Daniel Kalinaki's weblog

A commentary on news and events in Uganda and elsewhere


Just an ordinary bloke.

Friday, July 28, 2006

50,000 dollars for an egg!

I met a friend in Nairobi last week who was travelling around with what I considered an obscene amount of money; 20,000,000 dollars. In cash! When I asked him if he was not worried about personal safety (or that of his cash), he said not to worry; he had more where that came from.

To drive the point home, he pulled out his wallet and handed me 50,000 dollars!

Now, under normal circumstances, this was the point at which I would quit my job and spend the money traveling around the world or finally settle down and write a book.

The only problem this time was that my mate, Mernat, was from Harare and the money he was lugging around was Zimbabwe dollars, not the more valuable US dollars. A mismanaged land redistribution policy has left Zimbabwe's agro-dependant economy on the ropes while international political and economic isolation has only made a dire situation worse.

Zimbabwe's inflation is currently at around 1,100% and growing every day. The value of the currency is more like 'here today, gone tomorrow'. The 50,000 Zim dollars that I was given -- it is a single note, mark you, has an 'expiry' date. It is a bearer cheque which should be cashed in on or before 31st December 2006. By then I am not sure it would be worth the paper on which it is printed.

I asked Mernat what I could buy with my windfall.

After a short pause, he told me.

"An egg".

Once the bread-basket of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe has ground to a halt as South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki looks on in comical 'silent diplomacy', probably trying not to end up with egg on his face. Too late for that for the rest of the Zimbabweans!


Friday, July 21, 2006

When Africa is cooler than Europe....

I have been in Nairobi for a couple of days. I have been to this city several times but this -- seven days -- is the longest I have been here.

Officially, I am attending a Reuters Foundation meeting for African journalists discussing this whole debate on whether Africa needs more aid, trade, both, or none of the two. In reality, I have been using the break away from work to shoot the breeze a bit and catch up with my reading.

I have been reading William Easterly's book, the Elusive Quest for Growth (you can never really run away from work, can you) which has some interesting stuff on how to develop, or not to develop Africa.

Temps in Nairobi have been in the single digits on some nights (at least it feels that way) and it has been one of those times when I wished I could go to England to escape the cold (temperatures in London have been a golden 27 degrees plus. Can you imagine? Think picnics in Hyde Park, think swinging Stella Artois on tap at the Nobody Inn at Newington Green....

Stop dreaming and get back to blogging.

Anyway, the news in Nairobi has been all about Raila Odinga, the veteran politician, who is running for President next year after falling out with President Mwai Kibaki. It started with the release of a half-official biography about Raila in which he revealed some involvement of sorts (have not read the book yet, no details) about his role in the failed coup in 1982.

His political opponents quickly jumped into the fray and said Raila, whose father, Jaramogi was an icon in Kenyan politics, should be arrested for treason. No chance, said Amos Wako, Kenya's Attorney General.

The admission in the book was not the same as a court admission, there was no complainant and the charges were time-barred, anyway.

Little has changed in Nairobi. The streets are still as dirty as those in Kampala, the traffic jam is worse but I am told you now get mugged after dark, not in the day as used to happen.

I have been too busy with this aid and trade stuff, I have hardly seen the town at night (did not want to get mugged as well). That is about to change.

Carnivore is on the cards tonight and although I have an early flight to catch tomorrow, I might squeeze in one or two clubs. Nothing fancy, just my humble contribution to the Kenyan economy (giving aid so that Kenyans can trade).


Friday, July 14, 2006

Oh, the irony of the LRA

Now that the Lord's Resistance Army rebels are in the news, let's just look at their latest offering dripping, not with the blood of the innocents, but with irony.

According to the Vice President of the Government of South Sudan, Riek Marchar, the two LRA top honchos, Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti refused to travel to Juba to attend the planned peace talks with a Ugandan government delegation because they were afraid of being abducted whilst there, and handed over to the International Criminal Court, which has already issued warrants for their arrest.

Well, after ordering and masterminding the abduction of thousands of children in Nothern Uganda over the past two decades, the two rebel leaders probably know what they are talking about.

Oh, the irony!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Was Kony born to be wild?

A lot of stuff has been said about LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony. He has been accused of rape, murder, abduction, defilement, forceful surgery on unwilling victims, etc., but he has never been accused of having a sense of humour.

Until now.

What else can you make of this picture, which ran on the cover of the Daily Monitor on July 5, of the rebel leader, in his 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' pose, wearing a T-shirt with the words 'Born to be wild'?

Let us narrow the possibilities. One, unbelievably, is that Kony has either a sense of humour or irony, or both, and selected the T-shirt himself in a second-hand clothes market in Juba.

Two, that the rebel leader is totally clueless or too busy with matters of life and death to wonder what the words on the T are, in which case he is like those unknowing souls (God bless their innocent souls) who proudly walk around with Tees that have phrases like; 'New York City Mortuary Attendant'.

Still in the papers, there is a story about Government plans to install alarms in resettlement homes to fight insecurity, according to the good commander of the land forces, Lt. Gen. Katumba Wamala.

Unless we have devised new, solar powered alarms, I don't know how this will work in an area that largely has no electricity. But let us imagine, somehow, that the things are installed, and that a few remnants attack a home. Excerpts follow.

Resident: Hello, is that the police/army/whatever the case maybe?
Officer: Yes, go ahead, over!
Resident: We are being attacked by rebels.
Officer: Declare your location, over!
Resident: Kacoke Madit resettlement home
Officer: How do we get there, over!
Resident: You walk towards Gulu town until you find an anthill that is near a mango tree. You might see some small boys playing there. Then you turn left and go until you find some old women arguing over a land boundary....
Officer: We don't have fuel
Resident: But officer, we will surely die if you don't come
Officer: You mean they are armed?
Resident: They have machetes, Ak-47s....
Officer: Beep...beep...beep...(phone hang up)
Resident: Hullo? Hullo?
(Sound of gunfire, machetes, wails, etc)
Rebel leader: Shut up! Don't you know we were born to be wild?

End credits...