Got up this morning in my Kampali Sheraton Hotel in Uganda. I can look out my window and see three of the Seven Hills of Kampali, just beyond the red rooftops of the office complexes and shops below my 8th floor room. There are clouds there, too–gray rain leftovers from yesterday. Today is my day to write reports and catch up from my meetings in Kenya and Rwanda: I only have one short meeting this morning, and then I will do some report writing and a few scratchings from Gertie.
I haven’t mentioned breakfasts here in African hotels, but they are my favorite meals. Generally hotels here include a buffet breakfast in the price of your room–that’s true of hotels in Eastern Europe and Russia as well. But the African breakfasts are most delightful: they are filled with tables of fruit–kiwi, papaya, passion fruit, bananas, pineapple, poached apples, and some fruits I’ve never heard of. There are lots of juices, too, and yogurts and cheese and pastries. And of course, the more traditional eggs and sausages–but why waste digestion space on that stuff? It’s the fresh fruits I love here, the pineapple I saw the Ugandan women carrying on the heads yesterday, and the huge bunches of fresh bananas being hauled on the back of a motorbike.
To complement my breakfast this Sunday is a copy of Uganda’s “Sunday Vision” newspaper. It tells me that more members of parliament are rebelling against President Museveni. “Imagine,” the party president is quoted as saying, “what President Museveni will do if we are not in Parliament?” (Shades of Wisconsin!).
And the paper headlines that 70,000 Ugandans will not be able to get into Uganda’s Universities and colleges this year because they did not pass the qualifying tests–and even for those who did, there are 62,000 qualifying students for only 30,000 vacancies. ( The number of qualifying university students has grown, but Ugandan universities can accommodate just 20% of the number of applicants, and the education infrastructure is not growing to meet increasing demand. ) Not to mention the 38,000 who did not pass their exams and can never be admitted to a Ugandan
institute of higher education…
Well, these are heady topics for Uganda, and a little too thought-provoking for me this early in the morning. My secret is, first thing in the morning, go for the gossip. I turn to page 6. “Cow Kills Man”, I read. I decide some of these local articles will need to be shared: read on.
“Kamuli: A 70-year old man died after being knocked by a neighbour’s cow in Nawangaiza in Balawoli Sub-county. Isanga Kibulubutu was attacked by Ahmed Kaitaita’s cow as he tried to drag it away. Isanga had responded to an alarm from another neighbor who found the cow eating her crops. When Kaitaita came and admitted liability, Isanga insisted that he would have to pay sh5,000 as compensation. Kaitaita did not have the money, but promised to pay the next day. The doubtful Isanga decided to confiscate the animal and lead it to the local council leader to help settle the dispute. Unfortunately, he got the full vengeance of the beast.” (Note: sh5500 UGX is approximately $2.31 at today’s exchange rates).
Well, there’s more. (And please understand that I am quoting these directly from the “Sunday Vision”, page 6.
“Housemaid electrocuted. Kampala. The Police is (sic) investigating the cause of death of Jane Tusiime, 19, who was electrocuted while hanging laundry at her employer’s home…Neighbours believe Tusiime was deliberately targeted by another house help in the same home who felt threatened by the new girl. They say Solange Hakimaana had been told to stop doing the housework once Tusiime came and had been angry ever since. On the fateful day, Hakimaana locked herself up in the house until it was too late to save Tusiime…”
Or: “Villagers kill suspected rapist. Mpigi. A man accused of theft and rape in Ndoddo…died after villagers clobbered him mercilessley. Triggered by reports that he had stolen four sacks of charcoal, a crowd gathered and determined to teach him a lesson. Residents said they were fed up of seeing Sebandeke released from Police custody whenever he was arrested…” (Note: gory and descriptive details are included in this account. You don’t want to read them.)
So let’s try this for size: “Men teach dirty cobbler lesson. Masaka. Car washers in Lukaya decided to apply their skills on a dirty cobbler who worked nearby only identified as Kasirye. The car washers accused Kasirye of ignoring previous advice and objections regarding his hygiene. This time they decided the stench was too much and forcibly undressed and scrubbed Kasirye.” (Mob justice at its best.)
Well, there are other headlines, too: “Police saves two rape suspects” (town residents were attacking the police station to lynch the rapists); “Boy Loses Finger” (Police arrest a man and his wife accused of punishing a 14 year-old nephew accused of stealing $25 by cutting off his middle finger); and “1,000 Poachers Surrender” (as a result of a campaign by the Uganda Wildlife Authority the poachers turned in their spears, bows and arrows, and snares. They were given goats to rear as an alternative occupation and source of meat. All’s well that ends well.)
And that’s the news from Lake Victoria, as Garrison would say. Beats the heck out of reading the court reports in the Leelanau Enterprise. And of course, if the Traverse City Record Eagle management thinks the paper can stay afloat by charging for local news, they’ve got a lot to learn. The R-E can’t hold a candle to the drama of the Kampala newspaper’s local news reporting.