Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Marketing Their Trade

John Nagenda is a formidable man. Blessed with excellent oratory skills, it’s no wonder he is President Museveni’s media spin-doctor. Some people say that like the bully that Alistair Campbell was as Tony Blair’s spin-doctor, Nagenda too is a bully. Nagenda a bully? Though I have met him, he didn’t come across as being a bully but rather that of a man who is used to getting his own way.

So why am I harping on about Nagenda? A few weeks ago, he wrote in his Saturday column that after twenty years of service to BAT as a director, he had decided to retire though he didn’t specify why. This leads me to speculate that – he had reached the BAT mandatory retirement age or that as a non-smoker, he couldn’t hack the smoky boardroom meetings anymore.

With Nagenda gone, BAT won’t come to a standstill and the BAT top brass need not worry for I can fill the Nagenda void. I know the brands better than Nagenda. “ John, if you don’t mind me calling you John, did you know that the Dunhill brand has a smoother flavour than Sportsman though Sportsman lasts longer because cigarette scroungers don’t like it for it can have ‘a coarse like feel’ at the back of the throat when you inhale?”

Anyway, through the corner of my left eye I spot him. No, not Nagenda but a man who is obviously making a beeline for my table. I don’t know him so I immerse myself into my work hoping it would act as a deterrent. It does not. Now looming over me, he wants to finish the cigarette I am puffing on. He is not asking me politely but he is telling me. Obviously, I tell him to be on his way and stubbornly, he commands me to give him the cigarette.

I was having a good day and I was hoping that for once, I could write a column that did not involve violence but now it seems there is a melee brewing. Perhaps Cigarette Scrounger is hard of hearing and there is a need to bellow. I do just that. “Leave me alone. I don’t know you and you are bothering me!” I say in such a hoarse voice that would put Kizza Besigye’s voice to shame.

At that, Cigarette Scrounger goes livid. Out of his mouth pops ‘f**k you!’ Not just one ‘f**k you’, but three of them! He doesn’t end his tirade at that. “Who do you think you are?” he barks. “All I want is your cigarette. Is that too much to bloody ask for?” And he was gone before I had a chance to retort.

A few years ago, a group of men decide to do a spot of shopping. They were in the market for a television set, DVD player, a music surround system, some clothes and shoes. Rather than going to the shops, like most of us do, they decide to’ shop’ at my house in the dead of the night when my household was asleep.

By chance I wake up not to aid the shoppers but because I am rather thirsty. On my way to the kitchen, I peer into the living room and through the window, I spot a man crouching on the balcony. I try to figure out what my house help would be doing at 4:00am on the balcony. It is only when I look round the living room that I notice the Toshiba television set has gone missing as have a number of other items.

At that I start shouting, run back to the bedroom for my baseball bat and come back to tackle Thieves. As we get to the boundary wall, one of them stops dead in his tracks and turns round. Is he going to shoot me? Perhaps he has a machete and he is going to start hacking away at me? I brace myself with my baseball bat at the ready.
But Thief doesn’t have a gun nor does he have a machete. Rather he looks at me in the eye and in Luganda he says, “What is your problem?” Excuse me is Thief on the same page as I am? He also has the audacity to ask me what the problem is?

He goes on. “Okay so you caught us robbing your house but really, your shouting is going to wake up the neighbourhood so hush it.” As I recoil while trying to digest his bravado, his nerve and his cheek, he is scaling the wall while wearing one of my most favoured baseball caps, a cap that has covered my head on numerous escapades.

Have the cigarette scroungers adopted a new method of asking for cigarettes? Do they no longer feel the need to be polite but bullish? And the thieves too, are they trying to improve on their image? Have they taken a leaf out of the book of a former accountant at the Muyenga based NGO, VSO? You see, Accountant stole money and went on the run. When VSO took out adverts in the paper complete with his photograph, he had the cheek to call them and admit to having stolen the money but thought they were rather unfair on him by publishing his photo in the newspapers and under caption that read: ‘Wanted for Theft’.

tbukumunhe@googlemail.com

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is God Korean?

I’d like to think that I am a pragmatic person and a level headed thinker just like my fellow columnist, Joseph Kabuleta who rambles on about sport in the back pages of this paper is. Kabuleta, just like I and a number of people out there, we do not subscribe to the word ‘miracle’. My understanding of the word miracle is: ‘an event that appears to be contrary to the laws of nature and is regarded as an act of God’.

Now if you asked Kabuleta what the chances are of our football team - The Cranes reaching the final of the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil, without hesitation, he would say “zero.” Or perhaps I have stretched the bar too far? So let’s say The Cranes emerging victor in the final of the next African Cup of Nations. Again, and without hesitation, Kabuleta would say “zero.”

Kabuleta does not waffle on about miracles, because as we know, miracles don’t happen. If anything, a miracle is a myth, something that floats about in cyberspace mixing with various elements of the abyss and serves no purpose.

But suffice to say, there are some misguided people who believe in miracles and those people happen to be the ardent church goers. Such is their belief that there is even a Kampala based church that has been named Kampala Miracle something.

Are you still with me? Let’s carry on. The millennium had passed without a glitch despite prophecies telling us that clocks would stop at midnight on the year 2000. Planes would plummet out of the skies because their on board computers would not be able to decipher what comes after the end of the year 1999. Bank computers would go haywire. Basically the world would be a mess.

Then, I was working with WBS and despite what was said, the preserved world order continued.

There was a South Korean preacher in town and he was holding a mass prayer at Nakivubo Stadium. And for the life of me, I can’t really remember his name though I must say he looked more of a kung-fu fighter than a preacher and he didn’t have the savvy of TD Jakes, the charm of Benny Hinn nor the grace of His Grace, Archbishop Luke Orombi. When he took to the stage, he was all over the place, much like a plate of spaghetti. And because he obviously didn’t know Luganda, he had an interpreter by his side to do the needful.

It was a mass crowd – full of believers and worse, it was a live show, beamed to the masses at home. As I sat inside the outside broadcast van watching the proceedings, I notice a surge towards the front by people with disabilities. They were there, the blind, the wheelchair bound, the limbless, they were all there.

Something was happening or about to happen. And it did happen. At 8:00pm, the mass came to an end. What a relief, I can now go home. But there was more to come from South Korean Preacher. It was that time, the time for miracles to be performed.

Through Interpreter, he called for the disabled to come forth, feel the healing power of God and get cured. This I had to see.

And onto the stage they went and South Korean Preacher would lay the palm of his hand on their forehead, say a few words after which, they would fall to the ground in the most violent way and start thrashing and withering about. When the thrashing and withering came to a stop, they were ‘cured’. Standing up, they thanked God and walked away.

Perhaps miracles do happen I thought to myself. Next on stage was an 18 year-old boy who had been born blind. Born blind? It was chicken feed for South Korean Preacher who went through the rituals with him. Blind Boy then fell to the floor screaming, kicking and lashing out that he had to be restrained by South Korean Preacher and Interpreter. Had something gone wrong? Was God vexed that South Korean preacher was taking all the kudos and not he – God?

And just like that, the screaming, kicking and lashing stopped. Blind Boy gingerly stood up and looked down at his hands and felt them. He was smiling because he could ‘see’! Thanking South Korean Preacher, he walked off the stage – just like that! I literally had to get his story so I followed him back stage where I found him perched on a crate of empty Coke bottles and eating a bun. “What does it look like to be able to see for the first time” I asked. The reply was swift and in Luganda and went along these lines: “What do you want with me?”

Again I asked him what it was like to be able to see and he retorted that I should leave him alone and added that South Korean Preacher had also blessed him with the art of being able to do kung-fu.

He was born blind and now he also knows kung-fu? Funny! I didn’t give up with my questioning and persisted. Next and without warning, he adopted a kung fu stance and just like in the movies, he was screaming and uttering gibberish. It was so comical that before I could get over the first bout of laughter, he had struck me on the head. The next kick got me in the stomach and spewed up the popcorn and Coke that I had been feasting on all afternoon. And to round it all off, the blow fatale got me on the nose and I went crumpling into a heap in the goal area of the pitch and bleeding profusely.

Seeing I was incapacitated, Once Blind Boy, but No Longer Blind Boy took to his heels. For somebody who was ‘born blind’, he certainly knew his way round the stadium, including the small crevasse in the fence into which he slithered and into the dark of the infamous Kirussia stand while shouting out in Luganda that: “The Korean is God and he has blessed me with me with kung-fu!”

Miracles? Like I said, I am a pragmatic person but perhaps there is the need to be open minded but however if President Barrack Obama calls and tells me that his daughter Sasha, is now of age and wants to go out for a night on the town and there is nobody he can trust not take advantage of her except me, TB then, and without a doubt I will believe in miracles. I just won’t take the Korean at his word!

Smoking The Joint

A few weeks ago, there was a letter by a young lady in New Vision of the effect that illegal drugs had on her brother while he was at school. Today, especially amongst the youngsters that attend the many private schools in Kampala, drug taking is nothing new and I am not saying it happens within the confines of the school grounds, but over the weekends when they are let lose by their parents to hang out at the many nightspots that allow in teenagers.

In my teens, call me na├»ve but I didn’t know much about drugs. The little I knew came from the movies like Shaft and James Bond’s Live and Let Die. Drugs so I thought was something you inject like heroin.

But at school in England, drugs were not about heroin – rather glue and amphetamines like ‘speed, uppers, dexies, bennies’. After school, the white kids would go to the bike shed and inhale industrial glue – the kind they use in shoe or leather factories. The whiff of the glue was so potent, that the workers in the factories were required by law to wear masks. But here were 14-year-old boys sniffing at it and going into a trance because as they put it, “it made them high and feel good.”

As a teen and like most other male teenagers, it was a period of discovery. We knew it was wrong and yes we knew too darn well that our parents would go into more than a spin of shock, horror and whatever convulsions that might follow but, we are male teenagers. We ‘know’ what is right and what is wrong. Our parents don’t know squat and are just oppressive people who gave us life. That is how the average teenage boy thinks.

Though I am not exactly proud of it, as a teenager, I did break a few laws that my parents laid down - the law of ‘though shall not drink’, ‘though shall not smoke’ and ‘though shall not be suspended or expelled.’ Okay so I was neither suspended nor expelled but I did have a drink and a smoke which at the time seemed to be the better of the evils.

As for the drugs? It was never my scene – not even the glue sniffing for as far as I was concerned, you ended up with a very spotty face.

But it was different at college and university. It was the period when Nelson Mandela was still incarcerated in Robben Island, Michael Jackson still had a face and nose that was devoid of any plastic and here in Uganda, ‘the bandit’ as the then Obote government called the lanky and waif like Museveni was causing more than havoc in Luweero.

At college, there weren’t that many black students. I think we were 30 out of a total of say 1,500. On my first day as I unpacked, there was a knock on the door and upon opening it, stood this white fellow wearing a dressing gown (even though it was just after 3:30pm) and sporting dreadlocks which I found rather strange. Looking at each other he broke the silence by asking if I had anything. “If I had anything?” “What would that be I” asked. White Boy simply shrugged his shoulders and said: “You know anything?”

To cut a long story short, seeing I was black he expected me to be a dealer because that was the myth that was being portrayed in the UK in the 80s and 90s of black people. Dale who was black and came from Jamaica did not have dread locks. He looked okay to me that we started to hand out. Drugs didn’t appear to be his thing – I never once saw him with the known ‘druggies’ until he took me to a party in Birmingham.

The party was heaving. No, tell a lie, it was steaming. Everybody who was black had dreadlocks, thick dreadlocks and not those spaghetti like things that the photographer Natty Dread thinks are dreads! This was the real deal. But it was the aroma of the club that got me going.

At some point during the night, a Rasta gave me a joint (for the benefit of parents who don’t know, it’s a slang term for a cigarette rolled using cannabis). It was a tough call and I said no, hesitated then freaked out but, seeing I was legally of age, I had a drag or two ‘just to try it out.’ And like former president Bill Clinton once admitted that he smoked a joint but did not inhale, I too believe I did just that. Except that I did.

And everything broke loose. As I sat looking at my drink, things didn’t add up because I couldn’t remember what the process of drinking was – as in how do I get the glass to my mouth? I couldn’t remember even though I knew I had done it countless times before without even having to think about it. It gets worse.
When we got back to campus and climbed into bed, the demons came out. The bed too had taken a life of its own in that it was ‘airborne’, while bats, vampires and skeletons were all around me, grabbing and tugging and wanting a piece of me.

The following morning when I awoke, I was huddled under my study desk, my clothes soaked in sweat and with more than just a dose of paranoia that for the next couple of weeks, I had to sleep with the lights on for the dark scared the hell out of me!
While the movies glamorize drug taking, if you are a teenager or a grown person who has just read this article, remember one thing: ‘Drugs WIIL ruin your life. Say NO to them. I was lucky that I came out unscathed at the end of it all – probably because I am a coward at heart, but trust me I have seen so many lives ruined!

The Left Slap!

Towards the end of the Idi Amin regime in the late 70s and through the turbulent 80s, there were some parents who were well connected and connected to the people who really mattered – in Bank of Uganda, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Internal Affairs. It was important then to have a friend within these organs of government for then, getting access to foreign currency, was not as simple as walking into a foreign exchange centre like we do today. You had to go to Bank of Uganda and apply. If the bank turned you down, then it was to the black market to try your luck there. The ministry of internal affairs was also important because then you could not just leave the country. The government had to know why you wanted to go abroad and they would decide if you were going to travel or not.

Some parents who had access to foreign currency decided to take their children to schools abroad with the favoured places being St. Andrews, Greensteads, Greenacres and The Grange - all schools in Kenya. After the Kenya stint, it was off to the UK or the US.

I suppose parents sent their kids abroad because they had lost faith in the education system here and supposedly schools abroad or international schools have a higher and educational system than home grown schools. And another thing they supposedly instilled the kind of good mannerisms that our parents desperately wanted us to have. But was that so? Hmm!

My parents instilled in me the need to say grace whenever I had a meal and grace would often go along these lines: “Thank you God for the food we are about to receive. Thank you God for everything and may we be mindful of the needs of others’. Amen.”

It was and still is a nice and simple prayer. However at school abroad, they had a different kind of prayer and this is it: “Rub-a-dub dub, thanks for the grub, yeah God!” Is that not a hip prayer? And I could not wait to say when I was home on vacation. One evening at supper I belted it out. When I was done there was silence. And it was the most uncomfortable silence – the kind that sent shivers through my system.

And then Mr. Bukumunhe lost it. “Is that why I send you to school abroad? Do you think I send you to learn stupid things? You think mocking the lord is funny? What has gotten into you?” he said with a fury. But I understood Mr. Bukumunhe. I knew when to get up and leave the table because I knew all too well what was going to come next - the left hand. After apologising I got up to leave and the left hand struck and just missed me. The score: Dad-0, TB-1

The following vacation I was back with yet new foreign manners. At school they always told us not to be shy and pick the piece of cake or whatever it was that was being served that made us comfortable and that we thought we could finish. My mother on the other hand always told me that it is polite to pick what is nearest to you.

And at a friends’ house when we had gone visiting, the plate with queen cakes was being passed round. However, the cake that I wanted was at the bottom of the pile. It was bigger than the rest and had more icing too. And with fingers crossed, I hope that the other ‘beady eyes’ of my friends had not spotted it. They hadn’t. And when the plate was finally before me I went for it and as I did, I looked up just in time to see my mother looking at me with an aghast and horrified face.

I had been caught. So what the heck I thought to myself. I have already been caught so let me carry on. And not once but three times was I caught going for the cake that was out of reach. When it was time to leave and as we clambered into the car, I soothed my right cheek because I knew what was going to land on me as soon as we were out of the gate – the left hand that is. And the left hand came with such a fury that I thought I was hit once but when we got home my sister told the left hand had moved so fast but she was able to count at least five slaps. Obviously, there were no other outings for me that vacation. The score: Mum-1, TB-0.

Still at school, we were discouraged to use our hands when it came to eating. We had to learn proper table manners. Hands were for burgers. Even eating chicken, we were taught how to strip all the meat from the bone using a knife and fork.

And it was the summer vacation and yet another outing that was bound to end with the left hand being administered yet again. At this function there were not enough knives and forks to go round so obviously it was us kids who would have to make do without. “Ha” I said, “but I need to have them.” And with that I walked into the living room where the big people were sitting and helped myself the last knife and fork on the tray. The other kids freaked out at my move while in the living room, there was eye communication between my parents – as in ‘what is wrong with this boy and are you going to give him the left or should I?’

I knew my drill whenever I was in trouble with my parents. Sooth the left cheek and prepare for the left hand to land. But this time I was with both my parents so it wasn’t just the left hand, but the right hand too! Talk about manners – at least they could have warned me that it was going to be the left and right! Final score: Parents-2, TB-1.

If You Don't Know, Simply Ask!

It is said that: “If you don’t know, ask for nobody will ridicule or mock you for not knowing or asking as the case here may be.” And today’s cowardly deeds come from the idyllic islands of The Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and from the sand dunes of Dubai’s desert.

It was some year’s back that I found myself in The Seychelles for a four day sojourn courtesy of V&A, a brand under the Uganda Breweries umbrella. Though I am not a V&A drinker, the powers that lurk behind the closed doors of Uganda Breweries in Portbell felt it necessary that I should be there to cover an event for them – an event in which the winners of a V&A promotion had earned themselves a free the trip to the island.

Now somewhere on the outskirts of Kampala is a town called Matugga, a town where the winner and his girlfriend hailed from. And I have to admit that I have never been there though, I do know where it is.

For Matugga Chap and his babe, it was their first trip abroad. When we got to The Seychelles and had checked into the luxury hotel right on the coast, I duly got a call from Matugga Chap telling me all about his room and how it even came with a fridge laden to the hilt with an assortment of beers. My room too had a fridge – rather a mini bar but from the experiences I gained from my previous travels abroad, I know that you raid the mini bar at your own risk, for the prices are often three fold more expensive than in the hotel bar, which is quite pricey too.

So Matugga Chap invites me to his room to drink from his fridge or rather mini bar and that we did. We even went one step further in that we cleaned it out. As we drank, Matugga Lady was watching TV and it is only when I went to use the washroom that I found she was doing much more than watching TV. She was sprawled out on the bed in nothing but a small skimpy towel and should I dare say, playing with herself! Yuck though I wanted to linger and watch! I quickly retreated to give her time to get dressed, but she could see what the fuss was all about.

And later when she served us the last two cans of Carlsberg, she sauntered over to the balcony where we were sitting, still in the skimpy towel and showing off a ‘way over groped’ bust that was brown but teetering on an orange colour. And all Matugga Chap could say as her boobs dangled in front of me was: “You see this woman, if she had not been with me, she would never have gone abroad.”

And for the next three days, Matugga Chap was ecstatic whenever we returned from a shopping spree to find his mini bar was once again full that he invited me to keep on coming round for drinks, an invitation which was very hard to turn down.

However, come check out day, he got a rude awakening. The hotel slapped him with a bill of over $200. And when he looked round for support from me, I had long vanished into the waiting taxi. He cursed like he had never cursed before. When he asked if I knew that the mini bar was not a free thing, I simply shrugged my shoulders and wanted to tell him that: “If you didn’t know, why didn’t you first ask?” But as he acted like he knew everything from the moment we set foot in the hotel, I let him be. He learnt his lesson.

In Uganda I have a number of Asian friends and the more that I hang out with them, the more I have become accustomed to eating chillies and hot foods. Eating hot spicy food takes more than a while to get used to. In the early days, my eyes would literally shed tears by the bucket full. And this would be followed by the need to gulp glass after glass of water. But over the years of hanging out with my Asian friends, I got so used to eating hot foods. I was like them.

Well I was until I got to Dubai. We were out in the sand dunes – somewhere on the road to Abu Dhabi were we had settled down for a midnight feast. The feast had everything from a whole lamb roast to other Arab delicacies including chillies. But I was a master of chillies. And when our Arab host told me to be careful as I heaped my plate with a table spoon full of chilli, I told him not to worry. But he gave me a cautious look and grinned.

As we sat down to eat, along with his friends, they were watching me as I filled my hand with a good dose of chilli along with some cuscus. It was hot but it went down well. This is mild stuff I thought. Five minutes later I started to sweat like I had just done a stint in the sauna. I was pulling at my shirt and trying to get it off.

My eyes rolled out tears and my stomach started acting funny. At this stage Host pointed out to a cubicle some 800 meters away and advised me that is where I needed to be. I barely made it there because my sphincter couldn’t hold it anymore. My bowel was spitting not only fire but also what a bowel is supposed to spit out. And when I say spiting fire, it was literally burning that even using tissue to clean myself up was a scorching issue. I couldn’t wipe rather I had to dap myself clean. And having a pee wasn’t any easier. It was like my wee wee had been left to soak overnight in a bowl of hot peppers. I couldn’t just pee. Rather I had to pee in small droplets to ease the burning sensation.

I guess Host could have told me but since I acted like I knew everything there was to know about chillies he let me be. And like Matugga Chap, I too learnt my lesson.

Am I Racist?

One of Dr. Martin Luther Kings’ most famous speech was the ‘I have a dream’ speech in which, he envisioned a world free of racism and one where all colours would one day be able to walk down the street together as one. Though he made the speech in 1960s, the new world order today is perhaps more undivided than it was then because to the colour issue has been added other items like religion, veils and beards.

Today walking down the streets of New York, London or Paris and with a beard similar to that of Osama Bin Laden will illicit uncomfortable stares. If you are a Muslim man or a Muslim woman at that and who is hidden behind a black veil that too, is bound to raise questions even though not all Muslims have rogue tendencies.

When I was still living in England, I really didn’t experience any racism even though I lived in areas that were predominantly white. The closest I saw of racism was when on a visit to a small town called Fife in Scotland that a young girl – probably five or six years old was walking down the street with her mother when she saw me. She clutched her mother’s hand that much tighter, started to cry and literally wanted to leap into the flower bed that ran alongside the pavement. But she can be forgiven for in the 80’s, not a single black person lived in Fife.

Back to Uganda. It is said that racism does exist here though it is swept under the carpet. Racism here as far as most people understand it is, Asians vs. Ugandan’s and the whites especially the South Africans vs. Ugandan’s. What they really don’t know is that the issue is far bigger than that. There is Indians hating Pakistanis, Sir Lankans hating Indians, Bengalis hating Pakistanis from East Pakistan and so on.

A few weeks ago I was at Bubbles O’Leary on Acacia Avenue. Bubbles O’Leary is a predominantly expatriate hangout though it is open to all races and all colours. As we lined up, a young black lady was having an argument that went along the lines of: “Why did the two white men who jumped the queue not pay while we blacks have to pay?” she angrily asked. While the man at the gate tried to explain to her that they were members, she was not having any of it. “You are racist!” she screamed out. As I walked past leaving her to argue at the door I was waved through because of the membership status.

Two hours later and as we left, I found her milling in the car park and from the look on her face, a hot exchange of words between us was brewing. This is how the conversation unfolded.

Aggrieved Girl: “You Bukumunhe, I know you! Now you are a racist!”

TB: “Excuse me!?”

Aggrieved Girl: “You are racist. You don’t like Ugandans because you are like the bazungu who don’t pay or line up to get into O’ Leary’s! Your racist! You are racist like the people of O’Leary’s against us blacks!”

TB: “What the fuck!”

Did I miss something here? Looking down at myself, I was still black – but that is not to say that there are some black people I don’t like - like you so I told her.

Later on that evening, it was off to Club Silk. As we walked down the corridor to the pay booth, there was Aggrieved Girl - yet again. She was in the queue but being a member I skipped the queue and was waved in without having to pay. When she eventually got in, she made it her mission to track me down and the bizarre conversation went along these lines.

Aggrieved Girl: “You are racist! You are racist because even in Club Silk you didn’t line up or pay to get in. Just who do you think you are?”

TB: “I think I am Timothy Bukumunhe.”

Aggrieved Girl (at the top of her lungs): “Racist! You are racist. Even the people of Club Silk are racist!”

TB: “What the fuck!”

This is an odd situation to be in. First I get accused of being a racist for walking into O’Leary’s – a white dominated pub without paying then I also get accused of walking into a black dominated pub and still get accused of being racist.

Going back even further, we were in Just Kicking, in Kisimenti when this happened. Just Kicking is a self service bar and as we stood at the bar, a young black couple were making their order but taking their sweet time. The man literally asked for all the prices. How much is Bell, how much is Club or how much is Uganda Waragi?” he asked.

Exasperated, the barman turned to me for my order. “One Bell, four Clubs and a tot of Black Label” I blurted out. Ignoring the dithering couple he went ahead and served me. Then turning back to them he asked if they were ready to order. But alas they were still dithering so he turned to the white lady next to them and served her seeing she knew what she wanted.

As we sat on the terrace having our drinks, Dithering Man at the bar comes up to me and had this to say in Luganda: “Gwe just because you have an accent don’t think you are a muzungu. We were at the bar first but he (the barman) served you and the muzungu first. Oba you don’t think you are black and racist against blacks?”

I put it down to people getting their knickers in a twist. There are white people who are members at Club Silk like there are black people who are members at O’Leary’s. I am not racist and as far as I do know, the people who own Club Silk are not racist nor are the people who own Bubbles O’Leary. And not all Asians or white South African’s are racist just like not all Muslim men with long beards have Osama Bin Laden written all over them.

The Brown Envelope

Is bribery really a sinister word or is it a word that has been taken
out of context, thrown in the gutters and vilified? According to my
understanding, bribery is something along the lines of: “receiving
cash or gifts to influence or change one’s mind to make a decision
favourable to the bribe giver.”

When I was still living in England, bribery stories were not as rife
as they are here in Uganda. That is not to say that it did not happen.
It did but perhaps it was either not as rampant as it is here or the
people involved were very careful so as not to get caught. And
throughout my working career there, I personally never saw a bribe
going down or was offered a bribe or took one.

Then I came back to the land of sin. It was the year that Kabaka
Ronald Mutebi, had finally decided to get married and then the country
was focused on one thing – the royal wedding. I had just started
working for private television company as a producer of a show called
Showtime Magazine when we went to Bulange to film and do some
interviews on the wedding preparations.

Bulange was no longer Bulange. Rather it looked like some form of
currency centre for the amount of cash that was being donated by
individuals and companies for the wedding was a sight to behold.
Sitting in the office of the then Katikkiro, wave after wave of people
walked in to give their donations and all in cash and in all in brown
envelopes. Not white or blue ones, but always brown ones.

At that time The Rock Bar was the place to hangout. It was ‘IN’, it
was new and it was hip. Ali Daya who ran the place was a close friend
who invited me out to lunch one hot Thursday. Over lunch it was small
talk until the conversation went on to the upcoming wedding. Daya
wanted to make a contribution of sorts but on Showtime Magazine. But
what he had in mind looked more like an advert for which he would have
to pay for but seeing that he was a close friend, I told him that I
could film his idea in such a way that it would look more like a five
minute documentary than an advert.

So a few days later I went to work and sure enough, when the five
minute ‘documentary’ aired a few weeks later, it did come across as a
documentary rather than an advert. Nobody at the station raised
eyebrows and life went on.

Daya was so pleased with his ‘documentary’ that he again invited me
out for dinner and drinks. And YES I did accept. At the end of dinner
and as I got ready to leave he held me back saying he had something
for me. Going into his jacket, he fished out an envelope and thrust it
into my hand. And it was a brown envelope. But call me naive, but
honestly I had no idea what I had just accepted and nor did I bother
to peer into it. It was only we I got back to work and at my desk
ripped open the envelope to find wads of cash - Sh3m to be precise.
“Jesus Christ!” I said to myself before quickly stuffing the envelope
into my desk. Of course I did call Daya to tell him that there had
been a miscommunication and that I had done him a favour and no cash
payment was required. “Keep it TB, keep it. It is yours to spend” he
said.

Had I just been compromised? Had I just taken a bribe? Will I get
caught and be carted off to Luzira? Wrapped in guilt coupled with the
fear of getting caught, I left the envelope locked up in my desk for
almost a week until the sh*t hit the fan.

The stations marketing manager called me to his desk and as we talked,
he said he wanted to review the Showtime Magazine show that contained
the Daya documentary. At the end of the review he asked what was wrong
with it. “Nothing” I replied. “But TB, sort of see an advert in the
show. Was it paid for? In my records I don’t see any payment.” He then
added: “Listen you just come clean to me. I will protect you for if
the owner of the station finds out what you did, he is going to fire
you.”

But I wasn’t bribed I told him. “All he did was buy me dinner and
drinks, plus sh3m as a thank-you” I told him. Looking at me he
replied: “So in addition to accepting sh3m you also accepted dinner
and drinks? Just go bring the money, I will log it in and that will be
the end of the matter.”

Relieved I literally ran to my desk, got the sh3m and handed it over
to Marketing Manager. At least I still have a job. That afternoon I
was back at Marketing Manager’s desk but this time for a different
reason. As we talked, his take-away lunch from Bon Apetite was
delivered and when he paid, the money came from the envelope that
contained the sh3m I had given him earlier. And over the next couple
of days, whenever he had to pay for anything, he would dip his hand
into ‘my sh3m’.

Excuse me, but had I been played? Of course I had and it was confirmed
by a colleague I confided in. Marketing Manager so he told me is
sharp. “Give him an inch and he will take a mile.”

Years later and after we had both left the station, I brought it up
when I met him in Club Silk and this is what he had to say: “TB you
were green! As soon as I saw that documentary I knew Ali Daya must
have given you some dime. It was all a question of how to fleece it
out of you but thanks mate. By the way, remember that fancy watch I
used to wear – the one that you liked? Well it is amazing what sh3m
can buy!”

The Sperm Count

Paulo is a close friend who peddles airtime and whatever else that utl throws at him for a living. He is also a person who believes in a healthy living. He drinks at least two big bottles of Rwenzori mineral water a day and over the weekends, he goes walking with some of the elderly and distinguished men who are regulars of The Pub in Kansanga. He also goes to the gym. But the funny thing is that I never see any change in him. His potbelly gets bigger by the day so he consoles himself by talking to William aka Willo who sells tobacco for a living, and who also goes to the gym and like Paulo, his belly grows bigger by the day.

My belly does not grow bigger by the day so there is no need for me to go to the gym and get barked at by some sadist fitness instructor or go wandering around the hills of Muyenga on a Saturday morning with Paulo and the regulars from The Pub while nursing a hangover.

So I guess I must be fit and in a good healthy state with no need to go for a medical check up apart from the usual things like malaria. In fact it has been well over 10 years since I last went for a full medical check up. I was living in England then and I only felt the need to have a full medical not because I was under the weather, but because a rather vivacious young lady doctor called Farah had been drafted in at the medical practise I used to go to. Farah was born to a Lebanese mother and a Mexican father so you can imagine what she looked like. She was really smokin’!

With the consent form signed, I was at the mercy of Farah’s nimble fingers for two days. But in my haste to have her prodding at my body, I really hadn’t read through the consent form properly for one of the tests listed was a sperm count.

Until then, I had no idea that there was a test called a sperm count and I also didn’t know what or why it was done. But as Farah explained, it was done to find out if the sperm is healthy enough to sire off spring. And like a blood test where a needle is stuck into you and blood drawn, I thought that was the same way sperm is drawn. I smiled to myself at the thought of Farah nudging Little Johnnie out of the way as she steadied herself to plunge in the needle but the smile was wiped off my face when I really thought about it. Farah is going to stick a needle into my balls to draw out sperm?! If being kicked in the balls hurts like hell, then a needle being stuck into them would no doubt be excorticating!

Farah alleviated my fears when she told me that is not how it is done. With my rue smile restored I went back to trying to imagine what Farah would be thinking as I undressed. But there was another rude awaking that once again took wiped away the smile.

To get a sperm sample, they give you a plastic container no bigger than the smallest ice cream cup. And to make things even worse, you have to do it yourself either at home or in one of the private cubicles at the clinic. “Do what?” so I asked Farah. Slightly embarrassed she explained that I had to get Little Johnny in a state of arousal that he can produce enough sperm for the sample.

I couldn’t believe this. Farah was asking me to go and lock myself in a room and play with Little Johnnie! That is disgusting. “At school our house matron told us that if God ever found out we were playing with Little Johnnie, he would strike us with lightening and we would end up in hell. And what would my parents say” I protested.

She ignored me but went on to tell me that once the sperm was in the container, I had to wrap it in cotton wool to maintain a certain temperature and have it given to the people in the lab within two hours or else it dies.

I tried cubicles in the clinic first. While neat and tidy, whoever designed them had also installed a television set that showed adult blue movies – presumably to help you get into a state of sexual arousal. But the cubicle didn’t work for me though I did spend a good hour or so watching the movie.

At home and though I lived alone, I locked myself in the bathroom and drew the curtains lest Mrs. Gunnerson my elderly neighbour caught me in the act and reported me to the morality police.

Rather messily I eventually got a sample into the container. On the bus to the hospital I sat there looking all sheepish because I felt everybody was staring at me. They knew what I had been doing to myself and they were saying things like: “You dirty young man, how could you do that!” I wanted to stand up and shout out: “I am sorry and I did it because the clinic said I had to and that it was done for medical reasons and so self gratification!” but freaked out.

Worse, at the clinic the young lab assistant who received my sample had the cheek to tell me she could have used a bit more sperm but would work with what I had given her. What the hell did she want me to do? Spend two days locked in my bathroom or in the cubicle watching adult movies?

I got my results four weeks later. It was a clean bill of health including my sperms though I was told to watch it on my salt intake and that I was slightly underweight for my height.

Disabled? Go Screw Yourself!

The artist Vincent Van Gough, he lost it when he picked up a kitchen knife and sliced off his ear in ‘frus’ because a painting he was working on, was not going to plan. In Burma some chap protesting about the rise in taxes didn’t protest about it by writing a letter to his MP as I would have done, but he bought some petrol, sat down in the middle of a roundabout and set himself ablaze. And in Guatemala or was it Ecuador? - some peasant fearful that after a snake bite the end was nigh, sought to amputate the bitten leg not by going to the hospital as any sane person would have done, but by running to the nearest railway line. Unfortunately for him, by the time the train came by, he’d fallen asleep with both legs on the track. He’s now disabled and confined to a wheel chair.

Fat people have issues, as do the obese, the squinted eyes, the disabled, the blind, the saggy bobbed women, the skinny, the deaf, the short, the knobbed knees, the fat bottomed... But hey, that’s life I say. Nobody is perfect because there will always be something about ourselves that we don’t like. If it helps, for all we know, God probably hates his beard and is seriously considering shaving it off.

Today, we can’t say ‘fatso, fatty, four-eyes or dwarf-ee’ for example, because they are not politically correct words. And with a world that is consumed by being politically correct, in some situations, it is difficult to know what to say or what to do. I have to add a disclaimer here. I don’t have any issues with fat, small, obese people or any of the categories I mentioned earlier except with some of the disabled, especially the disabled who have wholeheartedly embraced the language of being politically correct for their own selfish advantage.

It was Friday night and Silk Royale was rocking. Everybody was having a blast including the disabled young man on crutches. And because he was on crutches, whenever he went to the bar, people gave him space because, ‘it was the right thing to do.’ On one occasion, while I was at the bar, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Looking round, it was Disabled Young Man on Crutches. He didn’t say anything but looked down at his crutches then back at me. Seeing he had nothing to say I ignored him and went back to the lovely task of ordering a drink. He tapped me again and this time I read his body language. It read: “You fool, can’t you see I am disabled? Can’t you get it into your head that the disabled get served first? Have you no shame?” Okay I was embarrassed and did have shame. People were also looking at me while shaking their heads in dismay. So I gave him space and he got served ahead of me. Mind you, when I gave him space, there was no ‘thank you’ forthcoming. I let him be.

As the night wore on and my bladder needed emptying, I was off to the washrooms and as I pushed the outer swing door open, I looked back to see who was behind me. It was Disabled Young Man on Crutches. In the ‘love thy neighbour’ spirit and being politically correct, I held the door open to let him through. Did he say ‘thank you’? Bleak. What came instead was this.

Disabled Young Man on Crutches: “Just because I am on crutches you think I am pathetic and can’t hold the door open?”

TB: “I was only trying to be helpful. I am sure you can do it on your own.”

Disabled Young Man on Crutches: “It’s people like you who don’t think. You have a shallow mind and you look down on the disabled as being helpless and can’t do what able bodied people can do. You get my gist?”

TB: “Eh, what the f**k!”

With that, I let go of the swing door and with all the force behind it, the door swung back. I didn’t see what happened because I was on the other side of the door. Into the washrooms I went, had my pee and when I returned to push the swing door open, it only inched a little way. Something was blocking it. So I pulled it towards me and there was Disabled Young Man NO LONGER on Crutches sprawled out on the floor with four young girls poised over him.

Asking what had happened, I am told that some idiot let go of the swing door which hit him in the face and knocked him over. “Who would do such a thing to a disabled person?” two of the girls shrieked. To the shrieks I responded: “Somebody who is not politically correct.” Going by the look they gave me, it was obvious that the words ‘politically correct’ were alien to them and that I might as well just have been speaking hardcore Lugbara.

Stepping over Disabled Young Man No Longer on Crutches who was still sprawled on the beer stained floor, I told him: “Now let me see you pick yourself up off the floor without being helped. Earlier on, it was okay for you to abuse your disability status to push past me to get through to the front of the beer queue to get served. When I hold the door open for you, its insults that you hurl at me because you think I am sneering at you.”

Shrieking out in horror (again!) and coupled with disbelief at what I had said, Four Young Girls attracted the attention of Politically Incorrect Bouncer who, simply scraped Disabled Young Man No Longer on Crutches off the floor, tussled him past me as I hid my face and to the front door to be thrown out while assuring him that getting drunk and falling on the floor is not a cool thing to be doing.

Disaster In Dar es Salaam

I enjoy travelling though I’m particular about the places I travel to. Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, are some of the countries on my-self imposed no flying-to-destinations. But I wasn’t going to any of those countries. I was going to Dar es Salaam on assignment.

The hotel was in downtown Dar and looking at its facade as we approached, it looked new. With check-in completed, it was up to the room and no sooner had I peered into it, it was obvious that something wrong. No, I didn’t catch the previous occupants still engaged in nocturnal activities and an unmade bed. It was the hum, that hum of a refrigerator that indicates the presence of a mini-bar that I couldn’t hear.

I looked under the imposing mahogany desk that was pushed up against the wall where the mini-bars are usually located and it wasn’t there. I scoured other places and still no mini-bar. Odd this is. So I lay on the bed and thought of plan B. Plan B? Call up the manager who would tell reception, who would then call housekeeping, who would then presumably pass the message onto maintenance asking them about the missing mini-bar in room..? I have to go and open the door and check my room number because I can’t remember it, and it’s not on the key card. It’s room 45.

So maintenance tells me that there are no mini-bars in any of the rooms nor is there a bar in the hotel - but he tells me there is a shop round the corner where I can buy a four pack of beer. I buy a 12 pack and back at the hotel, I run the bath with cold water and pop in the beers to cool while I go downstairs to linger for Hussein, my host, who is taking me out for dinner and then to my assignment.

Hussein takes me to a number of beach front eating joints and because he’s a vegetarian, I have to make do with whatever he’s ordering for me. I don’t worry for at the function, there should be some real food. There was except that I now have a stomach upset which, in my case, is usually the first indication of an impending running stomach. And I am not wrong. Rather than letting Stomach run riot at the function, I walk back to the hotel to let the rioting be played out in the safety of my room.

Am fifteen minutes away from the hotel when Stomach churns again and the churn is so violent, it’s obvious I won’t make it to the hotel before disaster strikes, so I pop into the nearest bar that I come across and pray that they have clean toilets which, they have. By the way, one of my rules of using the men’s washrooms reads: “Never use the first or the last cubicle. The first cubicle is the one that men always rush to when they want to throw up after having one beer too many or are dying for a pee, only to get there to find it occupied and locked so they barge at the door and end up breaking the lock. The last cubicle is for men, who engage in homosexual activities or have other men ‘blowing them’ or are ‘blowing other men’ – if you get my drift.

As per my rule, the lock on the first cubicle is broken but empty. The rest are all occupied as is the last. But I can’t wait because a Tsunami of the bowls is looming so make do with the first cubicle even though I may get puked on or peed on and the lock too is broken. But I have a plan. While sitting on the loo, I’ll stretch my arm out to hold the door shut and let out a cough when I hear somebody approaching.

But there’s a problem. The distance between the door and the loo is a mile long that my right arm can’t reach the door. I try my left arm even though it’s obvious it won’t reach either, but I still try. Who builds a toilet cubicle and puts the toilet a mile away from the door? Only in Tanzania!

I cough to alert the oncoming footsteps that First Cubicle is occupied, but the door flings open and a startled man gawps at me, retreats while shouting out: “Next time lock the door!” The next man to push open the door already has his ‘thingy’ out and is peeing on the floor as he walks towards the toilet when he sees me. He does a u-turn but doesn’t close the door behind him so I have to get up and with my trousers round my ankles, hobble to the door to close it.

I can’t linger in the cubicle for the door is being pushed open every few seconds and as you know, with a running stomach, you have to take your time for once you think the worst is over and you leave, five minutes later, Stomach will show you a move that will have you rushing back.

With a lull in Stomach churning, very gingerly I manage to make it back to the hotel followed by a mad dash to the loo in my room. There I relax. There will be no drunken men walking in unannounced to piss on or throw up over me. I can even afford the luxury of reaching into the bathtub for a can of beer from the 12 pack but they are gone and the tub drained. It must be housekeeping who thought I put them in the tub by mistake so they’ve put them on the mahogany desk and now they are warm and can’t drink them.

On the flight back as I wait for loo, a man emerges who I think I’ve seen before. It’s only when I see the susu on the floor that I figure it’s the man who peed on the floor of First Cubicle as I sat on the loo in Dar. At Entebbe Airport, I waste no time alerting the policewomen on duty. Hopefully they arrested him and deported him lest he pees on the floors of Sheraton or Serena Hotel.
tbukumunhe@googlemail.com

Whirlwind In Kumi

Kumi? By the time the millennium came round, I don’t think I had ever heard of a place called Kumi. I am sure of that. The first I got to know about Kumi was when my good friend, Marion Adengo as she was called then, let it be known to me that, that is where her family comes from. And down the years I got to know a little more about the place when I went there for her kwanjula.

After that, I saw no need to go back for I had seen what there was to see of Kumi. That’s until Celtel as it was known then, invited a number of us media chaps to go there for their launch. Since I had been to a good number of upcountry launches, I wasn’t particularly keen on going until I remembered the impressive spread that Patrick and Mrs. Adengo had laid out for us during Marion’s kwanjula. So the decision to go was based on the thought of having a good Kumi feast even though this time it was not to be at the Adengo household.

Upcountry media trips can be something to write home about if you go with the right crop of people. On an MTN trip to Arua when Joseph Kony was still a threat and the road from Karuma Falls to Arua was devoid of tarmac, it was a merry trip on the bus for there was everybody from RS. Elvis of Radio One, Moses Serugo from The Monitor, Tilly Muwonge of WBS, Kalungi Kabuye from New Vision – the list was endless and over the two days that we were there, the residents of Arua never quite knew what had hit them.

The Kumi contingent though smaller, nevertheless had the right people to ignite the right kind of fires that testosterone fuelled media people require on an un-country trip. We were to spend the night in Mbale and proceed to Kumi the following morning.
The young chap who Celtel had seconded to be our media handler was so over in zealous in his job that he wanted us in Mbale first thing in the morning. “But what are we going to do the whole day and evening in Mable yet the function is the following day” we protested. But Media Handler wasn’t having anything of it that by noon we were there. Into the hotel we checked in and in the afternoon, some people slept, others went shopping and others went looking for ‘things’.

That evening after supper and laden with envelopes that contained our per diem – wads of crisp brand new 20k notes, we hit Mbale to sample the nightlife. Seeking out a bar that looked friendly enough and close to the hotel, we settled down for drinks unknown to us that trouble was round the corner.

The locals so it transpired were not overtly keen on having twenty media people from Kampala splashing around crisp 20k notes while they had to rummage through their pockets for tattered 1k notes that Bank of Uganda should have withdrawn from circulation ages ago. And they didn’t like it that all the attention was no longer on them but on us. With not so good stares and glances being thrown up and down, the stalemate eventually broke when the reporter from Capital FM accidentally spilt a drink on one of the locals.

The war of words was quickly replaced by a melee, a melee which eventually turned into a running street battle. They charged at us and we retreated. Then we re-grouped and charged back at them and into the eye of the melee. Outnumbered, we again retreated though I had the misfortune of getting my foot stuck in a broken manhole cover at which point, Locals descended upon me and plastered my butt with kiboko’s. I wailed until I was rescued and as we ran for safety, I sought to call Col. Semakula who was then the UPDF division commander of that area for assistance. Semakula, who I had met earlier on during the day had kindly given me his business card - ‘just in case you need to get me’ as he put it. But I didn’t look at the card and merely put it in my pocket. Big mistake.

Still wailing and with the need to get backup, I stopped, pulled out the card to call the Col. But there was a problem - he had eight numbers listed! The first two were off, the next I dialled the wrong number, the fourth and fifth were dropped calls and the sixth was answered by a young lady who didn’t know where he was. By the time the seventh phone went through, Locals were on me and giving me another thumping.

The following morning in Kumi as we licked our wounds, more havoc came. A whirlwind festooned of nowhere and into the stadium were the launch was being held and while the minister was giving his grand speech. The whirlwind ripped through the VIP tent uprooting it and flinging it into the bushes while the plastic chairs went flying in all directions. Meanwhile the minister was seen in a whimper crouching under a Tata truck for safety. Worse still, that grand Kumi feast I was so looking forward to was scattered all over town that we had to make do with hot soft drinks for lunch.

And the havoc was not over for when we got back to Kampala and filed our reports, everybody concentrated on the whirlwind and nothing else. The WBS reporter was reprimanded for showing the cowardly minister running for cover while I was rebuked for using a headline that read: ‘Celtel’s whirlwind Kumi launch’ and cheekily starting the story off by saying: “It lasted a mere five seconds. If only more companies could be as quick as Celtel during their product launches!”

Melee in The Hammers Pub

It would be rather foolhardy for me to draw on the same breath of ‘sports air’ as Joseph Kabuleta and Aldrine Nsubuga, who hone their fine sports knowledge in the back pages of Sunday Vision, and who know a great deal more about football than I. Give me a red card for it, but rules are meant to be broken – not so?

I do like my football though I am not as diehard about it as I was in the 80s. In terms of English football, then, there was no Premier League. Rather, the elite teams like Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool were in Division I, and the divisions ran down to Division IV and into the GM Vauxhall League.

The first match went to watch was between Bradford City and Sunderland FC. I only went to the game not, because I was a Bradford City or Sunderland supporter (though am sure a certain Sira Kiwana did support Sunderland because he is the only Ugandan on record, known to have lived in that drab town), but because Gary and Keith who were close friends came from Sunderland and were hard fans.

I have to point out to Kabuleta and Nsubuga that English football in the 80s was a far cry from what it is today as regards the fans. As a fan you had to be careful. Milwall FC had one of the most notorious fan clubs as did Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and West Ham for example. Pitch invasions by fans during or at the end of a match were a common Saturday occurrence as were stabbings, beatings and other acts of violence. When it came to stabbings, if you weren’t stabbed, then you would get neatly sliced with a carpenters Stanley knife or a razor blade and into the wound, a business that read: “You have been visited by The Milwall Supporters Club” would be inserted.

Getting back, I never knew what to expect about going to a game until we got to Bradford. A phalanx of police on horseback and in full riot gear met us at the train station and like the Nazi’s did when the hapless Jews were led into the Auschwitz gas chambers, we were literally frogmarched to the stadium.

Inside the stadium, it was not a place for the fainthearted, nuns, prima donna babes, homosexuals, lesbians, Jews, Pakistani’s, the disabled, women with big boobs, blacks, Chinese... for a good number of fans were fiery skinheads, anarchists, neo-Nazi’s, anti-establishment and racist who could scare the pants off battled hardened bush war veterans like David Tinyefunza, Salim Saleh and Pecos Kutesa.

When they spoke, every other word was the most vile swear word. They would pee into beer cans and hurl them at rival supporters. They would grab at the girls boobs and knock over the people in wheelchairs while asking if the Nazi’s had botched the experiment on them hence they were wheelchair confined.

A few years later I was in London in an Arsenal jacket complete with the sponsor’s logo – JVC, going across the back. I was off to West Ham to meet a friend – not to go for a football match, rather to hang out at his new flat. I’d never been to West Ham so of course I got lost. And since it was the era before cell phones, the norm then, was to find the nearest landmark like a pub, make a call from there and have a pint while you wait to be picked up.

I did just that except I hadn’t bothered to look up at the sign of the pub before I walked in. It was, The Hammer’s – the official West Ham supporters’ pub. Like a lamb to the slaughter, I stood there nodding as the barman asked me if I was sure I was in the right pub. Looking round, there was nothing alarming about them. Ok a couple of skinheads, some builder looking chaps, and men with scarred faces and black eyes.

As the pint went down, I looked up at the framed pictures on the wall and the more I looked at them, the more I began to realise that they had a theme – football and West Ham FC. And I am standing in their pub wearing an Arsenal jacket? Duh!

By the time the first beer glass and barstool torpedoed across the bar, it was too late to do anything. The melee by the door was on and while I thought they were all fighting to get a piece of my sorry black self, they were not. Three diehards from Milwall across the Thames, had raided the pub which was a worse sin than I, walking in with Arsenal colours.

As the police sirens wailed out of the distance, everyone scattered as did I. Weeks later I heard talk of an Arsenal fan who had walked into The Hammers, and had the nerve to walk around the pub with a pint in hand while looking at the framed pictures and that a massive fight had then broken out. Everybody wanted to know who the brave fan was. I too wanted to know.

As time went on and the more I heard the story, the more I felt I belonged to it – like I had written the script. It was me! I was the brave Arsenal fan, that one night in the pub, I came clean and confessed to which, you could almost hear a pin drop as people looked at me like I had lost the plot.

Worse, my stunt was claimed by a Rasta who, for the next few months didn’t have to buy himself a drink in the pub, and who sat there fondling and smooching the fine babes that I was supposed to have been fondling and smooching, drinking the beers that people were supposed to be buying for me and telling the story I was supposed to have been telling. I wonder if I can still sue him or has the statute of limitations expired? – Rita? (she’s the Vision’s legal brain).

Bitch!

Bitch! There, I said it. There is an irony associated with the bitch word. It’s meaning has changed without my knowledge from, bitch meaning female dog into a vulgar word. So why all the noise when somebody says bitch? In today’s world order, the people who govern the way in which we use words, you can safely say bitch while at the vet or when talking to a dog breeder and nobody will raise an eyebrow nor will castigate you for having used a ‘vulgar’ word. And how bitch was transformed from a female dog into a vulgar word, is a story for another Sunday. Interestingly enough, nobody has sought to class the word pussy as being vulgar yet, we all know it no longer means a young female cat but that certain part of the female anatomy!

In today’s cowardly tales I am talking female dogs, so I guess I am allowed to type bitch in full. But as you read and it appears as bi*ch, then you know that the profanity police held a gun to Sidney, the editor of this magazine and categorically told him it is not an appropriate word to use in a family magazine such as Discovery.

Anyway, some bitches are born into good families and live the life. The Phado as we call him, is into dog breeding. The way he talks about his bitches, you can really tell that he loves them. I have been to his house and no sooner does he park, than he is rushing over to see how they had spent the day.

Another person into bitches is Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. Liz has a thing for Corgis’ and her Corgis,’ apart from living in Buckingham Palace, don’t sleep in kennels like The Phado’s bitches. From what I read, they sleep at the foot of her bed in the royal bedroom. Not even Prince Philip, her husband, sleeps in the royal bedroom. He has his quarters across the corridor from her and presumably nips in during the dead of the night when he wants some sawa ya malavuu. And when it comes to travel, they fly on the Queen’s Flight which, is what Airforce One is to Barrack Obama.

Let’s also not forget Kasirye Gwanga and King Oyo, who feeds his bitches on Sheraton Hotel food. Okay so they eat the leftovers and I have seen the Sheraton leftovers and given the chance, I too could comfortably live off them.

Since Osama Bin Laden, Al Shabab and Al Qaeda came to prominence so too has the number of dog breeders including private security firms who have sniffer dogs for hire. I have been in contact with sniffer dogs supplied by Uganda Police and recently when I was in Silk Ocean during a dog sweep I expressed my reservations. They used bitches.

Sensing my doubt that the bitches (please don’t think I’m getting a thrill out of typing the word bitches anymore than you want to read it, but they were bitches) really knew what to look for, the handler hid a ball and sent them out to find it. They found the ball but since it was not an explosive device I was still sceptical.

I have to be sceptical because some years back, I attended a conference at one of the big hotels in Kampala. A whole host of world leaders had flown in for the event so security was of paramount importance and all the police sniffer dogs were drafted in though, I am not too sure if Gwanga’s, The Phado’s or Oyo’s were amongst them.

Police Handler obviously put on a show for the hotel staff because they fled when they saw the bitches scampering through the hotel, their tongues hanging out of the corner of their mouths while dribbling malusu all over the carpets.

It was lunchtime and I was in the kitchen when the bitches came slavering through. The kitchen was running on full steam with the chefs shouting out orders and the waiters running around with trays when one of the waiters walked in with a steak that had been rejected. “The order was medium rare and not well done” Waiter tells Chef who, responds by barking back that next time he should write clearly. But rather than throw away an overdone steak, Chef offered it to me and I accepted. The steak was set aside ready to be eaten after the bitches did their thing.

When the order was given, the bitches went sniffing for incendiary devices amongst other things. The rich aroma of a pork chop on the grill, the meat muchomo or the chicken being grilled did not have them floundering, until the larger of the bitches stops in its tracks and sits down which, is an indication that it has found something suspicious. Police Handler looks all pleased with himself especially seeing that some of the top police brass from Kibuli police headquarters were observing.

Yes the bitch had found something but not an incendiary device. It had seen the overdone steak that had offended one of the guests. And just like that, it was back on its feet. It mounted the serving area, attacked the steak and gobbled it down all in the space of a few minutes. Police Handler stopped dead in his tracks, Top Police Brass looked at each other, Chef gave Waiter a rueful eye and I looked at the bitch in disgust while quietly saying bi*ch. I have had to type it that way because I am using it in the form of a swear word.

Looking for answers, Police Handler blurts out: “But she has never done this before. She is trained and not supposed to do that.” Well either the bitch had been starved or she was a reject from The Phado’s, Oyo or Gwanga’s kennels. As the bitch whimpered, I could swear I heard it burp in satisfaction at having eaten a sh24,000 steak that was supposed to be mine and then had the audacity to come and start wagging its tail on my leg. The b*tch!

The Vero Water Discovery

When we think of entrepreneurs, the usual names spring to mind – Wava, Ruparelia, Hirji, Kabonero and Kirumira for example. However, out there, there are many more entrepreneurs that we never hear of and whose investments are almost on the same grand scale as the people I have just mentioned.

Enter Emmanuel Katongole. I know Katongole but only on a hello basis. In addition, in the little that I know of him, I learned that he is a wealthy man who has done good with the dime he has minted.

A few weeks ago, an invitation card lands on my desk, which, read something along the lines of: “The chairman of Vero Foods Ltd, cordially invites you to the launch of Vero Water at Namanve Industrial Park.” Usually such invites and without hesitation, I toss in the bin for when it comes to launches of the liquid kind, any sane person will tell you it has to be a Tusker Malt launch – Period!
However, seeing that the invite was followed up by relentless phone calls from Robert Semakula, who I gathered was the General Manager and Paul Lukwago the Marketing Manager, I grudgingly attended.

It turns out that the launch was worth my while. In the presence of President Museveni, Katongole not only assured, but was forthright and to the point. One of the things he harped on about was the slow pace the government is taking over developing Namanve Industrial Park. “Mr. President, ten years and nothing has been done. We can’t afford this slow pace.” he said.

Katongole then went on to introduce one of his investors, a young man who at 19 years old, had attained a Masters degree and in his working life, had worked for the investment bankers, Meryll Lynch and also has a fat bank account that, runs into the billions of American dollars.

When Investor spoke, he was eloquent with a full axe-so (which means ‘accent’ for the benefit of the people who do not know bling lingo (language). And yes, with every word that he spewed out, there were traces of the Masters degree that he attained.

And when he spoke, everybody listened to what he had to say – right down from President Museveni, the host Katongole, Richard Byarugaba, the MD of NSSF, the former and current Mayor of Kampala, Ssebbana Kizito and Nasser Ssebagala, the staff from Serena Hotel who did the catering to the drivers, security personnel and the odd villager from Bajjo where, Katongole has his country house – (Eh, what a crib!)
So where am I going with this Cowardly Tale? I think I have been rambling but lucky for me Sidney, my editor that is, is on leave so I can afford to ramble.

By the way, did I tell you that the young Masters degree holder is called Zain and because of his name, it was the beginning of my problems? This is how it went. I am behind the buses and cars were the drivers, security guards and the casuals are holed up and puffing on a Sportsman cigarette instead of Dunhill because the people at BAT don’t feel me anymore when I hear the kaboozi. Because Investor is called Zain, they think he used to own Zain, the telecommunications company until he sold to Airtel.

In Luganda a man is saying, “Have you seen the young the young man who used to own Zain? When he sold the company to Airtel, he made millions! The guy is loaded. Wherever he goes, he carries airtime of one million American dollars. Do you think that Katongole worries about his bill? Look at him making all those endless calls. I even heard that when he leaves the function he is going to give us free phones and airtime.” He went to add that: “When he flew in, he came in a private jet. At that, Security Guards, Casuals, Bus and Car Drivers went wild. Zain, was their man - their charlie, gangsta, nigga and muloodi’.

But really, what a story! I had to seek out Story Teller and correct him. It was my duty, part of my social responsibility – not so?

So I put it to him straight in front of all his listeners and rather than thanking me for correcting him, he goes livid! “Just because you are wearing a tie you think you know more than I do? Do you know that I went to school? I grew up with Katongole and I know all his friends. That man Zain, used to own Zain the telecommunications company then he sold it to the Arabs for $40 billion. The next day he ordered two jets that have a sauna and steam in them. You go to Entebbe Airport, you will see them parked side by side.” With that, his listeners went wild once again.

Suddenly I was being accused of being everything from an imposter, to a gatecrasher and a fake who didn’t go to school. They followed up their accusations chants of: “Show us your invitation card, show us your invitation card!”

Okay so I didn’t have an invitation card – it was a verbal one. I tried to explain myself but they were not having anything of it. As I looked round for help in the marquee, I could see Katongole but it would have been rude to interrupt him seeing he was talking to Nasser Ssebagala and Ssebbana Kizito.

So I went in for plan B. “Everybody here will get a free carton of Vero Water” I said. And just like that, the impending hurricane of the kibookos that they were about to unleash on me went into a simmer then settled. Had I become an icon and found a cure to avoid being roughed and beaten up in Vero Water? Let me go call and tell Kizza Besigye.

tbukumunhe@googlemail.com

Affection

In Uganda when it comes to affection – especially public displays of affection, we were prudish, reserved and embarrassed at the thought. Affection if it is to happen, should be done late at night after the kids have gone to sleep and in the confines of the master bedroom with the doors firmly bolted.

In Europe, affection is all over the place – on the trains, the buses, the underground, the sidewalks and even in the cafes and nobody looks, stares or gawps. They just let the couple get on with whatever it is that they are doing.

And I have to point out that affection is not limited to us humans for it also filters down to the animal kingdom though, they have the most morbid way of doing it. In the dog world for example, they show affection by sniffing at each other’s genitalia. The dog will sniff the bitches’ genitalia and not from a distance I might add, but right up close with its nose right on the wee wee area. And if you thought that was bad enough, the puppies too do it – and to their cousins, their parents and even their grandparents!

If that sort of behaviour happened in the human world, it would be a case of society having run mad. Seeing that The Phado is into dog breeding, he should know the answer. I called him and this is what he had to say: “They do it to determine the sex and also to see if the bitch is ready for a bout of sawa ya malavuu.” Let us leave it at that for the time being.

Getting back, in the public displays of affection, there are men who show each other affection. While they are not gay, they just feel the need to show affection. They have to hold your hand while walking and some even feel the need to put their arms round each other’s waists.

The main culprits of this kind of affection are security guards, Asian’s, petrol pump attendants and waiters. You see them walking down the road blissfully unaware that what they are doing is being frowned upon.

I am at the ATM and through the corner of my left eye I spot him coming towards me. Moses is from the depths of Bushenyi and who is unable to talk to you without holding some part of you – be it your waist, hands or even gently caressing your thigh. And for the record, Moses is married though whenever I see him, I think he might swing both ways if you get my drift.

The ATM is taking its time spewing out my dime that, I contemplate leaving the card in the machine to be gobbled up while I make a run for it and as far away from Moses as possible.

As I stand there dithering, Moses is on me. “Mr. Tim” he shouts out. “Long time brother” and with that his hand has already grabbed mine and is giving it a good squeeze. The ATM at this point has splattered out my dime and as we walk, he wants me to go into Nakumatt and talk as he shops. I try to tell him that I have a tight schedule and can’t afford the time but he up’s his offer with lunch at Javas. I accept. Am I that cheap?

Moses is the master. With one hand pushing the shopping cart, the other has a firm grip of my hand. By the time we get to the bakery, his arm is draped round my waist. And to my horror, in the bakery are a group of fine young ladies who give me suggestive looks until they spot Mosses’ arm round my waist. The suggestive looks quickly disappear and replaced by ones of disgust.

I try to reach out to them, to tell them that it is not what it looks like but they are on the move. An elderly woman with her teenage granddaughter also gives me a quizzical look as she covers Teenage Granddaughter’s eyes. It’s only when we get to the checkout counter that Moses gives me a breather and relents on my waist.
With the shopping in his car, we head to Java and rather than sitting across the table from me, Moses sits right next to me almost as if we are cajoled twins and with his hand on my thigh. Obviously, I try to move. Then I wriggle. Then I just get up and go to the washrooms. When I get back I pull out my chair to create some space between us but like the children’s game – musical chairs, Moses moves his chair along with mine and the hand is once again on my thigh.

I know what you are thinking here. Why didn’t I swing him a left or why didn’t I tell him that his hand is offending me? Yes I could have done all that but Moses is of my father’s generation and even if I had swung him a left or told him off, he wouldn’t have seen the fault with what he did because in Bushenyi where he grew up, men holding men by the waist is the norm. It is acceptable.

I did eventually tell him off because as I sliced through my medium rare steak, his hand had encroached further up my thigh and into my groin area, an area that is strictly reserved for female hands. As we left and said our goodbyes in the car park, Moses this time was rubbing my fingers as if he was a masseuse for all shoppers to see.

In the meantime, whoever you are who keeps on sending me suggestive messages with homosexual undertones, from 07**905 764, just because you may have seen Moses with his hand draped round my waist, I am NOT gay and I DO NOT find your txt messages entertaining or flattering so please stop it.

tbukumunhe@googlemail.com

Patrick Okumu Ringa - Uganda's Most Un-honourable Man?

“Honourable.” If you describe people or actions as honourable, you mean that they are good and deserve to be respected and admired as in, ...