Thursday, 30 August 2007

Makerere Chancellorship (Ugandan Presidency) Race

Following the decision of the current Prime Minister, Prof. Apollo Nsibambi, not to renew his contract as Chancellor of Makerere an intriguing selection process has taken place. Of course the position is largely ceremonial but that has not stopped a bitter fight breaking out between the two leading candidates, a fight that is closely inter-twined with what is known here as National Resistance Movement (the governing party), 'succession politics'. This is the manoeuvring by senior figures in the NRM to try and gain prime position to take over from President Museveni when he decides to retire.

Vice-President Prof. Bukenya (see picture above) was initially excluded from the Chancellorship race as he was deemed 'part of the President's office', and as the President has the final say on the appointment this was seen as unfair. However, his supporters, backed by the Attorney General, had him reinstated in the process, blaming a 'mafia' of senior NRM officials who did not want Bukenya to have the publicity boost and kudos that would come with the position. Essentially they were trying to prevent Bukenya building up his power base for a tilt at the Presidency. Having been reinstated the interview panel then selected him as one of the two candidates to be put forward to a vote by University Council, the other being Prof. Kagonyera, a Vet backed by the Security Minister.

Yesterday evening, however, the University Council failed to even reach a vote and thus the two names will go forward to the President for a final decision, without a recommendation from the council one way or the other. This leaves the President in a position whereby he either has to effectively give a vote of no confidence in his own Vice or risk giving one of his potential challengers a significant boost and angering several senior ministers who have backed Kagonyera. The political nature of the contest is in stark contrast to anything that would happen at a UK university and certainly makes it more exciting. My guess is that the President will have no choice but to appoint his VP but he is a man capable of surprising everyone. I'll keep you posted...


Internet is still down at 'Dag Hall' where I stay, which is a pain, and after nearly two weeks I am still yet to be a fully registered student here. It seems there is always one more form, another stamp or a new official you must go and see. I'll write properly on this when it is finally completed...

First football session last night was a shock to the system. 45 minutes of fitness training followed by a full-length game on a ropey pitch meant I woke up extremely stiff today. The standard is good as far as I can tell and there is a match next week, although I doubt that is time enough to get myself in contention!

I also want to link this very good tribute to Ray Jones:

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Cup of Nations Fever

I am now the proud owner of a 20,000 shilling (about £6) covered seat for the Uganda v Niger game on Saturday September 8th at Namboole Stadium. It would be a very big deal for the country to qualify after a thirty year absence from the Africa Cup of Nations, reflected in the fact that the country’s equivalent of Richard Branson, Michael Ezra, has offered a $100,000 bonus to the squad and its coaches if they qualify. The maths is complex but effectively Uganda are attempting to get one of the three best runners-up places (Nigeria having won their group) and are currently 4th out of the 12 2nd place teams. A resounding win should do it.

The coach is a German born Hungarian called Laszlo Csaba and he has come out with some great lines to keep the press happy, including the following:

“It’s a pity that weddings in this country are better than qualifying for the Nations Cup finals…I now understand why Uganda has not managed to make the finals in over 30 years” – on finding their training ground had been hired out for several days.

“I am aware Niger do not play games at night” – when trying to move the fixture to Sunday evening in an attempt to gain a ‘tactical advantage’.

Posnet Omwony isn’t a bad keeper but the problem with him is he drops the ball so often” – convincing vote of confidence for the back-up goalkeeper.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Back to School

Had my first evening lecture last night. The first guy didn't turn up which apparently is quite common but after that we had two hours on international law which was interesting, extremely relevent and delivered by someone who is clearly a top expert in his field. After three years discussing 'fuzzy concepts', theories and paradigm shifts (which I enjoyed very much) there is something quite reassuring about returning to 'facts' on conventions, articles, security council resolutions and the other statures that are used in international law. Of course it is not as simple as that and there is plenty of room for interpretation and manipulation (see the US/UK invasion of Iraq) of laws that are difficult to enforce and as yet have no international court of law to which all states subscribe.

As the lectures are all in the evening I am currently firing off my CV to some of the agencies and offices in Kampala in the hope of getting some work. Will probably be voluntary, at least to start with, but will be good to get some experience working here.

Otherwise am trying to get a ticket for the Uganda v Niger match next month. If Uganda win and some results go their way they could qualify for the African Nations for the first time in 30 years which would be a big achievement considering the teams they are up against. Saw some of the weekend games but all overshadowed by the death of young QPR striker Ray Jones, he was probably the player at the club with the best attributes to make it really big and it is a great shame and waste of a talent.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Power cuts

Haven't managed to post recently due to the regular power cuts over the weekend. I will try and get an update on the site tomorrow. In the meantime these are the stories that have been dominating the headlines over the past week which I think give an interesting snapshot of Uganda at the moment:

- 95% of Kampala residents oppose any moves to pass law making homosexuality legal
- An opposition party have removed a portrait of President Museveni from their offices sparking a debate on whether it is really necessary for every business/office to display one
- An evengelical preist has been caught with a buzzer type device in his hand while claiming he was performing miracles on his congregation by giving them a shock
- The national football coach has attacked the football federation for hiring out their training ground for a wedding just two weeks before the crucial African Nations Cup qualifier against Niger
- A senior official has floated the idea that a women might suceed Museveni

Thursday, 23 August 2007


I have got myself a Ugandan phone so will be using +256751811479 until December. Feel free to distract me from the intensive academic programme I appear to have signed up to. The timetable (3 hours between 5-8pm Mon-Thur) is certainly a lot more teaching time than my undergraduate course and worst of all I have four three-hour exams at the end of this semester. They have also scheduled the classes in the 'Food Science and Technology' building which is the furthest point away from my halls on campus, right across what people call 'The Hill'. There is an upside though, in that it means I can now look for a job in the daytime. I have also had some positive replies about possible work for people in the UK.

Other than that Anna and her friend Natalia have arrived from Kigali so we have been visiting some of the sights of Kampala. If you are a fan of big set piece museums and the like, Kampala is not really the place for you, but it has a great atmosphere, good food and plenty of places to while away time in. Tonight we are going to the Cineplex in the 'Garden City Mall'. Garden City itself boosts (allegedly) the only escalator in Uganda and is a big Western style shopping centre that backs onto Kampala Golf Course. We used to come here occasionally when teaching in the west of the country and it took on a kind of heavenly status where we could splurge on imported food and new books.

P.S. Think I should provide a link to this very amusing sister blog...

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


Just back from a shebeen type bar in Wangagari, the local trading centre on the outskirts of Kampala that has grown up mainly to serve students coming out of Makerere for supplies, entertainment and general distraction from campus life. I went for dinner with two of my neighbours and ended up in a long discussion about tribes, family names, traditions and how you are defined historically as a person. In the UK we have such little understanding of our roots, everything has become mixed up and people can barely trace their family back three generations. In Uganda when you introduce yourself you are expected to say your own name followed by your father's (and his achievements), your grandfather's (and his achievements) and so on till you have covered at least ten relatives. It is true this applies almost exclusively to the men but despite all the problems tribalism may have created (mainly down to colonial segregation and type-casting) there is certainly something to be said in being proud of where you come from and being able to identify with people who would otherwise be total strangers...

Otherwise today has been spent battling with bureaucracy to try and get registered on my course. They had missed me out from the sheets they have posted outside the faculty of social sciences but hopefully that will soon be corrected. Looking down the list their is one Canadian, a Sudanese guy (african rather than arab from the name), a Rwandan and some Kenyans as well as the many Ugandans. I have also found out that virtually half of ECS (the school I taught at with Tom and Billy in the West of the country) are taking 'distance courses' here, including the headmaster and a teacher called Uwimana who started at the same time as us in 2004. This means they are here till the new term starts on the 17th Sept when I will probably travel back upcountry with them to visit the school and the Kamasaka family.

I will try and post some photos of my hall in the next couple of days.

Monday, 20 August 2007

First Impressions

Just back from the Makerere equivalent of the Cambridge 'Freshers' Fayre'. A lot more lively here - dance floor in the middle, beer tents and traders from all over Kampala selling all sorts of student stuff till late at night.

Writing this from my room in the postgrad hall which has wireless in the room (result!) so should be able to communicate pretty effectively. The room is not too bad at all and has a new bed and mattress which is welcome. The hall is small compared to the undergrad ones and seems to be a lot quieter considering the big parties that have been going on around campus. There is a common room with the equivalent of sky though so have been able to watch the football (did anyone listen to me when I was telling them Rob Styles was a prat 5 years ago?!), although it is a struggle to get the 'Big Brother Africa' fans to change the channel...

Just beginning to meet people doing others Masters courses here. I will meet the people from my course for the first time tomorrow hopefully, also looking to make contact with the football team. Otherwise went to a Ugandan wedding on saturday night which was lavish although embarrassing when the MC announced I had brought wishes from the Queen and the cameraman zoomed in to catch my reaction. Having never met the bride or groom I can imagine they will be surprised when they play the video back to their grandchildren in years to come.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Leaving home again...

Welcome to this imaginatively entitled blog 'Joe in Uganda'. Hopefully, to use a Hollowayism it will be just like Ronseal and keep everyone who's remotely interested updated on what I get up to from Friday onwards, when I move to Kampala to take a two year Masters course in International Relations and Diplomatic Studies. I will be studying at Makerere University, one of the oldest in Africa with an impressive alumni list including a number of current and past African Presidents, several prominant writers and other public figures such as John Sentamu, the first black Archbishop of the Church of England (in York). Apart from that I know relatively little about what I am about to throw myself into. There are apparently 25 other people on the course and a healthy number of international students, the vast majority being from other African countries. In terms of Europeans the wonders of Facebook have thrown up a few Norwegians that are going to be at Makerere over the coming semester. My overall feelings at the moment are a mixture of great excitement and a little apprehension, which I'm sure is natural at such a big move.

I am also slightly worried that I as yet have no confirmed accommodation. I have been promised a room in Dag Hammerskjold postgrad hall but the warden hasn't got back to me yet. Anyway at $15o a term I am not expecting too much...Regardless though it will good to be on campus and I reckon that will be one of the best ways of getting to know my fellow students. There are over 30,000 undergrads which is a bit daunting, especially as that suggests the football team will be of a seriously high quality. My pre-season of golf and the Salusbury is probably not the best preparation either!

Anyway I hope you will drop by and let me know what you're up to as well. I think there is a comments section which people can use (which will of course be heavily moderated...) and I will post my Ugandan phone number up here when I get it sorted next week. Otherwise look forward to seeing everyone again for the Christmas holidays...