What we should do to revive UTL

My first suggestion is the best. Don’t. Don’t do it. Let that cadaver continue to rot in whatever sector, stratum or suburb of hell it was assigned to by our just God and do not resuscitate. It died. Let it stay dead.

Do not give government another business. Giving government a business to run is like giving me high heels to walk around in Komamboga– Every time that happens they get ruined. I don’t know if it is my bowlegs or the fact that I tend to walk with this weird off-axis, broken-rhythm shuffle that makes the GPS wonder if I am trying a new despacito-influenced form of jabba, but every time my girl lends me her high heels I ruin them. Deformed in the front and shattered in the back. Shapeless and broken.

She has learned not to repeat the mistakes of the past. That is why she left me to just wear Puma sneakers.

And it is also why she just left me.

Number two.

Telcoms are not in the business of selling simcards or even of selling numbers. They are in the business of selling airtime. The more numbers you have out there the more business you get.

So, I was going to suggest that they give the utl cards out for free but then even I am not that daring a humorist. That joke is way too extreme and outrageous for me. Mbu give a person a free utl simcard. And he does what with it? Pick kitatis out of his teeth?

You need to add value. Incentive. You can’t just give a Ugandan this card, you have to provide a reason for us to bother to take it.

So, make utl lines OTTT exempt.

Nze me for me as Bazanye, son of Bazanye, muzukulu of Sempebwa, born of Nagawa, I have extensive experience in being a Ugandan, as evidenced by my grey chin. Me who you see here, a man so patriotic I should be carrying a red black and gold vibranium shield and being referred to as Captain Uganda while I strut my mulondo enhanced muscles in tights, even I jammed to pay OTTT. And I don’t use VPN either. If you see me online it’s public WiFi.

It’s a stupid tax and I am not so patriotic that I will do stupid stuff for my country.

Until gava comes out and says, okay, we lied. It’s a tax on educational, business and information communication through these selected channels not a lugambo tax as we said; until you come clean I will keep my two hannad. If you come clean, I will pay it.

But that is besides the point. Editor, do what you feel is appropriate with that diversion. Serve the people.

So, if UTL gives OTTT-exempt sim cards we will take them. Not that we will flock to them because well, it’s still utl and Twitter just isn’t worth that much bother.

Okay. How about this. Gava really wants guys to register for IDs but significant numbers of us are in no rush to. Not least because the public sector is a tedious, inefficient pain in the ass but also because well, when the choice is between going to NIRA and going to the DVD store, no contest.

They have tried all kinds of threats. They cut off our phone numbers? We are now using the numbers of deceased relatives or at least buddies who went to outside countries. Mugenzi and Mutambuzi are still very busy talking from mast to mast in UG.

They locked us out of our bank accounts, so now Bank of Ugandan records show that my Askari has several million shillings in her Stanchart current account.

How about carrots instead of sticks, gava? How about a change of perspective. Imagine if we were citizens who you are here to serve us, not subjects here to be ordered around. Imagine if you were the government of a democratic republic and not lords of a feudal state. Then instead of beating us you could try incentivising us.

It may be too much to ask you to make getting an ID convenient, easy, efficient and more liable to get the gender right the first time so maybe just give the us the ID with a free a utl simcard with a couple of GBs on it.

It’s not the same thing as bribing us to vote but it will work as if as well. And three free GBs will go some distance in mitigating the irritation at being labelled a 23-year-old by NIRA.

Plus, if we all have government issued phone numbers you can track us properly from whatever KGB HQ you are building that made you want to give us Soviet Union-style ID papers in the first place.

Influencers!

I don’t really know who Sheila Gashumba is. She may be, and this is the theory I am running with, a kind, pleasant, warm, smart, hardworking, Christian lady; she may be an angel, a paragon of virtue and industry. Don’t say I am trying to throw shade.

But I am old so I don’t really know much about her.

I did see her on a billboard advertising a service that allowed those who cannot afford to pay for full mobile internet access as well as OTTT to get online.

I mentioned that my interpretation of this was that Sheila Gashumba was the spokesperson for low-income phone users.

Whereupon my head was chewed off.

I stood corrected, aggressively educated nti she is a very wealthy woman who makes it a point to have this fact regularly manifest in her social media. My bad.

But this leaves us with the lesson. Don’t use rich chicks to advertise broke chap’ stuff. If you want to advertise cheap phone services, use Roger Ochen. Roger is so cheap that he buys a Rolex, separates the ingredients to make three meals for the day. Eggs for supper, nyanya n’emboga for breakfast and chapu for lunch.

That’s the one who should influence free utl simcards with no OTTT and free GBs if you go to NIRA.

Finally, don’t call it utl in lower case because .auto correct keeps changing it to UTI.

That’s my advice.May God Uphold thee.

The Weight Of The World On These Narrow Shoulders

IBS affects one in ten people globally, according to the statistics the doctors compiled, so nine of you are safe. I gat dis.

It’s a condition where you go through periods when you have trouble digesting certain foods. Some of us get bloated and cannot socialize after eating … unless it is in Kamyokya, which already smells so bad my gas will barely be noticed. Seriously. You fart in Dangala and the LC 1 personally arrives to sneer at you for bringing toothpicks to a gunfight.

Others have it worse. Eating certain foods give them dios.

I recently found out that the extent of fate’s malignancy had been gravely underestimated when I discovered the possibility of transition between the two.

So psychologically ill-equipped to deal with dios — given that IBS-constipation had gotten me used to a day to day life when I barely ever even shit, let alone emit this vast effusion that has taken to emerging from my bowels all day, that I immediately leapt onto a panic diet, cutting out every probable IBS trigger.

A lot of IBS triggers are delicious, but that’s not a problem. I am dead inside and lack the capacity for real love. I can barely sustain affection for fellow human beings– you expect me to care about chocolate?

Listen. Everyone has left me. Everyone I ever cared about has turned their back and walked away, leaving me hollow, beeft, broken, a husk, a deflated kaveera trampled in the dark ditches of life. Why would food be any different? So what if I loved beef stroganoff in mushroom sauce? Everything I love leaves me. So what if I gave my heart to Guinness, everyone who gets my heart throws it back in my face.

So why should I expect rolex or biyebwa to be any different?

Either I’m still having a tough time dealing with Roseanne dumping me last month, or I actually just lost my soul during those IBS farting bout. I may have just sharted out my entire emotional core without realizing it.

I am not sure because think about it. How would you tell that you were losing your capacity to feel things?

If you can’t feel the loss?

Whoa. Fart jokes got dark real quick.

So I got on an emergency IBS no-trigger diet and didn’t stop to think about what it would mean besides saving money on tissue paper. It was a diet. I cut out sugar, fried things, wheat, meat, pretty much every fattening carb.

And so I lost weight.

Quite a bit. Those of people who hadn’t seen me in a month thought I was some skinny guy who looked a bit like Baz and speaking of Baz, I haven’t seen Baz in a month. How is the pudgy old sweetheart?

My mum’s comment, “Ne akabina kabuze.”

I can’t have my mum making jokes about my ass. I have to get my kilos back. Bring sugar.

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?

Mr 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…

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