Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Celebrons L'Afrique. Official AFCON Theme Song

The official theme song for AFCON 2012 is out and it is quite catchy. I think its the best one yet. I dare you to stay still.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Truth About NGOs

There is a new documentary running on the BBC world service called The Truth About NGOs, which investigates NGOs and Civil Society Organisations in Haiti, Malawi and India. From the summary it looks like there are many parallels that can be drawn between the scenarios from this documentary and the NGO situation in Uganda.

The programme highlights issues like NGO influence on the political opposition and the promotion of gay rights.  These particular issues are relevant to the Ugandan situation in the wake of recent proposed anti-gay legislation and government assertions that the Walk-to-Work demonstrations in Kampala and other towns earlier this year were borne out of machinations of foreign governments through local NGO activists (as opposed to rising from genuine widespread frustration with a worsening economic situation).

Sounds promising. I will follow all 3 parts and possibly write a preview.

Part 1 can be listened to or downloaded from here

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Read a lot? Of course. You sure?.

A recent post on a Facebook page asking members to name their favourite book of the year and why they liked it got me thinking back on the books I have read in 2011. Initially I was wondering how I would chose from so many but it soon dawned on me that I had not read that many books this year and the choice of best book was not that hard. The fact is, though I have started to read many books this year I have only finished an embarrassing total of 3.

The result of my own analysis somewhat surprised me because I am always reading something-just necessarily a book. I read at least 15  feature articles a day and as a user of Kampala’s public transport I always have something at hand to peruse through to take my mind off the sounds around me and the lengthy periods of no motion due to the traffic jams. Because of this I had initially assumed I must have read quite a number of books.

I sat down with a pen and notepad and listed every book I had attempted to read during the year and in the end  even the list including the unfinished books was not impressive. Here they are in no particular order (there are many others but I only list those of which I read more than 4 chapters)

God is not great-How Religion Poisons Everything- Christopher Hitchens (he passed away 16/12/2011)
A Short History of Nearly Everything- Bill Bryson
A Case of Exploding Mangoes- Mohammed Hanif
White Teeth- Zadie Smith
The Believing Brain-Michael Shermer
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy- John Le Carré
Middlesex- Jeffery Eugenides

Of these I only got to finish Middlesex, God is not great and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Technically speaking I didn't read all of God is not great because when I was a few chapters into it I came across the audio book and that's how I got to finish it. The rest are in various states of “unfinishedness” from almost finished for A Case of Exploding Mangoes to just got started for White Teeth with many others being somewhere in-between.

After reflecting on my list I asked myself why I am always reading many books at a time and why I can't seem to finish any (at least not immediately). The answer I realised is, in part, due to how I decide what books  I should read. I sometimes get interested in a book because its been reviewed on a programme or some internet forum (and in my case The Strand on the BBC is a major culprit). Take Tinker  Tailor Soldier Spy, for example . I decided to download a copy of it after listening to an episode of The Strand on a new film version of the John Le Carré classic cold-war spy thriller starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley. I had grown up around Le Carré books but I had never read any and I also learnt from The Strand that George Smiley was as different from James Bond as a spy could possibly be, which got me thinking that the movie must be an intelligent (less brawn, more brains) kind of spy movie. I wanted to watch the movie but I knew it would be a while before I had any access to it so I decided to acquaint myself with the characters so that I could play a better game of compare-the-movie-to-the-book when I did eventually get to watch it.

However, while still reading Le Carré , I was listening to The Strand (again) and they had on a Pakistani author called Mohammed Hanif talking about his second novel (something about a nurse in a Karachi mental hospital). During the interview they kept referring to his first book and talking about what a surprise hit it was, how it was darkly satirical and not afraid to tackle subjects considered taboo by Pakistani writers etc. Immediately, the words dark, satirical and taboo had me hooked because I had this stereotypical idea of what novelists in a predominantly Muslim country were allowed to write about and I sensed Hanif didn't quite fit into that box. Smiley was forgotten for a while and I turned my attention to the shenanigans of Ali Shigri Pakistan Air Force pilot and Silent Drill Commander of Fury Squadron. Shigri was soon overthrown by Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (whose review I had read on some internet forum). Bryson’s book was in turn overthrown (albeit very briefly) by Michael Shermer’s  The Believing Brain before both were permanently dethroned by Middlesex, which I finished like three days ago after going back to finish Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and almost finish with the exploding mangoes. Hitchens’s book survived interruptions because I listened to it while I was on the road and I didn’t have much else to keep me occupied.

I also realised that because I read mostly e-books and I am too broke to get myself a Kindle or a Samsung Galaxy tab (definitely cannot afford an iPad) I read mostly off my laptop, which unfortunately also has the internet and all those other websites and articles all too eager to distract me the minute I log on. Oh yes It also has work stuff that needs doing. I cannot carry the laptop with me everywhere. I did download a small ebook reader for my not-very-smart phone on which I read most of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy while trying to pretend that the queue at the bank is not that long or that if I concentrated hard enough the advertisements for the latest Kiggunda Kyo Mwaka blaring out the taxis speakers would disappear.

I have come to accept something I had known before but forgotten, my brain probably works best with small, different, portions to read at any given time. I say I had realised this earlier because for the last 6 or so years I have hardly read any fiction but I have read many non-fiction books. With non-fiction I tend to take my time and I don’t sweat it if I read a chapter a month. With fiction on the other hand I feel I need to take in everything at once lest I forget some important bits but my wandering brain just wont let me. The upside is that I get to read a little something on nearly everything.

Hmmm… I am sure some shrink has an ADD-like new agey name for my (dare I call it one?) condition.

Oh and my favourite was Middlesex

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

On what Kampala needs

I stumbled across Kampalaver by accident, and though it is no longer active,it has links to many articles on it that lead to some wonderful posts about Kampala , its problems and what can be done to solve them. The links are within the last post which was written as a goodbye and included a kind of "Best of Kampalaver".  I liked this blog because I have an interest in urban planning though I am not an urban planner myself and I love seeing cities and towns that work and wish Kampala could too. But alas, 'tis not so.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

State House reaction to ID project wanting

State House has reacted to stories in the Monitor about the mismanagement of the national ID project by reeling off a list of things that have been implemented since the project began. However, the State House release says little on the main concernes raised in the article that first raised the issues surrounding the procurement process and other assorted problems with the National ID project , namely, why only 400 IDs have been produced so far and why President Museveni disregarded established procurement procedures by influencing the award of the ID contract to German firm Muhlbauer Technology Group.
There is no refutation of the President’s involvement in the whole messy business or even on the truth of claims that some of the equipment purchased for the project has been stolen or is getting damaged due to poor storage and lack of use. It does not mention when the project will finally take off or why there have been such great delays. In short the release does not answer the salient questions on most Ugandans’ minds.
One can argue that the press release is only concerned with the media reports that mention the President’s involvement. Lets wait and see what the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is directly responsible for the implementation of the project, has to say.

Back again

After a 3 year absence, I have decided to get back to blogging. I cant say why I stopped except that I probably suffered some kind of prolonged blogger's block. This is a new blog under a new identity. I am still tweaking things around so there wont be a real post for a while. In the meantime I have reposted my last post from my previous blog (kind of saying bye to the old and welcoming the new). I will be posting about anything that comes into my mind, which will make for a lot of variety in topics and tone.
Lets see how it goes. Here's my last blog post from over 3 years ago in another time and place.

How does one begin to describe the atmosphere around the Olympics opening ceremony last night? Since I am not much of a wordsmith I will settle for awesome. Though I was not at the Bird's Nest I can say with confidence that I will be very lucky to be part of something as exciting again in my life.

Like I said, I wasn't fortunate enough to be at the main event though some chap had offered me a ticket at an extortionist price I had fun prowling around and witnessing all the excitement. I hooked up with a fellow Kampalan and we watched the opening ceremony in various bars on TV and huge screens in my hood.

The most fun we had was sitting on a pavement in Di'anmen watching the event on a massive screen on a building across the street with our yanjing beer in the company of grannies, mummies, daddies and kiddies. People brought their folding chairs from home and settled down to be part of the event.

Me and my sidekick cheered and clapped when our kanzu and gomesi clad Ugandan team (all 12 of them came on the screen) and the guys around didn't disappoint by giving us vocal backup though I am sure few knew where Uganda was.

Some other craziness that ensued was when the Kobe Bryant's face came on. These NBA crazy guys let out a round of cheers that was only matched when another NBA star, and son of the soil, Yao Ming led the Chinese team into the stadium. From there on it was all Zhongguo, Zhongguo (which is China, China, in Mandarin).

The only fly in the otherwise fine ointment was that we were not allowed into an area called Houhai to watch the fireworks display (one of very many all over the city) up close by the authorities. But we managd to watch from a distance anyway.

One plus was that the public transport operated the whole night, which allowed an inebriated pair of Kampalans to extend the festive evening to Sanlitun across town without having to fork out for a cab.

Its a pity that I couldn't get my hand on tickets to any of the games venues but seeing as they are on every screen everywhere, I will follow well enough. I had a tentative offer for tickets to some baseball match, which I previously ignored because I know nothing about the game but now I am desparately searching for the guy who offered because I have to attend at least one olympic event.

I still can't believe I am here in the midst of all this due to a series of serendipitous decisions. This time last year if you had told me I would be in Beijing during the Olympics I would have told you to get yourself a new dealer because the current one was giving you some madness inducing narcotics.

Adios for now lets see how the next few weeks play themselves out.