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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Education is not only about passing through school

Title: Top Secrets of Educating your Child
Author: Fagil Mandy
Available at: Aristoc/Mukono bookshop
Volume: 230 pages
Reviewed by: Dennis D. Muhumuza

Top Secrets of Educating your Child is the latest release by well known Ugandan education consultant, Fagil Mandy, also the author of Self Engineering: My Success Story. The book which I place in the class of Ben Carson’s Think Big for its inspirational and educational value, comes with practical tips on educating your child to success.

Mandy disproves the notion by some parents that education takes place only at school and that passing public examinations means their children have received education. “Many people have been to school coming out with first classes but turned out to be incapable of solving even the simplest of problems, generating any workable ideas, doing any recognisable work like cooking, storytelling or setting up a simple home let alone interacting with others to cause development,” he writes.

He sites the typical Ugandan who knows all the nitty-gritty about soccer stars, famous musicians, world and history but has no reliable income-generating activity and argues that such knowledge is useless if it’s not used to improve one’s earning levels or being more effective and influential in society.
16 secrets are explored in the book in which the author presents the home, community and formal school as the major learning centres for children.

Mandy lets out secrets such as the importance of surrounding the home and with books, learning at home, the value of physical education among others. The book was inspired by more than 40 years experience in the field of education.

The author has conducted not less than 150 seminars and workshops on education countrywide in which he has exchanged ideas with parents, teachers and children both in rural and urban environments. It’s such numerous interactions coupled with considerable experience and academic exposure that renders Top Secrets of Educating your Child credible work.

The book will go a long way in inspiring parents and school administrators to remain conscious in equipping children with the right knowledge, intellectual skills, attitudes and physical skills that shall mark the beginning of the change for the family and the country.

--Published on Saturday, November 28 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

‘Young Minister’

When Mr Moneybags donated big at their wedding meeting,the awed recipients and onlookers were unprepared for what befell them shortly after, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza 

The guests arrived in dribs and drabs and by 6:30p.m the place was chock-full. But, the chairman of the wedding meeting kept saying, “We’re waiting for ‘Young Minister’.” There was excitement when the highly expected guest arrived.

The chairman and groom-to-be, in their shiny suits, jumped over the high table, knocking themselves in the process, as they scrambled to meet Young Minister. The groom-to-be was soon on his stomach lifting his head thrice like a lizard in obeisance to the “Honourable.”

“Ladies and gentleman,” the chairman rumbled, turning to the audience, “Stamp with zeal and clap with momentum as we welcome this most imperative person, the one and only, Sir, the Honourable Young Ministerrrrrrrr!!”

Deafening applause shook the ground on which the meeting was. Young Minister smiled broadly and waved to his “fans” pompously. Given a microphone and asked to introduce his guest, he cocked his voice, and gingerly pressed his arm upon her shoulder: “This here is my chick!” Then he laughed; a tooth and another sat here and there in his mouth, leaving much of his gums ubiquitously bare.

He was heavy, very dark and calloused; a prominent scar on his brow gleamed in the light, and that, coupled with his long and raucous laughter, gave him the look of some strange maniac in a horror film.

No one knew how old he was but there was visibly nothing young about Young Minister. It was said the label was drawn from his living sumptuously like a young minister. “He spins the latest Range Rover and frugality is unknown in his vocabulary,” gushed an associate of his. “If you want to see the real face of cash and hear its splash, Young Minister is the dude!”

Granted the honour of officially opening the wedding meeting, Young Minister pulled from his coat a tiny bottle of what he called “vintage liquid” and in perfunctory liberation, poured down “a little for the gods that bless us.” He proceeded to open his briefcase dexterously. It was brimming with bundled currencies of foreign genres that sparkled against his white suit! There were gasps of awe, for except in movies after the bad boys have successfully robbed a bank, never before had one seen so much money!

Turning to them, Young Minister said rather nonchalantly, “There were times when looking at this would flabbergast me too. Those hard times forced me to the bush. We suffered when we were fighting; we ate the food no human can eat, but my friends, now, no one can talk!”

He turned to the groom-to-be and patting him on the shoulder the way big daddy pats his grandson, continued, now magnanimously, “It’s good to associate with people that bring you up.” Long pause. “Life is short; comrades; that briefcase and its contents are all yours; go and organise a memorable wedding!”
The groom-to-be and his wife-to-be jumped up and down delighted like little children, and the ladies, pulled by the money magnet, were soon fawning all over Young Minister.

When the chairman rose again, it was only to pronounce in his rumbling voice that there was no need for more meetings because of the “more-than-enough generosity of the most imperative person on this auspicious evening; the man who spoke only the language of money, the one and only, Sir, the Honourable Young Minister!”

This time the noise of happiness reverberated even to the furthest corner of the city! The next day, it was on all the radio stations and on the front page of the Independent Daily the day after. The chairman and groom-to-be had been “arrested trying to exchange millions of counterfeit foreign currencies at Twit Forex Bureau.”

And Young Minister, er, Bogus Minister, was nowhere to be found!

--Sunday Monitor, December 6, 2009

Escaping death by a whisker

He had just been online with his love and was looking forward to great things to come. And then an accident happened, shaking those dreams violently, Dennis D. Muhumuza writes.

Mande was left alone in the office chatting away online with the girl of his dreams. He had not quite forgiven himself that Berna had flown to Amsterdam for her post-graduate studies before he had mustered courage to ask her out on a date.

“I miss gonja,” she moaned, “here ‘tis bread lunch, bread dinner, bread, bread and more bread.” He could feel her frustration and homesickness. And on that quiet and lonesome evening, Mande comforted Berna by steering their chat to romance.

He left the office at 9:16pm.

Mande was lost in the thoughts of Berna and the things she had told him when the taxi moved. I love you Berna. I’ll put a ring on your finger the day you return.

Mande smiled and all his fears were gone.

Somewhere along the way, something snapped. Suddenly the taxi hopped roughly off the road, coughing sharply and making daredevil twists before it came to a shaky halt back in the centre of the road.

By now it was all smoggy inside, and freaky howls had erupted like the voices of the crowd in a lake of fire.
“Jesus, Jesus,” women shouted at the top of their voices. It was pandemonium as the travellers struggled to evade death through the windows of the now crumpled taxi.

A man bleeding profusely through the nose could not stop asking in the most impatient and frightening voice for his phone.

Mande was left alone in the darkness of the accursed taxi; rooted to his seat like a statue of an idiot.
He vomited and held his head tightly, afraid that the terrible migraine pounding him would split it open and splatter his brains on the floor of the taxi.

His left eye blinded him with pain, twitching and struggling to jump out of its socket. Bits of Timothy Wangusa’s poem, A Taxi-Driver on his Death, came to him. He too saw himself as another victim of the metallic monsters we call taxis, his bones being picked by strangers with gloved hands, no Berna there to shed tears for him.

Fear gripped him. Was he caught up in a trap of death from which there was no escape?  Mande screamed and tried to stand up but felt drained like an old man under the influence of alcohol.

He had read and heard about men and women who found succour in death (otherwise why would they commit suicide) but Mande was not ready to take a trip to the great beyond. 

Not even death could thwart his future plans with the girl of his dreams. This confidence reenergised Mande. With great effort, he crawled out of the taxi and dialled a friend’s number.

He got the small details of the cause of the accident the following day. The unlucky taxi had been knocked from behind by a small car on Acacia Avenue, just opposite World of Lights building, from Kamwokya. The driver of the small car had died on the spot and most of those in the taxi escaped with grave injuries.

Mande sighed and returned to the sanctuary of his beddings, grateful for his narrow escape from the vicious hand of death. For a fortnight after that tragic Monday evening, creepy images of demons dodging pitfalls in the middle of roads and sucking the blood of men tormented Mande’s sleep until he rededicated his life to the Lord Jesus.

Berna has professed her undying love. And Mande lives and lets live in the assurance that when his time eventually comes he will not go to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

--Sunday Monitor, May 31, 2009

A mother’s love is everlasting

Denda wondered why this woman loved him so and could not wait to find out, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

Denda stood in front of the mirror. He was going to meet her.  Two small eyes stared back. A memory struck him, making him smile. But it was crooked, not the pure smile of his boyhood, years ago.

There was a woman called Feda, at the small trading centre, who oftentimes served him affectionate looks and hugs saying, “You remind me, little boy, with those small sweet eyes of yours!”

She would go behind and return with a big bowl of porridge, which Denda gulped down as the chubby woman grinned, winked and made him feel what those experienced in these things called “motherly love.”

Their “arrangement” went on and the fonder Feda grew of him, the taller Denda grew. But with time, he began to feel uncomfortable whenever she sighed and had him hugged, grinned and winked at.

One day, he cut a fair bargain with himself. He abandoned the highway to trudge the lone meandering path in the blistering, sometimes showering afternoons, homeward from school.

Three years later, Denda decided Feda had outgrown her open spoiling of him. He wanted to voice his gratefulness for her old generosity and with the money he had worked hard for, fetching water and firewood for the neighbours, buy her bowl of bushera, which he had terribly missed.

Feda jumped up, sweeping him into a cuddle, and running her surprisingly soft fingers down the boy’s face all the time murmuring how she had missed “those small sweet eyes that remind me!”

Denda felt strange between his legs and tried to draw away. But the woman pulled him back saying it has been long. Suddenly, she disengaged herself, and with an odd look in an odd voice asked, “Boy, do you have a nail in your pants?”

The P.6 pupil darted a glance at the front of his shorts and saw it pointed like the bill of a young marabou stork. Red with embarrassment, Denda dashed off, never to see the woman again.

A lopsided smirk appeared as memories gushed in torrents. He searched his heart; had she been close to Feda? Had she loved his Dad? Why had she waited all these years?

Sema had called last night: “Dude, she’s at mine and won’t leave until she has seen you.”

Many things clamoured for control in Denda’s mind. How was he to handle the reunification; would he stretch his arm in greeting? Would she cry to see him?

He was in S.2 when he first overheard the whispers. Another woman, not “Mommy”, had brought him into this earth. That’s how he lost the charm and wildness that coloured his innocent days. He thought he would go mad, and then found the books.

It was all quiet when Denda finally entered Sema’s gate. He was about to rap on the door when he heard voices. He pinned his ear on the door.

“I went through a difficult time before I had him,” the longing voice said. “His name means ‘comforter’ because when he came he took away my sorrows.” Sema asked: “Was his Dad there when you delivered?”
“I was alone, about 3a.m., but I didn’t have any trouble pushing.” A nervous laugh. And then: “My baby would wake me in the middle of night and say, Agandi Mama (hello mom), and ask for water. He didn’t like sweet liquids children love. He loved water and milk. One day I was nearly raped on my way to buy him milk.”

The ticktock of the clock cut through the next silence like a gladiator’s sword.

“It hurt but it was the only option,” she said struggling to smother emotion. “My best friend, Feda, promised to take good care of him. Did you say he’s really coming to see me?”

The tenseness and resentment dissolved like salt in boiling water. He inhaled deeply and knocked on the door softly.

--Sunday Monitor, June 28, 2009

‘I can’t stand being second best’

Deox Tibeingana of Tibengaina & Co. Advocates was the best performing East African in last year’s televised Apprentice Africa business show. He told Dennis D. Muhumuza about the measure of a man

How are you doing a year after the apprentice show?
Most of my colleagues took up offers in Nigeria from the sponsors of the show, but I came back home to continue running my law firm and we have registered a very big success in terms of revenues. Obviously, I owe all the success to the show because I was a nobody, but appearing on the show changed my opportunities big time.

There’s a general notion that lawyers are crooks. Are you a crook?
I’m not a conventional lawyer who follows procedures to the letter. Clients are only interested in results and I always get things done in a streetwise manner as long as I don’t go outside the law. So I’m not a crook but a streetwise lawyer.

What’s your greatest achievement?
Kampala is a very small town; most big clients have traditional names like the Katende, Ssempebwas, Kampala Associates Advocates etc working for them. So, getting big clients as well is not something that a young lawyer like me would have dreamt of, but I have the belief and I’m also a deliverer, so that has been my biggest advantage.

In your opinion, what is the measure of a man?
It is being able to live a good life; afford everyday needs so that your family can eat well, dress nicely, have a good education, and your wife can go to a salon without having to worry about where money is going to come from. That, and having a heart for the less advantaged.

Do you think it’s hard for a rich man to enter heaven as the Bible says?
I think it’s the other way around; it’s easier for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than a poor one because money makes things move. You can meet St Peter at the gate and slip him something and enter, ha ha!

What part would you play in the film of your life?
I would play the role of a man of all seasons because my life has been one rollercoaster ride. I’ve come from very far and read hard; I have hustled without giving up to attain a good life and influence other lives.

What do you deplore about your country?
We are a classic case of copycats. If you start a bar and people see people flocking to it, your neighbour will turn his house into a bar and at the end of the day, the whole street will be filled with bars.

What past decision(s) do you sometimes wish you had a chance to change?
Very many, but one that stands out is when I was in the US. I was a young, stubborn man with a six-pack and I got a modelling contract with a top agency in which I was supposed to earn about $700,000 a year; but I walked away and came back home.

I didn’t have my law papers in order and somehow I had broken into that industry by chance. I was afraid of getting all that money and squandering it and ending up nowhere. So I came home to finish my studies. Sometimes I look back and think that if I had taken the offer, maybe I would be a billionaire by now.

What is your most expensive and most treasured possession?
My house in Mbuya is my most expensive possession, but I treasure most my boys (Lincoln, seven, and Andre, three) and my clients. I’ve to make sure my clients are happy because if you don’t have them you don’t have anything.

What do you owe your parents?
Taking me to school is the most important thing my parents ever gave me and I know it was a big sacrifice; I could see how they struggled and persevered. I owe them whatever I am today.

What is your greatest fear?
Being poor. Man, it scares me like hell. Some of my Nigerian friends taught me that having savings on your account doesn’t count for much because you can get a big problem and empty your account. But one thing you can always do is invest in something so that even if you become lame or blind, it can always bring you some money. My second greatest fear is death.

Finally, what motto do you live by?
My Apprentice Africa CEO (Biodun Shobanjo) always said, it’s not enough

--Sunday Monitor, August 2, 2009

‘I love children so much’

In preparation for the Kampala Children’s Reading Day later this year, Fountain Publishers Ltd has been creating children’s readers’ clubs. On July 29, they visited Buganda Road P.S and with them was Natasha Karugire, who shared childhood stories. Dennis D. Muhumuza squeezed a few words from her

How did you get involved in this?
I was invited by Fountain Publishers as a Reading Ambassador and they are the publishers of my children’s story - Tales From The Past: Nzima and Njunju. It is good to encourage children to read, so I keep telling my own children that reading transports you; it takes you to another world, it opens up our imagination to things we wouldn’t otherwise have thought or dreamt of.

How have you liked the experience?
It is so wonderful because the children are so involved in the story; you see their eyes and they are so attentive. I think if children are provided with books they will learn and they will really soak it up.

You must have a deep love for children
I really do; I love children so much.

When did you discover this love?
I think it was when I grew up and had my own. I feel I can relate to any child because of being a mother.

Do you read for your own children as well?
I do whenever I can and on top of reading, I normally tell them stories; I make up some and ask them to tell me theirs, whether it’s an experience they had during the day or something made up because I think it’s good to exercise our imagination.

Will you tell me a story?
Ha ha ha!!

Besides Nzima and Njunju, have you written other books?
Yes. There is one; an educational book about the value of milk to children; to their bodies, their nutrition and things like that.

Do you plan on writing other books?
I really would like to, maybe in the future, if God gives me the time and what to write about, because I love expressing myself through writing.

Today, you told children that the story of Nzima and Njunju was inspired by the stories you were told from your parents as a child. Were/are your parents such great storytellers?
Yes, but the story of Nzima and Njunju was told to us by our mother. She used tell us stories, especially when we were in exile, I think to keep us rooted in our traditional values and not pick up things from other cultures. She would tell us stories when we were in difficult times and this particular story always made me cry so much. Our father used to tell us funny stories, especially about a man called Ishe Kataabazi - I don’t know if you have heard or read about him; and we would laugh so hard and at the same time learn some morals.

What would you tell today’s children, who because of the influence of television, have not been lucky to get stories like the kind you got from your parents?
In the past, our cultures had some very strong and wonderful elements, with some ethos on mistakes; but a lot of them were correct, so I pray that the next generation will pick up less from television and western influences and pick up more of the good things from our ancient traditions.

How do you spend your leisure time?
I’ve three children; two go to school and there is the little one so I spend the free time I have with them; talking, fighting, telling stories – anything. Yeah.

(She asks me to pose the last question) How is Edwin Karugire (her husband)?
She laughs so hard. Still laughing, she says...
“He is very fine, ha ha, thank you so much!”

--Sunday Monitor, August 9, 2009

My education is my most expensive possession

At only 29, Bruce Balaba is a member of the Makerere University Council and is also the Chairman University Convocation, an association of all Makerere University alumni and staff. He told Dennis D. Muhumuza that his greatest fear is poverty 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Participating in the organisation of the first ever Makerere University alumni re-union, and managing to convince former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa to preside, was a very big achievement.

What is your most expensive possession?
I am unable to quantify my education but I find it the most expensive. And if I’m to be material, maybe my house in Luzira; it could be worth Shs300m.

What’s your most unappealing habit?
Sometimes I’m too emphatic and brutally frank.

What is it like for a young man like you leading the university alumni and sitting on the university council?
Leading the alumni is very interesting though challenging. But sitting on the university council is awakening. I think as one grows he becomes more careful and becomes too slow to move. I’m made to wish that many more young people come up to lead and guide these institutions.

Why has it taken this long to organise the first grand alumni reunion?
I think the university has in the past had many priorities but also the leaders were not yet appreciative of the alumni potential to support higher education.

What was the best kiss of your life?
A kiss? No. That’s a little private. But when I made my first entry into the National Youth Council 11years ago, it was a nice kiss of my life.

When did you last cry and why?
Some time when the university land in Kololo was up for sale by university management and the council seemed to take long to appreciate the ill motives, I cried. And the land survived.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I don’t really take interest in looks but I have been told in the past that I’m okay.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Incidentally, my dream dinner is not personal; I wish to see all those graduates of Makerere in that Freedom Square on November 28, (when the reunion takes place), testing their memorable cultures.

Which living person do you most despise and why?
I’m not into despising people, but of course I have no respect for those who undermine the rights of man.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
If we go into relationships, it’s obviously my girlfriend, but you know love is only possible when you’re secure. In fact my greatest love is for those who attempt to create insurance for our future.

What’s the closest you have come death?
Early in 2006 on my way to North Africa, I encountered the Harmattan winds in the skies of Cairo. It was a frightening flight.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
In my S.1 at Kigezi High School, I thought I was the best debater in school. I tried it on stage and got embarrassed.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
A statesman; in fact Benjamin Mkapa. One who struggles to lead, acquires power, sustains the power, hands it over and remains useful to society.

What is your greatest fear?
Poverty. And because of the state of poverty in which our people live, I see a spontaneous uprising of our people triggered by the escalating poverty levels especially if our leaders remain silent. And all our efforts will be carelessly washed away.

To whom would you most like to say sorry and why?
Those I thought I loved. Because it didn’t work out.

--Sunday Monitor, November 22, 2009

Computer-animated films enter Uganda’s nascent film industry

At the recent Amakula Fest, the screening of three short animated films by Ugandan animator David Masanso added uniqueness to the experience, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza.

The 2009 edition of the Amakula Kampala International Film Festival that ended on November 14th at the National Theatre evoked nostalgia with films and stories that captured the socio-political past and authenticated the event’s theme, Visionary Histories.

It was the first time computer-animated films were showing at the six-year event. To watch squirrels with long tails drumming away and wiggling their little waists drew excitement from the audience. The film titled Drums (2009) was inspired by Baganda traditional drums, Bakisimba.

Next was Imitation (2005) which Masanso says was the first Ugandan and African computer animation film to screen at Swansea Metropolitan University in the UK, where he attained his first degree in Computer Animation. The film is based on a Luganda short story about a hawker of hats who gets tired and falls asleep under a mango tree. Two monkeys steal his hats except the one he’s wearing. When he gets up he realises the monkeys keep imitating him; wearing the hats and adjusting them, so he tosses his hat on the ground, and the monkeys do the same, and that’s how he gets his hats back.

To complete the package was The Nest (2007), based on African weaverbirds. A smitten male weaver bird seduces his beautiful counterpart by building a romantic nest. Although these were short films (the longest was two minutes 20 seconds) it was a good precedence and a great inspiration for Uganda’s budding animated film makers. And for the likes of Masanso, the challenge now is to go for full length animated films and series as is the case in Hollywood. Computer animation is a new thing in Uganda and the few Ugandan film makers, spurred on by the vibrant Nigerian film industry and other local initiatives like Maisha Film Lab have gone for live film footage. But Masanso believes computer animation can find acceptance in Uganda.

“I was living in the UK but returned home because we are the ones who should build this industry and animate the rich African story; we can’t wait for the white man to tell our story through his own eyes,” he says, “Many of us grew watching cartoons and still love to because computer animated films are not only hilarious to watch but also animation is the best art form to use for education and sensitisation.”

Masanso believes animated films have long been associated with children because the first ones produced by Walt Disney (1901-1966), the famous American cartoon artiste and founder of the Walt Disney Company, were made for children. “But animation can be used for grownups’ films and projects. Through animation, a storyline imagination can be achieved that camera filming cannot. That’s why animation is used in television commercials, web graphics, interactive DVDs and movies.”

Masanso, who has worked in the animation industry for three years in Wales and has a strong background in computer graphics, says his love for animation was consummated the moment he watched Toy Story (1995) from the Walt Disney Company, an animated motion picture about mischievous toys who played about the place when their owner was not around.

“Seeing toys coming to life, talking and interacting was exciting,” says Masanso. That was many years ago and at that age, he was had no idea whatsoever that in 2009 his own short creations would be the first animated films by a Ugandan to be viewed by fellow Ugandans.

--Sunday Monitor, November 29, 2009

No Time To Die

Title:        No Time To Die
Author:        Godfrey Mawa
Reviewer:  Dennis D. Muhumuza
Price:        Shs20,000
Available:   At all leading book stores

It’s the story of a man born in poverty, who had his parents divorced, lived in slums, had his family knocked down by HIV/Aids, was saved by grace and survived one of the most tragic road accidents on Kabale-Katuna Road that left about 60 people dead. And in this book, Godfrey Mawa tells of his survival story and other narrow escapes in a touching way.

He tells of how he overcame all the “storms” in his life to become the now sought-after conference speaker, evangelist and entrepreneur behind Matric Financial Solutions Inc., as well as the founder of Commission International, a mission outreach organisation.

Basing on his personal experience, the author argues that God is greater than the problems of this world. As Dr Nsaba Buturo notes in the foreword: “Any attempts by you and me to navigate our way through the complicated maze of this world on our own and without recourse as well as reliance on God have been exposed as futile by our brother Godfrey Mawa…”

Mawa’s elevating testimony achieves two important things: reassuring the reader that trying times can be overcome (what he calls “turning our pains into gains”) as well as inspiring one to begin on a new journey towards fulfilling one’s purpose on earth. Writes Mawa: “I have lived to appreciate every storm in my life because it’s been my stepping stone in an upward direction.” 

The book is interposed with inspirational stories of men who faced many hurdles in the quest for achievement and who, instead of surrendering or retreating, continued to walk on “the trouble-filled path” and finally met victory. Written in a fast-paced and suspenseful style, No Time to Die also challenges all the self-confessing Christians to shake themselves from the comforts of church walls and their homes to be prepared to suffer everything if that is what it takes to win one soul for Jesus Christ.

The author uses the symbolism of storms to mean the inevitable crucibles of life and urges all never to be afraid of confronting your storms. “Storms are snares the devil lays before us to de-focus us and hinder us from reaching our destinies,” he writes. “So look beyond the storm; be determined to become an over-comer for it’s no time to die before you fulfil your dream…” This 2009 release is the most inspirational and educational Ugandan book I’ve read.

An enemy of progress

From an early age, Katesa had always known what she wanted in life and wasn’t about to let an old lecherous pervert hold her at ransom and force himself on her, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

Katesa crossed her legs and the spectacled man pretending to read The East African sighed. Not even the finest seer in the land could believe that behind that baby face and silky-smooth skin was a woman of 28. She had, at the age of nine, defied tradition and ran away, a fortnight after she extracted a dozen bullets with the tip of a short spear from her father, a respected pastoralist who fell defending his herd from Maasai rustlers. Impulse drove her to the city, where she lived on the edge, attained an education, and became a veterinary officer.

Today, Katesa was trying to further her education but the head of post graduate admissions at Kavuyo University was frustrating her move for a Masters Degree in Animal Husbandry. Her mind shot back to the old episode that had sent her father six feet under. Had that not been painful enough? A sudden grief seized Katesa by her slender neck and she grimaced as she struggled to control herself.

Her right hand absentmindedly slid into her huge black leather handbag, stopping at something. A lopsided smile crossed her face, hardening the edges of her finely chiseled cheeks, as she thought of what she was capable of if this enemy of progress continued to dilly-dally with her admission.

“Will you tell me, Sir, what my fate really is?” she asked softly.

The old man lifted his eyes from the newspaper and said curtly, “I told you to check on the notice board every day.”

“But, Sir, the lectures have begun already.” The man leaned back in his sofa, thinking of her vulnerability, and a mischievous smile lit his creased face. There was something about the huskiness in Katesa’s voice that drove him insane with desire, as he was sure it would electrify every man with blood in his system that saw her.

He remembered his boyhood conquests that had come to a sudden and painful end after he was forced to marry the daughter of a village tycoon he had made pregnant, shutting him in a loveless relationship like a rat under a trap, and draining the colour out of his life. Now, as he studied this Karimojong stunner, all he could think of, just like that first time she had come to his office, was what it would be like to feel her soft body – skin for skin – against his. The image of them together in a secret room dazed him.

Currents like he had never felt before charged through him. He wobbled to his feet like a drunken man and, with a trembling hand, turned the key in his door. “I’ll do everything for you, pretty, you realise,” he said in a weak voice before Katesa recovered from the shock of seeing the door locked. The man’s eyes had suddenly assumed a strangeness that alarmed her.

“Just let me touch you, please,” he panted. “Your admission letter is in my drawer; let me touch you like this…”  “Don’t touch me,” she shouted, but the man had already swooped, heaving and grunting, as one of his awkwardly long hands went to work; desperately surveying the contours of her body from her neck, to her firm chest, down to her hips, his calloused fingers tearing her blouse and struggling to roll her jeans off impatiently.

Katesa didn’t know how she got the weapon out of her handbag. The man collapsed with one painful cry.
And she didn’t know she was squealing frighteningly as she frenziedly thrust her short spear back and forth into his head, chest and stomach until everything was doused in blood. Then she spat at the “old dog,” feeling no gloom for this doom.

--Sunday Monitor, September 6, 2009

Capturing the school mess from experience

Title: The School
Author: Victor Byabamazima
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza

It is probably Uganda’s most hilarious satirical comedy! Victor Byabamazima’s experience as former headmaster of Kigezi High School and his grasp of psychology, which he studied at university, comes to the fore in this short drama.

He cogently but amusingly captures the school mess; from the 60-year-old money-hungry headmaster who for the entire term feeds his students on pork from his own pig farm, to the voyeur in the school bursar and his peeping into female teachers bedrooms, not forgetting the quarter master’s broken English.

Teachers spend their days playing darts in the staffroom and the headmaster does nothing because he is preoccupied with making money (that ironically never accumulates) and admiring himself in an ill-fitting scouts’ uniform that he never puts off.

Through the witty exchanges between Mr Mathematics and Mr English, the play bitingly attacks the superficiality of our education system – sex for marks, corruption, the incompetence of leaders, tribalism, our seeming obsession with foreign things, immorality, hypocrisy of politicians and self-aggrandisement among other social ills bedeviling modern society.

The hypersensitive Mr Mathematics, who actually covets the headmaster’s job, is on the verge of giving up on his dream of leading an opulent lifestyle when he’s advised by Mr English to “throw away chalk, train your face to wear a smiling mask; get your tongue pregnant with fibs and then climb the political platform…”

Listed in the Heinemann Drama series alongside Francis Imbuga’s Betrayal in the City, John Ruganda’s Black Mamba, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The Black Hermit and Nicolai Nigol’s The Government Inspector among other acclaimed titles, The School is the kind of play that could make very evocative but interesting viewing on stage, or if turned into a feature film.

--Sunday Monitor, September 13, 2009

Keeping the spirit of Paul Kafeero alive

When Paul Kafeero sang about love knowing no bounds in Omwana W’Omuzungu, he was singing about his American wife, Kathryn, who has proved these lyrics true of their relationship as she fights to keep his memory alive, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

When the Buganda flag was lifted, an animated voice floated across the assembly. The pupils of Kampala Quality Primary School were amazed by the white lady singing with ease in Luganda. The surprise singer was Kathryn Barrett-Gaines, Associate Professor of History and Director of African and African American Studies at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. When she was introduced as the American lady that Paul Kafeero sings about in his song, Omwana w’Omuzungu, an explosion of delight consumed the assembly. They were even more delighted later on when she read folklore stories, told tales and interacted with children in the local dialect.

“I began studying Luganda in the US but learned most of it here after I met Kafeero,” she says. “He loved his language; he spoke English very well but his language was his heart and I think he would cry if he were here today because many of his children can read English but can’t read Luganda. And he would say you have to know your own language. I think people should not prize English above Luganda; it’s a beautiful language; that’s why when I came here today, I read to the children in Luganda.”

Kathryn, who founded the Paul Kafeero Foundation in 2008 to keep the legacy of the gifted singer reverberating, is working on a book called The Complete Lyrics of Paul Job Kafeero to be released early next year. In his life and times, Kafeero sang lingeringly about real life experiences; about death in Walumbe Zaaya, about food vendors in Abatunda Ebyokulya and decried the city’s unhygienic conditions in Kampala mu Kooti. He also sang about love knowing no bounds in Omwana W’omuzungu and about quitting liquor in Dipo Nazigala. His true fans will never forget the 1998 Nakivubo concert where he first introduced a busuti-clad Kathryn as “the Omwana W’omuzungu I sing about - she is my wife”.  

When he crooned about quitting alcohol, his loyal followers were overjoyed. They however learnt he had not quit after all when he was admitted to Mulago Hospital where he died from alcohol-related lung complications in 2007.

“He loved alcohol and it killed him; drinking killed him,” Kathryn says emotionally as tears the size of two small peas emerge from the corners of her eyes. She regains her composure and continues: “If people think something else killed him, they are wrong. Alcohol killed him, and I hope they take a lesson from that and stay away because he was only 37 years old when alcohol killed him.”

Did she really love him?
“I loved him so much. In fact, whenever I’m on the plane flying to Uganda, it’s a very different feeling now that he’s not here; it’s like a different Uganda.”

Then what did she do to help him?
“Clearly you had never met him,” she says in a wistful tone, “because you could never tell Kafeero anything - he was a leader; he led himself; he was his own man; he made his own decisions, you could not tell him anything.”

These things, and reminiscences of Kafeero’s dexterity with the guitar, vocal ranges, stage dramatics and the unforgettable hat that gave him an inimitable star look, will be captured in his biography, also being written by Kathryn.

“We also want to preserve kadongo kamu in its true bare-bone roots; we are going to do a CD of the old kadongo kamu singers singing with just one guitar and one voice, and then we will do an unplugged show of true kadongo kamu,” says Kathryn.

 Kafeero validated his title of “prince of music” when in 1994 he won the Golden Boy of Africa Award in Egypt, and followed it with the 2003 and 2004 Pam Awards for best Kadongo Kamu artiste/group. One music critic mourned that “Kafeero’s death probably marks the end of kadongo kamu…he was the voice and sound that shunned modernity for originality.”

Kathryn insists Kafeero was Uganda’s most hardworking and finest singer.
“It was like God touched him because he was just different from everyone in the whole world,” she says. “If he was in the room with you, you would just be looking at him, even if he was just seated and quiet; there was something about him, it was like a light inside of him; I don’t know where he got it from. I know he didn’t get it from his parents because his mother did not want him to be a singer and beat him when she found him with a guitar, so it came from inside him!”

She plans on retiring to Uganda because “Kafeero gave me a whole life here; my whole life in Uganda came from him. That is why I come here thrice every year, and I’m also taking care of his children.”

--Sunday Monitor, September 20, 2009

Saved by grace: What you didn’t know about Uganda’s finest standup comedian

Way before Kenneth “Pablo” Kimuli won the Mnet Standup Uganda contest,
what many possibly don’t know is that he endured difficulties that drove him to find solace in the cigarette and bottle, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza.

“If it had not been for divine intervention, I would be dead by now,” he says emphatically. “I say this because most of the people I used to drink with are wasted and some of them have died.”

At one time, a hardup Pablo used to tell jokes in bars for free booze and cigarettes.
Pablo’s misfortunes began in 1988 after the death of his father, and his mother five years later. His uncle paid his secondary school tuition fees and relinquished the responsibility to Pablo’s elder sister. “When I joined Namasagali University, I didn’t know I would complete school. I was lucky I knew the registrar and the bursar, who allowed me to pay in installments. I even finished paying tuition a month after graduation.”

Pablo graduated in 2003 with fantasies of a great job and lots of money. But he was met with harder times and soon wore out the soles of his shoes hunting for jobs. He tried out newspaper reporting but his articles were binned. “I wrote an article about a cobbler who mended Janet Museveni’s shoes when she was still at Bweranyangi Girls’ School. I used my money to go to the village to interview him but the story was not published. I’ll also never forget the day I went to interview Cecilia Ogwal about the tender she got to supply the UPDF food. Aya ya ya, it was war! She threw me out of her office!”

Pablo would walk from Kikoni in Makerere where he used to share “a hole” with a friend and sometimes go without meals because he had no money. He renewed his “good relationship with the bottle” which he had started in his long vacation. His clique, called “gango” (from gang) comprised five girls and four boys: “We used to “catch a swallow” in different spots in Ntinda.

I’ll never forget when we sat at The Deep and drank from 6p.m to 10a.m. We were more less like pimps because most of these girls were dating big men especially in the army. They would tell us, “You guys just stay and we shall be back.” They would order us drinks, so our job was to drink their pocket change.”
Pablo pauses and continues wistfully: “Sometimes we would drink with the late Allan Cantankerous. That is when my comic side came out. There would be CMI guys and I would tell stories, they would laugh and one of them would say, ‘Give that boy a beer.’ I told more stories in exchange for booze. I look back and realise that I truly boozed. My breath was so hot it could even light a cigarette. Six years since I last touched booze but I still feel tipsy!”
In all this, Pablo would on Sunday still stagger to St Luke Church in Ntinda, even if it was “just for formality.” Ironically, he didn’t get saved in church. He had just returned from The Deep when it hit him that he was tired of being inebriated. His thoughts oscillated between past sins and sudden fear and guilt. He sat down and switched on the television. Behold, Joyce Mayer was preaching!
“She was saying, “You have done everything, it’s time to let go and embrace God; aren’t you tired of serving the world?” And it made sense to me. I reached up for my Bible and the first verse I read, Ephesians 6: 17, became my favourite verse. It says “Put on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God.” Then I recited the prayer Joyce Meyer asked those who wanted to get saved to say after her. But I didn’t feel satisfied. I said ‘Lord, if it’s real, then give me a sign’ and right there, my hands started trembling, and all of a sudden, I started crying…”

Pablo even cast his burden of nine years of smoking unto the Lord. They say old habits die hard but the intoxicating presence of the Holy Spirit could not let Pablo turn back. He joined KPC (now Watoto Church), attended discipleship classes and got baptised.  “I was broke so I decided that if people could tithe money, I could also tithe time,” he says. “Of the 24 hours in the day, a tenth of that would be tithe; divided between prayer and Bible study. I called it praying without ceasing and it has helped me check myself.”

Pablo joined the church’s drama team and started the Ha Ha Group of Comics that endeared him to many. Power FM noticed his talent and hired him to tell jokes on the radio. His metamorphosis inspired some of his drinking mates to turn to Christ as well. It didn’t take long before he became Theatre Factory’s hottest property, and Power FM’s. He started minting good money from emceeing gigs and from directing the Rock Point 256 radio drama series.

But he realised that many comedians rely on sexual innuendo, a path he didn’t want to take lest it corrupted his spirituality. He recently started the Pablo Live Show to help budding comedians “do clean comedy. I don’t want the M-net crew to come to Uganda two years down the road and ask what I’ve done since I was crowned Uganda’s King of comedy and have nothing to sghow for it.”

Pablo thanks God everyday for saving him and changing his lifestyle, for he believes if he had stayed in bars cracking “under-the-belt jokes” in exchange for booze, he would have drank himself slowly but steadily to death!  
--Sunday Monitor, September 27, 2009      

Denza and the President’s daughter

When Denza, a rumoured loner and free spirit met the First Daughter, his daydreaming mind was put into overdrive and it wasn’t long before he started convincing himself that she was his, earning himself a place in a mental hospital, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza.

The Professor of English adjusted his huge spectacles and looked at Denza for what seemed like a long time. “Denza,” he muttered once or twice, “What kind of name is that?” “A name doesn’t have to carry a meaning, Sir,” Denza replied at once, almost losing his temper. If it was not his name attracting unnecessary attention, it was his mind. Why, why, why, he often wondered. Denza had always been a curious case of individuality.

The company of men and women and other ambitions like making money or becoming famous were of little interest to him. He consumed his free time reading old books and learning big words. And whenever he tired, he danced waltz with an imaginary partner. Memories of his father waltzing with his stepmother often made him wonder if his mother was chased away because she couldn’t dance waltz well. But he didn’t muster the audacity to confront his father about it.

One day, the English professor asked what Denza wanted to do after school. He replied jokingly that he would work on becoming the finest Ugandan short-story writer of the 21st century. “In that case,” the professor said quickly, “Let’s test your potentiality.” That’s how Denza got an assignment to interview the President’s daughter on her early formative years for a chapter in her upcoming biography, which the professor was writing.

On Monday, Denza was ushered into her palatial residence by mean-looking bodyguards. He found her waiting in the doorway, dressed in a polka-dot red dress that did little to conceal her shape. And just like that, Denza couldn’t help imagining what she had on underneath. Then she gave him a hug; good gracious, he would never forget that softness! She was now smiling opulently, and with that fragrance, Denza literally was brought to his knees! Not knowing what to do next, he grabbed her hand, brought it up to his lips and kissed it in an awkward imitation of what he had watched in an old film. “Do you know how to shoot a gun?” he asked next, trying to steady himself.

The immaculate lady, with laughter in her eyes, responded with a playful rebuke about how this question was out of place. And watching her enraptured, Denza thought, ‘She’s not only The President’s daughter; she’s also a masterpiece of creation!”’Suddenly it came to him as an epiphany that he had all along wanted to supersede his ranking as a common son of a teacher and attain his rightful place at the top, among the rich and powerful. And the President’s daughter was the means through which he would arrive. He could already see the two of them living extravagantly on her father’s fortune for the rest of their lives. That afternoon, Denza came bounding across the streets of Mpala City, warbling a love tune. A pretty girl he was with at campus waved to him but he didn’t care a whit to return her salutation. Not after the glorious time he had had with a bejewelled-in-gold president’s daughter! That’s also when it hit him that it was the mundane nature of ordinary girls that had made him doubt his virility.

The loner was now known all over the place as the crazy fantasist who was always harping on about his love for the First Daughter. Years went by and Denza’s immoderate fantasies finally drove him to the streets, where he became quite an attraction reciting poetry about his rosy future with her. It is from here that he was rounded up with the others and taken to a mental hospital.

--Sunday Monitor, October 4, 2009

Winning in times that try men’s souls

Having money and fame does not bring joy and a peace of mind after all, rather, learning from mistakes and letting God take control leads to a blissful, purposeful and fulfilled life, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

The famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh seemingly had it all but ended up shooting himself. And one of my favourite American novelists, Ernest Hemingway, with all his influence and affluence, committed suicide in 1961, seven years after winning a Nobel Prize in literature. And I have never stopped asking why. Could it be that money can’t buy happiness?

Celebrated gospel artiste Papa San recently told an inquisitive journalist that at the height of his fame, he spent most of his nights drenching his pillow with tears because he felt purposeless and empty inside. It was only after he changed his ways and became a born-again Christian that he found joy and contentment.

We are living in perplexing times for sure as every passing day we are inundated with stories and occurrences that make us cringe. People are throwing themselves down tall buildings and some buildings are taking turns falling on people as well. Then some individuals have turned it into a business to “bump off” innocent children in the quest of wealth. Others are, because of unemployment and poverty, driven to con, snatch, bribe, kill or offer sex in exchange for a meal, a job, a promotion or even a pay rise.

I recently watched a movie in which a little girl pestered her mother into telling her when she would be allowed to have sex. The shocked mother reluctantly said 18. But the girl said firmly that 15 was the new (modern) 18 and it was clear she couldn’t wait to turn 15 so she can have sex. It reminded me of a recent story in my neighbourhood of a mother who dumped her baby on the doorstop of a man that had impregnated her and denied the responsibility.

It also reminded me of the splash in tabloids; crimes of passion committed when one of the partners is ditched or cheated on. And of the sex escapades (fornication and infidelity), which all serve to confirm the new preoccupation – fulfilling our emotional urges, and the loss of faith in moral values. It is as if there is nothing more to live for as people recklessly drown their frustrations, anxieties, anger and fears in alcohol, drugs, sex as well as wallow in self pity.

All the while rhetorics are being posed. Is God still relevant? If He’s real, how can He look on when circumstances are too much to contain? The Bible challenges us to test and see that the Lord is good. Blessed are they that take refuge in Him (Psalms 34:8). So, yes, God is real and still relevant and ever willing to help. But like the prodigal son (Luke 15), we must be willing to say enough is enough and head back home with contrite hearts.

As I write this, Joyce Meyer is on TV and she just said, “Until you kill your giants, you will never become what God anointed you to be.” When the hustle fails to yield fruits, many are numbed with disillusion and turn to coveting the lifestyles of celebrities from their hairstyles to their fancy houses and cars, instead of wearing out their knees in prayer asking God’s intervention as He helped little David slay giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45).

It makes today the ripe time to let God be the merciful cleanser and healer of the souls in our land. African-American preacher Creflo Dollar says the secret of joy and true accomplishment is not in positions and possessions but in learning from mistakes and leaning completely on the Lord. The Bible says cursed is the man who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord, and blessed is the man whose confidence is in the Lord, for he will be like a tree planted by the water that always bears fruits (Jeremiah 17: 5 and 7).

It means that in times of scarcity and temptations, those who trust in the Lord and obey His will stay strong like a mountain that cannot be shaken (Psalms 125:1). Be sure that if we remain steadfast amid all forms of pressures physical or spiritual, however insurmountable they may seem, if we hold on unswervingly to the promises of God, we shall, like an old hymn goes, overcome someday (Hebrews 10:35).

--Sunday Monitor, November 1st, 2009

Love at the happy hour

Daudi didn’t mean to fall in love with a General’s daughter and was taken aback when she made a shocking confession in the aftermath of his proposal, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

Boni was evidently not a woman of outrageous beauty. She was too skinny and hipless for an African woman. But when Daudi first spotted her at the Happy Hour – the monthly meet-ups of Ugandan bloggers, a feeling as powerful as it was strange seized him and he knew at once this was the woman he was going to marry.

It was shocking because things like marriage rarely surfaced in Daudi’s equation. He was a recluse who owned no phone and spent his days indoors reading and writing a couple of short stories so he could put a meal in his stomach.

As for his appearance at the Happy Hour, his sister had dragged him there “to meet interesting people and snap out of your lifeless lifestyle.” The sister went ahead and introduced them and Daudi found himself standing face to face with Boni, completely dazzled. After an awkward spate of silence, the pert girl smiled and said, “Your dear sister tells me you meditate quite a lot.”

Daudi grinned. “I thought meditating was the stuff of monks but now that you mention it, I’ll certainly have time to meditate on why an ugly girl like you is dangerously attractive.”

Boni laughed and playfully pinched Daudi’s right cheek. It was strange how her eyes could bubble with laughter and wisdom and fire at the same time. The kind of fire and wisdom and laughter you can only find in American bombshell Nicole Parker’s eyes!

They talked endlessly. She was as temperamental as she was a woman of unparalleled candour. She told him of her addiction to the bottle, that she was a pole dancer and a lot other dirt about her father’s dealings, adding with a wry smile that if he breathed a word to another soul, she would shove a loaded two-barrel shotgun in his pants and pull the trigger.

By the time Daudi came back to himself, it was too late to break free from the spell the spoilt General’s daughter now had on him, no matter her terrible reputation.

But would Boni, with all her money, say yes to the big question and accept the easy circumstances of the roughhewn son of a peasant from the remote hills of Rwakarungi, who lived on the scanty pittance he called his monthly income and sometimes bilked his landlord?

Daudi didn’t have time to brood because he lived by the famous Gone With The Wind line “time is not to be squandered for it is the stuff that life is made of”. So he rolled his sleeves and went down on bended knee, took Boni’s hand and made eye contact. “You are the woman I’m ready to kill for, Boni, will you marry me?”

Boni looked at him and was glowing when she said, “Oh Daudi, that’s sweet and you are the first man to propose to me in 25 years of my existence, even though you’ve done it on our first date, if I may call it so.”
She laughed nervously, and to Daudi’s shock, tears sprang into her eyes, “...but I can’t marry you Daudi because, I’m… I’m… a lesbian!” Daudi stood up, waiting to hear it was all a joke but she was serious. Now it was his turn to cry. He cried for the girl he would never forget, the girl that had broken his heart with her confession; he cried bitterly, tears jetting down in his poor, shattered heart!

--Sunday Monitor, November 1st, 2009

Where the tap of funnies does not run dry

Title: Footprints of the Outsider
Author: Julius Ocwinyo
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza

Footprints of the Outsider is a vivid depiction of the life and times of the people of Teboke, and how their lives are impacted when two Indians arrive and set up a ginnery in their land. In setting out to write this novel, Julius Ocwinyo told me he “just wanted to capture the history of Teboke; a place that I’m very fond of because a lot of my history is there.”

Teboke in Apac District is where the now acclaimed Ugandan author was born and had his education until he joined Kyambogo to study English and French. Perhaps it’s in being a part of the area in which the book is set that it is written fervently. I found it more hilarious than his first novel Fate of the Banished, which is on the literature syllabus. Even the author himself confesses to have enjoyed writing Footprints of the Outsider more than the former. The humour is a result of six years of toiling. That is what it took to finish the book.
From the hippos that sulk to a drunken man who touched his anus and mistook it for a mere scar and a priest who “relished using his fist to make people see the volcanic power of the Catholic God,” the tap of funnies does not run dry. But underneath all the humour and mirthfulness of the locals lie the despair and frustration that a life of struggle and overexploitation brings.

The author tackles the absurdity of the cleft between people of different colour, race, religion and political affiliations.

His cynicism toward religion and politics is also evident. The political clash between Abudu Olwit and veteran politician Mike Adoli-Awal is reminiscent of the showdown between the protagonists of Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People.
Also, it appears the chilling subject of child sacrifice in Uganda is not a new phenomenon after all. Writes Ocwinyo on page 5: “It was whispered that when the construction of the ginnery had been completed, the Indians had commissioned Ikangi to abduct any young boy with a bulging navel so that his neck could be slit and his blood splashed on the ginnery machines. This blood-libation, they said, would ensure that the machines ran without trouble.”

The blurb gets it when it says Ocwinyo “captures the spirit of a place and a vital era of Uganda’s history, even as he seeks to unravel the various ways in which political developments impinge upon the lives of ordinary people.” The 165-page novel, published by Fountain Publishers, is available in leading bookshops.

--Sunday Monitor, November 8th, 2009