What is your deepest fear?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Uganda's Animal Farm.. More Inspiration for Orwell!

According to this story (http://www.monitor.co.ug/news/news04264.php) in the Monitor, the Members of Parliament had their salaries delayed this month and they are up in arms! They have been quoted as saying it is "an issue of national importance". By all means!! It is an issue of national importance that anybody's salary gets delayed by one month.... or maybe three months... what about those who are simply cheated out of their salaries and fired without pay!

I guess it is animal farm.... some humans really are more equal than others. I have heard of policemen and soldiers, (who salaries I consider as an issue of NATIONAL IMPORTANCE) who do not receive pay for six months. THese are people who are given a one bedroom apartment regardless of the size of family and are supposed to keep us safe. How motivated am I to keep somebody else safe when the same person does not pay me for six months, expects me to walk 10km to work everyday and still smile and reject an offer of 5,000/= from a driver who was overspeeding.... The law is likely to become very bendable under these circumstances!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Being a Ugandan... really?

I received this in an email and immediately thought I should post this up for all to read. This is what the spirit of Uganda has been captured into.... No doubt everything said here is true but the angle at which (some of) these characteristics are being looked at is what irks me. I have placed my comments after the article.

What it means to be Ugandan

It is believed that every country has a spirit; something that defines the people and the nation. But what is the spirit of Uganda? It is hard to tell. Apart from the national emblems, nothing is profound in nature about Ugandans or their country. But if you care to notice certain habits, you will tell who a Ugandan is within seconds of meeting them.

Shifting at night
There is a weird nocturnal behavior in the Pearl of Africa. It is not bar-hopping or night-dancing. It is shifting from one house to another. Ideally shifting from one house to another should be done during daytime so that one gets enough time to settle in. For some suspicious reasons, Ugandans do it at night! It is only in Uganda where you will see a caravan of trucks loaded with old blankets, furniture and other household items on transit to mysterious destinations at dusk. Are people embarrassed of their modest possessions or could they be hiding property stolen from their neighborhood?

Drinking beer using a straw
However disgusting, this habit has been accepted by society. It has fitted in so well, Ugandans will act shocked to hear anyone scorn it! If you asked anyone to pull out the straw from his or her beer, you would be asking for a fight. But if drinking beer using a straw puzzles Kenyans, and then there is something terribly wrong with it. It is bad manners!

Jumping the queue
It is the worst social transgression Ugandans have managed to pull off. Can every Ugandan receive a pat on the back for this one? It is annoying, irritating and egotistical, plus the other adjectives women like using in reference to men, put together. In hospitals, banks and cafeterias, any place where there is a queue being followed, a Ugandan will try to create 'short cuts'. It is civil to follow a line in other places, but to a Ugandan, especially one working in a corporate organization, it means you have been patronized or 'undermined'!
When you see someone jumping a queue, it is their way of saying, "Look, I am the boss at my work place. Surely, you do not expect me to stand in this line with all you less mortals." And the rest of us who are not 'bosses' are simply telling the world, "Look,
I was raised in a kennel." It is really, really bad manners!

Clinging on to old/worn out items
What is this bondage between Ugandans and their property? It is easier here to store than get rid of old obsolete items. From visibly torn or stained clothes to rusty charcoal stoves, each property that a Ugandan buys is treated with sentimental attachment. When you return home, check in your stores, you will be surprised at the amount of antiques you need to get rid of. You could actually establish a mini museum! Picture this: If Europeans and Americans behaved this way, we would have no St Balikuddembe Market. It's frightening, isn't it?

Whoever introduced haggling in Uganda must be wondering why they did it. Ugandans even haggle in supermarkets where prices are fixed. The habit is steadily rubbing on to tourists perhaps as an intangible souvenir from their travels to Uganda.

Carrying pocket radios to parties/ceremonies
Most Ugandans may rant calling this an accusation. You are right, it is not urban but a rural habit and that still qualifies it to be Ugandan. It is a 'fashionable' habit rampant among the Iteso and the Karimojong. For fear of having it spread to the urban areas, we feel obligated to prevent this potential social scourge. Psychologists, however, are still investigating why Iteso and Karimojong men and boys take pocket radios to functions where music is blaring on large speakers.

The rich find doing house chores shameful
Being rich in Uganda means not to be seen mowing your compound, polishing shoes, washing car, drawing the curtain, walking on foot, ironing your clothes, changing your car tire or tidying up the house. Someone must do it for you. Society has been a proponent of this unwritten social code of conduct. If people see a rich person doing any of the above things, they will consider them to be misers!

Beeping has never been part of a mobile phone manual, but since the mobile revolution hit this nation, every Ugandan has been guilty of beeping. Why do we beep when we can communicate using sms or take sh300 and call from a phone booth?

Showing off in bars and public places
'Do you know who I am?' This is often a threat, not a question. If you are a bar addict, you have encountered this threat either being issued across the counter (when the waitress is informing a patron to pay before getting a drink) or during a midnight bar brawl. When you hear this, you know the person probably has some links/relation (could even be distant) with either Mayombo or a member of the State House/regime. Sometimes you find he is an Internal Security Organization operative. Others just take advantage of their western twang to create an impression that they have 'connections' with State House.

Other funny habits include; owning pirated dvds/vcds/video and audiotapes; de-toothing and acquiring the most expensive/ latest model of mobile phones every year.


This article was probably written by a young "modern" (urbanised) individual who feels that the "correct" behaviour is that which they have acquired (observed) from the constant exposure to American and European culture and that the rest of the Ugandans who do not absorb this culture are in a sense contemptible. (My apologies if this is a wrong guess as to the profile of the author of this article)

Perhaps I am being a little militant when the whole article was intended as a joke but it also reflects the mindset of the "modern" people. What is not from the other culture (MTV and the rest) is seen as out of place..... I say live and let live. If you decide to go MTV style, that is your choice.. however, do not try and drag the rest with you. Strangely enough, many of these characteristics can be encountered world wide...