For Dr. Stella Nyanzi: I plead guilty to silence

It’s been seven months; since you, tsunami, got locked up in Luzira Prison.

Before you knew the roar of prison walls, we trooped to your Facebook page, making breakfast of your words; words unclothed, words un-sugared, words un-minced.

You and silence were milk and lemon. You became yogurt on contact.

It was easy then, to cheer you on, from the safety of our gadgets. It was easy then, to fantasize about matching your peppered condemnation; your verbal slap against the MP whose testicles were squeezed in detention; your whack against the politician whose breasts were groped during a demo; your stomp against broad-day abduction of citizens from court precincts; your rally call for what should be basic, for what should be accessible, like sanitary pads for school girls.

It was easy then, to shake our heads in admiration, to shake our heads in shock, to shake our heads in awe, as you spewed lyrical about your body, your sexuality, your imagined sexcapades. You were the ssenga, mother, counselor, academic, researcher, fierce critic, the feather ruffler…You were nimbus cloud, roaring, always roaring, ready to rain.

You and silence were milk and lemon. You became yogurt on contact.

You touched fire and dared us to do the same. You said it’s okay to call a vagina a vagina, not nini; it’s a body part, our body part. You said we shouldn’t conform to the commandments of society, the commandments that say, women should not raise their voices, that women should not trumpet their ache; that women should not climb the ladder higher than.

We learned, even dared to peel the shame that comes with carrying the body of a woman. We learned to play with the fire in our hearts and to let the butterflies in our stomachs to flap – aloud.

It’s seven months since jail became your home and the silence here is loud. And I am guilty of hiding my face before asking, what happened to Stella? And I am guilty of lowering my voice before asking; how are her children doing? I am guilty of forgetting, like Facebook that moves on to the next biggest sharer, the moment you stop naked-ing yourself in its presence.

I’m guilty of private-ing my anger, my rage, my dismay at what has become of you and them and us. I am guilty of wrapping my body in a garb of silence; the silence you refused to bed; the silence that has kept me, kept us, kept them, “safe” while you get used to the chilly arms of jail.

Sometimes, the silence here fools me into thinking that you went to jail with the ills you fought against. It’s a lie. Agulu [pwod] odiyo otac – the water pot is still pressing the head-pad.

I know, we know, but this silence is convenient. This silence is cheap, even in this tough economy. This time, this silence is no weapon. This time, this silence is no self-preservation. This time, this silence is no shield.

And I plead guilty to silence about you, about them, about us.


Wake me up when the Kyaligonzas start facing actual music

I’m driving on Ggaba Road, heading to town (at the swamp just after Soya-Bunga). My side of the road is relatively clear of traffic. On the other side of the road, a stream of cars snail pace towards Ggaba. All good, until the driver of a UPDF double cabin truck pulls out of the traffic jam, full lights on and speeds towards me.

I could swerve out of his way, onto the walkway and perhaps run over roses and lilies sold along that road. But I don’t. I turn my full lights on and drive on. By this time, other motorists and pedestrians are looking at me, perhaps wondering what is wrong with my head.

Seeing that I am not going to give him way, he squeezes back into his lane. We exchange quick stares as we drive past each other. My eyes tell him, go hang, report me to Daddy or even God (in minister Rukutana’s voice). His eyes spit hellfire in my direction. On the faces of some motorists and florists nearby, I see smiles, smiles that say, well done, but eh! nga you can risk!

That was 2017. It was not the first time the driver of that double cabin truck was acting bullish on the road. When I saw him, I did what I did. It could have cost me. I was lucky that army man was not Maj. Gen Matayo Kyaligonza.

Kyaligonza & his U-Turn

Kyaligonza has been trending on social media since Sunday over the assault of a police officer on duty. The media reports that Sgt. Esther Namaganda stopped the car that the general was being driven in, from making a U-Turn in the middle of the road in Seeta, Mukono District. The general allegedly slapped Namaganda and his two security guards unleashed hands and words on her.

A photo  has been circulating online of Kyaligonza in a white satin shirt (oh the irony of color) with his hands inches away from Namaganda’s face. One of his guards is clinging onto Namaganda’s collar, his colleague holding her arm. They are both in army uniform. A video  has also surfaced, showing one of the UPDF soldiers clinging onto Namaganda’s arm as she attempts to writhe out of the grip in vain.

There has been outpouring of outrage. Rightly so. The Assistant Inspector General of Police Asan Kasingye said the incident is unacceptable and tweeted about Kyaligonza’s demotion  in 1989 when he slapped the Officer in Charge of Jinja Road Police Station.

The army spokesperson Brig. Richard Karemire tweeted of the incident that “it is very regrettable and apologies to our Police Sister (sic)”.   So far, the two soldiers – Private John Robert Okurut and Lance Corporal Peter Bushindiki have been arrested and held  at the military police headquarters.  If you were waiting, like me, to read that Kyaligoonza was also arrested, tame your excitement.

About 30 years ago, Kyaligonza was a brigadier. After the ‘slap’ incident, he was temporarily stripped of his rank and downgraded to a colonel. Today, he’s a major general. Smell the coffee!

Maj. Gen.l Kyaligonza (in white shirt (C) and his security guards rough up Sgt. Namaganda.
Internet Photo

Gwanga’s ‘happy guns’

If you thought Kyaligonza’s case is a first, remember Kasirye Gwanga. Trouble seems to follow him whenever he goes, and in many cases, he doesn’t shy from admitting it. In November 2007, the retired Major General slapped a police officer for allegedly blocking him from using Entebbe Road. Just last month, Gwanga shot at car tyres belonging to Catherine Kusasira, saying the musician’s bodyguards and friends were attacking his son.  In 2017, Gwanga set fire to a tractor he found on his daughter’s land in Lubowa, Entebbe Road, accusing the owners of land grabbing. Gwanga even admitted it. “I burnt that tractor. Tell them. I am now hunting them. I am a bad hunter. Let them know,” he told Daily Monitor. In 2008, Gwanga reportedly slapped the aide of then Security Minister Amama Mbabazi.

To date Kasirye Gwanga has nine cases of similar character registered against him at police. None has led him to jail and they definitely didn’t stand in the way of his promotion in 2018 from Brigadier to Major General.

Gwanga has been a district chairperson, director of stores for the UPDF and presidential advisor on Buganda affairs, and is a bush war veteran.

Byandala’s punch

In 2016, Minister Abraham James Byandala, who was on trial over corruption, reportedly punched a female journalist as she filmed him leaving the Anti-Corruption Court. Ms. Judith Nalugga of Bukedde TV was apparently punched in the abdomen (an accusation the minister denied) and was left holding onto her bosom. The incident drew condemnation from women rights activists and media fraternity and the public. Later, rumors had it that mediation happened, compensation was done and the case died.

Byandala has worked as minister for works and transport, legislator for Katikamu County North, among others.

Kibuule’s ‘indecent’ rape victims

In September 2013, Ronald Kibuule, then Minister for Youth and Children Affairs, said rape victims who are indecently dressed are to blame for their predicament. In Parliament, Kibuule denied okaying rape against women and girls. Daily Monitor, who reported the story first, released an audio of the minister’s statement. Still, he didn’t resign and wasn’t fired like rights activities demanded.

In March 2015, he was reappointed to cabinet as State Minister for Water Resources.

In 2016, Kibuule was accused of assaulting a female security guard  at Stanbic Bank in Mukono District, after she reportedly demanded to check him before he can enter the banking hall. Women activists rallied behind Hellen Obuk and demanded the resignation of the minister. He denied wrongdoing and the bank issued an apology to the minister.

Kibuule is also Mukono North constituency legislator.

As you can see, our history books are not short of records about officials in high positions taking matters into their own hands, or being accused of grave acts. History will also tell you that such cases suffer from pre-determined death. And we can’t complain much. Someone sneaked impunity into our DNA and now all we can do is watch its many faces.

But, just in case things change for real real; just in case the Kyaligonzas start facing actual music, then wake me up.

#MissCurvyUganda: Here’s why we are cutting the tree and ignoring the roots

Hailstorms have been falling over social and mainstream media space in Uganda over a “new” development: the Miss Curvy Uganda beauty pageant.

In the wisdom of Tourism Minister Godfrey Kiwanda, adding “curvy and sexy” Ugandan women on the list of “tourism products” would do Uganda proud. After all, tourism is the country’s top forex earner. There are already similar competitions around the world – in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, France, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and India, among others. Who can blame the minister for feeling obnoxiously inspired?

Growing up in northern Uganda, there were songs of admiration about women with ample butts, and praise for “plus size” women whose footsteps could be heard from afar. But that was as much loudness as was tolerated of many women. A lot has changed of course.

That’s why reactions to Kiwanda’s “innovation” were swift: condemnations, demands for apology, calls for the minister’s resignation and threat of censure from Parliament. Kasambya County MP Gaffa Mbwatekamwa called it “sex tourism”; Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo said it itemises and demeans women. Even the church, always measured in their statements and cautious about the “fights” they pick, said something cutting; the pageant is “a disgusting display of exploitation” and “belittles women”.

However, it’s President Yoweri Museveni’s comment on the contest that highlighted the problematic nature of beauty pageants and the commodification of women generally. Last December, Museveni applauded and hosted Miss Uganda Quiin Abenakyo when she was crowned Miss World, Africa. On the Miss Curvy Uganda pageant, Museveni said the contestants could have gotten “excited” following Abenakyo’s success at Miss World. He didn’t like the idea that “we are marketing our women for tourism”; plus, it was not a cabinet decision.

The truth is, the state has long been engaged in voyeurism of women’s bodies, only that this time, it will make money while at it.

In November 2018, minister Kiwanda unveiled Ugandan socialite Zarinah Hassan (aka Zari) as a tourism ambassador to much body trolling and tongue wagging online. In February 2019, the same Kiwanda announced Anita Fabiola, a Ugandan socialite and media personality as the next tourism ambassador, to similar reception online. Both women, who fit Kiwanda’s “curvy and sexy” parameters, have for long been fodder for tabloids in Uganda and elsewhere. Both women had it rough when their nude photos were leaked online. They faced arrest under Uganda’s anti-pornography law that Ethics Minister Lokodo prides in upholding. In the eye of the state, Zari and Fabiola are not fit to step into the moral pulpit that the anti-pornography law upholds. To therefore see the country endorse these two women as tourism ambassadors, points to two things; hypocrisy by the state in advancing women’s causes, and in Kiwanda’s case, stoking public excitement about these women as symbols of sex and “indecency” to woo tourists.

But don’t be fooled. Even the ‘regular’ beauty pageants are not immune to criticism. When Ugandans were still brimming with pride over Abenakyo’s eloquence and beauty, Museveni castigated the “Indian” hair extensions she wore on her visit to State House (of course he couldn’t say it’s Chinese hair. China is the incumbent darling). He advised Abenakyo to wear her hair natural. I am #TeamNaturalHair but I also don’t lose sleep over anybody’s Indian or Sudanese hair.

Similarly, in 2014, Miss Uganda Leah Kalanguka became a subject of online trolls, including from some women, who said she was ugly. It wasn’t enough that she had ticked the boxes of slim body, height and “sexiness”. Even her “intelligence” that some had applauded didn’t matter because she wasn’t “beautiful” enough.

The flip-flop in beauty standards have characterized pageants for the past 160+ years. American ‘showman’ Phineas Taylor Barnum is considered the face behind modern-day beauty contests, but the practice can be traced farther back to 1839.  While Barnum’s first pageant in 1854 was met with protests, he had planted a seed that grew into a tree – a tree that doesn’t show any sign of drying up.

It has been normalized. The normalization has become easier over the years, with glittering coatings such as ‘beauty with a purpose’, ‘beauty with brains’, etc. In Uganda, beauty queens have in the past been ferried to gardens with gloved hands and gum-booted feet to promote agriculture and show that they are more than bikinis, catwalks and make up. Beauty contestants today are also tested on their knowledge of culture, how well words and ideas flow out of their mouths, their talents, how easily they can start and hold a conversation and how much they know about current affairs and the world.

The further normalization of prescribed beauty also takes place in our homes. In any typical pre-marriage preparation in Uganda (and I believe elsewhere), there will be an “aunt” or Ssenga to coach the bride on her marriage life, something that is often dominated by one thing — always look beautiful, otherwise other “good looking” women will take away your man. Men are seldom told, look good dude, groom up, otherwise your wife will dump you. In today’s digital age, social media “aunties” tell women the “how to” of beauty, complete with video illustrations. Men are “physical” beings, women are often told. And while a popular saying here is that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, the unwritten proverb is that the way to a man’s heart is how beautiful you [a woman] look.

And so, women have become, consciously or otherwise, both participants in and victims of objectification. For Uganda’s Miss Curvy Contest, a woman – Anne Mungoma – is the contest organizer; and no, she doesn’t see a problem with the body auction. You who is running your mouth that she is sexualizing fellow women has nothing upstairs but thoughts about sex [her rebuttal].

The media and society continues to reinforce these contradictions. Today, you’ll read about “bummy” women causing “scrotal eruptions”, how “juicy woman” A is causing problems in the marriage of a “juicy-less” woman B, etc. The next day, the same media will body shame a woman for putting on weight; they’ll praise the slim and “portable” woman. In school, the slim, tall, light skinned girl will become Prom Queen while the short and chubby one will be called ugly. But there are also cases of small bodied students nicknamed “stick” and taunted for their “feather” weight. In music videos, including those titled African Queen or African Beauty, the “queen” is always a tall, light-skinned woman – perfect set of teeth, smooth skin, long neck, full lips, round glittering eyes. Whenever a “curvy” woman is featured, it’s her butt that is the center of interest. The camera will zoom into her “curves” as she gyrates. The [male] musician will ogle or fondle. In the entertainment industry, you’ll read about celebs going under the knife to achieve the “perfect body” – enhancing the size of their butts or making their boobs smaller. It doesn’t matter that they later get attacked for it.

The battle is hard to win.

But for a start, we could start by recognizing that it doesn’t really matter whether a beauty pageant is for curvy or curvy-less women. It doesn’t matter the intension or what the organisers seek to counter (we can still promote any cause for and by women without subjecting them to body parades and contests). At the end of the day – the purpose for which beauty pageants were started always rules, i.e., using women to compete against each other through a contrived and narrow standard of beauty.

In selectively frowning upon the Miss Curvy Uganda contest (and remodeling of women as ‘products’) but cheering the other beauty pageants; we are cutting the tree trunk and leaving the roots intact. And these roots run deep. Get a bull dozer, somebody!


@ahpetite /



…another woman’s throat will be cut tonight, her naked body dumped in a plantation, by the roadside, in a thicket, a stick stuck in her vagina. But we’ll see no blood, hear no wail, scratch not our heads about the similarity in these murders. She’ll be number 25 or is it 26? a statistic piling up since May. We’ll hear the news from one ear, forget it from the other. Because we are busy sharpening knives to chop another limb of the national bible. We are hungry and the dead are dead. Uganda!

Of minis & tight pants: Let’s know when to shut up

By penning this blog, I’m probably committing the same sin I’m about to reproach a section of our media for – not knowing when to shut up. So I’ll keep it short like the mini-skirt that is once again dominating our public discourse.

We woke up on Tuesday to a directive by the Public Service Ministry, telling all permanent secretaries and chief administrative officers to enforce a strict dress code.

While some of us were busy scratching our heads over the uncomfortable talk about a possible removal of presidential age limit, the proposed compulsory acquisition of land by government, and pinches from our bleeding economy, other people were rolling on the ground protesting “indecent dressing” among some government workers.  The ministry heard their cry and responded.

In fact, the director, human resources at the Public Ministry Adah Muwanga, explained how horrible the situation is. She said “some female officers are pumping up their breasts…” Stop there for a minute and have a mental picture of that. Hmmm see what I mean?

She added that the same female officers are wearing miniskirts and in the process sexually harassing their male counterparts. And that is where I get really distressed about this mini-skirt/indecent dressing talk.

Every time we accuse women of “indecent” dressing, we insult men in the process. We (unknowingly I hope) brand men as libido-laden creatures with zero breaks in their pants. Andrew Karamagi drove the point home by articulating in a Daily Monitor commentary that it’s not true that men cannot restrain their sexual appetite.  Where are the other men to defend the restraint of their manhood, or is Muwanga actually right? If she is indeed right that your zipper goes gaga at the sight of a mini-skirt wearer, then the problem is still actually yours.

Anyway, I was expecting the media to ignore this “story” and tell us that indeed, the crisis we are facing in this country is not even close to mini. It’s maxi. But what do we see, front page coverage of the issue in both leading newspapers on Wednesday, July 5.

Thursday Op-eds in both New Vision and Daily Monitor were well-dressed but problematic in stance on the issue. The Vision one noted: “While it is desirable to maintain a good public image of the civil service, enforcing the directive as stipulated by the permanent secretary is not practical and could be open to abuse.” What the public needs, according to the New Vision editorial, is sensitization on how to dress “decently” and not a directive.

The Daily Monitor on the other hand, started with an entrapping headline, “People need services, not rules on dressing,” before detailing in the editorial that “Whereas the dress code policy is well-intentioned because it aims at fighting indecency in public offices thus shaping morality there, the question is whether the directive was absolutely necessary at this point in time”. So the directive is actually needed but poorly timed?

Let’s leave the issue of dressing and dress-code alone, people. The indecency that plagues this country and its public servants lie beneath the cloak – it’s in the mind, the hands, the eyes and every body part used to deny ordinary citizens what is due to them. That, is the stinking indecency we should be revolted by. That’s the indecency that should make us speak until our throats dry.

This is not the first time we are being distracted by this miniskirt babble by the way. In 2014, the signing into law of the “miniskirt” Bill by President Museveni caused quite a stir and I wrote about it here.  When Makerere University research fellow Dr. Stella Nyanzi stripped to her lingerie in protest against mistreatment at work, there was a similar outpouring of chatter and I, in this blog, wondered whether there’s anyone still fully dressed in this country.

We never learn, yet we should, and focus on the big picture, if not for anything then for the sake of our country that is facing actual issues. If we can’t, let’s at least remember that before all this came to be, there were once human beings strutting the face of this earth with nothing on, except maybe leaves, figs or animal skin. Did the men in that era mount women indiscriminately because they had no clothes on? Has the dress-code police chief, Fr. Lokodo reported more cases of rape in his Karamoja home area since they stay nude or half-dressed culturally?

Sometimes we should just let sleeping dogs lie!

But since the media decided not to shut up (because one of its roles is to inform), the worst they could’ve done was frame the coverage of this “dress-code/indecent dressing” directive appropriately (challenge, question, dissect) instead of reproducing the stereotype that Muwanga and her ilk are presenting.

And as you can see, this blog is now more than 800 words! So I’ll end here, lest I get accused of indecent writing.



My midro income status

I was just minding my mouth eating a samosa when I saw them. I slowed down as I inched closer to the roundabout and the traffic lights turned red. The rest of the cars ground to a halt and they, like majestic bees scanning which flower has the sweetest nectar, started towards us.

I watched them huddle near windows of cars ahead of me. I saw them knocking on the windows gently, insistently, and stretching out their hands to the man or woman on the wheel.

Knock, look the driver in the eyes, and stretch out your hand or both. It is a pattern. The rhythm rings in the head.

I was too busy chewing and watching the spectacle that I didn’t see him approach.

 Auntie, mpa kikumi. Auntie…

I swear I didn’t have the Shs100 he was asking for.

When I set out for a meeting in town that morning, Shs10,000 was the only cash that stood between me and brokiasis (the highest point of brokeness, according to an important person at Makerere as he briefed us on reckless spending one afternoon in 2006).

Since there was no parking space at my meeting place, I drove to the National Theatre for relatively safe parking. I wouldn’t have to worry about someone harvesting the body parts of my car if I’d parked on Musisi’s roadside parking lot.

Problem is, by the time my meeting ended, the parking machine alleged I owe it Shs8,000. Not that I was surprised (the parking here is pocket unfriendly), my only beef was that the meeting encroached on my lunch time and my purse was gloomy.

With Shs2,000 left, I bought two samosas and two bananas and started back to office. I was enjoying my lunch until this boy (of about 10 years old) happened.

Auntie, mpa kikumi. Auntie…

I turned to look at him properly and said, I don’t have money, with my hands. He gave me that I don’t believe you look, and I think I replied with my eyes too; I swear, I don’t have money. Then his eyes landed on my lunch which was on the co-driver’s seat. Damn!

He asked for it.

I looked at the lights and they had turned green. Phew! But no car was moving. The traffic cops must have decided we won’t follow the lights after all. Their whistle and swinging hands would direct us on when to move.

I turned to look at the boy, standing there, tapping at my window as hunger tapped on the walls of my stomach.

‘I am hungry,’ he said and added a don’t be so mean reprimand with his eyes.

I picked the remaining samosa and banana and gave him.

He smiled, said a thank you and quickly hid the eats under his shirt (away from the prying eyes of other ‘give me Shs100’ girls and boys, men and women).

By the time the cars on my side of the road was flagged off, my fuel gauge was blinking a warning. There was Shell fuel station right across the road but my purse was blinking red. Kyaba too much for this dream of ‘midro (read middle) income status!

Then I remembered what my friend Rosie (or was it Jackie) said, that even if the gauge starts warning, it doesn’t mean fuel is completely done. “See that last bar with an E? Yes, as long as the thingie isn’t on the E, don’t worry.”


But as I approached Kabalagala, I couldn’t shake off the discomfort that the car could just die for me in traffic jam. I turned off to Shell fuel station where an ATM was (thankfully) located. The savings account will have to be invaded today.

The security guard manning the place smiled at me broadly, followed by an elaborate greeting and a joke. It felt good, relaxing my sulking stomach muscles with a good laugh. I didn’t know I would pay for that laugh.

When I was done withdrawing money, the guard, in between goodbyes and a smile said, madam, something small for lunch. I gave him lunch and reversed the car to a fueling point. When I was done, I looked for a parking spot so I could buy proper lunch (not really proper because junk makes me sick, literally, and I had long gotten over the excitement of KFC).

I was almost done parking when another security guard appeared and started directing me on how far back I should reverse. She smiled and gave me a thumbs up when I was done.

About 10 minutes later, I walked out of KFC with my junk lunch and was ready to go earn my pay for the remaining part of the day. As the car roared to life, the security guard appeared from nowhere, walked casually towards me and smiled. Usually, that is a sign for you to smile back, roll down your car window, call them over,  and press a note of Shs1,000, Shs2,000 or whatever amount, in their hands.

I smiled back and drove off!

…but who is still fully dressed in this country?

Before the people (s) who invented clothes invented clothes, humans were strutting their things in the full glare of the sun – without care, without shame.

Then we were struck by the evolution lightning and suddenly our Lacomi was not big enough to cover our loins anymore and no piece of cloth could wrap our breasts well enough. We needed dresses, gomesis, trousers and all manner of attire to keep our privates out of public eye.

For most women, the longer the outfit and the more skin you covered up, the more claps you got – for being morally upright, self-respecting, a real ‘mother’ etc. A woman who wears a mini skirt or bares her skin beyond ‘acceptable proportions’ earns herself the title of Apoli, Malaya or a cheap, desperate seductress and many more.   

Among my people, a woman could only reveal her nakedness when she is really angry…like when her son starts behaving like an asshole and ignores all advise, his mother will wag her breasts at the son, invoking a curse; or if the woman feels wronged, she’ll strip before her kinsmen – to express her frustration and helplessness. Nudity thus became a weapon, a trumpet that once sounded couldn’t be unsounded. But that too is now frowned upon by many.

That’s why when in April 2015, women in Apaa, Amuru District stripped  before ministers, government officials and investors in protest against the grabbing of their land, the nudity weapon had been taken out of the granary; only that many didn’t feel amused by the action – it was an outdated practice, uncalled for.

I won’t go to neighbouring Kenya where in 1992, environmental activist Wangari Maathai led a group of women who protested nude against the detention of political detainees by the Moi regime, or the 1992 police station invasion by a group of women led by Muthoni Nyanjiru in protest of the jailing of Harry Thuku.

It’s important to note that behind most (if not all) nude protests by a woman, there is a man. Which begs the point that while has society fashioned women as the weaker sex, nudity makes them slap back the cheek of their male tormentor, it strips their aggressor of their power (at least in many cases).

So when I woke up to a video of Dr Stella Nyanzi protesting naked against her eviction from office at Makerere University, I was not very shocked, mainly because I know Stella is not one to be caged. Her only option is to die fighting, it doesn’t matter how.

The commentary that have followed Stella’s nude protest is what has amused me.

  1. Many have said striping was not Stella’s last resort, that she has a pen, a brain (a PhD for god’s sake!) and many other ‘civil’ and less shameful avenues through which she could have sorted out her employment problem. So the point is, a PhD-holding woman is over qualified to protest nude. Leave it for the Amuru women whose butts hardly touched desks in school.
  2. Then there are those claiming temporary blindness because of Stella’s breasts – the breasts have ‘fallen’ and should not have been exposed to the public, they say. Actually a friend of mine says if those were his breasts, he would bathe with clothes on. Another is utterly disgusted at the professor for spoiling his week with her unpalatable breasts! In other words, if you want to protest nude, make sure you have pointed breasts, firmer than adolescent oranges. But there’s no guarantee you will pass this test with ‘saluting’ breasts though. Some may find them too small, too big or just not their type. See, even Anita Fabiola hardly passed the boob test when her nudes leaked!
  3. And of course most people will think the strings in your brain have been eaten by weevils, or that you are a pathetic attention-seeking loser, a disgrace to womanhood. So don’t console yourself that maybe some of those condemning your nudity during day have the quickest hands to tear off clothes behind closed doors. And in this era of nude pictures and Rihana-style outfits, don’t imagine that just like most people bow to nudes in the comfort of their phones, they will bow to your day-time nudes.

Anyway, when all is seen and said, no one, especially in this our republic, should pretend they are not naked. When an MP votes to have their pay exempted from tax, they take off your blouse; when the ruling party holds a billion-shilling celebratory party while you try to touch the bottom of your pocket, they take off your pants; when you go visit your sick mother in hospital and there’s no blood for transfusion, no machine to scan their aching bones, or no radiotherapy machine to burn cancerous cells from their body; they take off your undies; when you wake up to headlines that your taxes have been eaten by termites or that it’s become a debris in a shoddily built dam or road, they leave you bare to the stare of a government that doesn’t care…

Unlike Nyanzi and the Amuru women who have the luxury of taking off their clothes, ours is an involuntary by a government blind to our nudities. And even those eating from the table with the emperor, may not realize they are naked, but when god comes to their Garden of Eden one day, their eyes will open to their nakedness.

The act of stripping is always deeper than what we see on the outside.

While you cringe over nudity by the Stellas of this world, have the clear-headedness to realize yours too is an Adam suit, just in another colour maybe!

Want Museveni to lose election in 2016? Have him kiss Janet

Once upon a time in 1996, Norbert Mao and Betty Bigombe (fondly called Atuku) wrestled for the Gulu Municipality MP seat. I was in Primary Four at Gulu Public Primary School, a short distance from Kaunda Grounds in Gulu town where Mao and Atuku would woo voters during their campaign rallies.

I don’t remember much from the political muscle-pulling then, but a chant coined by Mao against his rival, stuck in my mind, not that I knew its significance then.

Cam Atuku, bol ki Mao .i.e., Eat Atuku and vote for Mao, became a political courtship chant, urging voters to eat whatever money or goodies Bigombe would give them, turn up at her rallies even, but when it came to ballot day, they should cast their vote for Mao. The voters did just that: They ‘ate’ Atuku and voted Mao to Parliament.

Watching the crowd donate money and other items to presidential candidate Kizza Besigye on his nomination day reminds me of 1996. The only difference is that Ugandans eat Museveni during campaigns and get eaten at the polls.

But, will Ugandans eat Museveni now and give Besigye the ballot in 2016, or will the good old Doc only go home with a sofa, avocados, and bananas come 2016?

I’m no seer, so I will let you answer that.

But, there’s another way out. In 2012, Museveni let a huge secret out of the bag. He said if he kissed Janet in public, he would lose an election. How about Besigye, Amama and the other ‘wanters’ of the presidential seat do some magic and have Mzee kiss Janet the next time he shows up in Namboole, complete with Tubonge Nawe ballads in the background!

Hmmm! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the politics of crowds and watch as others give, and others are given.

If you must die, MP Ekanya, die properly

Hallo Mr Ekanya,

How is your neck? I hope you didn’t sustain a dishonorable 80-degree bruise after your attempted suicide.

See, after those saboteurs like Cecilia Ogwal, Ken Lukyamuzi the man, Mama Mabira Beatrice Anywar and others, stood in your way of making history on the floor of the August House, the least you could get away with is a spotless skin. For what is the use of picking pawpaw from the tree when it will come landing hard and wet on your head?

Your constituency Tororo Country surely deserves a district status. We have 112 districts already and Cabinet recently approved 22-new ones. So how could they leave out Tororo County again? Not even a protest by rat-eater in your area in 2005 could move these people.  How heartless!

Then in 2021 they will upgrade villages into districts and still leave your area out. But don’t worry too much, considering how liberal this country becomes every day, applications for individuals to become districts may just be announced. And what a perfect opportunity you’ll have! Geoffrey Ekanya District! See you’re even nodding at the sound of it. Let’s just hope they don’t put stupid requirements like having strong knees to kneel, some real energy to carry cash sacks or being loud-mouthed enough to sing songs to the man in a hat! I doubt they will go that far!

In the meantime, don’t even think about the dishonorable advice from Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah that you should go perfect your acting skills at the National Theatre. He can’t understand your pain. How can he, when Cabinet has given a nod to his constituency, Omoro County to become a district?

Look here honorable, I come from Omoro County, in Gulu District, but now with Omoro becoming a district, I’m in a dilemma. What will I tell people? That you see, I used to hail from Gulu but home has since migrated to Omoro District? Confusion just. Does that sound like consolation enough, MP? Does that give you an alternative idea that having a new district may not be the in-thing after all?

Okay, I see you tightening the tie around your neck again, and Anywar is not nearby, so I will not try to persuade you further. But look; we know you are in Opposition, and things can never be easy. Ask Besigye. Even with Ugandans trooping to his rallies and donating money, avocado and bananas to him, they have not upgraded his status to president of Uganda. Three attempts since 2001, zero. Now that he is trying to be president again they can’t even have mercy and make him sole candidate!

But don’t lose hope, Mr Ekanya. Try again. Someone even said you didn’t only attempt suicide but to undress as well. See, you had a proper opportunity to beat the protesting Amuru women to this nudity thing. You could have even become a better hero than the rat-eating Omoding.

You can still do this! Don’t tighten the tie around your neck and look around expectantly for rescuers. We need a proper hero in this country. Surely you know that!

So next time you want to die for an important cause like having a new district, die properly Mr Ekanya. Tororo County and Uganda shall be forever grateful.

eknay1Tororo County MP Geoffrey Ekanya. Internet Photo

Let’s allow The Monitor to die in peace…and resurrect

Black smoke has been billowing from my former workplace – the Daily Monitor. Those who have been keen enough to follow the developments will realise that the Monitor has been sinking and stinking, notably since government closed it down for 10 days.

Matters were not helped when, instead of taking advantage of public sympathy against its closure, the paper signed an ‘agreement’ with government. The public viewed that as a swap for their loyalty and trust in a paper that waves the flag of ‘independence’ and ‘truth every day’.

Although management came out to deny that the agreement was not a sell-out but a move at sticking to ethical and professional journalism, reports of stories about Muhoozi, Sejusa and Museveni, being plucked out of the press or from the stands, helped worsen the PR. At that point, management remained silent. Those who needed serious stories camped at the Observer and even New Vision.

Inside the newsroom, apathy and tension set in. Reporters and editors were no longer sure what stories to write/publish and which ones not to, because they weren’t sure if it’ll be ‘recalled’ or killed. Again, management took its time to calm the nerves of its employees and in the meantime, certain stories were not touched, notably stories on Sejusa. The paper only resumed consistently writing about Sejusa before, during and after his controversial return from the self-imposed ‘exile’ in the UK.

Of course the closure affected the company financially, Shs120 million was lost daily for the ten days it remained closed. That, in addition to the just receding economic crisis, saw employees sit on the edge of their chairs as reports of downsizing (or restructuring) spread.

Those who saw the ship tilting early enough, jumped off since they knew they could neither swim in the deep waters or save the vessel.

So what should really be done to save this ship from a wreck?

First, what the Monitor needs is a sober and effective management. Monitor needs a manager who understands the history and internal politics of the paper, the philosophies of why the paper was established and how it can adjust in relation to economic, political and rapid technological changes.

Otherwise, for now the paper is starving because of insufficient number of ‘adults’ to run that place; the young ones are either clueless, sucked up in intrigue, cliquism and passion for power rather than journalism or are lost because of the absence of mentorship. The good ones are doing their part, albeit with eyes at the window for an opportunity to jump.

Secondly, the Monitor needs to take a step back and reflect on where it went wrong, and find out who/what ‘bewitched’ the once mighty newspaper. That reflection can help the paper understand why it’s innovations and rebrands never delivers much.

That reflection will help the paper accept that there is a fire, so do you use water or sand to put it out? The paper’s reactive attempt at ‘increasing sales’ and ‘improving journalism’ has been seen in the paper briefing all stories from regions and at another time assigning a page per region; The paper’s clamour for survival, has seen it reallocate pagination and introduce two ‘editions’ but all this somehow falls along the way. So a reflection on what really happened, will be useful.

Thirdly, if the Monitor can’t improve its management and reflect on its existence, then we should allow it to die. The paper has been limping for a long time and the public plus its workers have been clutching on that tiny thread of ‘independence’ and ‘truth every day’, hoping it’ll survive – somehow.

Keeping the paper in that limping state won’t help. Its radicalism and an internal institutional coup that needs to happen. That coup should take with it unproductive employees (unless their usefulness can be reworked), and also do away with those who have accepted and are wallowing in mediocrity.

I don’t know if the recent sackings and ‘restructuring’ is a move to sweep the dirt at the place, but all will agree that the way issues around the poll story was handled, as well as the subsequent consequences, leave a lot to be desired. For an organization that deals in communication, an explanation to the public would have sufficed, maybe it will, but like my people say, the poop of a dog has to be cleaned when it is still hot (and not as smelly). Where is the accountability and transparency demanded so much from government and public officials, if readers can’t receive the same?

There are passionate, competent journalists at Monitor and in Uganda, but is the paper investing in them or attracting those with excellence? Is it rewarding and let alone recognizing excellence? Does it concern the paper when its reputable journalists leave the company in disgruntlement; or do the exits just serve as an opportunity to employ job-hungry graduates who will then be paid peanuts as a buffer for the company’s twitching financial muscle?

The media landscape has changed and keeps changing for the better or for the worse, depending on how one embraces it. The newspaper is particularly not in a comfortable place, especially those who have embraced sleaze and commoditised journalism instead of turning to enterprise and Day-2 journalism and milking online platforms for breaking stories and reader engagement.

That is why the Monitor, despite seeking to be financially viable, must also address journalistic gaps it is facing. People won’t buy the paper because Monitor employees took a month off to wash cars in public garages or clean city streets; they buy content, they buy valuable content, and unless the paper realizes that, we can only wish it a peaceful death, and hope it resurrects, healthier and stronger.