Monthly Archives: November 2016

Are Kampala’s Elite juicing their way to Cancer?

If there is one thing I have respect for Kampala’s middle class, it’s their quick adoption of anything regarding healthy living. There was a time when the social status of someone was directly proportional to their weight. The bulkier you were, the higher the social standing you had.

We then got introduced to the world of Gym, Sauna and Steam bath. It became the rage around town. Someone worthy their corporate pedigree had to be seen to have a sauna/steam bath as part of their daily programme. The consciousness of weight loss begun at this stage. However, most of the disciples thought that they would still maintain their beer swigging, chicken and pork eating habits expecting the sauna to automagically take away the weight.

The sauna era then paved way for Jogging. To-date, jogging is still taken seriously with groups of drinking buddies or even corporates coming together once or twice a week to jog a couple of kilometers.

While this was going on, we were ushered into the era of Juicing !!!!.

What is Juicing? Juicing involves a process where the natural liquids, vitamins, and minerals are extracted from raw fruits and vegetables, this process strips away any solid matter from the fruits and vegetables and you’re left with liquid only.

Everywhere I turn lately, a friend or two are talking about juicing. They share marvelous stories of how it has changed their lives, how they’ve lost weight, the elderly have seen their ailments reduce, alcohol filled bodies have been successfully detoxed etc.

While I’m in awe of all these testimonies, I want to share a few pointers on the likely dangers a juicer would expose themselves to in Kampala.

The average urban shopper will purchase their vegetables and fruits from the traditional local markets, Supermarkets as well as roadside sellers. Often times the presentation of these products is so attractive that one can hardly question their origin.

However, a few disturbing issues are rife in Uganda’s farming communities and unless urgent attention is given to them, the consumers will bear the brunt through unintended food poisoning as well as disease accumulation.

Issue 1:

It is a fact that the presence of banned pesticides is rife in this country. This was in part brought about by the liberalisation of agro-chemical inputs which weakened quality control. Chemicals are banned for various reasons, majority of which are health side effects on humans. More insights on this can be got in this article.

Issue 2:

There is widespread indiscriminate use of pesticides. Once I went to the market and out of curiosity asked the tomato seller why the tomatoes had a whitish substance on them. She confidently told me that the substance was a pesticide sprayed after harvest to increase the shelf life of the tomatoes as well as prevent pest attacks during storage. I did corroborate this assertion with a friend that operates a retail shop.

tomatoesStandard agricultural practice does not recommend applying any pesticides to crops due for harvest within two weeks. This is due to the time it takes for the chemicals to breakdown and avoid entry into the human body. A 2013 Study among tomato farmers in Uganda found that no farmer was applying the recommended concentration of Dithane M-45. Their application varied from 3-7 times the recommended levels. This same Dithane is the one sprayed on the tomatoes after harvest. Its widely used on other crops like lettuce, onions and potatoes. Its active ingredient mancozeb is a known hazardous air pollutant and could cause cancer. It is known to have thyroid effects and when ingested by pregnant women can lead to impaired cognitive function and motor development in children.

Issue 3:

Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by most vendors is questionable. On an early morning trip to Buikwe district, I once found some vegetable vendors retrieving their greens from the irrigation canals of the Lugazi Sugar plantations where they had been stored overnight. As an avid user of this route through the plantation, I know how intense the use of chemicals when growing these sugarcanes is. For someone to keep vegetables there implies that they get into contact with these chemicals and the unsuspecting public become the victims of any health side effects.

It is also common knowledge that some vendors of fruits and vegetables in Kampala often store them overnight in water bodies like the Nakivubo channel among others. These are the very fruits you will gladly ingest raw after being nicely spliced and strategically positioned by the road side on a hot day.

Issue 4:

The relevant government agencies lack the ability to monitor pesticide residues in agricultural products. This is one of the reasons why we always wake up late when the EU is banning our produce. Farmers and agro chemical dealers are operating in an unregulated environment and it has become a dog eat dog world. They don’t seem to bear concern for the wellbeing of the food consumers.

What does all this mean to a Juicer?

Since juicing largely involves consumption of raw fruits and vegetables, the chances of one ingesting harmful chemicals while at it is high if they do not have knowledge of the source of the foods they are consuming. Take it from me, you can shop from the trending supermarkets or grocery shops and the agents there may convince you that their suppliers are carefully selected and regulated to ensure you get top notch products. As an individual that knows quite abit about the agriculture value chain, those are mere lies. Many of these retailers have no idea about the practices of their suppliers when growing the produce. All they see are clean vegetables and fruits presented to them.

As you juice, I advise that you consider growing your own stuff. Most of these vegetables and fruits can be grown in your backyard (if you’re serious) and the beauty is that there are groups like the Backyard Gardeners that have a good support network on WhatsApp.

If you aren’t ready to grow your stuff, then start today and scout for a good vegetable/fruit grower who is ethical enough to meet your expectations.

Otherwise, in the pursuit of great health, many are risking even worse ailments by merely jumping onto the bandwagon without assessing the dangers.

Happy Juicing.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter


Transacting Online? Uganda’s Laws protect you

Nalule ordered for a TV set on one of Uganda’s e-commerce sites after being offered an attracitve deal. She went ahead to pay fully and wait for its delivery. From a two day delivery promise, it turned out to be a 7 day delivery. To make matters worse, she noticed that the product delivered had some slight variations from what was advertised online. Her attempts to question the variations were silenced by the smooth speaking delivery guy.

It eventually took a visit by a tech savvy friend for her to come to the realisation that she had been offered a previous model of the advertised TV set. Cursing herself, she just vowed never to buy stuff online and always go to the shops instead.

Nalule’s tale is not new at all. You might already have been a victim or know someone that has been. The bigger problem here is the failure of the victims to know their rights under the law. Uganda has laws that cater for such occurrences.

So, you ask;

  • How do I know that the online supplier is legitimate?

Whenever you reach any Ugandan e-commerce site, some of the basic information you should expect to find as a consumer is;

  1. full name and legal status of the person (company).

  2. the physical address and telephone number of the person (company).

  3. the registration number, names of directors and place of registration.

  4. the full price of the goods or services, including transport costs, taxes and any other fees or costs.

  5. the return, exchange and refund policy of the person.

  6. where appropriate, the minimum duration of the agreement in the case of agreements for the sale, hire, exchange or supply of products or services to be performed on an ongoing basis or recurrently.

Failure to locate such key information should trigger your alerts.

  • What precautions are in place to ensure I do not make mistakes while purchasing online?

Ugandan e-commerce sites need to offer you the opportunity to;

(a) review the entire electronic transaction;
(b) correct any mistakes; and
(c) withdraw from the transaction before placing an order.

  • In case I have already transacted (paid up) online and I realise that the e-commerce site did not give me adequate information to make the right decision. Can I cancel?

As a consumer you may cancel the transaction within fourteen days (2 Weeks) after receiving the goods or services under the transaction.

  • From the time I used the online services of [company X] I keep getting spam (unsolicited0 messages on email and my phone. What can I do?

Your rights in this case are;

  1. The messages should not be sent to you at a cost.
  2. You should be given an option to cancel the subscription to that mailing list at no cost.
  • I have problems with delivery. The supplier never delivers on time.
  1. Unless there is specific agreement between you and the supplier, you are expected to receive your goods or services within thirty (30) days. Failure to do so, you are entitled to cancel the order by giving a seven (7) day notice.
  2. If the supplier realises for one reason or another that they cannot supply you with the goods or services, they should inform you before the expiry of the agreed time and make any refunds for payments made within thirty (30) days.

Uganda’s legal system is steadily being upgraded to become compliant with the advancements in technology. As we consume technology enabled products and services, we shouldn’t do so in ignorance of our legal rights as consumers. Take time and inform yourself more about the relevant laws and regulations. Find more about them archived here.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

Denied Blood, The Baby Died – RIP

“… I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug …” This is an extract from the Modern version of the Hippocratic oath sworn by the Medical professionals in Uganda.

As the week of 14th November 2016 came to a close, a young lady, pregnant for the first time was rushed to Mulago Hospital, Kamuli to give birth. Upon arrival, she was admitted and the wait begun. On the 20th of November she gave birth to a baby boy. Due to some issues, the doctor recommended that the baby be given blood.

Come Monday 21st November, I received a message from a long lost colleague and the conversation transpired as indicated in the screenshot.


Following the appeal for blood, I did get a number of volunteers but distance became an issue. However, with advice from someone who knew a medical personnel in Kamuli, we were told to find out whether the hospital actually lacked blood or what was needed was money to “buy” the blood? Mulago Hospital, Kamuli is a government hospital and some of these services are meant to be availed freely or at a minimal cost.

Upon probing, I was shocked when this colleague on the ground told me that he had been requested for UGX 100,000/= in order to access one pint of blood for the baby. The transaction was completed just as the little soul bid farewell to this world. With no name, he was gone too soon at one day of age.

Filled with emotion, I was taken back to a similar scene a year ago when my late father was struggling with cancer at the Uganda Cancer Institute and he needed blood. The personnel in charge had refused to give us blood claiming there was none. It took the intervention of the Human Resource head of Mulago (who happened to have a relation with us) for the blood to be released. Sad, So Sad!!!!

This reminds me about the hippocratic oath that the medical personnel are sworn to. Do some of them really mean what they say? When they vowwarmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife” do they really believe in it? Where is the sympathy when they illicitly expect a rural lady to raise US$ 30 for a pint of blood just to save the life of her new born baby? As a teacher, this is nearly half her monthly salary. The same oath they swear states, “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.” Do they realise the economic terrorism and human genocide they are engaging in? Stories of Ugandans losing their lives during birth due to such professional greed are abound, but it is time we started talking about it. We can’t let ourselves be sacrificed at the altar of selfish and corrupt medical personnel whose primary drive is financial gain.

Many times we are quick to blame “Government” for not paying medical personnel well and hence the reason for poor service delivery. This however does not justify killing our mothers, wives and babies in the hospitals.If they strongly believe it’s justified, should every lady that is broke turn into a prostitute?; Should every jobless man become a robber?

There are some actions that stem from our morals and mixing them up with other frustrations will never justify them. How can you have blood in the hospital and still go ahead to deny a young mother the joy of raising her first child? When they sleep at night, do they really ever think about the untold suffering and tears they have caused many as a result of their lust for money?

Following the experience I got while treating a cancer patient at Mulago, I learnt that there is a network of thugs and blood sucking mafias that has taken over most of these government hospitals. These crooks overshadow the good that most medical professionals are engaged in. These thugs range from medical professionals to admin staff like accountants, storekeepers etc. They often times work in a sophisticated manner that their responses are very well syndicated giving the semblance of truth in what they are saying.

Once a lady at the X-Ray department in Mulago simply rejected any effort of helping us to access the services because we opted to make official receipted payments. Shame!!! What a Shame!!!!

If we have any modern day terrorists and blood sucking vampires, they come in the form of some of these officials working in the public hospitals. Before am crucified for being overly harsh on them, I want to emphasise that my concern hinges on those fungi infested rotten tomatoes that are making an otherwise glorious profession be rated in the same vein with the Uganda Police.

People are dying as a result of intentional neglect. They shed their tears over what would have been. Take it from me me, you may rejoice in the quick money made auctioning government property and services but the curses you pile upon yourselves and your descendants will be hard to undo. Only Jesus Christ will be able to turn the tide of those curses. Anything short of that, you’re just booking chambers in the deepest pits of hell.

With sadness, I want to say RIP nameless boy and to the mother, put God in prayer, all will be well.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter

Baby Photo Credit: The Nairobi Times

TimeBomb – Bobi Wine’s Prophecy ?

I have never really been a fan of Bobi Wine, one of Uganda’s most renowned musicians over the last decade. His lifestyle and choice of lyrics for most of his earlier songs were perhaps the major reasons I never felt him.

However, the Baganda say, “Obukadde Magezi” and this musician only gets better with age. His new found activism through music is adorable and anyone that has a sense of feeling for the welfare of society cannot fail to appreciate this.

I did come across his song Time Bomb (watching the video will help you appreciate this post more) while browsing through my tweets and without doubt was instantly moved. As a christian, am a firm believer in prophecy and the power it has over human kind. In his opening verse, Bobi says;

I would like to communicate
About tings
(things) de we have fi (to) eliminate
Ignorance and poverty, eradicate
And de wholla ghetto yhut dem fi educate
(Educate the whole Ghetto) …

To free ghetto (slum) people dem must educate
But education, expensive to get
(Education is expensive)
Is like you say we carry water inna b
asket (It’s like attempting to carry water in a basket)

Without doubt, ignorance and poverty are really hitting this nation of ours badly. We may bask in the assumed glory of poverty levels having dropped according to recent statistics but the absolute numbers of Ugandans in poverty today is much higher than it has even been before.

Education has become too pricey and the feeble attempt at free education by the Government is implemented in a manner that leaves a lot to be desired. How can a school with 2,000 pupils be given an annual financial release worth the annual fees of one child in a middle level Kampala private school?

Indeed all attempts by the under privileged to turn around their circumstances are akin to carrying water in a basket. By the time they reach their intended destination, the basket is empty.

The second verse is entirely in Luganda and below are some of the excerpts;

Kati temudawo mwelimbe [Stop lying to yourselves]
Ngamuwooza tusaaba government etuyambe
[Asking the Government to help you]
Opposition gyetusuubira etuyambe
[The opposition we expect to help us]
Mpulira nabo batukolamu musimbi
[I hear, are just making money]
Gwe omuntu owafamili omusala ogwomwezi
[A family person’s monthly salary]
Tegu`mulisa kumala wiki, kyovolaba ngamba
[Can’t feed him for a week]
Tutudde ku time bomb
[We are sitting on a Time bomb]
Eyagala kubaluka eno time bomb
[This Time bomb wants to explode]
Kelibaluka (time bomb)
[When it Explodes]
Temugamba temwajjimanya (time bomb)
[Don’t say you never knew about it]

In the last verse, more prophetic pronouncements come out;

Abasinga bibalumila muli nebisigalayo kumitima [Many are hurt but keep it to themselves]
Buli omu yandi funye equal opportunity
[Everyone should get an equal opportunity]
No matter the tribe
Netumalawo fitina
[So we can get rid of the gossip]
Nanti eno time bomb
[This is a time bomb]
Engundo mwetuyitta (time bomb)
[The roads we use]
Embeera yomumalwaliro (time bomb)
[The state of Hospitals]

You may read this and think it’s just one of these disgruntled Ugandans trying to disorient the society, but it is high time you woke up and smelt the coffee. The fact that you have a steady salary, booming business or even a network of rich buddies that cushion your existence doesn’t imply that these injustices aren’t rife.

Most musicians have resorted to singing erotically oriented music probably because it guarantees them the bread and butter they seek. However, kudos to Bobi Wine for standing tall and choosing to be an advocate for the under privileged. You too can save this nation from the Time Bomb that is amidst us.

Do not ask how, just look at what you can do with what you have, where you are.

Why why, why why
Yaga yaga yaga yaga yo
Why why, why why

Follow @wirejames on Twitter

Bobi Wine Picture Photo Credit: Howwe Music

Bring back Uganda to Ugandans – The Trump Effect

Many have been trashing Americans for their preferential choice of President Elect Donald Trump over Mrs Rodham Hillary Clinton. I am not an American and will respect the choice that they made. The reality on the ground today is that a number of things are changing and anyone that does not keep an ear to the ground will eventually lose out.

Here in Africa, it is a matter of time before we see Trumpism taking root too. All the ingredients are there for one to see. We have;

  • A growing number of aliens setting up business operations in our countries.

  • A growing number of aliens claiming Investment guarantees only to compete in spaces that should be better left for local traders (shop keeping, small supermarkets, hardware retail etc)

  • A growing gap between the politically connected elite and the majority masses.

  • Fading hope of a bright future under the current political and economic status-quo.

  • Failure of globalisation to deliver the expected goodies. AGOA is a good example, what has been achieved from such romanticism?

  • Increasing clout of the Political and Economic rapists (Mafias) who stop at nothing to bankroll anyone with the sole aim of maintaining the status-quo.

In Tanzania, President John Pombe Magufuli has turned the political scene upside down. While many expected him to merely rubber stamp the status-quo, this Trump precursor has gone ahead to show all that he is a man of principle, and service delivery is what matters to him. He flies economy class, has cracked down on wasteful government spending, treats his wife in a local public hospital, has cracked down on tax evaders, among many other exploits. For someone who had an ice cold reception into the presidency, he has rapidly become the darling of the people.

In South Africa, a young and flamboyant man known as Julius Sello Malema who started off as an ANC youth league member eventually being hounded out of the party due to his radical approach to issues has seen his political clout grow in leaps and bounds. For long dismissed as a dreamer, he lately never gets out of the media now that he has his own party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Emblazoned in red factory worker clothing, these party members have demonstrated their deep and heartfelt concern for the poor South African. It is this approach that has made the politically correct establishment get wary of EFF. The resource rich South African whites are scared that a transition to EFF will see them lose their wealth to the Government under an already well spelt out nationalisation agenda. If the ANC keeps shooting itself in the foot with leaders like President Zuma, it won’t be long before the Trump like Malema gets the reigns of power.

In Uganda, citizens have wailed for long about the unfair trade environment that is tilted towards favouringaliens. Aliens have been sighted hawking mobile phones, doing menial jobs like driving company cars, product distribution, setting up retail shops dealing in basic items better left to locals, among others. Each time, the government huffs and puffs about changing the status-quo but the minute electioneering is over, all that goes silent.

A friend of mine that has been in the entrepreneurial trenches recently shared this. “Over the last 18 months, I have noted with concern that a number of budding entrepreneurs whose contribution to nation building is significant have thrown in the towel and migrated with their families to other African and Arab metropolises …. Their basic complaint is that the Ugandan economy has crowded them out with all sorts of non tariff barriers being thrown at them whilst red carpets are rolled for “foreign investors” that come into the economy with no capital.

Economies survive and thrive on the ingenuity of their entrepreneurial class as these are the backbone of taxes, service delivery and employment. The more government policy disadvantages them and dissuades them from plying their trades at home the more we light the fuse of an economic time bomb.

Truth be told the underlining issue that is killing our economy is that resources are not being channeled to people who will utilise them in production to grow the economy. These days the resources are being channeled to politicians, security operatives and quasi or full civil servants. Whilst those who enhance production are targeted with debilitating taxes and operating fees, high costs of fuel and energy plus incredible interest rates coupled with political interference in their operation.

If you think losing professionals is a problem just wait you see what happens when those who risk their resources and employ the populace hang up their gloves.” Nelson Kituuka, on Facebook.

In the ensuing discussion, another serial entrepreneur, Robert Wakabi had this to say, In the late 80s, and 90s, there were so many Ugandans who got rich from importing used cars from Dubai. Until government licensed hundreds of Indians and Pakistanis to import used cars. Today, no Ugandan has the capacity to meaningfully compete with these Pakistanis who repatriate all their profits (in US$) back to their countries.

In the early 2000s many Ugandans made serious dime from importing plastic shoes, jeans, apparel etc from China and used their profits to permanently change Kampala’s downtown skyline. Until government started licensing Chinese to import, distribute, retail and hawk plastic shoes across the country. Today Ugandans have been pushed out of this business.

It’s government’s primary duty to protect local entrepreneurs if Uganda is make any headway of any sort…. The thing is, everybody can see and appreciate the huge (mostly economic) benefits of globalization. But who is enjoying these benefits? Big corporations and the foreigners who are cashing in from the booming trade. Not the natives. Not the ordinary folks on the streets.

What is annoying the natives is ‘our‘ elitist view that globalization is inevitable and can not be rolled back or controlled. And the shrewd politicians are tapping into this anger to win elections.
When a Chinese gets a licence to retail plastic shoes in Kampala, the only job he will create is casual labour for natives to offload containers and empty stores, paying them about a dollar a day. Do you really think the natives will be happy with this situation?

When a Chinese is given a licence to import fake childrens toys into Uganda, what foreign exchange will they bring? They will be supplied from the factory on credit, import, sell in UGX and buy dollars in Kampala to wire back to China.

The benefits of globalization are not being shared equitably. And the costs of globalization are not being shared. They are wholly borne by the natives through losing jobs and livelihoods.
It’s only governments that can swiftly reverse this trend through some controlled protectionism and controlled movement of people across borders. If governments don’t do their part, the natives will take matters into their own hands with no remorse or regret.”

These two distinguished gentlemen echo what I had already planned to share in a separate post titled Time Bomb !!!

Pay a visit to the Karuma dam construction site and the number of aliens you will find there doing menial jobs like cooking workers’ food will shock you. Many alien investors tend to ship in fellow aliens with the intent of using them as labour slaves for jobs that Ugandans can comfortably take up. The Standard Gauge Railway construction is soon starting and I won’t be surprised if even those mixing sand and cement are aliens.

The few locals that have dared to tread the entrepreneurial path are being hounded out of business either directly or indirectly. Tax abiding businesses are bearing the burden for those highly connected tax evading ones. It is such a shame that those intent on complying are victimised at the expense of the thugs.

Recently, an uprising begun in Lira town that saw the locals eject out aliens trading there. A local trader told me that these aliens are going as far as the farmers’ homes purchasing produce, a role that is better left to the locals if economic inclusion is to be achieved. Most of these aliens happen to be of Indian origin. I have been to India and know how much these Indians control their economy to the extent that an African can never dream of walking into a rural town to set up business operations there. You will most definitely be hounded out in a flash.

If the government keeps a blind eye over this issue, the Lira saga will most likely be replicated in numerous other towns. It is wishful thinking to expect military might to address an economic concern like this one. Uganda last had its version of Trump 40 or so years ago in the names of President Idi Amin Dada (RIP). Despite his other weaknesses, the indigenisation of the economy is one thing we shall always thank him for. Unfortunately, today, the reverse is being encouraged. I can very certainly predict that at this rate, we are likely to have another Trump in the next 10 years.

When professionals are hounded out of their enclaves due to the emergence of a corruption influenced elite that are filling their vaults with stashes of foreign currency from corrupt foreign investors, the only next sane thing to predict is discontent which will definitely eventually lead to a mass uprising. With the right ingredients, not even the most feared array of military weaponry can stop a fed up population. All it takes is the right recipe to be in place. In Uganda, I see Trump in people like Hon. Mubarak Munyagwa (Mugaati Gwa Butter), Sheikh Nuhu Muzaata and Brigadier Kasirye Ggwanga. God forbid!!! If not them, could it be you? Are you ready to drain the swamp?

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing“, Edmund Burke. Are you a government official? Do you have a position of responsibilty that can influence the status-quo? Are you an aggrieved citizen? It is time to stop passively looking at the situation and start proactively addressing the status-quo. We can’t continue this way much longer. At least I dont see us having much mor epatience as time goes by. The perpetrators of excuses are running short of them.

The time for Trumps to emerge is now. All the signs indicate so. Thank you Donald Trump for defying the odds. Now it’s time for us to replicate your feat. To those raping our economies, Beware the Ides of March.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter

Disband Makerere University’s Administration

I am a proud Alumni of Makerere University Reg No. 93/572. My time at that institution of learning is one full of memories that can’t easily be shared save with those that belong to Wawa. I recall with nostalgia adventures like the time we marched to Parliament protesting some Faculty Allowance related issues. As we approached the gate of the Parliamentary building, it was gracefully opened and we stupidly thought that as members of the Ivory Tower, a red carpet welcome awaited us. In no time, a swarm of riot police chaps appeared from the compound of the parliament, running through the gate towards us. Being one of those at the forefront of the march, your guess is as good as mine about what happened next, Kagana. Oh my!!! Long story short, the next time I came to my senses, I was being hidden by some generous basubuzi women under a shop counter on Luwum Street as Police searched for traces of Makerere students.

Anyway, Makerere University has always been dogged by wrangles, one after another. They have largely been centered around lecturers and the University Administration. If it isn’t salary, it is allowances or some form of benefits. When the Private student scheme was established, I thought that this would reduce on the cat and mouse games that seem to have become a permanent feature. Wapi!!

When one looks at the level of corruption and abuse of office in the University Administration, you shudder to imagine how such an institution is still standing tall to-date. During the last decade, there was an issue of the perimeter wall costed at UGX 6 Billion that collapsed prematurely. It didn’t have any foundation and the cement/sand mix was very poor, only fit to build a temporary chicken house.

In 2004, there was a strike by the lecturers over the money collected for Evening classes which was then estimated at UGX 24 Billion. Over the years, numerous strikes either by the students or staff have been recorded and it all seems like a tape being replayed. The infighting among the administration staff makes the Israeli–Palestinian conflict child’s play. Judging from the sidelines, I seem to be gravitating towards the following conclusions:

  • Makerere University is riddled with incompetent leaders at the helm. Not only have their mindsets become static but they seem to be stuck in a historical time warp.

  • The university, is filled with crooks whose pre-occupation is to rob it dry of any possible income it can lay claim to.

  • The administrative structure of the university is flawed and cannot stand the times. Kind of like trying to use a wooden canoe to cross the ocean.

When the president ordered its closure, while I pitied the students and parents whose money has been put to waste, I also empathised with His Excellency. In Makerere University, you have an institution that has failed to wean itself of the mother’s breast milk and at 94 years of age is still crying for colostrum from that boob. When I compare it with universities like Uganda Christian University and see how much traction the latter has obtained while relying purely on student financing after the start-up boost, I can hardly imagine what kind of brains walk into those University offices on a daily basis under the guise of working.

The problems afflicting this university are known. We have had reports from various visitation committees before and unfortunately no action has been taken. I doubt if the findings of the currently instituted Visitation committee will vary significantly from those of the past.

For long the general public had been fooled into believing that all the money collected at the University in the Private scheme was handed over to the Government of Uganda. Blame was then heaped on the government for giving the university peanuts to run its affairs. When I contacted an official at the Ministry of finance, I did get the following response verbatim:

That’s wrong information, the releases to Makerere for the 1st and 2nd quarter for the FY 2016/17 were made 100%. Remember it’s mainly the wage bill, which is never slashed. The Lecturers’ strike emanates from MUK [Makerere University] Mgt [Management] scrapping the 1.4 M [Million] consolidated allowance/incentive that was being given to the lecturers from the Appropriation in Aid (AIA) call it NTR (Non Tax, Revenue) generated from internal revenue that’s spent at source by MUK. All the fees that’s [that are] collected by Makerere is [are] not remitted to the Consolidated Fund but MUK is authorised by Parliament to spend it at source. And the scrapping arose as a result of government increasing salary for lecturers in all public Universities. So Bruce Balaba Chairman the University Council and Ddumba [The Vice Chancellor], out of their arrogance scrapped the allowances citing shortage of resources but it was in bad spirit saying, since they had got a salary increment, it would be obnoxious for the lecturers to get the consolidated allowance as well. I speak this on authority after speaking to …, the Commissioner Budget Policy and Evaluation, one of the three people that allocate budgetary funds to all MDAs.

I now beg to ask the questions:

  • How much money does the university collect in the Private Scheme?

  • How is this collected money spent?

  • If the staff salaries are paid by the Government, why then does the institution fail to meet other cost centres effectively?

  • If lecturers have a primary responsibility of teaching, why are they paid extra allowances?

There-in lies the problem. There definitely is a cabal of thugs that seem to have ring fenced this university and turned it into their gold mine. Enough is enough. While some suffering may have to be endured as the committee works on a lasting solution, we need to support the move made with the hope that a longer lasting solution is in the works.

What is my proposal?

I believe that it is time we had a total structural redesign of that University’s Administration. I propose a dual approach be undertaken. Split up the administration and have one arm dealing with the Academic staff while a second arm deals with the general administration of the university.

The Academic arm can be managed by the glorified PHD holders who have been able to prove their abilities in people management. It should oversee all the Colleges and Schools of the university including any affiliated institutions that deliver degrees on its behalf.

The General Administration arm (for lack of a better term) should be headed by a CEO or Executive director. It should be run under proper corporate guidelines and principles with the aim of ensuring that:

  • It handles the university sales and marketing

  • Takes charge of Human Resource Management

  • Attracts academic and non academic partnerships to the university

  • Oversees student welfare

  • Financial management

among others.

This way, we can relieve some of those academically brilliant management dwarfs the burden of running such a complex institution and instead allow them to concentrate on their niche areas of competence.

The Challenger Space shuttle made many firsts for the USA. On its first flight, it witnessed the first space walk during a space shuttle mission; Sally Ride became the first American woman into space aboard the same vessel; it also carried the first African American, Dutchman and Canadian into space. Unfortunately, on its tenth mission, three years after it begun its operations, disaster struck. The setback caused by the explosion of the Challenger enroute to space set back the United States Space agenda big time.

In the same vein, Makerere University has registered many firsts. It is Uganda’s largest institution of higher learning; has produced a number of African leaders like Sir Apollo Milton Obote, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Benjamin Mkapa, Joseph Kabila (DRC) and Mwai Kibaki; writers like Ali Mazrui, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, V.S. Naipaul among others have at one point been at this institution during their writing or academic careers. Unlike the Challenger disaster, we don’t have to wait for this institution to be run into the ground. The time is now to avoid that.

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. ~ William Arthur Ward

It is therefore my humble opinion that the current leaders at the Ivory Tower be relieved of their duties forthwith. They are just not the type that will lead that institution to future glory. I want to see an administration that will help my son realise his dream of becoming a Martian citizen.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

I sat for PLE at 42 Years

The year 2016 begun in an uneventful manner, just like the previous years of my life save for the fact that it would culminate in a life changing exam, the Primary Leaving Examination. The last time I had sat for this exam was in 1986 (30 years ago to be precise). Here I was, once again, faced with the daunting task. This time round though, I was doing it by proxy through my fist born son, Walter.

I hope my experience will offer other parents vital guidance on how to help their children go through the candidate year of Primary 7.

First we begun by training the young man how to read on his own in the night (usually from 8pm till 10pm in the night) and this started off in Primary 6 first term. All through P.6, with my wife, we made a great effort at ensuring that he plugged the gaps in his knowledge of various topics. Our emphasis was not to have him cram but understand and actually appreciate the topics from a broad and practical perspective. This definitely made our work more painful but we figured that the earlier we made him develop a broad databank of knowledge, the better.

Fast forward to P7, we begun the tortuous year. However, we didn’t want to make it a dreaded year for him. Actually, our goal was to make it as life changing as possible in all ways while also ensuring that he looked forward with anxiety to his right of passage to Secondary School.

The usual self study in the evening after doing homework was maintained albeit ending an hour later than what he was used to, with an addition of short tests that we set for him at least twice a week during the first term. We would then review his weak areas and help him out.

One discovery at this stage was the Youtube learning videos. We were able to find a lot of videos that taught crucial topics and by watching them on the home TV, not only did the learning style change but it turned out to be more impactful. From someone who had issues Converting Bases, calculating Square Roots among other weaknesses, the young man was able to up his game in no time. That is when I went on a spree and downloaded numerous videos addressing the various topical areas in English, Maths, Science and Social Studies.

Come end of the first term, we still had a challenge of getting him to appreciate that he was a candidate and therefore needed to start acting like one. Being the boy he was, the same old playfulness hadn’t yet left him. He only read in our presence and once we left, he would switch to other activities.

By the close of the first term, we had borrowed a stash of past papers from a close family friend whose daughter had completed P7 two years earlier. Revising these papers complemented those that we set for him. The journey continued through the Second term with a rundown to Mock Examinations. Walter begun showing some bit of response towards his candidature but a lot was still lacking.

When the second term ended, we cooked up an idea of taking him for some holiday studies (a move I have always detested). The major reason for this was our observation that while he was knowledgeable enough to sit for the exams, he lacked in areas like answering techniques, question comprehension (lately, lots of tricks are used to twist questions around), handwriting, among others. Unfortunately or is it fortunately, his school is one that doesn’t believe in using the rod against children even when they persist in not showing improvement in certain areas of weakness.

I then called up a cousin of mine who tutors a small little known school in Mukono Town that registers a high success rate at PLE. After chatting with him, a decision was made to enroll him there for holiday classes. This is when the real tuning for PLE begun. Not only are they meticulous at grilling kids to pass exams (cram work inclusive) but they happen to be disciplinarians who believe in the power of the rod to change children.

Within a week at Good Hope Primary School, Walter was able to realise that he is privileged enough by virtue of where he studies from. The benches at Good Hope were not only too uncomfortable but so was the lunch served which was standard Posho and Beans or porridge, a far cry from the burgers, chips and biryani at his school. He also got to appreciate the seriousness with which other pupils take PLE. The laid back attitude that he and his schoolmates had for PLE was all of a sudden exposed.

By the end of the second term holiday, I could see a change in the young man for the better. However, I realised that he needed to polish up a lot when it came to techniques. Besides, the harsh approach to marking of tests at Good Hope helped him also realise that if he was to pass UNEB well, he needed to stick to certain guidelines while answering questions. The teachers in this neighborhood school seemed to understand this well. After all, they train their pupils largely to purely pass exams; as to how they fare years down the road, only God knows. I then decided that he continues studies at this school for some more time during the third term before returning to his official candidate school.

Now for the grueling part. During the third term, Good Hope P.7 children have a programme that sees them start class at 3:30am ending at 10:00pm in the evening from Monday to Saturday. Sunday is the only rest day. I had to ferry the young man daily as early as 3am to school, get back home, prepare myself for the day and then take the younger ones at 6am on the one hour trip to their school. Upon return in the evening, I had to then pick up the candidate at 10pm in the night. Over the past two decades, I have not had such a stressful, tiring period like those two weeks in third term that my boy spent at that school. During all this, we always had open talks and I noticed that he appreciated the extra mile that was being taken by us to ensure he passes PLE.

Eventually, he returned to his candidate school and resumednormal studies albeit with a much more mature and changed mindset. He now knew the goal he had to attain and used to read on his own till late in the night. At this point, we concentrated on question answering techniques like interpretation, organisation of work, handwriting among others. I am more than convinced that most children fail PLE due to poor techniques.

The message I continuously shared withWalter was; “We are reading like this because PLE demands that you do so if you are to go to your first choice school. The way exams are marked lately is less about rewarding knowledgeability and more about encouraging cram work. So, let us gather the right techniques to help you pass, after all you are already knowledgeable.

Are you a parent with children in Primary school? These are some of the tips I have to share with you:

  • Start engaging your child and taking keen interest in their academics at least as early as Primary Four, if possible, even much earlier. Ensure they learn as much as possible while not yet under pressure of national exams like PLE.

  • Expose your child to other school settings in order to gauge their abilities. You see, different schools have different strengths and weaknesses. When I took my son to that local neighbourhood school, the weaknesses that had been perpetuated by his school were exposed in no time.

  • Actively play a role in your child’s learning. Show them you are interested and genuinely care. You might want to replace some of those trips to the swimming pool with visits to the Wildlife Education Center, a farm (if you have one or know who has one), village retreats etc. They learn a lot from such experiences. I do not for example have to teach my kids about mulching and various farming practices because we do practise that at home in the garden on a daily.

  • Get the child to realise that while studying is fun, its also a serious engagement that demands very serious attention from the pupil. This is one challenge many middle class parents are likely to face due to the comfort zone their children are always in. I always urged my son to Read Like an Orphan.

  • Start preparing for PLE as early as Primary Six first term. Ensure the child does a lot of study especially in topical areas of their weakness. Do not subcontract this because some coaching teachers are merely money makers. By perusing through their assessment tests, you can identify these weak areas easily. Keep increasing the heat of preparation slowly but significantly for every subsequent school term.

  • Past papers. Gather as many past papers from different schools as possible. Right from P5 to P7. The final PLE usually consists of at least 75% from the P5 and P6 curriculum. Examine your child with them and revise jointly if need be. It is a sacrifice you have to make. Do not put your trust entirely in those coaching teachers.

  • Try utilising modern forms of delivery like multi-media. I found it much easier to teach my children about Mountain and River formations using Youtube Videos. During the pre-PLE week, watching Science videos on the Eye, the teeth as well as mathematical videos on Volume of cylinders, prisms and the like helped the young man a lot. When he met the questions in the final exam, it was just a roll over for him.

  • Motivation. Work out ways of motivating your child to read hard. You know them best (in case you do not, then better find out what drives them). Show them the Holy Grail and give them a reason to yearn for it. In my case, the Holy Grail was, qualifying for the first choice school.

  • Last but most important is Prayer. In life these days, one ought to go spiritual otherwise “tojja malako” (you won’t achieve much). Teach your children how to pray and then join them in the exercise regularly. Get the child to appreciate that above all the physical preparation you have engaged in for the exams, there is a spiritual layer that can only be handled spiritually.

My focus now turns to Nina. She is in Primary Six. We’ll touch base at the end of 2018.

Wishing you luck.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter

The Simplistic attitude of the Elite towards Africa’s Farmer

I have always wanted to write an article on this subject but somehow never had the right recipe to push me. However, I stumbled across an article by the veteran Charles Onyango Obbo which summarily concluded that Africa should lease out its land to large financially able corporates as well as embrace GMOs wholesale. GMO is an acronym used to denote Genetically Modified Foods but actually stands for Genetically Modified Organisms.

In his article, the veteran publisher states; “The wider environmental crisis in the region has probably reached a level that state resources alone cannot reverse. The farmers have reached their wit’s end, and are not able to pay for environmental repair to their lands.

The use of the term “probably” in the statement above is tactical and I commend him for that. However, his conclusion that the farmers cannot pay for the environmental repair was probably aimed at justifying the recommendation that followed;

“… someone with lots of money needs to come in, and for that to happen governments and activists in the region will have to embrace the idea of concessioning land to foreign nations and firms eager to lease it for farming.”

While he appreciates that land leases to foreign entities have not traditionally gone down well with the masses, I beg to differ with the insinuation that the solution to the incompetence of our local agriculture is moneyed foreigners entering the fray. They are welcome, Yes but the lack of good governance processes especially when it comes to acquisition of these lands by investors tends to be the genesis of the animosity.

There are a number of scenarios where rural dwellers are duped with job offers in order to quit their lands. After the investor sets foot, a handful are picked with the rest left to forge out new professions overnight. To make matters worse, the percolation of the returns from the natural resource are largely felt by the investors only with the locals being relegated to the periphery. As a result, absolute poverty simply multiplies, leading to the escalation of uncalled for vices like robbery.

As someone in close touch with rural dwellers and a small scale farmer at that, I have realised that our farmers are half the story when it comes to the problem of poor production. The Governments have let us down so much with their round peg in a square hole approach towards addressing farmers’ challenges. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), small holders manage over 80 per cent of the world’s estimated 500 million small farms and provide over 80% of the food consumed in a large part of the developing world.

If small holder farming is a success elsewhere, why can’t it be the case in East Africa? The issue is more complex than the small holder farmers themselves. At the start of the current rainy season, I did purchase Beans and Ground nuts from an apparently reliable seeds supplier only to achieve a germination rate of less than 30%. As I speak, I can’t replant since am not certain about the length of time left for the rains to stop (Please do not remind me to use a bicycle for irrigation). This is a common tale among most of our farmers who see entire seasons fail as a result of supply chain issues. In other cases, the produce may be in abundance in the rural farms but infrastructural challenges prevent it from reaching your favourite supermarket. Under such circumstances, one shouldn’t hastily blame the farmer. I once came across cabbage farmers in Butaleja district who were stuck with large succulent cabbages and were offering them for sale at UGX 300/= (less than 10 US Cents).

Our governments need to handle this Agricultural support with as much expertise as they do when it comes to facilitating foreign industrialists. Facilitating these small holder farmers in a manner that is not aimed at merely ticking off deliverables but creates the much needed positive change is what we need. The so called primitive agriculture is definitely likely to benefit from such an honest approach.

Mr. Onyango Obbo goes ahead to endorse genetically modified foods wholesale. I understand his frustration as an urban dweller whose only concern is to find food readily available on the supermarket shelf. However, there is an uglier side to this whole GMO industry that needs us to tread with caution.

As a farmer, I am scared of GM Crops due to the following reasons;

  1. GM Crops are patented. A patent is a license (usually given by government) conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention. If any farmer is found growing GM crops without proof of having purchased them from the company holding the patent rights or its agent, serious litigation is expected. A number of cases have been recorded so far with the Monsanto Canada Vs Schmeiser case garnering a lot of publicity.

  2. Companies coming up with these GM foods are now in a better position to control the entire supply chain of their product right from seed supply to herbicide/pesticide use. They have the ability to genetically link their crops to selected herbicides and pesticides that they themselves produce hence locking out other players in the industry. This is likely to create monopolies in the market eventually. Roundup is a weed killer that Monsanto has successfully managed to link to its GM crops like the Soya Beans (Heard of crops referred to as Roundup Ready?). As a result, its application in a field with their crops achieves much more success than alternative options. The desire to maximise profits and control entire business ecosystems is likely to leave the farmer unfairly exposed to corporate manipulaton.

  3. Contamination. The GM crops have been known to be so aggressive that they end up contaminating organic plants in nearby locales. I first heard this from some rural farmers who always claimed that certain seeds they bought had the net effect of causing a poor harvest among their local alternatives. Science today has proven it and there are land mark cases where GM companies have sued farmers for continuing to grow crops that have been inadvertently crossed with their GM varieties. According to, “Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto sued at least 144 farmers and settled with some 700 others it accused of growing their patented GMO crops often canola seed or soy beans without purchase. Gag orders were imposed on those who settled. The irony here is that these growers wanted nothing to do with the GMO crops. They claim that the GMO crops trespassed on their property and grew there without their knowledge or consent.”

  4. Defying Tradition. Farmers growing GMOs are not allowed to utilise seed from the previous season’s harvest if the court case against an Indiana farmer is one to go by. Essentially an African farmer will be expected to always buy their seeds or else they end up in a court of law for saving and replanting seed.

  5. Cost Trap. Over reliance on the corporate world for the entire lifecycle of a farmer’s crops is likely to lead to a spike in food prices in future. Once these profit motivated companies take control of the global food supply from the seeds to the table, they will dictate prices and cause artificial price rises or drops akin to the OPEC era when oil prices were globally manipulated by a selected club of countries.

cereals_enAccording to FAO, over 90% of the food loss across the Agricultural value chain in Sub-Saharan Africa is at the pre consumption level (growing, post-harvest, processing and distribution) with the consumption level contributing less than 10%. While increased production is the holy grail touted by the GMO crowd, failure to address the current food loss elements in our value chain will still lead us back to square one.

Without doubt bwana Onyango Obbo, we all want to see a smoothly flowing food value chain with no interrupts like you have rightfully observed, however, it doesn’t necessitate us to jump from the frying pan into the fire. We know what the problems are and their solutions. We just need the right policy pursuits by our leaders.

God Bless

Follow @wirejames on twitter