Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bhutto's demise; man continues to annihilate man

My friend Raymond Baguma today told me about a common joke in Pakistan; It goes; what is the difference between God and Musharraf? Answer: God does not think he is Musharraf.

Following today's events; the grissly assasination of this lady politician, Bhenazir Bhutto, am beginning to think those who coined that joke may after all have been serious.

You may also be wondering what Jesus' image is doing in this piece meant to examine how man is slowly destroying fellow man but remember this is the Christmas season--the time when those of us who profess Christianity are out there preaching love and unity. Trying to revive the principles and values that this Son of God, 2007 years ago, belaboured to drum into our skulls with his spot-on proverbs.
I mean, at this time when we are glorifying the Messiah's birth, the last thing we should be seeing on our screens is Man creating a carnage of fellow man. But again, we are talking about man here.

So, Bhutto, is shot in the head after addressing a rally, 15 other lives are claimed in the process and the suicide bomber takes his life too. Fingers may point to the Islamic fundamentalists operating in Pakistan but i want to think otherwise. Global media (of course with US orchestration) is going to tell people how Bhutto, became a victim of the Al qaeda and other hardline islamic groups but i beg to differ.

'The other view' strongly believes that the demise of this woman has everything to do with Pervez Musharaff. And i will not even attempt to sound academic here. Let's just ask a simple question; who stands to gain most with Bhutto reduced into past tense?

The Islamists have nothing great to gain. When Bhutto ascended the Premier throne at the age of 35 in 1988, she was never engaged in anti-Islam politics. Not even with the reduction in the Afghan war that the US had used Osama to suppress Russian influence.

When she was deposed in 1990 and re-elected in 1993, and again deposed in 1996, she had not taken any radical stance against the Islamists. So, the question is; why would a woman, who when in power never threatened the radical Islamic movement be such a threat to them this time round whe she is running for power?

We all know that the biggest threat to the fanatical Islamic movement in Asia at least is Musharraf. He entered an agreement with the US to use Pakistan as a bumper state against the Al qaeda. If there is anyone the islamists would love to skin alive, it would be Musharaff, not Bhutto.

So, the finger of accusation points in one direction. Musharraf was behind Bhutto's assasination. And try as i may, i find it hard to absolve America. Bhutto's return to Pakistan had posed a real threat to Musharraf's hold unto power. Her rallies were electrifying, with thousands turning up and literally worshipping her. The writing on the wall was clear for Musharraf---come January 8, he was heading for defeat at the ballot. And for the US, they were just not sure whether this woman would have the mettle enough to be duped as a US puppet the way Musharraf had been pocketed.

It was therefore a case of hanging on with the devil you know than court the angel you are not aware of. Of course there will a some tears, diplomatic statements condemning the act and it will return to business as usual. Musharaff doing the dirty work for the US. The biggest losers here are the Pakistanis, who in Bhutto, saw a hope of an 'independent' country.
Of course in my mind continues to ring this statement she made a week to her assasination:

"I put my life in danger and came here because I feel this country is in danger. People are worried. We will bring the country out of this crisis."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


At the bottom of this blogspot, there is a photo of the Kampala mayor, Al hajj Nasser Ssebagala and me. For starters, this man lacks basic education (the school type I mean). Listening to him make a speech in English, one is reminded of Mulili, the comic character in Francis Imbuga’s play, Betrayal in the City. The one who talks of a ‘breathing corpse’ and ‘being a professional soldier by profession’. Ssebagala’s use of tenses—if at all--- will leave one pitying the authors of semantic and lexical rules.
But that said, the man commands a more than fanatical following among city voters. In 2006, he swept aside the flamboyant, American-accented Pastor Sematimba to take the seat that he had lost in 1998 after being convicted in Boston, USA over possession of counterfeit dollars---and inadvertently bringing into Ugandan lingua, a new term ‘bichupuli’.
You may be wondering why I am dwelling on the past and fortunes of this mayor but recent events around this continent are compelling me to think. Look, early this week, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in South Africa met to elect a leader. This followed the expiry of the term of current President Thabo Mbeki. When the ballot is finally cast, Jacob Zuma, a political nemesis of Mbeki, emerges victorious.
I need not repeat here the story of Zuma, but allow me point out that Mbeki fired him as the country’s vice-president when his (Zuma’s) aide was implicated in a corruption scandal that saw an arms-procurement deal influenced. Naturally, we tend to be bitter with people we think are using undue influence to gain wealth, but to the contrary, Zuma’s popularity seemed to have hit fever-pitch high.
Of course, we can not pay a blind eye to the rape trial he was subjected to---and which to the majority of South African ordinaries was a ploy by Mbeki to damage (perhaps irreparably) Zuma’s image.
What is more telling about Zuma and what I want to focus on here is his apparent lack of academic papers. The types we call degrees and diplomas. Whereas Mbeki has a Masters in Economics from the UK, Zuma, who floored him, does not even have basic primary school education. So, why would a politician without formal schooling (like Ssebagala and Zuma), command such fanatical support among voters?
This, from close scrutiny is not just about the politics---it is about the disillusionment we the schooled people have subjected our lesser ‘educated’ brothers to. After independence, there was a surge of political and material optimism in most of Africa. The thought of our own sons and daughters managing our state of affairs was so promising that many at the time saw a great future ahead of them. In countries like Kenya, the ascension of the black man to power had come with a lot of blood sacrifice in from of the Mau Mau movement.
Not long after, the majority of the African masses painfully learnt that even their own sons, who had taken over reigns of power from the imperialists were not any different. And mark you; many of these were graduates of African and British universities. Their education and assumption of power had given the masses false confidence. It was not long before they were instituting tribalism and primitive drive for wealth. In Uganda for example the tribal bug caused the elitist regime of Obote to crumble under the P4 ‘graduate’ Amin. It was obvious that people were getting disillusioned with the educated.
With that phase gone and after sampling misery under the illiterate rulers like Mobutu, Bokassa and Amin, it looked like the return of educated leaders was inevitable.
But look, the wheel is coming full-circle. In South Africa for example, Mbeki is seen to have lost the ANC leadership because he had cemented a society of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Few had become billionaires under him but majority had slid into poverty. In Kenya, Kibaki (now fighting for his political life—but left with a few days), is losing the grip to Raila, who though trained in a Communist German university, has packaged himself as the advocate of the riff-ruff of Kenya; the hoi-polloi.
So ladies and gentlemen, why are people perceived to be less educated or closer to the uneducated assuming leadership now across this continent? One thing explains it; education damages us---especially we Africans. Believe me or not but possession of a degree builds a certain level of pride in you. Makes you think you belong to an exclusive class of society and rubbing shoulders with the lower citizens is beyond you. In company of these less educated, you propound your theories of Malthusian unemployment and GDP, when what all these guys want to hear is simple explanation of why they cannot afford sugar or why their coffee is fetching less money this year than it did last year.
You assume sophiscation as the mark of your education and consequently isolate yourself from the simple, majority peasantry masses. And politics being the art of proximity coupled with numbers, you suffer Mbeki’s fate—rejection.
I will end with a tale about Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle Group and one time second richest man in the world. At a graduation at Yale one time, he told the graduands that they had made the mistake of their lives by gaining degrees. Those papers, he reasoned, would make them develop sophiscations, e.g. on only seeking for white-collar jobs and in the process would lose out on the more paying, though more demanding blue-collar jobs. He was hinting on the reasoning like ‘because I am a graduate, I can not work in a garage or hawk merchandise’. How right he was, because in this city for example, the top most millionaires are those who have risen from hawking to global retailing.
And now, Ellison’s fear is catching up in politics too. Degrees, rather than become an asset are becoming alienating. That is why people like Zuma, with no clear economic policy for Africa’s biggest economy and no degree, will become its President in 2009, as the majority uneducated, cast a protest vote against ‘we’ the educated. Be very afraid!!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

"I" annihilates 'We"

In one of his remarkable speeches, the renown American president, JF Kennedy warned that: "If mankind does not bring an end to war, war will bring an end to mankind". At his hindsight was the explosive possibility of the Cold War and the arms race.
Today, if JFK passed in Africa, i am sure he would caution: "If Africans do not put an end to greed, greed will put an end to Africans".
Look, an investigation reveals that people charged with the duty of distributing drugs freely to public health facilities have decided to ferry the drugs to private centres and sell them.
Obviously, this reduces accessibility to drugs and consequently deaths are imminent. For those of us who have access to health cover and rush to the doctor even with the slightest migraine, we may not actually know the impact of some of these things.
When a national paper runs a story that drugs worth sh100m have been diverted, we may just look on and brush it off as the next of the corruption scandals we have gotten used to. True, but for how long should mankind, in the crave for personal aggrandisement, subject other people to misery?
But as i posted earlier, we need to ask: why is man descending this low? Why would anyone with a conscience divert funds meant for HIV/AIDS victims to putting up personal mansions and shopping a fleet of cars for his concubines and himself? Surely, where has the word 'shame' gone?
Before you weep, like i do a great deal; stop and think---these people are products of our society. They are responding to standards and expectaions the rest of us are setting. The former Kagoma County MP, Dr. Frank Nabwiso, was voted out in 2006, and one of the reasons given by a section of his constituents was that he embarrased them by driving an old car. I listened to Dr. Nabwiso address a meeting in Makerere University in 2006 (after the elections) and he admitted that with his salary and family committments, he could not afford a 4-wheel-drive car. He actually rode a bicycle a couple of times!! To voters, this was a shame.
So, with a mindset like that, what do we expect people to do when they access positions that previlege them to handle big sums of money (even if it is not theirs?).
Just ask yourself, how many times have you judged a person by the car s/he drives or by the suit he wears, just because s/he holds a certain position? How many times does someone walk up to us and the first thing we do is look at the shoe type they have on or the wrist watch they are wearing?
It is common knowledge today that if someone ascends a 'top' position whether in politics or public office, a lot in terms of material flamboyance is expected of them. It is our expectation as the public that they build a mansion, acquire a state-of-the-art new wheels and manage a harem of concubines.
It is these standards we set that are driving men into vampires. That are turning people into blood-suckers. That are transforming man into a proponent of the "I" at the cost of the "We".
Of course this does not work in isolation. Some people are just greedy. Many of our 'liberators' today exhibit that. For a group of people who assumed power 20 years ago to have a bank balance of sh4 billion is total daylight robbery, when we know that all these years, these people have held public offices with clearly defined salaries that no amount fo saving can create such colossal bank balances.
I know that Capitalism has never left us the same. We have jumped onto the wealth bandwagon. but stop to think: before you pocket those millions, you are authoring the slow death of millions others. That before you divert those billions into buying a state-of-the-art benz, your action maybe subjecting thousands to a life of bad roads.
Lets just for once remember the "We" and dispose the "I".

Friday, December 14, 2007

victory of loss---the journey takes off

I remember reading an extract from the Guinness book of records that announced that the most rigged election was held some time back in China, where the voter turn-out was even higher than the country's entire adult population and in the about 5 parties contesting, the ruling one scored over 100% votes (forget about the dead, etc).
I know that governments strive to live on and on and on. In so doing, amny especially in the developing world, will do everything, both legal and illegal to try and retain state power. Remember our own 1980 elections, where ballot papers were intetionally sent to wrong polling stations and candidates detained before polling day?
And many times because the elite are aware of these things (and supposed invicibility of current regimes), they opt to become apolitical. They will not register to vote and try to keep away in their NGO/Private sector life and leave public affairs to the thugs. "It will make no difference in my life," they argue. I need to testify that i subscribe to that school of thought myself.
However, are regimes as invicible as we suppose they are? Is it true that we can pay taxes and let them waste away because we are powerless? Are things God-ordained the way they are? We shall get to this a little bit later.
Back to the crave to retain power. In our own courtyard, events have been following the same the script. After the 2006 presidential elections in Uganda, several petitions in court, saw a couple of MPs being dethroned of their seats, either because they cheated or lacked necessary academic qualifications.
The classic case was that of Kirunda Kivejinja, the Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Information and National Guidance (a mouthful of a title...?). The 71-year-old gentleman (hard pressed to refer to him thus), was found guilty of bribing and intimidating supporters of his major opponent, Abdu Katuntu.
A re-run was ordered; and guess who goes to Bugweri to campaign for Kivejinja? President Yoweri Museveni. He tells the people there that Katuntu, a candidate of the opposition FDC party, will have no impact in the House. That he will be a mere figure-head.
We all know that Katuntu is a distinguished lawyer. In the 7th Parliament, he engineered great legislation, including moving a private members bill on accountability. He was voted by the whole House to represent Uganda in the Pan African Parliament. Surely, this can not be an empty tin.
My concern though, is the President's party, has over 250 MPs in a House of 300 MPs. Does he surely need a Parliament saturated with his loyalists only? Won't having a sensible opposition contribute to his own strength as people help point out weaknesess in his govt? Is it fair for leaders to crave only for loyalists and suppress even the least voice of dissent?
So, with the stage set, the people of Bugweri vote Katuntu and old Kivejinja is floored, despite 3 days of the President's lodging in their constituency!
This brings me to the earlier question i posed: are we powerless? The people of Bugweri, despite being peasants and despite the heavy military deployment, showed that voices of the common man, once united, are difficult to suppress.
In 1830 qnd 1848, when the ruling monarchs in Europe had become a problem, students and intellengetia took to the streets and led the whole of Europe into riots and protests. The monarchs came down crumbling.
It is about time that the elite (especially in Africa) shake off the lethargy and become active. It is about time that we realised the potential of united man.
And for leaders---it is not true to suppose that any opposition in any form is bad.
When one Russian Tsar wanted to retire, he called together his advisers and asked them whether he could go ahead and leave the throne. Many of them, cognisant of the fact that their material survival depended on him, urged him to cling on. However, one of them, asked the group to follow him outside. The whole troop went, not knowing what he was upto.
The single adviser led them to a cemetery; where at the gate as they entered, was a signpost: "We were once like you". He took them (with the Tsar ) around the cemetery and as they were getting out, they saw the other signpost: "And you will also be like us".
The Tsar, went to the palace and announced his resignation, appointing the lone adviser his successor.
I rest my case.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

every journey has the first step

I have been nursing this headache for a while. I visited the doctor yesterday and all tests (malaria/typhoid) read negative. "Stress," she concluded. Of course i was not surprised that i had stress. Remember for the past three or so weeks, i have been literally a captive of my desk. Since this famous or is it now infamous (with reports of sweeping Ebola under the carpet) summit came to town, it meant we (media) were never going to have free time; especially the desk people. So, when two of my colleagues broke down the week after, i knew my time was soon.
But we should ask: why is man working this hard? Is the work we do worth our health? In his masterpiece anti-apartheid book, 'In the Fog of the Seasons' End', Alex La Guma narrates the tale of Old Tsatsu, who 'worked to his death in order to stay alive.' The old man, was employed at a quary and he was discovered dead amidst a heap of stones he'd been breaking.
Do we ever realise that many of us are bound for Old Tsatsu's fate? I came to this desk at 8.00am, it is now 8.00pm and am still here---with a piercing headache. Obviously all is not well. But because bread and butter must make their way to my table---this must be my fate.
But again, i beg to ask---is this our fate? should we turn into robots just because we have let the dictates of the day say so? Have we become so chained in today's unfair world that our shcakles can no longer be broken? Must i slave 14 hours a day and receive peanuts, when the guy working six executive hours pockets the 'apples and milk' like Squealer in Animal Farm?
Those caught up in my situation, i say---we have chosen to be this way. Just like we have chosen to be this way, we can also choose how we should be. Karl Marx, when making a case for the workers, said: "Rise up, for you have nothing to lose but your chains..."
The headache gets worse...let's pick on from here on the next post


What is the role of our existence? why do we walk this earth? Should our time here be a picnic or must we try to make it a picninc for everybody?
these questions trouble me. Bob, my good friend recently asked me: Why do we always have a sense of relief when we learn that somebody else might be in a worse position than we are in? why do we feel lighter when we know that it is not only us in a certain predicament?
Is human nature naturally selfish? do we always crave to see that others are in anguish like us?
Look, how else would you explain someone seeking to make wealth out of the misery of others? how can someone pocket sh4 billion meant for medication of HIV patients and he converts it to personal wealth in form of bungalows and luxury cars? If you have followed the Ugandan political theatre---you then know that am referring to a one Jim Muhwezi---a fromer health minister who appropriated Global Funds to his wallet.
And this is not limited to the top brass; picture the bodaboda guy, who upon seeing you well-dressed, decides to charge you double the normal price.
these things suck----but in subsequent posts, we shall unravel the changing face of man. Why the 'I' is superceding the 'We'. Why (in my prediction), we are going to destroy ourselves, as we try to create individual space for ourselves. I will guide you on how mankind is turning out to be mankind's biggest threat.
let me recollect.

Monday, February 05, 2007

here i come

to those with little faith...those living in deserts of knowledge, the intellectaully malnourished of this globe...the literally underfed, here i come. Remember, i may not have been to your famous lecture rooms, never have seen a dissertation...but am determined to give you the best of wisdom...and real wisdom. The type that will help you tell why your disposition is the way it is, the wisdom that will help you see things from a perspective you had not thought of. That explains 'the other view'