Wednesday, January 25, 2012


He spotted me on the street the day after I arrived in Kasese. He used to bring a newspaper for me every day when I was here in 2010 and was delighted when I assured him that I would resume buying papers from him.

His name is Byaruhanga. He is only 25 years old, but looks much older. He is married with three young children. Every day, he walks the streets of Kasese with a pile of newspapers in his arms. He toils all day selling Uganda’s newspapers, the New Vision, the Daily Monitor and the Red Pepper while his wife looks after the family. Each paper costs 1,500 shillings and Byaruhanga receives 200 shillings on average for every paper he sells. His sale varies from day to day, but his estimate is between 30 and 40 papers. That nets him 6,000 to 8,000 shillings daily. In terms of the Canadian dollar, this is approximately $2 to $4.

Life is very hard for Byarunhanga. With sky-rocketing prices, it is not easy for him to provide a healthy life style or to even provide for basic necessities to a family of five. Yet, with a gentle smile and a courteous greeting, he shows up every morning.


In an earlier post, I wrote about how kings and kingdoms and princes and palaces continue to exist and thrive in Uganda. Here is a fascinating addition.

“Mom of Kabaka’s Baby Son Unveiled”, is the headline on the front page of today’s New Vision, one of Uganda’s national newspapers. Under the headline is the picture of the beautiful woman along with an inset photo of her six-month old son, the prince.

Kabaka is the ruler of the kingdom of Buganda, the largest and the most influential kingdom in Uganda. The lack of information about the prince turned the whole affair into a mystery. It began last week when the birth of the prince, Richard Ssemakookiro, was announced and the pictures of the happy Kabaka holding his son were carried in national newspapers. Since then, every day there has been a different twist and turn to the story.

However, the mystery was not so much about the prince as it was about his mother. More specifically, it was about the clan the mother belonged to. According to the Buganda tradition, a prince does not belong to the king’s clan but to that of his mother. To give each clan in the kingdom a chance to produce a king, the successor to the throne cannot be from the same tribe as that of the king. They must be from different clans. The name of the prince’s mother was known, but, for whatever reason, the identify of her clan was a secret until today. It is now known that the prince’s mother, Rose Nansikumbi, is of the Nseenene (grasshopper)clan.

The Kabaka is married to another woman with whom they have a daughter. Some religious leaders frown about the Kabaka having a child outside wedlock while others have welcomed the news.

Another story about the kings and kingdoms was in yesterday’s Daily Monitor. This was the story about a kingdom where a dispute between two princes over who should succeed to the throne keeps simmering. Since the death of the king in September
2008, the kingdom of Busoga has been locked in an impasse between two rival camps. Both sides maintain that they are the legitimate heir to the throne and the dispute has also gone through the legal route. Now one side has asked Uganda’s president to intervene and settle the matter.

Many Canadians do not have much use for this kind of stuff, but, in highly traditional Uganda, kings are revered. They are the community’s cultural representatives. From my limited knowledge, this means that they monitor programs and policies of governments that take place or impact on their territories to ensure that these are in tune with their cultural heritage and tradition.

I am hoping to learn more about this fascinating institution soon. Next door to KADUPEDI’s office is the administrative wing of the kingdom of Rwenzoruru. Kasese is part of this kingdom. Talking to one of the officials of the kingdom this morning, he is going to try to arrange for me to visit the Rwenzoruru kingdom’s palace located up in the mountains. More on this in a future post.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


2012 is the Golden Anniversary Year of Uganda’s independence. On October 9, 1962, Uganda became a republic severing its colonial ties with Great Britain. However, as they look forward to the 50th birthday of their country, Ugandans face grim economic realities.

Troubled economy

Prices have sky-rocketed with inflation running at 27% and there is no end in sight. I experience the impact of inflation every day. I used to pay 500 shillings for a small bottle of water during my last visit in late 2010. Now it costs 700 shillings.

Another source of trouble is the dispute between traders and banks. Kampala, the main economic and financial engine of Uganda experienced a crippling four-day strike by traders last week. Traders are demanding banks to lower interest rates on old loans and the banks adamantly refuse. The strike has been called off, but the stalemate continues. The government lost an estimated 40 billion Uganda shillings as a result of the strike and the traders are estimated to have lost 3 billion shillings in profits.

Troubles in the health sector are also ominous. Accusations of negligence, lack of drugs, congestion and poor working conditions in government-run hospitals and health centres are some of the problems in the sector. Serious difficulties also mark other sectors like education. Adding to the country’s woes is rampant corruption, which, like some other developing countries, Uganda is not able to wipe out.

Political stability

Troubles with the economy tend to overshadow a significant achievement. After a period of post-independence political turmoil highlighted by Idi Amin’s brutal reign in the 1970s, Uganda has achieved political stability. The Lord’s Resistance Army that terrorized Uganda’s northern region for years has been brought under control and there are reasons to believe that the region and the country will live in relative peace. In return for peace and stability, Ugandans seem content with the one party/one-person rule which has dominated Uganda’s political scene since 1986.

Mountain Gorillas aid tourism

Uganda was named by the Lonely Plant magazine as the top tourist site globally. And, an Italian magazine, Agrigento, placed Uganda among the top 33 must-go to places in 2012. The magazine identified Uganda's mountain gorillas as a drawing card for tourists along with the country's stability. (From NEW VISION, January 9, 2012, page 2). I also consider Uganda’s natural beauty as a major tourist attraction. Lush green plants and vegetation are a treat to behold wherever you go. No wonder Winston Churchill called Uganda the Pearl of Africa.


Uganda is primarily a rural country; and, availability of clean water is one of the major issues confronting rural population. In scores of villages, people depend on contaminated water running through streams and gullies. As a result, they suffer from skin diseases and life-threatening ailments. There are public taps, but, in a number of villages I visited earlier, the flow of water from these taps is very low or negligent. In many villages, there are no public taps.

For village folks, one of the most important daily tasks is to fetch water. This chore is usually entrusted to children often as young as 6, 7, or 8 years of age. On a visit to Kisubi last Saturday, I saw these two boys toiling away at a pump. With sweat dripping profusely from his forehead, one boy was straining desperately because water was not flowing fast. At the same time, the other boy was resting, waiting for his turn at the pump. Similar scenes are repeated daily all over Uganda.