Uganda: Top Misreported Stories of ‘09

Of all the stories that got covered this year, what would top the list of the most grossly misreported? Few, if any, would edge out the death of Brian Bukenya, son to Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, and that of former army commander Maj. Gen. James Kazini.

They were part of a spate of deaths, and near deaths, carrying on from the last weeks of October into November. Save for Kazini’s, all the rest were a result of three road accidents that claimed the lives of upwards of 20 people including Brian’s and President Museveni’s advisor Fr. Albert Byaruhanga.

The way those deaths were covered revealed a far more frightening threat within sections of our news media than our current repressive state might ever pose to us. This threat  combines self-censorship, pandering to and reproducing the official government statement(s), and cultural attitudes of singing the praises of the dead whether they exist or not. About self-censorship though, some people might argue the state already planted, watered and weeded that seed and like a contented farmer has no need of constantly returning to the garden when it comes into its full bloom.

Granted, death in Uganda can’t boast such a huge shock effect on us. We seem to have become numb to it either because of our long history of losses, most particularly through unnecessary conflicts and wars, or because we go about our daily lives with death so close to us, from preventable diseases to reckless driving, that we seem to have learnt to live with it.

You tell this from our unofficial standard way of condolence; that’s life [get over with it]. But then, every once in a while death easily shatters through that supposed numbness with such fury and abandon claiming in its trail powerful figures that seemed immortal to us forcing us into self-reflection about it. Kazini’s was one such death, the “immortal” figure that many eulogised practically as a military ‘virtuoso’.

For journalists and news media, there is reason to feel frightened at how we revealed, in the ensuing reportage of the two deaths, our deep acquiescence with the official version and the effects of tagging at the coattails of people we’ve ringed off as newsmakers.

From the day journalism chose as one of its mantras that if it bleeds it leads, we locked ourselves up in such difficult moral dilemmas as for instance reporting stories about loss, especially loss of human life. How do you extricate yourself from that shared sense of loss to ask the penetrating questions that are expected of you as a reporter? How do you balance your desire to write a guaranteed lead story, which is every reporter’s desire, against the nudging feeling you are turning into benefit another person’s loss?

Like people in the business of selling caskets, or services of funeral homes that are the craze now, what prayers should or does a reporter make every morning when he or she sets off to work? But then, can we really say these dilemmas were at play in the reportage of the deaths in question? We will begin with Brian’s, VP Bukenya’s son. Continue reading


Daily Monitor’s Idea Of Creativity, Go Figure!

ABOVE: How It Used To Be. While BELOW: How It Looks Like Now…

BELOW: Where This Design They Will Flaunt as New Was Copied…

While I check the Daily Monitor (DM) Online edition several times a day, I wouldn’t have known the new “changes” if it weren’t for an old story about Justice Kanyeihamba I was looking for. So I type my search query into Google (what could we possibly do without you!?) and up come the links to DM. I click the topmost only for the next page to gladly display for me error 404: The requested resource is not available. And where was this error generated from? Nation Media Group, the mother company of DM.

So I think to myself ok, I’ll go to the DM site directly and search. I do the usual, typing in the URL that is, and bam, my eyes encounter a somewhat different webpage from what I knew to be the usual. But before I can applaud DM for a brand new site my mind reminds me that I’d seen that design somewhere else. Where? Kenya’s Daily Nation. To be sure my mind isn’t playing a prank on me, I open the Daily Nation website and confirm what I shouldn’t have doubted even for a second, my mind’s sharp memory.

So I go scuttling, as if there was a prize for it, to my facebook page where we must tell on ourselves and updated my status thus: Uganda’s Daily Monitor changes website to look like its sister (or brother or cousin or name it) Kenya’s Daily Nation. While night and day The New Vision Group as it is now called and which is up to 80 percent owned by the government either buys out or sets up new radio stations across the country. Catch it up here. It’s time to question whether media concentration and media conglomerations are a good thing or a bad thing for East Africa.

When Times Change

When the beautifully falling flakes

Subdue the still multicoloured grounds

And their whiteness radiates the night sky

Times have changed.

Then suddenly we gain extra pounds

The magic of extra layers of cloth,

As body struggles to sustain life

Times have changed.

With hands tucked deep inside

Pulling and holding us together

Our heads hang low, our pace quickens

Times have changed.

The immigrants long for lands long left behind

The ‘natives’ curse for once

The only troubling accident of their birth

Times have changed.

The days that test man’s endurance call out

The days that test the human spirit have come

The days when men hibernate like animals are here

Times have changed.

Who can catch a Tiger?

In the eye of infidelity (Courtesy photo/Google)

I’ve never come anywhere close to a tiger. Not in the few wild parks I’ve been to. Not in the one zoo I’ve been to. And certainly not on the luscious green golf courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia. So the vivid images I know about Tiger[s] is what I’ve chanced upon on television. Everything else has come to me in writing.

You get a sense when you know a thing about the Tiger that while he may not be the King of the Jungle, he is untouchable. He rules the cat family. So you wonder what could possibly ever bring down such a cat?

Wonder no more for the one thing that has repeatedly succeeded in bringing mighty men down has grabbed its freshest and juiciest (as usual) catch. It is woman, man’s bane as the poet Henry Barlow once wrote. And boy is it quite a catch! What else could beat the world’s highest paid athlete and the first athlete to earn $1 billion during a career?

As it is, the capture of the tiger is currently the story in the U.S. and on the Net, competing strongly with the country’s decision to send more troops into the Afghanistan graveyard.

You’ve got to pity this particular tiger in the woods. Yes, pity I said because infidelity is a more complicated issue than we’d like to acknowledge. And, taking the lessons of the good old book, let him who hasn’t sinned cast the first stone.

With that said, he lived his life quite smoothly and he was the last person you’d think would ever come down this way. A charming wife and family, he played his golf and watched his account grow extremely obese. He stayed away from the media (gave very few and far between interviews save for golf related press conferences) and denied the newspapers, magazines and tabloids their money. They didn’t like that at all. So the manhunt has been on and how God rewards the seekers!

The consolation in all this might be that it’s unlikely his blackness (did I say blackness?) will stick out because man’s bane knows no skin colour. She nips power and might regardless of whether its bodied in yellow, black, brown, or chocolate.

And what could be the bad news? Well, if history is anywhere true, the mighty and powerful man has got from least to no ways to escape this. Shaggy couldn’t have been any truer in his claim about the strength of a woman. After all, he was echoing a truth that time long validated in spite of all men’s machinations.

When all you need is some laughter

Davis, One of Michael Jackson's Biggest Fans (Courtesy/UgandaVideos)

The week’s been tough. Military ‘virtuoso’ James Kazini died at the strike of an iron bar (or maybe something more, if all the info zooming around is to be believed). The news media dashed for officialese (aka comment from police and the army) even when the story was right in their backyard!

I was beside myself. I think the state’s repeated repression and restriction against the media have finally paid off. We respond the way they want even when they aren’t around to crack the whip. Or, dare I say it, our game’s too low and we’re either afraid to raise it or we’re unable to. In both cases, the state wins. But more of this later (I know I’ve put away one or two more things for later, but am serious about coming back to them, ok?).

Then there were other personal stuff some I can mention like a swine flu scare, a very bizarre slow down in my gigs and other I can’t mention because a buddy I know means very well for me warned me I’d be wading in rough waters that I might find myself labouring with explanations about. So that piece of info is available on demand all you need to do is just ask.

So naturally I needed something to cheer me up, to gimme a laugh, to get me on the high again, and it came through browsing Facebook where I chanced upon a link, which took me to a website where I found this hilarious video. Nothing hilarious like it. I asked myself, following after Elizabeth Browning’s masterpiece ‘How Do I Love Thee’, how did Michael Jackson touch or influence the world. Nice people, let’s count the ways beginning with Davis here (or just click on the image above!).

Note where MJ had a white glove, Davis has chosen a red Santa-like sock and not anywhere on him but hung on the wall. Now, if that’s not original, tell me what it is!

Jerk Dumisani, anybody?

Ras Dumisani gets his kick out of South Africa's Anthem (Courtesy photo/YouTube)

I can’t remember any moment in my short life to date when Uganda’s national anthem was ever sang on an international stage. If you do, please bring me up to speed. Now that’s not something to be proud of. But…

Down south though, South Africa’s has. Many times. So I can only imagine how it must feel for a South African national to watch/listen their national song being murdered, actually obliterated, not once but many times over by some little known jerk of a musician who doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry to his name! If you know a tiny bit how stuff gets on Wikipidea, tells how nobody is really uninterested in him. Not even himself!

Whatever makes some people think all you need to emulate Bob Marley is grow dreadlocks, smoke weed and croak! Might I be crying more than the bereaved?

Well, my friend (right?) Y.B.T., as well as anybody else, please be your own judge here.

Kazini Death; media drops the ball, again!

This was weighing so much on me I had to get it off to get on with my day, so…

Just read the Daily Press Review of The Uganda Record and the way our so-called mainstream media has dropped the ball – again! – in their coverage of the gory death of late army commander Maj. Gen. James Kazini is depressing at the very least. They dashed for the most obvious (The Uganda Record has put it more eloquently: the familiar hyperbole, the overstating of praises and achievements of the dead that is typical of Ugandan society), as they did in the coverage of Brian Bukenya’s death,  sacrificing critical analysis in that sprint.

I’ll leave bigger minds to crack through the motives of the killer and all the surrounding conspiracies, but here is what I’d have loved to read in the coverage: although as an individual Kazini might have been a nice man and good soldier, his career as a military man was anything but illustrious. Stirring storm after another everywhere he found himself in charge, the height of which being in 1999-2000 in Kisangani in the DRC, the one thing he seemed to have mastered so well was living to die another day.

At the height of his career he would find himself battling perhaps what every soldier (and much more so one of a higher rank as his) dreads: being dismissed with disgrace from the profession he’d entirely committed his whole life, all because of a shameful crime of creating ghost soldiers on the payroll to fleece the government, and another; allegedly plotting a coup. The astute soldier that he is, the Maj. Gen fought these charges, albeit with pens, books and learned minds, like his life depended on them and at the time of this death his punch was still strong.

But another, more personal, more inner, battle raged within. It was a battle with his manly desires. Even when parts of that skeleton in his closet popped out, in his public fights over his junior wife and related physical abuse towards her, the public was drawn more to the hilarity of it all – an army general fighting for a woman! –  and missed the more sobering issues it spoke to: a man deeply conflicted in his beliefs and watching helplessly as his world increasingly opened from under his feet.

To understand those beliefs we go back to the first days and later entrenchment of Christianity in Uganda, which was been explored here (or check Daily Monitor March 4, 2008 if the link doesn’t work). Simply, when we decided on Christianity because of all the goodies it dangled before us, we realised everything else we loved (read many spouses) had to be closed out. It worked both for those who wanted to actively practice the faith or to just be associated with it.

That was hard. So we decided to sneak them under the cover of darkness into our closets (the Namuwongo slums of this world where nobody ever thinks your class can even sustain the mere thought of the place). And for as long as everything went well, everyone was happy. Until jitters set it and as William Butler Yeats long saw, the centre starts losing its hold and things begin to fall apart.

In the days ahead, we’ll know more about Kazini’s death particularly if there were more than two hands and an iron bar involved. Already fire-spitting Kahinda Otafiire has already suggested an investigation of who else might have been involved. For now though, the man who successfully held off all external battles against him would come to fall under one from within him.

And of all places his death found fit to take him out of action was in his slummy ‘closet’ rather than a place worthy of his position and wealth, like in his grand hotel in Kasese or nice house in Nyabushozi, or those in and around Kampala. And rather than an AK 47, a bomb, a missile from a fighter plane, or even a paragraph from the law of the land, of all things his death found fit to take him out of action with was a hitherto unknown mistress now turned infamous bludgeoner.

One then wonders why, whenever the mighty ones fall it’s often in the most debasing of ways.