Daniel Kalinaki's weblog

A commentary on news and events in Uganda and elsewhere


Just an ordinary bloke.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sneezing hot and cold down the Swine Flu Hotline

THIRD FLOOR - I woke up this morning feeling like I'd been hit by a truck, my remains run through a mill and then spun dry at 160 revs per minute. Anyway, its the flu, which has been slowly taking over my life for the last couple of days.

In ordinary times this would call for a stiff drink in the morning, a cup of lemon tea, a session in the gym and sauna and viola! But these are not ordinary days thanks to the H1N1 virus which causes the sometimes lethal Swine Flu.

Having been on a couple of flights back home on Sunday, I started worrying. I quickly googled the symptoms: running nose? Tick. Lethargy? Tick (although I feel this way all the time except when in possession of stiff drink, above...). Joint pains? Tick. Fever? Yes, from being scared sick by this time. Headache? On the way.

The missus was by now looking at me with mild bemusement as I felt my nape and searched for the hotline. After being given the all-clear at Entebbe Airport on Sunday night, I had been given a small white piece of paper with symptoms and hotline numbers to call, just in case I started feeling crap and showing symptoms. As a diligent and law-abiding citizen, I had taken the piece of paper and very carefully managed to lose it in a minute or less. Now here I was showing 70 per cent of the symptoms and going through my duty free receipts for the bloody piece of paper. I found receipts for chocolate, ceiling glow-in-the-dark stickers, plenty of books but no bloody Piece of Paper

After finally getting the numbers from the office, I placed a worried call to the first hotline number.

"I think I am on the verge of starting a wave of death in the country," I said, "and would like to be taken away into quarantine and the key cast into the sea to protect the rest of all Ugandans."

Not really, anyway, I said I wanted to take a precautionary test; was there somewhere I could go or could they send in a mobile lab to check me out. The voice on the other end insisted I stay just where I was (which was at the dining table, wrapped in a towel and trying to remember if I had a valid and up-to-date will and names of all who owe me money). He then read out another mobile number for a Dr Makumbi who, Mr Voice said, would be of help to me.

I promptly called Dr Makumbi who answered on the third ring. After explaining my feelings (hehe; how I was feeling, duh!), my journeys, etc, I asked for advice.

"I am at the Airport right now," Dr Makumbi told me.

"call me back later," he added, before hanging up.

So there I am, in a house with three other people, in a towel sat at a dining table, potentially carrying a virus that could wipe out the human race and allow pigs to inherit the world, and the head of the anti-epidemics task force, or whatever it is called, was asking me to stay put and call him later? When? In an hour? In the afternoon? Just before I receive my last rites?

Being the law/instruction-abiding citizen alluded to earlier, I dressed up, had a cup of lemon tea and went forth into the world to multiply viruses. Well, I did pass by the AAR clinic where the bloke ahead of me in the queue was spotting some horrific leg injury attained in some macho activity like bungee jumping, sky diving or fighting his way out of a dangerous part of Mogadishu.

You can imagine how macho I felt when I went in after him and told the doctor that I probably had swine flu and felt like I had hours to live. She kept a straight face but I could see her smiling behind her clinical eyes when she told me all I probably have is the 'ordinary' flu and prescribed some rest, water and vitamins.

Last week I had car trouble and had to be rescued by the Missus in her car with a tow truck in, eh...er...tow. When we told the Prima Donna of the House, age 6, about it, she said I was such a baby for not being able to push the car myself (yeah, like push it for 10 kilometres, smartarse?). I wonder what she will say when I tell her later today that I went to see the doctor because I was sneezing...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Commerce vs Independence

SECOND FLOOR - My new best friends at the Uganda Revenue Authority held a press conference on Tuesday to give more details about how some of their officials have been conniving with license plate makers to issue 'fake' or duplicate plates.

Having gotten that out of the way, they turned to the Transparency International survey which ranked them as the most corrupt tax body in the region and said the survey was, ahem, fake.

URA bosses said that because 60 per cent of the sample was made up of people from rural areas -- and who do not "interface" with URA, it could not be representative or accurate. First of all, that is wrong' opinion polls try as much as possible to mirror the national demographics and majority of Ugandans live in rural areas.

Secondly, notice that the focus has shifted away from evil Monitor which reported the survey, to the survey itself. No word yet on the advertising ban and the Commissioner General is reportedly too busy to take calls. Should we run the story of the advertising ban now or give diplomacy a chance?

Meanwhile, I learnt something interesting today; at least two of the top PR honchos at URA, the same people talking into Kagina's ears, are former New Vision (our competition) reporters/sub-editors.

Go figure!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Biting the hand that taxes you

SECOND FLOOR - The Uganda Revenue Authority has cancelled a supplement it had earlier planned to run with Daily Monitor over a story that ran on Monday quoting a Transparency International report that listed URA as the most corrupt tax body in the region.

I can see why the folks at URA would be unhappy with them being picked on out of a report that lists other organisations including the police force (which is the most corrupt but everyone knows that so it is not news). I also can see that there was a bit of editorialising in the story, insufficient context (especially of the reforms undertaken to clean up URA) but I cannot understand the high-handed action - coming as it did amidst the license plate scandal.

Not only is it a case of attacking the messenger and ignoring the message, I am a bit tiffed that URA could choose to use 'taxpayer's' money to fight well, taxpayers. For all our faults, we, too pay tax -- we just filed the end-year financials.

There is a press conference tomorrow where expect a large dose of Monitor bashing. I don't know how it will be resolved (I will try to keep you posted) but how is this for an example of the commercial threat to independent journalism?

Thoughts on a postcard...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Let residents run Kampala; they already do!

SECOND FLOOR - I really must find time to blog a bit more frequently. Anyway, here is a piece of my Thursday column in the Daily Monitor. The more I wrote the angrier I got but anyway, here goes:


The government, the opposition and Buganda Kingdom are all up in arms over the Kampala Capital City Bill 2009 tabled before Parliament last week.

The central government claims that it wants to appoint a team of professionals to run the city better and plan for its future expansion. Buganda Kingdom officials say proposals to take over two town councils currently in Wakiso District are a ruse to grab the kingdom’s land. The opposition, on the other hand, says that, having failed to win control over the city for many years, the central government is finally winning the game in a draconian fashion – by uprooting the goalposts and taking them away.

So, who’s right and who’s wrong? Buganda’s claim has historical and emotional appeal but it seems a tad unreasonable. If Mengo Municipality, the heartbeat of the kingdom, is being cut out of the city boundaries, is it not fair that compensation must be found in the form of surrounding areas? We can debate which areas to include in the new city – for instance, why take Kira Town Council which is already developed, and not, say, parts of Mpigi which are not? We can also look at the maps and see who wins and who loses but the idea sounds logical – and could raise land values in those areas even higher.

While it’s true that the new Bill, if passed into law, will end opposition control over the city with the stroke of a pen, it will only accelerate a process that is well and truly underway. The opposition might control all but one of the city’s seats in Parliament but the NRM has been making inroads as more and more people became disgruntled with Ssebaana Kizito and then Nasser Sebaggala’s kleptocratic regimes at City Hall.

Instead of using their control over the city to demonstrate their managerial abilities, the opposition ransacked and plundered Kampala, stealing whatever they could carry and selling off whatever they couldn’t. Land, markets, houses, schools, cemeteries, etc were all stolen or sold.

This was not just an opposition racket; officials from the very same central government that is allegedly riding to our rescue were involved in the relocation of schools to pave way for investors, the boarding off of public parks to set up malls and pubs, and the dubious allocation of markets to hawk-eyed, claw-fingered Merchants of Vice.

The central government had a chance to show its abilities in the run-up to CHOGM when it sank billions of our money in fixing the city’s roads, street lights and ‘beautifying’ it. Within weeks the potholes were back; traffic and street lights had ‘died’; the grass had grown back; the rubbish skips had been turned to scrap; and the potted plants down the road from State House – part of Shs4.5 billion spent by highly-placed politico-entrepreneurs on beautification – had been returned to the palaces from which they were, ostensibly, hired.

How can the same central government then claim that it will run the city better? It might be a good idea to appoint lawyers, engineers, environmentalists etc to the new Authority to run the city but do we not already have those specialists at City Hall?

Kampala does not need anyone to manage it. The city manages itself by the grace of God and the fortitude of its residents. We pay private companies to collect our garbage; build walls, hire guards for our security; replace the shock absorbers in our cars when the potholes wear them out; tarmac the roads to our residences; pay to use what’s left of the city’s only public park; produce our own electricity half of the time off generators and ‘inverters’; pay street kids not to break into our cars and generally get by despite, and not because of, the city administrators.
So you can fight all you want for what’s left of Kampala, all you bloody politicians. Just don’t claim to be doing it in the name of its residents.