Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Drivers’ Prayer


The Drivers’ Prayer* * *

Thank you Dear Lord
For this amazing world of Vehicles
Ruled by hands, feet, mirrors
Adrenaline and sport rims

Now that I have managed to
Clear these incredible government taxes
That seem to always keep increasing
With nothing to show in return
Lead me not in the path of illegal drivers
Who do not know what a driving test is
But be in charge of my gears
So that Number one will not be five
As I balance at the Nakawa Business School rise

Help me to see the swaggering truck
Laden with sugar cane stalks
Yet devoid of any lights
In its drunken dance this night
On the Jinja Road Highway

And when this excited youth
Blinds me with his full beam
At the Gaba High Way
Whilst Speeding
As though he has a running stomach
Let me pray that he reaches his home safely
And not the morgue

Do remind me
To forgive the taxi-man
Who recklessly speeds past my left-side
And splatters sewage water
Onto the uniformed pupil
As she runs to school

Help me Dear Lord
To swerve past the boda-boda brat
Who rides towards me
Like a blind bat
And when that old tattered trailer
Starts rolling back the Namboole Rise
Let me peacefully move aside
Instead of thinking Evil and doom
For those traffic cops
Who allow such DMV's
To grace our roads

Restrain me
From those four letter ****words
As I sink
Hook, line and sinker
Into this cemetery of craters
Called pot-holes
At the Yard
In order to avoid
A brush with that
Sweating in his fake leather attire
In this hot midday heat
And blasting
His bike
Thinking it's a Harley-Davidson

Help me pray for that bumper-sticker Christian
Who displays lovely Christian messages on his car
And yet overtakes me recklessly
With horns blaring and an arrogant face
As I negotiate a corner in Kololo

And when I find my parking lights and mirrors
Missing and only to be found at Kisekka Market
Lead me not to wish ''doom and gloom''
For that hunger stricken juvenile
For you are reminding me of my duty
To You and my Countrymen

Cast away the desire O Lord
To knock the bicycle
Carrying *'ffenne'*(jack fruit) in the middle of this
Recently renovated path
Called a Road
And when ''Seya's Boys'' clean the road gutters
Let me appreciate their efforts
Instead of complaining about the
Heaps of garbage they leave
On these very narrow roads

And when this idiot, sorry, man
Decides to swerve past me
At breakneck speed
Along the Entebbe Highway
Help me ignore my testosterone
That is begging me to yell obscenities
And to do the same
For that is not the true test of manhood

Protect me O Father from the newspaper boys
Who splatter the ''Red Pepper''
Into my face
Making me stare longer at this triple-X display
Than my wife is comfortable

But give me grace, O Holy One
And *lot of self-control*
In this snail-paced traffic jam
Whilst being cooked by the sun
To park aside
As the ''V.I.P'' convoy and their noisy sirens
Demand arrogantly to pass by
And speeds past
With the 'Boss' smiling at ''Black Mamba'' filth
And reckless boda-bodas and taxi drivers
Following suit at a break-neck speed
Oblivious of my very pregnant wife

May the City Council officers rid us of the
Carrot and Orange peddling Batooro boys
Who accost us with baskets of their goodies
As we hit the gas
To speed off at the Wandegeya green lights
And when these huge Coaches and Tippers
Bully me off the road at break-neck speed
Caution me not to laugh in glee
When I find them broken down along the roadside
Or pleading for mercy from the Cops

Please caution me Dear One
Not to follow suit
When the military police
And the police patrol
Decide to amend the traffic rules
And drive at the reverse side of the road
Even when I barely miss a head-on collision
With the 999 Police pick-up
Which has decided to make Buganda Road
A-two-way traffic
Conveniently for themselves only
Inspite of the one way traffic signs
Let my mouth always find restrain O Father
When shouted and hooted at
By these gun-swinging ‘gentlemen’
Who keep Law and *Order *

Grant me patience, O Lord of Patience
For the pregnant woman
As she crosses the road
And let me not hoot at the L-plated driver
Moving at 2km per hour
Frustrating our efforts to avoid
The thick 5p.m. Nakulabye jam

And when the street kids
Jostled by their suckling mothers
Stretch out their glue-fuming shriveled hands
At Rock Gardens
For a 'Kikumi'(One hundred shillings),
Let me silently oblige
Rather than stick my nose in the air
And question why and how they were begotten
Or blame ''the Government''
Like everyone else

Do bless me O God
When I stop
And smile
With all restraint I have
At the bullish cop
Who demands to see my driving permit
Whilst asking for ''lunch''
And yet ignores my right to fresh air
Having 'forgotten' to brush his teeth

Let me not misuse my horn
At the annoying fellow
Who decides to sway his vested-chest
In the middle of the road
And when I ram my brakes
In haste
Let me manage a smile
At the stick-chewing herdsman
Whose shriveled cow
Has decided to cross the road
And defecate thereon
As though to emphasize its rights

Help me keep the biblical covenant
Job made with his eyes
Not to stare
At the scanty dressing
Of the Hot 100 FM lasses
Whose succulent thighs and tight behinds
With 'malice aforethought'
Attempt to distract my clean thoughts
To other unspeakable things?
Moreover at this Kira Road Round about

Do bless those faithful callers
On the *Radio One Talk Back Show*
Who never seem to run out of airtime?
Having talked their lungs out on *Spectrum*
The Night before
As they advocate for better roads
And deny our leaders any descent sleep

And Father,
As I try to overtake
These squeaking rufura-bound Isuzu's
With their cargo of cattle
Packed almost like timber
With the attendants seated on their backs
As though they were potato sacks
Driving animal rights activists insane
Remind me to graciously clean my wind screen
When one of these death-bound scared beasts
Squids a sloth of green stuff at me
Let me not make any New Year resolutions
That will deny my family of meat
For life

And Lord?
Teach me to be content
With my 1.8 litre Engine
And remind me that it does the same job
As the 'Hummer' and 'New Eyes'
Albeit at a cheaper price
And when Shell and her sister petrol companies
Decide to increase the fuel prices
Help me to graciously park my car
And join the huge horde of
Fellow Ugandans
Walking to work
And back?.
Whilst pondering how to book
A seat on a boat when the roads flood


*The poet is clearly a regular driver on the streets of Kampala*

Remove British American Tobacco from Central Business District!

Remove British American Tobacco from Central Business District!

I recently visited the Uganda Management Institute along Jinja Road to help a colleague clear for the recent graduation. Whilst there, I took time to enjoy the well kept gardens of the institute as well as take in the nice cool breeze as I watched the swinging branches of the trees sway to the afternoon wind. I must confess this was a nice break away from the hustle and bustle of the city a few meters away where most of the trees have now gone in the name of development. It is hardly possible these days to get such shaded parking these days. My rather short moment was interrupted by an ugly thick whiff of tobacco smoke that engulfed my nostrils. It was coming from the British American Tobacco Company situated along Jinja Road. Immediately, my day dreaming ended and my short enjoyment of peace and tranquility was brought to an end.

It was then that I realized the inconvenience that all non smokers in UMI and those who work in areas around this tobacco company are suffering. I think if any medical tests were carried out, most of those passive smoking employees in the Ministry of Internal affairs and Celtel might display high levels of nicotine which is indisputably a high health risk proven to cause cancer and other diseases.

I think it is high time the government and especially the Ministry of Health came out strongly and organized for the relocation of the said Tobacco Company away from the central business district. The National Bureau of standards, NEMA and all right thinking Ugandans should know about this risk and the Human Rights NGO's should know that our right to health is being abused by this BAT Company.

As it is, the company remains a high risk health hazard. And while they are at it, please check the Uganda Waragi producing company which is targeting young teenagers in its adverts and thus ensuring that it destroys the lifespan of our younger generation who will die young due to alcohol.

Daniel R. Ruhweza Esq.

Mini Skirts and Crouch Scratching Italian Men

As an avid listener to the BBC, I recently listened to a story of women in South Africa campaigning against the taxi touts of Johannesburg who undressed a woman 25 year old Nwabisa Ngcukana, because she was dressed in a mini skirt. Many argued that the men were wrong to undress the woman. In fact some like the National House of Traditional Leaders argued that women often wore short skirts in traditional ceremonies. Others argued that the men were even of the same cultural group (presumably Zulu?) which has skimpily dressed cultural wear for women. The woman then organized a match supported by the owners of the taxis to protest against the way their fellow woman was treated. However this demonstration met with a lot of hostility from the taxi touts.

Zulu Girls

Interestingly, in another BBC broadcast, some thing interesting was happening in a different part of the world. A Court in Italy stopped Italian men from scratching their crouches in public, an act they allegedly often performed in public as a way of warding off bad luck 'with a quick grab at what are delicately called their "attributi". According to the story, the Rome Court said that public genital-patting "has to be regarded as an act contrary to public decency, a concept including that nexus of socio-ethical behavioural rules requiring everyone to abstain from conduct potentially offensive to collectively-held feelings of decorum".
King Mswati of Swaziland at Reed Dance
These two stories got me thinking especially about how human rights are respected or abused in the world. However it got me thinking about the different views regarding human rights( and decorum) in the world. I condemn the way the men treated the poor woman by stripping Nwabisa naked. It was a total breach of the South African version of Uganda's Article 24 of the Constitution which prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Such actions indeed ought to be condemned. As alluded to above, we are talking about a country which has one of the most famous traditional/cultural Umhlanga, or Reed Dance ceremonies which involve dressing up in very skimpy clothing.

Umhlanga or Reed Dance-Swaziland
Of course there are those who would argue that it serves the woman right for dressing up in such a way and in a predominantly male work area. Indeed in Uganda today, any woman who dresses up in a similar way risks being undressed by taxi touts and drivers in any of our designated taxi/matatu parks. However, I suspect that others would argue that people have a right to dress up as they deem fit and comfortable - a right which should be respected and protected. We can certainly continue these arguments ad nauseum

Reed Dance March
Instead, I would like to propose a middle ground here - a proposal that is based on my reading of the concept of legal realism - ; that is, whereas women (and men) have a right to dress up the way they wish, ( a right that can be justified also as a cultural right if we are to take the reed dance ceremonies into consideration), they ought to take note of Article 43 of the constitution which is to the effect that in the enjoyment of one's rights and freedoms, no one shall prejudice the fundamental and other human rights and freedoms of others or the public interest. The crux is the interpretation of Public interest under Article 43(2)(c) of the Ugandan Constitution, which does not permit any limitation of the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms beyond what is acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society or what is provided in the constitution.
Reed Dance RSA

Therefore we need to question whether the three activities mentioned, that is, wearing a mini skirt, undressing women in public or crouch scratching would (at least in the Ugandan context) be acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in our free and democratic society. It seems to me in all these scenarios, the reaction of the society does not seem to suggest that such activities are either 'acceptable' or 'justifiable'. Of course this is a view that some readers might not agree with. Infact one famous leader has argued elsewhere that there is no such thing as society -but i digress.

However, I am of the view that the South African taxi touts would not have undressed such a woman if she was dressed up in an attire that is considered more 'decent' in that society or in that area. I also think that if she was dressed like this for the Umhlanga, or Reed Dance ceremony or related traditional ceremony or performance, the reaction would have been different.
Reed Dance RSA

In the same way, the men in Italy would not have been taken to court for scratching their crouches (presumably in the enjoyment of their rights  under our version of Article 29) and yet to the utter disgust of those who were watching them.

Michelle Obama in Indonesia
This therefore means that some rights are not absolute. That is why for example, although someone has the right to drive his/her vehicle, that person, should respect the traffic rules that abide in the country. If such person did drive in total disregard to the traffic rules, they would certainly face the scorn of fellow drivers as well as the long arm of the law. In the instant however, I am aware that others will argue that those offended by an attire or activity should simply look elsewhere since everyone has a right to their body, to what they wear, to when to wear it and to how they wear it. At the same time however, I am also aware of the maxim 'When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do'. This is best exemplified by the way the Queen of England wore a head scarf on her visit to Saudi Arabia, and Michelle Obama, the First lady of USA wore a scarf on her visit to Indonesia and her husband removed his shoes at some point. I will however add, that it is true that 'terms and conditions' apply.

The Queen of England adorns a head scarf

My advice therefore is that in order to avoid being stripped naked, maybe the lady should forego the miniskirt when moving in that particular environment. Similarly, in order to avoid being sued any further, the accused italian men ought to resist scratching their crouches until they are in the privacy of their bathrooms. 

In so doing, I believe we shall have a 'win-win' situation and everyone's human rights respected at least in this context.

By Daniel R. Ruhweza Esq
 [Any rebuttals are welcome]

Put Forest Giveaways to a Referendum

Uganda: Put Forest Giveaways to a Referendum
Source: Copyright 2006, Monitor (Kampala)
Date: December 26, 2006
Byline: Daniel Ruhweza
Original URL

Like most concerned Ugandans, I have been following with sadness the debate on how our environment is being handled especially the proposed giveaway of Mabira Forest land in Mukono and Bugala Central Forest Reserve on Lake Victoria's Kalangala Islands.

In Mr Alex Atuhaire's article "How Long Can The House Stay On The Fence?" which ran in Daily Monitor of December 13, 2006 on Page 26 stated that Kalangala/Bugala forest reserves are not mere forests but categorised as "... core high canopy tropical rainforests...critical sites for biodiversity conservation in Uganda because of their physical isolation in the middle of the Lake Victoria... whose contribution to Uganda's hydrological cycle and biodiversity cannot be overstated.." I certainly agree with him. Our primary and secondary school teachers did a great job in teaching us how rain is made and the importance that forests (especially those in the middle of the lakes) have.

The New Vision articles of December 13&17, 2006 respectively entitled "Africa Is Drying Up" and "It Is High Time We Took Climate Change Seriously" should therefore wake us up to revaluate the way we are handling our environment.

Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso said in his article "Cutting Forests Suicidal" of December 15, 2006, that "prudent leaders (emphasis mine) and well informed communities all over the world are working hard to protect the natural diversity of the ecosystem and increasing forest cover so as to mitigate the effects of global warming (emphasis mine). We all remember the terrible drought that we have been experiencing which I am told partly led to the lake Victoria water levels receding.

The Thursday December 14, 2006, KFM's Hard Talk Show featured Minister of Environment who said that it was not fair for the developed world to destroy their environment in the name of development and then expect Africa not to do the same and remain undeveloped.

This statement is sad to say the least, because we all know that "experience is the best teacher". If someone has been bitten by a snake, I am sure that is the best person to tell you how terrible snake bites can be. However to stubbornly refuse and insist on being bitten by the snake to be able to tell for yourself is unfortunate. Our development partners, who have helped us reach this far, now unfortunately "...send our President to sleep, (See "Why NFA director had to leave his job" Kelvin Nsangi Sunday Monitor December 10, 2006)" are advising us not to make the mistakes they made.

The Ugandan public should also understand that management of some resources like forests, waters and air are considered to be of global significance. Some resources are essential for the survival of humanity and should be protected to serve the common interest by all civilised nations and peoples.

We are not against development. I do not think that Mr Olav Bjella (who comes from a developed world) is against development per se. Neither are the experts and technocrats that resigned from NFA before him. Let's not forget that the President's own Adviser John Nagenda and his Uganda Wildlife Authority Board, refused to sanction golf courses in national parks for the same reason of protecting environment.

Interestingly the Minister of Environment went on to interpret the relevant law, saying that the palm trees will be a forest as envisaged in the laws since they shall allow undergrowth therein. Give me a break. The mere fact that a cow has been placed in a forest does not qualify it to become a wild animal. Similarly, we know what type of forests were envisaged by the Act; these are not man-made.

I am hoping that my learned friend Mr Kenneth Kakuru and his team at The Environmental Action Network (TEAN) will seek a court injunction against this looming danger on Bugala Central Forest Reserve.

As for Ms Hope Rwaguma who is now the acting NFA director, Mr Andrew Kasirye and his UWA Board and all members of Parliament, I encourage you to be patriotic and refrain from sanctioning illegalities.

Look at the NSSF mess, Tri-Star, electricity crisis, Global Fund, the Besigye rape trial etc. The examples of Ugandans who have sacrificed their professionalism at the altar of personal gain is long.

The current catastrophe will not merely be resolved by amending the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act 2003 in order to enable a presidential directive to give away natural forests.

That is why I suggest that we have a referendum and ask Ugandans whether they would like to have these forests given away since history has shown that Parliament can easily be influenced.