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Emmy and Mercy and Kitty the cat at home in Entebbe while Trudy is away in Mwanza Tanzania

Emmy and Mercy and Kitty the cat at home in Entebbe while Trudy is away in Mwanza Tanzania

It is nearly four months now since I left Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan with the sound of gunfire behind me when all hell broke loose in mid December 2013 after the misunderstandings in the ruling SPLM party degenerated into armed conflict.

Since December last year I have been to Juba once briefly in February to check to the situation on the ground for the possible resumption of business. After strenuous soul searching and revaluation a decision to resume business has finally been taken by our project coordinator come first week of April 2014.

In the past three months during which I largely resided in my village in Tororo, Eastern Uganda where I have been engaged in agricultural activities ranging from fish farming, poultry, forestry to horticulture. In the past four weeks, though, I moved to Entebbe to take over the care of our two kids from my wife who travelled out of the country for further training in her area of specialization – medical statistics.

It has been quite a joyful and interesting time with the kids despite some obvious levels of stress coming especially from shorter hours of sleep at night. As you would expect from a five year old; hundreds of questions daily and the frequent grumbling from his possessive three-year old sister, We have had our breakfast and evening walks together daily and we  have been out to church and shopping together and watched cartoons and one movie (Gifted Hands – The Ben Carson story) too together.

Like we usually say in Christian circles the unfortunate developments in Juba which have meant absence from work and loss of income have been a blessing in disguise to our family, in that I have probably spent the longest time with my kids this year since they were born and it has been possible for my wife too to go for her training without much worry about the kids, – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.” Romans 8:28.

The kids are so happy that I have been around and they have been looking forward to celebrating Mercy’s fourth birthday with me on the 6th of April, the next day after their mother returns from Mwanza, Tanzania. Unfortunately, though, it is the day I am expected to travel to Juba to resume my newspaper distribution duties.

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Another Day in Juba

English: High-rise in Kampala, Uganda.

English: High-rise in Kampala, Uganda. (Photo credit: Wikipedia).I had hoped to be in Kampala today.

The forty-eight hours within which I thought I would be back home in Uganda for the Christmas holiday are gone and I am still indoors in Juba. If all was well, I would be in Kampala in the photo to the left but the turmoil in Juba got in the way of my journey plan.

The guns seem to have finally fallen silent but movement is still restricted to residential areas. The borders and Juba International Airport remain closed and from the view of our gazebos there seems to be a lot of troop movement in and around town. Hopefully, the situation will be even better tomorrow and we might get out this perimeter wall and find our way home.

As fate would have it I woke up this morning, if one can call it waking up since I had spent much of the night awake anyway, to the sound of gunfire instead of “Happy birthday daddy and Happy wedding anniversary dear.” So, my hope of celebrating my birthday and wedding anniversary with my family has not been.

As much as I miss being home with loved ones on such a day as this one, I thank God that he enabled me see my 47th birthday and an opportunity to ask myself why I was born and what I am living for anyway?
I was able to make a cup of coffee for breakfast, had a cup of porridge for mid-morning break and rice and beans for lunch. And I will have supper and a place to lay my head besides a shower – something very few in this troubled city can afford at this point in time. I have also had four birthday wishes; one from friend and a cousin in Kampala, one very early morning one from Google with pictures of candles and cake I could only admire and one from an Auto trading company. You can guess which one – Tradecarview. It was particularly humbling to know that Moses and Martin care.

May the Lord’s name be praised!

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Carol of the guns – Juba’s failed coup attempt.

South Sudan independence day. Sarah Taylor/USA...

South Sudan independence day. Sarah Taylor/USAID. Learn more about USAID’s work in South Sudan on our website (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just when I thought I had a few hours to leave Juba for the Christmas holiday back home in Uganda, fate had it otherwise and that is probably why I had this bit from the Bible hanging over me after I had published my post without, “God willing.”

Juba the capital of South Sudan where I am writing from now has been rocked by gunfire since about 1022pm last night till now and there is hardly any movement by the public. We have not been able to sleep as gunfire rocked the sky and boomed shaking our residence which is a few kilometers from the SPLA barracks from where it seems all hell broke loose when some sections of the military attempted a mutiny.

This was not all surprising since the vice president Wani Igga seemed to have correctly predicted it when he in a press conference accused the former Vice president Riek Machar of trying to incite the army in utterances he made in an earlier conference held by a group of “disgruntled” elements from the ruling SPLM of which the former vice is one.

We should be on our way to Uganda now but we are still holed-up at our residence/office unable to figure out what will follow. A sigh of relief, though, as somebody from President’s office has just called us for a press briefing even though we can still hear sporadic gunfire coming from the direction of the neighboring army barracks.

God forbid that South Sudan goes the way of Somalia and down the list of failed states. It breaks my heart when I remember how Idd Amin Dada took Uganda down the path of tyranny and economic chaos just a few years after independence and on the path of progress.

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Taxi Tales – Driving home for Christmas

The familiar way home through the Busitema forest on the Jinja/Malaba/Nairobi Highway.

The familiar way home through the Busitema forest on the Jinja/Malaba/Nairobi Highway.

In less than forty-eight hours I will be leaving South Sudan for Uganda for three weeks Christmas holiday. It will be a great relief put behind me the heat and dust of the dry spell which seems to have just begun and also the stress of the past two months from increased insecurity around our premises from thieves looking for “Christmas” and also threats from state security agents for distributing “Ugandan” newspapers without authorization.

Gertrude home with the kids and their grandma in a   past Christmas holiday

Gertrude home with the kids and their grandma in a past Christmas holiday

My love of physical fitness also nearly put me into big trouble with some locals here, generally referred to as Mondari who descended upon me one evening in late November near our guest house accusing me of running in the bush. Those fellows manhandled me and sat me on the dirt and threatened me with slaps before they finally let me go after much pleading, and me identifying one of them who often passes by our gate. That was the end of jogging and hiking for me in Juba. I only do indoor exercises now and if I go for walks, I take the dusty main road where everybody and traffic passes.

Family pose for a photo at the zoo

Family pose for a photo at the zoo

Unlike the in the recent past when I traveled home to Uganda by public transport which gave me the opportunity to observe and listen to what goes on in the buses, taxis and on the road, this time round, though, I will be driving the organisation’s van to Kampala. I will then proceed to Entebbe by public means to meet my family and from there we shall drive home to Tororo for Christmas in our family car.

Philemon and Mercy in the family Christmas 2012. When will I take the back seat and he drives me home for Christmas?

Philemon and Mercy in the family Christmas 2012. When will I take the back seat and he drives me home for Christmas?

It will be a delight to travel home together with family unlike much of this year when I often traveled  either alone or with the kids without their mom. The last time we had a ride together as a family was during a visit to Entebbe Zoo in late November. Trudy had not been to the zoo since she was pregnant with our first-born Philemon more than five years ago.

Philemon in green and Gertrude foreground on our last visit to Entebbe Zoo

Philemon in green and Gertrude foreground on our last visit to Entebbe Zoo

This Christmas holiday will obviously have its own memories; notably it will be remembered as the year Nelson Mandela died and for sure the kids will be asking who Nelson Mandela was as they were curious about so much talk about him on TV. On a family level, though, two people of now blessed memory who we would normally visit at Christmas will be conspicuously missing. We shall greatly miss Auntie Eunice and Auntie Zerda who passed away mid this year.

Auntie Eunice gives a hen as a wedding gift on her visit to her home during the 2005 Christmas holiday

Auntie Eunice gives a hen as a wedding gift on her visit to her home during the 2005 Christmas holiday

Other than visiting loved ones, Christmas time for me it is also a time when I celebrate both my birthday and wedding anniversary which are due on December 17. Not very long ago my son who is five now asked me if honey was his mom’s other name and I said yes. But very recently he asked me why I call his mom honey and he added, “Is it because she is my best friend?”  And I again said yes. But smiling, he asked me another question; “Do you know that honey comes from bees and bees sting?” And I said yes.

Auntie Zerda, foreground on our visit to her during the Christmas holiday of 2008

Auntie Zerda, foreground on our visit to her during the Christmas holiday of 2008

Funny as it may appear, the MC on our wedding day, in a manner of advice said to me, “Moses, Gertrude is now your wife and you can call her honey but remember honey comes from bees and they sometimes sting.” And he went on to say, “Keep hold of hand lest it went shopping.” I have indeed kept hold of that hand and for sure it has not gone shopping but I have also known that honey is sweet but the sting of the sting of the bee if disturbed is not that sweet.

For sure, I have not let her hand go since our wedding day

For sure, I have not let her hand go since our wedding day

Lastly the MC said to both of us; “It said that in the first year of marriage the man talks and the wife listens and in the second year the wife talks and the man listens. And in the third year they both talk and the neighbors listen but if you keep Jesus at the center of your marriage, the neighbors will have nothing to listen to.” Thank God, we have had our honey and dear and the stings too and the neighbors have had nothing to listen too except wonder how we are still so much in love like we wedded just yesterday.

If we could turn back the time, we would delightfully do so.

If we could turn back the time, we would delightfully do so.

Have a blessed Christmas celebration and a happy new year!

 

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Far from home of the Hybrid Eclipse

Philemon and Mercy play at Entebbe Botanical Beach

Philemon and Mercy play at Entebbe Botanical Beach

It is another lonely weekend here in my big office home in Juba – no other member of staff around but just me and the security guard. This is the exact opposite of what I am viewing on TV happening back home in Uganda, especially in the districts or Pakwach and Nebbi in the West Nile region of our country where thousands, including President Museveni and one other president whose identity has not been mentioned have gathered to the hybrid total eclipse of the sun.

West Nile sub-region 1960s - 1970s 1. + 2. - o...

West Nile sub-region 1960s – 1970s 1. + 2. – original West Nile district until 1950s 1. – West Nile district 1960s – 1970s 2. – former East Madi district (latter Adjumani district) since 1970s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About this time last week, I was out playing with my little “Jonases” in Entebbe Botanical gardens where their mother and I went for our second date which was quite a turning point in our relationship leading to our marriage later that year. If I were in Entebbe today, we would probably out in the same place again since they loved it so much that they asked me to take them there again when I return from Juba. Philemon would be sure to ask me several questions about the eclipse too.

Out on a date with Trudy in Entebbe Botanical Gardens one afternoon back in 2005

Out on a date with Trudy in Entebbe Botanical Gardens one afternoon back in 2005

You never know what children are capable of before you get to spend real quality time with them. My son Philemon is only five but he has already been through his thick Bible for beginners. Guess who his favorite character is – the prophet Jonah.

I was surprised how much he had grasped about Jonah when he got into a boat in the children’s play area last Saturday and said that he was fleeing to Tarshish. It is not the big fish as most of us would remember from the story of Prophet Jonah but the fact that Jonah disobeyed God when he was sent to warn bad people as he now calls the people of Nineveh, is what Philemon remembers very well.

Philemon and Mercy last Saturday at Entebbe Botanical Gardens

Philemon and Mercy last Saturday at Entebbe Botanical Gardens

I hope, like Jonah, he will not flee from his dream of becoming a dentist having witnessed one drill at my molar tooth last Sunday afternoon like he has already had a change of mind from pastor to doctor and now dentist. He spoke to me on phone yesterday saying that it is already November and I should be home as I had promised to return in come November. He wanted me home that very moment, reminding of about two years ago when I had spent some time away from him and asked when I would pick up from Entebbe to the village, then I said he would come by himself when he grows up. The following day when I called to speak to him on phone, he said he had already grown up and wanted to come home to the village.

We probably had an eclipse of love that evening since the moon found still in the gardens on that date

We probably had an eclipse of love that evening since the moon found still in the gardens on that date

Well, with such curiosity I hope their mom who breathed a sigh of relief from the barrage of questions when we went out to beach alone leaving her home last week has kept them away from gazing directly into the sky to view the eclipse.

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Taxi Tales – Lies and more lies

Mobile phones are enabling African countries t...

Mobile phones are enabling African countries to leapfrog generations of communications technology as they spread rapidly. Usable with attribution and link to: FutureAtlas.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

As it often happens I took a bus from Juba to Kampala on my journey home last week.  Not any spectacular things happening along the journey save for the usual contrasts of the Uganda and South Sudanese highway traffic police – the South Sudanese usually seated by the roadside waiting for the bus conductors to run to them with money, quickly picking up receipts which they throw away before they even enter the bus and their Ugandan counterparts usually raising their white sleeves high to stop the bus or “pretending to do so” but money dropped on the road like ripe or rotten fruits from a tree as the bus sped on. Obviously, there were East Africans with no travel or expired documents being asked to stay in the bus with fifty pounds in hand at the South Sudanese border and those who would rather listen to their own loud conversations paying dearly at the immigration office or just giving money to whoever asked for it at the ques – you may be forgiven for not knowing who is who, for everybody is an authority to himself.

 

I had never seen money exchange hands at the immigration point on the Ugandan side but last week I saw a smartly dressed gentleman who seemed familiar with the immigration scouts who usually check passengers documents at the bus door before it proceeds on the journey to Kampala press some notes into the scouts hand as he entered the bus – bingo, it was all okay! Now, tell me how the metal detectors or the sniffer dog with the Revenue Authority people down below deck looking for contraband can check a terrorists or drug dealer from entering Uganda or leaving South Sudan when people without proper documents are asked to stay in the bus with fifty pounds or the immigration scout on the Ugandan side is blinded with a few notes? I wonder if they know that terrorists are just converts from regular individuals to radicals, even your own bedfellow, no wonder in one church that I attend even the pastor is screened. God save Africa, where can you turn to without seeing bribery?

 

There is no escaping the responsibility for our destiny, though, since God gave us a free will to make choices for courses of actions that even the father of lies who has always lied from the beginning (John 8:44) cannot take blame for.

 

Well, thank God, neither the brides nor the horrible road between Atiak and Nimule or “busy body” type of passengers who are usually left behind and have to chase for the bus by motorbike could stop us from reaching Kampala by dusk.

 

Yes, it was a delight to see Kampala again – the green grass of home save for the stream of lies that started flowing immediately I settled in a taxi bound for Entebbe which suddenly reminded of somebody I had listened on the BBC World Service radio arguing that the internet did not create social media but rather popularized it and made it compete favorably with mass communication like TV which had hitherto overshadowed it. You might wonder why or how? Well, the gentleman said that social media has always existed from ages past like the Roman times when people copied and exchanged letters within a network of friends – an equivalent of Facebook, and wrote and distributed pamphlets – an equivalent of blogs today. That is a very plausible argument to me like i would argue that the advent of mobile phones in Uganda is not responsible for the telling of lies that is so prevalent – mobile phones have only exposed for all to hear and see what would not otherwise be seen or heard in public places. Have you ever heard of a kid whose father does not want his afternoon nap interrupted by an undesirable visitor goes to tell the visitor that daddy says that he is sleeping? Lies, lies, the man is awake but does not want to tell the truth that he does not want to see you hence sends that innocent kid to lie on his behalf, only to miserably fail at the game.

 

Yes, lies and lies to family and friends, if they can be called friends of those speaking on their mobile phones that we are about to reach Entebbe which is more than thirty kilometers away when we had only left Kampala ten kilometers behind, the traffic jam not withstanding. Another reminder of a driver who was with me on a long journey in Western Uganda to an oil field who lied to his boss that all was fine with the convoy of truck that we were leading not knowing one truck had broken down hundreds of kilometers away. Surely, a call came through informing him of the incident when I had just asked him point-blank what if a truck breaks down and you need to ask for HELP? What followed is anybody’s guess. Please be good and tell the truth when you visit this blog.

 

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If cows could talk?

If cows could talk, they would have a lot to say about some human beings.

This pig on a bodo-boda heaeded for slaughter in Kampala is probably more comfortable than the may cattle transported daily on our highways.

This pig on a bodo-boda headed for slaughter in Kampala is probably more comfortable than the may cattle transported daily on our highways.

Yesterday as I browsing the internet, I saw a headline on MSN Kenya which caught my eye; “Bull fighting in Kenya.” I flipped through the pictures and I saw images of men and women cheering in a football pitch, some of them seated on goalposts as bulls locked in their horns. I did not go very far before it all became repugnant to me and I closed the website and move on to other things. The images of bull fighting did not leave my mind, though, because they reminded me of the many repugnant sights of how badly animals are treated by cattle traders that I see nearly every time I travel on the Kampala Juba highway.

Those bull fighting pictures also reminded of my youth when I was a herds boy back in late seventies and early eighties. I did not know such things still existed close to home. I hitherto thought it was something that still existed in far away lands like Spain where I can conjure in my mind what a bull-fight between a man and a beast is like. But I can clearly imagine its cruelty and barbarity, though.

When I was a boy my father always admonished me against bull fights – something many herds boys and even some elders who looked after cattle enjoyed. I was sure to get a thorough spanking from dad if I returned home in the evening with a bull that had horn marks on its skin. It was a very difficult thing for me to keep our bulls from fighting, though, and I was thought as a coward by other teenagers whenever I refused our bulls to engage in fighting at the grazing grounds. Neither could I stop some of our very aggressive bulls from engaging in fights if several herds of cattle sudden met at the watering points.

One day one of our bulls got involved in a fight with a very gigantic bull which lifted it several times off the ground and eventually threw in the a watering pond with a very loud groan. I was so afraid that our little but aggressive bull would be killed by the mighty attacker like it some times did happen if a free bull attacked a tethered one and gored it to death. Our bull though manged to run to safety across the stream but not without marks. I tried my best to hide those marks from dad by leaving home early for the grazing grounds and returning home late.

Spanish Fighting Bull II by Alexander Fiske-Ha...

Spanish Fighting Bull II by Alexander Fiske-Harrison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From then on, I really hated the sight of bulls fighting, for I saw the real danger of a bull killing another besides my father’s other point that gored skins affected leather quality and bull fights were not only primitive but was also cruelty against animals. Understandably my father was a vet who loved animals and wanted the best care for all animals. No wonder that he cared for every stray dog which came to our home and could be hurt by the sight of village children aiming at birds on trees with their catapults.

Like father, like son, I have grown up loving animals and the sight of animals suffering at the hands of people who care little about their welfare really disturbs me.

Many times I have met trucks on our highways loaded with cattle for transportation to one destination or another, usually for slaughter. The cattle are usually squeezed in the trucks to occupy each and every space available and stick wielding men sit on stop of the truck hitting hard at cows which often gore each other in attempt to have some space for movement despite some of them having their horns tied to the truck’s roof.

On the Kampala/Juba highway, it is a common practice for the traders to have cows, goats and sheep crowded together in the same truck and the cows usually drop their dug on the smaller animals besides trampling to death some of them. And when a sheep succumbs to the harsh conditions on transit from Uganda to South Sudan, the sheep are usually hanged upside-down on the trucks. I am told that they sell them the Nyama-choma roasters along the way to Juba e.g Aru Corner.

I will never forget the sight of a bull which I saw in a truck parked at Nimule customs check-point which was bleeding from its thigh because of friction and bumps on transit against the metallic bars on at the back of the truck. I just had to look the other way as I walked past the truck above the Nimule bridge to the Ugandan side of the border. God forbid that I see such sights again as I travel home tomorrow.

This dog and calf at home might understand something about care for each other better than some humans do.

This dog and calf at home might understand something about care for each other better than some humans do.

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