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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hitchhiking from France to Uganda


Many Ugandans talk of adventure but few if any have tasted or smelled its intensity as much as Jeremy Marie has. A year after his bachelor’s degree in tourism, the Frenchman, spurred by the spirit of discovery, hugged his family, friends and countrymen and began his hitchhiking mission around the world.

Hitchhiking means “to get a ride from a passing vehicle, usually by standing at the side of the road and holding out the hand with the thumb raised,” according to Microsoft Encarta Dictionary 2007. The dictionary however omits the fact that the hitchhiker does not pay for the ride.

For Marie, it began with his childhood fascination with the works of fellow Frenchman, Jules Verne (1825-1905), the author of fantabulous fiction such as Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. So he kept it lodged in the deepest corner of his heart that when he grew up he too would distinguish himself by some thrilling enterprise like Professor Lidenbrock and Phileas Fogg –two indefatigable heroes that make Jules novels unforgettable.

At university, Marie read many travel books to prepare for his impending voyage. And after graduation he worked for one year and saved. He also got some sponsorship from the ministry of youth and sports of the French government and with the encouragement of his parents and beloved twin sister; he was ready for his trip.

Aware that thumbing up for a free ride would be the easiest and most interesting way of meeting people, Marie made his first step out of his home town of Caen, singing along to Marvin Gaye’s classic, Hitchhike. But he was not hitchhiking ‘round the world” to “find that girl”, as the song says, although he’s single and might meet the woman of his life along the way.

“Discovering different things and people and their way of life is the passion of my life,” he said fervently during an interview held at Daily Monitor head office in Namuwongo. “My goal is to observe the world and prove that solidarity and help are still present on our planet.”

Down his bushy eyebrows, eyes moving intelligently behind his glasses, and speaking good English but in a strong almost incomprehensible French accent, Jeremy went on, “My project is to visit schools in the world and try to talk to the children; I try to promote peace; I explain to them that people give me lifts, so from France to Uganda I’ve paid nothing for transport and I’ve been helped everywhere, so that means there are good people everywhere.”

Strapped around his waist was a black rectangular leather pouch containing his papers –passport, a map of the world, some money and a promotional flag that shows him with French children from a school back home.

To get the feel of what truly awaited him, Jeremy first hitchhiked his way around Northern Europe –from France to Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and England. That was in 2005. Then he decided to discover his country and toured it, talking to the people before he left. Even then, he used “hitchhiking because it’s the best way to travel.”

And when, 10 months ago, Marie solicited his first ride atop a lorry, marking the beginning of his exhilarating circumnavigation, his soul didn’t allow him time for prejudices because it was on the verge of bursting with joy.

“From France,” he began with a toothy grin, “I’ve crossed Europe; from Switzerland, Italy, countries of ex-Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Jordan, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, and then I went to Bulgaria and Greece, to go to Turkey. From there I went to Middle East – Syria, Jordan and I travelled to Africa via Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and now I’m in Uganda.”

The virtue of riding on 325 vehicles including motorbikes, lorries, donkeys and a ferryboat, crossing 20 countries and covering 19,200kms of distant lands so far, impels people to listen when the small and bubbly Frenchman claims to know what Mark Twain meant when he noted that wholesome and charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the earth.

It has also been extremely difficult to communicate especially in countries that speak only Arabic and Aramaic. Luckily he has a written brief about his mission in almost every major language and that has helped.

All through, Marie who travels with a small rucksack that contains a few clothes, his washing stuff and sleeping bag, finds free accommodation on the web through

“It’s difficult sometimes but hey, when you do what you really like to do you don’t have difficulties.”

For Marie the thrills outweigh everything else. That’s why he was torn between which of his exciting stories he should share. With a glint of nostalgia, he laughs and says, “I just cannot pick one. There are so many. But Sudan was the easiest place to travel because of the people; for a traveller they are very hospitable. Wherever you travel you get invited for eating, for sleeping, for drinking. In one restaurant I went to pay my bill and I was told a certain Monsieur had paid for me…small stories like that make the trip nice and make me feel that people are good everywhere.”

He also met a gentleman in Slovenia who owned “a folk guitar he said was hidden in the middle of nowhere in Istanbul! Through google earth he showed me where to find it and when I reached Turkey I looked it up and found it, and sent it to France where I will find it after my journey.”

Jeremy entered Uganda a week ago and found it “very peaceful.” He has so far visited Entebbe and was planning to hit a club to check out the nightlife of Kampala. He’ll then head to Mbale and preach peace in primary schools there, then go to western Uganda and round off his one-month stay in the south of the country.

“My next destination will be Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. From there I’ll take a final sailing boat across the Atlantic to go to South America, still without paying for transport.

I hope to safely arrive in Brazil and from there I’ll go to South America and the west side of the continent like Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, to Central America and then on to North America. After that I’ll have to go back to Central America to find a boat to cross the Pacific to arrive in Oceania and the south west of Asia, then Japan, China, and India, before going back to Europe.”

Asked if he truly hoped to sail freely on a ‘Henrietta’ of sorts like his friend Phileas Fogg of Around the World in Eighty Days, to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Marie said it may be difficult but he would ask to work as a skipper or wash the dishes in exchange for the sail. After all he had worked in a hotel for a month in Jordan when he ran out of money.

He’s yet to decide if he should chronicle his exploits but said it’s an idea he may not shy away from upon the realisation that he can promote peace through the book.

After the interview, he stood by Namuwongo roadside and struck the hitchhikers trademark hoping to snatch a free ride to Kamwokya but the taxi touts didn’t comprehend the Mzungu with the raised thumb.

By the end of four years, Marie will have fulfilled his dream in its entirety. Then he can, if he wants, stroke his beardless chin and thump his chest saying, “Yes Jules Verne, I didn’t travel only in imagination like you! I’m the bold traveller! I’ve been around the world and back!”

--Sunday Monitor, July 27, 2008

Femrite gives a voice to Ugandan writings


When Monica Arac de Nyeko won the Caine Prize for Literature in 2007, a Daily Monitor reporter then, Glenna Gordon, drew on other women writers celebrated internationally who are members of the Uganda women writers’ association (Femrite), and wrapped up her argument: “For once, the women are at the head of the pack and the men are limping behind, manuscripts in hand.”

That statement spurred ire from men as passionate about writing. They fumed, it’s just that we lack an equivalent of Femrite to publish and promote our works otherwise we are writing more and better. For a simple newspaper article to incite such exchange gave credit to Femrite for engendering the debate on women writing.

At the time it was founded in 1996 there was hardly any audible literary female voice at home. Men had led long, and the women headed by Mary Okurut, having felt the pinch, formed Femrite with a desire, according to their website, “to change that situation and build level ground for Ugandan women creative writers enabling them to contribute to national development through creative writing.”

Femrite instantly became a magnet that attracted a pool of talent that have had it stamped that Ugandan women can sustain good prose and poetry by winning several writing awards beyond the border. Take the story of Glaydah Namukasa. She was an unknown fish-eating, baby-delivering and writing-loving midwife in Wakiso District who knew not that one day something big would come of the little pieces piled in her exercise books in a metallic suitcase under her bed.

“Femrite made me appreciate women writing, it gave me the inspiration and engaged me with the writing world,” she says. “When I joined their readers/writer’s club in 2002, I came with a story which members did critique and that story became a book and that book won a prize.”

The book Glaydah fondly cites is her second novel, Voice of a Dream that won the 2005 senior category of the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa. She has since authored a string of other short stories now found in prized anthologies and is writing her third novel and will this August attend the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa.

You might argue that Glaydah was more than Femrite shaped by Crossing Borders – a British Council creative writing programme where budding African writers are mentored by established UK writers. But then, apart from the Sanyu FM radio phonics programme in late 2006 which brought to our ears some of the best short stories, little has been heard of other Ugandan writers that benefited from the same programme.

As Femrite celebrated the ninth edition of its annual week of literary activities last week, many lauded the association for going above the call of duty to transform the country from a literary wasteland to a verdant terrain where the pleasure of reading and writing are today passionately enjoyed.

“In helping us tell our stories,” said Pamela Elizabeth Acai, “Femrite has shaped and refined the quality of writing that’s coming out of Uganda and we are getting to that world class level.”

Said Doreen Baingana, 2006 winner of the Commonwealth First Book Prize (Africa region) : “Although I’ve done most of my writing while in the United States whenever I’ve come back I’ve found a literary home; I’ve a community because we do our work in isolation, but it’s always good on the other hand to find people who think like you do, who share your interests.”

Addy Beukema who was part of a Femrite organised poetry programme for schools said before she came to Uganda the only Ugandan author she knew was Moses Isegawa (author of Abyssinian Chronicles) because he’s based in her country –the Netherlands.

“I’m now really proud of the Ugandan female writers,” she said. “I like the anthology, Tears of Hope and I love Cassandra.” The latter is a novel by Violet Birungi, another Femrite member whose play, Over My Dead Body, won the British Council International New Play Writing Award for Africa and the Middle East in 1997.

Incidentally, the highlight of the literary week was the Wednesday public debate in which members engaged Zimbwabwean visiting writers –Keresia Chateuka and Eresina Hwede –in a debate: 'Writing the Unfamiliar Story: Engaging the Political Arena.'

It proved one thing, that Femrite writers though resilient in finding their voice, have not tackled issues of democracy, cultural invasion, religion, human rights violation, dictatorships, corruption or politics as closely in depth as their male counterparts such as Prof. Timothy Wangusa (in his poetry), Alan Tacca (The Naked Hostage), Arthur Gakwandi (Kosiya Kifefe), Austin Bukenya (The People’s Bachelor) among others, have.

Save for Dr Susan Kiguli’s The African Saga, many Ugandan women writers concentrate on issues of sex, domestic violence, famine, friendship and emancipation and are yet to have an impact like the works of authors like Wole Soyinka, Okot p’Bitek or Ngugi wa Thiongo have had.

Thankfully they seem aware – the reason they chose to conclude this year’s literary week with the launch of Today you Will Understand, a collection of stories of women’s experiences in armed conflict.

“It’s exciting that we are moving from a smaller setting of fictionalised pieces to momentous issues of peace and stories of conflict,” said Jackee Budesta Batanda, another award-winning Femrite writer and Communications officer of Refugee Law Project. “Members of Femrite going to northern Uganda and identifying women who have gone through these experiences who could not have a voice to tell and making them know that their stories were important to tell, that in a way was very empowering.”

When they get intoxicated with such contentious issues and heed the advice of Keresia Chateuka to “keep fighting on and writing without ceasing”, and then development partners hear the cry of Femrite coordinator Hilda Twongyeirwe to bolster their activities, only then will Ugandan women writers convincingly walk hand in hand and side by side with their male counterparts.

--Daily Monitor, Saturday July 27, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

Obsessed with taking photos


My school times memories would be incomplete without sharing about the fun we devoured from posing for pictures. I attended one of the remotest schools in Maj. Gen. Kahiinda Otafire’s county but life was good and sweet my friend.

The opening and end of the school term and the swearing-in-ceremony of new student leaders were crowned with parties in which we danced vigorously and dexterously to South African and Congolese music and posed spectacularly for pictures.

Bakwata, the village photographer, would go on one knee, close his right eye and ask us to say “cheers” or “smile” while the flash from his beautiful black Yashica camera literally blinded us.

I was a rich kid who vended a 20-litre can of milk on my father’s Roadmaster bicycle every morning before I pedalled to school, so money was not my problem, and together with other ‘rich’ kids, we took as many ‘snaps’ as we liked. Rummaging through them this morning I was amazed at the moves we pulled.

In one shot, I was wearing a cowboy hat and “listening” to my pocket radio. In another, I was standing next to my friend in a scarlet tie (‘stolen’ from Dad’s). How I laughed reading the words written at the back: “Me and my friend Junior enjoying life at school. My message is this – a poor man is one who does not have a friend!”

In another, three of us were sporting prototype sunglasses with red bandanas around our heads, with mean faces looking like Lil Bow Wow at 12, proving that we were “local” but with style.

There’s another shot of us young “scholars researching for our next philosophical work.” I captioned it: “Being wise is better than being strong, yeah, wisdom is better than strength!”

During socials, the school’s dancing wizard would ask the cameraman to get ready as he wobbled on the dance floor like a caterpillar. Oh sweet nostalgia! We would pose for pictures in front of the headmaster’s office, outside the school gate, or playing soccer with balls made out of dry banana fibres.

I cracked up when I came to the one I took with “Mr. Pajero” – famous for defending his pen snatching ways with a slogan that stealing is not bad unless you are caught.

One day, we had special visitors at school that came in a Pajero on whose bonnet he sat to have his photograph taken. Suddenly, the car siren went off murderously, forcing him to take off at a speed faster than the car’s. That’s how he got his nickname, and we often teased him that not even the car could stand his body odour!

Anyway, the most popular pose was standing straight like electric poles, legs astride, staring ahead with hope, while girls in ready-made cotton dresses liked to rest one of their tender hands on their hips and smile for the camera seductively. The sharper of us would rest his hand on the shoulders of one of the girls while the cameraman snapped away!

Laughter and friendship filled us and so free were we that we even took photos in the mango tree in the middle of the school compound, shaking hands, jumping like frogs or wearing caps made out of leaves and sometimes Muslim caps to resemble young Imams.

The shots are full of fond memories but fonder is the one taken of me enjoying the ‘zero-distance squeeze dance’ with my crush. I’m sure the Guinness Book of World Records people will find something in my secondary school photo album to enter their annals!

--Sunday Monitor, June 29, 2008

Shobanjo at crossroads on who to hire


It was a delightful surprise when in entered six ex-apprentice contenders. Ceo Biodun Shobanjo then offered the two finalists a chance to hire three employees each to help out in what would go down in history as the first of the last business task of The Apprentice Africa show.

Eunice Omole hired Tunde, Blessing and Kathleen. Isaac Dankyi-Koranteng hired our own Deox, Regina and Nnamdi. Prior to that, Shobanjo congratulated the two, commending their commitment to excellence and pursuit of their goal to be the first African apprentice.

They had survived boardroom bullets and watched on while their contemporaries dropped off one by one like branches falling off a tree. “The competition has been very challenging emotionally, intellectually, and physically…” he said. It had to be for he was looking “for the true best candidate in Africa.”

The challenge was about creating an event under the theme: Experience Bank PHB. This called for the cutting-edge dynamism associated with Bank PHB. Isaac went for the sparks and hired Nigerian comedian Gbenga Adeyinka to crackup the patrons by way of emceeing.

The joker didn’t disappoint and lured Shobanjo to “step up here and say something”. The big man laughed lightly and obliged. The guests were briefed about the legacy of Bank PHB and the benefits that come with dealing with this prestigious institution.

They ate and drank to their fill. Singer Timi lightened the event further with soulful tunes, and at the end of the day, one lucky man walked away with 20, 000 Naira after winning a raffle game. Meanwhile, the industrious Eunice made guests re-enact the hustle of banking they braved in the past by lining up like primary school pupils at an assembly.

Shobanjo himself was shown in a queue with a legion of others. Then they were shown that with Bank PHB’s finger print-friendly ATMs, they could in a second do business – thanks to a modern computerised and fast system. Eunice’s “e-banking redefined” theme left an impression.

It was boardroom time and Shobanjo first wanted to know how ready they were to live and work in Lagos – a city of “organised chaos.”
“Oh man, there’s no difference between Lagos and Accra. In fact, Lagos will be my home away from home.

My wife is lovely and ready to go with me even to the end of the earth.” He didn’t put it exactly that way but Isaac left no doubt about his readiness to embrace life in Nigeria. And then Eunice said she was young, pretty, single (are the men in the house listening?) and energetic. Besides, her parents stay in Nigeria so relocating from the US was what she was looking forward to.

Shobanjo shooed them away to wait at the reception while he consulted his advisors. Paul and Mimi believed Isaac was the better candidate because he influenced many wins both as a team player and project manager; a “quiet achiever” with “guts and passion to win.” This is when Shobanjo poured out his heart on Eunice, praising her zeal to win and her distaste for failure, saying, “She fights for her life and fights very well and communicates very well.”

But he also agreed that Isaac is “tick, solid and sound” however easy-going he is. It was clear he had reached the crossroads. Who would he hire, who would he reject? The suspense was nerve-wrecking; the winner was not announced. Till next week.

--Daily Monitor, June 28, 2008

Angella Katatumba returns with 'Glad I’m Alive'


After a two-year “disappearance”, Angella Katatumba is back with her second album, Glad I’m Alive. The 10-track album, she says, is purely inspirational.

“As Africans, we’ve had so much pain so I set out to do something that will make you appreciate life more and feel good.” The title track validates her words more.

She sings beautifully on this one about “a brand new day,” the happiness of living and the powerful feeling inside that makes her feel like she can “move mountains as high as the Rwenzori...”

She strikes a balance in that half the recordings are disco-like with much emphasis on the beat that will compel audiences to get on the dance floor. In this category are Set Me Free, a gospel-inspired hit that has the vibrancy of Mary Mary’s Shackles, and Success styled like Sikyetaga, her “oldie” with Bebe Cool.

Angella decided she needed Navio’s (of Klear Kut) rapping skills on Feel Alright and together, they plead with patrons to sway and feel the vibe while the deejay plays the record to the end.

She features First Love on A Better Place, a therapeutic reggae jam that preaches togetherness and asks “soldierman” to put the gun down and give a little love instead. It’s a rhythmic song; lots of guitar sounds, drums, and recorded live to fall into contemporary Caribbean music. Forgiveness is a politically conscious song about displacement, bloodshed and the Rwanda genocide.

It prescribes love and mercy for pain. The strumming, the saxophone, soft claps, drums and rattles, finger snaps and other computer generated sounds alongside the choir are maximised to bring out the freshness on songs like Thank You, Without You, Wind Beneath Your Wings and Pledge; melodies in the league of her first single, Standing in the Rain.

Pitted against Glad I’m Alive, her first album, Peace, is an underdog. The singer has a more focused message and has matured vocally although I got the feeling she struggles on one or two songs especially when she tries to build to a crescendo only Whitney Houston is capable of.

One must however appreciate her dynamism in combining different elements from different genres of music to create something that somewhat embraces the demeanour of American R‘n’B but also retains a heartbeat-like-rhythm Ugandans so love.

Produced at First Love Records, the album, if you ask me, deserves space in the CD jacket of those who like to dance, love and get inspired.

--Daily Monitor, June 28, 2008

My neighbour is a breath of fresh air


She joined me in this neighbourhood about a month ago – and like they say when you have met Jesus Christ – life has never been the same again.

On Sunday evening, just two days after she became my next door neighbour, I heard a soft knock on my door. “Come on in,” I cried without taking my eyes away from the book I was reading, disgusted at being distracted.
My visitor didn’t even wait for me to finish the chapter I was reading.

“You have so many books here,” she said warmly, taking in my box-sized living room. She wore a flattering white dress with red polka dots. I smiled inspite of myself, but regretted it when a quizzical expression twisted her pretty face.

“You cut a comical figure,” I explained myself, “been long since I saw a girl dressed like that.”
A quick lightening of something like fury flashed in her eyes and I hurried to elaborate; “I don’t mean that in a bad way, you look quite dashing in that little dress and I was thinking I wish all girls dressed like that.”

Then I quickly changed the subject by asking, “How can I help you, Miss?”
“Nancy,” she said, extending her hand in greeting. It was very soft. And Nancy was on “an orientation mission…getting to know my neighbour” and “practicing good neighbourly etiquette.”

I never knew of a thing like that and I didn’t like her guts. I mean I was not going to entertain someone who would often disrupt those special solitary moments, like when I shut myself in my room to recite poetry, listen to lounge worship or read a book.

I remembered how I had been on the verge of abandoning this hood because my previous neighbour – a pretty single woman who left for ‘work’ at 8p.m and returned at 6a.m, had two-loudmouthed twin boys that just never left me alone. I had been relieved when I returned from work one slow evening and found her suddenly gone, although days later, I was terribly missing her ‘naughty boys’ as I called them.

And here was this stunning one, with beauty larger than First daughter Pastor Patience Rwabwogo’s, so full of herself; would I tolerate her?
It turns out that Nancy was a real godsend. She’s a born-again Christian just as I am and sings in a church choir. My, my, you should hear her sing Crystal Lewis’ Beauty For Ashes!

I’ll never forget the day she asked me what I do. “Budding writer,” was my reply, at which point she told me she was impressed. And the next day, she read me a two-page story she had written. It was a boring jumble but I asked her to read it over and over so that I could hear her voice again and again!

She must have thought I liked it because she wore a killer smile all day. She also offered to massage my bony shoulders and clean my room. Nancy sometimes brings me steaming coffee and stays longer reading.
She’s a great cook too, and at her insistence, I no longer have my meals in restaurants. I buy food and she cooks and we eat together like a lovely couple. It’s very funny and I’m loving it.

The other day, she joked that I’ve taught her to consume books like a fire does a dry bush. And she’s quite a talent when she gets to tell about the book she has completed reading.

Today, Chapter 9 is my favourite of Nicky Cruz’s A Final Warning because it’s the chapter she found me reading the first day she knocked on my door. It’s titled ‘The incredible joy of being there.’
And I know what you are thinking. No, I’m not in love with Nancy!

--Sunday Monitor, June 22, 2008

Blessing out, who will be the apprentice?


St. James, the half brother of Jesus, writes in his gospel that the untamed tongue – small as it is –is a flame of fire capable of causing enormous damage.

Having survived 15 raging weeks of the Apprentice Africa show, Blessing Njoku, wherever she is, must be remorseful for ignoring James’ warning and allowing her tongue to end her race just a fortnight to the top.

This being the ultimate job interview, Ceo Biodun Shobanjo asked the three of the original 18 contestants remaining to persuade Bank PHB and Insight Communications executives why each of them is the most fit to become the African Apprentice.

So began the interview with Blessing being asked about her ability to handle pressure considering her pedigree of breaking down whenever they lost. She answered without batting an eyelid that once she scooped the job she would be fine. Did she believe there are difficult people? “I believe there are no difficult people, but people we have difficulties dealing with,” she answered smoothly.

Then she was asked what micropedia, macropedia and encyclopedia are, she was not far from off and could have earned 75/100. The questioner probed deeper, managing to expose her. For example she said she had read 20 books in the past year. Can you mention them please? And she fidgeted.

She then proudly reiterated that she can be “manipulative” seeing the ease with which she can sell you what you don’t need. It was a mistake she would later regret.

Then came Eunice Omole. For someone with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the prestigious University of Virginia, it was shocking that she had no clue what stagflation is. She however answered other questions brilliantly, and with her sexy appeal, the judges licked their lips and soon forgot her mess. In a hot boardroom, Shobanjo told Eunice that she is over-confident and aggressive and needed to work on her listening skills and asked Isaac to be a little more aggressive.

Turning to the Igbo lady, his small eyes dancing with pending trouble, he said, “You were said to be a strong fighter… but there was an expression you used during your interview that you were manipulative… I’m seeking to hire an apprentice that is wholesome and solid; someone whom I might entrust one of my companies… and based on the fact that we live in a society where integrity is extolled over being manipulative, plus the fact that there wasn’t much depth in your answers…Blessing, I regret to say, you’re fired!”

Sales manager Isaac Dankyi-Koranteng is determined to be one of the top five African business executives, and although critics have called Eunice a vicious little-brained “bitch”, she has held her own and proved she works harder than she likes to party. It’s therefore not clear who between the two will be “knighted” on Sunday but the finale promises to be the most thrilling battle of the sexes.

--Daily Monitor, June 21, 2008

'Gadd’ and the tongues in church!!


Drama unfolded in the old days of the Jews. On the plain of Shinar in Babylonia, Noah’s descendants burnt the midnight oil planning to pay the ‘Man Upstairs’ an incognito visit.

They were somewhat tired of being ruled by someone they could not see, and began erecting a skyscraper that would take them to the gate of God.

More amused than angered, the mighty Jehovah stood on his balcony, smiled a little and suddenly, they began babbling among themselves in previously unknown languages: Rukiga, Latin, American English, Kiswahili, Greek, Luganda etcetera.
It’s known today as the Towel of Babel fiasco. Prior to that, so it’s recorded in Genesis 11, the world enjoyed a common language, not the endless dialects that confuse us today.

“Do you hear wharram sayin” is the question! Very interesting is that this lingo has found itself in church and seduced our musical “celebs” like Ragga Dee whom we hear in Mbawe going on excitedly, “My God my Lord my Gaddi…!”
And “Amen” has become “Eme!”

Pastors cry out, “Ken (can) sambaddy (somebody) give Gadd a high five!” and when it comes to the spoken English language, Christians are really kool. Their accents when they say the precious prayers! God now becomes ‘Guard’ possibly because He guards our hearts.

In high school, the born-again brothers spoke for us whenever we visited girls’ schools because we “was” (saved “Gs” have no “were” in their vocab) ashamed of our Runyankole accents. Men!!! The Jesus brothers “was” kool when they opened their mouths and poured out their Gadd-anointed “lyrics!”

Then came the tongues! “Them” folks have certainly forgotten nothing about Acts 2 when a few days after Jesus’ resurrection, the believers that had gathered in a prayer room heard a sound from heaven like “the roaring of a mighty windstorm” above them, before what looked like “flames or tongues of fire” appeared and rested on them. They instantly spoke fluently in “other languages!” so much that the godly Jews were bewildered to hear their own language being spoken by strangers.

“How can this be?” they exclaimed. “Are not all these speaking Galilean, and yet we hear them in our native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya toward Cyrene, visitors from Rome, Cretans and Arabs…we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
God must be a linguist! From the Tower of Babel to this experience that came to be known as Pentecost! It is said that the Jews were amazed and perplexed (two strong words) and asked themselves, “What can this mean?”

I’ve heard it said that God offends the mind to reveal the heart. When we human beings can’t understand and explain a thing, we usually get offended. This day saw offended Jews who made fun of the tongue-speakers and hollered, “They have had too much wine, that’s all!”

Tongues in Pentecostal churches! Tongues! I’ve been to many overnight prayers in these churches and speaking in tongues is the hallmark of these prayers. Only they don’t speak like they are speaking Greek or Latin. It is words like “Bara ka rabe…santa ra kaba (not Santa Anzo)!”

With curiosity, I’ve discovered that these languages are used as a prayer language. They call them tongues of angels. A language God understands. So, when you speak in tongues, you are speaking to God, not human beings. Probably these tongues are what caused the “worldlings” (non born-agains) to cry foul. Haven’t you heard the complaints about “noise” from “Balokole on Friday nights?”

I stay in a noisy neighbourhood (disco until dawn) but no one ever complains. Well, maybe because “we” understand the language disco speaks – so we “aint” offended! But tongues! Oh my Gadd, the loud tongues! “Yah rwa basha nda ka ra…hallellujah somebaddy give preyz in tha house of Gaaaaaaadd!!!”

--Sunday Monitor, July 13, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Isaac Kwabena first winner of The Apprentice Africa

After 16 weeks of rigorous business challenges, Isaac Kwabena Dankyi-Koranteng, 30, entered the records as the first winner of The Apprentice Africa reality business show. The born-again Ghanaian told Dennis D. Muhumuza how God and being himself helped him beat 17 contestants to the crown.

How does it feel winning the ultimate sixteen-week job interview and becoming the first African Apprentice?
I feel highly elated. Words can’t express my feeling. It is joy born out of respect for all my fellow contestants. I see winning The Apprentice Africa as a golden opportunity that I’ll use to build a huge network with top executives and learn from them as well. With God leading the way, the sky is certainly a stepping stone.

Has [Biodun] Shobanjo already handed you the car keys, and have you budgeted for the US$200,000?
I have received keys to my car. It is a Toyota Corolla and I appreciate it. However, on my budget for my salary, I never discuss with anyone other than my wife. Hahaha!

What will be your major roles as the African Apprentice?
I’m yet to finalise my job description with my employers. I know for sure I have a lot to offer both Bank PHB and Troyka Group of Companies.

Was there a secret strategy that brought you victory?
If there was any strategy, then it was to be myself and give my utmost best in every task we executed. However, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each of the candidates helped in effective working well with everybody. Just like a game of chess, every single move has a consequence and must be thought through well.

When you look back, do you see contestants that could have been better than you but were just unlucky?
I respect all the contestants. I know each of them has the capability and the capacity to be the apprentice. However, me winning was not a matter of luck as luck for me is just another name for tenacity of purpose. In as much as I respect each of the remaining 17 candidates, I believe I deserve this win. It certainly has been by the grace of God.

What was it like competing with these other 17 devastatingly ambitious Africans?
For me it is the greatest experience one can think of. You see, after working with them, when you step out into the world, you feel everything is moving just too slow. I wish we could be working together all the time. The experience with these smart people is worth more than the $200,000.

What was your impression of Ugandan contestants?
They are fighters, smart and will never give up. Deox certainly was a strong contender and no wonder he was in the final four. Nancy for me was the hardest nut among the women. She has what it takes to stand any challenge. She impressed me so much. Oscar, wow, is a nice dude who will make everybody around him happy. You hardly find such people on your team.

What was most special about the business tasks you were given?
Getting things professionals use weeks and months to execute in just a day.
I can never forget how everything is possible within the shortest possible time. All that is needed is commitment and the strong will to get it done.

Do you think The Apprentice Africa show will in any major way help convert poverty in Africa?
The $200,000 will certainly help. That’s on a light side. I really think people running their own businesses and those wanting to start can learn practical lessons which will help them avoid certain mistakes in their businesses. Hey, once we have an effective and efficient private sector running, poverty is reduced.

Are you afraid you may not measure up to Shobanjo’s expectations once the going gets tough?
He had 18 weeks to study all the candidates and finally chose me. I would want to believe he very much knows my strength and weakness. I am daring and no matter how tough the going gets, I believe by the grace of God, I’ll make headway.

Is there anything you want to forget about the show?
Yes. The nightmares I had after each boardroom. Whether we won or lost, I would always dream about the task. It was so stressful.

Any message to future contestants?
Get ready to face it tough. You must have drive to succeed, but most importantly, believe in what makes you a force to reckon with.

--Daily Monitor, Monday, July 7, 2008

Isaac hired


A smartly dressed man and woman, visibly struggling to contain the pressure, sat on either side of the tough but well liked man that was in a few hours about to employ one of them.

This was the culmination of what had been dubbed the ultimate job interview. The two had risen above 16 others and galloped into the finals. And here they were in a huge packed Lagos hall and no one knew who the big man would hire.

Would it be the small, “action-packed” and “aggressively tactful” Isaac Kwabena Dankyi-Koranteng from Ghana or was the greater destiny of the day going to be carried by the unapologetically “blunt” ‘Americanised’ Nigerian called Eunice Omole?

We had for 18 weeks watched them welcome with zeal the corporate challenges. They had led their teams to victory as project managers and fought for their lives in the boardroom.

King Solomon once saw under the sun that everything is decided by chance. Was luck then to determine the winner tonight? Not easy for sure. And here, Ceo Biodun Shobanjo once again asked the finalists to convince him.

Isaac knew the African terrain better, he said, and had been described by his contemporaries as a “genuine article” and “fantastic leader,” and even likened to Barack Obama.
Eunice said she had worked in prestigious firms and won the plaudits for outstanding performance.

Shobanjo was convinced but the rule of the game dictated that only one of them would be his apprentice. The winner would work for Bank PHB for a year on expansionist projects in the rest of Africa. It was a humongous challenge, he said, but one that had “great prospects.”

In the concluding battle, Eunice lived up to her malicious reputation, accusing Isaac of being an average person who had reached this far by exploiting her skills and those of his competitors. It was very ironical for she had practically relied on the shrewdness of the Ghanaian for their latter victories.

Isaac’s rebuttal was an exposé of her duplicity and lack of integrity as was witnessed in several tasks. He argued that someone who cannot be trusted in smaller matters cannot be entrusted with bigger business. Then rested his case. Eunice’s face turned red with indignation but she had no chance to fight back.

Africa’s finest brains had competed and tonight was the night to pick that someone with a combination of intelligence, street smartness, integrity and ability to relate well with people and manage conflicts. At this point, Shobanjo breathed in – slowly – and a hush descended upon the room.


A joyful din! Congratulatory hugs! An electrifying smile from his wife Linda! Don’t ask me how Eunice took it. All glory was on the first African Apprentice! There he was, with a champ’s poise in between a satisfied Shobanjo and the MD Bank PHB as camera flashes brightened the hall.
For Africa, it was a night to remember!

--Daily Monitor, July 5, 2008

Ugandan Apprentices receive warm welcome


At Arirang Korean Restaurant on Thursday, it was an evening of deep laughs and good jokes at the WBS cocktail in honour of the return of The Apprentice Africa contestants. Oscar Kamukama, Nancy Kalembe and Deox Tibeingana who starred in the Lagos based business reality television show –gleefully talked about their experiences and what a cruise it had been..

They had been fired by Ceo Biodun Shobanjo but they were worthy ambassadors still, they effortlessly agreed. “Nancy and I were the first project managers of the first business task of the first Apprentice Africa program,” said Deox. He had shone up to the last four and was the only one to have led his team, Zulu Corporation, to triple victories as project manager. Deox came alone, and needless to say, some pretty hot numbers had their eyes on this enigmatic Kampala lawyer.

Oscar, a friend for all, a free spirit that loved the fun and the fine wine in Nigeria arrived with his girl friend Miria. The scribes took in her glamorous black frock and sparkling jewelry and nodded, for in the luscious beauty from the land of milk was something similar to the unforgettable hippy African woman he painted during the eighth episode of the show. Besides a pregnant Nancy was her husband Andrew.

A few clips of their action were played. After the clip about Nancy ended with her being fired by Shobanjo, Wavamuno joked, “Nancy, you hire me to go and look for that guy, ha ha!”

They laughed but big Wavah could have been determined. He seemed shocked too that everyone was in awe of Shobanjo. Does he have a yacht? I have a yacht. He went on about his 69-bedrooom house, wondering again, if Shobanjo owned one. “If he [Shobanjo] was competing with me, I would beat him!” Wavah was certainly in boasting mood. And it was not about riches only.

Earlier, emcee Kenneth Kazooba nearly courted trouble when he invited “Mr Wavamuno” to come and say something. “I’m no longer Mr,” snapped his boss, “otherwise you’re demoting me.” Someone shouted, “He needs to be fired” at which point Kenneth hurriedly apologised, and this time called on “Prof. Dr. Wavamuno” to address the patrons.

The good Prof. smiled and congratulated the trio for representing the country well. Your performance was a forward step in the business industry, he said, and hoped it was a training not just a visit to Nigeria . “This was a real story,” he said. “This was not Gaetano in South Africa [for Big Brother.]”

From somewhere snatches of Careless Whispers sipped in while Deox told a little tale about how Nigerian women, regardless what they are wearing throw up their legs whilst mounting boda-bodas called Okadas. Present were three Nigerian Bank PHB officials who laughed and clapped wildly. It was way past 9p.m. by the time the ebullient guests found their way home.

--Daily Monitor, Monday July 7, 2008

Andrew Wommack is coming to Kampala


American evangelical teacher Andrew Wommack will spend a weekend in Kampala next week. He’ll hold a teaching seminar on Friday July 11 at Hotel Africa starting at 9a.m and will the next day be hosted by Pastor Hebert Kiwanuka of Glory Christ Church, Kasubi.

Since an encounter with Jesus in 1968, Andrew has crossed the world “teaching about God’s unconditional love and grace.” He travels with his wife Jamie.

Ugandan born-again Christians, who watch ‘Gospel Truth’ on Lighthouse Television, are familiar with the soft-spoken servant of God whose greatest attribute is the simplicity with which he expounds the totality of God’s love.

His daily Gospel Truth programs are also broadcast on over 80 American radio and television channels. Led by God, Andrew founded the Charis Bible College in 1994 to produce earnest fishers of men. He is also the author of Spirit, Soul & Body; a book that Christian scholars have called the answer to the disturbing questions that keep many Christians in spiritual poverty.

His impassioned views once indulged the wrath of critics who accused him of being a false teacher, claiming that 90 percent of his teachings are inspired by the doctrines of Kenneth Hagin, a fiery American preacher who died in 2003, than God.

When Andrew invented the popular coinage –‘name it claim it’, blab it grab it’ by advising believers to speak to their wallets and command their money to come in, critics called that satanic but Andrew believes believers should always have “steak” on the their plates (be rich) while they wait for the “pie in the sky” (heavenly glory/richness).

The man coming to Kampala says the key to everything is having a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord.

--Sunday Monitor, July 6, 2008