Monday, August 29, 2005

The moral of the story

This past Wednesday I picked up a package from the airport that my parents had sent me. It was full of fabulous goodies, plus a bottle of the moisturizer I’d run out of. Goodies included:

- Three precious precious magazines (a product category that retails in Uganda for about 4 to 6 times its’ Canadian cover price, and which prompts, in women expats, expressions of delight of the type normally uttered by young men about Playstations or very large televisions..)
- Six packages of Crystal Light (Because I try not to drink juice or ‘regular’ soda, I get very very tired of drinking plain water all the time, since the Ugandan procurement of diet beverages is both haphazard and pricey. I know – chemicals shmemicals. Tell it to somebody else.)
- Four sets of DVDs – a season or two each of Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and Arrested Development (a show I’d only seen one episode of when I was visiting home last fall, and which I’ve decided will be my ‘comedy category’ favourite show, along with Six Feet Under in the ‘drama’ category.) I’m trying to pace myself with watching them, to pretend I’m watching an actual television that only shows episodes once a week, rather than acknowledging the reality that I’m watching discs on my laptop. I haven’t been very successful in this endeavour yet.

Picking up the package was a bit of a hassle. DHL, the courier company that handles Purolator business in Uganda, screwed up and notified my employer’s procurement guy about the package’s arrival in Uganda, instead of phoning me directly. As a result, the procurement guy just handed me a fax saying I owed $150 in duties, and then walked away without providing me with any further instruction. So, after an afternoon at the cargo wing of the airport, getting special security clearances for three different areas of the airport, meeting with about a bazillion different people, and implying that I might pay ‘commissions’ (a.k.a. ‘bribes’) but without actually doing so, I was finally given my package about five minutes before the cargo section of the airport closed at five p.m.

And what is the big lesson to be learned from all of this (aside, of course, from the lesson that ‘my parents send good gifts’)? The lesson is this: I am always the right age (age 12) to have a crush on Jason Bateman (age 28).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Oooh exciting... wonder when the coup's going to be?

I'm going to blatantly cut and paste this article from the New Vision (Uganda's fairly independent but government owned newspaper) so that you actually read this ridiculousness. I thought that government leaders abusing their power and shutting down media who question them is something I'd only know about from books and movies and journalism coming out of countries that I don't live in. I've been wrong before though.

Just so you know: KFM Radio is owned by Monitor publications, the independent newspaper that is New Vision's competition. Andrew Mwenda is a well respected local journalist who also reports for the BBC and various UK newspapers. Since the writing of the New Vision article, he's been thrown in jail.

THE Broadcasting Council (BC) yesterday indefinitely closed Kampala’s K-FM radio station, a subsidiary of the Monitor Publications, saying it breached sections of the electronic media law.

At 4:18pm, K-FM, formerly Monitor FM, was closed. The last item to be aired was a song, Ndiku Digi by Ngoni.

The radio was taken off air as the programme, The Edge, was running.
Before the song, Conrad Nkutu, the Managing Director of The Monitor Publications, read on air the letter from BC secretary Okullu-Mura.

The letter, titled ‘Suspension of broadcasting license’, said, “Following receipt of numerous complaints and listening to the recording of your programme, Andrew Mwenda live of August 10, 2005 aired between 7:00pm and 8:00pm, the Broadcasting Council has discovered that the programme offends the minimum broadcasting standards enshrined in the first Schedule of the Electronic Media Cap 104/2000.
“The Broadcasting Council has decided to accordingly and with immediate effect suspend your broadcasting licence in order to carry out further investigations into the matter.”

The letter, served by two BC officials, was copied to the minister of state for information and the Inspector General of Police, Katumba Wamala.

“As a law-abiding company, we have chosen to comply and we shall proceed to take KFM off air as we pursue the matter with government authori
ties,” Nkutu said after reading the letter and then apologised to advertisers.

He said the closure was unexplained and lacked legal authority. “We shall do everything possible to return to air,” he said, adding that he was surprised by the closure because Mwenda was yesterday due to host the state minister for information, Dr. Nsaba Buturo.

Earlier on, Buturo told The New Vision that the BC had visited K-fm station to collect the recorded programme where on Wednesday Mwenda hosted presidential assistant on political affairs Moses Byaruhanga and Aswa MP Reagan Okumu.

The topic that night was, “Can government justify today’s public holiday?”

Wednesday was a public holiday in honour of seven Ugandans who died alongside Sudanese First Vice-President Dr. John Garang in a helicopter crash on July 30.

During the national prayers at Kololo Airstrip, President Yoweri Museveni referred to Mwenda as a small boy and blasted him for reportedly publishing stories prejudicial to regional security and ordered him to stop henceforth lest he clamps down on The Monitor newspaper.

The BC action triggered a mixed reaction from the staff at the Monitor headquarters in Namuwongo, a Kampala city suburb. While some looked pensive, contemplating their next move, many just laughed off the move, saying it was expected. Others mingled with journalists from other media houses who had gone there to pick the news.

While all this was going on, an apparently disturbed Mwenda was swaying in a black leather swivel chair on the fourth floor that houses Nkutu’s office. Sources said he was under strict orders not to talk to the press.

Sources said the Government was angered by Mwenda’s statements that were interpreted as demeaning the person of the President and the presidency.

During the prayers at Kololo on Wednesday, Museveni threatened to close newspapers for meddling in security issues.

On the talk-show, Mwenda said, “We shall be playing the voice of Mr. Yoweri Museveni in his attack on me and I am going to launch a counter-attack on him.” He then played a sound bite from Museveni’s speech:

“I am the elected leader of Uganda, I therefore have the ultimate mandate to run its affairs. Now, I will not tolerate a newspaper which is like a vulture. When people are crying, the vultures are happy. Any newspaper which plays about with regional security, I will not tolerate.

“I have been seeing this young boy, Mwenda, writing about Rwanda, writing about Sudan, writing about the UPDF, he must stop. And this other paper called The Observer, (writing) what has been said in the army. ... this is not how a country is run. Red Pepper also, I thought those were young boys busy with naked girls, now if they have gone into regional security, they must stop. These newspapers must stop or we shall stop them from writing. If they want to continue doing business in Uganda, they must stop interfering in security matters.”

Mwenda then shot back, “First of all, no one is going to stop, at least me, I am not going to stop. If he closes the newspaper and I am out of the job, I will seek his job. I will get him out of Nakasero (State House), take him to Rwakitura (Museveni’s country home)...If the man wants me to vie for his job, let him come.”

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lets play pretend!

According to BBC News, there is "Shock as Uganda shuts down radio". As someone who has so far been tear-gassed twice, I'm not so much with the shock, you know?

(It should be noted that this is the second time this radio station, formerly called Monitor FM, has been shut down. The previous time? It was because they'd questioned the ethics of some government minister. So... again... where is this shock coming from?)

Uganda's claim to be a semi-democratic nation is so blatantly a sham that anybody who's shocked at this development obviously hasn't been paying attention.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Feels like the weekend today! Why? Cuz I haven't gone to work in two days! Why? Because, starting yesterday, I'm refusing to go to work until I get paid (something that hasn't happened since April), and also because today was declared a public holiday, in honour of the Ugandan crew of a helicopter that crashed last week, killing the crew and its passenger, the Sudanese Vice President. This is the third spontaneously declared public holiday in the past month. I commemorated this solemn day of mourning by going to the pool.

Also, what the fucks up with not getting paid since April? And what the hell is up with declaring holidays at 4pm the day before?? Ah, Uganda!

It occurs to me that I never mentioned on This Here Blog that the 'load shedding' situation has drastically improved. (Load shedding, for those of you who don't know, is the term for the regularly scheduled power outages, necessary since despite having the mighty Nile River coursing through it, the government only generates about 60% of the electricity the country needs, and a good chunk of that gets exported to Kenya.) Anyways, the whole electricity thing was recently privatized, and a company called Umeme now delivers the utility bills. With the canny business sense that comes from the private sector, Umeme set up a bunch of generators or whatnot, and can therefore now give us bigger electricity bills because we now have access to more electricity, which is nice. So while we used to have load shedding every alternate evening, from about 7 pm till about ten or eleven, now we only have load shedding every three days, from anywhere from only 20 minutes to the full three hours. For some reason, having the power go out every three days instead of every second day seems to make a big difference – maybe it’s just the psychological difference between ‘no power every other day’ to ‘no power twice a week.’ (Update: the power just went out, randomly, for about twenty minutes while I was writing this. It’s about midnight, on a ‘power night’. So much for all that predictability.)

Okay, so another random African-health update. I now occasionally break out into the odd hive or two. Any doctors reading this blog? What the hell?

And to change the subject with no smooth segway.

So, I updated my plane ticket, to reflect when I am actually going home. (Previously, I was booked for a random day in September, since that was the latest bookable date when I bought my ticket last year.) I am now leaving Kampala on November 7th, and then I’ll spend a few days hemorrhaging money in London (and visiting friends and sightseeing and stuff), and then I’ll be hopping on another plane a few days later, and I’ll be back in Toronto on the evening of the 10th. Its ridiculous how much I am looking forward to the whole ‘going home process’ – I find myself already thinking about who will take me to the Entebbe airport, and what I’m going to do with all my luggage when I get to London, and where I’ll stay and eat and visit. (Speaking of luggage, any suggestion about the following situation: When I come home, I will have a lot of luggage – I’ve been here a long time, I have lots of stuff. It’s more than I could possibly transport myself – I just don’t have enough hands to drag/carry it all on the tube to my hotel/friends couch, and I don’t have 100 pounds to blow on a cab into the city, and I can’t check my luggage all the way through to Toronto because of my three day stopover, and it costs like a bazillion dollars a day to leave ‘left luggage’ at the airport. Besides, the whole ‘left luggage’ desk seems really sketchy to me – maybe it’s the Africa-dweller in me, but I would just assume that theft would be rampant among left-luggage-desk employees. So, yeah, I don’t know what I’ll do with all my luggage. But its still months away so maybe I should just chill out. Chill out. Chill out? Who says that anymore?

Aside from the fact that the left-luggage issue won’t arise until November, really, I have other things to worry about. I mean, I am months behind on my work. I’d like to think I could get it all done if I rush, but everything around me moves so slowly that it seems impossible. (That’s why I’m behind to begin with.) Also, my parents are coming for a visit in September (yay!) and that will provide me with a whole whack o’ stuff to do and a get excited for before I get excited about my Plane Rides two months later. Also, in a ‘keeping my options open’ move, I’m planning on taking the GMAT here in Kampala sometime in October, and so far the gmat-knowledge-osmosis process that I thought would begin once I had the study book on my bookshelf just isn’t progressing as rapidly as I thought it would. And three different media salespeople are abusing the privilege of being given my business card, and are actively pursuing the Canadian-visa-through-marriage option. So yeah, lots of other stuff to occupy myself with before November.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

i coke you coke we coke

The Historical Present demystifies all the various kinds of low-calorie coke products. Except for diet coke, all these products have been released during the time I've been in Uganda, and I hadn't heard of any of them, so I was especially mystified by the necessity for so many variations. How in the world would consumers choose between all of these, with such slight product differentiation? Come on people, its brown chemical water - can't we just pick one and go?

In unrelated news, I am feeling substantially better than I did last week, as I updated in the comments for the previous entry. Thanks for everybody's concern!

And a final non sequitur: the 'w' key on my new laptop is being fidgety (it needs extra pressure to work), if anybody knows of a simple way i can fix this myself without destroying my laptop, please let me know. (Otherwise i'm just going to deal with it until I get home to toronto, where reliable computer-repair-people are more widely available.)