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