Politics…

gumybears and unicornsThis word politics conjures up a variety of emotions and reactions from us all mostly guided from past and present experience and perceptions with persons, rules or laws you have interacted with. On the whole, it will boil down to where you are geographically on planet earth and your exposure to the workings of us humans.

For instance you give an opinion over something in governance in some countries in Africa – and immediately you are perceived by most to be an aspiring politician! At worst you are seen as a threat to the sitting president, MP or local council official, who in turn will try and find a way of eliminating you – even say you are a terrorist for daring to mess with the order of play! This word politics is not easy my friend.

The word politics in itself is quite varied and can have a variety of meanings to differing persons.  Some, including myself, might define politics to simply being a combination of many little lies of coercion, with the aim of manipulating to attain a given aim or goal

However, I will go with this definition if only to keep those waiting in the wings to sign me off to the loony bin: Politics, in the broadest sense, is the activity through which people make, preserve and amend the general rules under which they live. Mansoor Maitah

However. As with everything in life, nothing is as ever black or white. Grey areas exist and you are probably wondering what politics has got to do with my ramblings today.  Those concerned I’m about to rant on about the main political parties here in the UK, relax!! Far from it. Those guys have their own platforms and media to put anyone attempting such a fit to shame.

You see the other day I was sharing a coffee with a colleague. She had been threatening to leave her present employ for quite some months now as she felt unsupported by those managing her. This time around she was voicing the same sentiments. She had requested to be paid in money her annual leave that she didn’t want to take but been denied this by her line manager. (In effect she was seeking to be paid double for the period she worked during what should have been her annual leave). In return she’d escalated this up to the next Manager who it soon became clear wasn’t going to back down from the decision made by the first manager.  Now my colleague’s annoyance over being denied her request was compounded by two major issues she voiced that struck a chord in me.

  1. She thought the line manager was way younger than her and as such felt he was ill-placed to be telling her she had to use up her annual leave or lose it.
  2. The previous line manager had allowed my colleague this request the past year – so she felt she had a right to it.

The first issue resonated with me because once upon a time in my mid 20’s, I’d risen up the ranks of managing persons who were older than me. My age and the speed my promotion had come at seemed to irk plenty of my older colleagues and they often showed their “discomfort” over this in how they opted to refuse to carry out tasks asked of them – even when I gave them full professional respect when engaging them to do so. It wasn’t long before I started seeing the camaraderie which once was when I had just started with them disappear and in place, often undisguised dislike.  For some it was my position, others it was my race, but mostly it was my age that seemed to attract so much conflict.

The second issue made me recall the sort of working relationships employees and employers weave – a sort of ‘I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine’ whereby it is not written anywhere but is at the discretion of those directly involved. Now discretionary acts I have often found add human elements when assessing and dealing with fellow beings. However as with gentleman’s agreements, it calls for the ones exercising discretion to be on a similar wave length. If you have a manager with whom your personalities clash or who is unable to exercise professionalism over work matters, getting a discretionary ruling on anything might be stretching it too far.

Over time in various employs ranging from nursing right through to medical secretarial then management, I’d learnt that there was always a form of politics with fellow colleagues which one had to keep in mind that didn’t get written into job descriptions. I also learned to respect positions of all personnel be them under my management or above – they simply were doing roles they were employed to do for the betterment of the whole company or institution. Office politics are usually to do with persons vying to protect their space/job in a given employ and some will go to varying lengths in acts to do that.  The trick is being able to decipher how persons play or get played.

So now when I have young students or managers coming with all the confidence of a young spirit, I simply appreciate that I still have some role in the bigger frame of their dreams. I don’t see them as competitors but merely as young trees to carry forth the baton.  Where needed or asked, I will offer my thoughts/input. I respect their zeal and youth and hope that they in return do same for my seniority of the knowledge archived.

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The challenge in staying positive amid such negativity

“When somethings go wrong, take a moment to be thankful for the many more things that are still going right.”  Anne Gottlier

Well, when I first read Anne Gottlier on one of my positive affirmation mantras, I had difficulty scanning her.  It’s like I have a huge stone blocking me from seeing anything that is still going right.

Earlier this week on Monday, I read something in a Ugandan newspaper, New Vision that truly made my blood curl…literally. However any emotions that came after reading this article were driven by the lack of reaction, the indifference or should I say apathy; from persons on ground in Uganda, both general public or government officials and respective opposition political party members.  Interestingly, political opposition members are often quick on the mark to use all given opportunities to politicize most issues that arise, pending or past.

The article in question that left me dumbfounded was about the state of Uganda’s blood transfusion services.  An audit done in 2012 had found that most of the nation’s blood supply had been unfit for use. In brief it was contaminated/rotten with visible maggots photographed in some of the stored hospital batches.  In actual fact, there had been cited reports that large numbers of persons had died due to lack of blood.  What the authorities failed to say was that the state of storage or even collection services in the country were part of the problem. It wasn’t that there were short on blood donors, but that rather, the equipment for collection and storage was not fit for purpose.  Like most things and equipment within Uganda’s health infrastructure.

This is a country which has a national hospital Mulago, that is a certifiable place for death. This is not because the staff are incapable of carrying out their profession (although some persons might argue this point too!) but rather it is down to the complete lack of maintenance of existing mostly, colonial equipment and lack of government’s health ministry’s  serious investment in this only national hospital. Medicines and some equipment are siphoned and diverted in to privately run businesses – a regular occurrence which is well known and appears to be condoned by all.  I guess this is why nobody in government or otherwise, was moved to comment or even come out publicly to allay the Ugandan public over what should have been a grave discovery from the auditors.

Life goes on, other issues get fed to the news reel and this becomes just another incident that is part and parcel of life in Uganda’s chaotic and seriously fragmented infrastructure.  Where Uganda is concerned, it is really challenging to look for things that are still going right when sitting on the knowledge that if you happen to be in the country and suffer an accident that requires you to get emergency treatment, you are well and truly screwed and nobody gives a damn.

But one thing that seems to bring all out to feel the need to associate to fame is when an athlete goes on to win a gold medal. That is something worth convening over to even call upon for all to donate generously towards.  Do not get me wrong, I am happy for this athlete and do not in any way begrudge him his time on the podium. I am just disappointed that such national sense of pride cannot be directed towards building and maintaining her health infrastructure to serve her populace.  Instead, those that can afford will seek to use national coffers to get medical treatment abroad when needed and this becomes routine.

Burying our heads in the sand with regards to Namungoona Fuel tanker

Saturday 29th June 2013 brought what is possibly the worst fuel tanker to occur on Ugandan soil.

In the relative quiet of the night, residents of Namungoona, a Kampala suburb, familiar with the croaks of frogs in Lubigi marshland and occasional raving from engines of vehicles firing on the Northern Bypass, were audience to a tragic occurence. On Saturday night, it was a macabre unraveling of tragedy.
Fueltanker01

Several fatalities consisting of boda-boda riders. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

To me this occurrence and the ensuing reactions from all corners (accident, response or lack/limited of emergency services or first aiders etc…) did not come as a surprise. What was perhaps the redeeming fact, was the number of fatalities.  This was an ‘accident’ among so many to unravel, waiting to happen.  It  is only by God’s grace and alertness that the numbers were not much higher.

Police officers check burnt motorcycles at the scene of the accident on the Northern Bypass yesterday. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

Police officers check burnt motorcycles at the scene of the accident on the Northern Bypass. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

Cars and vehicles burn in Ecatepec, Mexico

Scene of aftermath shortly after tanker exploded

At around 22.00hrs (GMT) an online status from one of my acquaintance raised the developing tragedy. Yet all the main media channels in Uganda were either preoccupied with foreign news on Obama’s Africa visit, issues in Syria, or entertainment coverage of the BET awards etc. In fact my online social network acquaintance recorded as the president being abroad in Tanzania without any indication of him flying in to check out the developing tragedy.

Prez M7 at scene of accident

President Museveni at the scene of accident at Namungoona on Monday 1st July. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE The President soon put to rights this PR setback.  Shortly not long after the tragic events, not only did he visit the accident scene, but went to the national hospital offering 5million UGX to relatives of the deceased to cover funeral costs… It was tweeted that the fuel tanker collided head on with a Toyota Ipsum before overturning and falling causing people to rush to the scene for free fuel.  Most of these young boda-boda transporters had turned up to make good the flow of “free” fuel from the stricken tanker are believed to be the fatalities because the fuel tanker burst  into flames burning them all. On count, over 30 boda-bodas were burnt during the inferno. Residents say they were carrying people who had stopped to collect the fuel tweeted Sms media Uganda Sunday morning.

aftermath of the explosion

aftermath of the explosion

The fact that the online community is what availed most of us far afield to learn about this tragic event is perhaps an indication of perceived priority of the government media organs on ground. Same goes to factor for the limited if not reserved response by the emergency services in the country…if at all they exist. The ensuing reaction of the public to this tragedy on a background of President Museveni’s 5million pledge to relatives of the deceased is perhaps what has prompted me to make sense of this.  There is way too many questions on my part to be caught up in the emotional reactions to the tragedy that unraveled. First of all, I recall from past experience road safety and regulations in Uganda. This is simply a joke.  Whereas some eye witness accounts have gone to state that the explosion occurred after the tanker went off the road, the way most road users in Uganda behave when driving is perhaps an indicator of such pending tragedies. Fact being that lack of lighting on roads at night, combined by the reckless attitude of most road users, especially those in large vehicles like lorries/trailers is a recipe for disasters such as these.  I know. I almost got run off the road by a huge trailer on Bombo Road at night, the driver who even when we took recording of his driving and registration details, didn’t seem perturbed. People drive recklessly to get to their destination completely oblivious to other road users – if at all, not even give a damn. Most often its persons who consider themselves more important human beings to others, that sets precedence. The response of Uganda’s emergency services to scenes of accidents is questionable…the methodology of ferrying victims to the only national hospital is almost a certifiable death sign-off.  Assuming they make it and survive the limited resources met out at the national hospital.  In this incident especially, persons with burns are most likely to die from secondary infections they will acquire at the hospital. Traffic police in Uganda seem to have differing priorities to their allocated job.  They have bursts of action dependent on time of day or seasonal demands… most often  more concerned with collecting kintu kidogo than enforcing traffic regulations.

scene of namungona post accident

Recovered boda-bodas of fatalities from the explosion

From the emotional reaction to the death toll, one could be excused for blaming poverty as the cause of the young persons who rushed to siphon fuel from the tanker. Truth be said, these persons were hoping to get free fuel that they hadn’t paid for from an unfortunate occurrence to the tanker driver. It is debatable they were willing to listen to the tanker driver warning them to stop… Yet society is excusing these victims’ actions on poverty, yet again reinforcing the conciliatory acceptance of corrupt practice that has become so endemic that most don’t even recognize it anymore when practiced. Issues then become politicized because persons have failed to take personal responsibility and ownership of their collective actions, often opting to apportion blame or scapegoating, and/or exploiting;  whichever suits their perception or political affiliation.  Resulting in shelving/staving off the implementation of any beneficial suggestions that could redress the causes or issues. Bottom line is – the current governance in place is to blame for failure to: empower citizens to make the appropriate choices in fighting the moral decline in society; failure to sensitize citizens  to have faith in the judicial and legislative system which for the greater part functions on selective mode for the elite citizens,  whilst exploiting the ignorance that surrounds most practice that has come to be acceptable. God really loves Uganda and it’s only when He is distracted or blinks that such tragic incidents occur.

HIV+ Synonymous with Africans in UK as opposed to any other ethnic group

It does not come as a surprise to me to note the comments made by Edwin Poots, a senior health minister in Northern Ireland about a ban on blood donations from gay people also being applied to people who have sex “with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes”.

It does not come as a surprise to me to note the comments made by Edwin Poots,

Mr Poots is voicing what so many persons within the healthcare industry practice without concealed discretion – only that they do not get to reach the global media exposure.

The other aspect to such voiced prejudice is that it shows the weaknesses in the system that exists with blood screening facilities which would insinuate such facilities if they exist, purely on ethnicity screening or sexual preferences! A point picked up by Mr Conall McDevitt, South Belfast SDLP assembly member, when he further concludes:

Currently all blood donations are subject to rigorous screening for a number of diseases – including HIV – and no blood is used unless it is approved, regardless of the donor. The fact is that we are in constant need of extra blood stocks in the North and this reinforces the need for the government to do all in its power to encourage as many as possible to donate rather than seek to alienate healthy donors based on prejudice. The minister’s comments perpetuate a tired mythology of cultural promiscuity in the gay community which troubles me as an advocate of a more accepting, shared society

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jun/18/northern-ireland-gay-blood-donation I would go further to add to defend Africans too.

The repercussions of such prejudicial/ignorant acts and words is quite harmful to Africans who being labelled as “diseased” simply because there happens to be persons who aside from escaping political persecution from their countries are also fleeing socio-economic hardships. Financial hardships make it difficult for such persons to receive medical care in their homelands. Some of you might have heard of medical tourists? Well, some of these Africans are medical migrants. It does not necessary mean that all of AFrica is diseased – simply that those able to afford to travel abroad to seek help, are the ones predominantly seen in healthcare centres abroad. Most Africans are very healthy and busy just like many other migrant workers working at building economies in these adoptive countries and their homelands and do not need added prejudicial baggage such as voiced or practiced.

Part of what prompted me to write this was a memory of what transpired to a friend of mine last year… He attended his GP surgery presenting with a rash on his penis. The GP having deduced from the initial questioning and possible physical presentation/appearance that he was black, referred him directly to an STD (sexually transmitted diseases) clinic attached to West Middlesex Hospital. Now this took place irrespective to the answered questions that my friend had been in a long-term relationship where neither himself nor his partner had engaged in sexual activities with any other persons, be it in the UK or Africa in the time-scale of their relationship or previous. My friend had in fact had an HIV test just at the start of that particular relationship which for both of them had returned negative results. Still – to be on the safe side and to adhere to his GP’s request, he attended the STD, bracing himself for further intrusive questions enough to make him doubt his current relationship in addition to his sanity. Repeated samples were sent away to be analysed for all possible STDs after once again ruling out HIV. It seemed possible (to them) the laboratory equipment was not functioning properly, as they couldn’t quite believe that this black African man with a rash on his penis didn’t have some form of sexually transmitted disease from his assumed rampant sexual behaviour or of his partner (whom they never once contacted to counsel even at the prompting of my friend). Still, they opted to treat him blindly with medication favoured for STDs irrespective of the results returning no abnormality on all occasions. His rash meanwhile was getting worse and infected…To summise, his rash eventually cleared … was found to have been down to irritants used in laundry as opposed to perceived promiscuity of his ethnic background. You might ask why he never made a complaint of such treatment – I suspect as most persons these days reason – they have become despondent with how their complaints are treated or regarded.

Now imagine if my friend had been rash to jump the bandwagon of suspicion fuelled from the medical practitioners who made him question/doubt that if he hadn’t brought the STD to the relationship, then his partner had a case to answer!

Corruption – an overused rhetoric for social awareness?

A new poll of citizens’ views on corruption in the UK uncovers some fascinating – and disturbing – insights into how UK citizens view corruption in this country. The Gallup/ICM Research poll conducted for Transparency International UK reveals that a majority (53%) think that corruption has increased in the last three years – with very few (3%) believing the problem is on the decline.

Although only a small minority claims to have been directly affected by corruption (14%), as many as a third say they have had their suspicions about a specific event. And, while an overwhelming majority (93%) would be willing to report corruption, only one in three say they know where to go. This suggests that corruption in the UK could be going unreported.

The poll, published on 9/12/2010 to mark International Anti-corruption Day, also reveals how little trust the public has in the UK government to tackle corruption.

More than one in three (34%) say they trust nobody to fight corruption and almost one in five (19%) don’t know who to trust to tackle it. The media is more trusted than government – with one in six trusting the media (16%) and only one in eight (12%) trusting government leaders.

Now, observing political pursuits during election times on the African continent (and indeed by other international observers!), one cannot fail but notice one word which often comes up by all vying for political office. Of interest – Uganda’s indecies for corruption are placed high at 2.5 by the Transparency International…That word is the need to fight “corruption”; a call of injustice by those opposed to the sitting-regimes, promising change that would bring about an end to corruption: whilst the regime in power also promises to redress corruption and indeed appearing to do so. At times it would appear to be offering up some scapegoats as damage limitation to be written off as collateral damage for the survival of the party’s political ambitions. It can get to be quite interesting to observe if it were not for the sad reality of failure by all to grasp what corruption actually is and how it manifests.

When persons talk about corruption in African politics, often they apply it to government officials, leaders, presidents or those in powerful political status and follow this up in explaining why those less well-off or down the ladder of political status or finance are to excused from “minor “ social deviances in society at large. Hence the abuse in other areas of society at large is not graded or seen as corruption.

Corruption to me comes in all walks of social interactions of society. Starting from the family social norms – the person seen to have financial clout, could determine how to exercise his/her authority in manipulating those around them in order for them remain the “top-dog”. This is often seen when a wealthy member of a family, instead of delegating powers or funds that can remove the dependency mode displayed by all that come to him/her for assistance opts to control the cash pot and instead operates a begging bowl policy. This ensures that all that require to get somewhere in life, have to go through him/her. There are always exceptions to the rule of course in that some persons naturally do not wish to take responsibility for their lives and willingly stay dependent on this system – blissfully happy too. The problem arises when within the family some clever Tom questions the status-quo and wishes to rise above his/her standing of the “dependency mode”. The ensuing outcome could result in acts by the wealthy family member to mobilise support by any means necessary within other members of the family to ensure that his/her authority remains unquestionable and intact. There are not many families within African who will not have had experiences of exploitation, blackmail, witchcraft, deceit, murder even etc…being done to them by close family members simply because they in one way or other felt their authority threatened. Yet how many persons have stopped to ask themselves how the abuse of trust by family members does not equate to corruption? When for instance you get orphaned children’s assets grabbed and sold off by various well-meaning uncles/aunts or even close family friends and the orphans end without anything from their deceased parents? Or when you get family lawyers who are supposed to protect the welfare of these very children opting instead to alter or destroy legal documents to hide the truth of Wills? Or widowed wives who will sell off assets that should be for the off springs to then later claim falsehoods? Or elders within family who side-step transparency of their accountability to their responsibilities and instead opt to wallow in alcohol-induced self pity? Is this not corruption which is at a level that touches each and every person, done by close entrusted persons?

To those that often are quick to point the finger at government as being corrupt I often ask this question? Who is government? Is it not your uncle/brother/sister/dad/mum/aunt/friend who when elected in to a ministerial position you will rejoice in the hope that “now you are made”! For after all, if your relative/friend is in government, you are sure to get a share of the bootie. You can have your kids go live with him to commute to school/hospital for instance and if you don’t have funds for their schooling/medical care, well that’s also sorted. You are certain to get some assistance in one form or other which of course will not be on the ministerial salary but on the allocated budget of what that post is supposed to achieve. But hey – do you stop to ask how this will impact on the intended project that ministerial money should go to? NO – you don’t really care, you just want money for your aim and your ministerial relative can provide a way out.

Or remember that time you needed to get through customs quickly with a shipment you had coming from abroad but didn’t have enough money to clear it through the proper channels? Well that too got sorted. You know someone in customs who was could clear it for you, no questions asked and what the hell if the revenue looses out on tax…you got your goods and made the profit you wanted to finish off that mansion you are building. Life is sweet. As for my son/daughter who is not faring so well at school/university, must make sure I leave an “extra” sweetener for the head teacher/guild president to rectify that. We need a doctor in the family…

Now for these elections coming, best you ensure your front man is on top so as not to disturb your business interests. So what if the roads are poor, just make sure that next shipment brings you the latest 4×4 that can get you to that meeting up north with some foreign donors who wish to start on a project for displaced individuals that cannot make up their minds whether to stay or go out…A note to make an appointment with that clinic abroad again for my medical check-up too.
Oh and yes must remember to mention that we are fighting corruption and find some fall guy to take the hit…

Corruption is innate in all of us – it’s the degree in which it is allowed to take root that determines its long-term effect on a society. We all are guilty of corruption if not directly, but indirectly and should stop and examine our motives and actions before accusing governments/leaders/politicians/presidents of corruption.