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Friday, January 25, 2008

Politics redefined

Dozens of African writers descended upon Kampala mid month for a festival. And several of them participated in a panel talk on politics, conflict and creativity at Makerere University.
Local poet Timothy Wangusa set the proverbial ball rolling with, shall we say, an accurate definition of politics that drew chuckles.
"Politics, as everybody knows, is the art –but for the sake of scientists among us –and science of managing society," he began. "But from experience, I've come up with my own definition. It is a variation on that one. Politics is the artlessness and sciencelessness of mismanaging society."

Published in Sunday Monitor, October 30, 2005

Mama Miria alone, frightened, takes to crossword puzzles

As a dashing young lady, she played hard to get.
"It took some time to convince me that I can really become the wife of a prime minister," enthused the former first lady.
Last Sunday, she was on Desert Island Discs, a programme on Capital FM.
Miria Obote said her husband had to depend on the charm of his hunky pal, Felix Onama, to bring her love chits while she was pursuing secretarial studies in UK.
The naturally shy [her own words] mama whose music taste rotates around the likes of Franco, Tom John, Ronald Mayinja, Mbilia Bel and Philly Lutaya is an avid reader of classic novels.
She misses her dear husband desperately: "I've a problem of sleeping. I feel so lonely since the demise of my husband. I miss his words of encouragement," she said.
But when sleep is so elusive, she knits and fills in crossword puyzzles: "There is a South African magazine called You which has a lot of big crossword puzzles. If there is a word I cannot get, I struggle and struggle until I get it. It started as a habit and now I’m addicted," she said.
Puzzles help her when she's stressed. Disturbed she is. Little wonder her last request was Alone And Frightened by Philly Lutaya.

Published in Sunday Monitor, December 18, 2008, pg. 22

Masscom Online resurrects

MAKERERE- When the Masscom radio went on air, everyone was stitched with happiness. They thought they had found the small path that leads to celebrity world. But they were wrong. The Mass Communication Department made it clear that the radio – Campus FM 107 was for training purposes, nothing more. Students majoring in broadcasting would learn to use the radio equipment, the practical side of programming and basically what it takes to speak behind the microphone.

Of course, the jumpy girls who had thought of becoming the next Christine Mawadri were utterly dejected and complained loudly. And now, the rebirth of Masscom Online has assuaged their fears, especially second year students who are already tired of hunting for the elusive media houses and other organisations from where to do their internship.
Our prospective journalists have been told not to worry, as some will be allowed to do their internship on this e-paper. Masscom Online is a website that was started by Masscom students in March 2002. It had gone into slumber since it was being run by volunteers who have since left. But now that it's up again, campusers interested in practicing the art of writing have gone wild trying to get the scoop on whatever 'stupidity' takes place around our beloved Ivory Tower!

Mak quiet

MAKERERE-Campus is unusually quiet. Save for a few foreign students who stayed behind and other 'homeless' dudes (just joking), the rest are home still burping following a great Christmas feast and getting ready for the New Year fete.

Strutting around Makerere, you will be surprised at how quiet it can be. The fleet of cars that always drop girls or park at the hill are no more. It is strange that one cannot spot any catwalk at the Ivory Tower. It's a secluded university. A few birds here and there can be heard chirping joyously as if to pray that the festive season forever go on.

On Christmas, I moved about and fell in love with bats whose habitat are the trees next to Nsibirwa Hall. Man, these creatures look gigantic compared to the normal sized bats! Not only do they have heavy wing-like arms, but also, their squeals can scare the hell out of a coward. While they are nocturnal and therefore supposed to keep peace and play hide and seek at night, these Makerere creatures look like they have conquered the university.

But then, we are in New Year festivity, lets assume they want to make the best of it before students return to destabilise their peace!

Published in Daily Monitor, December 30, 2004

Arsenal, SA bring untold joy

Breathtaking impeccable, amazing, irresistible, awesome! That and more was the grain of words Arsenal fanatics used to describe the style of the unassailable Arsenal after it was crowned the 2004-2005 English Premiership Barclaycard champion.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon when the gunners became the first side to sweep through the entire season unbeaten. Only Preston North End managed that feat in the 1888-1889 soccer premiership season with only 22 league games.

But last weekend Arsenal went 40 games without a sting making a record that may never be broken. With such footballing, soccer lovers at this hill had reason to jubilate.
There was a feel of making merry round all the halls of residence and hostels around campus. Students sang hosanna, celebrating as if they belonged to Highbury.

It was clear that soccer is so deeply ingrained in the veins of campusers. The real action was at Mitchell hall the true land of Arsenal maniacs. Manchester United fans scared of what would come with the party feigned sickness and excused themselves.

Then students engaged their wits citing Thierry Henry as the finest, smoothest, most fabulous soccer player the world over. In the most graceful and profound style, the French phenomenon netted 30 premier goals.

Makerereans joined the party at Club silk to celebrate with the rest of the Arsenal-Uganda supporters and justifiably so. Drinks flowed; goers and converts alike entertained themselves with chants of Bebe Cool’s Arse, Arse Arsenal yasinga! The rest of Ivory Tower stayed put with red Arsenal jerseys all around; the joy of such magnitude could blind even monks.

The comical twist of the electrifying partying however, was failure to tell who was celebrating what. South Africa winning the bid to host the 2010 World Cup coincided with the Arsenal celebratory jamboree to pave way for more bittersweet ecstasy. A girl who was crying said the humiliation Arsenal went through had finally paid off.

"Everyone knew the treble was ours until Man U buried our hopes of retaining the FA cup. Chelsea then kicked our ass out of Champions League. And now Arsenal makes history, goes the entire season unbeaten, Henry takes the top goal scorers’ medal, is voted players’ best player, Arsenal wins premiership, South Africa is to host the 2010 World cup, it's too good to be true," she said as tears run down her cheeks.

Many others shed tears of joy. Campus was ripe with whistle blowing, drumming and dancing and shouting. For them, Arsenal had reaped more than a treble. And they boozed to show it. In canteens beer quickly run out stock.

Volumes of radios and television sets were turned up as students grappled to catch the latest commentary on South Africa and Arsenal's winning ways.
Nelson Mandela’s speech touched most of the girls. Earlier in the day, CNN had got him live shedding a tear or two. He said he felt like a boy of 15 following South Africa's triumph over Morocco. Many students believe this is a lifetime chance to watch the World Cup live come 2010.

"I’ll be doing my Masters Degree in South Africa. I guess it will open a door for me to watch a game or two," Michael a Drama student said.

So all night long, the party went on as people toasted for the honour South Africa will bring to the rest of Africa when it hosts the 2010 World Cup, and Arsenal for beautifying the good game of soccerR!

Published in Daily Monitor, May 22, 2004


Artist: Emily Mwebaze
Album: Okurwana
Number of tracks: Six
Reviewed by: Dennis D. Muhumuza

She has just climbed the local music platform but judging the strength of her six-track, she could be a force to reckon with.
First is Okurwana (fighting), the title track of the album.
It's followed by the funky Tukore (let's work) in which the singer calls upon women to work hard and earn something for life to be fair to them, and to be assured of supper and tomorrow.
In Abasheija, she castigates men who batter their wives and yet women are their ribs. She sings that there are alternative methods of solving disagreements rather than violence.
Mama is a bittersweet ballad about women who walk out of the relationship to seek fresh love, leaving behind their children to suffer.
The album includes one gospel Luganda song, Akwetaga; the rest are in Runyankole-Rukiga.
At last but very catchy a tune is her first single, Kakwanjure, whose video enjoys prominent airplay on WBS' 'Late Show' program and 'African Rhythms', and on radio stations in western Uganda. It's a marriage song that shows the singer introducing her prospective hubby to her parents.
This TV anchor with WBSTV) sings rather nostalgically that if you don't fall for her seductive voice, you will love the fact that her music promotes positive valuess.

Published in Daily Monitor, May 26, 2007

At what age do most men lose their virginity?

Virginity for boys is the most interesting chapter ever handled! But what is virginity anyway? The dictionary defines it as 'the state of being pure, unsullied or untouched.' Beautifully put, a virgin is someone who is spotlessly clean and has not defiled his body through sexual intercourse with another person, animal or beast.

Uganda harbours a few male virgins because quite a number have already lost it, some through means beyond their own initiative. The good book (Bible) says everyone is born a virgin and all are called to take this purity into marriage. Male virginity holds a special significance and should also be valued. A survey carried out among youths revealed that we have peanut virgin boys.

24-year-old Mwine of Bukoto confessed to have lost his virginity in his third year at the university: "I totally knew nothing about sex, the girl who broke my virginity was so impressed and couldn't believe she had seduced a virgin. Until we broke up, she still had respect for me," Mwine said adding that many of his friends are still virgins.

What a discovery! Boys lose their virginity as early as 13. In reply to when and how many lost their virginity, it was interesting to know that some have no regrets whatsoever.

"I lost it and I have no regrets," says Moses, a Canteen attendant in Mitchell Hall Makerere. "It was at an early age in primary school; in the bush when we were coming from school. It was painful but I was excited that at last I had slept with a girl," he says.

Like Moses, the crave for adventure to experiment what sex is all about leads lots of young souls into losing the desirable chastity.

"I sat next to this girl in one Afro-Stone variety show in the main hall and we were friends by the time the show ended. One weekend, we went dancing at Club Silk… the booze and dancing was too much, the following morning, I was virgin no more," says Kenneth who is now a teacher in Kampala.

At least Kenneth was an adult when he lost his virginity but guys have surrendered their purity to house girls at a tender age.

"I think I was 14 when the housegirl lay on the bed and forced me on top of her. It was a holiday and our parents were always away. I was young but big, and we continued enjoying it till she left," says Ivan who is grateful to the girl who gave him his first lesson on sexual matters.

Unfortunately, many do not use condoms the first time and are therefore open to Sexually Transmitted Diseases such as the fatal AIDS. This is basically the result of what Ivan of Makerere university called, 'a question of gentle rape.'

"Man, this babe comes to your room clad in a hot bikini, smelling heavenly! Then she sits on your bed and keeps turning and sighing, that's how I lost it; I didn't use a condom, the seduction was too much to resist," he said.

The real question however is, when is one supposed to lose his virginity. Those talked to, said there is no age limit. That sex comes spontaneously, "Your hommies are having it, they come to you and say it is OK, you don't want to appear a dummy, so you go out and have a bite of the forbidden fruit," a cheeky Brian said.

There are those whose first experience was by coincidence with a virgin partner. "My first time was with a virgin, a neighbour on whom I had a crush. Because we had the hots for each other, we tried out this game as teens, but it didn't work out but I always had it with her in my dreams," says Junior who finished university last year and is still jobless.

The first time is always an unforgettable story for the guys. The youth believe that virginity in the Uganda of today is impossible.

"People have sex in clubs…people have sex everywhere. Virginity at Campus, and for men-no!" exclaimed Stephen an education student at Makerere University. He said innocents fall under the spell of horny women.

"I got saved after losing my virginity. I felt I had lost my sacredness, I felt used…we had used no condoms and above all, the girl was not even a virgin," cried Allan. "But since, I have learnt to abstain, God has forgiven me and I know He will choose the best wife for me," he says.

The sad thing is that virginity has no spare part. Once lost, always lost. Doctors have made it clear that the first time a person has sex is when they lose their virginity.

Those who lost it said they were driven by the fear to confess to their mates that they are virgins lest they were laughed at. Like you read, girls even worsen the situation as they expect regular sex from their innocent boyfriends.

Nevertheless, more Makerere University students believe they can 're-virginise' themselves and have signed 'true love waits' cards with words, "I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my country, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to be sexually pure until the day I give myself only to my marriage partner in a covenant marriage relationship!"

And they are living true to this commitment. Remember Jesus forgave the woman caught committing adultery by telling her to go and sin no more. Likewise, guys can opt to sin no more by abstaining; only then, secondary virginity will forge a certain hope for the future!

Published in Daily Monitor, December 17, 2004

How to tell a man is a virgin


In traditional thinking 'male' virginity as such does not seem to exist. Sex almost magically runs on the male orgasm and highly depends on the man's decision of whether to have it or not. So the question of virginity has almost been exclusively left a female concept.

There are several arguments as regards men's virginity. Some doctors believe that by simply looking at a man's knees you can tell whether he is a virgin or not.

"A man with dark knees is not a virgin," says Dr Khumalo, although he has highly been criticised for this view he says he speaks with confidence because of his experience in testing for virginity. Khumalo says he was tested for virginity when he was a boy, that is how he learnt the method of testing for male virginity. The parameters for testing male virginity, according to Dr. Khumalo, are: a vein on the penis, hymen, how easily the foreskin easily slips back and forth.

"Young boys also have hymen, white lacy skin on the foreskin ... if the foreskin on the penis slips away easily, it means that the hymen is gone… If the foreskin is sore and hard to move, then it means he is still a virgin," he says, adding that a certain vein on the penis is also checked- if it can still be seen, it means he is either a virgin or that he has never slept with a virgin.

"The only time that the vein disappears is when a boy sleeps with a virgin because her vaginal opening is still tight. If a boy urinates straight up into the air, he is a virgin. If the urine sprays, he has had sex before," says Dr Khumalo.

However, Dr Alice's archives on the Internet do not agree with Dr Khumalo's ideas. The archives say: "Male virginity or lack thereof cannot be detected sometimes when the frenulum (the loose part of the skin just below the tip on the underside of the penis) is tight. If the frenulum has not torn and bled during masturbation then it is probable it will not tear when having sex and for that matter it becomes hard to tell whether a man is a virgin or not."

Dr Alice strongly argues that male virginity cannot be detected by simply looking at the penis. She is not alone in her disagreement with Khumalo, several doctors advance ideas like men who like to clean themselves. They say these men pull their foreskins back and forth often and this makes their foreskin lacy. Does cleaning themselves therefore amount to loss of virginity?

Expert male virginity testers say no, virginity cannot be lost basing on cleaning the penis. When approached for comment, Dr Merwyn Jacobson gynecologist at Linksfield clinic disagreed with all of Khumalo's male virginity theories.

"There is no scientific basis for Khumalo's arguments, but I am open to education… Men don't have hymen and what happens if a guy masturbates ... it makes the foreskin looser," says Dr Merwyn. "Some men retract the foreskin to clean the penis, they are diligent in cleaning under the foreskin and get rid of secretions, this makes their foreskin slip back easily," he goes on to say.

Dr Khumalo's parameter of hymen (white part around the foreskin of the penis) and that of the vein disappearing and reappearing during and after sex is also seriously questioned by several doctors.

"I am not aware of any vein that disappears with sex - and then again, would it not disappear with masturbation as well?" asks Dr Merwyn. He says, he was not particularly aware about the white part around the foreskin that Khumalo explained as the hymen.

Dr Josephine Birungi of St. Josephs Clinic and Lab. Services in Wandegeya says that while girls can physically be examined for virginity, for boys, it is not scientifically viable.

"Some boys are born with very tight skins around their sexual organs. If they have coitus (inserting a penis into a girl's vagina,) the foreskin may tie itself very tightly until the victim is circumcised," she says. Birungi says some men could have lost their foreskin to circumcision, which does not mean they lost virginity.

Doctors have made it clear that the first time a person has sex with another person is when they lose their virginity and once lost, forever lost.The doctors have said that without penetrative sex, there is no loss of virginity so we may say that all men that masturbate and clean their skins and circumcise are still virgins.

While it is agreeable to many doctors that male virginity is hard to test, the question remains is it possible to tell a man is a virgin? The conclusion seems definite; it is extremely hard to tell a man is a virgin.

Published in Daily Monitor, December 17, 2004

Makerere’s computerised Identity cards frustrate impersonaters

Makerere has moved a step ahead with the introduction of new student Identity Cards. This comes after the university computerized its operations with computerized IDs changed to suit the information and communication technology (ICT.)

The identity cards cost Shs11,200 and are issued to students after registration. However one must go through the rigorous registration exercise before getting the identity card. And after registration, a student will not receive the identity card immediately as a registration print out which is a prerequisite to getting identity cards is always delayed.

Apart from students complaining that such identity cards are charged abnormally, there is also a problem where many are denied access to library books because they don't have the new identity cards. This comes at a time when course works and tests are the order of the day; not forgetting that exams are around the corner.

Nevertheless, the new identity cards are sophisticated. They come with a cardholder, and are designed to shimmer. When you hold it to the sun, a world map is reflected. Also, the background has the university's main building.
Other features on the card include the university emblem, a chip, and the Academic Registrar's signature. Like any other identity card it holds the student's photograph, and expiry date.
This new identity card has the student's number unlike the old ones. For security measures, a unique characteristic such as a fingerprint and a student's signature are included to limit forgery and impersonation.
The identity cards, which are the first of their kind at the Ivory Tower, are the size of the ATM card. According to Alex Watila, one of the officials dealing out the same identity cards, they are done by specialists outside Uganda and are quality assured.
"These identity cards work like ATM cards that store a certain amount of data. With time, the university wants to put ATM machines, so you can access any information you want as long as you have user rights," he says.
Makerere is about to completely computerize all its systems. This means that there will be an online data collection and students will in the near future, be able to use these identity cards and access the information through a database recorded on the Internet provided the student has a password that will give him the exclusive rights to log in.
The advantage the new identity card has over the old one is that it cannot be forged and has solved the problem of congestion at issuing centres. On average, 200-500 students are issued with identity cards a day. Three standing cameras do this job; with three computers, all the attendants do is to monitor the process. A student just stands in front of the camera as his or her picture is projected on the computer screen.The student is also given the opportunity to choose the picture he or she wants on his identity card.
On the other hand, the delicate identity cards are made out of hard plastic and must be handled carefully lest they get spoilt quickly.
They are also renewable per year at a fee of 2000 shillings. This is one of the major weapons the authorities are using at the university to beat the rate of impersonaters that was becoming unbearable in the recent past.
The students in Makerere can now be rest assured the administrators are committed to taking Makerere to a new level.
Published in Daily Monitor, December 13, 2004

Teachers nurture poor reading

A research study on literacy practices in primary schools in Uganda shows that lack of non-text reading materials is partly responsible for the poor reading culture in the country.
The study also holds teachers responsible, for refusing to allow pupils borrow and take home textbooks. The research blames poverty and ignorance in homes for increasing the poor reading pattern.
Inadequacy of local language learning material is also cited as one of the major barriers to the poor reading culture. Multi-lingual communities like Kibaale are the most affected. Other barriers to reading in majority of children in rural areas include an acute shortage of trained teachers to teach in the local language.
These findings were revealed by stakeholders and educators in a one day dissemination workshop at Hotel Africana- Kampala. This was after a team of five researchers conducted a study on, Literacy practices in primary schools in Uganda: Lessons for future interventions.
According to Nansozi K. Muwanga(Ph.D) lecturer and Principle Investigator, the overall objective of the study was to identify good and poor literacy practices in primary schools and then recommend useful designs for future interventions to improve these policies and practices.
The research study sponsored by Makerere University and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, sampled 43 primary schools in four districts; Kalangala (central), Kibaale (western), Kampala (metropolitan), and Iganga (Eastern Uganda). Accordingly, 43 head teachers, 334 parents, and 150 teachers were interviewed and survey questionnaires were answered by 681 pupils.
Principle findings revealed that there is laxity of teachers when it comes to preparing work schemes. Of the schools reached, 37 head teachers who claimed to have written rules to govern the flow of reading materials couldn't produce the said work schemes.
It was discovered that pupils are not induced into the practice of reading at an early age of their primary education because most libraries especially in rural schools do not provide reading materials for P1 to P4 pupils. The research revealed that in some schools, poor pupils are denied access to reading materials for fear that they may lose the books and yet cannot replace them.
The other finding was that many text books remain in stores of most schools, a few are borrowed, most are lost and misplaced. According to the study, teachers themselves have lost a culture of reading and cannot therefore encourage their pupils to read.
On a brighter side the research revealed that in most urban and international schools, pupils read daily newspapers like Daily Monitor and New Vision. However their village counterparts cannot access the newspapers. The only village schools that could access newspapers were the government aided ones which are supplied with free pull-outs such as Young Talk, Tree Talk and Straight Talk. This meant that pupils in urban schools are exposed to early reading and because they read daily, they learn the language of instruction quickly and efficiently.
The reaserch also found out that, there is minimal teaching in rural schools compared to urban schools. Children study under trees. In fact in one of the rural schools, a P4 pupil failed to spell 'boy' and misspelt it as 'boyi.' The plight of rural schools is horrendus to the extent of not having drama, story telling or child to child lessons which would ignite warmth among pupils and support the process of inquiry.
Also, the large size of classes in most poor rural schools makes it difficult for teachers to appropriately teach reading. The big numbers came with the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1997 that saw the rise in enrollment, from 2.7million children in 8,000 schools in 1996 to 7.592.293 in 13,300 schools in 2003.
The research says this has put a strain on the education system including supply of teachers and text book provision. As a result, majority of pupils read only prescribed text books when they have them in order to pass examinations. But the Ministry Of Education and Sports provides text books and instructional materials which should be given to the learners for their active use at schools and at home for reference.
Sadly, of the schools visited, 78% said they had children with reading related impairments like short and long sightedness, blindness and mental retardation.
The research recommended that activities for enhancing literacy should take pupils into consideration and must be balanced between writing, debating, speech, academic performance and reading for pleasure.
The research, also recommended that schools must ensure pupil's access to non-text book reading materials coupled with practices that promote desirable reading habits to improve literacy. Pupils should be encouraged to write their own stories, draw charts which are pinned in class rooms, and also make flash cards using locally made materials. Parents should also step in to promote reading habits in their children; at regional and district level. Parents should also collaborate with national and the local community on literacy development issues.
The research also reccomended that training and monitoring of teachers is key to development and promotion of reading as is the same when local language teachers and readers are trained.
Finally, the research said there is need for public/private partnership dialogue and exchange on how to improve reading in school especially that libraries should be made fantastic places for pupils to be interested in reading.
The final detailed report of the committe will be released on January 31, 2004.
Published in Daily Monitor, December 20, 2004

A lot to learn from “One Night Stand”

While people will go back and forth on what Christian drama is, One Night Stand, is a model for love gone sour. The play centres on the life of Sebastian (Moses Isingoma), 40, a ship captain, who neglects his wife. Rhoda (Barbara Nansikombi), in her late 30's. She cannot do without marital intimacy, and because her husband is married to his job and away all the time, she gives in to temptation. Her alleged 'one night stand' with Sebastian's younger brother and lawyer, Kombozi (Albert Mubiru) is what drives the play.

The great Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C) once stressed that drama is the imitation of life, that mankind learns through imitation, that learning something is the greatest pleasure of life, and that all human happiness or misery takes the form of action. It seems the playwright, Mr Kenneth Kimuli, who also plays Sebastian's porter, had Aristotle's words in mind when he penned One Night Stand. The viewer feels the tension, knowing that Rhoda, who has previously experienced constant miscarriages, is pregnant with another man's child.

Will Eseza (Florence Kabugo), a close neighbor and friend to Rhoda with whom they share top secrets drop the bomb?

Other characters include Kabogoza, who trades gossip, Obote (Abel Kabugo), plays the villain while Kateeba (Jeff), Sebastian's wormate is the peacemaker. The team helps to develop the plot with scintillating action until the very climax.

"On the whole, the play spells out the trials and tribulations women face in marriages," says Kimuli. "It is not just to be seen, but to be experienced as well."
Performed by Kampala Pentecostal Church (KPC) drama team, One Night Stand will be showing at the national theatre starting this Thursday, at 2p.m. Entrance fee is Shs3,000 and Shs6,000 for students and adults respectively.
There will also be a VIP show on September 17, for Shs10,000.

The play is directed by Ms Florence Kabugo.

Published in Daily Monitor, September 8, 2006

Book Review

Title: Don't Miss Your Kids
Author: Charlene Ann Baumbich
Reviewed by Dennis D. Muhumuza

Don't Miss Your Kids speaks to mothers who neglect their maternal role in favour of their careers. Rather than spend time with their children, these women try to make up for their absence with expensive toys, schools and professional house helps.

It's a well-written book that helps parents realise what a treasure "those crazy, irritating, wonderful kids" are.

The author provokes career women to forget their wonderful jobs for a moment and bring up their children NOW.

She creates what she calls the "empty nest" by portraying that parents who are always busy at work are destined for empty memories during old age because by that time their children will have grown up. The parents in this category are bound to miss heart-warming experiences like "first smiles, giggles, first steps…sibling quarrels, sleep-overs and graduation tears."

By the time ones' children leave, one has either basked in the essence of their lives or missed it. What they leave behind is precious memories, both good and bad.

She ably juxtaposes the problems and frustrations of parenting with practical insights on how to keep a sense of humour, see daily crises, recognise children's uniqueness and to give yourself permission to enjoy your kids while they are still at home.

She writes that the stay-home mother sees her children grow into men and women and keeps "full-bloomed stay-at-home memories." In her old age, she not only reminisces about them, but also about how they helped her evolve!

--Daily Monitor, January 6, 2007

Nothing beats the love letter


It was always a day to remember when you received a letter from a loved one! The silence, the waiting and finally the overwhelming joy when your name was read at the assembly to come for your letter -it was remarkable! You were a student at St Kaggwa High School, and she wrote from Bweranyangi Girls School.

That was back in the day when love letters ruled the world of relationships. A letter was a treasured asset, and a guy who received them often was king while he who rarely got was called zonto. If you couldn't hook a girl to write to you, so the boys argued, then you were better off becoming a woman and wearing skirts.

And those fascinating love letters came in handy to the shy guys. Writing that adorable missive was the best way to pour out your heart, to say what you couldn't say face to face with your girl.

In the letter you talked of her loveliness, of the sleepless nights you had thinking about her. In the best possible way, you conveyed the true feelings of the heart. She was your hot potato, and life would be drab without her.

"I just can't seem to find the words to express how I feel about you," you wrote. "I can only say that I love and love you from the deepest part of my heart, darling."

A fortnight or so later, the girl, obviously smitten, wrote back to say reading your letter made her feel like she was on a journey to paradise. You made her feel like no other, and you were her star. I wonder what I would do without you, she wrote, promising to love you till the end of time.

The letters told the story of two individuals at ease. She wrote about the "stinking school environment," the stress of books and how it pained her not to see you, be near you and touch you. In a flowery style synonymous with American romance novels, she added that she was yearning to be with you and ended her letter with a cartoon depicting a couple walking down the aisle and with a dedication such as Luther Vandross' Amazing Love!

How things have fallen apart! Too many cooks in form of modern technology have since spoiled the love broth. The era of SMS and e-mail has replaced the time when letters left a trail of heartbreak.

Today, boy doesn't even need to see girl, except when they want to make love. After all she's merely a phone call, an SMS, or e-mail away. If they feel fondness, they merely exchange stale love texts that have been making the rounds in cyberspace.

"I'm not wealthy, but I've a rich heart. I'm not the best, but I try my best. I may not be right in everything, but I am sure I was not wrong in having you as my LOVER," one such text reads.

Little wonder broken relationships are the fashion nowadays. Stories abound of lovers pouring acid on each other and marriages breaking up because the bond created by the intimate love letter is no more.

As Brenda, a university student, says, women like something they can document and hold on to and show off to their friends. The classic love letter fits that bill.

"The knowledge that my man can sit to write about my beauty and how lucky he was to find me, weakens my knees," she confessed. “Lovers should turn to scribbling love notes to each other to save their marriages because love letters are more romantic and more permanent than SMSs or e-mails."

Such is the letter Tess writes to her estranged husband Angel Clare, in Thomas Hardy's Tess d'Urbervilles. Angel cannot forget that letter. The poor girl had really poured out her heart. When he returns from Brazil, Angel takes the now crumpled letter from his pocket and reads it again before setting out on a journey to find his only true love.

This kind of brings back fond memories of piles of high school love letters in the corner of your suitcase, the letters you always whipped out when you were bored to lighten your soul -the beautiful envelope, a decorated piece of paper, tender handwriting and sweet words that made your heart ache with new love.

Think of the nights you sat at your table in your tranquil bedroom to write to your love. Of the soft music playing -perhaps Whitney Houston's I'll Always Love You -how lonely you felt, and how you wanted her. And you said all this in your letter to her. You also put sugar in the envelope, and perfumed the letter before you posted it the following day.

A love letter will always be treasured. You can bet your girl will read it over and over again and remember it and know that you still care even when the going gets rough.

So, be an affectionate lover and write that special person in your life a passionate letter. It could better be received than a dozen roses. It could rekindle the electricity of first love and save your relationship!

--Daily Monitor, October 26, 2006

From campus all roads lead to the rolex village

When the sun sets to give way to the twinkling city lights, trickles of excited freshers with their purses and handbags swarm the rolex maker in Wandegeya. For the uninitiated, the rolex isn't a wristwatch. Rather it is a delicious chapatti sandwich containing fried eggs mixed with cabbage, tomatoes and onions.

My first taste of this culinary masterpiece was an awesome experience. It reminded me of that nursery tale about a stupid dog, which after swallowing a hot juicy piece of roasted meat was torn between spitting its already delicious scooped flesh or swallowing this hell-like beef until it choked to death. Well, the rolex can choke your pockets or make you chew your school fees.

By 6 p.m., the congestion tightens at the small gate of University Hall [commonly known as UH] overlooking Wandegeya. The chic, young, old and the jobless enjoy this Wandegeya specialty. Which is why I'm convinced there must be some golden ingredient in the rolex which must have derived its name in the fact that a chapatti is rolled in order to make the sandwich.

What makes this unique is that people from all walks of life come to taste the rolex. Lecturers, the job hunters, mechanics, taxi drivers, street kids, wheelbarrow pushers, conmen, kanyamas and many of the affluent city dwellers park their sleek cars nearby and come to order for a rolex. And the Wandegeya lads are minting money each day.

Since they know where to find the hungry men, the ladies of the night have also joined in the queue ostensibly to buy a rolex. By 10 p.m., they spot you looking lonely because you did not have the nerve to join the scramble for the rolex. They seek you out. After joining you, the woman will whisper in your ear something to the effect that "since you are a fresher the price is negotiable!"

Dressed in skimpy attire, they send your mind reeling as to whether some of them could be fellow Makerereans, as rumour holds. "Jjangu tugende," [come let’s go] the lady tempts you further. The cowardly likes of us will then bolt –and then weigh the scales back in your room on whether this was the right decision. But then, you open your rolex pack and all your misgivings evaporate as you relish the delicious sandwich. Long live the rolex!

Published in Daily Monitor, Thursday, October 9, 2003

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We dared the village night dancer

My humble village used to believe in witchcraft, occult powers, voodoo curses and the existence of mysterious demons and spirits. Folks who subscribed to these could often be heard voraciously drumming in the night, appeasing their small gods. Chants and performances of hideous dances around devilish relics like gourds and small stools when a family member mysteriously died were common. The bereaved had to appease the angry gods lest they struck again. It is not extraordinary therefore that many sorcerers, wizards, witches and night dancers existed in my home village.
But one man who sent cold shivers into the hearts of many was a neighbour called Mwirima. He was said to be a rainmaker but also doubled as a night dancer. Stories abounded about his scary lifestyle.For instance, it was whispered that he only fed on human flesh and had never lacked meat in his home. Whenever someone died in the village, so it was said, Mwirima would beckon his powers to crack down the tomb and exhume the just buried corpse.

Another horrific tale was about how he would dip a child's arm in a boiling pot of water and let it be till he returned from his escapades. Accordingly, his wife was to sleep on the same side of the bed facing the wall and not turning or even wincing. Short of this, her dear husband would be nabbed.

Whatever! We were victims of Mwirima's odious nocturnal visitations. In the deep of night, he could be heard stomping his way around our homestead - something that always emersed us in fright and horror. It was much later during the rage of adolescent hormones that I gathered the guts to act 'peeping Tom'. On that unforgettable night, I silently opened the window and stole a look. There he was, dressed in dry banana leaves that made stuttering noise at every step he made. He looked like a jumbo puzzle and when he walked, the ground shook as if there was a powerful earthquake.

The Nigerians say that when the moon is shining, the cripple becomes hungry for a walk. Same story for Mwirima - he was usually at his best when the moon was bright. Looking at him in the moonlit night, the dry banana leaves fully camouflaged him, giving him the size of a chimpanzee. He would make strange signs and body movements. The ugliest of his acts was when he brushed his buttocks on the front door of our house. All this time, he would drone on in a low voice, a very dull voice. Everything about Mwirima gashed my body in pieces of panic. Yet I held on by the window totally lost in following whatever he did. In his aprons, with chains making a ding-ding-dong noise as he moved, and his hair standing spooked on his head, Mwirima was like a devil come to terrorise the neighbourhood. He always held a burning flame and after his retreat, I would creep back to my little bed and stay awake scared like a trapped bird. Outside in the dark night, the hurricane would blow; windows creak, sinister and shocking as if in conspiracy with the night dancer. And in the morning, we found chewed plants littering our veranda.

This went on for sometime until I joined high school. At school, we trained in all kinds of acrobatics and kick-boxing. It was always invigorating and one felt he could defend himself at all costs. This pride pushed us to hunt down Mwirima. At this time, a friend and I had grown skeptical about his 'powers' and peculiar acts. We were determined to grab him and make him pay for his sins.

We made a master plan and one beautiful summer night, when the moon was smiling down the earth, we got ready for him, armed with pangas, a torch, a match box and a small bucket full of petrol. Judgment day for Mwirima had dawned. We left the front door unbolted and slightly ajar, praying against all odds that when Mwirima rubbed his bums on the door, he would fall in. And we would swipe him, drench him in petrol and set him ablaze. But was ours indeed a master plan?

When the moment of truth arrived, I felt very strange - like I was in a lizard's skin. I still don't know about my colleague but my hair stiffened on the back of my head as I stood behind the door shivering like a little girl. What if I became prey to his evil deeds? Our resolve to corner this wizard was almost running out when my partner in crime whispered something about bravery and brevity being the key to the success of our campaign. We had hardly conquered our doubts when we heard Mwirima do his trot just like a man about to face the circumcision knife. We immediately conditioned our worst worries into fortitude and waited on alert.

It seemed lady luck was on our side, for as soon as Mwirima rubbed his bums on the door, he landed flat, his back on the floor. At that moment, I shouted at my friend to wash the night dancer with the petrol while at the same time I raised my machete to chop him to pieces. Unfortunately, I lost balance and fell as the damn machete bounced off my hands to the base. Desperate to accomplish the mission, I picked it up again and aimed too late - Mwirima had already slithered away.

My accomplice aimed a torch at him as we followed but gave up when Mwirima vanished through the dark banana plantation. I swear at that moment I felt overwhelmed by a supernatural presence and fell to the ground, drained of all the energy and full of remorse that our mission had aborted.

This encounter with the strange night dancer left me nauseated -I even vomited. It was argued much later that Mwirima's paranormal powers had rendered us immobile, that he caught us in a spell. Some of our superstitious neighbours advised my parents to seek the services of a witchdoctor before Mwirima made us regret why we had challenged his powers. But my father, a staunch Catholic, could hear none of it. Instead he invited a parish priest who prayed for us.

In the subsequent days, I had warped dreams about the presence of Mwirima. Luckily for me, the ugly dreams vanished and with them Mr Mwirima. Never again, did he disturb our peace with his night dancing visitations!

Published in Sunday Monitor, March 19, 2006

Monumental bonds

At Makerere University, halls of residence live by a certain culture. It is a culture enshrined in monumental sculptures built in six of the seven halls. Although they have generated conflicting views among students as to what they really represent, for many students, these statues represent power and a legacy left behind by ancestors of this 83-year-old Ivory Tower. While some people feel that the monuments are irrelevant and should be demolished, others say that they give the halls a sense of identity.

Gongom and Gongomess: Lumumba Hall, named after Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire), prides in the statue called Gongom. Artist Elly Tumwine moulded him out of metal scraps in the 1970s. Today, Gongom spots sunglasses and an academic gown. His manhood is thrust forward, dressed in a condom. Gongom is treated like a father of the hall. He is showered with the highest titles on the land such as His Majesty, Professor, Emperor and many others. He is considered the founder of the great 'Lumumba Empire' (because it is the largest hall, its power is likened to that of an elephant). Gongom 'stands' in front of the mess where 'elephants' (Lumumba residents) bow before him (some lie at his feet) in utmost reverence before they serve their food.

A stone-throw away from Lumumba is the towering Mary Stuart Hall - popularly known as Box because it is architecturally structured like a box. On the ground floor, near the custodian's office stands the beautiful statue called Gongomess - seen as a wife of Gongom. Lumumba residents believe that in the beginning, the world was formless, empty and undeveloped until Gongom (the only person who existed then) decided to create a companion because he was very lonely. According to the Lumbox (Lumumba and Box halls) Encyclopedia 2001, he took out one of his ribs and created Gongomess. She stands as a symbol of womanhood, clad in a flowery gomesi to represent the modesty of the African woman as well as remind Boxers (Box residents) to embrace their heritage. Gongomess was reportedly made by an unnamed Fine Art student of Lumumba Hall in 1977.

"The raised arm of the matriarch pushes all Boxers to remain in the path of education and live true to our motto: 'Train a woman, a nation trained'," says Ms Rebecca Achieng, the entertainment minister of Mary Stuart Hall. She says it is the responsibility of the culture minister to wash Gongomess' dresses and change them occasionally to ensure that Gongomess retains a striking look!

The two sculptures embody the solidarity between Lumumba and Mary Stuart, which was consummated in the late 1970s, thus Lumbox Solidarity. Accordingly, there are times when Gongom is taken to Box to spend some 'quality time' with Gongomess and vice versa. This often is the case during the cultural gala or orientation week when they are being unveiled to first year students. In times of sadness, they also unite - for example when a student in Box died, Gongom was brought to Box to 'console' Gongomess.

"They bring us together. We mingle and learn to live and be great friends without strings attached," says Achieng. The height of this solidarity is shaped annually when first year students are taught the culture of Lumbox Empire. Boys are instructed in the art of condom politics using Gongom's manhood to demonstrate. In Lumbox Empire, boldness is a value, shyness a taboo. A freshman will be asked to surrender a condom while a Boxer will volunteer to step forward and demonstrate it on Gongom's phallus.

"It's a noble way of upholding the Lumbox Solidarity, it's a great culture and identity," says Ms Nesta Kigambe, a student.

At the end of the orientation week, ceremonies are conducted during the 'pass-out parade' when first year students from the two halls assemble in front of Lumumba (Gongom Stadium) clad in black attire - the colour of the empire. They perform the passage rites to 'real gallant members of the empire.' This is done under the supervision of the culture committee. What follows are praise songs for Gongom and Gongomess, who are considered rulers over every little and big thing in the university. For example, the main library is called 'Gongom Library' while the university hospital is 'Gongom Hospital'.

During university sports gala, the statues are taken to sports fields to 'cheer' the Lumbox teams. These movable statues have a protection unit elected by a 'council of elders!' You cannot, however, rule out low moments. For instance during last year's university guild elections, Boxers refused to vote for Mr Robert Sajjabi, an Elephant. He lost the election, which infuriated the great empire. It attacked Box, stripped Gongomess naked and even divorced her - a divorce that lasted a few days. In another incident, a mulokole student had a bad dream about Gongom and when he told residents about it the following morning, he was beaten up. Through thick and thin, Gongom and Gongomess are meant to be together - forever.

Osagyefo: The sculpture that sits in front of Nkrumah Hall is called Osagyefo. It is named after the great Kwame Nkrumah, founding President of Ghana. According to the hall's culture minister Mr Edwin Nkwasibwe, Osagyefo is a Nigerian name, which means redeemer. He says that when the hall was built and later broke away from the former Northcote Hall, students named it Nkrumah. A monument of Nkrumah was put up by one student called Kanya in 1995, thus Osagyefo Nkrumah, the statue. Nkwasibwe says that Osagyefo is a symbol of culture, strength and unity.

The area that surrounds this monument is called the Osagyefo Grounds. It is here that hall members assemble during the Cultural Week, also known as the Osagyefo Week to rekindle the Nkrumah flame. The monument is that of a man staring into the future, 'instructing students that they must fulfill their motto: 'Forward we move'! Just like in Lumumba, students take good care of Osagyefo, painting it regularly.

Besides, the tradition is that the Nkrumah family must gather around this figure and make a winning strategy before proceeding to their 'sister' hostel, Mulago View on what is called a 'mega benching spree'. Benching is a term used at the university to mean dating. Because Osagyefo was a pan-Africanist who believed in unity for all, this art piece stands as a unifying bond between Mulago View Hostel (for girls) and Nkrumah Hall.

After saluting it, the culture minister said the council of elders is charged with keeping the statue clean and in good shape as it represents the image and strength of the hall!

Mama Kakyala: As soon as you enter the University Hall, a monument of a very tall woman who looks like a model grabs your attention. She has a baby tenderly cradled in her bosom and the infant looks content as it points to the skies. It's a beautiful scene that reminds one of mother love. That's the sculpture of Mama Kakyala who was said to be a bar owner in the Katanga slums where she used to sell local brew to poor university students.

She was a motherly figure whose kindness was beyond measure. It is said that Mama Kakyala would give the students waragi on credit and on a good day, treat them to free booze. She even made it her responsibility to assemble prostitutes whom she brought to University Hall for interested students. She acted like a Ssenga, advising the students on the science of handling women. "[She is] a true heroine, a goddess. She always has the interests of 'Goats' at heart.

"We honour her and forever shall," says Mr Tom Asaku, the chairman University Hall.

This honour began in 1968, when the university's space allocation committee granted permission to erect a symbol of culture. A student only identified as Kaddu P.J.S decided to sculpt a monument in the likeness of Mama Kakyala. Since then, the culture of the hall has resolved around Mama Kakyala. It is said that she is a great storyteller, lovely and kind. Mama Kakyala has never been to school but is called 'the professor of languages' because she speaks many languages. Her statue is special to the Goats because it reminds them where they have come from, given that they have no solidarity with any girl's hall or hostel around the university.
Funny enough, Mama Kakyala is referred to as the virgin mother of nine daughters. She appears at all important events on the hall's calendar. When she falls ‘sick’, residents contribute money for 'her treatment'.

Rats, Crocodiles: Mitchell Hall, which for long had no monument, recently erected the sculpture of a rat to strengthen their solidarity with Complex Hall.

"We decided to sculpt the monument of a rat in a simple, realistic style to make it self-expressive to everyone. As you can see, it faces in the direction of Complex Hall and is raising his academic hood to direct the Crocodiles to Rat land for multiplication," says Mr Barnabas Odongkara, the culture minister.

Odongkara is also the Fine Art student who has moulded this giant rat. The semi-nude monument has over-sized balls that "reflect the true virility and masculinity of the great hall," he says. Rather than four legs, the monument outside the towering Mitchell Hall poses on two thick but strong legs to show the 'strength and bravery of the Gallant Rats'. Residents bow and lie at the feet of this statue to show their maximum respect.

Interestingly, the new rat contrasts sharply with the open-mouthed monument of Complex Hall (the sweethearts of Mitchell residents) called Crocodile. According to Ms Carol Nalwoga, the speaker of Complex Hall, the monument is loved because it symbolises the crocodile-like strength and enduring character of the residents. They even believe that the Crocodile will be striding down to Mitchell to snuggle in the warm hair of the Rat.

Odongkara says that the respect Rats and Crocodiles are already showering on this monument means that his artwork has accomplished its purpose: "The magic is working, Complex and Mitchell are a hot item - lift your hat for Mr Gallant Rat," he says referring to the monument.

Lollipop: You will spot this statue at the main entrance of Nsibirwa Hall.

"This is the great god of the greatest hall on this university," says Mr Conan Mubiru.

The monument is the size of a big dog. Actually, from afar, one can mistake it for a seated dog. The Lollipop sits under a tree, in seclusion from passers-by. Next to him are sculptures of a 'firing squad' that resemble little soldier-like men in a marching posture - these are the bodyguards of Lollipop.

Nsibirwa is called a 'state within a state under the lordship of Lollipop.' Residents and non-resident students attached to the hall are called statesmen. The tale is that Lollipop thinks ahead of every statesman and nothing takes place without his knowledge. Members also call themselves officers; in fact, there is a strong 'army' with 'artillery' meant for protection. Whatever is under Nsibirwa is 'state property', and all members must accord Lollipop maximum respect.

There is a council of elders and a revolutionary army headed by a commander in chief who must ensure the safety of Lollipop. Even those seeking leadership roles must report in Arua Park (yard near the Lollipop monument) to be initiated and also to receive blessings from Lollipop. Otherwise you are sure of defeat, so they believe.

According to Mr Eliot Twikirize, students consult Lollipop when they get poor grades and when faced with other problems: "We respect and 'worship' him. In time of catastrophe, the elders intercede for the state," he says, adding that all residents are groomed to be soldiers and that they usually buy a combat uniform for Lollipop.

"Nothing is impossible to a statesman. With the guidance of Lollipop and the magic of state science, there is always a solution to every hurdle. After all, our slogan is: 'we either win or they lose'," says Twikirize.

The Gentleman: Livingstone Hall is a quiet hall because they believe 'gentlemen are not supposed to get excited like little girls'. Indeed, the monument in the compound is highly respected. It is that of a giant man, clad in a kanzu, and a tie. He looks straight about the quadrangle.

Mr Robert Zavuga, the culture minister, traces the origin of the sculpture: "There lived Mr Gentleman who had very beautiful daughters. As they grew up, Gentleman decided to abandon everything and sat at a strategic place in his great palace. Now, the boys who wanted to 'encroach' on his girls learnt the hard way that there was no way they could do that when Gentleman was looking. To date, Livingstone Hall is the cleanest hall because nobody can dare soil it under the supervision of Gentelman!"

One Ombima created this monument in 1967. Students bow and address it as 'His Excellency Livingstone, gentleman of all gentlemen.'The culture minister says that in the tradition of smartness, a new tie and kanzu are presented to 'His Excellency' every year because "he portrays the gentle nature of Livingstone - very calm, and focused!"

Mixed feelings: The grapevine has it that the dean of students is against the monuments and would prefer them demolished. Indeed, when approached for comment, Mr John Ekudu sounded emotional: "These things (monuments) are going to go. They are irrelevant...they will go, they will go," he said.

The warden of Mitchell Hall, Mr John Kamya, looks at the Rat as "a piece of block that beautifies the place!"

For the president of the Makerere Students Guild, these monuments have one ideology - the solidarity that binds members of a particular hall together. Lumumba is always together because of Gongom," says Mr Morris Henry Kibalya, adding that the culture of statues is synonymous with Africa and has been there for ages.

"Everyone is entitled to freedom of expression. Students derive some meaning in these sculptures. They are symbols of unity and must be celebrated," he says.

Another lecturer, who did not want to be named sees these monuments as "elements of leisure which students play around with for fun!"

Mr Simon Peter Onaba, a born-again student, has a different view: "I think they are idols. There is a way those guys in Lumumba behave... it just has a spiritual connotation in it," he says.

Pastor Martin Sempa of Makerere Community Church (MCC) thinks the veneration of artistic pieces into a source of power is not hard to understand.

"The experience of Northcote (now Nsibirwa) is very telling in how, what started out as the "spirits" ended up from being a joke to something more. I am worried that we educated and sophisticated people of today don't want to accept the reality of the spiritual world. There is a narrow line in the world of excited students between pride in the art, and veneration and dependence in battles. When Gongom is brought to a soccer match between one hall and another, is it in a spirit of sportsmanship and culture or is it in soliciting the power of Gongom to give his team victory?" he wonders.

And when students dress Gongom with a condom, he gets worried: "It is quite unseemly that Gongom is dressed in a condom every day. The protruding piece that represents a phallus is very unsightly. I think Lumumbists are desensitised that normal people don't walk around with their phallus sticking out like that," he says.

In his days, Sempa says, "The indoctrination of Northcote was more intense than the recruitment of a Mugisu into a circumcision march and dance."

His general comment on these monuments is: "There is a part art, culture and a part where that crosses into a world of spiritual veneration."

Published in Sunday Monitor, August 28, 2005


‘Theatre politics’ at Makerere

A candidate contesting for the culture secretary post had to buy a packet of condoms for Gongom, the Lumumba Hall deity, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

The politics at Makerere University never ceases to amuse! A few days after FDC's Gerald Karuhanga was voted the new Guild President, the students were at it again to choose their leaders in halls of residence and student representatives at the university's Guild Council a.k.a parliament.

But the story is about theatrics that make campus politics exhilarating. For instance, during the recent campaigns in the 'Great Patrice Lumumba Empire [hall]', a candidate contesting for the culture secretary post had to buy a packet of condoms for Gongom, the hall deity. Surprisingly, it garnered him massive support.

In the nearby Box [Mary Stuart Hall], Gongom's wife, Gongomes the 'diva', was given a 'birthday present' of a cashmere gomesi and a beautiful handbag bought by Ms Nansamba Daphne Robins, a student who was eyeing the hall's culture secretary chair.

But the frenzy did not stop there. Candidates did anything to appeal to the electorate. Eyeing the Lumumba's top seat of chairmanship was FDC's Atria Angels Bismarck (surprisingly his real name). His radical approach and oratory did it for him - just like his icon Prince Otto von Bismarck, former German aristocrat who earned himself the nickname Iron Chancellor!
During the campaigns, the Bismarck of Ivory Tower vowed to resign if "the 1971 trays used in the mess are not discarded by the end of the semester." His most popular line: "If a potato can be as sweet when it's raw, what happens when it's ripe?"

Then there was Zalson Khor, popularly known as Obote [see picture up]. Indeed the fellow is a spitting image of former President Apollo Milton Obote(RIP), complete with the afro hairstyle. Problem is that this 'Makerere Obote' sounds like someone singing a lullaby. Just listening to him gives you a sleepy feeling; not that he is boring but he speaks so gently, almost like a doctor advising a patient. This Sudanese -born Obote was such a darling among the students who would shoulder him high during the campaigns shouting: Obote, Obote! His catch phrase: "I've been at the forefront of the struggle that has been going on here. No mincing words, I deserve to be the chairman of the great Lumumba Empire."

One cannot leave out Raymond Okello, a cripple who has no wheelchair and has to use both his knees and hands to pull himself along. His disability earned him a lot of sympathy support. "The time is now for Lumumba to have a chairman with disability," was his slogan.

Then there was Lattimore Kermundu Martins whom Boxers loved to call Kenny Lattimore after the American super lyricist. Kermundu is a very smart gentleman; this prompted campusers to conclude that he would do better as an entertainment secretary, yet he wanted the finance post.

How about Nesterous Tumwekwatse? The lad behaved like Jamaican Reggae maestro Bob Nesta Marley - something that inspired 'Lumumbists' to christen him so. Interestingly, the Bachelor of Horticulture student has never been a music fan, preferring soccer. In fact, he chose to capture students' attention by calling himself the '[David] Beckham of ideas!'

The campaign trail also included a 'Robert Mugabe'. Like his counterpart in Zimbabwe, Makerere's Mugabe vowed to become a guerrilla for the betterment of Lumumba Hall sports. In Ankole, Mugabe means King, as in Omugabe wa Ankole or King of Ankole. So, then, Mugabe wanted to be Lumumba's sports king [secretary].

While some candidates spent a fortune designing colourful posters, Mr Abdullah Kisembo chose to stand out from the rest by sketching some comic cartoon of a man with a raised baton chasing a thief. Accompanying the comic strip is a caption: 'Committed to the fight, ready to work with you to curb the evils of our society and promote values.'

I can't forget 'badboy' Olwa Bonny Brown, a favourite among 'Boxers'. They have changed his name to Bobby Brown after the '80s funkstar and Whitney Houston's husband, Bobby Brown. The girls would walk around with big posters that read 'Box loves Bobby Brown'.

These campaigns!

Published in Sunday Monitor, April 23, 2006

Men stand out from boys in Makerere Guild race

"Fellow intellectuals, you are blessed to have come not to listen to a leader but to a president from this time and a president who will lead this university forever," is how Mr Edward Kilibata opened his guild presidential campaign speech at Makerere University.

"I know that many of you have been hearing of the name Kilibata, this is the time that you've come to listen to your leader. This is the man [as he thumped his chest] for those who've never seen me, just see me. I'm the one, I have come and I will not go back. Freedom will only be that as stated by me Kilibata because Kilibata means freedom. I've a broad manifesto. Problem of disability will be solved completely and also, problem of international students — we shall pay the school fees that are similar. I'll move and see my friend Kibaki , I'll move and see Museveni , I'll move and see Kikwete because they are presidents like me. Brothers and sisters, I shall give you money if you vote Kilibata. There is what is called a loan scheme; I'm in touch with the government and the different employers. We shall give you money and everybody. So vote Kilibata, vote ability and you'll not regret!" By the time he was through, students were choking with laughter.

The just-ended campaigns were alive with smooth speakers, brass bands, sleek cars and a silent contest among top contenders to see who spits more money. The 'council of cultural elders' in their red academic gowns reaped, as each of the 15 candidates dropped 'something' into their small box before being given the platform to seek votes.

"It's impossible to talk of freedom when MUK is for tear gas," one said, "we are in political menopause, the time is now to vote for a leader who can distinguish a black mamba from a Police Officer."

Mr Aaron Kirunda, perturbed by the madness, was forced to bellow, "this is not a contest of drama or we would have taken it to Pride Theatre and neither is it about proving our financial prowess or we would have left it to Roman Abramovich or Bill Gates but it's about ability. Ability is like virginity— you either have it or not."

Mr Kamurari just did some boogie-woogie on stage as he shouted 'Kamurari Oyee' until his five minutes were over.

On the other side of the Freedom Square, the fans of Sekabira Haruna a.k.a 'Designer' [DP] ignited a bonfire: "We are now warm because we are dancing to the warmth of the fire and our candidate," said a supporter.

Mr Isaiah Eitwu, who calls himself a 'demagogic orator' and a man who is inspired by 'Adolf Hitler the only orator the 20th century lived to see,' amused more when he asked his listeners to 'observe a moment of silence in recognition of the fall of Adolf Hitler'.

Almost none raised issues of concern to the students. But like Mr Gerald Karuhanga, the eventual winner, blurted out, the guild was not ready to accommodate "a comedian guild president, nor a choirmaster."

Published in Sunday Monior, March 26, 2006

I’m a serious enemy of tribalism’

Mr Gerald Karuhanga [pictured], was on Monday elected the new president of Makerere University Students Guild for the 2006-'07 academic year. Karuhanga, who stood on the FDC ticket, defeated 13 other contestants for the post. He becomes the first serving guild speaker in the history of the university to be elected president. Dennis D. Muhumuza interviewed him. Excerpts

Who is Gerald Karuhanga?
I’m the son of Mr and Mrs Jacob Kafureka. I was born in Itojo Sub-County in Ntungamo District. I studied in Kitunga Boarding Primary School, St. Mukasa Preparatory School, Kitabi Seminary and St. Mary’s College Kisubi before joining Makerere University where I’m studying Law. I’ve also been the campus guild speaker besides being the national speaker of Uganda National Students Association [UNSA]. In national politics, I’m an ardent supporter of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). I also served in the transitional national youth council.

Why did you contest?
When I was the guild speaker, I realised there were many things I would have done if I were the president. So I said I must come in and try to change a situation gone bad.

What are those many things and how are you going to achieve them as president?
There are issues that need urgent redress. These include the security of lady students and their halls of residence. I also want the university to involve student leaders in policy making and implementation. For instance, the hiking of retake fees and tuition were never resolved - it was pushed to this academic year. I tend to ensure that before decisions on such matters are reached, student leaders are consulted. I also promised to provide a shuttle to medical students. Besides, the state of lavatories in students’ halls of residence and sanitation in some hostels leaves a lot to be desired. I appeal to the university authorities do something to address this very unfortunate situation. I believe we need a students senate where at least two student representatives from each faculty come together and form a body similar to the Guild Representative Council (GRC) that is recognised by the university. This new body should handle students’ academic problems.

What really prompted Jet John Tumwebaze to petition the guild electoral commission to disqualify you?
My opponents raised many issues to discredit me before the voters. I was branded a Movement candidate because a Movement person here at campus can’t sell. However, students who have worked with me know that I’m not a Movementist. There was also tribal sentiment but I told students that I’m the most serious enemy of tribalism and divisionism based on race and religion. Now my friend Tumwebaze was uncomfortable with my candidature because I belong to FDC and he belongs to the NRM. He wrote a petition to the electoral commission, copied it to the Dean of Students, Dean of Faculty of Law, the Academic Registrar and the Senate chairperson. The Academic Registrar said there was a difference between missing an examination and having a retake. The word retake means you are re-doing. You don’t retake what you’ve not done. Prof. Ekiirikubinza, who holds a PhD in Law and also the chairperson of the Senate and the Guild Constitution, confirmed that I do not have a retake. She said that it is the Senate that determines the normal progress of the student. Their aim was to disorganise my campaigns and get me disqualified.

Students from western Uganda have for long been associated with 'Musevenism' and rejected at the polls. What was your winning strategy?
I won in 11 out of the 12 polling stations [halls of residence] and my trick was simple - I associate with students from other regions because I believe in objectivity; where one comes from is of no consequence to me. Besides, when I was a guild speaker, I organised the Gulu Walk; it was a very wonderful event that showed the whole world that northern Uganda is also part of Uganda; that the region shouldn’t be suffering the way it is. Students from the north, east and even central concluded that even though I come from western Uganda, I had a nationalistic spirit.

Who sponsored your campaigns?
My physical and financial support came from all walks of life. I appreciate the support from FDC, especially from the party’s president Dr Kizza Besigye. Do you have political heroes?Locally, I admire Dr Besigye - I think he’s strong-hearted and a man of his word. Internationally, I admire Nelson Mandela because he’s not a politician but a statesman. Whereas a politician looks forward to the next election, statesmen look forward to the next generation.

What was your childhood like?
I was a very stubborn child and my parents wondered whether I would finish school. Had I not gone to a seminary, I think I would by now be a rebel leader.

What do you do with your free time?
I read political books. Currently, I’m reading a book titled Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent. I enjoy reading books that have some relevance to Africa and explore the theme of unity. Biographies are my favourite. I’ve read Kwame Nkrumah’s Africa Must Unite, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Yoweri Museveni’s Mustard Seed and many others.

What are your future political aspirations?
I expect to be legislator in five years time. I will also devote my life to the unification of Africa.
Last wordI promise to work for students’ rights. I believe in consultations and dialogue and appeal to all students to support me so that at the end of this academic year, everyone will say we had a guild leadership that performed to our expectations. As we build for the future. For God and my country.

Published in Sunday Monitor, March 1, 2006.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Focus on the essence of the season

Christmas is a few weeks away; time to enjoy! The good news is that the world has changed so much that long gone are those days when having fun was only a luxury of the secular world. Today when the world enjoys Christmas, different people –young and old, Christian and non Christian –will rejoice to their fullest, but of course in different ways.

The focus will be mainly on the youths who tend to be reckless on such days and need guidance on how to jubilate meaningfully. As for the parents, they have been there; experience has been their master and they know what they want, unlike the adolescents especially the groovy type who will go to any length to pick that family car and end up crushing it.

Places like the Silk Lounge or Angenour discotheque will be happening for most lads who think concertrated fun rotates around bars and dance clubs. These hangouts and most others are aware and have designed what they call a 'friendly Christmas programme' targeted at the so-called generation.

As to the born-again brothers and sisters, they are sure to harvest richly as far as their moral, spiritual and leisurely lives are concerned. This is because they will be enjoying Christmas cantatas that will be playing in most churches, not forgetting Christmas dramas and other eats and drinks.

It is interesting how the festive season labours to satisfy different people –entertainingly speaking. For many, it will be about finding that place where they can watch a very nice movie and eat popcorns. Others have drawn big plans.

"By Christmas time, I'll be in the village trying to catch up with local gossip and of course getting re-united with my old school mates who I've not seen in many years," says Andrew Mugabe.

It goes without saying that many will today floor numberless bottles of Pilsner Lager in the name of Christmas celebrations. It has come to be accepted that Christmas is a day to enjoy no matter in what way.

There are those who get carried away with the pleasurable distractions like borrowing steamy music tapes or movies and watching them. Hollywood provides many of these and those who want to have a 'field day' usually have cheaply.

And the dress code rates highly when it comes to how Christmas will go. There are students who only care about putting on the latest fabrics on the market. For the young people, it has everything to do with the newest buggy jeans on the market, designer T-shirts, gold watches, and of course whatever comes with that.

"Being smart for me matters on that day," says Ivan, a born-again student. "I want to honour the birth of Jesus by being very smart. Other things like good food and hanging out come last as long as I go to church and enjoy the worship."

And talking of church, most brethrens take Christmas as a chance to fast and renew their hearts. In modern Uganda the number of Pentecostal churches has sky-rocketed and many people have gotten saved. As the Christian walk is never simple, many backslide. So Christmas means a lot to most of the pack whom go out to seek repentance and return to the flock. By managing this, they will have had a memorable Christmas.

Interestingly, some have to work and use the Christmas break to finalise or fine-tune their projects. These include students and journalists. As you are aware, newspapers work all year around, 24-hours a day.

"I'll be working," says Jared, a radio presenter. "Playing listners the most beautiful Christmas tunes gives me joy. There is nothing as uplifting as knowing people appreciate what you do."

For business people, they will hire their little brothers and sisters to sit in for them and run the business this Christmas when they leave for upcountry to enjoy Christmas with their families.

It is a happy thought how people prepare for Christmas. There are those who are quite unsure how the day will unfold apart from going to church and retreating home to enjoy the chicken soup.

It is said that happiness is man's greatest aim in life. And so people of all ages will be seeking to live happily come this Christmas day.

Published in Daily Monitor, Friday December 1, 2006, pg. 43

Makerere’s Mitchell gets its rat

Mitchell Hall has finally seen the light and erected a very boisterous statue of a gallant rat! A gallant rat? Yes, because hall members call themselves gallant rats!

Among the key features, the statue boasts oversize balls. Just why, we cant tell. But it also has one arm raised as if to salute a seniour army officer, and stands proud, clad in the red undergraduate gown.

The clay-cement sculpted rat seems to cast a spell, for whoever passes by spends a good amount of time admiring the art piece. Little wonder Mitchell and his monument have become the talk of the university campus.

It is hoped that it will revive the already misty romance between the Mitchell lads and their ‘crocodiles’ in Complex Hall, all in the spirit of Mitchelex Solidarity.

It’s also a great sigh of relief to residents who are now being envied by other halls whose aging statues have nothing to admire about under the sun.

The gallant rat was sculpted by the hall’s culture minister, who also is a fine art student.

Just so you know, some of the better known ex-gallant rats include Lt. Gen. David Tunyefuza, Col. Kiiza Besigye and Norbert Mao.

Mitchell Oyee!! Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!
Published in Sunday Monitor, August 14, 2005