"Mulembe" is a greeting in Lugisu, my language. It is a language spoken by a people who live on the western slopes of Mt. Elgon in eastern Uganda. When literally translated it means "peace." The person being greeted would also respond with the same, "Mulembe." This greeting serves the purpose of declaring no intention of harm. Therefore, I welcome everyone to this blog with, "Mulembe!"

Nov 18, 2011

Wanahamuna, The Peanut or G-Nut Thief

by Immy Rose and Jim Lassiter
Sung to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight – G C G D

Tsya iyoyo, tsya iyoyo, tsye yoyoyoyo
Tsya iyoyo, tsya iyoyo, tsye yoyoyoyo

Wanakhamuna, wanakhamuna, wanakhamuna, wanakhamuna
Wanakhamuna, wanakhamuna, wanakhamuna, wanakhamuna

In Mbale, upon Wanale
A squirrel makes his home
In Mbale, upon Wanale
A squirrel makes his home

In a village, a Gishu village
The squirrel steals g-nuts
In a village, a Gishu village
The squirrel steals g-nuts – Chorus

Nyondo farmers, they chase the squirrel
To save their g-nut crops
Nyondo farmers, they chase the squirrel
To save their g-nut crops

But the squirrel, the naughty squirrel
He laughs and runs away
He’s not worried, no he’s not worried
He’ll come another day – Chorus

Tsya iyoyo, tsya iyoyo, tsye yoyoyoyo
Tsya iyoyo, tsya iyoyo, tsye yoyoyoyo

Nov 8, 2011

Traditional Ugandan Food in Pictures

Matooke, a Ugandan staple, is a green cooking banana, prepared in banana leaves and steamed, mashed, steamed again to produce a delicious end product which is eaten with any kind of stew.  Some of the stews are beef stew, chicken stew, groundnut/peanut stew, spinach, fish etc.  You cannot appreciate matooke on its own because it can be bland.   It has to be eaten with one of mentioned sauces.

Below is the end product served with different side dishes:  peas, beef stew, plain peanut sauce.  Peanut sauce mixed with smoked bamboo, spinach, smoked fish etc. It makes a base for many side dishes that can be eaten with sweet potatoes, millet, pumpkins, cassava or yams. Beans which can be found in beautiful varieties  make good sauces appear on a daily menu because are more affordable.

Grilling as shown in the picture below is very popular in Uganda.  Cassava, sweet potatoes and plantain are good for informal eating.  However for proper meals and dining, they are steamed and served in a formal way.

Ugandan Asians have had a big influence on the food.  Chapati, made out flour into a pancake is eaten with beef, chicken, fish or vegetable currries.  There is also rice which is either made into a  pillau or service steamed.  My mother used to add some milk and butter to give it a delicious flavour.

In the picture below, you can see rice, samosa, pumpkin, beans, egg plant, matooke and egg plant.

A young man makes chapati in the above picture.
Sweet potatoes mashed with beans ( in the picture below) is popular in Bugisu, keeps and enjoyed by Boarding School children.  It is known as "bufuke".

Below is millet bread served with an okra-leaf vegetable. Most popular in the north and east, and west of Uganda.


Jun 19, 2011

How Amin Destroyed Uganda

It was a coup d'etat and it was the first time Ugandans had ever heard of coup d'etat.  Idi Amin Dada, a military general, had toppled the government.  He made an announcement on the National radio that he had taken over the Government, was the new ruler and was speaking from his "command post."  He spoke in broken English.  There was jubilation in the streets of Kampala because this military man had toppled President Obote, a leader much resented by the Baganda for having forced the Kabaka of Buganda into exile. Nobody could foresee what was to come.

Amin's reign turned out to be a nightmare.  He expelled the Ugandan Asians who were a significant part of the national economy, replacing them with Ugandans who had no skills in business.  Soon the shops were bare because commodities were not replaced. Ugandans had to line up for basics like sugar, soap, toilet paper and salt.  In order to survive those who were first in line bought more and the resold them at higher prices. "Magendo", meaning black market, was introduced and soon enough everyone was taking time away from their regular jobs to do magendo. Next Ugandans started crossing the border to go into Kenya or to fly to other countries to bring in commodities. They smuggled coffee to Kenya in order get money to purchase essential commodities which they could bring back.  It was a rough time. People were insecure and were living from day to day.  Dreams for professionals were crashed and they started looking for a way out.

As the Ugandans were suffering, Amin was having fun with his infamous spies, and killing suspected enemies.  He killed many Ugandans and dumped them in Namanve forest near Kampala.  Women who rejected his advances or advances from his intelligence group were raped and killed. The movies that have been made of Amin are not fiction.  Amin did those ruthless things as depicted in the movies. He killed  doctors, lawyers, teachers and foreigners.  He even killed his wives. Many people doubted his sanity and some accused him of cannibalism.

By the time he was toppled by the Tanzanian forces he had done catastrophic harm to the economy and his people.  The Pearl of Africa was no longer attractive to tourists.  The new generation needed and still needs serious rehabilitation in many aspects.  Few of them understand how to be responsibe citizens because all they know is you have to survive by any means necessary.  They are lacking in role models.  Take for example a headline in one of Uganda's newspapers, The New Vision  June 20, 2011 :  "Teachers, parents warned against stealing text books."

Those who remained in Uganda have gone through other Governments but Amin's damage is still strongly felt. Things will never be the same.

When President Museveni came to power he was a breath of fresh air.  He removed the road blocks manned by cruel soldiers who were out to rob and harrass citizens, he started rebuilding the economy. Ugandan Asians were invited back to reclaim their businesses and well-stocked supermarkets returned.  There is still a lot of poverty in Uganda even though international donors have poured a lot of money into the country.  Where this money goes is a mystery ... maybe not such a mystery.  Some Government officials have been accused of diverting funds meant for poor people in rural areas for their personal gain. Many are filthy rich!  There are lawsuits pending in courts against those who embezzelled the Global Funds money and CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) money while the country waits for justice.

As late former President Godfrey Binaisa said:   "the chair is sweet."  He was alluding to the fact that once you become President, it is hard to give up power.   It is obvious President Museveni has found the chair very sweet because he does not seem to want to relinquish power to anyone else.

There are commodities to buy but people don't  have the money.  Many of them have found ways overseas to work in jobs they would otherwise not do in Uganda, such as driving taxis and working as maids just to sustain their families and provide education for their children.   Uganda's economy is dependent on the money sent home by relatives in the diaspora. This is very unfortunate.  May God bless the Pearl of Africa.

For more information on Amin click on:  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idi_Amin

Jun 16, 2011

A Facebook Reunion with Ugandan Asians who left Uganda in 1972

Stopped to meet Leoz's Restuarant Family, Main Street Jinja, February 2012.

Two months ago, I joined "Ugandan Asians who left Uganda in 1972 and their descendents.", a Facebook Group.  I am an indigenous Ugandan and was curious to know how these Ugandans felt about the way dictator Idi Amin kicked them out of Uganda, giving them 90 days to leave with $100 only. They left behind their businesses, friends, and the country of their birth. Their lives were abruptly disrupted.

The Group group was created by Ashok Dattan.  It gives an opportunity to the Uganda Asians to share and vent on what they feel now and how they suffered when they had to leave Uganda. It is generally a positive group which understands that Idi Amin was evil and that he killed his own people too, and ruined the economy.  The unfortunate thing is that the businesses that were stolen by Amin's henchmen did not survive and some of  homes that were grabbed are in a sorry state. Amin's henchmen had no business skills and so the economy crashed; a heartbreaking story of greed, inhumanity and ignorance.

With the assistance of UNHCR and IOM, they were resettled in different countries, have become successful  but are still Ugandan at heart.  They cherish the life they had in Uganda and some of them would love to visit. Many have already visited and posted great pictures of their visits on the Group page. Others are happy where they are and have no desire to return.

 They welcome indigenous Ugandan friends and other well-wishers, who share a common interest with them: Uganda, then and Uganda now! Ashok Dattan's vision has paid off.  It appears this kind of forum was very much needed and is serving as successful group therapy. Most of the group members are about my age and have brought back good memories, in stories and pictures, of the good old Uganda.  There is great humor and comradery. There are also debates based on articles and books written by Ugandan Asian women who contend that Ugandan Asians isolated themselves, were racist and had formed a small Indian in Uganda. 




The Madhivanis of Kakira:

When  President Museveni invited the Ugandan Asians to come back, the Madhivans returned to claim back their business and in a short time business was booming.  It is unfortunate that one of the sons of the founders passed away recently.  He was very much loved by Uganda for his kindness and contribution to the economy.  Please read attached article:


Nimisha Madhivani:
I met the High Commissioner to India, Nimisha Madhivani in Washington, D.C. when she was the Ugandan Economic Counselor at the Uganda Embassy. I developed a great respect for her as an individual. She is a down-to earth person, very brilliant and a great diplomat.   She explains what happened to the Ugandan Asians, Ugandas's current economic position, and the Uganda Government policy on this issue, in better terms than I can.  Please listen to the attached video:


Here is another well presented analysis of the Uganda Asian experience:

Lunar Eclipe in Uganda - The New Vision, June 15, 2011

"UGANDANS got a rare optical treat from the longest lunar eclipse in more than a decade that turned the moon bloody red on Wednesday night. Across the country, thousands stood outside their houses catching a glimpse of the unusual spectacle. The eclipse, which began at around 9:30pm lasted for close to two hours.
Lunar eclipse occurs when the earth casts its shadow over the moon and blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon."

Jun 15, 2011

Malaika - An East African Song


An African Oldie by sang beautifully by a Chinese group. 

May 28, 2011

The Pearl of Africa

Sipi Falls, near Mt. Elgon, Uganda, 2008

I totally agree with Winston Churchill who described Uganda as "the Pearl of Africa."

Whether you arrive by road, train or plane, you will immediately be struck by Uganda's beautiful, elegant landscape and its friendly people.

Uganda is blessed with nature's beauty and has been referred to as the "Garden of Paradise."  Mountains, waterfalls, forests, lakes, the Equator, islands, rocks and rock paintings are all there, and much more.  Tourists go to the southwest to visit the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park where they can track gorillas, and see beautiful Lake Bunyonyi and the rolling hills of Kigezi. To the west they can see the breath-taking, Murchison Falls, the Ruwenzori mountains of the moon and the Ruwenzori National Park.  In central Uganda one can cross the Equator, visit Lake Victoria , tour Sesse Island and visit bustling Kampala, the city built on seven hills.  To the east through Mabira Forest one can visit the Source of the Nile and Bujaggali Falls near Jinja, Uganda's second largest city, where whitewater rafting is a big attraction.  Travelling northeast one can visit and climb Mt. Elgon, see the beautiful Sipi and Sisiyi Falls, view the the Nyero historic rock paintings, and enjoy beautiful Mbale town.  In northern Uganda tropical forests give way to a savannah lanscape.  There one can visit Mweya National Park. In the National Parks the tourists are assured of seeing wild life - elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions etc. Uganda is a natural and cultural treasure chest - true pearls to harvest!


For more information on Uganda, click here.