Thursday, December 07, 2006

At Moyo's an African Themed Restaurant, Cape Town

HElo World....WElcome to my Blogg...I'm forever writting and thought its high time I blog. So, your welcome to take a peep into whats cooking in this my African Pot!

As the chief chef, I especially recommend you try 'Dressing to Impress Who?' and 'The best Wedding Ever!'

The Making of a Makerere University Riot

I’ve been a student at Makerere University Kampala (MUK) since September 2004 and have experienced at least one strike for each of the five semesters. So, since I landed on this ‘Ivory Tower’, I’ve experienced students’ strike after strike after strike.
The most recent one, where the dons put down their tools and the students rioted expressing their desire to have lectures, has lead to the premature closure of the shadow of one of Africa ’s icons of Academia.
In my exciting time at MUK, I’ve been a resident of Mary Stuart Hall (Box), the better half of Lumumba Hall, which is the epicentre of any student uprising. Like our guys at Lumumba say, ‘We’re the watchdog – we fight for the students’ rights.’
While at secondary school, career guidance teachers predicted a lot of doom and gloom about Makerere University in particular. They urged us to keep away from all men who one called, ‘snakes’, ‘wolves’,…and the other warning was to get the first taxi away from Makerere at even the slightest rumour of a students strike.
Well, I don’t know about the first warning but as for the second, curiosity, the love for thrill and the snoop/scribe in me has always made me stay put in the middle of the fire, tear gas, itchy water, flogging and arrests. It has paid off; now, I can bring you an authoritative account on the way things work when we, read MUK students, riot.
I hope the police wont sermon me for a statement – this will be enough.
For starters, if we, the student of this great University (I still think it is great!!), have grievances like having our rights tripled on, overlooked… we normally start with diplomacy. The Guild President and her/his team do the talking while we wait,
with ‘Plan B’ on standby. ‘Plan B’ is synonymous to ‘a peaceful demonstration to Parliament of Uganda’. Demonstration means riot and no, we never reach parliament.
Rule number one: A successful strike (that’s relative depending on whose concerned) cannot start at day time. Period. ‘When police are waking up, we’ve already looted’, one guy said.
Rule number two: whatever you do, never get arrested.
So, when diplomacy fails, as is normally the case at MUK, the brewing of ‘plan B’ starts at Lumumba hall with a meeting. Why? They have the reputation of being the hooligans and the geography of the Hall favours them more then the anti-riot police. (There is a convenient exit plus the police vehicles can’t safely park too close to the main entrance as they would be sandwiching themselves between the boys armed with stones and God knows what. Also, there are many shrubs and bushes behind it – a good hiding place just in case the police smoke the guys out with teargas).
What’s more, just a stone throw away, they have the readily available emotional support from the girls at Mary Stuart hall (Box), who shout their lungs out in support, from their eight storied tower overlooking Lumumba. Finally, Lumumba is near Sir Apollo Kagwa road, where there are several hostels which offer reinforcement from predominantly Kenyan students who have ‘imported chaos from their compatriots at Nairobi University ’. All those ‘advantages’ would be null without human resource.
You see, Lumumba hall has a culture of being aggressive in ‘fighting for the student’s cause’. In fact, if one of the members wants to be a student leader, it is a campaign strategy to be a riot ringleader.
To begin the strike, Gongomes is carried to join Gongom at Lumumba Hall (those are female and male metallic statues respectively, unique, symbolic and kind of revered in both halls). A bonfire is set and porridge is made over it. Of course, it’s not a silent sombre mood; there are jocks and singing of revolutionary as well as lewd songs. Where does the sugar and flour come from? The store. You either give them or ...
The girls of Box are invited but they normally decline. Occasionally, they may be represented by their culture minister, depending on the regime.
After the porridge comes the booze – cheap booze availed by insiders and those harnessing support come the next students’ elections. Soon, it’s daybreak and the boys are chanting while tipsy or drunk and psyched up.
At this point, depending on the ‘struggle’, events can take two turns. They either go to the eight other halls in the University to mobilise support – ‘gathering quorum’, or just kick-start the riot themselves. Of course, by this time, the Kenyans along Sir Apollo road have already been tipped off by the heralds who keep coming to ask ‘has it started?’ A herald, and not a mobile phone is used to eliminate error.
As soon as the response is ‘yes’, the new normal is to go for breakfast. That, in MUK riot
language means loot breakfast for energy to perform. They break into the Guild and Staff canteens, targeting the fridges with their eyes on the booze, wines, and soft drinks because the bottles will then be weapons against ‘the police our murderers’ as one song goes.
‘Aren’t the fridges locked? How do you manage to break in?’ I asked one guy.
‘It’s simple, you just have to break the glass!’ he said.
They also target phone airtime. This time, they looted ladies’ panties and hung them along the fence of one of the canteens!
Note that the looting is simultaneously occurring in the university and the neighbouring commercial centres of Wandegeya, Bwaise and along Sir Apollo K. road and the police haven’t yet turned up.
In all this, there is division of labour involved. Before you know it, all the main University roads have been barricaded with a bonfire of burning logs and or car tyres. This is a tactic to delay the police and to let the public know that they can’t come in because we have issues. After that, it’s shouting and chanting for whatever the grievance, in eager anticipation of the anti-riot police, for the action to begin.
They used to come with sirens but now they know better than to announce their arrival. In the second last strike, they came ‘commando-style’, crawling, emerging from the bushes behind Lumumba hall! That coincided with the ‘Black Mamba’ saga at High Court.
That time, they starved the students of ‘action’ for a long while.
I remember that journalists were all over the place, and many of them, including a KFM female reporter was treated to looted Fanta! The news was breaking on all the FM stations from about 7am but the police turned deliberately delayed.
‘Where are the police?! When they come,
we know that our message has reached,’ I remember one student fervently saying last semester. Well, the police eventually showed up at 10am and we engaged in our usual running battles.
I commend the police for smartening up and finally doing their homework because for the previous strikes they had acted oblivious the brewing of student riots. After they turned up at 10am and quelled the situation with their superior weaponry, they surrounded Lumumba Hall, and heavily bombarded with teargas canisters all night. That cut out the porridge and booze festival and hence moral. Effect?
The next day, other halls like Nkuruma tried to put up something but no one can do it as well as Lumumba. It was besieged for another night by armed to teeth anti-riot police. We lost a first year student due to bullet during that strike. The unfriendly policy of exorbitantly hiking the retake fees was suspended and Lumumba remained besieged for about a week. That strike ended.
In last weeks riot, the Police turned up earlier than usual but too late for students also started the chanting after the porridge and booze as early as 5am and were through with looting before 7am. Bayaye (ruffians) from nearby slums also took advantage and joined.
Commendations to Police Boss, Kale Kaihura because the police are getting wiser by the day! Our boys in uniform barricaded Sir Apollo K. road with tankers and uniformed men in single file, effectively starving the students of much needed reinforcement from across. What’s more, in MUK, students are thrilled by teargas and running battles with the police and Bwana Kaibura’s team seem to have finally figured that out.
They hardly used teargas, preferring to spray tear
gas and itchy water which had no effect. One student, when interviewed on radio, sighted corruption, saying the water and teargas were expired as they were not irritating enough. ‘Where is our money going?!’ he yelled.
It wasn’t uncommon to hear students screaming, ‘We want more!’ referring to tear gas, and ‘Don’t go’ when police drove by. The fact that the police weren’t actively engaging the students who were hurling both insults and bottles robbed the riot of ‘action’. The police are probably unaware of it but it poured cold water on the fire and many students abandoned the ‘struggle’, finding safe passages away from the campus. The unlucky minority were arrested and sent to Luzira Prison. The majority are waiting for the next strike. Do we have to riot in order to be taken seriously?

Dressin' to Impress Who??

Wait a minute; let’s do a little bit of clearing the air around here. This is the scenario: when we are going out, especially for a social gathering, (when it’s purely pleasure or business spiced with pleasure), why do we dress the way we do? I know I’m sounding rather philosophical here, but that’s what I’ve been asking myself.You see, there was a time I attended a certain graduation party. My hair was already fine so I didn’t bother with the hair dresser. All I needed was to hold it back with a black band because in that particular case, simplicity was elegant. I had a pedicure meticulously done; it was a red-hot colour and looked mwah!

Then, I worked on my face a little: mild eye shadow here, a little lipstick here, gloss and no talc powder, thank you. Not to mention, my African-themed outfit was ironed a day before, just to continuously keep a step further than an UMEME power cut. On top of that, I had to go to an aunt’s place to pick some shoes I’d left there sometime back because they matched the gold-coloured attire.

Come D-day, I was tiptoeing on about three-and-a-half-inched heels, after about ten minutes’ practice, struggling for balance. That is so unlike me! I could bet to keep away from heels for six months and not miss them one bit! In short, I don’t ware high heels unless they are absolutely necessary and I have a ride – in a car (obviously).

Next scenario: there was no car ride. Actually, my cousin and I were going to have to walk a distance to the taxi stage, take a matatu and then get off at another place. What’s more, the actual venue was far from the main road, so you can figure out how much I sacrificed in the name of being pleasing to the eye from head to toe yet the heels were killing me and no one gave a hoot about my nail vanish!

Who was I trying to impressing anyway? I’m sure no one noticed the extra miles I went to live up to the ‘expected standard’. Yeah, I hear you feminists. You’re probably yelling your lungs out that I should dress for me – for my personal satisfaction. But lets face it, how many times do we all put in extra effort because of both an imaginary and actual audience?

Now, last weekend, I attended a cousin’s high-profile wedding in Entebbe. Prior to that, I’d been in Gulu two weeks. My aunts were on my case, fussing that I make sure my skin is flawless by the wedding day but as far as I am concerned, by any standard, my skin is okay, thank you. In fact, you can even check it out yourselves.

One aunt particularly reminded me to work on my hair, saying she was doing the same. Finally, one asked me to go to Gulu with Fair and Lovely. You know, my skin tends to get a ton darker after a long sojourn up north. But excuse me, I like – actually love – my skin tone and I’m not about to change it. Plus, the last time I looked into the mirror, black was indeed beautiful.

Well, the big day reached and I drove down south (the bus driver actually did all the practical driving). I carried a little
rebellion with me so forget the Fair and Lovely. Forget the sophisticated hair do. What manicure? That wasn’t necessary, thank you.
What it took was a wild Afro hairdo, a cute outfit, nice copper jewelry, the right tone of lipstick and compulsory high heels (okay, my feet needed a massage by late evening). I felt good and was actually hot enough to make the relevant heads turn. The difference here was that I didn’t go out of my way to impress whoever. I was just myself and managed to pull off a good impression! Don’t ask me to prove that, just do it yourself.

The Best Wedding Ever!!!

Dear Globe...

I hope by now you all know that another of my sisters is off the market, effective last Saturday 9th April 2005. It wasn’t a quiet do, so, by Thursday, two of my sisters (still, for the guyz, just in case you want to know, yes, they are available but hurry while stock lasts. If U want any more tips, I talk over ice cream and Pizza but some malakwang and cassava will equally do) and my little niece, Toto, were on the 9am bus up north to Gulu. Mission? To paint Gulu red before the rest of the sane family members turn up and of course, as bridesmaids-to-be, we had to practice in the church.

As we waited for the bus to fill up, hawkers selling all sorts of items were both in and outside of the bus. At one particular time, Concy and I (we sat together) were busy composing text messages on our mobile fones (they are of similar make and colour). A bread vendor offered to sell us bread but we decline. He then went to try his fortunes elsewhere. After a while, he was back, insisting we take bread along with us. ‘Only if it’s free,’ Concy said and I agreed with her.

‘You were here very busy with your computers now you want free bread!’ he said and walked away. Since when did our telephone boxes become computers? We laughed.
I was rather impressed by the first movie we watched in the bus – a Nigerian movie about two sisters. One was good one was evil. I don’t like the way they kept writing ‘one year later’, ‘ten years later’ then when the plot got really captivating, we were asked to watch out for part two. Well, the Otada bus people didn’t have part two; they put a western movie that was dominated by wrestling and other irrelevant violence. That’ when I took a nap or two if wasn’t listening to my sis Concy talking. No sooner did my eyes open than she was saying something. Go have a talk show Concy.

We had a stopover at Kigumba, Masindi where we bought roast cassava. I love cassava so much, you could lock me up for a year with it and I’d survive. What we had to debate about was the muchomo – roast meat. Well, we settled for goat meat and a possible running stomach that sometimes comes along with eating all those meats on sticks along the way. We calculated that by Saturday, a running stomach would be gone. Just for the record, we enjoyed the muchomo and nothing happened.

Back to the bus, it was the last movie that captivated most of the passengers. That’s when I got to hear a wide variety of laughters. Even the guy behind us was translating it into Luganda for his neighbour. It was a Nigerian movie about a young boy who was wrapped and given as a wedding present to a couple at their wedding. The newly weds soon got fed up of him and after daily spanking didn’t drive sense into his nut, they returned him to his single father. Meanwhile the dad was so poor at getting himself a gf; all his attempts failed measurably and provoked laughter. Moreover, the little boy was 'sharp' and successfully netted himself a chick whom he hid in a water drum when his dad once knocked at the door when they were having ‘quality time’.

We stopped again at Karuma for a routine check then crossed the breathtaking raging river Nile with a backdrop of the Karuma falls. You know, people come all the way from north pole to white water raft here in Ug and the rapids are in my back yard yet I’ve never! I should white water raft some day. When is my birthday? Girlfriends, we have a date – we’ll try it at Bujagali – just start saving because it costs and arm, a leg and a back!
Crossing the lovely Karuma Bridge marks the beginning of Kabalega National Game Park. That’s when I started to see what my bro Jimmy calls my cousins – baboons. I love the little ones. If it was legal, I’d carry one away as a pet because I absolutely adore them. Just go ahead and tip the Uganda Wildlife Authority to constantly keep an eye on me because that affinity for ‘my cousins’ is not about to fade. Temptation is a real thing, you know.

Well, that was the bus ride to Gulu. Time check half 1pm. At the Gulu bus park, Stella and her fiancĂ© picked us up. She lives on Market Street. After arrival, we didn’t waste time in going to the market to say ‘hi’ to our aunt. All the way, heads were turning b’se we all had the same hair do and didn’t look familiar. When Kampala girls hit town, what do u expect? (kidding).
Well, my aunt sell really nice dry fish and as we were still chatting away, heard calabashes being stoked with thin metal sticks – the way they do it in the Laraka'raka traditional dance and guys were singing – Acholi style. Wow, I’m going there, I decided and sure enough, the dance was on. I was only surprised that there were four guys. Their music sounded like they were eight or more. Ladies joined in and one particular one danced till the end. I couldn’t help clapping for her as she panted when the dance was closed.

We had to be in church by 5pm to practice our ‘match’. Well, we kept Acholi time and were there at half five. The Reverand was about to leave. We practiced a particular style of match and he insisted we walk with a spring!

I wanted to meet one of my friends in Gulu called Joe. Problem was, he was in the field and was going to work till late. He works with a humanitarian organisation and as a social worker he was going to talk to some kids in a night commuter center on Kaunda grounds. Those are the kids who, because of the ongoing war, come to spend the nights in Gulu town which is deemed safer than their village homes. He invited me to join in ans as a social worker in the making I was keen about it but the time was ‘tricky’ – (7-9pm) – in Gulu and knowing my sister Doreen, she could impose a curfew all the way from Kampala.
After consultations with Concy with whom, according to Denis my bro, ‘I normally have my escapades’ I decided otherwise. That was day 1.

Day two; Friday. This time, it was practice with the Bishop of Kitgum at 10am in Church. He was going to lead the wedding service and we couldn’t afford to be late again so we opted for European time.

After breakfast, we went to ‘greet’ our aunt Mary and she offered us another breakfast. We were at the church grounds by 10:10m. and at the reverend’s house, he offered us tea again. Now if u r an African like me, u know it’s rude to decline a meal at someone’s home no matter how bulging ur stomach is. What's more, at that rate, we risked not fitting into our tailor-made wedding outfits.

Sure enough the Bishop also kept time but had decided to have a word with the couple first. The word must have turned out into a sermon because I think we waited for hours.
By then, people started trickling in from Kampala. We had to practice without one of the pageboys, my sweet little nephew ,Odoi, and without the flower girl as well. And, we did it outside b’se the church was being cleaned – mothers union, I think. At one point I wondered why I wasn’t gallivanting around Gulu instead. Then, it was all over – a storm cut it short. We’d finished anyway and had to rush home.

Just know that anything that can go wrong tries to go wrong at the last minute. That afternoon, my sweet sis Doreen(still in Kampala) went to pick our dresses, wedding gown and all but the Italian lady responsible for that was missing. Whats more, the ladies in the bridal shop said they couldn’t dare release anything minus their boss. Secondly they decorating crew were ‘stranded’ because the decorations hadn’t arrived from Kampala. Thing is almost everybody had to work at least half day in K’la then set off for Gulu and if the key things and people didn’t make it by Friday afternoon, it would be too late.
Somehow, things started sorting themselves out. Dresses arrived, cake, decorations, people( many of which had a stopover at Gulu’s Alobo night club)…

One lady literally ferried her salon to Gulu. Not that there isn’t any decent salon in Gulu but in such matters, you have to be sure of everything. Well she had her drier, tongs – not thongs, hair washing sink, manicure items, combs, hair extensions, sprays, name it. The bride and her matron were ready to be worked on, only to realise there was no relaxer! That was 9sth pm. With the way I like moving, I offered to go look for some. You could see that Stella was already worked up. Good thing is we got some Ultra Sheen – so who said Gulu was backward?

After that, Sophie and I went to Kakanyero, a nearby nice Hotel to buy the whole house of ladies some supper. By then the flower girl, a pretty seven year old called Clara, had joined us.

At Kakanyero, we had to ask the Askaris at the gate where the restaurant was. They laughed and directed us to it. (Wasn't it obvious we weren't regular there?) Lovely place. we placed our order for the takeaways and sat down to watch another Nigerian movie. An Italian oldish guy (I can bet my hand he was Italian) with long black hair and a black leather jacket sat in front of us and obstructed our view of the TV so we repositioned our chairs. We were casually dressed: t-shirt and jeans and chatted away, unlike the clienteles who were formal, collected and so businesslike – even the one who seemed to be in their mid twenties.

In about half an hour, we were Sophie and I were back with chips. After supper, as they were working on the bride’s hair, we worked on our nail vanish. They were through with the first phase of the hair and the rest was reserved for Saturday morning. We were still on the vanish and yes, I was the expert – which probably explains why we were taking so long!

Stella put off the radio and asked us to wind up and get some sleep. By then it was coming to 1am. She set her alarm clock for 5:30. Hmm, so that’s how early people get up when they’re going to get married? That’s if they sleep.
Day three – D-Day!

Stella woke us up at six. By the time we grudgingly got out of bed, it was about 6;30. There was so much to do, one wonders what we had been doing in Gulu all that time, Doreen asked. Our nail vanishing wasn’t complete, we hadn’t styled our braids, gathered makeup and I hadn’t practiced in high heels. You know, I’m a down to earth person and three inches off the Acholi soil is’t quite my thing. One thing I had practiced was the traditional hip shaking dance. For that I was ready come the reception and the song I was keenly waiting for was ‘Ajulina’, which draws everyone to the dance floor and every serious Luo should know the lyrics by heart.

After breakfast, Doreen came to pick us, we were going to dress at her hotel room so that Stella, her matron and the flower girl have all the space they want and need. Well at Franklin Hotel where we were, it was our braids first. We realised that we had no hair clips so at that odd hour, two hours to the wedding, we were gallivanting around Gulu town, seven chicks, all looking for hair clips. Our vain search was cut short by the realisation that time, time, time…It got to a point where we got so desparete we entered a stationary shop and asked for clips- any clips. I lamented how in Kampala I have two whole sets of hair clips. ‘Don’t mention Kampala now,’ Monica insisted.

You see, the saloon lady had to work on the bride and all so we had to wrk on our own hair due to time. A combination of Doreen, Pamela our designer sister and Grace, one of Doreen’s best friends, came up with something bridal. It was a trial and error method: a stylo –sorry style is tried on someone’s head and if we all agreed to it, it’s done on all the four bride’s maids. Luckily, Doreen had three hair clips in her handbag and Grace had four so we managed with those. Doreen kept asking what time it was every five minutes or so. At the same time across Gulu town, the flower girl was screaming at the top of her voice that she looked horrible b’se her hair was gelled onto her head.

Still at Franklin hotel it was makeup time. That was another hard paper but we passed it. Now in Ug, there is such a thing called a power cut and one has just occurred so the rest of the ‘evenements’ - events will come later....