Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When Joy finds its height

My fore fathers said there is one particular point in life when a man's joy actually finds its height and I must say I found mine, rightly so, in marriage. The 5th December 2009 saw me walk the walk to my in-laws compound to formally and culturally take her hand. An elaborate traditional ceremony oiled with proverbs, humour and glamour. The inability of the white man's language to appropriately capture the memorable events of the day will be mitigated by the pictures. Watch this space!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Uganda’s oil is like prostitutes and gamblers

I was quite tickled that Mr Tony Buckingham, the shrewd ex-mercenary and chief of Heritage Oil, is set to make £80million (Shs240 billion) from selling its lucrative oil fields in Uganda.

Buckingham has done a deal to flog his company’s oil fields in western Uganda to Eni of Italy for a cool $1.5 billion.

This story reminded me of what they said about the many Gold Rushes in America; that the people who made the most money from it were not the miners who went to mine, but the people who went to mine the miners.

One way to best understand this is to look at an industry that is very much on display every night near places like Speke Hotel – prostitution. Contrary to popular belief, the people who make the most money from prostitution are not the prostitutes.

First, the policemen they have to bribe so they can leave them alone, make more than the prostitutes. A prostitute might do business with, say, five men in a night. Let us, for purposes of example, say each of the men pay Prostitute X Shs20,000; that is Shs100,000. Maybe she pays the policeman Shs15,000 to turn a blind eye.

However, the difference is that while she has only five customers a night, the policeman has about 20 prostitutes around town bribing him a night. So he goes home with Shs300,000 a night, but Prostitute X, who is the one who sells the primary service, goes home with Shs85,000. But she won’t be so lucky. She has other payments to make; Shs5,000 to the street boy who keeps a lookout for her, and if she has a pimp, she pays him Shs15,000. Therefore she takes home Shs65,000 only.

It is the same with Heritage. It’s making $1.5b not from selling the fields, but from selling its discovery. It is up to Eni (and Uganda) to try and make money from the oil, and they face uncertainties that Heritage no longer does.

Someone will have to sell (and service) the heavy equipment for drilling oil; to put money to finance the drilling; to sell insurance, name it. All these fellows will get paid BEFORE Uganda earns a dollar from selling a barrel of oil. And in the end, they will earn the most money because they will not be paying the heavy environmental price that comes with the oil business.

The real secret in making money in natural resources, therefore, is to play in the transferrable part of the business. An oil well is not movable. However, money earned from lending to oil companies and financing infrastructure is highly movable. Heritage Oil can now take its money to Shanghai, China, and invest in the booming property market there. Our oil wells, meanwhile, will remain in Bunyoro.
Others have been there before us. I like these subversive websites that like bringing awkward facts to lights. One of the more user-friendly ones as far as natural resources, especially gold, is concerned is

It tells us that when gold was found in California in 1848, thousands rushed to look for fortune. As they still do more than 250 years in places like DR Congo and Sierra Leone, the miners of that time searched for flakes of gold, by sifting soil at the bottom of streams with a shallow pan. After a few years, the gold was harder to find, and heavy machines moved in. The miners got their horses and on to the next big find.

Most miners stayed poor (how little things change), because only a few of them found large amounts of gold. “The people who most often made money on the gold fields were the merchants who sold supplies to the miners,” reports. Well after the gold mines of the time have been forgotten, Levi Straus is still very much in business selling what it sold to miners then – jeans.

Far far away in Australia, at about the same time gold was found. The miners flocked in their thousands to the fields hoping to make it big.

It was hell for the miners. They had to pay for a licence before they could dig. It was backbreaking work and they were not becoming rich. They rioted

However, there were groups of people who were making it very big. These were, again, the fellows who came to mine the miners: The merchants who sold food and equipment to the diggers found business profitable, many grew very rich.

If there is anything in this, Heritage has taught us a valuable lesson in the key to making money in oil, and the secret to prosperity. It is a rule that works almost everywhere else: If you want to make money from a casino, don’t be the gambler. Be the casino owner.

If you want to win an election (in places like Uganda), don’t vote. Count the votes.

If you want to be very powerful and make a fortune from the presidency, you don’t have to be president. The only thing you need is to know el Presidente. Teach your children this ancient lesson.

NB. This article was written by Charles Onyango Obbo in the Monitor newspaper of Wednesday 25th November 2009.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The gem in the countryside

Elephants grazing in Queen Elizabeth National Game Park.

The palace of the King of Toro in the background as seen from Fort Portal Town

Fort Portal Town

Lake George

Granting the beasts the right of way

In pursuit of a brighter tomorrow

The usual paradigm on self progression in Uganda is about reading hard, coming top of your class and the rest will be history. This is more like seeking the Kingdom of God first and the rest will come forth. True, these young souls are swimming against the tide, hard and harder. However the winds seem to blowing tough while chest thumping as if to say, "You are getting no where"......The rest of the story is competed in pictures.

In search of a better tomorrow

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pictures from the 1962 Independence celebrations

Final trappings of empire as the Duke of Kent takes the salute from the Uganda Rifles
Traditional arches and shields decorate Kampala Road at the Bank of Baroda in October 1962
Milton Obote, Uganda's first Prime Minister walks across the tarmac at Entebbe to meet the Duchess of Kent
The above pictures were ripped from:

President Obote's 1962 Independence speech

" At the turning-point in the history of Uganda, I hope that all our friends will join with me in bestowing upon the new, independent Uganda our prayers and hopes for peace, prosperity and a growing strength in her now role in international affairs. Uganda has many friends, both within her borders and outside. With the goodwill of all who wish to see her prosper, Uganda will go forward from strength to strength.

Let us pause for a moment and look back along the path we have traveled. In the days before this part of the African continent was known to the western world, we became known as a group of peoples who welcomed the traveler, the missionary and the explorer. As the years passed, we reaped the benefit of this friendly nature of ours. The technical progress of the last half-century has transformed our country in countless ways. But, fortunately, we have continued to keep our own customs and culture. It is up to us now, more than ever, in shaping our new country, to achieve a consolidation, in which neither the rapid progress of recent years, nor the age-old customs of our forefathers, are lost or diminished, but rather fused into a new national characteristic in which the best is preserved, while the worst may be thrown away.

from the Uganda Argus

National unity
What other aims have we, today, on looking forward? One of our first needs must be national unity. The narrow ambitions of a tribe, a sect, or a party must be subordinated to the greater needs of one complete Uganda. In our Government of these past months, we have striven to put the interests of Uganda before all else, and we shall continue to do so. But on attaining independence, this Government has new responsibilities to bear, heavier than those which any previous government in Uganda has borne, and we are conscious of the care and statesmanship with which we must move in taking our first steps in foreign affairs. In the Commonwealth and in the United Nations we shall be among friendly states, both from other parts of Africa and from elsewhere. But the regard in which a nation is held in the eyes of the world depends upon the successful operation of a complex machinery.

The Prime Minister of Uganda, The Hon. A. Milton Obote, M.N.A.

On 9th October, 1962, Uganda becomes an independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations. H.M. the Queen becomes Queen of Uganda and the Head of State, represented in Uganda by a Governor-General.

The Hon. Apollo Milton Obote becomes its first Prime Minister.

Her Majesty is to be represented at the celebrations by H.R.H. the Duke of Kent and the Duchess of Kent who will afterwards make a tour of the Regions.

from the Uganda Independence Souvenir Programme.

We have paid attention to the design of that machinery. First, we require political stability. My Government will seek to maintain that stability, by the strict maintenance of law and order, by retaining the confidence of the voters, and by upholding the freedom of the individual. Secondly, we require to safeguard the economy. This we will do by diversifying and improving our agriculture, providing incentives to industry, and creating conditions which encourage foreign investment. Thirdly, we will press forward with social services within realistic bounds and not as dictated by idealism. Fourthly, we need an efficient civil service to operate the Government. Uganda is well provided with well-qualified African officers and we shall continue to ensure that these are attracted into government service by the offer of the right terms, so that a balanced Africanisation programme shall continue.

I conclude by emphasising that there is a place in the Uganda of today for all who have her interests at heart, whatever their tribe, race or creed. Let all of us, who wish to see Uganda prosper, join together today in resolving to build a great and united nation."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Riotous Kampala

This week is winding up with rising political temperatures in Kampala with the Central Government locking horns with the Mengo establishment. Absolving myself from making political statements, I seek recourse to pictures as usual.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The potential inevitability of counterfeit women

Of late, Uganda like many parts of the world is awash with the lucrative yet illegal habit of counterfeiting. From food to beauty products, counterfeits seem to rule. If the high cost of genuine items is the propellor of this industry, then the high cost of bride wealth in some parts of Uganda might soon create the need for counterfeit women who might come on the cheap. I recently had the honour of being part of a high powered lyrically gifted marraige negotiation team, but our attempt was repulsed my the huge material demands of the other side. 33 healthy Zebu cows amongst other items, may be just a pat to the kraal for a pre-1986 Luo pastrolist, but they can crunch most Ugandans. Culture can be so strong to blur reality. It got me thinking about an anti-dote and hey, counterfeit women would be a magic innovation and a more affordable one. Whether or not the multitudes of women wearing synthetic hair and gigantic heeled shoes to disguise their physical deficiencies qualify as counterfeit is debate for another day. If an "investor" can jump onto this idea and "manufacture" counterfeit women, good looking, cosmetic and affordable for the many crunched bachelors, then we would fast track the mitigation of some rampant bachelors and as well mitigate spinsters and cohabitation. Deal?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dr Otunnu, what can you do to save Uganda in 18 months?

Comrades, this to me is a masterpiece of an analysis. Behold this intelligent piece from Akaki, they are not my words;

Omera Otunnu, I read with excitement the Daily Monitor report, “Otunnu starts familiarisation tour today”, published on August 24, indicating that you were ‘expected to meet supporters in Jinja, Tororo and Mbale before proceeding to northern and western Uganda’.

The last time, 29 years ago, when another Omera, Dr Milton Obote, landed in Bushenyi, his supporters, family and relatives said they were welcoming him back from his long trip to Singapore. Those who saw him close swore that he wept at this sight of semi-naked or rug-draped dancers who welcomed him.

May I also warmly welcome you back from your long peace talks with Yoweri Museveni, which took place in Nairobi in 1986? Like Obote did in July 1980, you will soon find out, if you have not already done so, that Uganda is a totally different country from the one you left 23 years ago. It is divided is four ways: by war, wealth, access to resources and law. Whereas the south and west have enjoyed peace and tranquillity, the north and east have been ravaged by war in which a million people may have lost their lives or are physically and psychologically maimed.

If, 23 years on, the damages of the five-year war are yet to be repaired, it is reasonable to conclude that it will take at least 100 years for the north and east to recover. Whereas about 5 per cent of Uganda’s 32m people are basking in wealth, living in houses that are comparable to the ones where you used to attend diplomatic receptions in Manhattan, New York, and enjoying the best lifestyle, education and medical services money can buy at home and abroad; the other 95 per cent are trapped in a dehumanising poverty, and dying at home for lack of medicine.

Whereas all Ugandans are entitled, as a right, to access the most lucrative government jobs in the army, police and the civil service, as well as business contracts; the majority are totally excluded.
From December 2005 to February 2006, during the last election campaigns, I personally organised a survey, which found that 1.75 million people from the north and east, holding university degrees and other professional qualifications, were unemployed.

And whereas there is one law that protects local and international criminals, such as the ones who invaded and looted the DRC; stole GAVI and Global Fund; murdered innocent Ugandans in corner Kilak, Atiak Acol Bur in Acholi and Mukura in Teso; there is another law, which criminalises the innocent.

It was under this two-tracked law that on November 14, 2005, Dr Kizza Besigye was arrested and charged with rape, terrorism and treason, the last one punishable by death. Five years on, the government has not produced a scintilla of any treasonable acts. In that time, several of his “comrades-in-terrorism” have died in detention.

And it is under the same two-tracked law that some 1.8 Bakiga communities living in Bunyoro are looking at the abyss. It is against these bleak realities that I must ask you what you have planned to do and achieve within next 18 month before Uganda holds the next general elections before March 2011.

To concentrate your mind on the time constrains before you, let me put this to you in a personal context. If you decide to reclaim the late Rev. Otunnu’s farm in Mucwini and start to prepare the plots to grow Gwana (cassava), Pull (groundnuts) Layata, (sweet potatoes), Malakwan, Kal (millet), none of these staple food items will have been ready to feed your campaign agents and prospective voters, should you decide to go to Parliament.

And, as a celebrated bachelor, should you decide to take an original bride, and have a baby, the only place to find one is in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Pabo, Kilak, Atiak and scores of other camps in Acholi, Lango and Teso sub-regions. Sadly, your child will be only nine months old in February 2011, too young to run any errand.

Just randomly pronounce the name “Acirocan” (I have endured poverty) in Acholi and Lango sub-regions, or “Acan” (poverty) in Teso; and literally thousands of prospective brides will surround you in no time!

If you asked for my advice on what to do in the next 18 months, I would strongly advise you to persuade the opposition to drastically scale down their list of demands for reforms to just one item: the Electoral Commission.

All other reforms would automatically fall in place once there is an independent Electoral Commission whose members have got not only the power to bar RDCs and other partisan government officials from acting as electoral officials from village to national levels; but also the courage of their conviction to tell the world, as Samuel Kivuitu, the former chairman of the Kenya Election Commission did, that he was ordered to change the presidential election figures.

I am quite certain that your incomparable legal mind and diplomatic skills have prepared you well enough to effectively contribute to free and fair elections in 2011.

Meanwhile, let us pray together as your beloved late father Rev. Otunnu would expect: “Oh God, please protect me against my friends in the opposition for I can avoid my enemies in the Movement!”

Monday, July 20, 2009

A glamour of hope

People, my silence does in no way imply that I had been crunched by you know what or who for that matter. Far from that I interfaced with strange but promising realities right here in my backyard. For a long time i had always thought tha when fish rots from the head, the whole body is gone, little did i know that a few parts can hold normalcy. A couple of months ago i embarked on a journey to guage not if but how ill the Ugandan society is. It was clear that large chunks of its socio-cultural fabric is indeed gone. The system actually thrives on its ills rather than falling by it. This is a new paradigm in public management discourse. The bureacracy can be inept and ill but continues to thrive on those very ills. However, i was stunned by one of the public sector arms that still cherishes competence and merit as its modus operandi. And at that point, I gladly announce my career leap from the NGO world to the public sector. Aluta Continua!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Soccer, pain and stress

This friday 15th May 2009, Uganda's soccer powerhouse KCC FC takes on a certain bayelsa from Nigeria....I hope i have spelt it right. You know the"Ki-Nigeria" accent can be a mouthful. Any how, am more concerned about the current soccer craze in Uganda like many other areas of the world. When a young man in Raila's backyard ends his life after a dodgy display by his club, then you know how serious this is. Over the weekend i had the luxury of joining some locals in the dodgy but hugely popular video halls commonly known as "Bibanda" in Kampala. The investor who owns this spot complained that the turn up for the Arsenal-Chelsea game was dismal because according to him the bulk of the Arsenal fans like their Chelsea counterparts had lost faith in results. These fans had been subjected to lossess mid week in the champions league and the pain they had caused their followers showed no signs of subsiding. I imagined this is a stress management decision by the fans. It can be very painful having glueing your eyes to that screen when your team is being taken to the cleaners in a football match. I understand the pain. It reminds me of the KCC-El Merrikh game at Nakivubo when the homeside conceded a goal. I saw a guy throw off his girlfriend's arms from his shoulders. This pain and stress can be infectious. For those of you who will be at Nakivubo on Friday, lets spur on KCC all the way.

Fear, Hope and Humiliation: The main variables at play in Uganda’s political arena

As the 2011 elections or “erections” as some mother tongue influences dictate, draws closer, tales of accusations, counter accusations and the sprouting of splinter groups are abound in the media in Uganda. When Besigye coos, Museveni imagines he has barked and vice versa. When FDC flaps its wings, UPC feels it has been scratched. On the fringes, a certain Namisango O.K has created some Federo alliance of sorts. All this activity smacks of three things; Fear, Hope and Humiliation. The fear of losing power can magnify a molehill into a mountain while the hope for change can be misconstrued as an attempt to go against the big man. On the other hand no one wants to be humiliated. Who can stand his wife being raped in his face? Certainly since talks of erections or rather elections continues, we want no victims here….we must all win….Uganda must win.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When Uganda's moral rot becomes acceptable

Last night Kagu was on BBC busy defending the appointment of his sweetheart to the cabinet. It got me thinking about disinhibition in epemiology....when continuos exposure to an epidemic breeds a false sense of immunity and a decrease in conviction. In the same vein i think Uganda's moral fabric has degenerated so much that corruption has become our next door neighbour with whom we live in harmony. If appointing a relative to a public office can pass for purpoted competence of that relative then what is nepotism? There is certainly a different definition for it in Uganda. When billions of shillings are stolen by your brother and you claim to have forgiven him because he apologised, in Uganda thats being considerate. In Uganda if you steal money from public cauffers and build mansions on Kampala's swamps, you are simply a nationalist because you are re-investing that money within Uganda. If the president is towing an unrealistic policy line and you try to talk him out of it or criticize it, then you are unpatriotic. Pearl of Africa indeed. I pity the old widow next door whose attempts to secure legal transfers of her late husband's belongings through the adminitstrator general's office have stalled because the Men in Black at the office are demanding some "chai" lest her files are shelved to gather dust. All these urgly happenings thrive under our noses. If you are a pearl in this Pearl, RISE UP to the challenge....stop lip service.

Of NGOs that are being bitten by the economic depression

The onset of the economic depression had left many thinking of its effect on private sector agencies. Not alot of thought has been spared on its ravages on the humanitarian aid world. Now word reaching Lwani is that the economic depression has finally touched down at the backyards of some reputable NGOs in Uganda. Apparently the worst hit has been a sports NGO somewhere on one of the hills of Kampala. Its no laughing matter. Some fellas in one of the reputable UN donor agencies in Kampala decided to connive with accomplices in one of the key government ministries to source for a new implementing partner at the expense of this sports NGO. As at week 2 of March, staff at this NGO are in panic as rumours of lay-offs is rife. Apparently the bosses at this NGO are actually very cagy over the issue. May you please pray for these folks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mr. D's grad ritual...Lwani takes you behind the scenes

Talk of the ritual seems to surface every other time. Apparently alot happened behind the scenes during Mr. D's grad ritual. From non-sober belles to sweaty of being spoilt for choice! For starters Mr. D is the man of the moment...Just google him. As usual lwani is everywhere.

Beach Volleyball in Uganda: Fun, shapes and sizes

The heat in Kampala must by now be a concern for not just the wanainchi around but the more professional environmentalists as well. I actually spend most of my weekend days in-doors save for one of my recent weekends when i really got tempted and lifted out of my weekend comfort zone to what turned out to be a real fun event. Lido beach in Ebbz was the destination and beach volleyball was the event. The heat of the day was perfectly countered by the sight and natural scents of well dressed beach volleyballers. Most revellers including my camera were more glued to the ladies' than the men's games. Don't ask what yours truly concentrated on......As usual, Lwani brings you the pictures....Lets share the fun though belatedly...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Uganda's chatrooms-real recipe for hot gossip

For a long time i have been a keen "roomie" in some of Uganda's leading chat rooms and i always end up laughing at my computer while my office mates keep wondering what am up to. This the place where people know who is dating who,who slept with what kind of woman and who is spying for the state. Its a virtual "Big Brother House" situation. It could actually be a good "lab" for studying human relations....Someone fund this!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Synopsis of "The ritual"

Synopsis indeed! First the fanfare and glamour accompanying the graduands then the fans were let loose. The latter- loose letting reminds me of an old man's assertion that today's youth dance antics are reminiscent of anthill climbers....apparently the "good old days" were more fluidy and full of tact...Am i to agree or disagree? But stood up to its simplicity and lived up to its billing. Hey...i almost forgot this...A colleague on that night told me "Alcohol and chics do not mix"....Anyhow he had just witnessed chics get dirty after shaking one too few bottles by their waists.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A new generation indeed!

Pictures first, words later.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oweka Daniel.......Congs!

Inspite of the long spell of silence, Lwani returns to pay tribute to a certain Mr. Oweka Daniel- a young diligent man who dons his graduation gown this Friday 27th Februray 2009 in an academic ritual commemorating his successes. Omera Oweka, you are the epitome of the largely untold and countless miletsones that the John Apire Otto family has strode over the past decade and a half. Seeing your face today reminds many of the little brilliant courageous man you were in 1998 when the urgly hands of death stole Mr. Otto and robbed the family of its head. However, this friday we unite in tears of joy not sadness, in drones of determination no sorrow and in anticipation of greater heights not fear. To me especially, i salute you Oweka....."Tic cingi ber, ryeko ni obedo yweka wa.....wamari mada!"

One Love.....By the way, your pictures will grace Lwani next week...a drammatic return..isn't it?

Happy Celebrations.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Karamoja: Beautiful land, Beautiful people...

Over the years many ill-travelled and knowledge-cripled persons hand groups have held Karamoja in contempt. To them its a barren land without anything good. Its hightime such fellas faced the truth. Visiting Karamoja in 2008 for me was the most notable highlight. It was an opportunity not just to visit the beautiful land that Karamoja is, but interact with its beautiful people as well. As usual, Lwani lets the pictures do the talking.....Listen to my pictures.
A view of the beautiful landscape in Nakapiripirit
A dry river bed along the Nakapiripirit-Moroto highway. In Karamoja, seasonal rivers are not a strange phenomenon. During the dry season, this is how the river bed looks like. Ever imagined walking on a river bed? Look no further than Karamoja during the dry season.

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