Reflections in Juba – Ignorance, Rebellion or Style?

The afternoon rain back home in Tororo that could easily get many a village kid stripping and running around without shame or fear. Not so common these days with the rampant incidences of lightening.

The afternoon rain back home in Tororo that could easily get many a village kid stripping and running around without shame or fear. Not so common these days with the rampant incidences of lightning.

Nearly thirty years ago there was a young baby-sitter where I lived in Entebbe who would often run around the house naked before she would have a bath. There were several attempts to get her to stop the habit but she would always protest, saying that she had no shame doing and it was none of her concern if the onlookers felt embarrassed by her actions. Being a girl from the village, she probably thought that it was okay to run around the house naked like the rural often did back home in the village in the afternoon rains which are characteristic of Eastern Uganda. Having ran in the rain too when I was a primary school kid, I could somehow understand why this little girl did as she did; she was probably missing the village fun – like it said that you can take an African out of the village but you may never take the village out him or her. Anyway, this was town and it was very strange for her to what was normal in the village here. Thus the neighbors always referred to her as that mad girl. She however, stooped the practice as she came of age.
Today, as we were returning to our guest house back from town, we passed by a young boy defecating at a bus-stop with his hands crossed in relaxing fashion. He was in no way perturbed by passersby or the people at the shops on the opposite side of the road.
When I got back home the image of that boy poo-pooing kept flashing through my mind as I sat reading the newspapers and in one of them was a news story about another outbreak of cholera in Juba, just like last year when a number of people lost their lives to cholera. I wondered if anybody on looking bothered whether what that young man was doing was wrong and it is the kind of thing which contributes to outbreaks of cholera in communities. Well, the one riding with me in the car just said, “Who cares?”
I was reminded of a “strange” but very common habit here in Juba that nobody seems to care about which I have to put with nearly every morning when we go out for newspaper distribution – taxi drivers and boda-boda riders driving or riding with toothbrushes in their mouths while carrying passengers.
One early morning last week I saw something that really made me shudder. A young man was riding a motorbike at a very high-speed with a toothbrush in his mouth past traffic lights which he obviously violated. Besides, being at high-speed, he was seated on the bike in the typical Juba boys’ way of bending a little bit of the saddle and not looking fully in-front because he has to listen to the sound of the exhaust pipe which thrills them. I wondered as he sped past us if it ever occurred to this young man, that the toothbrush in his mouth could turn-out to be a very dangerous object to his life in case it went down his throat in the event of an accident? On the other hand I also wondered whether brushing in public is a really hygienically acceptable thing or is it some young men’s style or is it shear rebellion of young hearts like the dangling trousers?

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Reflections in Juba–Time to go back home

Good to leave a green Juba behind.

Good to leave a green Juba behind.

Looking into the distance towards the south-east from the balcony of my room, I can see the way home from the diminutive images of vehicles plying the Juba/Nimule Highway, probably more than ten kilometers from where I am standing. If all goes according to plan, I will probably be bidding South Sudan farewell in less than two months when the project that I have been working for comes to a close.

I returned to this project back in mid 2013 having earlier served one year term. Like now, the grassland and the hills were green since it was the middle of the rainy season and it was much exciting to return to Juba after a few months break back home in Uganda. And it would be lovely to leave Juba for Uganda around this time of the year than say during the dry season, for when I look back I would have memories of a green and fair weather Juba than the usual dust and heat. With all the rounds of peace talks in Addis Ababa between the warring factions of the SPLA, I had hoped that I would leave a peaceful South Sudan behind me, after all peace building has been one of the objectives of our project – The New Nation newspaper. But as things look now, peace in South Sudan, especially in the oil-producing states of Upper Nile and Unity states is a very distant hope. My black brothers are up in arms again blowing each other up and capturing towns and villages and some proudly claim to have doctorates in fighting. Some others are wishing that they would be better left to fight it out all alone without mediation or “interference” by regional governments and international – for in that way a clear winner would emerge and the people of South Sudan will finally have peace, so they think.

Well, time will tell what direction this country, the so-called youngest nation of the world will take. But for now, it is clearly on the path of a failed state if the situation is not arrested.

When we arrived in Juba this Saturday it took several hours to find a shop selling bottled drinking water, something that one could buy in any shop and kiosk in Juba a few months ago. Many water factories here have closed shop because they cannot afford the cost of production or there is no hard currency to purchase the necessary chemicals used in the process of producing clean safe water for human consumption.

The lady who cleans our premises and has a part-time business  serving breakfast to truck drivers at a nearby beverage factory is thinking of closing shop because there are hardly any more customers to serve since there are fewer and fewer trucks picking up supplies or delivering materials to the factory.

The way to our office is anything but a road; there are potholes and stones nearly in every inch of the road. The army officer who lived nearby and often mobilized funds from the community to have the road graded and expanded is no longer available. His corner shop at the end of the road which was a source groceries to the neighborhood and also a national television public viewing joint was ransacked and is now home to soldiers who play cards all day long on the verandah. I can only wonder where that military office went to?

Things are looking quite grim at the immigration office at the border point where we passed the last weekend. Instead of the long queues we were used to have our passports stamped, we hardly took a minute to be processed since there were very few people coming into the country through that port.

Whenever, I am either on my way home or back to Juba, I often wonder when the people of South Sudan will settle down, beat their weapons into cutlasses and plough shares and cultivate these vast tracts of land. Or when will the Juba/Nimule Highway be an avenue of pine forests and farms like it is with the approaches of the capitals of Kenya and Uganda instead of bush and garbage. It would be good to see more tractors and bullion vans instead of military tanks and de-mining machines along the highways.

So much for South Sudan, may God save Africa and its people from self-destruction. I hope I will return with my family which so much wishes to visit, to a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan some day. No need to say lets just kiss and say goodbye.

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Reflections in Juba – Lessons from my elders.

Papa and Toto

Papa and Toto

Some time later this year or early next year, God willing, my family will have a thanksgiving ceremony for our aging parents (they are well into their early eighties). When the idea came up from our eldest brother over the Easter holiday my mind went back to some time last year when my mom said that she is now in extra time as far as her life is concerned and could be gone to be with the Lord at any moment. I think she was referring to the Psalm of Moses as she reflected on her on life, “The days of our years [are] threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength [they be] fourscore years, yet [is] their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Like it happens very often these days at funerals where I come from, spouses, siblings or children are asked to say something about their departed beloved, I wondered what I would say at my mother’s funeral if went before me – that is if I am asked to say a word.
Well, a thanksgiving ceremony is a better place to say about your parents than a funeral because they will be in attendance. So, I have been wondering what I would have to say about my parents and probably my elder siblings, for who knows what form that ceremony would take – it will probably be some feasting, gift giving, testimonies and general fellowship which might draw in many things from family members in appreciation for our parents.
One thing, I have always cherished about my mom is her resilient spirit besides love and care for other people other than her family. When faced with difficult situations, I often remember this saying from mom, “Run as you cry.” That saying which has a multifaceted interpretation has always been an inspiration to me to press on when all seem hopeless. You can interpret her saying in the modern way, “If you are going through hell, please keeping going for you will eventually get out from the other hand.” But what I know is that saying is got from olden days when attacks by wild animals where common in the community and the elders advice to children was that you run as you cry for help if under attack. Do NOT just sit there, do something or you run the risk of just being swallowed up by the animal or overwhelmed by the difficult situation. It is a cry of faith – you act on what you believe.At least that something I would say about mom and for which I am so thankful to God.
Papa has always been stern disciplinarian and a perfectionist, and sometimes even an idealist. From papa, I have learnt and often desired to be thorough in whatever I do and obviously I have also had the opportunity of learning from his shortfalls, especially his idealistic side which sometimes slid into procrastination while trying to get everything right. There is one other thing which organisations like UNICEF and WHO spends so much money teaching people who I imperceptibly learnt from my father – washing hands. I will not elaborate much but the first thing that dad always did when he got home from his work, meeting, funeral etc, was wash hands and with soap, and with warm water very often.
There are obviously a lot more I have learnt from parents but Papa’s disciplinarian character and Toto’s persevering spirit,and love for education saw us go through school through some of the most challenging times and circumstances. Papa’s disciplinarian and perfection tendencies have not always endeared to him some people, neighbors, relatives and friends. But all in all his intentions have been good even when he has got it wrong.
Thanksgiving, might also be a good opportunity to thank my elder siblings for the good thing I have learnt from them. Starting with the eldest; Doctor Epuwatt has taught me neatness and personal hygiene. I remember a time back in the early nineties when he was hospitalized and I was his attendant, he always got me to help him stay clean in several ways before we moved to a better hospital where the nurses took over. While he was on that hospital bed he also reminded me always to brush and bathe both in the evening and morning just like he did and keep things around us orderly.

Dr Epuwatt

Dr Epuwatt

I remember soon after Epuwatt was out of hospital my young brother was taken ill and when I returned from military school to find him rather filthy in his hospital bed, I gave him a thorough wash, shave and changed his dirty hospital sheets for my new denim sheets my brother David her brought me as a gift from a trip to the US. Since that time in hospital with Epuwatt, my desire has always been to be orderly and neat, not forgetting to pray and read the Bible – something he taught from that hospital bed in the Dr Albert Cook ward in Mengo Hospital.



Talking about David, he always read and told us stories at bed time while we were young primary school kids. I remember the story of , “Work for me to see”, pot that made food for a destitute man on condition that it was never washed but when the wife washed it, it never produced food again. Thus David planted in me a desire to read and probably tell stories in this very manner – writing.
Grace who follows David usually sung songs at bed time and often danced in the day while she sung – especially in her secondary school days. And I have been singing even though I no longer danced like danced myself mad while in Secondary school, even as I dug or herded cattle and pigs.

My sisters

My sisters – Grace right, Olive Center n Cathy left, mom iat the back.

Catherine, whom I follow, has a bit of Papa and Toto – discipline, perseverance, love and care. When I was fresh out of college and looking for a job/afoot on commission basis sales jobs, she cared for me like my mom and I learnt how to have my house in order from her. When I moved out and into my own flat in Kampala, I hit the ground running. There was order, neatness, food and the warmth of love around me and our home.
God bless my parents and long live my siblings. I love you ALL.

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Here is something interesting which I picked up from Hou

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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 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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