, you could pull your political weight and make sure you be one of the four guards running next to the car. This will give you plenty of time to have a long conversation through the sunroof. You could start it simple by talking about the weather then gradually increase the heat by steering skillfully towards your reelection bid and how the Catholics will benefit from you being back in office. This step though requires you to shed some of that political weight in preparation.

All the best, my friend. Omnem medullam. If you are serious about this project, you should know what that means by now.

Before you bare it all…

We live in interesting times, in a very interesting state. This week had a lot of news that read like satire; the only thing reminding us that this was the real deal was who was reporting it (serious guys using that no-nonsense reporter voice). One story that held its ground in all this was one about some things the Minister of State for Lands, Ms Aidah Nantaba, said. She reportedly advised residents of Kayunga District, who are being evicted from their land, to undress before land grabbers as a tactic to scare them away. She didn’t stop at that – she had a strong basis for her sound advice. She said that the residents should do this to emulate residents of Amuru and Soroti districts who undressed to assert their land rights.

I’m not in any way against people standing up for their rights. What I’m against though is that these people are only being given half the advice. Imagine you wanted to run for President and I advised you to release a video and stop at that. In the same vein, our dear Minister of State only gave the people of Kayunga half of what they should do. Here’s the rest:

Consider having some background music. If you are going to do something like that, you might at the very least find ways to make the most of the experience. I don’t have suggestions on how, as a group, you’ll go about selecting the playlist but democracy is generally encouraged.

Have the police in attendance. They’ll form a ring around you to shield you from more people so only the targeted audience receives your message. They’ll also let you know at what point you start to step on the law that made Father Lokodo famous.

Inform the medics beforehand. As serious as this cause is, we need to eliminate the possibility of some people undermining your cause by thinking some screws are loose.

Cover the children’s eyes. Order a 48-hour ban on all media for children. During this time, they should stick to story books and ludo.

Clean-up the internet afterwards. In many areas that have been ravaged by war, stray bombs that remain strewn all over the place usually cause damage several years later. To avoid this, clean up the internet. We don’t want your children (or anyone’s children) to come across those images.

How to go to Mbale

I am late to the party this time; like that guy who shows up when the MC’s inviting the lovely couple to give their speech at the wedding. He even missed the cake! This information though is of such importance to the nation that it still tastes good even as mawolu – kind of like lumonde.

Mbale is a town known for a number of things, such as having the imposing Mount Elgon lurking in its background. About a 4 hours’ drive from Kampala, we’ve never known it to be a difficult place to get to. Hop onto the bus, fall asleep, get off bus. Or jump into car, stop when afande stops you, proceed, stop in Mbale. Nothing too complex. All this changed this week, following some interesting developments in our political environment that have since made the town hard to access. In an effort to help you still be able to get there, here are some practical tips on how to go about it:

First, Mbale isn’t a place you go to without an agenda. Set an agenda. It could be to consult. It could be to stop someone from consulting. It could be to oppose a presidential bid. Whatever the case, have a clear agenda.

Next, announce that agenda. Make it known to everyone with a (digital) TV set or a stable internet connection that you are going to Mbale on a certain day to do (insert your agenda). As a rule, expect objections – Mbale isn’t a place you go to without some resistance.

Next, to put those objecting in their place, get a huge, huge team of lawyers. If possible, get the country’s entire lawyer population on your payroll. If the ones in the country aren’t enough, get some from our neighbors. It is acts like this that foster good regional relationships. Have the lawyers breakdown to the haters why they are wrong for opposing your visit. Since they are so many, make sure their work doesn’t overlap – maybe by apportioning sections in the constitution they should each concentrate on. I joke.

Jokes aside, ensure there’s a welcoming committee in place, ready to you know, welcome you on arrival. They can meet and discuss what food to give you on arrival; (hint hint malewa)

Lastly, they say a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. In your case, the journey of 760 kilometers begins and ends in a few steps. I’m unhappy to be the one to tell you that you won’t make it there. The welcoming committee will probably have to eat the malewa after all.

When they finally tell you…

Wasap! It’s been 3 weeks since we heard from each other. Long time! Some bats had sent applications for blog tenancy; the nerve of those creatures. My apologies for the absence – the 8to5 and Londa, in that order, had taken their toll. Today and over the next 2 days, I’ll share the weekly articles from those 3 weeks then we’ll resume normal weekly programming next week. Steady? steady. Here’s something from 3 weeks ago – right after the ex-Primier announced his intentions to run for our beloved leader’s job…I know, I know, mawolu, but this is the kind that’s been in the microwave. Happy Monday!

This week ended a long wait; we were finally told what we’d been told we’d be told. “I’ll tell you when I tell you what I’ll tell you and you’ll know that you’ve been told a true tale,” had become a popular tongue twister in schools around the country. Our children were getting migraines trying to say it without biting their tongues. Our teachers were writing the statement on the blackboard, not daring to try and say it themselves. We had nearly reached our wit’s end so the former Prime Minister’s grand reveal was a welcome relief. We can now go back to “Three witches made three wishes….”

In the statement, our former Premier pointed out an ailing system as one of the reasons for his declaration of his intention to run for President. Our beloved leader, it is reported, was quick to throw our former Premier under the (movement) bus, pointing out that he was in many ways behind the system he was now criticizing. If there’s any bus you don’t want to be thrown under, it’s the movement bus (because it is moving, geddit?)

We were very surprised by the announcement. Here are a few other announcements that’ll surprise us just as much:

The grass saying it’ll be green next year, not red. We’d on one hand be struggling to understand how grass suddenly got a voice and on the other, why it chose to stay green. Why not switch things up a bit? You can’t honestly be green that long and still be happy. Something’s got to give.

Boda boda riders, through their association, announcing that for the next six months, they’ll bend traffic rules here and there. They’d tell us that in their current state, the rules aren’t tailored to suit an average motorcycle rider. Things like disregarding traffic lights and policemen, adding fashionable scratches to people’s cars, denting vehicles and speeding off, suddenly entering a road – those things, in the interest of all road users, need to go on.

Ghosts telling us that it won’t be long before another institution is discovered to be harbouring & feeding them.

Potholes informing us that in the next year, we can count on running into them on our roads. They’d tell us that they might move around and change size a little, but they have plans to stay.

All these things, and a lot more, would shock us as much as this week’s huge announcement did. What other announcement would take you by surprise?

Like Museveni, enjoy our roads

In the State of the Nation Address recently, our beloved leader shared what’s been going on around the country. We got to hear about the various developments and also got some sneak peeks into what our future holds. In this invigorating session, our dear leader spoke of how the ruling party has brought about tremendous change in infrastructure, particularly electricity and roads. Not to leave it vague, he went on to intimate, “These days I really enjoy driving around Uganda’s roads”. We couldn’t agree more. For those who seem to disagree (and there’s never a shortage of you haters. We see you), here are a few things to remember to put things in perspective:

The potholes you complain about are actually intentionally left behind during road construction. Those not left behind are left under the road in waiting – in six months at most, they will emerge. Why these potholes? They are for your good actually. See, the goal as a nation is to move towards a good standard of living across the board. Potholes are a part of this plan; the discomfort they bring as you drive is supposed to spur you to work harder to get a bigger, better shock-absorber-having car. This is called Shockbsobs theory. Our beloved leader enjoys the roads partly because he understands this theory (and he’s worked hard and gotten a big car). Also, wouldn’t you want to live in a nation that manufactures cars? How else are we going to get there without you taking regular trips to the mechanic? In so doing, our mechanics’ skill set is growing; it won’t be long before they can make vehicles.

As a nation, our taxable base isn’t that big. The traffic on the roads is to allow us collect taxes from the fuel you are burning. As a nation, we had to move away from running after people for graduated tax. In as much as it was helping us raise a generation of runners (and we were consequently coming close to taking gold medals from Kenya and Ethiopia), it was a tiring process. So now, as you wait for afande to flag you off in traffic, we are collecting taxes.

All these things require is a little perspective. You too can enjoy driving on our roads.

The Taxi Code Continued

Last week, in the Taxi Code, we started on a journey to educate a new taxi driver on what’s expected of him on the road. We shared quite a bit with him but we couldn’t cover everything. Here’s the rest of the taxi driver traffic code.

Your primary goal, as a driver, is to run down that taxi in as short a time as possible. See, new taxis don’t look good. They come off as lazy; any hardworking taxi looks like it is one hoot away from being spare parts in Kisekka market. Those are the taxis we real Ugandans love and are accustomed to – work towards getting yours there as fast as possible.

Pavements are part of the road. They may have some pedestrians using them, oblivious to the fact that you have right of way, but don’t mind them. Drive, hoot, drive, hoot. Also, ask them, as they curse while getting out of the way, “Ogenda?”

taxi_uganda

Humps and potholes are only seen by dimwits. Only people without purpose have time to try and dodge or slow down as they go over them. You have purpose and drive. Drive straight always. Don’t mind the people bickering in the taxi – they’ll thank you later when they get to their destination quickly. They might be in pain but that’s part of the price they have to pay.

Occasionally shout at other drivers as you go past them. It is important that you hurl insults every so often at other drivers for anything that comes to mind – driving slowly, not giving turn signals, taking forever to overtake the car ahead of them. If they want to do these things, they should drive taxis.

The next taxi is your enemy – overtake them at all costs. In your free time, watch Furious 7 and pick up some tips on driving like there’s an army of rabid robots after you. Drive fast. Overtake that taxi ahead and keep the competition between you and it going; passengers love the thrill of being part of a real life car chase – it makes them think they are in a movie.

In all this, once in a while, shock everyone by stopping to let children cross the road. Also, stop and allow another vehicle to join your lane. It is acts like these that keep you dear in people’s minds; after all the cursing, they’ll remember these acts of benevolence and think, “Maybe they aren’t that bad after all.”

The Traffic Code

A friend recently shared a picture of a white taxi driver waiting for passengers. The picture didn’t show whether he was shouting “Nyabo ogenda?”, “Sebbo, tugende?” or “Sir, will you use the transport services of this beat-down vehicle?” You know how pictures be – worth far less than a thousand words, they can’t even tell you what the people are saying. I’m not sure whether fellow taxi drivers gave Mr. Smith (the picture didn’t indicate his name so let’s jump to conclusions together) the taxi traffic code. In the event that they didn’t (and for the benefit of anyone who intends to drive a taxi), I’ll go ahead and share the taxi traffic code in a two-part series. Here are the rules:

taxi_uganda

Don’t ever give a turn signal or ‘indicate’. Indicating is for people who don’t have other things to do while driving. That’s not you. You have to keep focussed on getting your passengers to their destination quickly – indicating slows you down.

Stop at will. No matter where you are, you have the right to stop wherever you want – even in the middle of the road. Everyone can wait. You are their pastor today – teaching them a thing or two about patience in affliction. The stray sheep who feel they don’t want the lesson can find space round you and proceed to their non-exciting destination.

Related to stopping the car at will, start the car at will. You have lots of passengers and they, not you, are an impatient lot. Start the car, turn it into the road and go. Everyone ought to see you coming and make adjustments.

The customer is king…only when he’s outside the taxi. Once inside, you own him. He can’t say anything about how you are driving, what you are listening to or what you are saying. The standard response to any complaint is, “Go buy your own car”. You can sugar-coat this in various ways depending on how good you feel that day.

Taxis generally grow up on a diet consisting of fuel that costs less than Shs. 5,000. They can only stomach that much at a go, regardless of how far they are going. Do not attempt to feed yours on anything more than that lest it dies from indigestion or related ailments. Have you seen all those taxis that give-up along the way and you have to stop and take their passengers? Well, they tried to turn their taxis into fuel gluttons. Don’t be like them.

Tourism does an Oliver Twist

The news this week reported that our tourism sector, despite bringing in about 10% of our GDP, usually has almost no funding in the national budget (less than 1%). In the report, a number of individuals in the sector were interviewed; they had a few choice words to say about the government’s priorities. Let’s put ourselves in government’s shoes though (and this does not in any way mean we are eyeing the top seat; that usually has repercussions). So, let’s say you, as an individual, are government and you are dispensing money. Here are a few decisions you’ll have to make.

Great pictures of lions and other wildlife vs gear for police

This is a hard one. While looking at that excel spreadsheet you’ll be using to allocate the nation’s funds, you’ll wonder whether it’s a good idea to doll out a few millions to have some photos of lions taken for an ad campaign. Lions asleep, dreaming of a land where they don’t chase food, the food walks to them and asks to be eaten. Lions basking in the sun. Lions having dinner.

On the other hand, you’ll have the police that needs gear for the upcoming elections (and for crime-fighting activity).

Tourism Advert Vs Office of the president

Should you make a flashy 60-second ad showing smiley faces of Ugandans, beautiful shots of nature and then ending in a shot of our beloved leader giving a thumbs-up sign, signalling to all those watching that Uganda is the place to be if tourism is your thing? You’d need to run that ad on CNN and BBC.

Or should you send more money to the office of our beloved leader? This is an easy one.

Upgrade national parks infrastructure Vs Give out sack of money

Do you invest in tourism infrastructure – accommodation facilities, transport to the areas, etc.? Or do you instead give out sacks of money? You do know that we, the people need those sacks.

While the powers that be dilly dally, one way we can draw people here is to train even one lion to live life as a vegetarian. We’d feed it healthy alternatives like soya and nkeje. Wouldn’t people travel all the way to take pictures with it? Lady Gaga would adopt it and it’d curtain-raise at her concerts, letting out a mighty roar that’d excite and scare revellers in equal measure. We’d call it Simba from Uganda.

Unrelated KB: I run Kanzu Code, an entity that builds digital products ( websites, mobile applications, custom digital solutions ) that solve various issues. We are currently working on one to address youth apathy to elections. We are currently running a brief survey on why youth shun elections; the results will inform our app development. Would you like to take part? Kindly share your view in the 3-question survey here: Londa Survey. For more details on the app, please check this out: Londa Media Advisory. Thanks!!

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)?