It has been a five-year journey to relocate to Africa. There have been highs and lows, plenty of fears and sleepless nights. Alas the time has come and voila I am waking up in a strange bed but at least I am on the motherland Africa.
I am an African in general, a Ugandan in particular, a global nomad in essence that has lived on three continents. Writing about the trials and tribulations of relocating back home to the motherland Africa.
The smell hit my nostrils from afar. As it was night-time I couldn’t practically tell from what side of the night the wind was blowing it from and whether it was a private barbeque (BBQ) or a restaurant in the vicinity.
There was no music to show whether there was a fest in the vicinity nonetheless I had to cure my curiosity.
I found myself in front of a modern building on a dirt dark road as there are no street lights. In I went and the place had this aura and ambiance that made me wonder how long it has been around.
The music was on but low. The meat was sizzling and now I could hear the sizzle.
The fact was this, I was in the mood to let loose and dance. Before I could get my groove on the dance-floor the sirens sounded. An ambulance had come over to the venue together with the fire-brigade. We had to be told to leave the premises.
The fact being that there were too many people at the venue and so ended my night without dancing at all.
In all this, the reality was that I had a date. A blind date. We had been communicating via WhatsApp and Face Time. While at the venue waiting for her and deciding on whether I should hit the dance floor, the authorities, ask us to leave the premises.
In Uganda, there has been an issue in parliament about our current President’s term limits and to remove the #AgeLimit from the constitution.
A fracas took place in the parliament as the opposition sang the national anthem to drown out the speaker of parliament. This is what happened on the first day then the session was postponed till the following day.
The second day this is when the State decided to use be-suited clad security operatives to storm the parliament. The aim was to arrest the opposition MP’s(members of parliament) who are against the #AgeLimit. It was easy to spot them because they adorned red scarfs on their heads as well as red hats to the amusement of the Ugandan citizenry. They did get names like Ninja Turtles, Bruce Lee etc.
What really caught our imagination as the citizenry of Uganda is the witt that Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah used to explain the fracas in parliament. He particularly started the clip when one of the security operatives jumped onto the table made a left Kung Fu kick that hit a chair and the person on it flew off onto the green long seats of parliament. Then this operative pirouettes, makes a spin like Michael Jackson’s, stops then he jumped off the stable onto the green seat to go after the MP that he had kicked off the chair on the table.
The motherland is amazing. After the relocation, orientation change as well as career change the whirlwind of change sweeps me off my feet. The mindset being different there is need for me to modify my expectations and learn to adapt.
I have modified my expectations by venturing into agribusiness. It is my first time and I am willing to learn through mistakes. The crop of choice is the plantain – green bananas called matooke that I have started to plant.
I have discovered that there are many advisors as per different type of matooke grown. Rather than mix and match, I will plant 100 sucklings from different suppliers. This is to enable me to learn which type of matooke is best suited to the type of soil at the property that I am using to plant the crop.
Green banana – matooke sucklings
I am excited because in the case of anything agricultural you can see it grow. I know when it needs to be sprayed. I know when I need to dig it slightly to do away with the weeds. What I have not reckoned with are the pests in the form of monkeys around the area. I have started to cut down the trees for two reasons. One is for the matooke to get light for their photosynthesis and the second is to reduce the damage the monkeys do to the growing matooke plant.
Yes, the time frame given to start seeing some real matooke crop is a year. I feel that this is a good time for research and development. Good time to learn and see if I can increase the acreage of the matooke plantation from an acre to two acres. It does involve proper attention as the matooke starts to grow and I am looking forward to that aspect of things.
This is what I want to achieve a lusuku (vernacular for matooke plantation) with cassava crops in the foreground
The idea of the agri-business comes in this way. Once the plantain has grown some will be used for home consumption and the rest for sale. I envisage using some of the matooke crushing it and creating a flour that can make home based cookies and biscuits.
In the matooke plantation there are some yellow small bananas that have been planted. These ones we are to try and see if we can make the local brew called mwenge bigere (banana wine). It is a sweet wine however, it is very potent and can be very deceptive because of its sweetness.
This is a totally new avenue to what I have been used to and a major career change. The advantage is that the matooke plantation is at home and all I need to do, is walk to the plantation, to tend too it.
The plantain we chose to plant is called mpologoma from Luwero and Ndizi from western Uganda. Mpologoma has bigger fingers which in turn brings in more money because of the size of the matooke bunch. It grows well in the wet season and this year of 2017 we are being blessed with plenty of rain.
Two week old germinating matooke plant(green banana)
One month old matooke plant(green banana)
In the plantation, we have also planted beans.
One week old bean plants
I am not sure why it is that in a lusuku (matooke plantation) it is advised to do mixed planting. In my naivety, I would think that all plants would compete for the soil nutrients, rain and sunlight. Nevertheless, because of the spacing done in between the matooke stems it lends to the planting of the bean seedlings. This is done prior to the mulching stage of the land around the matooke which starts in 6 month’s time.
A month after the matooke planting this is the current result together with two weeks old bean plants.
The project is getting very exciting because the rains have come this 2017 season in comparison to last years 2016 season. The results are encouraging. The beans take two months to mature hence harvest. Whereas the matooke take a year to fully grow and have the bunch to harvest.
So much to do so little done the plantation is growing in leaps and bounds
Falling ill anywhere is fraught with many ifs (if only I did this), buts (but I should have done this to avoid) and why (why do I have to get ill at this moment).
In my neck of the neighbourhood, the tropics, getting ill happens pretty fast and if you are not careful you end up dead in the process.
I got ill from malaria. And as I have been abroad from Uganda for a very long time I didn’t have any malaria anti-bodies left in my system. The malaria happened quick and I found myself admitted in hospital with Blackwater fever.
According to encyclopedia Britannica:
Blackwater fever, also called malarial hemoglobinuria , one of the less common yet most dangerous complications of malaria. It occurs almost exclusively with infection from the parasitePlasmodiumfalciparum. Blackwater fever has a high mortality. Its symptoms include a rapid pulse, high fever and chills, extreme prostration, a rapidly developing anemia, and the passage of urine that is black or dark red in colour (hence the disease’s name). The distinctive colour of the urine is due to the presence of large amounts of hemoglobin, released during the extensive destruction of the patient’s red blood cells by malarial parasites. Patients frequently develop anemia because of the low numbers of red blood cells.
Micrograph of blood cells showing ring-forms (circular organisms within the cells) and gametocytes …
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Image Numer: 5856)
The speed at which malaria turned into Blackwater fever took 5 days. End result was that my kidneys stopped functioning as normal hence being admitted to hospital. My doctor tells me that by the time I was admitted my kidney was functioning at 5%. His aim was to make sure that it goes back to 100%.
From May 15th 2017, I started a regimen of going for dialysis twice a week. I achieved the 100% kidney function after 12 sessions of dialysis. The 9 sessions I took as an outpatient. All in all I spent 9 days at the hospital as an in-patient. Most of the time was spent on bed rest. Part of the regimen of getting well meant following a strict dietary regime. Taking foods without potassium, like bananas(plantation, Matooke, in the local language is a staple food here), all fruits, greens with the exception of cabbages and eating boiled food without any spices most especially the White meats and fish.
The healthcare system in Uganda is expensive. Most especially if you are like me who has no medical insurance. I had to use each coin that I came with to get better. As they say, it is at such times, that you really like the aspect of the disparity in foreign exchange from the foreign currency vis a vie the Ugandan shilling.
When I first arrived in the country I bought the anti-malaria drug Mephaquin. I took anti-malaria tablets for a month because this is what I normally take when I visit home. I have been reliably informed that I should have taken it for 3 months as my stay in Uganda was for a year and longer.
This being the rainy season and the mosquitoes that spread the malaria, thrive in such wet conditions, are plenty. I now have to take the mephaquin (anti-malaria tablets) for three months so that I can build up my anti-bodies. Yes I do sleep under a mosquito net, but the mosquitos bite a non suspecting person in places like the sitting room or dinning room were we can’t have mosquito nets.
I have great admiration for the doctors, nurses, the non-medical hospital staff. They do their utmost to make sure that our stay is as comfortable as can be because chances are that one will never make it out alive.
As an inpatient being wheeled from my Ward to the Dialysis Ward at the hospital
As a person that has suffered kidney disease a number of things happened to me.
Fatigue. The aspect of getting tired easily happens because of lack of oxygen. As the malaria attacks the red blood cells, this effects the haemoglobin.
Muscle fatigue. This happens in the form of cramps; it tends to occur as you stretch your muscles.
I need to drink a lot of water to help wash out the excess impurities that the kidney couldn’t work on when I was ill.
Walking became a problem. I had to have support either by wheel chair or another person helping me as I walked.
Huge body. As the kidney was working at 5% the excess liquids and urea,I gained 20 kilos because of the fluids in my body had to be retained somewhere. Thanks to dialysis this brought my normal weight and body back to my normal self.
Bed rest. As the red blood cells are attacked by the malaria. This is what leads to the aspect of malaria making people anaemic. Malaria anaemia happens and this leads to making a person constantly sleepy. This happened to me a lot.
I didn’t take any medicines when I was on the dialysis treatment. What I was advised to do was to take a lot of liquids and stick to a diet regimen set for me. This worked a lot.
Now that I am off the dialysis treatment I am getting back to everything gradually this is from the food I eat right upto the exercising I do.
What did I learn in this process?
Family is extremely important to me because I had to lean on them for support. This is from my cousins to my siblings and mother.
The power of prayer. I had loads of friends from all over the world, cousins, brothers, mother, mother’s church, all praying for me. It was touch and go at one time and the Doctor did say it must have been prayer that brought you back to us. Thats profound right there.
Gratitude. Being grateful. Saying thank you and please went a long way for me at the hospital, from the nurses right to the security guards.
Isn’t life amazing? Falling ill anywhere is fraught with many ifs (if only I did this), buts (but I should have done this to avoid) and why (why do I have to get ill at this moment).
I enjoy a bountiful meal. Coming home has proved to be a testing time for my taste buds as well as my stomach.
I have realized that my stomach is extremely sensitive. Having said that watching chicken being smoked on charcoal is not new to me at all. What I found out of this world is seeing chicken smoked on top of banana peels which in turn sit on top of charcoal.
The end result taste wise was ono (Hawaiian meaning finger licking good). The chicken had that smoke smell to it. The meat was firm because the chicken was the local kind that was allowed to forage for food on its own.
In the City we have two loads of poultry farmers.
1. Local farmers that let their chicken roam freely
2. Chicken farmers that build poultry houses. They are not allowed to roam freely at will. These chicken are taken care of and tended to 24/7 as they are feed, given medicines etc.
The plate had the local green banana (Matooke), rice, coriander, greens with slice of onions, chicken mix called Royco, salt, gizzard, tomatoes and rice.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Gambian President Yahya Jammeh at the White House in Washington in August 2014. On Dec. 4, the White House issued a statement expressing dismay over rampant human rights violations and the persecution of LGBT people in Gambia. Amanda Lucidon / White House
It is election season in Africa and some remarkable results have emerged.
For Instance recently:
Two incumbent Presidents lost the elections.
Two Presidents conceded genuinely and then one of them said, there is need to recount the votes again.
That one President is from The Gambia.
To many African watchers his concession to Mr Adama Barrow the President elect took many of us by surprise. The question was how could President Yahya Jammeh really accept the electoral results. Most African leaders tend to ‘manoeuvre’ such results to their benefit. When President Jammeh said that he has accepted the results and called the opposition leader to wish him well, it was a first for many of us to witness. A strong man of Africa relinquishing power peacefully.
Then the shenanigans started. President Jammeh of The Gambia asked for and sought for a recount of the results. Much as we were surprised with his accepting the results now with the recount, we see the old man African style leadership back in full force. He has ruled The Gambia for 22 years. From what we gather his party is not happy and have lodged an appeal to The Gambia’s High Court.
This side of Africa is akin to what we call the norm. Africa’s strong men clinging to power regardless of what their citizens feel and say.
The other side of Africa, gregarious, magnanimous, enigmatic, exuberant, youthful and exquisiteness belies the strength and depth of what Africa is about. Change that we see. Change that represents the aspirations of this youthful exuberance. Change that exudes the hopes and fears of a young generation ready to handle their own affairs of business. Change that epitomizes the we shall overcome feel.
We only hope and pray that this new Africa does come to pass, happens and make the two Africa’s one and whole.
Sometimes in life there comes a point when one asks, don’t the leaders who are entrusted to lead us really study the history of the country they rule. It always, always leaves me perturbed.
This week in Uganda, right, we saw events that reminded me about an attack of a palace of the Kabaka(King) of Buganda in May 1966.
Fast forward 50 years and yet another King(Omusinga’s) palace is attacked leaving scores of people dead. What I find amazing is the lack of proper information as to why the palace had to be attacked in the first place. Omusinga is the King of the Bakonzo people who hail from the Mountains of the Moon – Rwenzori. They are sometimes referred to as Rwenzururu people.
Government acknowledges the King(Omusinga) was inciting terrorism. But coming from the fact about what happened 50 years ago, such information from government should be taken with a pinch of salt.
We may never really know the real story about that palace attack, we shall leave that to the historians. Having said that, bear with me, let me take you on a journey a brief history of Uganda.
A brief History
Before Uganda became the motherland Uganda on independence day in 1962, all the constituent tribes had their own leaders from Kings, to Queens to Chiefs. With the creation of the country Uganda a republic was formed. It had a ceremonial President, a Prime Minister together with a parliament and political parties to lead the country. The Kings, Queens and Chiefs remained very instrumental in the cohesiveness of their people and this made the tribes stronger. The cultural norms and heritage intact. That high office espoused the pride of belonging, rich in history and instrumental in the future of the people by the people. Naturally frictions occurred as the new norm being the new form of government, a republic vis a vie the tribal kingdoms was put on a test from time to time.
History most definitely is repeating itself in 2016.
What is so deafening, in this case, is the that there is little discourse about what happened in and around the mountains of the Moon, in the capital city of Kampala the seat of all power in Uganda. When there is such silence then all kinds of voices appear to fill the void. Social media is awash with all kinds of stories and photos. Hard to get any facts, clear picture about what really transpired and why. Maybe the authorities feel that this is a far away Kingdom and not too much fuss will be made about it. Personally I do not know.
This much we know.
The King(Omusinga) is in remand charged with treason and trial starts December 13th 2016.
The deposing of any King anywhere by use of force is a very traumatising experience for any group of people. In 1966 when it happened to the Baganda it led to consequences far foreseen by the leaders of that day. For one hatred brewed to anyone from the north of the country from the Baganda tribe. Why? The prime minister, Dr Obote, a northerner (of the Langi tribe) and the commander of the operation of the day was another northerner (Kakwa tribe), he went by the names of Idi Amin. Five years later he too led his own coup and overthrew Dr Obote.
The trauma of the Kabaka being attacked by the military was huge. So, huge. What many Baganda found perplexing was that the Kabaka, was a member of the British military and they refused to come to his aid. It is things like this that make one wonder 50 years hence, don’t our leaders learn anything from history.
You can marginalize a people for so long, but deposing their King(Omusinga) opens up a can of worms that in 2016 we cannot foresee.
May God uphold thee
We lay our future in thy hand
These are the first stanzas of our national anthem.
The Omusinga (King) bespectacled gentleman in the middle at Kasese Police Station
Clearly, we need prayers for the people of Rwenzururu. Seeing their King (Omusinga) in such circumstances under police custody is not a pretty sight at all.
It breaks are people down
It demoralizes are people
It traumatizes are people
They look around for answers but get nothing satisfactory
It is a sad day indeed for the people
The pitfalls and insights
My topic of reference being a returnee back to the motherland, the pitfalls, the insights of what one should do before returning and as we all know if you do not plan then it means you plan to fail. Too many managerial clichés. Right.