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Thursday, April 24, 2008

For Gunilla, the sky is the limit

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

"I'm going to talk to Sir Alex Ferguson and say, 'get us some strikers, we need to start feeling the game,'" chuckles Gunilla Ouko. She clearly loves Manchester United though she also admits that Arsenal is playing great football.

We are seated on green comfortable sofas of her home in Ntinda. It happens to be her birthday though she won't say how old she is. Says you do not ask a woman her age.

Ouko stands at a towering 6ft.

Her rich humour soon propels us out of anxiety and we chat freely with a lady who loves warriors and brand names and hopes to become president.

Gunilla Atieno Ouko is a social scientist, a researcher, a single mom and currently the head of Marketing at Nile Bank Limited. The name Gunilla is Swedish and it was given her by her mother.

"It means a warrior or something with inner strength; one who works hard and is not put down by life's twists and turns," she explains.

Her late mother, Joyce Ouko, was a teacher while her father, John Ouko, is a retired accountant. They are three children in the family.

A normal day for Gunilla starts at 6 a.m., when she prepares her two kids for school at Kabojja Junior.

By 7:45 a.m., she sits behind her office desk, reads the day's devotions on her online Bible and prays. Then she lists things to do, moves around to make sure everything is well.

By 6 p.m., she's already home with her kids: Joyce is eight and Anthony is six. Joyce is very sensitive while Tony is happy-go-lucky.

"I call them my hand luggage because everywhere I go they go," she says of the kids she got while in college.

Born and raised in Kisumu, Gunilla went to Aga Khan in Kisumu, spent eight years on her primary education before joining Ahero Girls Boarding School for secondary.

"By the way, I'm the first lot of the 8-4-4 system of education in Kenya," she adds.

After form four, she was admitted to the University of Nairobi in 1991 and graduated in 1995 with a bachelors of arts degree in Anthropology, a course she says helped her to understand people better.

"It's a holistic study of man and his environment. I was able to understand people's values, how they live…it opened my way to better policy making and marketing because I was able to understand people holistically," she says.

As the best student, Ouko scooped a scholarship, started her Masters in 1996 and couldn'’t work "because I wanted to be a professor early and was really driven to do everything that would take me there as quickly as possible. I wanted to be called Dr. Ouko!"

But because I do not see a trace of marketing, I ask her how she started in that line.

"My first job changed the current of my career tremendously," she says. "I landed a job in Research International in 1998. It was great in terms of understanding consumers and brands. It gave me the foundation of my current marketing excellence."

At Research International, she managed research for East African Breweries and particularly the Pilsner Brand.

"I fell in love with this brand right from the time I was handling it as a market researcher. When the position for brand manager fell vacant, I applied for it. It was quite competitive; actually it was between myself and one lady who is currently a marketing manager in the banking industry as well. However, I landed the job and became Pilsner Brand Manager in 2001. Then Pilsner made me and I made it. I had so much passion for what I did which earned me a prestigious award from Diageo. I was voted Brand Hero East Africa in 2003," she says.

By the time she left Uganda Breweries, she was marketing manager Pilsner, Guinness and Citizen. But Gunilla's overwhelming ambition tickled her to apply for a job at Nile Bank following an advert in the papers.

"I liked it because I was going to head the marketing team," she says.

She applied by e-mail, missed interviews twice, [she was very busy] but Nile Bank still followed her. When she finally did the interviews, she was given the job.

Is it very challenging?

"No body will say life is straight. It's very tough but the success of managing people is to be able to understand their emotions, nurture them and drive the team to deliver. Once people realize you have new ideas, they will follow you," she says solemnly adding, "I want to be an MD when I’m still young."

One of the people she looks to is her good friend Peter Sematimba. She says, "I like Sematimba because of the amount of energy, the passion, drive and the mind he puts in his work."

Bill Clinton is another person who inspires her because "He's still admired and despite the marriage trials he was still able to come through unscathed."

She idolizes Nelson Mandela because "He had led a full life. His name is a respected brand, when he dies his plaque should read, 'Quality Life; He's a Warrior.'"

"When you move up the ladder, few people understand you. But that's the beauty of life," sums the lady who also cherishes the advice given to her by her Managing Director, Mr. Richard Byarugaba.

Speaking from personal experience, the born-again marketer advises people to take their first degrees seriously regardless of whether it was the one they wanted or not.

"It's an entry level into one's career; don't enter university and whine. I remember I wanted to be a lawyer, anthropology was my last choice and look at the great heights of career I have gone through with anthropology," she says.

She has a word of advice to employees too. She says they should love their jobs: "Work puts food on the table, why not do it well?"

Gunilla is also a health freak who looks critically at what she eats and tries to ensure it's balanced, is less oily and drinks lots of water and juice however she cannot get over groundnut sauce. She also goes to the gym too "to keep trim."

Ouko loves playing with her kids and taking toys and other goodies to SOS Children's Village in Entebbe: "I love kids, understand their language and watch cartoons with them," she says.

She also enjoys classical music, loves gospel and enjoys a lot of R n B: "I love music because it's about emotions that speak to the heart."

Interestingly, Gunilla easily cries: "It's very easy for me to cry when I'm hurt or frustrated and after my tears have dried, I forget and move on."

And does she intend to stay here for the rest of her life?

"Uganda is a great country, but like they say, home is the best."

She's been involved in many charity organizations at home and hopes to marry the right person, retire and head to Kenya to see about becoming president.

"I want to be a president or a Kofi Annan and be in a position to make wise decisions and influence many people's lives positively. I would love people to live full lives," she optimizes.

--Daily Monitor, Thursday September 9, 2004, Page 19

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Why affairs of the heart do not interest V.S. Naipaul

V.S. Naipaul, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature, is in Uganda to do research for a book on traditional African religion. On March 20, Makerere University's Department of Literature hosted Sir Vidia, as he is better known, and his wife Lady Naipaul, to a public dialogue. The dialogue was chaired by Dr Abbas Kiyimba while Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Dr Ernest Okello-Ogwang, and later a few members from the audience, posed the questions. Dennis D. Muhumuza brings you excerpts: -

Sir Vidia, begin by telling us why in 1966 you chose to take up a writing fellowship at Makerere and what kind of experience you had when you got here.
The African American Foundation asked me to come. This was in 1965 and I was having trouble with the book I was trying to write. I had been having trouble with it for about a year and I thought this was a good opportunity to get away from that depression and have a look at Uganda where they asked me to come. So I came and I was given a little bungalow on the grounds of the university here and I spent a lot of time dealing with the book, dealing with my writing.

I didn't look out as much as I should have done. And it's only a few days ago that I went to Jinja and saw the Nile. I had not done that before – 40 years ago. And I am quite astonished that I didn't. I think it indicates what I said in the beginning: being very worried about what I was trying to do and the obsession with my work that has continued with me.

The British have knighted you for your contribution to British literature. Given that you have written on a wide range of subjects, do you still carry your Caribbean identity [having been born in Trinidad and Tobago] or have you acquired a new cosmopolitan identity that recognises no boundaries?

You must understand that these honours are not very personal. There is a government in office and it has to give a certain number of honours and the basket looks a little empty and so you turn it over a few times and then there is a little figure at the bottom and they say, yes, we give it to him this time. I think it was like that. Some people think it was actually given by the Queen. But the accolade which one gets at the Buckingham Palace is done by the Queen but the reward is done from Downing Street. So it's political and it doesn't indicate any seducing me from my other loyalties. It's up to you to reject these honours when they come. In fact, in 1977 when I was travelling in Venezuela a letter came to me offering what is known as a CBE. There are three degrees of that order – the Order of the British Empire: there is an MBE, OBE and CBE and I said I didn't want it and I thought that was the end of the matter because the story was that if you rejected these lesser honours they never offered you a knighthood. And I thought this was what was going to happen to me because I actually think a writer's quality and honour is in his work.

Seeing your knowledge of Africa, does this mean it's going to feature a little more in your wide spectrum of subjects?
I've written quite a lot about Africa since 1966. I went to the Congo, spent some time there and gradually came with an important book. I later went to Senegal. I wrote nothing about that because I just couldn't find anything to say about it that was of interest to me. And then I went to Ivory Coast. So I've heard an experience of love of Africa because East Africa, Congo, Ivory Coast, Senegal – it's quite a lot to get started with and I've written about these places, sometimes only in articles leaving out Senegal. And now when I come to see it myself, when I know that I am near the end of things, I thought I would write my last book about an aspect of Africa which as result of my earlier visit I became interested in – the Africa of its ancestral beliefs, its ancestral religion. It has always fascinated me; this thing about ancestral beliefs and ancestral religion because whenever one is close to them – you look at the sculpture of Africa, the masks – they seem to come from way back. They seem to have an immemorial ancestry, they seem to come from the earth and that makes them fascinating to me.

Having been writing all these years, do you think you have said everything you wanted to say, or do you still feel there is something you haven't achieved or maybe there are some areas where you've been misunderstood by your audience and you wish to make corrections. How do you assess your own impact and the response the world has given you?
I am glad they have given criticism. What would have been awful would have been silence. The writer writes and the outer world has its say as well. I don’t mind criticism for the strange reason I seldom read it. Writing is about the world. I don't write about affairs of the heart. I've always been – since I became an adult – interested in the larger movements in the world. And I find it very hard, I know this is unfair, to practice this kind of writing. I found it very hard to deal with social writing, a sort of comedy of manners. They don't interest me. I don't mean this in any unkind way, remember.

In this part of the world we are not familiar with people who make writing their career. People take jobs and maybe try to find a little time to do a book. Could you tell us about a writing career, doesn’t it expose one to loneliness or risk of economic strains?
I suppose it does and although I had no money when I began, people aren't always aware of this, I had about five or six pounds when I left the university in 1954 and if I hadn't had a cousin living in London, I went to stay with him, I really wonder what would have happened to me. And then there is a risk of going on, on, on. To be a writer, you don't just write one book. You write that and then you write another and another and another. And where are these books coming from? It's a problem for a writer. I always thought –how on earth am I going to do another book? So that is the great risk for me, the problem of creative drying up, of not knowing where the next book is coming from, where the next matter will come from. The other thing about the economics of it, I think, if you are writing profoundly that in a way solves itself. If you are writing without political prejudice, the problem of commercial movement for your work solves itself. What do I mean by political prejudice? I mean people to feel that in their writing they should celebrate some kind of movement in their country. All that becomes very, very narrow to the outside audience. And I think it should be discouraged. The writer has to consider his material very, very carefully and the most difficult thing in a writing career is getting to know what you wish to write about. What is bad and should be discouraged is reading somebody else’s book and thinking: well, I could do one of those too. Many books are like that and that doesn't get anywhere.

In psychoanalysis we believe that writers shed their tears on paper and write about their experiences partly, and society as a whole. Do you think you are represented in any of your works?
But one doesn't only write about one’s experiences, one writes about one's frustrations, one's intuitions. One writes about one's emotions, and emotions are not always based on emotions. There are emotions based on situations.

To some of us you are a hero. Do you consider yourself a hero?
If I did, I would be extraordinarily foolish.

I have read Miguel Street and I am bothered by the fact that you used peculiar ways to choose characters. There are characters who are too cold and then there is this exciting character that tells the public that they are going to be crucified. And then the narrator of the story seems to be one of the characters. Which technique do you use to come up with this?
It's a very old book and it actually was written by me in about six weeks in 1965 but you know I was quite young. To get started an idea of memories of that street came to me from many years before -30, 39, 40 and at that stage in my life, because I had been so worried and life had been so rough with me, I made jokes very, very easily. So the humour was very natural. I could make a joke, two jokes, to a page without worry. I was young. Later the humour became darker, required a lot more sense, but essentially I've retained that sense of humour.

Your writing career has spanned five decades. What has been your greatest inspiration?
I think the inspiration really has been the wish to go on as a writer.

--Sunday Monitor, March 30, 2008

Keith Ministries stage colourful show

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

The catchphrase was 'come in your dancing shoes!' This was on the evening of October 3 when Keith Ministries staged a gripping dance show at Makerere University's Main Hall.

It was an exclusive gospel performance that Uncle Ben, the chaplain St Francis Chapel, also patron of the ministry, called "a beautiful day to celebrate Jesus." Prior to this, he had provoked the students into "a shout for Jesus."

The auditorium was filled to capacity with campusers who used the occasion to relax before serious lectures resume Monday.

At every move, the frenzied audience would get on their feet; wave their arms in the air as they sang along.

Indeed it was a groove-on night as the youthful members comprising the Keith Ministry danced like butterflies, with strokes ranging from the famous Michael Jackson slide to the common traditional Kiganda, Kikiga and Kinyarwanda motifs.

Some of the songs performed included the popular Inkane by a Ugandan Nairobi-based gospel crooner, Ambassador. Others were Stand Still by Deitric Hurdon and Let's Dance done by the group itself and many more. But it was the Blue Sky Dance that got the crowd giving an eardrum-bursting applause.

Mugi, the Power Fm presenter did his emceeing role distinctively; every time he came on stage the ladies would cheer. His calm jokes were no doubt hilarious.

What scored most were the costumes. From silk lesus and orange overalls, to suits, every dance had its matching costume that reinforced a kind of glitter while on stage. This, plus the good sound system, dependable lighting and how performers looked steered real glitz.

Though it was okay for the beautiful girls to spoil themselves with make-up, it appeared rather odd for their male counterparts to have their lips shine with too much makeup too. Besides that, the different hairstyles were 'too hot' [as one Ken observed], for born-again dancers. Hair that would dance on the heads in Rastafarian style was part of the package.

It was however a really good show. By the time the two-hour performance that started at 7 p.m. ended, the audience was still chorusing without any signs of tiredness to the "arise hallelujahs" in honour of their lord.

According to Keith Kibirango, leader of the group, Keith Ministries is "about reaching the youth through music and dance." He added the ministry is preparing a school tour around Kampala and Jinja.

Coca cola, Power FM and New Christian Bookshop sponsored the show.

--Daily Monitor, Saturday, October 9, 2004, page 19

Book Review

Title: Pale Souls Abroad and other tales
Author: Ulysses Chuka Kibuuka
Publisher: Fountain Publishers Ltd.
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza

It is a collection of seven stories in 218 pages that will crack you up and hold your interest to the last word. Kibuuka writes a tale-twister that leaves you laughing at yourself for having no clue some of the stories will end the way they do.

Stupor for example is a story of a respected banker who takes a stranded woman to a lodge and they revel and have sex only for him to wake up and find her dead. Panic sets in as he tries to hide the body. What makes it unforgettable is that the reader, like the protagonist, thinks Nyugunyu is truly dead only to discover at the end she had just fainted badly, as she is met going to church with other women while joking about the "buffoon" of a man that thought her dead.

In High Protocol, a lustful man is given his corrupt master's "jet-black Mercedes 500SEL" to go pick Maria who has just flown in first-class from California. The driver can't wait to meet the boss's beautiful daughter. Much to his disappointment, he finds out that Maria is a cat!

Kibuuka's descriptive power is admirable. In The Naked Womb, one cannot forget the three-year old homeless girl "trudging like an aged woman on the village path, the skin and hair yellowed like bronze from kwashiorkor, a distended abdomen and a thick host of flies, mostly bluebottles –blanketing her eyes in two dark silvery-blue circles and other hordes of the ugly insects burrowing in and out of her ears and nostrils like bees on a hive."

Or the Russian woman who is "very pretty with a compact body, packed like coiled dynamo wires."

The stories are filled with fleeting incidents: a man making love to a ghost without knowing it, an old man that "kneads his own shit into the cassava flour to make bait" while on a fishing spree and the woman that had "the nasty habit of losing control of her bowels during orgasm," to mention a few.

It's absurd comedy and upon deep reflection you realise the author hides behind that to bemoan a rotten society teeming with moral corruption, men raping their house girls, medical students abetting abortion, leaders running down the economy, drug-dealing and evil humour like in that anecdote of Banamba's car with seatbelts interwoven with hypodermic needles "that suck the passenger's blood, which Banamba then sells off in gallonfuls to European markets" and all the ill deeds that continue to befoul contemporary society.

The writer is especially critical of western influence and highly patronising, pretentious, selfish and dangerously ambitious individuals.

His knowledge of the country's diverse ethnicities and cultures is intact as presented in the conflict between modernity and tradition.

Kibuuka is arguably Uganda's only existential writer and is the author of other works like For the Fairest and Of Saints and Scarecrows.

--Sunday Monitor, March 30, 2008

Jet 1 launching album this Easter

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

Ever heard of a Samia contemporary music group? It does exist and it is made up of seven Samia young men. Jet 1 Crew is their group name and they sing gospel music in nearly all genres from Pop to Afro-jazz to Rap, which makes it appealing to people of all age groups.

But this group was not born singing in the church. They lived in the same neighbourhood, with a friendship so strong they took themselves far more than brothers. And they drank themselves silly with the money they made, smuggling goods from Kenya into their hometown, Busia.

"I don't know what would have happened to us if God hadn't arrived in time to rescue us," group member Joseph Masiga says.
It was the beginning of a life-changing journey that, like a floodlight, continues to shine on the lives of many others.
The ex-lost boys joined Busia Miracle Centre, buffed their dancing shoes, then danced and sang for the Lord. The response was instantaneous and profound, they decided they could use their potential to "smuggle" God's life-giving message to wider audiences. So they formed the JET 1 crew.

"JET 1 is an acronym for Jesus Team One, which signifies the oneness of the group in that we belong to the same church, and with a single mission to represent Jesus Christ all the way," Masiga said.
They are members of Tororo Busia Group [TBG], a Makerere University mission team that holds crusades in countryside schools to take the gospel of Jesus to the young generation.
The seven-member group has through music and dance also ministered in Mukono, Malaba, Tororo and performed in Nairobi.
But it is a chance hearing of their song, by a big-hearted lady that turned their fortunes around.
The song, Yiwuma Ali Koti Ewe which in Samia means "There's None Like You," touched and inspired Ms Catherine Piwang to start supporting the group. She introduced them to Principal Judge James Ogoola, who then invited them to his home to sing for him.
"He was so impressed by our music and he went around boasting that he had met the first Samia contemporary gospel artistes," Masiga says.

Ogoola organised a fundraising to help the group raise money to record their first album. Produced at Fenon Studios by popular local producer Steve Jean, this seven-track album will be launched on Easter Monday, March 24, at 3p.m., at University Community Fellowship, off Sir Apollo Kaggwa road, next to Garden Courts Hostel and entrance is free.
"All these are God-inspired songs," Masiga says.

Deox flying high in The Apprentice Africa

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

Action ensues at The Apprentice Africa. The contestants were for the first time saved the intimidating presence of Mr Shobanjo. The C.E.O sent them a video message instead.

It was actually a 'lecture' on branding that reminded them that popular brands like Pepsi are distinct because of remarkable branding. They were then told to "create an original brand identity" for groundnuts. That was the week's task.

Project managers: Bekeme for Matrix Corporation and Nnamdi for the Zulus were hereafter asked to choose two members each from the 'enemy' camp to join their respective teams. That's how Eddie and Oscar joined the girls, and Kathleen and smart Eunice became Zulus.

Both teams were soon engrossed in designing, labelling, packaging and marketing their brands. The Zulus researched about the price of "bottled ground nuts", designed a catchy mascot and hit the studios to record a jingle for their brand, Zizi. You should have seen Deox Tibeingana using his magical tenor to add vocal d├ęcor to Nnamdi's bass and Eunice's alluring soprano!

Meanwhile, Nancy was upset a team mate delayed the promotional materials and promptly sought divine intervention by leading her team into prayer, asking God to help them in the matter.

At the end, the teams exhibited their brands which were analysed and assessed by the judges. Zulu Corporation won with 183 points to Matrix's 173. The jubilant Zulus were sent off to enjoy themselves at Terra Kulture –an art exhibition, and would later watch a stage play by Ahmed Yerima, ending the treat with an evening of free shopping at a gift centre.

Our Oscar may have been "very happy" to join the beauties but when they lost he became a bundle of nerves. Shobanjo rebuked the small, almost invisible fonts and the poor colour use of yellow and green on their product.

Saying customers were attracted by brands, he trashed their brand name, 'Nutty Nuts' calling it "terrible…Imagine a detergent like OMO had decided to call itself 'Washy Wash'…"

Asked who she thought ought to be fired, Bekeme named Nancy. But our girl fought like a tiger saying she had offered her best to the team in terms of ideas.

Shobanjo suddenly criticised Bekeme for failing to reject Nancy's advice if she thought it fickle.
"As a leader the final call must be yours… how would the president of a nation justify a bad decision made because he got bad advice from his cabinet?"

The 26-year old Nigerian is pretty, classy, sharp and described herself as "tenacious, irredeemably ambitious and calculative" but all that could not save her from being fired.

Clearly, the last man/woman standing will be a visionary leader that gets things done quickly and effectively. Going by their stellar performance this far, that person could be Nigeria's Eunice or Uganda’s Deox.

--Daily Monitor, April 19, 2008

Apprentices conspire as pressure mounts

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

The assertiveness associated with Kenyans must be fake after the eviction of Joyce Mbaya from The Apprentice Africa. She became the second Kenyan in three weeks to be fired for refusing to fight when they would have won.

And on Sunday Joyce pinned none for the loss of Matrix Corporation. When Shobanjo asked, "Who do you recommend I should fire?" she replied, "Sir, as the project manager, I take responsibility for neglecting the things I did during this task…"

It was the first time the astonished C.E.O was seeing a leader blame herself. In all fairness, either Nigeria's Eunice or Ghanaian Regina deserved the boot, but Joyce forced Shobanjo to wag his trademark finger and pronounce her fired.

It was a living example of self-sacrifice and was justified by the parting hugs the dashing Kenyan received from the two girls she had "saved from the guillotine" before she boarded the home-bound taxi.

The week's task was to "create a four-page newspaper insert for Bank PHB" and the team that came up with the most compelling newspaper insert design won.

Mr. Shobanjo reminded all this was his field and they had to walk the beat to be able to please him. Homeboy Oscar Kamukama, project manager for Zulu Corporation, was midway accused of weak leadership, and knew he would be roasted in the boardroom.

Luckily, the ancient view that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their shoes inspired Zulus to photograph pictures of shoes of different people: a security guard, a primary school pupil and some team members. The original design grippingly captured the bank's desire to serve and meet the needs of people of all walks of life.

Meanwhile, the Matrix Corporation, buoyed on by that advert that that one day cars will run on water, "At Bank PHB we are already thinking like that," decided on man one day settling on the moon with booming economic activities, ending with, "Bank PHB will be the first bank in space!" It simply sounded fantasy-tic!

But "no consumer has the time to waste trying to pick information," admonished Shobanjo, "your design lacks what I call the 'wow factor' but Zulu Corp.'s design makes you curious to want to know more about the content."

That’s how Zulu Corporation won. Gone are six contestants, as conspiracy and pressure continues to mount.

--Daily Monitor, April 12, 2008

'The AK47’ fired out of The Apprentice

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

On Sunday, viewers of The Apprentice Africa (TAA) were left disappointed when WBS failed to broadcast the show "due to unavoidable circumstances."

The administrator of http://gandaalltheway.blogspot.com/, a blog dedicated to Deox Tibeingana, one of the contestants, wrote angrily, berating the station for its unreliability and asking the producers to shift the programme to rival station, NTV. Then WBS screened a strong apology, promising TAA fans it would screen the fifth episode on Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. At the same time though, Arsenal was playing Liverpool in Champion’s League, and knowing Uganda's fascination with European soccer, WBS still left many at crossroads wondering which of the two to watch. For me, TAA prevailed.


In the week's business task, the contestants were asked to design a mission statement and a 30-second television commercial for Sahara Group, one of the big oil companies in Nigeria.

Before that, the C.E.O told them about a twist in the game. He asked Matrix Corporation to choose someone from Zulu Corporation to join their team and the Ghanaian, Isaac became that man.

The brainstorming began as members sought inspiration and ideas that would steer them to victory. Kenya's Eddie, thanks to his drama skills, was entrusted with the directorship of the Zulu television commercial while Nigerian Bukeme who has a degree in English offered to direct the Matrix commercial.

Prudently, the girls even employed a storyboard illustrator to breakdown their ideas graphically while the Zulus were lost in complacency and self glorification, and warned American film connoisseur, Steven Spielberg to watch out because he had a rival in Eddie!

At the end, the teams made a presentation before a panel of Sahara Group executives. The verdict: Matrix Corp won, and a reward came in form of a bike-riding evening with Sahara Bikers Club and an unforgettable dinner at Lagoon Restaurant.

The Zulus waited apprehensively in the boardroom, for one of them would be "fired." Mr. Shobanjo voiced his disappointment at their failure to know their target audience. And during the shooting of the commercial, they filmed in some restricted areas.

The loud-mouthed and cunning-like-the-fabled-tortoise, Akatu, known among his teammates as "AK47"accused Tunde of being an inflexible project manager that sacrificed their victory on the "alter of his ego."

Eddie quickly defended the latter accusing the 'gun' of running away with his mouth only when they were in the boardroom than when they were in the field hustling. Everyone knew Akatu had contributed little.

The Nigerian lawyer had since the start of the show touted himself as a shrewd negotiator and fighter who was even feared by sharks, but when Shobanjo looked him in the eye and "fired" him for doing little for his team, he sank back glumly.

"Oh my God," his facial expression suggested, "tell me this is a bad dream." But it was real.

--Daily Monitor, April 5, 2007

Who won’t get fired from The Apprentice?

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

This is the fifth week after the premiere of The Apprentice Africa television show and Ugandan contestants continue to impress.

Last week, the two teams (Matrix and Zulu Corp) were driven to a hotel and asked to refurbish and redecorate two rooms to meet the cosy standards expected of a five-star hotel.

There was a twist; a girl was made task manager for Zulu Corp and vice versa. The "bullies" couldn't intimidate Kathleen. The indomitable Cameroonian exerted her authority, delegating tasks to make the tough Zulus look like humbled school boys.

In the Matrix camp, Omar's concept of "focus, accountability and cohesiveness" sounded like music to the ear but the good decorations and great colour coordination won over the judges who handed Zulu Corp victory. The CEO congratulated them before they were whisked off to be entertained by Nigeria's foremost artistes - Sasha and 2Face.

Matrix Corp with Omar (he should have worn a dress) faced the wrath of Shobanjo. "I'm just getting pissed off," he growled. "This is the third time I'm seeing you in four weeks. That's disastrous."

The girls turned their merciless claws on Omar, accusing him of autocracy, not listening to their ideas and doing particularly nothing. The robust Guinean tried to defend himself but was told to shut up his gob by Shobanjo, arguing that a leader has a responsibility of making his team reach the desired destination which he had not done.

"Omar, you are fired!!" he went off like a bomb. It was sad to see Omar go. He added admirable vivaciousness and executive quality to the show and that will be missed.

Overall, the varied personalities of contestants, drama, humour and intrigue make TAA irresistible. The imposing and unpredictable Shobanjo will give you a hearty laugh. And you cannot tell who he'll turn his guns on next. He sounds like a bullet and the style with which he "shoots" down contestants betrays his distaste for lazy bums and mediocrity.

He'll fire you and tell you to your face he has no apologies for firing you. If you thought American Idol adjudicator Simon Cowell was taut and sardonic, wait till you watch Shobanjo giving it to the boys.

In fact, the show would be boring without him. That he's a self-made African billionaire (he's the chairman of Troyka group and co-founder of Insight Grey, Nigeria's largest advertising agency) says much about his winning character.

This is one show one happily watches with their children without reservations. It tests the contestants' business mettle, marketing, management, leadership, public relations and problem-solving skills in a very entertaining and bright way.

It screens on WBS Sunday nights 8 to9p.m.

--Daily Monitor, March 29, 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Two Nigerians win Kampala Commonwealth awards

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

KAMPALA --NIGERIA has once again proved to be Africa's literary giant after two of its creative nationals on Thursday won the 2008 Africa Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Mr Sade Adediran's Imagine This and Mr Karen King-Aribisala's The Hangman's Game won Best First Book and Best Book awards respectively.

More than 320 books were entered between September and December 2007, twelve of which made it to the final shortlist from which the two winners emerged.

Having overcome seven South Africans, a Nigerian, a Kenyan and a Gambian, the lucky two, in addition to pocketing £1,000 cash prizes will have their books compete with winning entries from Commonwealth regions of Canada, the Caribbean, Europe South Asia, South East Asia and the South Pacific for the overall Best Book and Best First Book awards that come with another cash prize of £10,000 and £5,000 respectively.

Uganda may have had no ambassador on the shortlist but should pride itself for the fact that the chairman of the four-person panel of judges is Prof. Arthur Gakwandi.

The Ugandan is the author of the acclaimed novel, Kosiya Kifefe.

Last year, Uganda focused its attention on the Commonwealth and the local literature fraternity organised a series of events to celebrate Commonwealth literature as a shared experience during the Chogm meeting in Kampala.

The announcement ceremony took place in Kampala and was attended by writers and scholars.

--Sunday Monitor, March 16, 2008

Obama bug bites Ugandans

"He's so adorable!" those words, said emotionally, by Linda, a Makerere University student, explains better the frenzy surrounding Barrack Hussein Obama in Uganda.

At university campuses, in taxis and on the streets and blogs, the talk is about the Illinois senator who's seeking his party's nomination for the US presidency.

The obsession with the light-skinned Democrat has the more been made easy by that distinction in him as a man of the people. His followers have not forgotten August 2006, when he came 'home' and joined Kenyan Nobel peace prize laureate, Wangari Mathai, to plant a tree at Uhuru Park.

His confidence, "flow" and sense of humour appeals to the young generation who picked a cue from their American counterparts to form Ugandans For Obama (UFO), a movement of his diehard admirers.

"Our passion for Senator
Obama is based on the fact that he stands for truth, sincerity, hope and change; something that is not only relevant to America but the entire world," said Bernard Sabiti, president of UFO.

Sabiti, who works with Straight Talk Foundation and insists he has no interest in politics, was visiting Kisoro, his home district when the idea of forming UFO struck.

"I entered St. John's Pub one evening and was shocked to find locals in a hot debate about Obama. Someone wondered how a Kenyan was going to be an American president while others contended that would never happen. I saw that they were all crazy about Obama," he said. "In Kampala, Obama was an even hotter topic and as an honest man that I had so much come to admire, I decided to do something that would bring together his fans."

Over 100 people have since registered and many are university students and the young, working class. To them, Obama is "a sensation, a lyric and an irresistible political rock star" for whom they have composed poems, songs, canticles and slogans of praise.

Although they don't have an office, they meet weekly, in the homes of their well-off comrades to watch the progress of the campaigns on CNN and other recorded items on Obama, and are planning a mega launch soon, according to Sabiti.

Meanwhile, they exchange regular e-mails and jokes on the latest from the campaigns. One joke is about their political 'foe' John McCain driving his Straight Talk Express Bus that along the way somehow loses a wheel!

Those who can have arranged with their relatives and friends abroad to send them Obama-branded shoes, mega posters, caps, T-shirts, key holders, name it. And those with unlimited Internet access have opened blogs and facebook accounts wholly dedicated to their hero.
Edward Echwalu, for example, has designed an Obama template for his blog which can be accessed at echwalu.blogspot.com. He owns two mega posters of him and kneels before them thrice a day [morning, noon and at night] to pray for his man.

"Oh man, that man is everything," he said breathlessly, "I don't know how I'll take it if he doesn't become president."

Edward posts updates on Obama and one of his entries echoes the slogan of his hero: "Change we can believe in!" The comment's section captures well the sentiments of other Obama fanatics. The optimistic say they are keeping their fingers crossed while one of the superstitious alludes to a story in Drum magazine about a revered South African fortuneteller who prophesied a woman becoming the next American president.

But this has not dispirited another ardent Obama fan. Gerald Bareebe, for that is his name, even picked a line that was first used to refer to Obama for his blog name. It is called "A man from nowhere!" and can be accessed at bareebegerald.blogspot.com

One of his entries is a funny story picked from the New York Times online about 'mama Obama' –"an illiterate, barefoot woman…" who claims to be Obama's grand mother.

The Obama bug has also bitten Ugandans on Facebook. They upload pictures of him as a young man, his speeches, plus videos of his campaign rallies. The Facebook girls claim he's presently the hottest thing on earth! At 46, Obama is certainly a hunk, no wonder that famous U-tube video of the I Got a Crush on Obama has found itself on Facebook accounts of many Ugandan girls who go about joking that they will have their Obama babies real soon! One of them is a Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire who read his books and fell for his intellect, uniqueness, humility and passion for his own people.

"I understood the plight of ordinary African-Americans and Obama as a man who tries to reason out rather than pass judgment," she said. "When he started his campaigns, few believed he would pull it off, but as a centre person he has beaten the long held beliefs of far-right and far-leftists in the US politics and I believe he will be the first black American president like the Americans call him," Kagumire said.


You would think it weird of Ugandans to form support groups for a candidate they will never have chance voting for, but in a country where many struggle on without jobs, they cannot be blamed for identifying with a man who has given them reason to believe.

In fact, they believe that joining UFO or supporting Obama "is the most important decision you will ever make in your life!"

Except for one lady, all the interviewees were pro-Obama: "Poor Mrs Clinton! Woman has played the game for donkey's years, set a thorough plan and has experience in her bag but I suppose that isn't enough," sighed the lady who preferred to remain unnamed.

Obama's Ugandan camp is confident he will become the official Democratic candidate that will most probably battle republican John McCain in the November general presidential election. And then we shall wait to see if one little man will indeed make history as first black president of the most powerful country in the world.

--Sunday Monitor, March 9, 2008

Eyes on the ball

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

On the Ball is the latest sports programme that is quickly hooking up multitudes of viewers. Coming at a time when many are more than delighted at the start of the English Premier League season, this 30-minute television show is sure to become a darling among soccer-crazed Ugandans.

The soccer show is on every Monday at 8p.m., and in just half an hour, you will catch up with the latest vibe on the scintillating Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, the beloved English Premiership, the French League, the smooth Italian Serie A and muc more.

It is also good news to people who have no access to DStv's Super Sport channels. They will be able to relive those significant soccer moments like the fierce shots at the goal, the dribbles, exquisite ball crosses, the bundled rebounds, the super free-kicks, the impressive wins and the roars in the spectator stands.

With the knowledge acquired from the show, you will be able to give WBS TV's Sport-On trio a run for their money, and armed with the mind of a true guru, you will boldly contribute to those heated soccer debates.

Sunday Monitor, August 28, 2005, page 22

History, traditions sorrounding Christmas

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

The Origin
The idea to celebrate Christmas on December 25 was first began by the catholic church in the 4th century because it wanted to overshadow the festivities of a rival pagan religion that threatened Christianity’s existence.

Accordingly, the Romans celebrated the birthday of their sun god, Mithras, during this time of the year. Then, it was not popular to celebrate people's birthdays but church leaders decided that in order to outcompete the pagan celebration, they had to begin a festival that celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ.

The funny bit is that there is no evidence to suggest that Jesus was actually born on December 25. However, this date was chosen as the official birthday celebration as Christ's Mass so that it would compete head-on with the rival pagan celebration. Though it was slow to catch on, the celebration has since hooked the Christian world.

The Christmas tree
In the 16th century, the Germans had developed this funny habit of decorating trees with roses, apples and coloured paper.

It is believed that Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles. While coming home one dark winter night near Christmas, he was struck with the beauty of the starlight shining through the branches of a small fir tree outside his home. He duplicated the starlight by using candles attached to the branches of his indoor Christmas tree.

Well, the tradition of a starry-lit Christmas tree then stuck!

--Daily Monitor, Friday, December 1, 2006

I staged an attack, became her hero

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

A story of a brilliant literature student who was forced by love to do real practicals

Aisha was stunning and I was hooked the first time I set eyes on her.

She had just been expelled from her previous school after being discovered to be having an affair with a teacher. In anger, her father dumped her in our poor, village school.

I decided to curve myself a place in her heart though I was not the only one.

I was lucky that I was strong on literature among the subjects, so she often came to seek my help. One day she came, held my hand and said: "You discussed your question wonderfully."

I was just a poor guy but there was something about me that a rich man's daughter admired. I was flattered. And immediately thought of presenting my manifesto. But what if she rejected me?

I thought of another plan. I would kidnap this girl. I began by playing on the psychology of my lustful schoolmates. Just as Iago was able to use a mere handkerchief to separate Othello and beloved Desdemona in Shakespeare's Othello, I was going to manipulate my friends to win Aisha for myself.

I lured two of my strongest colleagues in accepting to kidnap Aisha. She used to practice her volleyball alone in the evenings because she had not made many friends. Students thought she was very proud.

According to the plan, I hid in the nearby bush as my colleagues pounced on her. She started screaming for help. I jumped out of the bush shouting at the 'rapists' and like the master of black belt in karate, kicked the hooded 'villains', took her hand and rushed her to safety.

I led the crying Aisha back to school and the story of her rescue from two rascals made me an instant hero. That is how Aisha became my adorable friend.

She wrote me sweet letters declaring her love, and reminding of how I had risked my life to save her. It's almost four years now and our love is still undaunted.

--Daily Monitor, Friday, April 9, 2004, page 17

The Marriage of Anansewa at Sharing

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

The Marriage of Anansewa is about a poor widower, the trickster figure who uses his cunningness to become a money baron. He takes pictures of his excessively beautiful daughter and woos four chiefs to marry her. They send flawless gifts to take care of their 'object of interest' till fateful coincidence knocks; all four chiefs want to claim their bride by bringing the customary head drink. Problem is that they don't know they all want the same girl whom they are about to claim on the same day. But can Ananse surmount this problem, can he untie the 'inextricable knot' he has tied on himself? Will he manage to select the best suitor for his only beloved daughter Anansewa? What if 'Chief-who-is-Chief' the only suitor he trusts turns out to be a fox as well? Also, by giving his daughter away, will he enrich himself never to be poor again? What if other chiefs fall into his trick?

Well, get answers to these questions when you get to watch MAPRO perform at Sharing Youth Hall Nsambya on 11th June 2004 at 3:30p.m. The group comprises mainly Music, Dance and Drama [MDD] students of Makerere University.

Teachers of literature, drama critics, students and the general public with questions on bride price deserve to watch this fine comedy in which cunningness is rewarded much as greed is punished.

Transport fee to Nsambya Sharing Youth Hall is Shs500 by public means. Car owners are assured of security in the parking yard. The canteen is stocked with all sorts of refreshments.

--Daily Monitor, Thursday, June 10, 2004, page 21

The days of Yellow are no more

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

I loved my yellow. We were very fond of each other. I called her my laptop. I vividly recall as I prayed on my knees, from the bottom of my heart that Yeshua connects me. And how in the deep of that night, I had received a call from my missionary uncle in Miami to realize that God had answered my cry. Apparently, he had sent me some dollars, wanted me to go Samsung so we could keep in constant touch. At least I would also join the boys as a bunch of 'on-air campusers.'

So with the warm dollars still burning in my pockets, I went to tawo, yielded to my love for chips and ended up buying Yellow instead of Samsung. What a cool MTN Sendo ka-phone! Yet it cost me a mere 140,000. I'm telling you the day I walked into the lecture room I anxiously thundered: "I got it!"

"What?" the guys shouted

"A Yellow cutie phone," I shouted back as I proudly displayed my gadget before the blockheads laughed like crazy. One malnourished-looking guy went as far to say the thing was a toy for kids but I knew it was envy speaking. Another babe added that its colour was inflammatory. I almost hit her but stopped myself.

Well, my dear Yellow went on to become the mother I don't have here with me scaring the girls away from hooking up with me. What dame would identify with a guy holding a yellow phone? But anyway, I fancied the prettier Yellow more than these gold-diggers. But now that it's gone, daughters of Eve are breaking into my already broken world. When I had yellow, we were busy playing games that helped keep the hookers off. Now I just sit and gaze. And behold, the girls come in a bunch to distract!

I reminisced the good times I had with Yellow; she resembled a small fish. The day I got her, we hugged and slept in the same bed as she lulled me to sleep with infectious ring tones. Banjo was my favourite.

There is no doubt that wherever Yellow is, she recalls the trouble I went through to protect her.
Once I was chatting with Uncle D in Miami when someone teased: "Hey, chatting on your filth?"
He had the audacity to add that I was a campus villager. Definitely infuriated, I got involved in a skirmish and almost forced the University Disciplinary Committee.


Now if it's not the same Lumumbist that has kidnapped my Yellow, then who could be that foul human being with grisly diabolically long hands that only snatch other people's phones? I can't believe it's almost two weeks yet my 'army' mates haven't helped yet. Oh God how I want to slash somebody's neck. I swear I'll if my Yellow is not returned!

--The Daily Monitor Saturday, June 26, 2004, page 12

What has height got to do with love?

By DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

He is a great looker and the most eligible bachelor. He has made it big as a presenter on a prominent radio station around town. With an adorable voice, a sense of humour and unquestionable intellect, he comes around as the most alluring male in Uganda. Problem is –he has a tree stump height. Holding his hands would be like a mother directing her child because he's very, very short. The question is would you date him?

"Duh," most girls answer. But why?

Sharon, a Bachelor of Business Administration graduate says: "I cannot date the sexiest male on earth if he's much shorter than me. I don't think we would connect. Let's face it, would I respect him?"

Like Sharon, many girls say they wouldn't feel a thing for short men though a few believe it depends on the difference in height.

Professionals put men's regular height between "5" 8 and "5" 11 and measure regular short men at "5" 4 to "5" 7. Shaquille O'Neal, the towering Los Angeles Lakers basketball super hero stands at "7" 1. Imagine a woman with a pygmy height dating a man his height!

Though height may not rank as high compared to other attributes like confidence, kindness, intelligence, and success, it holds its goose place when it comes to the kind of person to date.

"Tall men are intimidating. People listen when they stand to speak. It is why a tall and strong person –the one that will dominate and make me a meek wife –is my kind of guy," says Ann, a Mass Communication student at Makerere University.

Ann puts a traditional timbre to it adding that in the true African sense, a woman deserves a muscled man who will stand tall and proud and be able to protect her family through thick and thin.

But looking at it, one wonders if women are being straight. Way back in those golden secondary school days, tall guys always found it hard trying to find prospective dates. At school dances and reunion parties, the tall always became the rejected cornerstones. One popular tall Okasang had a way of bending his body like a reed if by chance he found a girl to dance with. He was intelligent with an enviable sense of humour but his height had become his undoing. Ironically, it's the very short guys that were sharp. They always had a point to prove because many girls are short; they 'felt' the 'goods' for real and enjoyed the zero-distance squeeze dance best.

Away from the past, young women say short men are afraid to date tall, serious dames. Juliana, a post-graduate Law student at the Law Development Centre [LDC] argues that God created man and woman and rigidly defined their gender roles.

"Men were meant to be tall and strong, women short and tender," she says, cheekily adding, "it appeals when my man lifts me in his tall hands just like a baby. A short man can seldom do that if by chance I'm a foot taller." She muses before going rhetoric, "Can he?"

Maybe Juliana has a point. Being very much unmatched in as far as height can put a strain on any relationship and stab the fires of romance. Women want to be lifted, fondled and 'crushed' in embraces.

Alice, a waitress in a restaurant in Wandegeya graphically puts it: "Just imagine a man who has to stand on a stool to be able to kiss my full lips. That would be putting romance in an awkward position."

She cites men who are short and skinny and who, when standing, are at eye-level with the girl's bust: "Such men should leave dating to those who qualify and become priests," she advises.

On the contrary, "Short men never grow old unlike the tall guys who bend with age," says one who preferred anonymity. Apparently, she dates a short man who she says has a sexy persona. She further asserts that short men respect their spouses and treat them with tender love and care.

"Yes, short men have short…um…you know what I mean but they know how to use them, it's what matters most," she laughs and adds, "it makes me whole when my shortie stands on his toes and tilts his chin to kiss me, it's so sweet."

There you heard it from the horses' mouth. It's perhaps logical to say that whether tall or short, what matters in relationships or dating is 'divine' connection and love.

--The Daily Monitor, Friday, October 29, 2004

Miss Ug’s long journey to world beauty begins –Tuesday, November 2005, pg 35

Chantal Kreviazuk's Leaving On A Jet Plane will probably be the song playing as Ms Praise Juliet Asiimwe boards the plane to China to represent the country at the 55th Miss World beauty pageant.

"I'm leaving tomorrow and the main event is on December 10. We'll camp in Sanya Island and will visit the whole of China for a month," said Miss Uganda 2005.

She is leaving with great expectations and if luck is on her side, then Uganda will no more enrich CNN with billions to gild its image because its admiration as the land 'Miss World' will be enough branding.

The 22-year-old Asiimwe was crowned in early October by MKM Promotions, a UK-based event management company which had just received a nod from Miss World Ltd to run the show after Ms Sylvia Owori pulled from the franchise.

Come December, it will be untainted glitz and high anticipation when the organizers get to knight a fresh Miss World to replace the reigning Queen, Maria Julia Mantilla Garcia from Peru.

"I know I'll make it. I'm know for breaking records," Asiimwe told Daily Monitor.

And trust the daughter of Reverend Elly Akankwasa and Ms Joice Akankwasa. She is an embodiment of charm with an infectious smile and unquestionable confidence. It will be less suprising if she emerges champion.

The 5 '7' inches tall girl has been specially trained by Tiner International School of Beauty whose Director, Ms Ruthy T. Kibirige, said Asiimwe is expected to do well at the Miss World beauty show because she's very eloquent, highly knowledgeable and above all has the right size.

All the 115 beauties will also visit the cosmopolitan shopping and trading capital of eastern China before hosting a charity auction and dinner at one of the city's many major international venues.

The contest will see Praise participate in the Miss World Talent Show that will provide contestants a chance to present to the people of Wanzhou a taste of their own culture in song and dance.

Miss Uganda's trip to China is an all-expenses paid trip. There is the Shs1m spending money, not forgetting a new wardrobe that comes with the best as fit for any princess of fashion and
beauty!

--The Daily Monitor, Tuesday, November 2005, page 35

Killing two birds with one stone

It was the third time that the cock raised its irritating crow. A boy of about twelve stirred in his sleep and gave a wild yawn. He wanted to crawl out of his small wooden bed but his sleepy bones would not let him.

Outside, he heard soft raindrops smooching the rusty iron roof and was convinced the heavy downpour had calm down. He had crept into his bed late the previous night; wet, tired and cold after filling jerrycans of water with rain water. He had to do this every time it rained before Njima, his aunt knocked his head on the wall.

Sighing, he turned in his bed again and felt a sharp pain in his left rib. The mattress on his bed was nothing but an old mat and a worn-out woolen blanket. Such beddings could hardly give him the comfort he so longed for.

Tooto, for that was the boy's name, had been told that his mother lived in the big city. He longed for a little mother's love because Njima spent her evenings pinching his ears and pulling his hair.

"I'll kill you. I'll crush you to pulp. I'll kill you boy," she stuttered often when she returned home drunk and staggering. And poor Tooto, hungry oft, let tears down his eyes as he thought about all this.

"O cruel world, why dost thou treat me so," he cried and buried his head under the dirty old blanket.

He was dozing off again when the cock crowed more. He sat up on bed rubbing his eyes. Once dressed, he tiptoed to the front door, taking the caution not wake his aunt and the man she had returned with last night.

Outside, Tooto yawned again and stretched like a rabbit. It was till dark but he could see that Saturday morning was first breaking. It was dump and all was quiet now.

Looking at the sky, he spotted a lone shinning star swimming alongside the hazy moon: "Orion," he exclaimed in remembrance! That was the name of the lovely star! Teacher had said so. And Orion was his best friend. Indeed every time he looked up at the sky it winked at him. He winked back and felt happy. Somehow, this lone star reminded him of the mother he never had seen but a mother he would seek and find when time came.

Tooto thought of this as he got busy preparing to scoot down the little roaring river near his homestead for a fishing spree. The biting cold almost had him sneak back in his bed to sleep but he knew he was a big boy now.

Not only was mudfish so rich in proteins, but Tooto naturally liked fishing. That morning, he hoped to take his catch to the nearby market because he needed the money for that future mission of tracking down his mother. Several times he had dreamt that he was in the big city but somehow the dream always ended before he found his mother. But he had hope. What mattered now was to amass as much money as possible and read hard. Such was his masterplan.

As he stood in the shallow part of the water whistling and baiting the mudfish to come catch the worm fixed on his hook, Tooto was already in a jolly mood. The other evening he had pushed his fishing basket in the deeper ends of the river and like Simon of the Bible, hoped that Jesus would have mercy and tell the mudfish to fill itup.

Indeed when it came for it after failing to get something on his hook, he bubbled with merry to find his basket heavy with the catch. Among the booty was the biggest, the longest mudfish he ever caught! It looked like a helpless little shark as it defiantly beat its tail on the edges of the fishing basket.

Quickly, Tooto fastened his catch on a long stick, for nothing excited him than the sight of the mudfish. He could swear he was the best fisher in the whole wide world. With a satisfied smile, he was soon on his way back home.

Avoiding the small path, he slowly hit the main road with the sole purpose of showing off his scoop. Not even his dirty, tattered shorts could coil him nor the fact that his buttocks hang in the open.

He was about to branch into the small path that led home whe he saw a magnificent lorry approaching. He paused a moment to see and read the words: 'Tourist Travels!'

"So this was it!" he said recalling how teacher had once told them about tourists who flocked to the Pearl of Africa to watch and bathe in the sunshine.

"Some of them have never seen sunshine," Mbuga had said. "They pay pots of dollars to come here just to enjoy the sunshine."

The boys had laughed. Remembering this, Tooto smiled as the lorry halted just in front of him. Two gentlemen and a little girl, almost the size, height and probably age of Tooto, jumped out. Smiling, the toothless of the two said, "Good morning?"

"I'm very fine, thank you sir," Tooto greeted back, as he had been taught at school.

The man on hearing a little 'bush boy' speak English looked impressed. He asked again: "What's your name?"

"Tooto."

"Where did you catch that?" the little girl joined in eagerly pointing at Tooto's scoop.

"Kamabare river," Tooto said.

"I'm Ganesh," the man said. Then holding Tooto by the shoulders, the little girl took their picture. Then she gave the camera to the man [who probably was her father] and she too rested her hand on Tooto's shoulders as the flash went off.

Tooto was delighted. The bazungu who later said they were from Germany thanked him profusely and gave him a thick wad of money before moved on. The little girl waved and he waved back till the tourist lorry disappeared around the corner.

Tooto looked at the brand new notes in his hands and smiled. His dream to go to the city had been answered. Happily, he ran home!

--The Sunday Monitor, Sunday, October 15, 2006, page 23

Looking for a job until tears drop

Dawn cracks with the muffled crow of a cock
You stir in bed with a start
After a flash of ice-cold water on your face has sobered you up, you stretch and yawn
Your belly rumbles from emptiness, and you obey its demand for a meal by swallowing saliva.
You grope all the way searching for a job like a hungry eagle that must trap its prey
Underneath your warm armpits is your best buddy: a parcel with a first class academic document: a real gem.
Your first halt is at an office with a glass-tinted door; you crane your neck high and knock softly:
A door creaks, and a deep sigh escapes your lips.
A lady with owl eyes emerges, but stands erect to stare at you
You behold her with pleading eyes until she slams the door in your face,
Ouch! all that glisters is not gold
Bending your head, you retreat like a rose opens to the sun
You console yourself believing your chance to knock
But everywhere you step, same old story.
Your once charcoal-like black trousers desiring a parch are pale and look like withered flowers: a sorry sight
Years come and depart with the wind
You watch officers cruising by in sleek Mercedes Benzes, with protruding bellies that resemble a frog that has swallowed a snake
Your now malnourished skeletal body tries to bury its envy
The yokel eavesdrop in whispers about you the bookman
Their mock is stinging, your dejectedly sink to your knees
And two meandering tears wet your cheeks!


--The Daily Monitor, Monday, August 11, 2003

Lessons learnt from kikumis

The boys and I recently decided to pay a visit and sample out kikumi-kikumi food; what non resident campusers call "steaming hot, sumptuous meals." Very tired of the monotony of weevil-filled beans[murram] and the not-so-nice tasting kawunga served in Nkrumah Hall [where all recess male students reside], we headed for a nameless food kiosk near Mulago View hostel.

This period slow as it is and quiet because many colleagues are holiday-making, boredom has held our appetites for a ransom; one has got to feed the stomach more than the normal three times a day!

So we set out ready to disprove the saying that our mother [Nkrumah] was the best chef, if you like. And we arrived at this kikumi-kikumi. The inside was cut-clean as we beheld a mother figure waitress with fat cheeks, big dimples and an open gap in her front set of teeth. God the smile was generous too!

As the delicious aroma from someone flying rice seduced our noses, hunger emerged, our small intestines stirred inside us as our large intestines grumbled impatiently as if to say, "I can't wait to be fed."

We made our order. A balanced diet plate pregnant like mount Elgon went for a mere Shs500. Food ranging from matooke, irish potatoes, offals, potatoes, rice, name it, it was there. Trust campusers, we ate like Oliver Twist; couldn't wait to ask for more but by the time we were done, our sacks aka stomachs couldn't enlarge for more.

Problems though: the food was over-fried, yellowish with too much food colour, and slippery like mucus because of too much oil. Of course Makerereans don't give a hoot but we started to mind when our food compartments began to fill. We soon finished and left expelling unpleasant gas through the rear-end and burping noisily from the stomach through the mouth. It was way too much gas!

For no reason at all, one guy excused himself and threw up there beside the road. Another's teeth had cracked because of too many stones in the beans: "Wrecking the stability of my teeth" is what the guy who had lost a part of his molar termed it.

Rice husks made our bellies stony. It was a lesson hard learnt. And there and then, on that jolly but unfortunate-turned evening we decided that we would rather enjoy our kawunga than think of the 'sumptuous meals' prepared by the big dimpled chubby lady with a generous smile.


--The Daily Monitor, July 24, 2004, page 12

Kikumi-kikumi waitresses, the in-thing

Last week, the story was on a bunch of campusers who returned with stomach upsets that turned into diarrhea following meals from the cheap food kiosk near Makerere. Even when they fancied the chubby waitress with an open smile, they vowed never to set foot near kikumi-kikumi again.

But never trust a campuser to keep his word. It was not a week yet when the guys flocked back in huge numbers. The hottest chit-chat is how these gents have found kikumi-kikumi waitresses the sexiest ever that God created! Blame it on the new quiet campus and its romantic serenity but the boys of Makerere are doing more than what Adam and Eve did on that eventless Sunday evening in the moony garden of Eden.

While their brothers and sisters are luxuriating either in leather sofas inside the gates of multi-million mansions owned their tycoon parents, or as peasant sons and daughters grow muwogo in yonder upcountry homes during holidays, these campus remnants are mastering the politics of seduction in a rather practical way.

Accordingly, they flock to the inferior restaurants under the guise of lunching. Then they utilize the opportunity to seduce the easygoing waitresses for later raunchy escapades. As it is, these joint wannabes love hanging out with campusers and Nkrumah has become the harbour in which lust is quenched.

You can argue that it's because campus babes are expensive and too mean to bench since it means taking her to I Feel Like Chicken Tonight in Wandegeya. They are also few and not interested in containing the brimming lusts of these Ivory Tower hunks which explains why the give-no-damn chaps have turned to kikumi-kikumi, the shopping mall for babes.

Consequently, lunch hour has become one in which you spot campus chaps cheekily whispering in the ears of giggling waitresses. It's a normal spectacle to spot a campuser chatting chummily with a kikumi-kikumi babe or stealthily pinching the girl's bottoms in suggestive ways. I've seen many look left and right to see whether anyone is looking before making the maids chuckle. No one is complaining; these women are enjoying such magnitude attention.

They now neglect their work as you hear the chief waiter shouting at the top of his voice, calling out to these females to come and serve clients: "Madina, Magdalena…banange mujje musavinge abantu!"

This is when such cooks and waitresses in dirty bikinis and ever-sneezing noses realize that they should be serving people instead of dilly-dallying with campus boys. But at the end of this get-to-know-you mode, the sharp guys strike secret codes with their lovers cum lust-mates with whom they take their affairs to their rooms to engage in spontaneous sexual bouts before finally booting, chucking or kicking [in campus-speak] the poor women.

Few escapades linger on until they too crumble like a pack of cards. It's the devil out to conquer the world!

--The Daily Monitor, Saturday, August 7, 2004, page 12