Wednesday, 2 August 2017

OFAB Journalism Awards 2017

The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) has for 10 years been enhancing knowledge sharing and awareness creation on agricultural biotechnology in seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. To commemorate this feat in Uganda, the AATF, in partnership with the UNCST and the Uganda Science Journalists Association (USJA) is organizing the OFAB Agricultural Journalism Award 2017. Read details here and watch video here

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Karamoja: When the silence of guns also means going to bed hungry

Esther Napeyok, from a Tuesday evening walk, sits by the side of Moroto church looking on as the night approaches. From here she can hear hymns in her native language, Ngakarimojong, rehearsed by the church choir in preparation for the next service.  A chilly dry wind whistles through the green trees surrounding the cathedral, tossing in the air some dust and dry leaves. She slowly turns back to look at Mount Moroto, the giant of the town who was once green and pretty but has over time gone grey. It is the end of another hot and dry day in Karamoja. More here

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

When Kiyimba's friends join him in planting trees

What a Saturday it was last weekend in Tomi village, Buloba parish, Wakiso district!

Led by environmental enthusiast Ronald Kiyimba, over 10 friends descended on a valley with one mission - planting trees.

Ronald Kiyimba (l) guides colleagues in planting trees

 Despite the scorching sun, everyone worked with zeal. The idea is to create a green environment in which people can relax and enjoy nature. With rampant construction, green spaces have become scarce in Kampala and Wakiso.

Assistant Chef William Odinga plants a tree as a friend, Nelson Mutabazi, looks on

Daniel Muwanula leads colleagues in digging pits
 The dream to cover over 10 acres of land with different types of trees, including a lot of fruit trees, starts with this open space
As the team worked Chef Ali and Assistant Chef William made sure the fire was burning and something was cooking
Ali (l) relaxes for a moment
When the day's work was done it was time to celebrate! The trees will go up like these hands.
Lastly, it was so nice to catch up with the jolly Oscar, a man I had not seen in many years!

To nature we toast!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Grabbing Way: Are Christianity and Islam still relevant in Uganda’s moral context?

The Daily Monitor of September 2, 2016, carried this headline on page 6: Only 5% of Ugandan youth value integrity, survey reveals. The story makes reference to research conducted by the Aga Khan University’s East African Institute (EAI). The report was launched in Kampala on September 1.

Integrity, as described by the Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary, is moral uprightness: honesty. So, let us put it this way: 95% of Ugandans aged between 18 and 35 confess to being liars and thieves – if we go by that survey. 

Interestingly majority of the families in which these youth are raised subscribe to Christianity and Islam, two religions which, in their literature, promote honesty as a virtue. 

Islam identifies lying among the “Greater” sins and in the Sharee’ah or Islamic Law the punishment for a thief is to cut off their hand. The bible condemns lying and stealing in several books. Proverbs 19:9 says: A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. Leviticus 19:11 says: “Do not steal; Do not lie; Do not deceive one another.” 

Having lived in Uganda for close to four decades and seen how things have been changing within that period, I believe that if a similar survey was conducted among Ugandans aged 35 and above the results would not be shocking. The parents of those youth, the men and women occupying front rows in church, the people proclaiming Jesus or Mohammad several times a day, are dealing falsely.

Dishonesty is highly infectious, only that its symptoms are extremely difficult to detect. They are hidden in the portrait smiles of politicians, spiritual displays of preachers and aloof looks of civil servants. 

When Uganda started to sell off its State Owned Enterprises (SOE) in 1993 she appeared to want to improve service delivery. More revenue would be generated by the government so we would have improved education and health systems, just as an example. 

We would not need to bribe a state official to have him or her endorse payment for the milk or coffee we supplied to the government enterprise. The private sector would run these businesses professionally to make money, pay employees very well and increase government revenue through taxes. Those who were destined to lose jobs would, naturally, be disgruntled. We later would find out that in some cases some enterprises were intentionally undervalued – this was individuals stealing from the common pool. In other cases more money was spent in the process of selling than would be received from the sale of an enterprise. Some people simply drunk wine that belonged to all of us, so we thought. Some asked for forgiveness and we forgave them. We did not know that the more they drunk, the more they wanted. Over time, we are seeing a highly corrupted nation, and the virus of immorality continues to eat us from within.

“Mr. Bailout” has been trending in Uganda until a couple of weeks ago. He arrived in pomp a few months after President Museveni was sworn in for a Fifth term. Mr Bailout had been here before but on smaller missions so he would go barely noticed. This time, however, he had been brought to save indebted Ugandan business people from their creditors, the banks, with at least 1.3 trillion Uganda Shillings. This money was to come from Uganda’s common pool. 

Many Ugandans now felt he was ugly. His name sounded like “bullet.” They didn’t like him, but I think it was more to do with the way he came in. This time, he was too showy. Mr. Bailout had to retreat. He must now be somewhere searching beauty shops for the most attractive cosmetics. He will return with less pomp and quietly take away more than he had earlier come for.

“Mr. Grabbing”, Bailout’s brother came in much earlier but he was more tactical. He came in unpronounced some decades back and he now has offsprings all over Uganda. Power Grabbing, System Grabbing, Money Grabbing, Land Grabbing are all children of Grabbing. The youth bear the true qualities of Grabbing. The children of Grabbing cannot value integrity because Grabbing does not value it. 

The story of someone wanting to grab National Theatre land, adjacent to the Parliamentary Building, continues. Even the 46 primary schools that are currently showcasing talent and culture at the premises in their national annual festival cannot remind Land Grabbing of the value of Uganda’s cultural heritage. For all who come from the line of Grabbing are immoral and attach no value to integrity. Unfortunately most Ugandans today have been made to believe that the only way to survival or success is the Grabbing Way. 

Can someone be accused of spoiling the image of the Uganda Police Force? No. They have no image to protect, not when they have run away from the law and order they were given to keep. Aaron Baguma, formerly Commander of Kampala Central Police Station (CPS), is currently defending himself in the High Court against kidnap and murder of a woman. In August the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, needed the help of hooligans to stop the law from taking its course. He was supposed to appear before a Chief Magistrate in Kampala over police brutality against civilians. The hooligans demonstrated at the Makindye court premises that they and the police force had become one force to fear.

There is so much about the Police in Uganda that one wonders what Police means. The example below is at the lower end: A Christian friend, in fact a preacher, sought the services of the police to recover money from a carpenter who had gone into hiding. The carpenter had earlier taken money but not delivered the furniture to the preacher. After discovering the carpenter’s hideout, the preacher went to a nearby police station and was made to pay a fee to the officer in charge before two officers would be dispatched to effect an arrest.  

The officers were duly assigned and he carried them in his car to the hideout. The manner in which the carpenter was arrested shocked the preacher. After handcuffing the carpenter the officers decided to call for a Police Patrol Vehicle. They bundled the young man on the truck like a hardcore criminal and asked the preacher to follow from behind. The destination was Kawempe where the carpenter had committed the crime. On arrival the officers demanded pay, the driver of the Patrol vehicle demanded pay and a fuel refund. The preacher was confused. He had been cornered. When he murmured something about the Patrol vehicle using government fuel the officers were furious. Their eyes became wider and wilder. “I can even malice you and malice this case,” one officer told the preacher. They threatened him to the extent that he had to pull out all that was in his pocket before they could drive off. 

In the meantime, the officer handling the case was keen on having the complainant outside the office when relatives of the accused arrived for negotiations. Bearing no trust in the officer, the preacher refused to move out. He feared a deal would be cut out between the relatives of the young man and he would go free without paying him, and that was possible. At many police stations in Uganda the phrase is boldly written “Police Bond Is Free.” It actually means “Freedom Is Bought”.

These are the children of Grabbing. They are ruthless. If you want to be helped, you do it the Grabbing way! How can we change this?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Reporters, Editors wrong on Dr. Nyanzi story

The electronic media was yesterday awash with the story of Dr. Stella Nyanzi’s indecent protest against Prof. Mahmood Mamdani at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR). No need for me to delve into details here because the story is all over the place. I think the editors who allowed this story through disregarded ethics. The journalists who cut and posted indecent clips of Stella on social media disregarded professionalism. After undressing before the cameras, Stella went on to utter vulgar words that, surely, would make a sober journalist or editor question whether she was in the right state of mind. We may be thinking she was acting funny when, in reality, Stella has a mental illness. Let us be fair when we are executing our duty as journalists. Otherwise, we would have no right to be called journalists in this era when anyone can record and publish material by themselves. How different are we from the rest?

Thursday, 14 April 2016


By William Odinga Balikuddembe

Nambi, Nambi
Oh Nambi!
the most beautiful woman on Uganda’s soil
Your nails are made of gold
Your legs, long, shiny, smooth
Your waist is a diamond ring
Your hair, a silk weave swaying gently in the wind
Your smile tells all that is in your heart
You are a mountain whose streams never dry
an open bud shining in the morning sun
a little tree bearing every fruit that is sweet

Oh Nambi
I will love you like Museveni loves Uganda
For thirty years he has her gripped in his embrace
His heart beat she feels each minute of the day
Look at her
there, in his embrace!

Those you hate I will hate like Besigye hates his life
mad man!
Always lining his body at will for flogging
teargas, bullets
Uganda, what charm have you given men?
Muteesa, Obote, Amin, Lule, Binaisa, Muwanga, Lutwa
They all loved you
They would kill for you
They would die for you

Your co-wife, Mama Mooze, was once pretty
That is no more
Greedy like a pig she became
Now she is a warthog
and her children, hyenas
What a seed Mama Mooze has sown!

On my riches they have fattened
My animals
My gold, my diamond, my silver
Now they think they own it all

That is my family
Those are my children
They are my blood
Yes, my blood!
I am their father
Do not resent them
Only, only, give me a better seed!

I have more than they know
I am rich below and above
My riches are numerous like millet, sim sim
they spread all over this land
Turn around
My riches are spread as far as your eyes can’t see
Your children will never lack

Nambi, Nambi
Give me a better seed!
A seed that is clean
A seed that is pure
A seed that is wise
A seed that is kind
A seed that is caring
A seed that is sharing
A seed that can produce good seed
A seed I can be proud to call my seed

For this seed I have
This blood of mine
These hyenas can only produce hyenas!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Mission Mangoes: Growing up in Rural Uganda

Mission mangoes. Oh. This trench!

Come what may!
Yeah! I am through. Your turn man!

Huu. Aah!