Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ugandas Pride

The Uganda contingent step out majestically for the National Flag hoisting ceremony

August 8; 3pm
Games opening ceremony
Flag hoisting at Olympic Village

By Louis Jadwong
In Beijing, China

OTHER than the hurriedly played first two stanzas of the national anthem, the flag raising ceremony yesterday showcased Uganda’s, unique, colourful and bright flag, the kanzu, gomesi and suuka.

The Chef De Mission Roger Ddungu may well consider convincing the hosts to choose to play one of the national anthem’s three stanzas in its original form, than rush through two or three of them.

The last time the national anthem played at the Olympics other than at the flag-raising ceremony in the Olympic Villages, was when John Akii-Bua won 400m hurdles gold in 1972.

The nation hopes, and, either Boniface Kiprop, Abraham Chepkirwok or Moses Kipsiro look good to have the anthem played for them — and it had better be done well.

None of the three were at the Olympic village to hear the hurriedly done first two stanzas, because they join camp next week in time for the track and field action.

At the function yesterday were four members of the Uganda team, swimmer Gilbert Kaburu, sprinter Justine Bayigga, boxer Ronald Serugo and weightlifter Mubarak Kivumbi.

They were joined by Uganda’s ambassador to China Charles Madibo Wagidoso and his wife Harriet, dressed in busuti , who joined the lone female athlete currently in camp, Bayigga. Also on the delegation were deputy head of mission Solomon Rutega, third secretary Michael Buruwaka and Florence Kemigisa, Administrative Attache.

Team Uganda, dressed in their tunics, bark-cloth hats and official blazers walked majestically as they waved flags that were specially sent to Beijing courtesy of sports fan, Aggrey Kagonyera of MTN.

The Ugandan contingent completely overshadowed Malawi, Eritrea, with the cameras all turning their focus onto them instead.
Chef De Mission Ddungu and the China Disabled Persons’ Federation head, Cheng Kai, who presided over the ceremony to welcome Uganda to the Olympic Village, exchanged gifts.

Ddungu presented a long drum and artcraft with elephant tasks and wildlife to the excited Kai.
“It was great being here. I really had a feeling that I was in Uganda and I am happy our team was very colourful and Ugandan,” ambassador Wagidoso said yesterday.

Uganda will be in the same dress at the opening ceremony at The Nest this weekend with team captain Serugo set to carry the national flag.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

London is as good as home

The writer (fourth from right) with his classmates at Reuters Thompson College, UK

WHEN Moses Mugalu discovered joints in London where Ugandans and other Africans hang out, he realised that one can be away from Kampala and not miss it that much

DID anyone say: �East or west home is best�? Well, they forgot to add that east or west may have elements of home and, therefore, enjoyable as home itself. London is thousands of miles away from Kampala but there are places that can always make you feel at home on weekends while there.

When I landed at Heathrow�s Terminal 4 on Saturday morning, July 12 and checked into my hotel room in the elite and mainly commercial Canary Wharf area, there weren�t any signs of a lively weekend night.

But a week later, I found out that there�s a vibrant sort of Kampala weekend life in London, if you go the right joints. I was in London to attend a Thompson Reuters Foundation writing course, which was starting a week later, so I had enough time to do a bit of sightseeing.

In the evening, I got a call from a former workmate who now lives in High Wycombe, about an hour�s drive from London. Later that evening, he came to my hotel and offered to show me around the city.

We linked up at 10:30pm � it�s summer here so the sun was just setting. For a Kampala lad, it was like 6:00pm. Hours before I had been to Piccadilly Square where I caught up with two other former workmates.

We headed to Holiday Inn in Russel Square where Ugandan professionals working in the UK launched their Uganda Diaspora Association.

There were tens of engineers, accountants, teachers, doctors and nurses. They have brilliant ideas which, according to their chairman, they want to transform into practical help to give something to the needy back home.

On Saturday night we went to The West Green Tavern on West Green Road in Seven Sisters where hundreds of Ugandans in the UK, especially those living in London hang out over the weekends, Kampala style.

It�s a typical Kampala pub with live band music. Artistes and patrons alike mimed songs like Elly Wamala�s Twalyako bwetwalya, and Juliana�s Nabikoowa.

Still fresh with pictures of landmark features like the Tower Bridge, London Eye, Big Ben and the centuries-old parliamentary buildings in Westminster area, it was timely to unwind in a place that makes you feel you�re in Kampala.

The faces at Green Club were familiar. One of them was a former singer and actress who was a hit in Kampala in the mid-1990s but ended up here as a barmaid. She talked briefly as she served us. Rally ace Emma Katto was one of the high-profile patrons in the club, he came in around 11:00pm.

His constant warm smile as he exchanged pleasantries with patrons implied that he enjoyed every bit of the entertainment.

The London-based Ugandan singing duo, Da Twinz, was in the house and did treat us to a few of their songs.
Drinks are fairly priced (for those living and working in UK) but to visiting Kampala folks like me, you would be shocked to find that a beer goes for �2.50 � about sh7,000. Sodas are sold at �1 (sh3,200) while Redbull goes for �3 (sh9,900).

It is fast approaching midnight so we check out Three Crowns Pub, another bar operated by Ugandans in Edmonton Angel near the Spurs� ground. As we go out, the Ugandans I am with suddenly become uncomfortable, shifting and pacing around. I soon realise that it is the sight of the Metropolitan Police, commonly known as �kigatto boys�.

It wasn�t easy to establish immediately what had gone wrong, but we�re later told there had been an incident involving one of the clubgoers and a security guy.
The night before, we had been at Three Crowns � towering bulky Nigerians all over the place.

The Nigerians occupy much of the counter and the only pool table in the not-so-spacious bar, so you can�t beat the foreign feeling. The music played is mainly Congolese and a mix of Ugandan, Kenyan and Nigerian.

The price of the drinks is almost the same like at West Green Pub, but there�s special goat muchomo served here on Saturdays. It was actually the reason we came back.

A Ugandan teacher, James Mugenyi, who had completed his master�s degree at Reading the previous week and his Kenyan girlfriend, Rose, insisted on getting the muchomo.

He forked out �7 (sh25,000) for each plate. On other days you can enjoy fried fish with three pieces of cassava for �8.

Yes, London is indeed far from home, but if you know the places to hang out, you may not miss home until you decide you want to ride a bodaboda.

Published on: Saturday, 2nd August, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Discover the Beauty of Nature!

CAUGHT between the volcanic hills of western Uganda, lake Bunyonyi lies calm and beautiful with her 29 tiny islands. Tony Mushoborozi was left amazed by her beauty

After a long climb through Kigezi�s steep hills, Lake Bunyonyi finally appears in a distance. With beautiful green hills all around it, the narrow lake looks like cotton around juicy pears.

The well patterned terraces on the hillsides are breathtaking. Those nearer to you are recognisable as actual gardens of sorghum, potatoes, and vegetables, but as the hills roll out toward the sparkling white lake, the terraces thin away to look like grids of a well-woven basket, as they seemingly bend their necks into the lake.

Tourists gasp and smack their forehead in amazement at the sight. Simply beautiful!

An old Makerere University bus sighs relief having reached the peak and happily rolls down hill toward Kabale town. At the lake shore the Friday open market is going on. From the shore, one can see scores of canoes leaving wavy wakes as they approach the market.

On them are solo farmers rowing gently from across the lake carrying potatoes, mangoes, avocadoes, maize, cabbages and other perishables that people buy in markets.

The sight of a lady rowing a canoe alone, a hoe by her side and a bulging heap of potato seedlings in front of her is simply amazing. The couple that approaches rowing together in a small canoe is simply 'romantic'.

But the prize goes to the big canoe in the near distance. It is a peculiar sight for in it four men are seated facing backwards. They appear to be pulling something heavy straight from the water using thick ropes.

It is hard to imagine what they are pulling until they finally approach. The men are pulling a live cow each as they swim along side the canoe.

Other canoes, many of which are large and fitted with engines, are carrying market goers and tourists, either approaching the shore or departing.

Away from the market area, there is a section of the shore where the canoes in dock are waiting for tourists. Standing by them are tour guides. They don�t work for any tour company and they don�t put on the usual uniforms that you would expect of tour guides.

They are dressed casually each in what they deemed fit to walk out of the house wearing. They stand by their dug-out canoes talking about how the good tourism season is just about to start.

They are waiting for tourists to rent canoes or be hired to paddle people to any of the 29 islands in the tiny lake.
A tiny office stands at the shore. In it, waiting life jackets are hanging on nails for any tourist who might need them.

The tour guides of course don�t need any them. They have been around Lake Bunyonyi long enough to know that chances of a boat capsizing is almost below zero.

For a lake surrounded by high hills to bar any strong wind, there are hardly any waves higher than just a few inches, so the boat barely rocks. Its depth of 900 meters does not allow habitation of big dangerous mammals like crocodiles and hippos.

This also explains why there are no fish stalls in the lakeshore market since Bunyonyi barely has any fish, apart from a few lung fish and mud fish.

The only mammals on the lake to worry about are otters, tiny and harmless. This makes Bunyonyi one of the best canoeing places in Uganda, but not only that.

It is one of the very few lakes in Africa that are bilharzia-free, making it completely safe for swimming. After Mugabe�s, a tour guide, short briefing about the safety of the lake, I am almost ready to sit in his canoe without a life jacket.

But being a tourist that I am, and just 10 minutes-old at the lake, I pick a life jacket all the same, and off we go. As we pull away from the market, Mugabe hands me a paddle.

�I don�t want you to be bored. When you feel like it, just paddle with me,� he says in Rukiga. As we paddle together, he relaxes once in a while to exchange greetings with a friend rowing toward the market.

The first Island we visit is Ha�karwa. Amidst the forest on the tiny Island is a bird watching resort called Natures Prime. Bunyonyi translates as �place of many birds� and indeed it has over 200 bird species.

Just behind the Island is one of the most famous pictures in Uganda. It is found on Uganda�s 5,000 shilling-note, and it is entitled �Lake Bunyonyi and the Terraces.�

After looking around the Island for a while, we sail off to Bushara Island, the biggest on the lake. It is owned by a group of Christian missionaries. Just meters away from it is Akampene Island, the smallest on the lake.

It is as small as a normal sized home compound, but its history is the biggest of all the 29 islands.

�In olden days, the Bakiga people were very particular on morality,� Mugabe tells the story. �Any girl who got pregnant before marriage was canoed to this tiny, low-lying swampy island and left there to die. If there happened to be a man who could not afford the high bride price of the time, he would rush to the Island, pick the poor girl and marry her for absolutely nothing.

�Many perished here until Christianity began taking root in the late 19th century,� Mugabe says as we stop near the island. We later set off shortly after toward Bwama and Njuyeera Island.

�Here, a white man named Sharp used to treat lepers in the 1930s. The Island is sometimes called Sharp,� Mugae tells me.
It is already two hours since we set off from our base and for sh20,000 to be enough, we have to head back.

On our way back, we take the other side rounding each and every Island we passed on our way.

In these far ends from the market, not many canoes can be seen. Instead, we meet three boys, all below the age of 10 rowing a tiny canoe.

On the southern side of Bushara a much forested island, just by the water, a huge eucalyptus tree is being dug out to make a canoe. It takes four months to make such a canoe, the process entailing a lot of sun and water processing apart from �digging it out�. A finished canoe costs between sh400,000 and sh1m depending on size.

From here toward the market, we pass a tiny Island owned by the governor of Bank of Uganda, Tumusiime Mutebire, who hails from the western hills surrounding the lake.

After sailing round the tiny Island, the market peeps at us and with it the numerous camping sites and hotels. On the road to the camping sites, men stand there selling artifacts made out of palm trees and different kinds of reeds from the few swamps around the lake.

High above the Hotels and camping sites on the hilltop, a group of happy tour guides treat themselves on a muramba (local brew) drinking spree after a long day at the lake.

It is at the home of one tour guide called Emmanuel, a site directly overlooking the lake with a good number of the islands in sight from here. Once in a while, two or three get up and dance to the harp player's music as the rest of them clap in rhythm.

Did you know?
Lake Bunyonyi (�Place of many little birds�) lies in south western Uganda between Kisoro and Kabale close to the border with Rwanda. Located at 1,96 m above sea level, it is about 25km long and 7km long.

The depth of the lake is rumoured to vary between 44m and 900m, which if true would make the lake the second deepest in Africa. It is one of the few lakes in the region that is free of bilharzia and safe for swimming. The lake appears on the 5,000 Ugandan shilling.

Towns on it shores include Kyevu and Muko, while its 29 islands include Punishment Island and Bushara Island. It is a popular location for watersports and is known for the surrounding terraced hillsides.

It is popular with both foreign and domestic tourists and there are a wide variety of tourist accommodations.

Published on: Saturday, 21st June, 2008