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Reflections in Juba–The sad story of the undeserving Mzungu

This old man from the north eastern Uganda district of Katakwi deserves more than just waiting for food aid to survive. He deserves a decent life from both his community and government. The children below too deserve a better life and future beyond eking for a living by the roadside.

This old man from the north-eastern Uganda district of Katakwi deserves more than just waiting for food aid to survive. He deserves a decent life from both his community and government. The children below too deserve a better life and future beyond eking for a living by the roadside.

If you have some knowledge of African history or at least follow some world events, you may know that for ages Africans have resisted racial discrimination and fought against white domination both on the African continent and the west. And that is the reason why have in our history such great names like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, Julius Nyerere, Nkwame Nkuruma, Jomo Kenyatta, Samora Machel, Miria Makeba and many others. And very recently we have had in America a number of public protests against the shooting of un-armed black young men by white police men and a white boss of an American football team forced to resign over racial remarks.

Not so long ago I received a forwarded email (those days when colleagues at the place I worked just forwarded anything that came their way) from a colleague with the title, “What went wrong?” It was one of those typical ones without any introduction – just a dry forward but it was also one of the few which did not make straight to the junk mail, for something in caught my eye, thus keeping me from hitting delete. From the title of that mail I came with the title of an entry to my blog to which I later posted the pictures therein.

That mail had several pictures of African children juxtaposed with those of children from the West (White kids) in different conditions of life – environment, health, etc. One of the pictures had a starving African child against that of an obese white kid and another had African children writing in the sand with their fingers alongside that of White kids in a class room with computers. Oh, that incidentally reminds me of my son’s craving for an iPad – wishing to be like the kids from International schools whose home work is on the pad rather in the notebooks.

Well, the title of that mail (WHAT WENT WRONG?) and subsequently of my blog entry which was inspired by the same was get us thoughtful Africans on some journey of soul-searching for a sense of human dignity within ourselves that could possibly rouse or inspire us to strive for a better Africa rather the one we are so accustomed to. Or the one we have been made to believe we can neither attain nor deserve by the constant negative images/messages we are bombarded with. For you can believe the curse of Ham and live out in perfect fashion.

Children selling fish by the road in Uganda, some of them barely clad. The kind of images pf Africa most of us are familiar with especially as portrayed by western media and we seem to have settled for the way things are.

Children selling fish by the road in Uganda, some of them barely clad. The kind of images pf Africa most of us are familiar with especially as portrayed by western media and we seem to have settled for the way things are.

It is seems to me that some Africans (at least a good number of those I have worked or lived with), like the character in “My Fair Lady”, feel it is ok to be in a quest for a better life while at the same time feel undeserving and are intent to go on undeserving like Mr Doolittle.

Take the example of some gentleman who approached me lately for some gardening tips especially garden ponds and when took him through a pictorial tour of my village garden he marveled and called me a black Mzungu (Black White man – whatever that would mean). To him, that was a compliment to me for having such a beautiful garden in a rural home. But not one I was so eager to accept with the word “Mzungu’. Simply put, it is White people who deserved such homes. How contrary to the belief that all men are born equal!

That is not the first time I am called a Mzungu; remember my jogging weekends on Buziga Hill in Kampala where kids often called me mzungu when they saw run past their homes with my dog Spanky. Thank God, one lady asked them, “What kind of mzungu is this one in a black skin?”

And I have heard many a visitor my home say similar remarks – a Mzungu would love this home.” And the sad story of the undeserving “Mzungu” goes on while we shout aloud that we are all equal as we applaud our brothers who demonstrate against police brutality in the West. Very much like what Obama said of African leaders at Mandela’s funeral – many express solidarity with Madiba but do not espouse his ideals at home (my own paraphrase). In the same way we suppress our own ambitions and aspirations; thus unknowingly shoot down our dream of a better Africa.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Christmas Memories–Brooms for a roof.

 

Mercy does not like the fact that this modern looking hut has a grass thatch roof which she calls brooms. For me and Trudy, this has been home for nearly ten years now and we love it. I wish the little one could just know how far we have come!

Mercy does not like the fact that this modern looking hut has a grass thatch roof which she calls brooms. For me and Trudy, this has been home for nearly ten years now and we love it. I wish the little one could just know how far we have come!

Some might say that Moses this is not the time to be talking about Christmas at all; it is time for serious business. Yes, I would totally agree with you if you are one of those who would rather pay attention to something else.

Yes, school fees are here, landlords asking for rent, the price of the dollar is sky rocketing and the dry season is hard on us and we are back to back to government food (beans and posho) again.

With the volume turned down, though,we are also waking up to the reality that some folks did not make through to Christmas or to the New Year. Some others are bed-ridden or in jail.. Some say they did not have any reason or anything to celebrate – My daughter Mercy, though, is still singing ,Nevidad by Unspoken, Christmas Angel by Mandisa and The heart of Christmas by Mathew West at bed time; probably as an inadvertent reminder to our family for an evaluation of our ideals of Christmas. Did we live up to them?

Well, I am here in Juba, South Sudan where I get down to business every fortnight for what I receive a pay check at the end of the month but also a place where I find some time to relax and reflect. Of course, back home in Tororo is where I do things like a workaholic even when there is obvious financial benefit at the end.

So, as it often happens, I have had time to look back and think here in Juba. To begin with my colleague Julius Moi who calls me “Man of Silence” has already welcomed me back to the “place of silence.” I remember him reminding me last December that, “The year is nearly up, I hope you remembered to drink soda.”

Moi was in effect asking I had seized the opportunity that so rarely happens to some individuals to sample the “good things” of life. Of course, I am not a soda man but the idea of soda is really from a story he once told me about his cousin who travelled from his Kajokeji County of Central Equatoria state to Juba when South Sudan became independent, and for the first time got to taste soda.

Soda might have flowed like a river over Christmas for some but some other might not have even caught sight of it.

One Christmas eve, back in the seventies, when the evening breeze in my village was full of roasted meat, we settled down to a cup of porridge and peas for supper. So, when Mandisa sings Christmas Angel and Steven Curtis Chapman sings Christmas Card :https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCIQtwIwAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DmTHE9c9qXV0&ei=l2S_VJDYO4nSaJq-gdAG&usg=AFQjCNFyqmjUeDc9fzCLT304PPws-qQZuw&sig2=dhOFIPKJqHjDKwmdoc0Qgg&bvm=bv.83829542,d.d2s

, I really do understand what that means for some folk.

Anyhow, I do remember some things which happened over the Christmas season which make me laugh, though, before I think seriously about them: One is from Mercy and the other from my nephew Ethan who had some other interesting thing to say last Easter holiday.

The sunset which Ethan called the very big orange viewed from a vantage point in our garden in the village.

The sunset which Ethan called the very big orange viewed from a vantage point in our garden in the village.

To begin with Ethan; it seems he does not seem to experience much of the rural life in Kampala where he studies and lives, and is thus bound to guess some “strange” things that he comes across in the village. Ethan said that frogs are domestic animals because Uncle Moses has them in his garden pond and over Christmas he called the sun setting in the sky a very big orange. I wonder if he had never seen sunset in Kampala. Well, there is no sunset for me, like the sunset in my village.

Mercy had a surprise for mom and dad when she said that she does not want brooms on the roof of our house. “This house is ugly, I want a black roof and no brooms on the roof,” said Mercy at bedtime when had just returned from her grand parents house from watching TV.

The mother asked me what she meant by brooms on the roof and explained that she did not like the grass thatch on our cottage. She instead preferred a matt tile roof like the grand parents. She repeated that statement at least more than once in a louder voice and the mother just laughed. I hope Mercy would listen to her own favorite Christmas song (Heart of Christmas) better and cherish the moment like her brother Philemon.

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Wedding Day Memories

A stride with friends at The Speke Resort, Munyonyo on 17 December 2005.

A stride with friends at The Speke Resort, Munyonyo on 17 December 2005.

It is now nine years down the road since Gertrude and I wedded in December of 2005 and sure the several stings of the honeybees in our lives have not taken away the sweetness of the honey. You might wonder what that means? Well, I was told on my wedding day to call my wife honey but also to remember that honey comes from bees and they sting. Our dear son Philemon has been keen to remind me of that statement from our wedding MC several times over, after he had asked me last year why I call his mother honey.

Trudy n Philemon.

Trudy n Philemon.

Lately, though, he has tossed another simple question to which I gave a simple answer that nevertheless led to a series of questions: “Why were we not at your wedding daddy? Simple answer; you were not yet born.” Why were we not born?, because we were not married”. Another question comes rolling, “Daddy, did mom choose you or you chose her? Answer: “We chose each other.” Not so satisfied. Sometimes, I am tempted to think that he feels that he missed a moment of joy that he should have shared with us, had he been around.

I wonder what he would ask today if I had the chance of being home with the family for our wedding anniversary? I had promised to be home by this Wednesday but like in every year since we married, save one, I am far away from home and from my beloved wife. And like nearly every Christmas time I am not well – just recovering from a serious viral infection that put me down for several days in the past fortnight. Like, December 2005, though, this December seems to be hot and dry unlike the past eight Christmas holidays which have been quite wet.

Emitono Philemon Iputo, always curious.

Emitono Philemon Iputo, always curious.

I wonder if he might remember something from the wedding video, other than saying, ” Daddy, you carried mom that day; can you carry her again today? Or might remind us from one of his favorite songs, “Restore by Chris August”, about keeping Jesus in the middle of our marriage so that the neighbors will have nothing to listen to. That was the MC’s advise to us on our wedding day: He said that in the first year of marriage the wife talks and the husband listens, in the second year the husband talks and the wife listens. And in the third year, they both talk and the neighbors listen, but if keep Jesus in the middle of your marriage, the neighbors will have nothing to listen to.

Mercy n Trudy share a moment of joy.

Mercy n Trudy share a moment of joy.

There is so much to rejoice about, though. Most of all is the fact that we are still one and God has blessed us with lovely children who are like the roses of our life and God has given us the grace to live with the thorns and stings of our lives – for he says we ought to accept both good and evil that he permits in our lives and he also creates both the darkness and the light (Ref. the book of Jeremiah). Note paraphrase is mine.

He has also blessed us with wonderful friends and a humble place that we call home where we can escape from the hustle and bustle of every day life to reflect, fellowship and recover for the next leg of this journey that we call life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

May you have peace and blossom in 2015

May you have peace and blossom in 2015

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A Quiet December 15 in Juba

The same sun shines up on and warms us all, and the same God created us all in his image that we might shine with acts of righteousness to his glory but we have created war instead, It started with Abel and Cain but Christ came at Christmas to point us back home to God. And it is possible to make a change; it starts with you.

The same sun shines up on and warms us all, and the same God created us all in his image that we might shine with acts of righteousness to his glory but we have created war instead, It started with Abel and Cain but Christ came at Christmas to point us back home to God. And it is possible to make a change; it starts with you.

For some of us who were in Juba about this time last year when all eyes, hearts and minds were set on going home for the Christmas holiday come the week that fell on December 15th 2013, we approached this date this time around with a lot of trepidation, fearing a repeat of some kind of what happened in Juba on that date.

Thank God, though, that December 15 has come and gone without incident, at least here in Juba. We have had our fair share of the dust, heat and sound of generators and mosquitos at night – so much better than the “Carol of the guns” which rocked that fateful Sunday night last year.

It is my hope and prayer that the residents of Juba and the people of South Sudan will have a peaceful Christmas holiday despite all the odds which they are faced with.

God bless South Sudan and for the sake of the elect who worship his holy name may He bring lasting peace to this nation.

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Reflections in Juba – “Good Neighbors.”

This is what war brings instead of development. This picture is from back home in Uganda from a previously war affected area.

This is what war brings instead of development. This picture is from back home in Uganda from a previously war affected area.

Today I dared have a long walk from Juba town center back to office through a route I often trod before the events of 15th December 2013 and before a group of “locals” sat me down in the bush while on an evening jog in the neighborhood of our Juba office.

It is obviously more than a half-year since I walked past this once bustling neighborhood in which this afternoon I saw a signpost I had never seen before by the roadside that read, “Good Neighbors Head Office.” As I walked along the road I was struck by the absence of any form of human activity or the music that used to come from the many shacks scattered along the road, let alone the absence of people and the many abandoned homes with bushes growing in the once bare ground compounds.

I wondered where all the people had gone and what had happened to the various metal & wood workshops and the brick-making sites in this area? The haphazard electric cables which once criss-cross the road from one end to another from this generator or another where nowhere to be seen. An eerie feeling came over me as I trod along and I even became afraid that I might have made a grave mistake in taking this route which brought the unpleasant memory of that evening near Korok Guest House.

My situation was not helped when just ahead of me I saw several soldiers lying down on mattresses in an unfinished building that obviously before the war was meant to be a warehouse or factory building. Thank God, I went past this huge building without anybody stopping and I quickly changed course to a neighborhood that seemed to have more life by virtue one of the few institutions which seems to have been less affected by the December 15 crisis – a beer factory.

If I have never believed or got a glimpse of the effects of the civil war which South Sudan got itself into by the fallout between the senior leaders of the ruling SPLM party, there was no doubt that I saw it first hand this afternoon.

Somehow, I have been skeptical of the numbers of the internally displaced people, especially those who fled to the UN camps in Juba. But if this neighborhood is representative of the many once sprawling neighborhoods and slums, then there are really thousands of internally displaced people sheltering in the UN camps in Juba.

With this kind of situation, I wonder what some of my colleagues, some of whom have fled the country make of the jokes they used to have at lunch time in the dining hut about an imminent civil war. They used to say that they had fought the Arabs but they are yet to fight among themselves and being one who had seen effects of years strife back home in Uganda, I used to tell them that, “You guys are talking as if war is just like some football match where the loser walks home quietly or worse still as if you never lived in refugee camps”. Well, this year’s independence anniversary was like no other at our office. I remember being alone with my laptop at the dining room which in the past two anniversaries would be full of life – eating, drinking and loud arguments by our journalists.

Surely, like that song which is often heard on Juba airwaves says, “There is no good war and neither is there any bad peace.”

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