‘Tupakasa’ – changing the slogan of the Ugandan youth from ‘Tuchakala’ and ‘Tusaba Gavumenti Etuyambe’

ONE of my favourite questions when meeting new, potential employees, workmates or professional associates is, “What’s your favourite TV programme?”

I don’t ask this in the spirit of my youth when it was followed up with an offer of video tape exchanges, but to establish what type of person I am about to engage in business or professional interaction with. Some confess to being addicts of thrill TV shows and others proclaim a love for comedy and music; all natural since TV is generally just light entertainment.

I’m forcing more and more of them, though, to go for business entertainment; programming that entertains while igniting one’s entrepreneurial spark. Business entertainment develops one’s business knowledge, sharpens one enterprise, inspires one to work and act better with ideas and business-related motivation.

I myself only discovered this part of life – not just TV – recently, otherwise I would have done many things very differently earlier in life. Last weekend presented a set of options as the Pakasa Forum took course at the same time as the Navio Daytime Rap concert just a kilometre apart from each other – one in a school auditorium, the other at a popular entertainment hangout. The irony of hearing that more young people went into a school auditorium than to a popular entertainment hangout during school holidays stuck with me for a while.

That morning, as I arrived at the venue – of the #Pakasa4 forum of course, I noticed that Panamera was right across the road and empty, then both tweeted and twittered lightly that some people might have spent the night at Panamera on the pretext of waiting up for #Pakasa4.

Of course there were none; all the faces I saw inside the auditorium from as early as 7:30am were avid, agog, and other such adjectives. By 8:30am the room was filling up steadily and I was gratified that I had made it – my mission was to be inspired, not by Uhuru alone, but by the youths in the room; young people hungry for inspiration in entrepreneurship and business, seeking networking opportunities, asking for knowledge, information, wisdom.

My hopes were well-met.

Even without speaking directly with many of them, I was happy to hear their views, ideas and frustrations well laid out; and overjoyed when a couple of them took to the microphone to tell us they had written books about one thing or another! One chap, Emmanuel Emodoi I heard his name pronounced as, was only twenty-six (26) years old and told us he had started out after school about a year ago with Ushs70,000 which he used to start up his own motor vehicle workshop (aka a garage).

“What?!” you mentally exclaim? So did I.

Ushs70,000 went into the premises and some motor oil, since he figured that what he needed most was good customer service and technical know how. Fast forward to #Pakasa4 and he has three (3 – SATU – TATU – ISAATU!) garages and might be going over to service a client in Nairobi, Kenya soon (NOT Uhuru Kenyatta, as far as we know).

How is that NOT inspiring, even for me?

I’ve used Ushs70,000 many times before on very many things that have not resulted in three garages employing thirty (30) people…and continue to do so.

I’m still considering a way to hunt him down so I test his method with even ten times that Ushs70,000 and see if I will have profitability to speak of a year down the road.

That’s the inspiration #Pakasa4 provided; rather than the ones who keep going on about inequality, unfairness and other ills of society.

Refreshing. 20140823_153105

So was the Kenyan President, whose ordinariness in conversation was more than balanced out by the intellectual connections he made in the room; another reason I was there – to hear a politician speak more than platitudes and pledges and promises.

I like politicians like CEOs – stressing good performance; showing urgency of delivery; expressing seriousness of purpose; placing focus on specific objectives; identifying reachable, measurable targets; paying attention to reputation; listening clearly rather than speaking loudly.

And I despair at the way, instead, some CEOs act like bad politicians – exaggerating their importance at all times, demanding for title recognition, comporting like lords, and wallowing in unaffordable excess.

 

Uhuru gave me hope that more corporate, middle-class fellows can join politics and be useful, positive, progressive, profitable, people-based, realistic, grounded…(insert more words here). Uhuru ticked all boxes as he interacted with the switched-on youth who were not drinking or doing drugs; or trying to get their photo into the papers; or rack up more Facebook likes and Twitter re-tweets; or get paid an attendance allowance.

One day, we can hope, our favourite CEOs of successful local, home-grown brands or a national President, might declare that they spent more time at such forums or watching business entertainment than at concerts, nightclubs and consuming mind-numbing thrill TV night after night.

And the youths that are the majority in this country will say ‘Tupakasa!’ instead of ‘Tuchakala‘ and ‘Tusaba Gavumenti Etuyambe‘.

 

John Oliver, come visit Uganda just to see Uganda – gays or no gays

John Oliver

This is John Oliver.

He’s a British comedian who’s emigrated to the United States in the last decade or so and was on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show where he did so well, especially when he hosted the show last year, that HBO offered him his own TV show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver starting April this year.

He’s breaking barriers there as well, but because we don’t get it on TV here you probably don’t know that unless you find snippets on the internet or download your own torrents.

Like Jon Stewart, Oliver is funny, liberal, witty and hard-hitting when it comes to stupid politicians and daft ideas, which is why both are pretty popular amongst people like me, and unpopular with the Tea Party Movement, the Republican Party and FoxTV, among others.

He is not yet unpopular with me, personally (I also follow his Bugle podcast with mirthful loyalty), but his stance on Uganda does not excite me at all. On his homosexuality show at the end of June he went straight for Uganda as most of these commentators do, without recognising that his own country (the US, in this case) is not yet as liberated as they wish to make themselves out to be, and in general is much worse than we are. 

“Since it passed the Ugandan legislature, the number of recorded acts of persecution (in Uganda) has increased between 750% and 1900% from previous years,” he said on the show.

Where is this statistic from?

Searching for where he could have possibly got it, I found a few others such as:

Frank Mugisha’s post on ‘HuffPost Gay Voices’ – presumably the Gay section of the Huffington Post – which quoted his organisation’s findings that stated that “162 cases of persecution” had been reported since the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. 

Mugisha’s post went on: “Nineteen cases were reported in 2012, and only eight in 2013. The 162 cases reported since Dec. 20, 2013, therefore represent an increase in persecution of up to 19 times compared with previous years, an increase that can only be laid at the door of the Anti-Homosexuality Act and the virulently homophobic atmosphere it has engendered in Uganda.”

THIS is where the 1900% comes from.

And, John Oliver continued in his report, “…people from the dark ages could build a time machine, travel to 2014 Uganda, step outside and go, ‘Ah shit! It didn’t work!'”

This guy is a comedian and very good at satire, so there will be no wasting time on his position except that it is odd that he went on to downplay the selection of Uganda’s Sam Kutesa to the United Nations General Assembly Presidency because of this anti-Homosexuality stand, and then said:

“The fact that in the 21st Century, 81 countries have laws outlawing homosexuality is incredibly depressing, although in a way it shows how lucky we are to live here (in the United States) because when it comes to advances in marriage equality: America did it!.”

Why is that odd?

Because earlier in the very same damn show he had told us that only 19 states (and the District of Columbia) had legalised same-sex marriage – 19 out of 51 states in the United States of America! Each of those states is considered to be a country, when it suits the person in charge of the argument.

But let’s also not go into the mathematics of whether the 31 states of the United States should be added to the 81 countries, or the percentage of the United States of America that is actually against Homosexuality or same-sex marriage.

 

(If you’re thinking “Aha!”, the pun is excused).

Judging from those statistics, the United States is basically as much in the dark ages as John Oliver claims Uganda is – worse if you count that they can be justifiably accused of engaging in more acts of persecution for reasons of race alone than we do in Uganda. It is likely that more people have been killed in the US for being black than the number killed in Uganda for being gay, if any…

I have a problem with the double standards people like John apply when talking about these issues in the US and then turning to countries like Uganda. The US has “just” woken up to this gay movement over the last ten or so years but expects us to roll along with them wholesale even before THEY are fully convinced.

But besides that, they are continually engaged in much more serious cases of discrimination and persecution, as evidenced in the reasons for the Ferguson riots and so many other cases besides that always end up in the silence that is created when the media agenda is under management.

And I have a bigger problem with all of us Ugandans who are simply sitting around ignoring the falsehoods being told about YOU and how much YOU hate or persecute gays. We have bigger issues to deal with in our day to day lives and we go about doing so; this anti-homosexuality thing was just thrown onto our plates by the gay lobby even though we have constantly been clear about where we stood on the matter.

We MUST NOT allow a new stereotype to be created about us by a group of selfish people who believe the world should be defined by their cause and nothing else.

The John Oliver’s of this world can go on talking about Uganda the way they do but after they have done so we need to quickly get over there and clear the air. Make comments at the end of their stories and their columns, and clarify the nonsense where it exists; and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Information people should quickly get about ensuring that the world knows about Uganda for what we are, not for what the gay lobby wants the world to think we are like.

As some other bloggers have pointed out before, there is a section of the gay lobby that is using deceit and disinformation to rally negative energy against Uganda, but those ones will have their tactics bite them in the A** soon enough (not pleasurably). Still, they should not be ignored either but I will not be sharing their links here.

On the other hand, I was happy with one Pepe Julius Onziema (@Opimva on Twitter), a prominent Ugandan gay lobbyist who made me proud by appearing on John’s show that night and staying level-headed and to-the-point rather than hyping up the belief that gays are being killed in Uganda or that this is hell on earth.

And he side-stepped John’s question about living in Uganda by saying he would rather live here than anywhere else on earth even though he doesn’t feel totally safe because of his sexuality.

I am sure if we turned that question round and asked various people “of alternative race” they would say exactly the same about the United States of America that John Oliver and millions of others over the years have moved to over the years.

travel advisory: avoid visiting the United States

Initially, I refused to get interested in the shooting of the black (or African-American) youngster by a policeman in the United States last week or the resulting riots because we had enough going on over here to keep me occupied.

But as the days wore on I noticed hell break loose and saw scenes breaking out that were quite reminiscent of protests and riots in other parts of the world. And I just knew that there would be NO travel advisories warning against travel to the United States of America in light of civil unrest and fears of public safety having broken down.

There were going to be no calls for the United States government or State forces from acting with restraint, or threats of the government facing any action for attacking its own people…

Meanwhile, stories of the Ku Klux Klan getting involved in supporting the white police officer who shot the unarmed black boy, are getting limited air play yet it should be confusing to some of us that this group is even allowed to exist officially like this in the very same United States where some people are so vehemently vocal about Ugandans and the laws and morals that we choose for ourselves.

So as we were saying earlier, which country will be the first to issue a travel advisory against visiting the United States (US) following the civil unrest over there? Will it be an African country?

The official US site that deals with such matters, travel.state.gov, is quite honest about how they issue their advisories, saying:

“We issue a Travel Warning when we want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Warning might include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. We want you to know the risks of traveling to these places and to strongly consider not going to them at all. Travel Warnings remain in place until the situation changes; some have been in effect for years.”

That does not, we should be clear, include sanctions against countries, but many of the travel warnings and advisories are issued against entire countries even when the incidents that trigger them are isolated to remote parts of the country in question.

Uganda is not listed for any advisory right now (yaaaaay!) so we should not be angry or upset.

But after reading the advisories that ARE listed there, no wonder Americans feel so entitled! Their government is actively monitoring the entire world and giving them tips to keep them from dying sooner than necessary or getting involved in a crime outside of their own borders; perhaps our governments should start doing the same forthwith, along the same vein.

As of today, there were thirty-nine countries on the list of US Travel warnings and advisories and the US was NOT one of them in spite of the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Next door Kenya is on the list: “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya. U.S. citizens in Kenya, and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime Kenya Flagin some areas. Due to the terrorist attack on June 15 in Mpeketoni, in Lamu County…”

So no going to Nairobi or even Kisumu, because of the bombs that went off in Mombasa…

 

But in order of date of warning, let’s go through the rest, whether you are a US citizen or not:

Lebanon: because of “ongoing safety and security concerns” and “the potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists in particular because of the frequency of terrorist bombing attacks…”Lebanon Flag

”Although there is no evidence these attacks were directed specifically at U.S. citizens…there is a real possibility of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ harm to U.S. citizens…”

Mexico is luckier: “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of travelling to certain places in Mexico…” followed by a state-by-state assessment of security conditions in each state of Mexico.

Of course, Mexico is next door to the U.S., so perhaps it’s easier for the State Department to do this assessment; or because there are so many Mexicans in the U.S. it makes more sense for them to be specific rather than warn Americans off the entire country.

Sierra Leone: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against non-essential travel…after review of health conditions and limited availability of medical evacuation options…”

This is because of Ebola and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t go there even as a Ugandan citizen.

Algeria: “The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Algeria…continuing threat posed by terrorism…and kidnappings.”

Unbelievably, Iraq has a travel warning against it issued in August 10, but then understandably this one replaces the last one that was issued on August 8, 2014…and they probably get one issued every other day: “Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation…U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence…”

Surprising? I think not.

Saudi Arabia: What? Yeah, “The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travelling to Saudi Arabia” apparently because of “an attack by members of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula on a border checkpoint along the Saudi-Yemeni border on July 4…”

You want to know how far the border point is from the capital of Saudi Arabia or how many other attacks have happened in Saudi Arabia to occasion this?

Don’t bother, as the very next paragraph states that, “The last major terrorist attack against foreign nationals occurred in 2007…”

Pakistan: Of course, “defer all non-essential travel”, followed by narratives that go back to early 2011 (I kid you not).

Nigeria somehow gets a serious warning only about some states: “The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states because of the May 14, 2013 state of emergency proclamation for those three states by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…”

The next statement makes me laugh: “The security situation in the country remains fluid and unpredictable…”

This is true of everything in Nigeria!

Boko Haram also gets a mention, as one would imagine, as well as “Violent crimes occur throughout the country. U.S. citizen visitors and residents have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglaries, armed robberies, car-jackings, rapes, kidnappings, and extortion. Home invasions also remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls, accessing waterfront compounds by boat, following residents or visitors, or subduing guards to gain entry to homes or apartments. Law enforcement authorities usually respond slowly or not at all and provide little or no investigative support to victims…”

It goes on right up to Ebola and I am a little surprised that there is no warning re: “Avoid responding to email messages from Nigerian princes or relatives of deceased senior officials of the Nigerian governments…”

Liberia: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against non-essential travel to Liberia…” over Ebola, of course.

Cameroon’s warning is worded in dodgy english: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high risk of travel to Cameroon…”, in short if they are not careful U.S. citizens might find themselves travelling to Cameroon…

The rest of it is kind to the West African country: “…U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Far North region of the country because of “the continuing threat of kidnappings and other armed attacks” since Boko Haram is in operation there. (This is serious, since 21 expatriates have been kidnapped there since 2013 – most recently in May 16, 2014).

Ukraine: Yeah. If you’re not a Russian soldier, what more do you need to know?

Libya: Again – Really? This is unnecessary – it could have been replaced with, “Watch TV.” Yeah. “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Libya and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Libya depart immediately…” (sounds like the withdrawal of forces, but of course there are none in the North African country, right?)

“The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution…” <—— see, it’s their fault, that Libyan government!

The other reason to stay away from Libya is in the statement “The newly elected Council of Representatives is scheduled to convene by August 4…” which reads so on August 21, showing how seriously the State Department is taking this Libyan issue…

Russian Federation: This warning does not say that you shouldn’t (you if you are a U.S. citizen) go to the Russian Federation, but is just an alert about tensions along the border with the Ukraine, in case you have not been paying attention these few months past.

Israel, The West Bank and Gaza: Again, let’s not dwell on the obvious. In Luganda, this entire warning would read, “Beera Mu Kilaasi.”

Yemen: “…high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest…”

Chad: “warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Chad and recommends citizens avoid travel to eastern Chad and all border regions.”

Then, leaving other foreigners to suffer, the State Department says, “The Embassy advises U.S. citizens to avoid public gathering spaces and locations frequented by expatriates, including markets, restaurants, bars, and places of worship…”

kwegamba (i.e.) leave those other expatriates to their risky business of shopping, drinking, eating and praying but if you’re from the U.S. stay safe…

Honduras: “…the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.” since the country has the highest homicide rate in the world of 75.6 per 100,000 people. War doesn’t count, see?

Thailand: “The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens to be alert…” Thailand Flag

South Sudan: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Republic of South Sudan” because of the armed conflict there, as well as health care being limited and poor, the risk of violent crime, and so on and so forth.

This one is even boring to read – especially if you recall that the U.S. Department of State as recently as June was suggesting, through its African Bureau acting spokesperson Erin Rattazzi, that countries like Uganda should withdraw its troops from conflict resolution activities in South Sudan.

Djibouti is on the list for potential terrorist attacks; Venezuela for violent crimes and demonstrations even though, the advisory states, “Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Venezuela each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work…”; Iran, of course, is on the list but for the risk of one being detained on charges of espionage rather than the statement: “These guys really just hate us.”

North Korea also gets listed, surprisingly, rather than just have sanctions slapped against it, because of “arbitrary arrest and long-term detention”:

“North Korean authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally crossed into DPRK territory…” 

As if the North Koreans don’t watch all those American movies with spy heroes crossing into other countries. Msssschewwww!

And, the advisory goes on to say, “The Government of North Korea has detained, arrested, and imposed heavy fines on persons who violated DPRK laws…” as opposed to just letting them be in peace.

Read on to laugh a little at this one: “If DPRK authorities permit you to keep your cell phone upon entry into the country, please keep in mind that you have no right to privacy in North Korea…” LOL

After recovering from rolling about laughing your ass off, and finished checking to see whether you have Edward Snowden’s number or twitter handle so you can share this tidbit, continue with, “…and should assume your communications are monitored.” 

Syria also gets proper mention and “No part of Syria should be considered safe…” from a long list of things; while Afghanistan presents a security threat of a “critical” level: “No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and banditry, and the strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts…”

The list goes on to cover the Philippines, Central African Republic, El Salvador, the DRC, Colombia, Sudan, Burundi, Niger, Mali, Somalia, Haiti and Eritrea.

It’s enough to make you want to stay at home, if you’re a U.S. citizen, unless you’re African-American and facing a policeman.

The point, though, is easily summarised as: “If you’re American, avoid death at the hands of foreigners in their own countries…you have enough going on at home…especially if you’re black or African-American.”

improving health & lifestyle in vernacular

20140813_224606

ON the evening that Gender Ministry Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana was launching his book ‘Corruption: A Tale of Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing’, I was the surprised, proud and excited recipient of a book written by another Ugandan few of you have heard about.

And whereas I will certainly buy Bigirimana’s book one day and give it an enthusiastic read, my eyes are now poring over ‘Huumura: Ebyokurya n’Omubazi gw’Amagara Gaitu’, a 143-page book by one John Arinaitwe.

I must immediately declare that Arinaitwe gave me the book free of charge, and that he has not solicited any publicity from me at all, poor fellow.

He handed two copies of his book, which retails at Ushs15,000 per copy (I’ll explain later why this detail is important), to Richard Barungi and I because we’re both members of the Board at the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation where he is employed as Manager of UBC West ‘Empikahoona’.

He was moved to make the donation at the end of a Board and Senior Managers’ Retreat this week for reasons I won’t go into now; if he had been only a poultry farmer perhaps he would have handed us a tray of eggs or a rooster.

Back to ‘Huumura: Ebyokurya n’Omubazi gw’Amagara Gaitu’, on the inside cover of the book is a quotation from the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC), who is so essential to the world of medicine that medical professionals the world over swear an oath in his name, the ‘Hippocratic Oath’.

But this quotation, as presented by Arinaitwe, is in Runyakitara; which made me muse over the possibility of someone in Western Uganda studying medicine in vernacular and how that would increase medical coverage significantly!

Hindura ebyokurya omubazi gwawe, kandi omubazi gwawe gube ebyokurya byawe.” (No, I am NOT translating it into english, and I will tell you why in a couple of minutes).

A couple of pages later, after the National and East African anthems (I stand while writing this – and mentally applaud him!) I realised that the ENTIRE book was in Runyakitara.

As the realisation struck me and my reading slowed down, my admiration for Arinaitwe went a few notches higher on finding his very first entry taking a quotation from BOTH the Bible and the Quran, to explain the benefits or virtues of greens & vegetables.

And while I was squinting at a couple of words that appeared to be translated into the Runyakitara pronunciation of the english version of the same words, Barungi mentioned that the language of the book was much more complicated than his own native Runyankore.

We immediately took Arinaitwe down a line of questioning that he was ably handling when another colleague of his interjected with, “Wait! Do you know that the author of Katondozi (y’Orunyankore-Rukiga) commended Arinaitwe for coming up with some words in the language?!”

Katondozi y’Orunyankore-Rukiga’ is the Runyankore-Rukiga thesaurus written and published last year by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Manuel Muranga, Alice Muhoozi and Gilbert Gumoshabe.

These were the same words I was squinting at right then – Enkorera-mubiri (Enzayimu – Enzymes) and Entegyeka-Mubiri (Hormoni - Hormones). Arinaitwe explained that he came up with the words in Runyankore because he looked into the importance to the health of the body, of both enzymes and hormones, and decided to define it for ordinary people so they could understand them fully rather than just use the words.

It would have been unbecoming for me to stand up and clap my hands into his face, so I kept calm and questioned him some more.

My eyes popped when he said he had already prepared manuscripts translated into Lugbara and Swahili, and English! All these, he noted, had been done by his colleagues at work, quite kindly, I might add. 

“I haven’t done Luganda yet because they have asked me for money which I don’t have,” he said, in passing, but we stopped him there.

“How much?”

“They asked me for three hundred (300). So I will wait until I have that…”

We all paused for a while and looked incredulously around at each other till one person had the courage to ask, a little silently and in awe of the value of Luganda in general: “300 million…?”

“No!” he responded, totally missing our incredulity and the reason why we were so mistaken, “Three Hundred thousand.”

The courageous one plunged in again with: “Shillings?”

We paused again for a few seconds to try and understand how three hundred thousand shillings had stopped this life-changing, societal-improvement project from going to the next level.

That’s when he told us how when he finished the first manuscript he was a little unsure of his Runyakitara and so went to the Department of Languages at Makerere University to get them to proof-read and endorse his work, but was asked for ten times his current predicament with Luganda.

It was way out of his reach, and he tried to negotiate his way lower but couldn’t see how it would work so he turned round to leave, dejected. But one person couldn’t bear the sight and offered to give the manuscript a quick look-over. Shortly thereafter, the volunteer reader, a PhD Linguistics candidate, summoned him in excitement; this gentleman, Dr. Celestino Oriikirizar, had suffered non-stop migraines for an inexplicable period of time but while reading Arinaitwe’s manuscript had started following some of his nutritional advice and the headaches had gone!

Long story. Cut short. Book cleared and published. Now in my hands.

But then the man needs “300” to come up with a Luganda version – so I am going to mobilise that; YOU don’t even need to get involved, besides buying copies of the book (at the Uganda Bookshop). I am also going to buy up a few copies – a copy for each of my own children so that one day they pick it up and learn some vernacular even though it is heavier on Runyankore-Rukiga than Runyoro-Rutooro.

They will also be healthier, and will learn that another child, Arinaitwe’s own son, Allan Roy Arinaitwe, inspired his father to finish and publish the book – but sadly passed on before it came to print.

Rather than buy up tomes and re-publications by Dr. Atkins and others with diet plans of foods that don’t even grow in Uganda, let alone get to supermarket shelves here, Arinaitwe will be their nutrition and personal health guide.

Thankfully, the government itself recognises the book and presents a foreword signed by the Commissioner for Health Service (Planning), Dr. Francis Runumi; who rightly (yes – in Runyakitara) lauds the book for addressing lifestyle as a health issue.

In fact, I am sending a few copies to some people in a village I know, in the hope that this Ushs15,000 spent will save me having to spend a lot more in medical aid for preventable illnesses and ailments. And if this book found its way into every household upcountry in one language or another, just after UPE…

the man with the key can’t be missed in an open plan office

Long before I joined British American Tobacco (BAT) as a staffer, I was a journalist and one day got invited to the BAT offices by their Comms man, Henry Rugamba, to be shown round their new open-plan offices in the hope that a feature commentary would result about the progressive nature of the company.

Open plan offices were quite modern back then, and exciting. They signified a new way of thinking, and suggested sophisticated behaviour. The company with an open plan layout was forward looking and led the way in everything else. Employees of such a company were less likely to use foul language, since they would look ridiculous in front of everyone; and also less prone to the temptations that come alive behind closed doors.

It had one door leading to the entire office – thus necessitating electronic, keypad or fingerprint access. It had soft-back chairs and modern office desks, and coffee machines.

Eventually it was in those same offices that I was involved in making some drastic, staff-driven changes to management, spurred on by the same openness encouraged by having an open-plan office, but I will get to that later.

That day, though, Henry effused about the open plan layout and must have wondered why I was so unmoved by the brief tour. But you see, my office at the time was the newsroom at The New Vision, which was as open plan as one could get without working outdoors. And even though the chiefs had their territory marked by way of desk placement, we were basically equals in most other things.

Shortly after that, I started working with the Vice President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, and was assigned a plush office on the second floor of the President’s Office wing of the Parliamentary Buildings.

I was a ‘big man’ employed at Director level and on a special contract, moreover in State House.

Within fifteen minutes, I was disconcerted by the silence and solitude of the massive room with its red carpeting, and wedged the door open so I could interact with people going by through the corridor. That way, I figured, I would quickly get to know most of the people in the building and also introduce myself all round.

Some minutes later, I witnessed someone almost suffer a heart attack as they were walking past when he realised the door was open and I was sitting right there! The fellow didn’t know whether to run forward or somersault backwards and essentially did both at the same time, with the net effect that he stayed in one place and stumbled comically.

The next person to come along was also discombobulated, and eventually one polite, elderly secretary chosen to bell the cat came over to quickly greet me and remove the wedge.

I protested and even though she firmly told me how “we don’t do this” I insisted on having my door wedged open. Twenty minutes later, another staffer walking by recovered from her shock to also try to shut the door; and another an hour later who didn’t even say a word but shut the door all the same.

I realised I was probably going to spend my days explaining to people why my door was open, and walking across the expanse of office to wedge it open again. And I gave up.

But since we spent most of our time working out of doors in the field, I realised that at the highest level of government most of the work is actually done in an open-plan environment; the President’s meetings are always out in the open, and just about anybody gets to meet him at State House, talking openly about anything that suits their fancy.

So when I eventually got to BAT as an employee, I figured I knew it all and was quite surprised when our Managing Director showed tyrannical and unpopular tendencies. It didn’t take us too long to rise up and change him – not by revolution, but through open dialogue and clearly stating our displeasure directly to him.

Open plan flattens space so employees are essentially the same. We all use the same desks and chairs. We all breathe the same space. We are not too special to look at each other. We are just workmates sharing space to achieve the same objective. It’s easier to talk and share views and ideas. Work gets done faster. The negatives of bureaucracy are fewer or less burdening.

Experience has convinced me about the usefulness of the open plan environment, and to this day I try to break down office walls so that employees can avoid closed minded environments; and so managers don’t become kings in little office castles.

Worse, closed doors allow managers to operate like little gods; their staff only entering into the shrine on occasion to receive curses or blessings depending on the strength of their sacrifice – be it a report here, an invitation card there, a problem solved or a problem being presented.

We should continue to break them down, so there are no mysterious issues behind closed doors, building fear and uncertainty outside of them; and people don’t disappear with keys and turn maniacal with the control that it gives them (including toilet keys).