Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year 2008

Days of dance, bright lights and song;

Days of peace, sun and bright,

heaps of treasure, most precious, of the soul-

that’s my heart’s wish, happiness;

for you, and yours, and all

come this New Year that,

slips bright, like a dawn

into our hearts, our very souls,

from me to you, heart to heart,

come 2008.


Kenyan Convulsions

Wrote this up this morning, mourning the loss of innocence in Kenya. Found in my e-box an invitation to contribute to the Kampalan Blog. I was so thrilled that I immediately decided to post it here, and on the Kampalan. Why? Because I am Ugandan, and am thrilled to be included, even when I am proud enough to thumb my nose at those who think me a zero!


Kenyan Convulsions

Our neighbours to the east are convulsed in tears of pain, more characteristic of Uganda.

They have been good neighbours through the years. Stable, fair, open minded, to our clannishness and self serving spirit as Ugandans.

When I heard that Kenya was going for elections, I was not worried. When I heard that the leader of the opposition was leading opinion polls, I was envious of Kenya. It has one time peacefully voted out a ruling party. To elect an opposition coalition.

The polls were calm, very surprising to me, a Ugandan. Polls are not supposed to be calm, at least not in my experience.

I really started taking note when the results were being announced.

Pure farce, and comedy, Uganda style.

When the ruling party is losing, some very interesting things can happen. In Uganda, independent radio stations that publish the ‘incorrect’ results are jammed. Illegally.

Their websites are blocked, from issuing any results. And so when their negative results suddenly turn positive for the ruling party, all protest fails to raise or turn a single hair. This is Africa, we are told, Uganda.

I am cynical of our dear leaders’ credentials to democracy. Fie, it is a ‘western’ value! Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful and wonderful concept. But we are yet to make it work in our nations.

What has happened in Kenya is typical Ugandan democracy.

The overwhelming lead of the opposition was slashed. A ‘Florida’ style (guess we did learn from the Americans that year, huh?) delay in announcing the results. Then when the final results come in, surprise, surprise. The incumbent is the president.

‘We are Kenyans, not beasts’ the Chairman of the Kenyan Electoral commission declared at the height of the farce. I was emboldened and cheered for the man. His sense of identity and pride as a Kenyan was evident.

Poor guy.

He did announce the results. Surrounded by police and ‘protected’.

Within the hour, the incumbent was sworn in.

And a taped ‘swearing’ in ceremony was broadcast on the national television. Behold, the incumbent has a new term. The king is dead, long live the king.

Who will believe in this? Who believed the Nigerian election results? No one.

Life goes on. Pray for Kenya, in the new year. The convulsions have just started. Ugandans are old hands at this. I would dearly not have wished this on Kenya. But it has happened. Life goes on, and brace yourself. Fasten your seat belt. Turbulent times ahead in the new year.

God bless Kenya in the trying time ahead.


Saturday, December 29, 2007


I thought I was a ‘scientist’

yet my heart’s an art,

and in poetry’s my Eden.

I don’t compete, not as a poet,

nor fight to excel

but walk through the garden

eyes up, stumbling at the beauties

trying the words to find

that will express, just a little

my awe, and rapturous wonder.

©GayUganda 29 December 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

End of Year 2007

The year is drawing to a close.

It has been an interesting year to me. Some of the highs are reflected here. Few of the lows, of course. Its hard for me to look back just to remember. Sometimes, one just does not want to remember what has been. Just want to look forward, to plan, to reflect, to know what the new period of time will hold for me.


Leap year it is. One of those few that, by convention, have a day more than most. Just a short while ago, it seems we were celebrating the dawn of a new century. Now we are well into it. We are an interesting creature. We build our own world of reality, ideals and ideas. And some of them are so entrenched in our minds that they are reality to us.

What a year it has been. In Uganda, the three days of CHOGM seemed to signify the year in the eyes of the people. Government, and society. It was, and is gone. Just like Christmas has been.

I have discovered that I can write poetry. Funny, I knew, but not really.

The new year is a sun just under the horizon. We feel more than see its early flames, touching the dying embers of the old year.

Death’s an odd companion. Many people will not travel now, here, for fear of ending the year dead. And curse the old year in praise of the new when that comes.

Take this, my wish to you all. End the year well. Reflect on the old, have joy in the new, and may it be a pleasant dusk for you.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Its Christmas Day, 2007

Strange, that a single day in the year is imbued with such lore and allure. In Swahili, in Tanzania, the traditional greeting is ‘Siku kuu njema’- wishing you a good great day.

Here, the words are corrupted, as is wont to be done for peoples who had to adopt the tradition and the words to go with it. But the essential meaning is the same, the words in the languages, with the Swahili equivalent.

At least I think so, though I own to being no linguist.

I wish you all a beautiful, and lovely day. Enjoy it.

The day has dawned misty and cloud covered in Kampala. The smog caused by the heavy Christmas shopping traffic had dispersed yesterday, but came back, it was a heavy traffic day. There is a haze, and a cool, and a dimness to the day. Yet that does not hide the beauty of the day, and of the morning, and of the time.

I woke up to read. And I wrote.

I have been out on a little jaunt, to our main road, chiefly to look at the day as it ushered in the light, and watch the joy of Christmas day emotions and happiness and joy.

Maybe the sun will come out in a blaze later on. Maybe the rain will come. Maybe it will be overcast, the whole day.

Yet it will be beautiful, as is. It is beautiful, as is.


Monday, December 24, 2007

HIV and Gay men

Its always a wonder to me. The fact that I can and do affirm that I am gay. That I am a gay Ugandan. And that I can actually be proud of the fact.

Yeah, pride is an important thing to have in oneself. Because of the fact that we can and easily believe that what the world believes of us is correct.

I got to this article, called an ‘abstract’, a summary of a scientific research paper. It was done in Kenya, and the statistics that I see here are frightening to me.

In Kenya, our neighbours to the east, they have managed to start doing HIV prevention amongst gay Kenyans. Kudos to them.

In Uganda, it is the opposite. The Ministry of Health does not comment. The Uganda AIDS Commission, re-known all over the world, does not apparently cater for gay men.

And the Churches (and Government) believe firmly that this should be so.

I do not understand all that is written in this paper. But I understand one statistic. Amongst the gay men who were tested in Kenya, the HIV infection was at least 43%.

What is the rate amongst gay Ugandans? We are supposed (in Uganda) to have a higher HIV infection rate. But even I know that it has never been 43% of the population. Indeed we (gay Ugandans) are at risk.

Yeah. I have to learn to be safe. But it galls me that homophobia in Uganda is so blatant in its capacity to prevent something as basic as HIV prevention amongst a vulnerable population. And they call themselves a ‘very religious….’

Here is the article.

HIV-1 infection in high risk men who have sex with men in Mombasa, Kenya.

22 Dec

AIDS. 21(18):2513-2520, November 30, 2007.

Sanders, Eduard J a,b; Graham, Susan M c; Okuku, Haile S a; van der Elst, Elise M a; Muhaari, Allan a; Davies, Alun a; Peshu, Norbert a; Price, Matthew d; McClelland, R Scott c; Smith, Adrian D e


Background: The role of homosexuality and anal sex practices in the African HIV -1 epidemic is not well described. We aimed to assess the risk factors for prevalent HIV-1 infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) to guide HIV-1 prevention efforts.

Methods: Socio-behavioural characteristics, signs and symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and serological evidence of HIV-1 were determined for 285 MSM at enrolment into a vaccine preparedness cohort study. We used multivariate logistic regression to assess risk factors for prevalent HIV-1 infection.

Results: HIV-1 prevalence was 43.0% [49/114, 95% confidence interval (CI), 34-52%] for men who reported sex with men exclusively (MSME), and 12.3% (21/171, 95% CI, 7-17%) for men who reported sex with both men and women (MSMW). Eighty-six (75%) MSME and 69 (40%) MSMW reported recent receptive anal sex. Among 174 MSM sexually active in the last week, 44% reported no use of condoms with casual partners. In the previous 3 months, 210 MSM (74%) reported payment for sex, and most clients (93%) were local residents. Prevalent HIV-1 infection was associated with recent receptive anal sex [odds ratio (OR), 6.1; 95% CI, 2.4-16], exclusive sex with men (OR, 6.3; 95% CI, 2.3-17), and increasing age (OR, 1.1 per year; 95% CI, 1.04-1.12). Only four MSM reported injecting drug use.

Conclusions: The high prevalence of HIV-1 in Kenyan MSM is probably attributable to unprotected receptive anal sex. There is an urgent need for HIV-1 prevention programmes to deliver targeted risk-reduction interventions and STD services to MSM in Kenya.

(C) 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Not a Polite Kampala

I wrote this yesterday. Was standing in the KPC car park, looking out over Kampala Road, past Equatoria Hotel and the valley, to the vast bulk of the New Mosque on Old Kampala hill and further back the dimmer outlines of Namirembe hill and the Cathedral (St Paul's).

The sun was dipping to the west, unclear. I could look right into its golden disk, something inadvisable, I know. I found it odd. I found it interesting. A beauty round the setting that combined to move me to write this. A fairly impolite poem, I am afraid.

Not a Polite Kampala

I had never seen a smog,

now I recognise it nascent

in the hollowed hills my birth city,

Kampala’s hallowed valleys.

Strange to see the sun so bright,

but dimly, like through a huge window-

stained glass dome overhead;

a hazy smoke always, twixt me ‘n sun

like wrap around dirty goggles, I’ve posed to wear

To feel sun rays so brightly false,

watery like to more temperate climes

that such a sun hunger to see in the depths of winter.

Greedy me, I’m overused, knowing only

a Kampala air crisp, and clean, pure ‘n cutting

not a pea soup haze, inedible stuff.

Kampala, my beautiful Kampala,

you’ve farted onto yourself.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

What will I write?

That in truth the holiday season is here.

The sun rises much later. The mists of the morning longer lasting. The cold of the night a mite stronger, and the soil on the roads turned to red dust.

Christmas in the air. Once I wrote that holidays mean little to me. Indeed I remember once coming from work one Christmas morning. Very early and bright. I no longer do that. The enthusiasm is catching.

Town is flooded by people making last minute buys. And the deals are flowing. The fm stations are full of adverts, of one promotion after another. In the city streets, Nakivubo, it is virtually impossible to move through with a car, so bad is the traffic, and the people that are congested on every inch of the ground.

Goods are spilling out of the shops into the roads, jealously guarded by the shop attendants. People are buying in a roar. Christmas gifts, and clothes, and the many knick knacks that make the season Christmas. The weather has turned to December weather. Less rain, though the mists that hang around in the morning seem to promise rain. The sun is out in force, only moderated by the fog and smog of human activity. It is hot, and broiling, and dusty, and crowded, and loud. Noise all around. The streets are an open air market that extends into every nook and cranny.

Taxis and buses have hiked fairs to upcountry destinations. Twice, and they are complaining about ‘un-authorised’ passenger vehicles. Ugandans have a vibrant, acquisitive, opportunistic capitalistic spirit.

Why all this brouhaha for a single day? I used to get the logic, but these days, I ride the enthusiasm of the masses. And they are excited.

Yesterday, I did feel much better. And of course sat down on the computer to do all that I have not been doing in the last week or so. Workaholic. But I took a couple of breaks to walk around, round home. Just looking at the people, and the crowds, and the business. And the chicken and goats that are fated to be slaughtered for the day. Many people go upcountry for the season. A week or so. I have not done that in eons. My lover would rather do so.

What plans for Christmas?

Just for that day, I would like to walk through the city centre empty of people. Kampala, Nakivubo mews, with no hawkers, shops closed, pick-ups with clothes and shoes; no thieves and pickpockets to worry about.

With my hand holding my loves hand.

Just that day.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Thanks to a Friend I would know

Life’s time bound,

how poignant-

the brief dash between the years;

birth and death.

The year is drawing to a close. A funny year it has been for me, full of ups and downs. Of much learning, soul searching and insight into my very self.

I would like to thank a friend that I would know.

Yes, I am unconventional. I have this streak of independence and desire not to play by rules that I do not make. So I thank him, even if it would not be ‘politically correct’.

I have written journals on and off for years. More off than on. This blog in part reflects what has been happening to me. A large part.

The beginning, last year. My stumbles at writing and self expression. The despair in my very self. The loss of steam, gas; and the long lay off. Some people call me stubborn. I came back, when I could, just because I could. And I have surprised myself.

Yet in the background has been a friend. A friend that has been easy, unobtrusive, supportive. Not my lover. He has not been unobtrusive in his support of me. He has hauled me kicking and yelling through the year, and when I hug him and tell him thanks, I know that its my heart speaking.

This friend is far off. His influence to me has been more of a guide, a guide that my proud self would listen to, because he pointed to the summit, and did not suggest where I should put my foot to climb. Subtle, praising where necessary, not taking the liberty to cajole where he could have. That I have appreciated.

He has given me many things, which I appreciate. Yet the one thing that he has given me that I appreciate most is a book of poems. ‘Great poems’, it is called, compiled by Kate Miles. It is nothing more than the list of some of the most enduring poetry of the English language.

I have always loved reading. I remember, in the first year of school, I read to my grandfather from the New Testament in my mother tongue. He was so impressed that he gave me his precious bible, which I promptly read from cover to cover. Most of it I did not understand, but I read it. I devoured all the books in my mother tongue that I could lay my hands on. English was a challenge. I stammer, and learning another language has always been a challenge to me.

I learnt more English reading books, all sorts of books that I could lay my hands on. In my life’s journey, that tended to weaken my hold on my mother tongue, something which irks my dad a lot.

Yet, I had never really read poetry a lot.

Orokie calls me his poet, true. Yet the time that we met, in cyber, I was little more than a baby. I had just discovered the expressiveness of Shakespeare. In his sonnets. The fact that they were to a male lover of course fascinated me endlessly. I have read few poets. Didn’t like it in school, only picking up the interest by serendipity.

When I got this compilation of poems, I was re-reading the sonnets.

For a time I read the two together. The book of sonnets is dog eared and in tatters, after years of reading. I got a problem with my eyes, and for a time, I could not read the smaller print of the sonnets. So I continued reading Miles’ ‘Great Poems’.

It has been a revelation.

The different poets, the differing styles, the differing expressions. From the horrors of war from Wilfred Owen, nonsense verse, lyrical poetry, heavy and light verse, the bouquet has been amazing to me. And I discovered that this varied diet acted as a spring to my own poetry.

Before I was fascinated by poetry. Now, I must say that I am obsessed. And I am not sorry for it.

Yes, my friend. You have been a presence that I do appreciate.

The book you gave me, I get out of bed to read it. It is my constant companion during the day. With the reading has come the writing. Yes, I used to write before, but even this blog is witness to the fact that I have been climbing well to the summit.

I have not reached it. Actually, I do not care whether I reach any summit.

Poetry, this poetry, reading it has been a revelation. And it has taught me to look out at my world and appreciate it. I had not appreciated how beautiful it is. As late as the middle of this year, I was chaffing at the many constraints that I see around me, the chains and ropes tugging at my limbs and mind. But I had not realised that freedom was within my grasp.

Writing poetry, coupled with the reading, has been an immense healing experience. My poetry is something that comes of me. I sincerely do not mind how terrible it is.


I do mind. But I do not mind enough, as my lover insists on impressing on me. I mind, but I do not mind enough. But he does not realise that in this self expression in this foreign language, has been a kind of salvation for me.

Ssempa and his friends did flee. Big deal. But that has been less to me than the realisation that I can actually make this foreign language mine. I do not aim to speak it like the Queen. Fie on that! But like Shakespeare, I would like to make it my own. To make it sing when I sneeze, to make it sing my African heart out. To define the words with my expression, to make my joy in life brim and overflow, into words. Whether few, or many, whether clumsy, or smooth, just an expression of the joy of one thing in this strange world we call our own. The fact that I live.

Thank you friend. I cannot thank you enough. With that book I will remember you to my brief life’s end. I will read it, and find more, and read them, but I will remember it as that salad bouquet that made me realise that my constraints were just the rules that men believe are immutable, yet are self made and self enforced.

Thank you my friend, for the gift of friendship, and for the gift of your self. Thank you for a book of poetry. Thank you for being you. My thanks. My lover’s thanks. The thanks of all of us on the continent who have benefited from your considerable largesse. Thank you.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wielding Scissors

This morning, I woke up ready to do some very serious surgery. On my computer.

Don’t laugh.

See, it is like this. I have this temperamental laptop; has some weird spirits within its innards. I have never examined them, and was about to do just that this morning. Luckily for the computer, I did not.

This laptop greets me by name when I switch it on. (Says goodbye when I switch it off; what more evidence of possession do you want?)

It used to have this weird habit I thought was tamed until recently. There was something wrong with the cursor, or pointer, or whatever that spear like thing is which moves when I move the misnamed mouse. It would work perfectly well for a few days, and then it would be possessed. The spirit of miscellaneous drift.

I would switch on the laptop, be welcomed, and then see the cursor/pointer bang in the middle of the screen. Then it would drift. Slowly, carefully, towards one corner. I would pull it back, and it would return. I learnt to pull it towards the opposite end. We would wrestle, back and forth, till the spirit decided to get cleverer.

It started jumping from one corner of the screen to another. It would dash to the opposite corner when I was pulling it to one. It grew progressively worse. Started the habit of moving around the screen, opening and closing windows as it saw fit. Dancing haphazardly. By that time I would give up, exhausted by the fight between man and machine. Postpone the battle for a few hours, hoping the possessing spirit had calmed by the time I returned. Sometimes it would stay eerily calm after a couple of days of absolutely impossible possession. I would work to catch up on the things which I was supposed to have done when the machine was possessed, hoping that it would not return too soon.

I sourced for solutions. Pastor Ssempa for special dispensation to exorcise this spirit of possession?

I was told to update the driver. Done. Then change the sampling rate to 200. But the maximum it could go was 100 things per whatever. Then there was this computer forum which has a never fail solution. Open up the laptop, see the two lines or wires to the mouse guide whatever, take scissors and presto, cut one.

That surgery, apparently solves the spirit of possession.

Sincerely, my skills at this are so miniscule, I almost dared to ask Pastor Ssempa for divine intervention. For the last couple of days, I was getting madder, and madder, until, as the malaria lifted, I decided that I was not as woozy as I am, that I would have to do the dreaded. Open the laptop and try to identify the wires to cut.

But, you know what, I put on the laptop one last time, and it welcomes me, and the cursor is dead center. It has been like so for the last 12 hours at least. Almost impossible to believe.

So, I put off the surgery to the next time that the spirit returns. Hoping that I do it well when I have to do it!

It is like this haze that has been invading Kampala.

Kampala is wooded hills and valley floors. Usually, in the morning, the air is beautiful and clean and crispy cold. The last couple of days it has not been the former. A haze of smoky exhaust cloud has been hiding the sun from us. Very frustrating.

I was not sure what it was. Thought maybe it was a fog which the sun failed to disperse.

Today, I walked through Kisenyi. I found the densest of the foggy haze. Kisenyi is a hollow, a valley which was once upon a time a river, but now is a jumble of slummy dwellings of all shapes and sizes. Anything goes in Kisenyi, and it is the industrial heart of the ‘jua kali’ artisans in Kampala. Correction. They were there before Kisenyi bulged and spread its unsavoury soup to the famous Katwe slums.

The fog was densest in this valley.

When I was through fighting to hold my breath, first I was thankful that where I live, I look out on a valley that is, most mornings, clear of air, with trees and singing birds and crispy cold air. And I realised that Kampala is so modern a city now that we are blessed by smog some days.

Like the spirit of wandering in my computer, it is not too often, but when it comes, why, even an old hand like me is ready to don the gloves and start some serious surgery!


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Its Eid day. Again.

I know I am not very observant of days, and public holidays. Tend to forget them too easily. The sense of occasion disappeared with my childhood. Maybe I have had to work on too many of them. Uganda’s private sector knows no public holidays. They are too many, too intrusive on the business of making a profit. And jobs are too scarce, applicants too many.

An interesting day.

I have heard the expression ‘a watery sun’. That is true of Kampala today.

Woke up early, usual. Got out on the verandah, till I had to get back. Too cold, I had to put on some warm clothing.

The weather is unsettled. The sun rise was fantastic, a brilliant ball of gold tossed into the eastern sky, its light flooding all before it. But there was something unusual. An orangeness to the dawn, like it was filtered light.

I wrote;

the dawn’s a blushing red,

the sky’s orange with promise;

of what I believe is of sun ‘n heat,

though, might as well be, cloud ‘n rain.

Yet I had just written that when the orange was switched off. The skies darkened, cold intensified. And the sun since then seems to have hidden behind a curtain.

And it has been watery, the light that I have seen so far.

the fiery orange blaze goes out

of a sudden, extinguished,

what’s of the sun? thus hindered,

though the skies roil, her majesty shines strong,

beyond yonder veiling curtains.

Its unsettled weather, unsettling too, mirroring my thoughts. Seems as if I am responding to that. Why, I am not sure.

I am just recovering from the malaria. Yeah, had to get the prick, for the diagnosis, and take the tabs, unlovely as they are. Still have a woozy feeling, but it will pass. Low of energy, mouth sour, mood unlight, but the promise is of beauty.

Poetry? Seems as if muse is unsettled to. Wanted prose, poetry flows, and for poetry, prose. The central calm is unsettled, for now.

Doesn’t help that the pc is acting up!!!!

But it is Eid day, a public holiday. This near Christmas, almost unrecognised. But it is Eid day.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Clear blue skies?

No. There is a light haze. A morning light haze, faint but present, gilding the blue. But it is a clear morning. Bright. The sun’s rays are golden beams through which the insects dance. Motes of light.

My fingers are cold, I am swathed in a so’uester. Warm inside, cold out, but living.

And life’s living.

Yesterday, evening, was in town. Traffic was very bad. Coming up Namirembe Road, noticed a clear area in the crowded road. People on the sides, gawping, cars a moving wall round the middle of the road, an island.

Leaves, and tree branches, and more detritus. The signs of an accident on the road, with no lighted triangles to mark it.

In the middle, almost invisible, till someone pointed it out, the body of a small child. Curled up, in death, lonely and alone in this huge, crowded city. Maybe a street urchin, a living life, snuffed out in the busy road, that could barely take a moment to notice. One a policeman, taking a statements, seemingly. But others, the walls of moving cars, barely noticing the body amidst the branches and the people staring. Noting, yes, policeman, but hardly glancing at death in the midst.

I know. I do write, maybe well, maybe not.

The last few days, a fever possessed me. I have not been well. Still, of now, I am recovering, the strains of other worldliness just lifting. I see a beautiful morning, to me. I will remember that I am mortal, and life is brief.

Briefer for some than for others.

I will yearn for the glittering lights, but not much. The comforts of wealth, the neon lights and gold paved streets. But in the today, today, I will find the gold and diamond jewels and nuggets that life has to offer.

I will write as I can, what I can. The beauty of the moment, the pain that lives with it. I will cry out into the wind, and whisper into the storm. I will live my life as is, thus I will be complete.

A mortal man that I am, unlikely to outlive myself. To you all, that are alive with me this brief dream, good morning.


Monday, December 17, 2007


Am of two minds,

split, indecision for now.

A moonscape, out.

The lady of the night, not full,

no; missing some of her fullness,

but little of her beauty

She’s lovely, is the moon,

so lovely that her magic holds me enthralled,

fearful to miss a second of it,

though the muse awakens,

and of moon’s tickle would muse thrill.

Poor eyes of mine,

loving the sight, the calm, the moon

not able translate that to fingers

for they be weak, the eyes,

though the hearts so willing,

the eyes do fail, and worse, know it;

so I’s torn in two,

to stay and stare, the moon in her grace

or rush in to write, muse in her flow.

(c)GayUganda 17 Dec 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A child’s frank observation.

We were in the kitchen. I, washing the dishes, my partner preparing dinner, and a niece of mine. 4 years of age, a pretty, manipulative beauty, very inquisitive.

She observed that we did not have a ‘sigiri’; the charcoal stove that most people use to cook.

True, says my partner. We do not have a sigiri.

Then a curious question. Do we eat?

Why, I ask. Does she think we don’t eat?

You don’t eat. She decides. There is no mummy in the house, so no one to cook.


The one who was cooking did not look happy. But it is a child making the observation. And in her experience, Mummy, who is a woman, did the cooking. Not daddy, who is a man. And she saw only men lived in the house, so, conclusion. We two men did not eat.

I started laughing.

My partner gently suggested that she should go home and bring us a meal from mummy.

Children’s logic is refreshing. And amazing!

Me, as the uncle, was in a fix. An explanation of our irregular household was definitely needed. I wondered how to put it. We are men, true, but men can also cook? All people need to eat?

I am afraid I failed the test. Left her with the impression that we men in this house do not eat. Hope it will be corrected in the near future. Certainly she will understand that we have to cook, or starve.

And I wondered, what else does her child’s mind hold as true of this uncle of hers?


One Sunday Morning in December

I am like

a faceless prisoner,

just escaped, for seconds,

solitary confinement;

of years and a day-

drinking in freedom

from every pore on my skin;

thirsty, gluttony,

not sure the ethereal beauty

my world around will not

disappear, a second, another year and a day.

Oh heavens,

how beautiful’s the world around

me, a garden of beauty,

greens, emeralds, fruits ‘n sunshine!

©GayUganda 16 Dec. 07

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pope Says ... Gay Marriage 'Obstacle' to World Peace

Someone anonymously bereted me for writing too much about my homosexual self. Being too preachy.

I didn’t think he or she was right, and I have found that many of the posts here may only allude to my sexuality. Maybe I have been holding back.

But I cant hold back on this.

The Pope, His holiness of the Catholic Church believes that gay marriage is one of the obstacles to world peace.
I don’t know how the holiness comes to this conclusion. To me it is not less than amazing. I am a man. I am in a relationship with another man. I do love him. My country, Uganda, made a constitutional amendment which makes sure that I can never get married to my lover. It is a big deal for me. My straight friends may celebrate marriage. I will not celebrate marriage.

Yet to be told that my request and campaign for marriage, for a legal recognition of me and my partner as partners, that that is an obstacle to world peace, that boggles my mind. Probably not the mind of the Pontiff. But my mind. And that of my lover.
He is the religious one. His outburst was bitter. In his words, Ratzinger seems to have a problem with his own sexuality!

Homophobia is the irrational fear of same sex sexuality. Emphasis on ‘irrational’. How I come to threaten world peace with a call not to be discriminated against, that I do not see. Apparently, the 15 page document justifies this.

Tutu summed it up well. God weeps.

For me and my partner, to be lumped together with such world figures as George W Bush, Kim il Sung, Osama bin Laden, and others as a threat to world peace amazes me. I was under the impression that I am not that important a person. I am relatively convinced that my sexuality per se is not that important, but the bigger picture of respect of the Humanity of others, what some call ‘Human Rights’ is the bigger picture which is more important.

I sincerely do not see how I threaten world peace if the govt recognizes my relationship with my partner. For the pontiff to say this, I wonder, why? Why did he say something as amazing as that?
Hitler was amazing in the justification of his xenophobia. The world did not believe him, until it was too late. Even now, some deny the Holocaust.

Why are we made into such demons by our detractors?

I must say, frankly, that the rhetoric does amaze me. From the Mufti, we deserve marooning. From the Pope, we threaten World Peace.



How do I feel?

Woozy. Head is not really aching. No sneezing. A slight fever, at least, I have to be in a jumper, though the sun is out and it is about two hours to noon. And it is bright.

Must be malaria. That is what we always think. Took me some time to realise that what I think of as malaria is a fever. A rise in temperature. And that there are other things which can cause it, apart from the most common malaria parasites.


So, I may have malaria. Have I gone to the clinic?

Why should I? I mean, I do not feel so bad. The headache is not there, the fever fluctuates from highs to lows, but it is not too bad. When it is bad and I am in bed, I always curl right into my lover. Poor guy, he sometimes tells me that I am burning him. Roasting him in his own bed.

He does the same when he has a bout of malaria, anyway.

Anyway, of seeing a doctor to get treatment? There is the question of how sick I am feeling, which is not much, how long it will last, which I hope is not long, and whether I will like the pin prick done, and to swallow those bitter medicines. They are always bitter, even when they are not.

There is always a threshold. How sick I will feel, before I get to seeing a doctor about it. Hopefully, a couple of aspirins, a couple of days and I will be feeling fine. Once I was with a guy who had come from Canada, and he listened to me talking of a bout of malaria. He was horrified. To him it is a killer disease. It seemed as if I was treating it like a minor ‘flu’. His words.

But I am supposed to be immune. Doesn’t treat me as bad as a person who has never had it.

Oh, malaria is a killer. Kills thousands a year, especially children. As an adult I can also get the more severe forms, and be killed by it. But I have been getting attacks since I was born. The contempt of the familiar conforts me. This ogre, I know it.

So I will wait until I feel bad enough to stand the pinprick to diagnose it, and then I will take the drugs and I will be right as rain.



One Evening in December

Seated on a mat, on the lawn. My lawn, our lawn.

My lover is on the veranda. Seated too. Reclining, relaxed as he can ever be.

Guy is full of energy. Only time he relaxes is when he is in bed with me. Curled up, when we seem to be one person. He loves it, so do I, come to think of it.

It is sunset.

A very beautiful evening that I doubt I can do justice describing. But I will try.

Air on my skin is cool. Bordering on cold, but not quite. I think I may have a fever, slight. Malaria? Taken some time not getting the customary nudge from that one.

The sky is blue, really blue. And scattered all over it are the clouds. They should be white, I think. White and wind whipped. But as the sun disappears to the west, they are turning a blue grey, and will soon be invisible. There is a thin slice of moon at about one o’clock. Almost just a hint of it.

Its quiet. The crickets have not started singing. The wood ibis, flying in pairs, seem to be the commonest birds overhead. Far, far to the north, flying and glinting like a row of sparkling gems, is a V of egrets. White, steady fliers. Wonder how far they fly in a day? Remember as children we would watch them fly to wheresoever in the morning, and return in the evenings. These are returning. Are the satisfied? Are they returning home? To nest and youngling?

Children. The neighbourhood kids. Playing football, or some reasonable approximation to that. And shouting their heads off at any goal.

Last couple of days I have not really been feeling myself. Muse seems to have taken a back seat, for now. Yet there is that in the air which would call him from there.

Wish I could paint. But a painting cannot capture all of the beauty that I see. I feel it is impossible, to capture more than a momentary glimpse of this beauty. The fire of the setting sun, far in the west as it goes down in a blaze of gold flames. The trees, green, few dappled, since rain has been a constant companion for the last few months. The feel of a cool breeze on my skin. My head is a bit light, but still, I do appreciate that it is a beautiful evening.

A calm, a serenity seems to be the prevailing spirit around. And it does touch me. Deeply.

Did not feel like penning a poem, but the words have come. Memory of a single evening at home. In December, a very lovely evening that makes me yearn to paint, if only I could.

I cant, so, I write.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Did I write the last post?

I am not very sure. I have been accused of being too far away too many times, but this morning was an embarrassment.

A beautiful day. Very nice. These days in the morning I am not very sure whether the day will stay dry, or rain. My weather sense is gone. Used to be non errant. Blame it on ‘Global Warming’! Seriously, I am reasonably sure that the weather has changed. It is wetter than usual, though the sun does not hide her skirts for longer than is necessary. Where are the blazing Decembers that I remember? Maybe the next month will be drier.

There I go again. Spacing out.

There is a political farce which has been going on in the country. A ruling party heavy weight lost his seat, because of vote rigging, it is said. (Have to be firm on that. Yes, court said that there was evidence that the vote was rigged.)

So, a by-election and that has been on. A hot one.

The constituency, apparently, was flooded by the ruling party big wigs. They went and they campaigned. Here, that means that there was intimidation, and those who acquiesced were promised sugar, and money, and salt; the gold for a peasant in Uganda. The airwaves turned blue, or should I say, yellow, according to the party colours. And just before the vote, the big gun came out. His Excellency went to campaign, for the ruling party big wig who had just had an election annulled because of vote rigging! Don’t laugh. Different set of values.

And of course, during the election, police and military presence, and the opposition party big wigs were arrested, or partially arrested. Apparently… (have to remember that my immunity is an illusion here.)

So the result is amazing. The opposition party man won.

I have been ‘spaced out’ on other things. Ebola and things like that. I had not paid any attention to what was happening. When I asked who Kantuntu was, one of my colleagues, very charitably, asked me which planet I have been on. I read the paper, and was dully impressed. Now I know some more about Kantuntu and Bugweri and Kivenjinja.

So, what does it help me?

Cynical me. Yeah, it helps, but since I have very little chance of changing the outcome, I will look on. I watch with some helplessness as the flood sweeps all before. Some things I can change. Those are the ones I try to concentrate on. Because, however hard it seems, I am a human being, and it is natural to hope.

So, did I really write the previous post?

Still wondering…


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Unwitty Wit

Sometimes I have to be witty, since I am not that humorous. Let me see whether I can try heavy handed humour.

Is what I write true?

Believe what you will, doubt what you wont,

Says I, stiffly, angered;

I tell no lies, except when necessary-

to mislead, misguide and cast doubt on truth;

what I write is the ---damned truth

to which some deities may swear, others not,

but says I’ts the truth, much stranger than fiction.


The Problem with Conspiration theories in practice is-

the mind’s imagination is too wild,

too ready to see monsters of molehills and mice,

too ready to fit each detail to imaginations image.


Paranoia is schizophrenic,

Words too hard to interprete simply.


Come to think of it, I am lonely. I am singing into the wind, my voice, loud as it is, ignored. Yeah, I know, my subject matter is hard, I write of poetry and such things, and of course I am gay and am writing as gayuganda and signing as so.
Went to Iwaya’s blog. Found accolade there which made me green with envy. Wish it was not so lonely in cyber world.
Painter, if you hear me, can we make a tryst somewhere?

Its been a long and lonely day and I am tired. Ignore what you cannot. Especially the whining.


Kampala Cocktail

Saw that rain burst this afternoon?
I was out in it, sheltered, of course, though a few drops found their way onto me.
I was looking at Kampala, and as it rained I started penning. Something. Maybe you will like it, maybe not, but it is here.

Kampala Cocktail

Cloud of rain, grey, heavy, misty;

descending to touch, hug the city;

Kampala, shrouds in rain,

hugged close to scrub, rinse, scrub;

deluged in water, rinsed,

the few drowned, unlucky, many sheltered;

shivering, beneath heavy outpour-

To lift, a moment, city scrubbed clean;

air- rinsed, filtered, wet, cold ‘n clear

afternoon sun presents her smiling face-

rain-cloud gone, city steaming, wreathed

in steam, ‘n rain ‘n sun, ‘n green

Only Kampala the beautiful

has driving, washing rain the half hour,

the other half, city’s wreathed in golden sun ‘n steam-

rain-cloud mist a memory

the other side of the hills;

the air clean, washed, breathing, life’s dream blooming bright.

Kampala the same half hour;

driving rain ‘n broiling sun mix ‘n separate;

heady cocktail to daze the mind.

©GayUganda 12/12/2007

Dunno. Looks better after heavy editing. May do. Maybe.

A good evening to you!


To Eshuneutics, the Alchemist

Let the beauty of the morning

rest, a calming blanket

round my turbulent mind.

Listen to the bird song-

pure, undiluted beauty,

feel the sun rise-

in strengthening light around,

taste the cool of morning

in my twitchy nostrils-

bathe in the beauty,

the air around me,

new, renewed of the night,

fresh, embracing my soul.

Day’s breaking,

and life’s returned to earth.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Night and Morning

I spent a restless night.

Home late, a meeting where I lost my temper.

Very unruly of me, but I am a human being.

I was so upset that I told my lover to join me in bed early, because I would fail to sleep.

I did sleep, in his arms. Its pleasure to sleep with one who loves you. To curve in the security of another’s arms. To know peace with his quiet breathing, and revel in the love of another.

But I still woke too early, and lay in bed. The mind in turmoil. So much turmoil that for the first time in a long while the calm to write deserted me. I felt like muse was gone.

The alarm found me ready to get out of bed. I did, readily.

And the morning.

Getting out, seating on the verandah, listening to the birds sing, reading poetry. A peace, a calm stole into my heart. A calm that had eluded me for too long.

I know I am biased.

I just cannot help it. Listening to the bird song, straining to pick out one perfect note, and let it down into my very soul. Noting the various other birds, the orchestra, the weave. It is beautiful.

So beautiful it brings tears to my eyes. Of joy, of peace, of calm.

I read some very beautiful poetry, and appreciated it. But it was all like the background, the setting of the beautiful garden I live in contributed its essence to the noticing, the appreciation. Words fail me.

I am thankful that I am alive. I am thankful that I am alive another day.

In the very early morning, it seemed to promise a bright day. But our weather is mercurial. It promises rain at the moment. I will not be surprised if it is blazing hot in the afternoon.

I am alive, and I am thankful.


Monday, December 10, 2007

A Gene for Homosexuality

This is an interesting article, one that I read with some trepidation.

Despite what some people say, it is a matter of fact that my sexual orientation, homosexuality has some genetic component to it.

Why it is so, we do not know.

Homosexuality is not a preserve of human beings. I think the scientists call us by the fancy name ‘Homo sapiens’ , it is there in the rest of the animal kingdom.

Some years ago, I read of a ‘gene flipping’ experiment. In the fruitfly again. Scientists found that they could turn one gene upside down, and switch on and switch off homosexuality. Very interesting.

Now, here is another article. Again in the fruitfly. A gene, they call it ‘Genderblind’ gene, seems to have the ability to make the fruitfly homosexual. A gene which can actually change the sexuality.

“While the biological basis for homosexuality remains a mystery, a team led by University of Illinois at Chicago researcher David Featherstone has discovered that sexual orientation in fruit flies is controlled by a previously unknown regulator of synapse strength.

Armed with this knowledge, the researchers found they were able to use either genetic manipulation or drugs to turn the flies' homosexual behavior on and off within hours.”

“A mutation in GB turns flies bisexual.”

“Other genes that alter sexual orientation have been described, but most just control whether the brain develops as genetically male or female. It's still unknown why a male brain chooses to do male things and a female brain does female things. The discovery of GB provided an opportunity to understand why males choose to mate with females.”

Very interesting. Actually, they could manipulate the sexual orientation using some drugs. Change from one orientation to another using a drug.


And upsetting at the same time.

I mean, I have the weapons to tell the guys and girls who attack me the scientific fact that are on the ground. Established that I do not have a choice about it. Someone speaks of being ‘totally against the normalisation of homosexuality’.

I know it. But they will never agree to these scientific facts. Apparently the paper is to be published in Nature, and the pedigree of the authors is notable. Guys with lots of letters to their names.

Yet I have to remember the reaction of Dr Watson. Of DNA fame, and a Nobel Prize winner. The guy who thinks that because I am an African, I am somehow genetically inferior. He also thought that if a gay gene was ever to be found, a mother would be justified to abort a foetus that was gay.

Homophobia is described as an irrational fear of homosexuality. It is irrational. I don’t think I would be able to change their minds regarding me being normal. They would still abort their children if they discovered that the children were going to be homosexuals. Weird.


A Hug

Would a hug transmit true,

through yonder cyber world

like the warmth my skin on yours,

my breath your face bathing?

I would a hug to you-

close and tender,

tight and healing;

wash all the pain away,

letting the healing balm of love

stop the wounds and soothe the pain.

I would a hug to you.


Sun bathing the bird perch,

Golden, pure light

so softly touching

like pure thought

the birds perching.

It’s a clear morning,

a restful sky,

only a thin carpet left,

of yester’s heavy cloud.

A beautiful morning,

sun rolled out ‘n a blaze-

a wonderful day to you.

©GayUganda 10 Dec. 07

Sunday, December 9, 2007

To my friends

Listen to the liquid notes

a small bird makes

salute to the day’s coming.


Words are easy,

easily taken

to say what they’re supposed

not to say-

and not to say

what they are supposed to.

Be gentle with me,

I’s mortal man.

Stumble I can, I do.

In words as in all else-

though it seems I’s so gifted,

I’s still mortal.


I can dance to their tune

or, smiling-

sit out the dance.


Saturday, December 8, 2007


Once upon a time, some while ago, I met a man.

It is a while ago that I met him. And we never met, though we did meet. I met a fascinating mind in the cyber world.

We talked, and chatted. I was fascinated. He was fascinated, by what I am not sure. We communicated, and, (seemed like impossible then), but we fell in love. Least I thought that of me, and his communication was of passion.

Then we fell out of touch, and we found each other, for a while. Then we fell out of touch again.

It is a long while since, and I was not even aware that he lived still. I was once concerned because I was told that he had disappeared on the way to my place. I asked questions, and came up against blank walls. I despaired, and had no where to ask, no where to turn. Later I learnt that he lived, was in seclusion, and later that he was in contact with some.

Imagine my surprise when someone leaves a message on the blog, inviting me to another blog, about him.

I went, of course. I saw. Maybe he is back, maybe he is not, but he is around, a spirit unmistakable in the cyber world of ours.

He is Ugandan. And gay. So of course I claim him a gay Ugandan.

He is a rare soul, an artist.

And rarer still, an African artist whose themes are unashamedly homoerotic. He taught me not to fear myself. And I was sad when we did not meet.

But now he is, then why not share him with you?

He is not mine, yet he is mine. He sketched the ‘Me when I am me’ and it is from his quaint phraseology that that I picked that up.

We met when I first had the fall in with poetry. When I picked a book at random in Aristoc Bookshop and the page opened randomly to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. That was when I was hooked, a few years ago.

But this is the guy I wrote my first love poetry to.

Love. There is nothing as ticklish to muse as love.

I must say I must have been a terrible poet at that time. But he called me his poet. And he told others, and they know me by that name. Orokie’s Poet.

I was very deep in the closet. I dared not tell anyone about him. Don’t think I told anyone about him. And was very happy to find that he had the confidence to name me his poet.

Orokie is back. Don’t frown. Yeah, I know I am hooked, to another. He is an old flame that I am not ashamed to share with all and sundry (except my boyfriend who is extremely jealousy!)

He is a great artist, says I, who knows nothing about art. I have problems drawing a straight line. But he does not fear his sexuality. And he is not ashamed of it. And he glories in it.

These are his words, this is what he thinks of words and art. A good debate that, I never won. I am not sure that he won.

The source of all wonder is the

boundless energy and beauty

of Africa,


Art is

a spiritual language

depicting ideas

and feelings

in a way words cannot.

This site is an ode to the absolute beauty

of the African male body

Here is his blog. And the wordpress reflection.

But more important, here is his gallery and home page. If you have a squeamish mind, just do not go there. If you like art for art’s sake, here is art. Pablo Picasso’s nudes do little for me. They are of women. Here is a man who can draw the male form.

If you are gay, and you appreciate art, and the male form. Here is Eden revisited. Enjoy yourself.

And to Orokie, welcome back, muse’s tickle.



A rain soaked morning.

Rain soaked,

yet, a vibrancy-

a note in the air,

in bird song and water.

Like a farmer’s rain’s welcome,

so is this rain welcomed.

The air’s clean,

bird song notes pure ‘n sharp,

the cold wakes the skin,

washing away sleep's dullening,

from my worshipful eyes.

Its morning, its beautiful,

it’s a rainsoaked morning in Kampala;

and this Garden City’s drinking up,

the very nectar from the gods’ table.

©GayUganda 08 Dec. 07

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ebola and Uganda

So much has been written about Ebola in the last few days in Uganda. Feel like collecting some of the articles here.

Why? As Ugandans say- Just. Just because I want to. How original is that!

Yes, I am updating it. As and when I can.

Seems like I will soon have to stop. Reason? The epidemic is under control, and I know that because I have been looking for the articles without getting them. The reading public is more interested in more mundane things. Like politics!

No news is good news, so, a sigh of relief from yours truly.

Thursday, 13th December, 2007 Protect nurses and midwives

Thursday, 13th December, 2007 Makerere to ignore Ebola

Thursday, 13th December, 2007 Church suspends rituals over Ebola

Thursday, 13th December, 2007 Ebola kills two pastors, toll reaches 35

December 13, 2007 Infected doctor pleads for care to Ebola patients

December 13, 2007 Museveni orders probe into Ebola origin

December 13, 2007 What would God do about Ebola? Valiant medics

December 13, 2007 Dear Ebola, give us time to fix our health system

December 13, 2007 First Ebola victims ate monkey - govt

Wednesday, 12th December, 2007 Museveni speaks to Ebola survivor

Wednesday, 12th December, 2007 The next disaster must not catch Uganda napping

Wednesday, 12th December, 2007 Everybody fighting Ebola deserves proper protection

December 12, 2007 KCC sprays travellers from western Uganda

December 12, 2007 When Ebola met Chogm the grass suffered

December 12, 2007 Exactly what does Ebola want in our backyard?

December 11, 2007 7 districts off Ebola list

Tuesday, 11th December, 2007 'No Ebola outside Bundibugyo'

Monday, 10th December, 2007 Muslims warned not to wash the dead over Ebola

Monday, 10th December, 2007 Stop Ebola stigmatisation

December 10, 2007 Ebola toll now at 28

December 10, 2007 Public reactions about Ebola

December 10, 2007 Red Cross in 706m/- Ebola campaign

December 10, 2007 Parliament suspends trip over Ebola

Sunday, 9th December, 2007 Ebola isolation centre closed over violence

Sunday, 9th December, 2007 What an allowance for health workers!

Sunday, 9th December, 2007 Can you contract Ebola from a handshake, pay phone?

December 9, 2007 Was Ebola outbreak covered-up?

December 8, 2007 Nation on Ebola alert

December 8, 2007 Ebola: Country on high alert

December 8, 2007 Ebola has killed more

Friday, 7th December, 2007 Avoid panic reactions

Friday, 7th December, 2007 Cabinet meets over Ebola epidemic

Friday, 7th December, 2007 Ebola is more vicious

December 7, 2007 Union tells doctors to leave Ebola zone

December 7, 2007 Tracing the origin and nature of Ebola

December 7, 2007 How disaster prepared are we? EDITORIAL

December 7, 2007 Have emergency fund for Ebola epidemic. Govt could do better on Ebola

December 7, 2007 Fallen Hero: A tribute to Dr Kule

December 7, 2007 MPs want govt to declare state of emergency over Ebola outbreak

Thursday, 6th December, 2007 350 confined over Ebola outbreak

December 6, 2007 Ebola kills 3 medics

December 6, 2007 Rwanda screens Ugandans for Ebola

December 6, 2007 MPs want public gatherings banned over Ebola

Thursday, 6th December, 2007 Ebola blows out Bundibugyo’s candle

Thursday, 6th December, 2007 Mbarara Bank staff guard against Ebola

December 06, 2007 Govt denies hiding Ebola for CHOGM’s sake

December 5, 2007 Four epidemics hit Uganda

Wednesday, 5th December, 2007 Shame upon health ministry

Wednesday, 5th December, 2007 Tourists not affected by Ebola outbreak

Wednesday, 5th December, 2007 UPC calls for health sensitisation

Wednesday, 5th December, 2007 Doctor dies of Ebola in Mulago Hospital

December 4, 2007 Mulago gets Ebola case

Tuesday, 4th December, 2007 Was it mere coincidence?

Tuesday, 4th December, 2007 Ebola cases go up to 84, 18 confirmed dead

Tuesday, 4th December, 2007 How districts are handling Ebola cases

December 3, 2007 Ebola cases now 58

Monday, 3rd December, 2007 Rastoon

Monday, 3rd December, 2007 Ebola strikes more nurses

Sunday, 2nd December, 2007 Ebola!

Sunday, 2nd December, 2007 Ebola: Red Cross sends team to Bundibugyo

Sunday, 2nd December, 2007 Kigali put on Ebola alert

November 30, 2007 Ebola strikes again

Friday, 30th November, 2007 Ebola: Experts arrive

Friday, 30th November, 2007 Ebola: Mbarara, Fort Portal put on alert

Thursday, 29th November, 2007 Ebola kills 16

November 29, 2007 No details yet on Bundibugyo strange disease

November 14, 2007 Strange viral disease kills 20 in Bundibugyo

Wednesday, 12th September, 2007 No Ebola in Uganda - health official

So much ink spilled on its account. But this time the black is emphasized by the red of blood.


Taste of Courage

Maybe it is appropriate to test, but not to taste courage.
I was going to begin writing that it is a beautiful day in Kampala. Fact is, only I find it beautiful.
But why not? Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Beauty is a perception. What an insight. No absolutes in beauty, but a perception. One man’s (and woman’s) meat is another’s poison.
I woke early, as usual. Went out to listen to the birds sing. The sun promised a beautiful day, on the rising. But there was something to the west which was not usual. A cloud, a mist of smog was hugging the ground. And rolling out over the city.
I could see the sky then. It was wrapped in grey cloud, wool that is an unwashed grey, high above everything. But now I cannot. Because the cloud that was hugging the ground has extended right round the city. I can barely see the green of the hills. I know it is there. I know it is a living entity just beyond the mist, or smog or smoke, or whatever it is.
There is a grey feel to the day, the morning.
And a grey headline in the Monitor newspaper. The Medical Workers Union is telling medical workers to leave Bundibugyo.

THE Uganda Medical Workers Union, an umbrella association of about 20, 000 health workers has asked under-resourced and unprotected medics attending to Ebola patients in the worst hit western district of Bundibugyo to leave immediately.

"All (health) workers who are not provided with protective gear should not work on suspected Ebola cases and (should) leave straight away," the Union chairman Dr Apollo Nyangasi said yesterday.

No, I am not working in Bundibugyo. No, I am not one of the under-resourced and unprotected medics attending to Ebola patients.
Yet I would not endorse the unions call. We are human beings. We all fear. We all are weak sometimes. Glorifying our fear and clothing it in the needs of the day takes away something within us. Our humanity.
Maybe, just maybe. Well, since I am not there, I must be a very biased judge. But I would say, let those who cannot work, not work. And those who can work, let them work. Ultimately, we are still human beings. Fragile entities, capable of intense fear, and courage beyond the call of duty.
The taste of courage. It can be very rough on the palate.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Test of Courage

This is a real test of courage that I have been thinking of. Not in the abstract, but in real life. Would I be able to do what is right? What I believe is right?

There is an outbreak of Ebola in the country.

Ebola. Ugandans have learnt to live with HIV. It is not the killer it once was. Almost everyone knows a friend, or a relative living with HIV. And a close person who has died of the same. A terror whose familiarity has dullened the feel of.

But there is Ebola.

A frightening disease. Rapid onset. Very high fevers, we are told. Then the bleeding from everywhere, and then death. High mortality. In the outbreak in Gulu, it was as high as 90% of all people infected. It is reputed to be lower than that.

And the fact that it is highly contagious.

I have written of the medics working on the frontline. The fm stations were rife yesterday with talk about what has been happening. On Sunday, they were supposed to have fled the affected district. Bundibugyo.

Yesterday, in rapid succession, 3 of them were reported to have died.

They are very poorly equipped, at the frontline. Little protective clothing. Low salaries, low motivation, a high patient burden. And an employer who regularly messes with their pay.

So the medics are apparently demanding high wages to work with the victims of Ebola. And they want to be paid on a daily basis. Danger fees.

The psychology of desperation.

They are risking their lives on a daily basis. Hour to hour, minute to minute. Yes, they some will stay and work, but they want to see the fruits of their work now. Not tomorrow, not at the end of the month. Now.

They want to be sure that at least, if they survive today, and not tomorrow, the government, their employer, will have given them something for their work. They would have at least used it. Not to die, and their families to wait for years before the government remembers how courageous they were. To be glorified as martyrs, when the benefits are long delayed and the person already dust.


The altruism of the medical profession. Is it supposed to be like so?

Do not fault them.

I was wondering whether I would be able to work in this kind of situation. Knowing that I was playing with a gruesome death while at work, risking every moment of my life.

My lover is definite. It would be beyond the call of duty. He is very practical. What is profitable is profitable. What is not profitable is not profitable. Dreams are dreams, and they do not profit. So do ideals. They are not practical, and not profitable.

And I think of one doctor, Mathew Lukwiya. Medical Superitendent of Lacor hospital. The guy had the guts to walk into the ward of death. And to supervise the care when he was also infected, and later died.

Would I have done it?

What is the test of courage? What is the taste of courage? And of foolhardiness?

The risks are so many. The conditions so tough. The rewards are so few.

My thoughts are with the medics in Bundibugyo district as they moan the deaths of their colleagues. Whether they ran away from the job or not, I am a mortal man. I was not at their job. Their demands for immediate compesation. Again, I am a mortal man.

I do not know whether I would have the courage to face death, however high the monetary rewards.

I salute the Health Workers in Bundibugyo district in Uganda.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Kampala, Garden City

Today, I went to a suburb of Kampala that I rarely visit. Kololo hill.

Embassyville. The houses well enclosed, protected, embassy residencies. The roads smooth, well tarmaced, with few cars. The fences high and isolating. Few people on the roads. Those walking (like me), more than likely to be labourers. I blend in. Nicely.

It is literally an enclave of isolation in the middle of the city. Affluent, and very, very beautiful.

Part of its beauty is the fact that the hill is high over the rest of the city. The city spreads out on all sides. It is like one is in the clouds just above Kampala. The roar of traffic does not reach there. The diesel fumes, the dust, all that is left behind, yet it is right within the city.

When almost at the top, I looked down. The slums of Kamwokya to one side. Individual houses minute, children’s blocks too close together, stretching across the valley. The hills that bound the horizon. Bahai temple in the distance.

The hills are clothed in green. The green of trees, the green of grass, the living green of a garden city.

What was most striking to me was the valley between Kololo hill and Nakasero hill. I think of Kampala as a city in valleys. Multiple valleys. Most of the ones I see are dotted and scarred by buildings, everywhere. A jumbled, jungle of human dwellings.

Not so that valley.

The buildings there are trendy, huge, few. The green is of trees that are house height. Mature trees. And they are many. This valley is clothed in green, from Kololo, through the Golf course in the valley, to Nakasero hill. A vibrant, deep, living green that reminds one of the tropical rainforest history of Kampala. It was the Kabaka’s hunting grounds, long ago. And one has the sense that, not so long ago, there was a forest here. Jungle which has now been tamed.

A Garden City, is Kampala. The green of the bush, grass and trees riotous at the moment. There is a whisper of the garden in the quiet which seems to clothe the valley. The very trees talk of growing and pushing. Reclaiming their ground from greedy man’s clutches and controlling hand.

For a while I looked out at this spectacle. I knew I had to write about it. To try and capture the sense of beauty, and awe that it touched in me. But I became uncomfortable. I may blend in into the neighbourhood as a kibarua, a day labourer, but not if I stood in quiet contemplation for long.

Reluctantly, I walked downhill, past Kiseminti. It was like I was crossing a bridge, from an island of quiet to the hustle and bustle of the city. I had to duck into the park near the British High Commission. Just to have a taste of the solitude which I had just been in.

Kampala is beautiful. Very beautiful. A garden city if there ever was one. The plants and leaves, flowers and trees growing with abandon, only needing a little trimming here and there to shape and tame the wild beauty.

To me, it is the Queen of Garden City, is Kampala.


The Frontiers of Medicine

The year was 2000 when the first? epidemic of Ebola struck Uganda.

Place was Gulu, in the north of the country. War ravaged Gulu. And it had to be in the hospital. Lacor hospital.

Our hospitals. They are public hospitals. Under equipped, under funded, under staffed. The care is supposed to be free. But in the main it is not. And the medical workers- they work at the frontiers of medicine.

And when a disease like Ebola strikes, it is the staff in the hospitals that are most affected. Working at the frontiers, they are struck down like flies.

In that epidemic, a panic hit the north of the country. Understandable. And in the hospital, where the sick were taken, and at first attended without proper precautions, the medics contracted the disease and died.

One stood out in the mind of the country. Dr Matthew Lukwiya. Medical Superintendant of Lacor Hospital. When many others fled, he stood his ground. Nursed his staff. And paid the ultimate price. By the time the epidemic was contained, he was dead. Indeed a brave man, but the price as usual was too high. In leadership, in sheer strain to the services, in the ravages to the place.

Now, the ‘strange disease’ pre-chogm, had turned into a new strain of Ebola. In the middle of the year, it was deep in the rainforests of DR Congo. Uganda was on alert, but it seems to have passed without us being affected.

Late in August, it was new cases. Late November it was a ‘strange disease’, now it is identified a new, less lethal strain of Ebola. Less lethal, because it kills only 20% of the people it infects.

Sunday, the papers were reporting fleeing health workers from the border district of Bundibugyo. Monday, they reported at least one medic had been hospitalised in Mulago. Tuesday afternoon, the fm stations are reporting the deaths of at least 3 health workers. One was the medic who was in Mulago, another one was head of the health centre near the epicentre of the epidemic, and a third a Senior Nurse, with others hospitalised.

Swift, silent, deadly, the disease has struck again. And those at the frontlines of medicine are paying the usual price.

It is sad.

In the 1980s, it was HIV. Slim disease as it was locally named. Today it is the swifter, more deadly Ebola that strikes at the medics themselves. They have to be space suited zombies to treat patients without contracting the disease.

It will be controlled. The major control factor seems to be knowledge that the disease is, and avoiding contact with those that it strikes. It seems to spread most when it is not known that it is around; that the silent killer is loose. Once it is known, it is no longer deadly to those who do not have it. Unlike HIV.

Bundibugyo. I don’t think I have ever been to that district. But of a sudden, I am collecting news about it.

May those who rest, rest in peace. And those at the frontiers, have the courage to continue fighting.