Author: E. Bazanye

For fifteen years I wrote a weekly column for Uganda's leading newspaper. Before, and even during that, I wrote others, for the same company. Then I retired, under the impression that I would stop writing columns. But I now write two. This blog is where I write things that don't have to be vetted by editors. If you like anything, please, share somewhere. Don't make me jealous of Bikozulu. I want to continue loving him.

We are losing a lot more than Murchison Falls

First of all, let’s establish that I hate to make the statement that is about to spoil your clean computer screen. I am loathe to say this. But I will, because this is where life has brought me; I am a hopeless, useless, shameless cynic. I believe in nothing. I am bereft of faith, confidence and any concept of the future that is not doom smouldering in the shadow of wasted years, themselves benighted by squandered opportunities which have, on their part, been cast to the ground by our extensive, sustained, unceasing upf**king.

I have been in Uganda for a long time. I am not a young man. I have seen hope in Uganda. And I have seen what happens to hope in Uganda. In Uganda, it dies. We kill it. Every time.

So, with that having been laboriously cleared up, on to the statement.

Dam the falls.

Murchison Falls are picturesque… no, no, no. That isn’t even the word. They are magnificent. They are magnificent. They exude the kind of raw, ageless, unbridled freedom that just grabs your head from the inside and twists it… Unless you are pathologically narcissistic, to be in the presence of Murchison falls is to understand something you never knew about yourself, that you are small and weak and to finally understand how small and how weak, because you have seen something truly large and powerful, something that has been flowing for eons, as powerful and free as this since long before you were even statistically a potential.

Every instant a force strong enough to crush you and everything you own and hold dear gushes through that gap and has been doing that every single instant for hundreds of years. Kintu and Nambi were in diapers while Kabalega was already falling.

The government says they want to build a dam there. Make us some more electricity. Yeah.

The chief objection to this has been that, “Dude, it’s Kabalega falls (I am not going to type Murchinbiki again. If a phenomenon like this is going to die, let it live out its last days with dignity of a better name.) It’s gorgeous! It’s spectacular! It’s awe-inspiring! You can’t destroy something like that! Also, tourism!”

You guys, that won’t stop them. Beautiful things are bulldozed to bland flatness all the time in Uganda. Great things are brought low. It’s how we do business.

And our objections mean nothing.

I should feel outraged, not resigned. I should feel angry, not apathetic. And you are probably outraged by my resignation, angry at my apathy. I am sure you should be. But stay with me for a moment. I might have a point here that you could use.

Uganda is a poor country; that is a thing we so often forget. Uganda is really poor. Uganda is so poor that people die of malaria. You remember the last time you got malaria? Remember how you just popped a few pills and got rid of it?

Yeah. Malaria was the leading cause of death in Uganda just a couple of years ago. As in the number of people who died because they could not get their malaria cured was greater than the number who died of anything else.

I know there are other more academically sound measures of poverty, and poverty is a complex and nuanced socio-economic subject that can’t be glibly defined. But it is such a ponderous part of what we are as a nation that it pretty much amounts to the main thing. It’s the whole point. It’s the first priority. Everything we should be doing should be to get our poor people out of it.

If the choice is between providing infrastructure and energy and industry and other means to facilitate the rise out of poverty vs a beautiful river, it is our moral, just, obligation as a country to damn that river.

If the choice is between reducing poverty and maintaining beauty, well,

poverty is ugly and mean and ruthless and it doesn’t leave much room for comfortable choices between easy options. It’s always sacrifice and pain, rocks and hard places. Some things have to go.

That is what I would say when I was still idealistic.

Part of me still is. I am still very obsessive compulsive about plastics and waste disposal, conservation and environmental protection. I will carry a guveera for miles for hours until I can find a proper dustbin.

But now, where I am, at this point in Uganda’s history, my position is, Leave Kabalega alone. Get your hands off our falls.

Because, well, it’s this government that wants to build the dam. And really, you think they know what they are doing?

Does this government know feasibility, sustainability, opportunity cost, background research, thinking things through, taking a minute to step back and go “Let’s look at the numbers.”

Can we trust this government to actually base their decision on whether the damming of Kabalega will be better for Uganda than alternatives?

These guys who bought flying white elephant, stifled the growth of the internet industry with a carelessly applied tax, stunted the mobile money economy, and who knows what further damage is being read in today’s budget.

We are watching things fall apart. The centre lost its grip. The best lost all conviction and the worst are full to the brim with passionate intensity.

Yes. Cram that poem. It could be our new national anthem.

They will destroy Kabalega, and it won’t be worth it. But there is nothing we can do to stop them. Well, we could try voting in 2021…

Now, that I have wasted your MBs, put what’s left to good use here. Simon Kaheru shows how much we should worry here.

Chandler and Frasier vs The Youth Crime Rate

Youth unemployment is … wait. Don’t stop reading yet. I know that is a terrible way to begin a story, but stick with me, okay? I will make it worth your while. I will put in violence and romance and suspense.

So, youth unemployment is a major problem in growing economies, including Uganda’s. But there are situations where a particular youth decides to make a solution for himself or herself and employ himself or herself and break out of the trap of joblessness.

However, in the case of this one youth, a himself named Gama, his self-employment just created a bigger problem.

This is because Gama decided to become a thief.

He had quick feet, nimble fingers and and agile spine that enabled him to sneak into hostel rooms of universities without being detected and once there, to pilfer and pinch his choice of whatever he found lying around.

In this regard he was a good thief.

What he tended to steal however, were bras, boxers, Iphone cases, and DVDs of shows and music that could easily be obtained from better criminals, those who downloaded them illegally from the internet and stuff like that. Things he would find impossible to sell.

His thieves’ den was crowded with immovable junk. He sometimes thought he should just take it back to make room.

In that regard, Gama was a bad thief, one who would be better off unemployed.

Gama was standing at a bus stop one evening as was his usual job routine. He stood at bus stops trying in vain to fence some of the things he had stolen, a lanky, gangly fellow in nondescript t-shirt, fading jeans, ashy leather sandals and sunglasses. This dude was really bad at his job. He picked clothing that he hoped would help him blend into the background and then he decided to add sunglasses to the mix. Now instead of being well-camouflaged he stood out as the thug at the bus stop who wears shades at seven pm.

For yes, it was seven pm and, at the same bus stop, amidst the usual close-of-business gaggle of Kampalans, stood two boys in school uniform.

It was Chandler and Frasier. You may have heard of them. They are the stars of this story.

Fourteen and sixteen respectively, they were standing at the bus stop waiting for a ride.

“Frasier, I am thinking of the factors that led to the rise and fall of the Songhai Empire of West Africa between 1375 and 1591 AD,” said Chandler.

“Yes, that is a very interesting topic,” said Frasier. “But right now I am more concerned with the formation of the Andes mountain range. Volcanic and igneous rock fascinate me.”

“Not as much as Newton’s third law of thermodynamics fascinates me. I mean, that law must be the coolest law ever!” Chandler replied.

“You are right. It is the coolest ever!” Frasier agreed.

No. That is not what they were saying, of course. No one talks like that. I mean, these boys have weird kaboozi, but it never gets that silly.

“So basically, she said video games make us more violent and that is why she doesn’t like them,” is what Frasier was saying and naturally, Chandler was vigorously disagreeing with such a ludicrous idea.

“You know Fred Obbo? Fred obbo copied me throughout our history exams this term. Then he passed and I flunked. If video games make us violent, how come he is not in hospital? Why isn’t he beaten up and battered and bleeding in hospital, then? Why?”

“Exactly! Somebody needs to explain these things to parents so that they can stop hiding our Playstation games,” Frasier said.

“It is the internet. I blame the internet,” said Chandler.

Frasier agreed. “Yeah. Nobody regulates the internet so you can’t have any idea what our parents are reading and what crazy information they are getting.”

They paused to shake their heads at the ground, sadly, slowly, in recognition of this sad fact.

“So, as I was telling you, so mum said we should stop playing Assassin’s Creed and play Candy Crush Saga instead.”

Chandler looked confused. “What is Candy Crush Saga?”

“I don’t know,” Frasier replied.

“But you just said…”

“Every time someone tells me what it is I squeeze my brain until I forget completely. I don’t want that information anywhere in my head.”

Chandler then asked, “Why are those sunglasses coming towards us?”

“It looks like they want to talk to us,” Frasier observed.

“Why?”

“I ronno.”

Gama got closer.

“He is wearing sunglasses at seven PM. He doesn’t seem to know how to look at people efficiently. Will he manage to talk to them properly?” Frasier mused.

“We are about to find out. His mouth is opening,” Chandler said.

And contact was achieved. Gama was next to Chandler and Frasier.

“Nice shades,” said Chandler, because it seemed the polite thing to do. “Where did you find the type that work at night?”

But Gama was not here to pick up hints. He had other issues to pursue.

“Do you guys like music?” he asked.

This is one of the most perturbing questions one can be asked. If it is not deployed as a pick up line, it means someone is going to try and introduce you to a neo-soul artist who plays the cow horn and doesn’t comb her hair. Either way it is not a good question to hear. The boys gave Gama a blank stare in response.

“I give you this ipod here very cheap. Very cheap,” Gama said unfurling his fist to reveal a tiny gadget with a large round dial on its surface.

“Is that what I think it is?” Frasier was curious.

“What do you think it is?” Chandler was curious about Frasier’s curiosity.

“I think it is an ipod.”

“What is an Ipod?”

“I ronno,” Frasier replied. “Remember what I told you about irrelevant information that I don’t want in my head.”

Gama looked expectant, even through the sunglasses.

“Boss, sorry about the hustle but Ipods are obsolete, and so are people trying to sell ipods. You should have done this in 1974 or whenever ipods were a thing,” Chandler advised.

Gama looked furtively left and right, a task that was more difficult now that the sun had set and his eyes were still shaded by the fake ray-bans. “Cheap price,” he insisted. “Very cheap.”

“No, man,” Chandler counter-insisted. “No one wants an ipod. It’s no longer the dark ages. If you weren’t wearing those sunglasses you would realise that.”

“Yeah, we have phones now. That are like ipods which surf the internet, make phone calls and take photos,” Frasier helped.

“And play games. Some of them are lame but some are violent, too. Not that you should worry. We are immune to the effect of violent video games. You can feel safe around us.”

Gama’s mouth sagged despondently and Chandler and Frasier were struck with sympathy. It was a heavy weariness. He had been at the bus stop for hours trying to sell his crap. He had been there since noon, which was when he first put on the sunglasses. And now the day’s labour was amounting to nought. He had not made a sale.

Gama hung his head, his shoulders slouched, his spirit fell.

This sight tugged at the hearts of the boys.

The magic of patriotism is when a Ugandan will reach out to his fellow countryman in his time of need and give him not a fish, but a way to enhance his means of fishing.  

Which is what Chandler and Frasier did. After telling him to throw away the ipod and sell the earphones instead, they left to enter their bus, with a freshly-purchased pair of fake sunglasses between them.

So I did not put in the romance I promised you, or the violence. But if you read the whole time waiting for it, at least you got the suspense, right?

Still Standing

The worst of us were not able to bring down the best of us.
Cowardice did not quell courage.
The serpents hissed from their gutters, “Shame! Shame! Be humiliated!”
But she said I reject your shame. And by rising above this, instead of humiliation, I have earned pride.
We knew her as a funny girl.
Now we know her as a strong woman.

Throwback. Africa Day ten years ago

You know I was a writer ten years ago? I am not a young man. No need to kneel. But I am not exactly a writer today. I have deadlines that have caught up with me so I have no new post. Can I regale you with this instead?

Our hero was sitting on his verandah yesterday when up toddled the four-year-old from next door. She was dressed in a heavily starched kitenge with a long high headwrap.

  • Amandla, my brother!
  • How many times do I have to tell you, Lizzie, I am not your brother. I know we are not sure who your father is, but my dad was in Nairobi the year…
  • I meant brother in the sense that we are all Children of Mother Africa, Baz. It is Africa Day today, a day when we renew our commitment to the Pan-African cause.  
  • We have a commitment to the Pan Africanist cause? We?
  • Are you one of those brainwashed neocolonialist pawns who does not care about the future of the motherland?
  • I think so.
  • Well, it’s a good thing I showed up then, isn’t it? Let me open your eyes which have been blinded by the oppressor. Let me unlock the shackles that have imprisoned your mind.
  • Um, Lizzie…
  • By the way, on this day I refuse to answer to that colonialist imperialist English name. Please use my African name.
  • What is your African name?
  • I have chosen Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nefertiti.
  • Um, Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nevertiti …
  • Yes?
  • Get the hell off my lap. 
  • Oops. Sorry, Baz. I forgot that you have this “thing” about personal space. But you don’t have to get cross about me sitting on your lap. I am an infant. That’s what we do. We sit on people’s laps and knees.
  • Not on mine, you don’t, Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nefertiti. Where the hell did that come from anyway?
  • Thandiwe was the mother of the Great Chaka Zulu, mighty Warrior Emperor of Afrika. Nefertiti was the Queen of the Ancient Afrikan Civlisisation of Misri.
  • I thought she was like the Queen of Egypt or something.
  • You’re playing with me, aren’t you? You seem to think this is a joke.
  • You’re the one who has decided to call herself Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nefertiti. I swear Mama Chaka sounds like a chocolate bar. I would eat a Mama Chaka. 
  • Why are you unwilling to embrace the glory of your heritage? Why don’t you desire to search the footsteps of your ancestors, the noble warriors of Afrika, the cradle of civilization and learning? Did you know that Afrika invented mathematics?
  • Really? When?
  • In 700BC, when the white man was still in caves!
  • How many years ago was that?
  • It was … you know what? Fuck you, Baz.
  • Hah hah! You haven’t learnt how to add and subtract in school yet, have you, Thandiwe Mama Chaka Nefertiti? Hah hah. If Africans invented maths while Europeans were still in caves, you are still on the UK system! Hah hah! Whooo!
  • You think Africa is a laughing matter, Baz?
  • No, Lizzie… I mean, TMCN, I think you’re a laughing matter. Look, no matter what you call yourself, no matter where you go, you will always be who you are: an African. You don’t have to take on a fancy name, or wear a towering headdress. You and I are, and always will be, Africans. 
  • Really? Is that true, Baz? I guess I have learnt something today. That we should always be ourselves no matter where we come from. Because we are all special.
  • Yes, I am.
  • In unison: Happy Africa Day everybody! 

Verbatim Vs Verbatim special Afrika Day Edition

This blog post is ten years old. Africa Day long ago. Because I don’t have anything fresh this week, may I satisfy you with this?

Uncle E. Bazanye

 

Amandla, my brother!
How many times do I have to tell you, Lizzie, I am not your brother. I know we are not sure who your father is, but my dad was in Nairobi the year…
I meant brother in the sense that we are all Children of Mother Africa Baz. It is Africa Day today, a day when we renew our commitment to the Pan-African cause.  
We have a commitment to the Pan Africanist cause? We?
Are you one of those brainwashed neocolonialist pawns who does not care about the future of the motherland?
I think so.
Well, it’s a good thing I showed up then, isn’t it? Let me open your eyes which have been blinded by the oppressor. Let me unlock the shackles that have imprisoned your mind.
Um, Lizzie…
By the way, on this day I refuse to answer to that colonialist imperialist English…

View original post 1,042 more words

How do you solve a problem like Parliament?

What is the cause of malaria? Is it the germ, the mosquito, or the dwanzie who did not bring us the nets?
What is the cause of this?

Nti parliament has awarded MTN a contract to provide data and pay monthly OTT Tax for each member, to quote myself.

Parliament is supposed to be a defense line: To protect the powerless from the power-hungry, to keep the hungry safe from the greedy. But we messed up. We should have put up the nets, but instead we sent mosquitoes full of germs to our nation’s bedroom, in this analogy, parliament, and now we have fevers.

Yeah. I think I am the one at fault here.

I am urban middle class generation X. I live in an apartment in Kyanja and drink whiskey out of a tumbler, not a satchet. I have several pairs of shoes, glasses and wristwatches, even though I only have one pair each of eyes, feet and wrists.

I don’t know who my LC is. I don’t even know what: Male, female, Jedi, Sith, kree, skrull, sponge, starfish, Ironno. As for my MP, if it’s not Bobi or Semujju, it’s an amorphous, abstract concept. I am that type of person.

But it is negligent of any citizen to not pay close attention to elected leaders. If we are not watchful, they do things under our noses and get away with it, and we gradually, slowly but inevitably end up… well, we end up where we are now as Uganda, where we know that constant vigilance is the price of freedom but vigilance just shows us how little we have left, how derelict the thing became while we were slacking in our duty to watch, while we were buying slacks and watches. The type of person cannot remain hopeful after watching Parliament for long. We give up in despair. We just allow.

We don’t believe in parliament, we don’t trust you. We don’t expect anything from you. So when we read such stories, me and that type of person don’t feel any actual real outrage. Not even surprise.

This type of person that I am, this limp, ineffectual, damp-tissue, waste of a citizen, looks at parliament and says, “We know that type of peron.” We went to school with some of these MPs. Especially the younger ones. When we were in S1 they were in S6 and we can be bold in stating that the type of person who ends up in Parliament is usually smug, self obsessed, entitled and spoiled, their personalities made up of only two elements: greed and narcissism. They were the kind of fucks who would bully us and expect us to feel honoured by the attention.

Our MPs told us that the reason they constantly drain the little granary of this poor country, is us. We are needy.

They need to constantly re-up because it’s expensive being an MP. Many live under massive debt, they lament, because there is pressure from constituents who expect the MP to fund all the funerals and weddings and graduation ceremonies and baptisms and cleansing rituals and curse ceremonies in the area they represent. They spent truckloads of coin getting elected, and spend more staying elected, they need raises. After raises. After raises.

Followed by tax exemptions, and allowances, and increments, and more and more and more money.

But if I have identified the problem, perhaps I should take a stab at identifying a solution. It’s going to sound like I am being flippant, but stick with me. It might actually work.

Here’s the question… If it is so unrewarding being an MP,  why do you want it so bad anyway? Why don’t you just, not be an MP?

Is it because you are scared so shitless of the prospect of an unchecked tyranny that you can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t live with yourself if you are not out there on the frontlines fighting day after day, session after plenary session, holding back the hand of Thanos, so frightened that you will sacrifice everything, even plunge yourself and your people into ruinous debt just to make sure that he power of the executive branch is kept  in check?
Is that it? Is that why?



What’s the deal? What’s up? Is it that the Angel of Destiny, the Archangel Uriel, did appear unto thee and spake thus, “Lo, thou art anointed to save Uganda. Go forth unto parliament.” And now you, personally, must be there to help steer the budgets and the resources and the diplomatic relationships and the laws and freedom of your people, no matter how much it costs you, us, and Uganda, so you really have no choice?




Is that it? Is that the reason?

If that’s the case I am sorry. I have sorely misjudged you. I thought you were a selfish crook bent on draining your nation. Kumbe instead of offering blind insults like a hayra I should offer some helpful advice.

Let me offer helpful advice. I have learned my lesson.

How about, instead of stretching our nation’s thin financial resources even further, instead of getting cars, get the Safeboda app. Or a pioneer bus pass. That is way cheaper. I barely ever drive my own Spacio, not since I got the safeboda app.

Also, there is decent housing here in Kyanja for much cheaper than those bloated mansions you guys seem to be trapped in. This will free a lot of money to pay off constituents handouts.

Or…wait ..or… Wait. Hear me out… Or…

Just tell them no.

“O honourable member and Lord, majestic beyond the ken of a mere peasant like me, mighty and blessed, noble and graceful, I throw myself at your feet, fling myself at your mercy to plead. My son must wed his maiden: 17 million Shillings please. May the pagan gods of our local shrines bequeath upon thine lush beard even more luster,” they grovel.

Just say no.

“If you don’t give us money we won’t vote for you again,” they will say?

You reply, “Good. Then I can get out of this penury trap and get a real job.”

Here’s the thing. If everyone refuses to be extorted like this, that threat loses it’s sting. If they won’t vote for people who they can’t blackmail, who will they vote for? They will have to vote for someone.

I think they will end up voting actual honourable people instead.


Here’s my Idea. You know the saying, “If you really believe in what you are doing you will do it for free?” Or at least you will do it for as little money as you need to stay alive and fed enough to keep doing it?
You know, like those raggedy UPE teachers (the good ones, not the sex offenders) or those raggedy village priests ( the good ones not the sex offenders) or cops (as previously parenthesized again).

If MPs are poor, their constituents won’t expect anything more from them than an honest day’s work. Shiiiyet if you are any good they will be the ones sending you matooke and a chicken or two once in a while.

So, slash mp salaries allowances and incomes. Place these donations and stuff under the category of vote buying or voter influence and outlaw them, repeal that stupid OTT tax and let us proceed.

See? The problem has brought the solution.

Vote Me. Who Else. You can’t possibly do worse.

Nti parliament has awarded MTN a contract to provide data and pay monthly OTT Tax for each member. That is why,  O, Uganda, I now offer myself to you as a candidate for the next parliamentary elections. I don’t want to pay my own OTTT either. I think that qualifies me.

I rarely ever pay OTTT. And I don’t use VPN. I mainly use social media on public wifi because Facebook is not worth 200 shillings a day and Twitter is worth less… Mostly, though, because it is unpatriotic.

It goes against the grain of my Ugandan soul to pay for free things.

We have weighed the pros and cons of ascending to the house of laws:

Con 1: I’m not against taxes:

There are three things at the bottom of the list. They are at the bottom because they are the literal least you can do as a citizen. This is the absolute ass-end of the requirements for a basic citizen to not suck at it. Every inch below this is scum. These three things mark as low as you can go without being categorised as a failure at being a proper Ugandan. This is the passmark.

  1. Don’t pee on the roadside in front of schools, restaurants and churches.
  2. The second thing is: Don’t steal, murder or commit any of the major felonies (you can bribe, utter sedition and jaywalk on KCCA grass while still getting by because Uganda zaabu, we have no choice and the system made us this way) but don’t break laws that directly harm your fellow citizens.
  3. The third is, pay your taxes– grudgingly if you must, but pay them.

These are the basics.

But if I become an MP, the way things are going, I will gradually have to stop paying apparently all taxes ever and will no longer be able to contribute to what scanty little functioning our nation ekes out of its gnawing poverty. Instead I will be a drain, a waste, I will switch from being a victim of the problem to being a part of it.

Pro 1. Social media tax will be among the taxes I will not pay.

Cons. I will be a myopic, scavenging, self-serving piece of shit for taking advantage of you like this.

Pros: As an MP in Uganda today, that is pretty much the job description. If you are shameless, remorseless scum underneath the scum of the scum mines of scum district, you meet the professional requirements perfectly.

Cons: I might be one of those people who aspire to Parliament because I want to be a voice for my people, to help legislate ways to help Uganda solve her many problems, to provide checks and balances to the power of the executive branch. Then if I stand for parliament and win a seat I will be winning what will be my inevitable failure. I will come back after my term having done nothing for Uganda but multiply her griefs. Of course there are some people in Parliament with their nation’s best interest at heart, people who went there to make a difference, to make things better, to do what they can for Uganda.

I am sure they are already showing symptoms of Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Cons: If  might have to unmute @nyamadon.

Pros: If I become an MP I won’t have to make seven more trips to NIRA only to end up with an ID that declares me female and married yet, in truth I am trash and was dumped two weeks ago. MPs don’t line up for anything. They have sirens. And I will have my phone number back.

I think it is settled. On the balance, I will stand for Parliament.

Now where? I am not going to wait for next election season. Someone is going to drop out when they find their fake academic papers and I will slide in through the bye-election.