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Plainly speaking

One Ugandan’s Open Letter to Billy Ocean

IMG_9366Dear Billy Ocean,

Or Mr. Wongo right?. Welcome to Uganda but of course you do not know me. I am just a lover of your music and an excited young man. I have been a lover of your music since ten. I used to run to my father’s bedroom just to listen to your 1984 Album  Suddenly  on his cherished Electrohome- Nostalgia EANOS501 Record CD Turntable (am sure many young ones don’t know this).

Mr. Wongo, you are always neatly clad  and a perfect gentleman. We are  excited  to have you in Uganda. We can’t wait for the Black Tie Concert tonight,even though it has raised mixed concerns. Some claiming they don’t know you and others claiming that your show is expensive considering that you are a man of the 80’s. But Mr. Wongo,  it is only people like me who love classic music, who will tell you that the rhythm and harmony of your music, finds it way into the inward places of our souls!

Your great songs like Caribbean Queen, When the Going gets tough (my favorite), Suddenly and Pleasure, remain some of the greatest songs in R&B and International Pop music history. I am sure you know that already.

But Mr Ochen, I mean Ocean (you guys have crazy names),  welcome to  the beautiful Uganda.

Watch this video you might not want to go back home.

You have to know a few things about this country you are visiting

    1. In Uganda, sometimes we greet people by saying “well done” even when the person is doing nothing. So just in case someone approaches you and tells you that,  just reply thank you!
    2. Africa is not a country and Uganda is not a town. Recently, American actress Raven Symone in an interview with E!, shocked Africans when she said that she is ‘from every continent in Africa except one”. At this point, we are not sure if her foot should be so far into her mouth that she swallows leather crumbs. Africa is a continent with over a billion people, who live in more than 50 different countries and speak more than 2,000 different languages. Uganda is a state within Africa full of beautiful people.
    3. In London, you call them mini buses but in Uganda, we call them taxis. What you call taxis back in London, here we call them special cars. It doesn’t matter if you get confused on your way from the airport about that, but just know that in Uganda, we are unique
    4. There is what we call UgLish. By UgLish, It is the Ugandan variant of English. In this beautiful country, we have dry tea, Wiseaching, cowardise, benching,  now-now, bullet and you will only understand the meaning of these words if you read our guide to UgLish which we compiled earlier here.
    5. When it comes to traffic jam, it does not matter whether you say “traffic” or “jam”, Ugandans will understand what you are saying.
    6. Meanwhile do not leave your car window open at night while in “Jam”. Your gadget might disappear unceremoniously but this doesn’t mean that Ugandans are thieves but it is just a security measure. Precaution is very paramount when you go to a foreign area for the first time.
    7. In Uganda we eat rolex, we don’t wear them. Relax! we don’t mean the watch you are wearing but a delicacy and type of food which is only found in Uganda here.
    8. We have what we call boda bodas. Now these are not boarders on a map but motorcycle loved and hated by Ugandans at the same time. Where a vehicle takes thirty minutes to reach a place, they take less than ten minutes! They know the art of invisible riding and when you feel that you are late for a show, trust me jump on one and reach get there on time! Still not sure what they are, we talked about them here
    9. More so, if you are coming out of your car or crossing the road, don’t forget to first look left and right. These boda bodas are not only fast, but they also ‘fly’ in all directions. You will be surprised when you see them coming from all directions towards you but don’t run, just keep calm and let them pass (if you come close to them while in Uganda anyway).
    10. In Uganda we don’t rush. We believe we have a lot of time to do everything we want and we value deadlines since its when adrenaline levels become active. You want proof? You will be shocked to learn that most people have not yet got tickets for your show but they are waiting to pay at the entrance. Just find a way of getting to the gate during your show, you will be my witness.
    11. “Let me come”, is a sentence you might hear a lot while you are in Uganda. Now this sentence is tricky. Someone will tell you “let me come” even when they are not going to come back. Please do not feel offended, sometimes Ugandans can be busy and end up doing a lot of things that is why they will tell you “let me come” even when they are not coming back 🙂
    12. Some English accents are seasonal don’t be surprised to hear some of the guys welcoming you speaking with a British accent. That’s how we be.


    Have a pleasant stay

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Bata

If you thought Uganda was a forest, they lied to you



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  1. luwagga

    April 2, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Hahahaha i love this one.

  2. safso

    April 9, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    you nailed bro.

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Plainly speaking

Uganda isn’t Kony, Idi Amin or Ebola

You have any non-African friends, right? Ask them what they think of Uganda. The answers you may receive will be related to poverty, AIDS, Ebola, hunger, tribalism or animals. Their faces will turn sorrowful and sympathy might linger in their eyes. They may give an example of how they helped to “Save Gulu” by donating to the “Kony 2012” campaign or dreamed of adopting a “Ugandan orphan”.

Most likely the view of the continent is that it is not a continent at all, but one large country, where everyone speaks the same language, eats the same food, wears the same type of clothing, and creates the same type of art. Yes, in their eyes, “Africa” is a homogeneous place of simple people with simple activities.

Mainstream media and educational system constantly feed our minds with this type of negative information on Africa. As a consequence, the average white person has a very narrow-minded image of the continent, filled with lions, malnourished children, corrupt officials and rebels. We rarely see or hear anything different and therefore see such images as the truth. But, for someone who has never been to the continent, can they be blamed for this ignorance?

There are mainly two sorts of Africa that appear on the media, the human Africa riven with poverty and violence, and the Africa of wildlife documentaries where humans hardly appear. There are the occasional travel documentaries but even here there seems a lot of emphasis on poverty and the primitive nature of just about everything.

The effect of the above perceptions, is that it leaves the world thinking that Africa is a dark continent already lost in the jungles of primitivism and barbarism. It makes Africa at the center of stereo-typing and it also makes us to be branded as an inferior race in the world thereby even affecting our self-esteem.

Because of such, we wonder whether  we should be annoyed with non-African journalists who broadcast embarrassing images of poverty in Africa, or at the African governments who tolerate and often create such misery in the first place? Much criticism has been leveled at western media for negative coverage of Africa. They have been accused by some of ignorance and racism. In many cases, this criticism is justified.

But why do many Africans, feel so strongly about how Africa is portrayed in western media? After all, the average Brit or German doesn’t give two hoots how their country is covered in say, Nigerian or Kenyan media. Europeans are not emigrating to Africa in large numbers so they simply don’t need to care how Africans view them.

Photocredit- KCCA

Photocredit- KCCA

Perhaps we should ask you, Does the whole of Africa have this demographic problem? Why do you focus on the slums and not on the positive stories? Why search out the most miserable environments to film in and continue propagating negative stereotypes of Africa as a nest of poverty and problems?
But as proud Ugandans,  we also know news media in general (African included), tends to focus on the negative and not the positive. Bad news sells well. People feel better about their lives when they hear others have bigger problems than them. A European who’s unhappy he can’t get a mortgage, will, however unwittingly, likely see his life in brighter lights after watching footage of people with no electricity, no running water and little food to eat.

It’s important to challenge the negative images and the perceptions circulated by the media particularly; whether in films, books, news and academic reports. It is vital to report, complain, blog about it. Challenge and object to it with whatever means you have. A pen or a keyboard are the most powerful tools. We are not just rebels or victims awaiting international aid or assistance for our children to be adopted by wealthy celebrity who will parade them. We are – just like every human being – complex characters journeying on this planet who deserve dignity and respect.

Of course there are many different and often positive stories to be told from Africa’s 54 diverse countries. But the continent currently has no microphone of its own on the global stage, no loudspeaker with which to tell its stories the way it wants them told. It has to wait in line hoping others lend it theirs from time to time. That won’t do.
Al Jazeera has succeeded in giving Arabs a voice on the global stage the same way BBC and CNN have succeded in giving a voice to the British and Americans respectively. Where is Africa’s answer to Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN?

More programmes about Africa, made by Africans, is the voice that is missing in this world. We need programmes which will not portray only wildlife, but the beautiful cultures of my country Uganda told by a Ugandan. We need new programmes which will not call Africa a country, but will appreciate that Africa has states like Uganda which are not at war but a pearl of hard working people.
This is Uganda they never show you. This is Uganda of people with dignity and stories changing our society. This is the Uganda the land gifted by nature and not conflict, poverty and diseases. This is Uganda of lovers, beautiful people and not people dying of hunger. This is Uganda they never show you that we want to tell the world about and be the voice of the voiceless.

If we Ugandans do not stand up to tell our own stories and positive stories about Africa as a whole, then we will forever remain misunderstood, misinterpreted and not respected. We will not only be untrue to ourselves but putting the future of our country at risk as the late Bob Marley once said… “ Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery because none but ourselves can free our minds!”



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Poetry as an instrument in Ugandan society
Murray Shiraz aka "Black Poet" performing one of his poems at open mic Uganda- a re-known spoken word poetry platform in Kampala.

Poetry must not be used for social change but CAN be used for social change.

Poetry is the best words arranged in the order to clearly define the poet’s heart based on inspiration, whether hidden or open. Poetry to some has been known as a means to preserving daily life experiences in society. Its  like a day to day diary of a writer though not so many people have the talent and passion to scribble down beautiful words in poetic ink.

Writers should have the liberty to express themselves in the best words possible to define their heart, but should welcome criticism of their work.

Lantern Meet cast during a recent poetry recital dubbed "moving on"

Lantern Meet cast during a recent poetry recital dubbed “moving on”

Poetry is everywhere in every  tradition and culture, and is not considered for elites alone. Ugandans just need to work hard like Shakespeare in spreading it and making it something phenomenal by each person regardless of who they are or where they come from.

The lessons for the poets

Poets need to learn the tools of the trade before they go out to claim that they are poets.

Ugandan poets need to know that they are vital people in our society and help us reflect who we are as Ugandans besides helping us to creatively preserve unique societal experiences in living words frozen in ink that speaks.

As Ugandan poets, we need to market poetry to our neighboring countries to kill the monotony of having the same faces at every poetry event, and having  a few foreign faces every now and then.

The societies and platforms

There are local poets who have graced Uganda like Paul Kafero, Henry Barlow, Okot P’Bitek, and we who have come after feel that we are on the right track on carrying this torch.

We just need to support the poetry societies that groom writers such as the Lantern Meet of Poets, Femrite, Luminous Sorrels, Bonfire Uganda.

And the poetry performance platforms that give poets a monthly opportunity to showcase their spoken word like Open Mic Uganda, Poetry in Session, Kwivuga and Poetry Shrine.

Let’s support the Ugandan poetry platforms in whatever way possible now that its one of the avenues left to preserve our culture and make Ugandan history to be read by the future generations.



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Plainly speaking

Meet Uber’s first female Ugandan driver, Fiona Kiberu

The long wait is over, Uber is now in Kampala. Today UberX officially launched its ride sharing service in the city of Kampala during a press briefing at the Kampala Serena Hotel. Fortunately, there is a lady driver part of the Uber team now.

Fiona Kiberu Photo: Tech Jaja

Fiona Kiberu
Photo: Tech Jaja

Fiona Kiberu is a simple and down to earth lady who has been in the taxi business for almost eight years. She stays in Kawempe and works at Lugogo Shopping mall. Those that have used a cab from Lugogo shopping mall before know her quite well, he generosity, kindness and politeness. She drives a Noah.

Salvador Idringi celebrating the launch of Uber. Fiona Kiberu in her driver's sit. Photo: Twitter

Salvador Idringi celebrating the launch of Uber. Fiona Kiberu in her driver’s sit.
Photo: Twitter

In an interview by Tech Jaja, Fiona Kiberu declared that she will drive Uber for life, she also added a smile to her new recruitment into Uber.

Uber is a service that enables a person/client to get a ride at the tap of a button, it eliminates flagging hands so as to stop a taxi or entering an unfamiliar car which is totally insecure. It’s also the most convenient way to get a safe, reliable, and affordable ride to work, to a party, or back to home. The Uber app detects your location, tells you in advance about your driver, and you can choose to pay with a credit card or cash so it is easy and safer for both riders/clients and drivers.

“Uganda’s famous “Happy City” is well-know for several attractions – its bustling streets, exotic nightlife and dynamic skyline. These are just a few of the many reasons why Uber loves Kampala, and we’re excited to announce that YOU can now request a ride at the tap of a button.”- Uber

With the launch of Uber in Uganda, one can only hope for the best in the transport sector and system which hasn’t been performing to expected standards in the past. To celebrate their launching, Uber is giving all riders the opportunity to enjoy FOUR days of free rides in Kampala.




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