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.

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.

Shades of corruption

Night-time travel

Rain has been on the lips of virtually anything or anyone moving here in the UK over the past recent weeks.  Ironically it has come on a backdrop where a hosepipe ban had just been reinstated for the low water levels in some eastern parts of the British Isles.  Even while the ban was being read out over local news channels, the rains appeared to be mocking the forecasters. My one and only concern as always is how much sunshine are we going to have for this summer period.  By looks of it, recession hasn’t been limited to the financial world alone.  However it is not only recession crippling the Eurozone, nor the never-ending rain causing Britain to become incontinent that captured my interest last week. It was something I’d overheard taking place on a public transport system.

In the haze of dripping rain over the window panes of the bus carrying a mix of night passengers with varying takes on life, the bus driver appeared to exercise something that is slowly diminishing these days. He must have spotted two young ladies running to catch his bus as it prepared to pull away from the stop and decided to stop and wait for them to board.  Perhaps it was because the bus driver was moved because of their gender and the time of night  or maybe his patience levels had not yet been tested on customer care – I really don’t know.  The two passengers proceeded to offer to pay their fare with a £10 note between them.  Now, there is a flat fare throughout the bus network of £1.30 with a pre-pay Oyster card and £2.20 if you are paying by cash. I am pretty sure that these two ladies knew this but seemed unhappy to part with their money towards the cost of their travel – more so when the driver told them he didn’t have any change and they’d be short-changed by 10p until such a time when he got some change. 

The carry-on of passengers boarding the bus without the correct fare or pre-paid tickets did not stop with these two ladies – it seemed to be norm.  Still the bus driver kept repeating the well worn statement “I am not supposed to issue you with tickets – you should get a pre-paid ticket before boarding the bus. But I will accept the exact fare if you have it as I don’t have any change.”  I started to think this ought to be a slogan for Transport for London on their publicity campaigns in varying languages if not signs.

We got to our last destination for the bus and all made to get off the bus.  The two ladies walked down to the bus driver’s cabin and asked him why he had made them pay for their travel.  The driver told them because transport is not free unless a person is carrying the appropriate identification that exempts them.  This reasoning didn’t quite seem to connect with the two ladies, so they pressed on asking him why he felt it necessary to collect money which didn’t go in to his personal pocket but instead went to his company bosses.  Furthermore, they reasoned, he was of “their kind” – meaning he was a black African like they were and as such, this should be reason enough for the driver not to charge them anything but allow them free travel.  Why should he have any affinity towards this company’s collections of travel fares? I left the conversation at the point where the bus driver appeared to have concluded that this was a no-goner of a discussion eating in to his short break before resuming his next run.  To the two ladies – the fact that they were black Africans and the bus driver was also a black African, this alone should entail them to cheat the system in solidarity.


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.