Monday, June 25, 2012

Forget The Makerere Degree, Simply Go To Ekitoobero

Continued from last Sunday

Previously on The Coward…

I am still out on police bond for having taken a picture of our Hon, the PM’s Mercedes. It was a move that was deemed to have threatened his life by the security agencies. And because of that, I have to report to Kiira Road police station every Friday at 10:00am.

Today on The Coward…

I should have presented myself to the CID office at Kiira Road police station on Monday but I didn’t. I didn’t – not because I am taking the whole matter of being charged for ‘threatening the life of Amama Mbabazi’ lightly but because my schedule did not allow.

I did eventually report – two days later on Wednesday. This time I was handled by a lady officer called Mutoni – if memory serves me correct, and she sits in room 14, which is the hub of all CID activity at the station.

This time round there was no dilly dallying. Mutoni looked at the police bond, stood up and walked into the corridor for say twenty seconds and when she returned, this is how the conversation went.

Mutoni: “Bukumunhe, I am cancelling this police bond.”

TB: “So what happens now?”

Mutoni: “You are a free man. You can go about your business and if we need you, we will be in touch.”

And just like that, it was all over. No more reporting to Kiira Road, no police bond hanging over my head. But with all things that involve the police or the security agencies, there is something I have yet to figure out.

Why did the police cancel the bond? Did CID investigate and find I posed no threat to the Prime Minister? Had my file been forwarded to the director of public prosecutions and he figured there was no case to answer? Did that chap called Orders From Above let it slide?

I don’t know what really happened but I will tell you this. When Mutoni read through the police bond, she stood up, walked out into the corridor, stood there for say twenty seconds then returned and cancelled the bond. What happened out there in the corridor especially since she didn’t speak to anybody? Or perhaps it was a case of divine intervention?

Anyway, enough about the police. I was in Nakivubo Stadium a couple of weeks ago to attend the CBS show, Ekitoobero and one thing about being in the Nakivubo area is the rate of development that is going on in terms of shopping malls and hotels.

They are springing up a-dime-a-dozen and like piranhas, they want to gobble up the stadium, a Nakivubo Stadium whose death warrant I think, has already been signed on its future and I reckon it will be two years max before it is turned into a bus or taxi park, a shopping mall, hotel, or a giant mivumba market. Or might it be turned into one giant pit latrine area seeing there is a shortage pit latrines in the area?

At last year’s Ekitoobero, I thought I had seen it all but going by what happened a few weeks ago I hadn’t. The eccentrics, the imagination that the people who operate downtown have, have to be marvelled at.

Last year, just inside the entrance there was a photo booth and their marketing gimmick was simple and to the point. “Tofaayo oba tewagenda Makerere kufuna diguli. Jjangu gyetuli tugikuwe.” (don’t worry if you didn’t go to Makerere and get a degree. Come to us and we will give you one). And for 5k, they dress you up a graduation robe complete with a motorboard and the degree, take your picture and fifteen minutes later you had a framed photograph you could hang up in your living room for your guests to admire.

And they lined up - everybody from the chapatti vendor, the wheel barrow pusher, mamma boy who selling gonja, the omweso and ludo expert to the chap picking up the empty mineral water bottles. They all are now degree holders – well at least in their homes they do have ‘the proof, the photographic evidence’.

But Photo Booth Owner went one step further this year. This year he was giving out masters and doctorates. However, there was a problem that he didn’t anticipate. Chapatti Vendor, Wheel Barrow Pusher, Mamma Boy Selling Gonja, Omweso and Ludo Expert had no clue what a masters meant nor, did they understand what a doctorate was all about.

But not to worry for he had a business partner on hand to break it down for them and once he was done, nobody wanted a degree. It was worthless to them. They wanted to be known as Dr. Chapatti Vendor, Dr. Wheel Barrow Pusher, Dr. Mamma Boy Selling Gonja, Dr. Omweso and Ludo Expert. They wanted the doctorate.

Let’s pause while I give you a chance to catch your breath. I can see a number of you reading this cowardly tale and thinking I made this story up and that I am on crack cocaine. I am sure that my editor, Esther, is having her doubts too.

But there is a simple way to prove my story. Today is Radio Simba’s musical festival, Ekiggunda at Nakivubo Stadium. If any of you turn up for the event and do not leave with a degree or a doctorate, I will buy the first ten people to complain The Sunday Vision newspaper for the next two months. I would rather have bought beer but there is something called newspaper sales. Complaints to

Getting back, when it comes to food, by the Kirrusia stand is the place to find it. And when I say the place to find food, if you take your time and shop around the numerous food vendors, you can chance on a vendor who will sell you chapatti, matooke, plao, beans and meat sauce for under 5k. So what is the big deal about that then? One, it is a heap of food and secondly, they give you four pieces of meat which are almost the size of a tennis ball. By the time I got through the four pieces of meat, there was no room for the matooke, plao, chapatti and beans.

But there was a need to take myself for a polite walk and while I was having my polite walk in a nonchalant way, I was passing wind. And in Nakivubo Stadium, passing wind is not a crime. Even if I had let it rip with full sauti, (for the benefit of our expatriate readers, people who live in Kololo, Mutungo, and in other plush neighbourhoods’ and who have never been downtown, sauti, is a Swahili word that means sound) nobody would have bothered for people downtown are used to far worse things.

And please, please, if you are thinking of turning up today and especially if it your first time, ladies please carry tissue and if any of you think of doing ‘number two’ get rid of it at home before you come because, this is how the toilet system works.

Toilet Tender will charge you sh200 – sh400 to use the toilet and if you want tissue you have to fork out an extra sh200 per perforation.

But for Downtown Woman, she has mastered the art of saving her toilet money for other things. She goes onto the pitch, kneels down and with her skirt or dress covering her, she has a pee. To the unsuspecting, she looks all innocent and you would simply look at her as: ‘Downtown Woman got tired of sitting down so she decided to kneel for a while’.

Alas my word count is up but if you happen to be in the stadium today, I am wearing a black baseball cap with a logo that reads: “Sammy J. Peppers – grill and bar, est.1996.” Seek me out, and I’ll buy you a beer. And the degree photo booth is inside the stadium almost by the entrance. On the other hand, if you happen to be in church, please throw in a kind word or two for me? Thanks, much appreciated. Till next Sunday!

Ps. Should you be a muzungu, don’t be like Dean Lewis who turned up solo and happened to be the only muzungu at Ekitoobero. He stood out like a sore thumb that he lasted a mere 30 minutes before he fled!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More Police Dealings

Continued from last Sunday

Previously on The Coward…

I am still out on police bond for having taken a picture of the Hon. PM’s Mercedes, a move that was deemed to have threatened his life and that of his wife. And because of that, I have to report to Kiira Road police station every Friday at 10:00am. Secondly, Kabalagala police illegally towed my car out of a friend’s compound and to get it back - well a lot of police hands had to be greased.

Now today on The Coward…

Seeing that I still have police issues, I thought it might be wise to kick off this cowardly tale on a note of congratulations to Affande Charles Kataratambi, who I am told is now the new head of CID in Kampala. With the congratulations out of the way, Charles, you might want to take a drive to Kiira Road and see what is happening there.

In the past two weeks, I am beginning to ‘admire’ the police force and the way in which they operate. They have an approach that is almost nonchalant, has a touch of aloofness and coupled with seemingly being unbothered.

Affande Charles, Room 14, which is the CID office at Kiira Road police station, is not in the best shape. Apart from a large section of soft board that once formed the ceiling being missing, the rest of the ceiling is bound to give way, and I think it is likely to happen before Independence Day.

The furniture too, is antique with the tables and chairs perhaps being leftovers from donations that Her Majesty’s Government in England gave us as Entandikwa when we attained Independence in 1962. And two of the antique tables are taken up with Olivetti typewriters.

But really, who still uses Olivetti typewriters?! I thought we were supposed to be in a supercharged technological age of the internet, where the iPad, BlackBerry, Samsung Galaxy Tabs and laptops rule the world?

Well it does seem that the supercharged technological age of the internet, where the iPad, BlackBerry, Samsung Galaxy Tabs and laptops rule the world has not yet trickled down to the Uganda police force. And I also thought that the world was in unison when we stopped using foolscap paper in 2001 and we all embraced A4 paper? Well, it does appear that somebody forgot to tell the police for they still use foolscap to take down statements. Hmm!

So CID Police Officer who, tended to my needs, was in his own element. Short of desperately wanting to take a siesta, he was laid back in the remnants of a swivel chair and gave me the once over – well not just one once over but four of them.

When I gave him the police bond to sign, he looked at it in my outstretched hand, the lent back in his seat, looked out of the window before casting his eyes that already looked suspicious back at the police bond and with a look that had nothing but scorn and contempt.

There is not much to read on a police bond. At most it takes a minute but CID Police Officer, put it on his desk and again concentrated on looking out of the window and at the passing traffic. When and I presumed he had seen enough cars roll by his eyes, he glanced at the police bond.

Then slowly he picked it up and looked and looked at it almost like he was trying to determine if it was an authentic police issue bond. This exercise took him the best part of five minutes. Satisfied, he started reading it.

He read it once, turned it over even though there was nothing to read on the flipside, then, put his hand to his chin, read it again and again and again. While he did this, he was still giving me the once over.

But there was something bothering him - the passing traffic outside his window. So he swivelled round in his chair, and once again, concentrated on watching the traffic.

To keep myself busy, I too joined him in watching the passing traffic. I saw a black Range Rover Sport, numerous taxis, a good number of Toyota Harriers, and a range of Toyota cars and that got me thinking. It is amazing how passing traffic can still entertain the adult mind. I thought of telling CID Police Officer that, but common sense prevailed.

Eventually, he reached out for his pen, signed it, and then told me that CID Police Officer who is handling my case is away for burial and that I should once again report back the following week.

But there was something amiss. It appears that police officers are in collusion with doctors because can anybody really read what a doctor has written down on a prescription sheet? And when doctors sign their names, are you able to make out their names? No, not all.

CID Police Officer who filled out the initial police bond sheet was the same person sitting before me and signing the sheet. Did he think that I would not remember him? Did he think that if he disguised his signatures he would get away with it? Ok, so I am no handwriting expert but everybody who has seen my charge sheet concurs with me that, the person who made out the initial charge sheet and the person who signed it two weeks later are the same person.

Anyway, enough of the police. It has been a while since I last went to Naalya. In fact what would I be doing in Naalya since it is at the end of the world and on the other side of Kampala from where I live?

Naalya has changed. When I was last there, there was no northern-by-pass, Yakobo’s was still the in place to go for pork and there was a constant traffic jam all the way from Kiira road police station into Ntinda. While Yakobo’s was razed to the ground and to be replaced by our new found obsession of building shopping malls, the traffic jam is still there but more importantly, there is a mall on the other side of the by-pass that houses Shoprite, Woolworths and other stores.

More importantly, it houses a sports bar that gives Just Kicking a run for its money but with a beer a 5k, it was enough to make me pass on it and instead settle for a place called the Drunken Duck, which I am told was formerly known as Valley Point and, is run by two amiable ladies – Prossy and Mclean. And the Drunken Duck was only two weeks old when I landed in it.

Suffice to say that they do have excellent pork and taking up centre stage was a young man called James Odomel in the company of a large entourage. I knew of Odomel when we were still actively blazing the media trail. Eavesdropping on their conversation, it appears they were doing a post-mortem of a hastily arranged outing to Jinja a few weeks back and were also in the throes of planning for a trip to Fort Portal. I more than eavesdropped in a bid to get their attention which might have led to an invitation, but none was forthcoming.

So I sat it out for a while on the small balcony and watched one of the car washers from the washing bay, ramming a car he had just washed into the wall and the pilgrims who were headed to Namugongo.

I have never quite figured why pilgrims would want to work, yet there are buses, boda’s and taxis. Was it a dime issue? But then again, the overtly religious people do have issues of sorts and that is why I am not overtly religious, I don’t go to church and don’t have faith in anybody who claims to be a pastor, reverend or whatever title has been bestowed on them.

I could have gone on with the conversation but I am knocking on the door of my word limit plus I have to report to Kiira Road police station tomorrow. By the way, does my case warrant being investigated by Amnesty International?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More Trouble With The Police

…Continued from last Sunday

Being on police bond has got me rattled. I am to report to Kiira Road police station every Friday at 10:00am until the State, decides whether or not, it will go ahead and prosecute me for ‘threatening the life of Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi’ because I took a picture of his sh600 Mercedes Benz.

Last Friday, I was unable to make it for 10:00am as it was stated and got there close to noon. Up in the CID offices, I was tossed from room 14 to room 15 and then back again to room 14.

I can’t recall the name of the CID policewoman on duty who wanted to know who was dealing with me. I told her no one was, and that I was merely advised to present myself to any CID officer in room 14.

CID Policewoman merely took my charge sheet, signed it and told me to report again the following Friday at 10:00am.

The funny thing about a police bond, is that the police do not keep any record of your having turned up at the police station. I could have skipped turning up and if they had decided to look for me, all I have to do is to say: “I have been turning up, but lost the charge sheet” and I guess that would have been that?

From Kiira Road police station to Kabalagala police station where yet again I had another run in with the police though this time, it was not as sinister as threatening the life of the Prime Minister.

Over the weekend, I had left my ride in the office compound of a friend of mine – let’s call him Muloodi for arguments sake. He was aware of it but when the security company that guards his office turned up and saw the car parked there, they demanded to know from Askari on Duty whose car it was. Askari on Duty told them that he had found it there when he reported for duty.

And that was it. Rather than the security company calling Muloodi to find out if they knew anything about my ride, they deemed it to be ‘abandoned’, called the OC at Kabalagala Police Station and who ordered it be towed to the police station.

It was not until Monday that I found the car had been taken to Kabalagala police station. But if I thought that getting it back was going to be an easy affair, ha, I was way off the mark.

I had to turn up with the original log book which I did, but forgot to take some form of identification to which, OC Kabalagala tore into me. Here is the kaboozi.

OC Kabalagala: “Where is your ID?”

TB: “I forgot to bring it.”

OC Kabalagala: “You man, you are not being serious! You think you just walk about with no identification?! Where is the log book?”

With the log book presented, OC Kabalagala had to verify that it was for real and with that, he took me to the traffic police room where Police Woman with Three stripes promptly declared it to be a forgery because the silver seal was faint and the stamp from URA was not properly visible.

After most of Kabalagala police station had rubbed their thumbs over the silver seal and each one given their verdicts that ranged between “it’s a forgery” to “where did you get the card from” to “who is the suspect”, I had to make a statement.

Police Woman Taking Statement, just like OC Kabalagala insisted on using the word ‘abandoned’. And I insisted that the car was not abandoned because it was parked in an office compound with the full consent of Muloodi and that the car was illegally towed away and without my consent or that of Muloodi.

But they were not having it. They insisted the car had been abandoned and despite Muloodi telling them it had not. Once they were satisfied that the card was genuine and had not been stolen as Askari on Duty had told his superiors, I thought that was it. I can get into the ride and drive off.

Ha, but there was the tow truck to be paid for and for that, they wanted sh130,000 for towing it from Kiwafu Road in Kansanga to the police station!

Of course I refused to pay. Why would I pay yet it was not I, who had called for the tow truck and that between OC Kabalagala and Security Company, it was they who had called for the tow truck.

But nope, they were not having it. In fact there was some sort of deal going on between, OC Kabalagala, Security Company and Tow Truck Man.

So I ‘abandoned’ the car in the police yard and returned the following day with the money. OC Kabalagala was not in but in Namugongo for a meeting and advised I deal with Three Stars Policeman in an office behind the counter.

But Three Stars Policeman was also out. However, one of the rank and file officers went out of his way to locate Three Stars Policeman and after he had reviewed the situation and that all was in order, he released the car.

However, there was a ‘but’. Three Stars Policeman wanted airtime. I had seen this coming so I gave Rank and File Officer 5k for his troubles and asked him to also pass on 5k to Three Stars Policeman for his airtime.

This is what happened next.

Rank and File Policeman: “Eh but you man, Three Stars Policeman will be angry!”

TB: “Why would he be angry?

Rank and File Policeman: “You can’t just give him 5k! He is Three Stars Policeman!”

TB: “Is this not extortion? Am I supposed to pay the police for having my car released?”

With that, he kept mum and slithered away. Sadly, that was not the end of the saga for at the Quarter Guard, three other policemen were waiting for ‘their dues’ and the one in charge did not mince his words for he was straight to the point.

Quarter Guard: “Chief, there are three of us who were guarding your car over the weekend. You look at it, nothing has been stolen.”

TB: “You mean even at the police station people steal wing mirrors and lights?”

Quarter Guard: “You man, you are funny. Anyway, even though Three Stars Policeman has released your car, I am the final authority. You have to look after my boys and I.”

TB: “But I thought that…”

Quarter Guard: “You want your car to stay here for another night?”

So I offered him 10k and of course, that did not go down well with him. Another 10k did the trick and with that, I was in my ride and out of there.

But before I left, I was given a lecture about abandoning rides in my friend’s compounds.

But to OC Kabalagala, Three Stars Policeman, Quarter Guard, Rank and File Policeman, how could my car have been abandoned when:

1. It was parked at Muloodi’s office with his full consent and knowledge.

2. Why did you make me pay for towing charges yet it was OC Kabalagala and the security company who authorized the tow?

3. Why did I have to pay Three Stars Policeman, Rank and File Policeman, and Quarter Guard to have my car released?

With that, I guess I should ring up the Attorney General, Kiddu Makubuya and find out if I have any legal ground to stand because, I am considering taking legal action against Kabalagala police for intimidation, theft of my car, loss of earnings through having to pay bribes, loss of earnings for have spent the best part of a day trying to get my car out of the police station and being forced to pay monies to individuals in the police, monies that I am not supposed to have paid and which left me out of pocket.

To Be Continued…

Monday, June 4, 2012

Threatening The Life of Prime Minister Mbabazi

The key words to look out for in this week’s cowardly tales are: ‘identify yourself’ and ‘orders from above.’

Despite the global terrorist threat from Al Queada, Al Shabab and whoever else has issues with governments, walk up to Buckingham Palace in England and take a picture of it and just see what happens. Nothing. Again, press your face against the railings and see what happens. Nothing.

Then swing round to 10, Downing Street, the official residence of Prime Minister, David Cameron, and do the same thing. Nothing happens. In fact go to the Houses of Parliament, go over to Washington DC to the White House and do the same thing. Nothing happens.

Go a step further, whip out your camera and take pictures. No bodyguards, nobody in paramilitary uniform, police or military police will jump out of the shrubbery demanding to know who you are, and who gave you permission to take pictures and why you are taking them.

That is not to say that the security agencies in the UK, US, Germany and Australia for example, do not take the terrorist threat seriously. They do, but they are mind full of the bigger picture - the image they will put out there if they arrested you and were heavy handed for merely taking pictures and especially when you pose no threat to national security.

Here in Uganda, the security agencies have a different approach to public relations. Their approach – well they don’t have any approach and they don’t know what PR means except of course threatening you with an AK-47, beating you up, and whisking you away to some unknown location and into a dungeon to be interrogated for hours on end.

Another thing about Uganda, is that, there are a number of public buildings that Wanainchi supposedly cannot take pictures of.

A few weeks ago I tried to take a picture of the World War II memorial statute in City Square and the conversation I had with the policeman dressed in full anti riot kit went along these lines.

Anti-Riot Policeman: “You man, identify yourself”

Me: “I am TB and I dabble in the media amongst other things.”

Anti-Riot Policeman: “Who said you can take a picture?”

Me: “Is this not a public park? Anyway I am taking a picture of the World War II memorial statue.”

Anti-Riot Policeman: “But you man, what is wrong with you? This is a sensitive area and we don’t allow people to take pictures anywhere in this vicinity. If you don’t leave now, I going to arrest you and charge you with trespass.”

Me: “Taking a picture of a WWII memorial is a security threat?

Anti-Riot Policeman: “Affande call the patrol and we take him to CPS!”

Between going to CPS and my freedom, I picked freedom, put the camera away and left.

With that, in Uganda it is illegal to take pictures of the WWII memorial statute, just as it is to take pictures of State House, Parliament, Bank of Uganda, Entebbe Airport, Summit View Kololo where the television and radio masts are located, Owen Falls Dam, the presidential Gulfstream jet and judiciary buildings amongst others.

The people in the security services, especially that elusive man or woman called, Orders From Above have their reasons to deem it illegal, treasonable and grounds for arrest if you are caught taking pictures of those places.

But let’s pause there for a while. Just who on earth is this person called Orders From Above? If you got into a wrangle with the rank and file of the police force, army or military police, they always tell you that: “We got orders from above and that is that. Don’t question us further!”

Getting back, so I am not a big football fan but seeing the invitation to watch the finals of the Champions League between Chelsea and Bayern Munich, came from Julius Kayoboke, who is the Area Export Manager for Heineken International at Cayenne, it was too good an invitation to turn down.

Heineken International, have to be commended for throwing a bash that was befitting of the finals. There was plenty of food and drink plus a crowd though not sporting Chelsea or Bayern colours got into the thick of the action. Better still, for Dr. John, it was his first outing to Cayenne so there was a need to contend with his malo, while Nodin, – well he was just there and trying to intimidate.

But what was surprising, was the choice of chief guest – the Hon. PM Amama Mbabazi and his wife Jacqueline. I didn’t think PM was that much into football and unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to ask him which team he was rooting for.

Just before the penalty shootout that decided the match, I took myself into the car park for some fresh air, and there is was. PM’s new ride – a sleek black Mercedes Benz that is supposed to have cost we, the taxpayer, a whooping sh600!

I didn’t have the time to think about the consequences for out came the Nokia cell phone, and snap, snap, I took a couple of pictures.

Do you think I got time to admire the photographs? No, for within seconds, the entire security apparatus from military police, policemen (in black, blue camouflage, khaki, and plain blue) plus army men had jumped onto me and were ruffling me up. Surely they must have gotten the wrong person. Here is a transcript of the conversation I had as I was handcuffed and taken to the police patrol.

Affande: “Identify yourself!”

Me: “Err, TB”

Affande: “What are you doing, why are you taking pictures of PM’s car?”

Me: “By the time a government official is riding in a car that costs sh600m, it becomes a public interest story.”

Affande: “Are you trying to endanger the life of the PM? Are you trying to plant a bomb in his car?”

Me: “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Where is the bomb and how am I endangering his life?”

Affande didn’t get a chance answer for the patrol pick-up had lurched forward, lights flashing and siren wailing as they sped me down to Kira Road police station.

When the booking officer asked for the charge, he was told: “This is a delicate case. That’s the information we got from orders from above.”

This had to be a first. Orders From Above does indeed exist. Apart from that, he or she does know who I am and that my case is delicate? Hmm.

They didn’t throw me into the coolers, but rather I had to sit it out for the best part of the night and into Sunday. At 7:00am when the shift changed I had yet to be charged because they were still waiting for Orders From Above to turn up.

He showed face at 11:00 am and he turned out to be a rather youthful man – and held a police rank – that of DPC, Kiira Road Police Station.

After a grilling – you know the usual police questions (identify yourself, where are you coming from, what tribe are you, do you know what you did wrong, you think you are above the law, you were endangering PMs life), I was taken upstairs and into the CID office where I was formally charged. I was charged with ‘making threats against the PM’.

For a minute there I thought I was on crack cocaine! “Is taking a picture of the PMs car a crime and how does it endanger PMs life” so I asked CID officer.

CID Officer: “You man, taking a picture of PMs car, is endangering his life.”

Me: “But how?”

CID Officer: “You think you just take a picture of his car? It is a criminal offence. For all we know, you wanted to plant a bomb in it.”

Okay so CID Officer vindicated me. Going by his questioning, it was he and not I who was on crack cocaine! I was eventually released on a police bond and told to report back on Friday at 10:00am.

If taking a picture of PMs car or that of other ministers and high ranking government officials has become a crime that warrants arrest, what will Orders From Above dream up next? Perhaps we will soon find out that, taking pictures of PM, M7 and VP will soon be an offence that warrants arrest.

To Be Continued…

Pictures: NTV, New Vision, Daily Monitor

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