The serene secret of the Selous

In my previous post I described my journey from Kigali – Rwanda, to a place where nature rules. This place is called Selous Game Reserve. To get there we had to fly for about 45 minutes on a Cessna Caravan aircraft operated by Regional Air from Dar es Salaam airport to an airstrip called Stiegler’s.

During the flight you cannot fail to notice how urban and settled Dar gradually gives way to the clouds and then to the huge stretches of Miombo woodlands, swamps, lakes, meandering rivers and lot of animals. Through that small aircraft window one gets introduced to the mighty Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania.

When we touched down at  Stiegler’s we were welcomed with a cold glass of fresh juice before jumping into the open jeeps to where we were to spend the night. Our host was an affable gentleman called Nickson Kanyika. Nickson, the lodge manager of Serena’s Mivumo River Lodge, gave us a briefing on what the day’s programme looked then off we went.


Cooling down at Stiegler’s airstrip 

On the way to the lodge we started getting a real feel of the Selous Game Reserve. Which shall henceforth be referred to as the Selous  – feel free to treat the last S like a suggestion box; ignore it. Now that we have the pronunciation fixed  we can continue. The Selous was named after an English conservationist , Sir Fredrick Selous.

It is so vast that it occupies over 54,600 square kilometres. To put that into context, it is slightly bigger than Rwanda and Burundi combined! For those friends of ours who love to think Africa is a country and therefore don’t know what or where Burundi and Rwanda are, get this – the Selous is bigger than Switzerland.

The game reserve has over seven airstrips and Stigler is just one of them, named so because it is close to Stiegler’s gorge along River Rufiji. When it comes to flora and fauna (by the way those are not some girl’s names), Selous has it all and in big numbers. In most game parks one is bound to brag about how many lions they saw, in Selous you just talk about what they were doing.

The reserve is so big that as you drive around you often get the feeling you have been kidnapped by the driver but not yet aware because you can drive for hours or even a whole day without meeting another tour truck or van.  In some areas, all you can see are the green trees and shrubs.

Then in other areas you will find lots of trees that met their untimely death a couple of days back. By the way is it just me who is always bothered by that phrase untimely death? Is there like a right time for death? Isn’t all death untimely except when we are talking about suicide and executions? Anyway, I was talking about elephants. These beasts are not really interested in short cuts. The prefer using vectors and so the trees painfully have to pay for that decision if they  are in the path of the elephant.

Driving around the reserve, I noticed the nonchalant attitude of most animals. Around Lake Tagalala, the crocodiles could be seen just relaxing in the water with only their eyes exposed. I saw one leaving the land and heading for the water and I could not tell whether it was done with breakfast or looking for breakfast.

The problem with watching too many wildlife TV shows is that you keep thinking animals are always looking for something to eat yet sometimes all they want to do is chill and probably meditate about their life decisions like us. I think this is exactly what the hippopotami do with all the time they spend in the water.It’s the only explanation I can think of.

We later chanced on some lions. At first we met three of them sheltering under a tree. They were so close to the car and I was forced to pray that they were either fasting or vegetarians. You know there are times when your brain indulges in so much stupidity that you feel like it should never be donated to a medical school for research. Anyway those crazy thoughts helped me gather the courage to do what anyone else in my place would do – take a selfie!


Hey love birds, I know what you did in January 2016

We drove away and met two other lions, a male and a female. They seemed not to be on talking terms, you know like couples do once in a while. We chose not to interfere in their relationship matters and so we continued and this time found a lone male lion but about 50 metres later we stumbled upon the real show. We found two lions and after about five minutes they started making out. Since all of us were above age, no one looked away or pretended to. Would you?

Anthony just seemed bothered by the fact he could not zoom anymore while Bernard was asking all sorts of irrelevant questions like, “Is he done? Are they going to cuddle?  Morris didn’t pay much attention probably because he has seen it all on Youtube or maybe because he was sure Anthony would share with him the video soon after. By the time we left that place somethings were clear, lions do not cuddle after ‘doing it’ and some more lions will be born soon in the Selous.

Another thing that  fascinated me about the wild is how sharp the drivers’ eyes are. One moment he speeding down a track and the next moment he has stopped the car to show you an animal that is trying its best to hide behind the vegetation. however it is not always rosy for them. Our strong Toyota Land Cruiser at one time got stuck in a ditch after we gone off the main track to follow some shy elephants.


At the hot-spring where I took off my shirt and washed away my sins 

We spent time trying to dig the car out of the mud as once again my brain went into that ‘what’s the worst that could happen now’ mode. The driver called for help but before that the car behaved and soon we were heading back to the lodge. And this lodge brings me to the real secret of the Selous.

The Selous is not all about wildebeest, lions, Nile crocodiles  or elephants. By the banks of River Rufigi and its brown waters you will find the exquisite Serena Mivumo River Lodge. A property that comprises of twelve timbered chalets each with a private viewing deck complete with a Jacuzzi and outdoor shower.

I made it a point to use the outdoor shower each morning just to send a message to the hippos that some human beings are well endowed with very big thighs – I am sure hippos needed to know this. Yes, thighs, just thighs, what did you think I was talking about you perv…?

Away from big things, the chalets are so comfy and after a long game drive going to your chalet is such a rewarding experience. Just  throw off your shoes and feel the polished wood under your feet. Feel free to set the lighting to what you want because it can be adjusted with a knob. The furniture is generally from a time before now probably to relax you further so you can stop worrying about time itself.

In the chalets there is not TV to remind you of where death and destruction are happening or wifi for people to bother you with requests to type ‘Amen’ on pictures of strangers on Facebook. It is your time and space. Only best to share it with a special person. If you were thinking honeymoon. Oh honey this place has so much moon!


Do you really want me to caption this too?

There is a central dinning area and safari bar where we enjoyed many crazy stories about anything and everything over a drink. Often times someone would laugh so loud that I suspect the animals would stop what they were doing and talk about humans and the noises they make.

The experience at  Mivumo River Lodge is not complete without a boat ride along the Rufiji river where you get real close to the hippos and crocodiles. The best thing about the boat ride is that you get to see how incredibly beautiful the chalets you are staying look like from a distance. My favourite moment was seeing baby crocodile on the banks of the river. They just look like well fed geckos and yet soon they  will grow into one of the most skillful hunters in the animal world.


Look at these dudes and the splendid view behind them 

About an hour’s drive away you will find another Serena Hotels property, the Serena Selous Camp. Here you will also find twelve widely spaced safari tents with natural thatch roofs, elegant Victorian-styled bathrooms and private viewing decks. I am talking about canvas walls, opulent rugs and elegant rosewood furniture. What more would you want?

Then there is the villa for those who really want to live like or are royalty. Words cannot describe it. And I will not pretend to. Indeed the real secret of the Selous, is that amidst all the abundant natural beauty, one will still be blown away by the awe-inspiring beauty of the Serena properties therein. My only regret was not using the Jacuzzi. As I left my chalet on the last day, I felt as if I was leaving behind a new friend that I never got know quite well and yet I should have. For that one reason, I will be back!


Serena Mivumo River Lodge: A real paradise in the jungle


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Finding the serene secret of the Selous

What do you do with all the time on your hands while on a long trip by bus? Do you pull out a book and devour some chapters before sleep comes knocking? Do you start that awkward conversation with the fellow sitting next to you about their strange accent? Or are you the kind that move around with those huge headphones that make it normal for you to shout each time someone tries to talk to you?

Recently I was on bus for a long trip. Kigali to Nairobi. It is slightly more than 24 hours if nothing terrible happens to make it longer. In other words, whether it is reading a book, sleeping or conversing, there is more than enough time at your disposal.

In true East African style, I was on a bus that set off from Kigali whose owners probably live in Mombasa and yet it had Ugandan registration plates and a mud flap with the name KANSIIME. Yes, that famous ‘brief’ girl from Kabale with the ability to shatter your ribs without touching you as she rants about everything and anything, has a bus branded with her name.


Somewhere in Nakuru…Kansiime took a short break to allow some passengers to buy some fresh food (potatoes) by the roadside

In the bus I sat next to a young man from the Democratic Republic of Congo who put my scanty French to the test. We talked about a lot of things but I felt pity for him having to part with $100 to pass through Uganda and $50 to enter Kenya. I wanted to apologise to him for how East Africa was treating him and his people. How do you charge $100 to the citizens of a country that gave us Franco, Papa Wemba, Tshala Muana, Koffi Olomidde and Fally Ipupa?

There were moments when I  would get bored and start using my phone to tune into random Kenyan stations or simply staring out of the window like people do in American movies when they jump on a Greyhound bus to a far off destination. At around 10pm we finally arrived in Nairobi. And this is where the core of my journey was to begin from.

I didn’t have to wait for long before Anthony came to pick me up. We then looked around for a cab to take us to Nairobi Serena. Before we could identify a cab guy to negotiate with, Anthony went into brag mode and asked me if Uganda or Rwanda had Uber services. I am sure he knew the answer but you know how Kenyans love to rub it in sometimes. To you Anthony, sawa tu.

Tired as I was from the bus ride, I had to hold it in and find some rest at the Nairobi Serena before getting up at 5am to beat the Nairobi traffic on the way to the airport. As soon as I checked into the hotel, I ordered a quick dinner and sat in the bath tub for a while to cool my battered body.

The morning hit me so fast and at exactly 5am, I threw some clothes back on picked my bag and headed out of the hotel with Anthony and Morris. I knew I had not rested enough but I was consoled by the fact that my brother from Uganda, Bernard had actually just arrived that morning by bus from Kampala and was driven straight from the bus office to the airport (insert loud evil laugh).

When we got to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, it was pretty obvious that Bernard was not one of us. Sleep was written all over his face and his red eyes made him look quite ‘presidential’ if you know what I mean.


You can see Bernard (L) trying to look cool but his red ‘presidential’ eyes could not hide the sleep deficit he was exporting to Magufuli-land

Now this is a caution to other East Africans that are not Kenyans. Please if you find yourself talking about your country’s main airport remember to lower your voice a little or find something else to brag about. Don’t argue, just remember to do it. Anyway we then boarded our flight to Julius Nyerere International Airport which took slightly over an hour.

At the immigration check-in we had to have our yellow fever vaccination certificates in hand. I still don’t know why Tanzanians insist on this yellow fever thing but anyway you cannot complain much when you are in a country whose leader answers Hapo ni kazi tu to almost every question.

There is a harsh reminder that you are now in Dar and you get it the moment you step out of the glass doors of the airport. The humidity! A sudden temperature rise will have you thinking you just strayed into Mama Ntilie’s open kitchen and are now staring at the big sufuriya with that huge juicy samaki. Have you noticed that I now seem to be showing off my thin Swahili vocabulary? I can’t help myself you know.

Besides the heat you also have to deal with a drop in verbal communication confidence now that you are faced with unapologetic speakers of Swahili sanifu. We got a brief reprieve of the Dar heat as we were driven to the Dar es Salaam Serena. Some of us gazed at the wide roads and the huge high rise buildings along the way. There were loud conversations with the inevitable comparisons of the different EAC member states. It was like a mini EAC mobile summit.


The picturesque Dar es Salaam Serena

At Dar Serena, we could not wait to jump from the car and rush inside the hotel because you know… the heat in between those two points was not funny. The Serena in Dar is undergoing some renovations to give it that signature Serena touch that wows you with a local theme. Nonetheless it does have its fine edges here and there. It is the biggest Serena property in the region with 230 rooms. It is so close to the Indian Ocean yet it surrounded by big business properties giving you that holistic coastal city feel.

After a brief tour around the facility, we had lunch and we were driven back to the airport for our flight to Stigler’s which is in Selous Game Reserve. The 45 minute flight aboard a Regional Air light aircraft was manned by two young pilots Kwame and Brian who made their job seem like it was an older version of a video game – so easy.


Selous here we come…

Selous is vast. Selous is serene. Selous also has two splendid Serena Hotels secret pearls. In fact I need another blog post to tell you all about Selous.

To be continued…

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When I toured my country and loved it…

This is a summary of the two stories that appeared in The New Times Newspaper mid November 2015. ( When Uganda showed off its beauty spots and Experiencing Uganda’s remote and adventure-filled treasures)

There’s absolutely no doubt that the East Africa region is a hotbed (if I can borrow words from the CNN’s annoying vocabulary) of beauty. This breathtaking beauty has for years fuelled a vibrant tourism industry that pours millions of dollars in the economies of each of the East African Community member states.

For ten days, I was part of a team of regional journalists and tour operators from all over the world who were hosted by Uganda Tourism Board and given a glimpse, of what Uganda has to offer when it comes to tourism as part of the second Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo.

The regional journalists were selected by the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP). EATP’s vision is to turn East Africa into this vibrant and diverse single tourism destination.

In a bid to promote intra and inter-regional tourism, EATP invited journalists from each EAC country to be part of the experience so they can spread the word around and lure others East Africans to destination Uganda. Efforts like the single tourist visa, open borders and the use of national IDs are some of the milestones that EATP has lobbied for in the recent past in a bid to ease access to tourist sites for the close to 140m fellow East Africans.

My trip started with a flight from Kigali to Entebbe aboard Rwandair, one of the key sponsors of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo. As I sat on the plane trying to suppress weird thoughts about plane crashes and what was expected of me as someone sitting by the emergency exit, I had no idea what awaited me and the rest of the team for the trip.

After checking into our hotel rooms and getting some rest for the day, we all met for a cocktail at Sheraton Kampala where we were briefed about the trips we were to embark on soon. We were also split into two groups. I was initially supposed to be part of the group that was to visit Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable forest but I opted for the trip that would take me to Kidepo Valley National Park which is the only park in Uganda with cheetahs.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
On the road our first stop was at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary a 7000 hectare private facility that was set up to oversee the reintroduction of Rhinoceros, a highly endangered species, back into the national parks of Uganda through a breeding and release programme. These huge beasts that can weigh up to three tonnes were finished off by poachers by 1983.

The first six rhinos were introduced during 2005 from Kenya and others were brought in from USA. Before we could go and see them, we each had to sign a document that basically spells out the fact that these are wild animals and something could go wrong. Then our guide reminded us that a white rhino can run up to 45km per hour when charging at what it considers an enemy.

It was interesting to learn that one of the rhinos born at the sanctuary is named Obama because its father is Kenyan while the mother is from USA. I wonder if Barrack Obama knows he has a namesake in Nakasongola. Because of how lucrative the trade in rhino horns is, the rhinos are guarded 24/7 by armed rangers and there is an electric fence around the sanctuary.

I think I did great when it comes to hiding my fear

I think I did great when it comes to hiding my fear

After having lunch at Amuka Safari Lodge, we drove to the oldest hotels in Uganda, Masindi Hotel for our overnight stay. The hotel was built in 1923 by the now defunct East Africa Railways and Harbours Company and is a historical gem in its own right.

Kaniyo – Pabidi Ecotourism site
After an early breakfast we set off for the Budongo Eco lodge, also known as the Kaniyo Pabidi Ecotourism site that is located in the heart of Budongo Forest Reserve in Murchison Falls National Park. We went into the rain forest for chimp tracking covering over 4 kilometers and breaking a sweat while at it. This place has some of the best tour guides I encountered although it was not so funny when they talked about the big snakes they sometimes find in the forest and tales of falling in ditches.

The amiable Birungi explaining to a journalist all about chimps

The amiable Birungi explaining to a journalist all about chimps in Budongo Forest

The forest has over 600 chimpanzees and lots of hard wood trees including one Mahogany tree estimated to be over 600 years and the oldest in the region. Do not ask me how the years were counted. Chimpanzees are our closest relatives with whom we share 98.4% DNA. Apart from the legendary mountain gorillas, Uganda hosts 17 other primate species making it a prime destination for primate lovers.

Murchison Falls National Park
The main attraction in this park is none other than the breathtaking sight of the Nile River forcing its way through a narrow gorge only seven metres wide and then tumbles down 43 meters. I am talking about Murchison Falls, also known as Kabalega by the more Pan-African leaning folks like yours truly.

The breathtaking Kabalega Falls

The spectacular Kabalega Falls

We later enjoyed a boat ride upstream to see the falls from below while catching glimpses of the lazy hippopotami and their Jacuzzi antics as well the famous Nile crocodile. We saw one that was about four meters and I remember the goose bumps forming on my arms as imagined what things would be like if I found myself in a one on-one situation with this massive reptile.

Murchison Falls National Park is the largest national park in Uganda measuring approximately 3,840 square kms and boasts of over 76 species of mammals and 450 bird species. During the two days we were there we got to see a pride of lions, herds of elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, giraffes, warthogs and lots of birds. We spent our nights at Pakuba Lodge where you would think giraffes were also part of the staff thanks to the frequent sightings of the gentle tall animals.

Kidepo Valley National Park

After two days, we were driven to Pakuba Airfield where we boarded a chartered flight (Aerolink) to Kidepo Airfield in Kidepo Valley National Park located in the North Eastern tip of Uganda in the Karamoja region with the South Sudan and Kenya borders close by. Here we stayed at the luxurious Apoka Safari Lodge where each one had a whole canvas-walled cottage to themselves.

By the way Aerolink is doing an amazing job 

The cottages do not have TVs and internet access only happened briefly near the main reception area that has wifi that we could only use if the generator was switched on and we were nearby. I guess the message was clear, relax and enjoy the jungle.

Apoka Safari lodge...

Apoka Safari lodge…

The cottages allow you to sit on the patio and gaze at the beautiful landscape and watch animals like warthogs, buffaloes and antelopes grazing freely in front of you. At night the cottages seem farther than usual with every sound evoking wild thoughts of a lion, leopard or cheetah roaming close by in search of a quick bite. And by the way each cottage has an outdoor stone bathtub!

Kidepo Valley is rich with wildlife with arguably the largest herds of buffaloes and hundreds of bird species for the bird lovers. The famed tree climbing lions could be seen perched on top of rocks in typical I-am-the-king-of-the-jungle manner on the rocky throne. The only depressing bit was the old Landcruisers that kept breaking down in the middle of the park. Not cool if you ask me.

Not so funny when the car breaks down in the middle of the park

Not so funny when the car breaks down in the middle of the park

On our last night in Apoka we enjoyed some tasty nyama choma washed down with some drinks around a fire place.

Jinja town and its adventures
Uganda’s tourism circuit is incomplete with a trip to Jinja town. Here you not only have the Source of the Nile but also a rich range of options for those who love adrenaline-filled adventure excursions. We had to choose between quad-biking, white water rafting and bungee jumping.

I settled for quad-biking and I had so much fun riding around wet-dirt tracks while waving to curious children along the way. There is a reason why we were given helmets as some of our colleagues fell off the their bikes. Quad-biking is certainly something I will be doing again and again.

Quad biking must be the second best invention after Chapati

Quad biking must be the second best invention after Chapati

At the bungee jumping site, I opted to settle for a cold drink instead of jumping into the Nile with a rope tied to my legs. You can call me a coward all you want but I don’t really care. I just feel like my vital organs would abandon me during such a jump. You know like the way your computer or phone hangs as you use it.

As if to cool down from a week of adventure we spent the following day inspecting some of the finest hotels in Uganda, with breakfast at Speke Resort Munyonyo and a late lunch at picturesque Lake Victoria Serena before retiring to a Ugandan cultural gala at Ndere Centre.

Cultural night at Ndere Centre
The event at Ndere centre was aimed at showcasing the cultural diversity of Uganda a country with over 56 different ethnic groups. We were thus welcomed by a medley of dances from the Banyarwanda, Karamojong and Baganda communities all dancing to the captivating Kirundi drums. A journalist colleague from Burundi could not hide his joy for long so he put his Nikon camera aside and joined in the drumming.

Ndere troupe entertained us for the whole night with energetic performances of dances from all the corners of Uganda including the famous Intore dance from Rwanda. The troupe leader, Stephen Rwangyezi made it a point to introduce each dance with a brief but quite hilarious history of the dance, instruments and ethnic group known for a given dance.

The dances were briefly interrupted to allow us enjoy a sumptuous meal of local food as the drinks continued to flow. For a country where every 80kms introduces you to a new language, the night was never really enough. Likewise a mere blog post cannot be enough to exhaust Uganda’s beautiful story. You have to visit the country for yourself.

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#FuelUpWithVisa: A Visa to a better road experience

Anyone who has driven a car within East Africa will concede that Rwanda offers the best road experience in the region. The roads are nearly flawless. Potholes would sound like a new vocabulary if mentioned to a car owner in Kigali. Save for a few speed bumps that allow pedestrians to cross some roads the ride on roads here is often so smooth.

The drivers are quite decent with many sticking to their lanes and not obsessed with checking if the horn works. Cars with loud blaring music from cheap speakers are quite rare to find on Rwandan roads. Old rickety cars are condemned to garages and scrapyards thanks to regular car inspections by the traffic police department.

Neat and orderly

Neat and orderly (Internet photo)

Once you drive out of town then you have to be ready to be tortured amazing sights that bring out the real curves of this country Rwanda. Yes I know you were thinking of the curves on the beautiful Rwandan ladies but I am talking about topography here. Driving along the countryside makes one feel like they are in a car ad without knowing who to invoice once the pictures are taken.

The commercial motorcycles commonly known as boda bodas in most parts of East Africa but Motos in Rwanda have even been added to must do things by several travel blogs. This is because of the comfort and safety that comes with using these ‘naturally air conditioned’ bikes. With a helmet for both driver and passenger you can dash off to any destination and ogle at either the new buildings that keep coming up or use your boredom to count palm trees as go along.

Palm trees

Yes you can enjoy the breeze and count palm trees at the same time

In Rwanda the traffic police are always visible and professional. If you are thinking of even bribing any of them just send the money to me. Trust me it is a much wiser decision. At the end of the day, they do a remarkable job in ensuring that our road experiences don’t turn into hospital or cemetery experiences. (feel free to clap for them and then continue reading)

As if all that road awesomeness is not enough, something else has been added to the mix to take the experience to a whole new level.

Enter #FuelUpWithVisa.

In short; you no longer need cash in your pockets to get fuel in your tank. You just need a Visa card. And if it is one issued by a Rwandan bank you could be rewarded with some free fuel. A total of 30 fuel stations in Rwanda belonging to 5 brands (SP, Engen, Mt. Meru, Source Oil and Hashi) are part of this smart initiative.

Convenience at its finest

Convenience at its finest (Photo/The New Times)

To be honest driving a car is cool. Having cash for fuel is cooler…but fueling with a Visa card is way too cool… I even feel my fingers freezing as I type this. These cards offer unprecedented security, control and convenience compared to transacting with cash.

The cool people have been flashing these cards at restaurants and supermarkets and now they can do the same at 30 different fuel stations. The secret behind this awesomeness is the fact that these Visa cards are so easy to get. Just walk into your bank and ask. The government of Rwanda and Visa want you to experience convenience at its finest.

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Dear Ugandan Politician…

…a letter from a Digital Youth

Although general elections in Uganda are set for early next year, the political games are already intense. The big boss is moving around the country launching everything that can be launched just to get that headline of “Museveni donates…”

His main rivals are yet to be clear about how they plan to take on the man who owns all the money and oil in Uganda. At other levels would-be aspirants are also sizing up themselves for the vote with all tribes of promises they will never fulfill.

We the youth make up the majority of the voting population but many, especially the urban elites, never bother to vote. For us voting is a very boring exercise. Imagine waking up early in the morning and having to spend hours in the queue with people who are not even on Twitter or Facebook.

If we eventually vote, then we have to spend days with that funny ink on our fingers, a sign that we were bored enough to go out and determine the future of our country. I however think that if politicians were addressing issues that really impact on our urban lives then maybe, just maybe we would step out and vote.

By now it should be obvious that we your prospective voters do not really live in Uganda but on the internet or precisely on Social Media. Do you have anything in your manifesto that aims to ease this our lifestyle?

Hey you! I am talking to you...

Hey you! I am talking to you…

We want to hear you talking about lowering the price of internet data bundles. We are living very miserable lives thanks to the speed at which data bundles disappear each time we mistakenly tap the Instagram app. very soon we shall hit the streets to protest this gross violation of our rights.

If you can’t promise lower data prices at least assure us that as a leader you will ensure that there are more places with free wifi other than those coffee shops whose prices make us feel like we are actually buying off a coffee farm when the bill is placed on the table.

How about free wifi in all public toilets. Do you know who many female voters this can win you since most selfies are taken in front of bathroom mirrors with the lips extended in a manner that most ducks we spoke to consider to be outright copyright infringement?

Quack! that's copyrighted you stupid human

Quack! that’s already copyrighted you stupid human

We could also do with free wifi at church so we can use the Bible app during the sermon or more importantly send out Mavuno Church tweets. We surely cannot be worrying about tithe and data bundles at the same time.

When it comes to security please do not tell us about the benefits of sending UPDF troops to fight in Somalia or Juba. We just need to be assured that we can take a selfie on a boda boda in Wandegeya without someone snatching our phones. For us security is not just assurance that I will be mugged for my cheap HP laptop but also that I can leave an annoying work/family WhatsApp group without being looked at like a treason suspect.


I honestly don’t understand how you keep telling us about how bad things were before 1986 yet we still go to restaurants and can’t find a place where to charge our phones from. I will not even mention UMEME’s terrorism if only you can assure my people, the young voters that the price of power banks will go down the moment you are elected. The way things are lately, some of us need power banks for our power banks. I am sure you don’t know how much the development of this country suffers each time a young productive person like me with a folder for memes fails to join a trending topic on Twitter just because UMEME thinks power is a luxury.

That look we give when UMEME leaves us in darkness..

That look we give when UMEME leaves us in darkness…

Of course we love it when you give us those brown envelopes with money and the cheap T-Shirts with your face on them. They really come in handy when one wants to wash a car or mop the house. But the real magic if you want young urban votes to step out and vote then you ought to start by following back those of us who follow you on Twitter? Is that so much to ask? As for those who block us when we tweet some funny things about you, hoping to get some retweets from our friends, I hope all your votes are stolen when the counting is done. 

When Hon. Anite and Tumwebaze block you yet Amama Mbabazi refused to follow you back.

When Hon. Anite and Tumwebaze block you yet Amama Mbabazi refused to follow you back.

There are a few times when we get off social media to see how other human beings live. Here too we find problems that if you could fix then you would take all our votes and more. Can you for instance include in your manifesto that each time it rains in the evening the traffic will not be so bad and get worse when you show up with your annoying escort cars to bully us off the road? How can going to your home be an emergency, don’t you have hobbies. Would you die if you got home late and told your spouse that you were in a meeting? You can even just find a place and play a game of pool as the traffic eases.

Did you also know that you can be a politician for life if you dared to assure us that the number of curtain raisers at concerts will be cut down to just one. When we attend these concerts we have to live tweet so our friends can know we are cooler than them. Therefore we can’t be wasting our battery and bundles on chaps like Khalifa Aganaga. Duh!

Do you really have to count the pieces of meat even when the doctor recommended I eat at least 4?

Why do you look at me like that yet my doctor recommended I eat at least four pieces of meat…

Then there are days when we go for lunch at these places that not only serve food but it is a buffet. I swear I will rig an election for that one candidate that is patriotic enough to assure me that at the buffet table there won’t be a mean lady to give me that look that compels me to pretend that I didn’t want a second piece of meat.

But is this form of food terrorism even legal? How come with all the vegetarians in this world we never see anyone at the buffet table counting how many peas one puts on their plate. Why do they discriminate against us who love meat and chicken?

Last but not least, I really think if you want us to come out and vote for you then you should just create Twitter accounts and the ones with most followers take the day. We honestly don’t have time to stand in long queues just to show you we love you. Remember we are too lazy to even write Happy Birthday in full. HBD does it for us. That should tell you something about us the Digital Youth of Uganda.

PS: The views expressed above are of a deluded jerk that accessed this blog without permission. Investigations are still going on to establish his intentions but thank you for reading all the same.

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Kigali Serena Hotel; Rwanda’s epitome of comfort

Over the weekend, the people that matter in the travel industry met in Seychelles for the 22nd World Travel Awards to recognize and reward outstanding achievements within the global travel industry. At the awards that The Wall Street Journal dubbed the ‘Oscars’ of the travel industry, Kigali Serena Hotel was named the Leading Hotel in Rwanda.


The terrace

To the folks that came up with decision, allow me to inform you that did make me laugh a bit when I got the news. Let’s be honest guys, this must be the easiest job you have ever done for any amount of pay. I am sure anyone who doesn’t know that Serena Kigali is the leading hotel here also thinks Rwanda’s capital city is Lagos.

Established in 2007, Kigali Serena is just 10 minutes away from Kigali International Airport so you won’t have to witness those movie scenes where the film star is stuck in traffic with a cab driver who doesn’t speak his language but only steals looks through his rear view mirror. It is just a smooth ride from the airport to Kigali Serena.

Serena is not looked for, it is discovered. It is located in a very serene area that as you approach it the tone of your voice goes down unknowingly as though you are heading for confession at an old cathedral. You are welcomed by the soothing sound of a fountain that calms your nerves as you go through the security checks.

The reception area is an enigma in itself. It is built around a polished granite atrium so beautiful that you pray the receptionists delay to attend to you so you can spend time marveling at the deco with its obvious Rwandan cultural theme. The people who designed it clearly owe an apology to future designers for I can’t see what you can change to make it look better than it is.

Rwanda is written all over this place from the staff uniforms, to wall murals, to thepaintings as well as to the bed covers, not with the alphabet but with only breathtaking art. It is at moments like this that I wish I had gone back to school for a Masters degree in pretending you are not blown away by your awesome surroundings.

The executive lounge and bar is a nice place to relax at while you send that email you promised to send to your boss or partner after settling. Do you remember what I said about Rwanda being written all over the walls of this Serena? Well, while at this lounge, you will agree that the writing is even in the air. This place makes you forget the perfume you wore as the tantalizing aroma of Rwanda’s fine coffee cunningly teases your nostrils.

Not far from the lounge is the Milima restaurant whose Swahili name is a quick reminder that you are not just in Rwanda but East Africa. Still with the Swahili theme, the other magnificent restaurant in this hotel is called Sokoni Café and Bar, best known for its mouthwatering African buffet on Fridays. I am sucker for African food you know.

There is no need to worry about what you eat at these restaurants because Serena’s Maisha Health Club is just nearby. I am talking about a fully equipped gym, sauna, steam bath, Jacuzzi and aerobics with instructors that look like instructors and not club bouncers. Did I mention that there is a hair salon too? Well I just did.

Maisha Health Club

Don’t the staff at the health club look so healthy already?

The hotel rooms just show why the experience you get from Kigali Serena is top notch. The hotel has a total of 148 rooms but any of them will blow you away with the abundance of comfort therein. Don’t even ask me about the usual satellite TV, AC and Wifi.

At Kigali Serena each and every room has a shower and a bath tub? Let me rephrase. You can sit on one side or stand on the other side to do just the same thing. If that is not spoiling a guest then I need a new dictionary.

These guys really pay attention to detail for I honestly do not know many hotels whose rooms have a weighing scale in the bathroom and hairdryer on the dressing table. Once there your heart won’t skip over what you forgot to pack. It’s like they see through your mind before you make your booking. They have facilities for people with disabilities, baby sitters and a doctor on call. They got you!

As you walk to the rooms, the corridors have this thick wall to wall carpet whose sole purpose is to mute the sound of your shoes. You will need to wear those ankle bells that I see with traditional dancers, to make any noise as you walk to your room.


If you fail to relax while here then there’s something wrong with your DNA.

The superior rooms are quite the treat. Complete with a sitting area that has a sofa set for your guests, a dining table, work table and a flat screen TV. What I really mean is that while here you have two TV screens! So while other people are thinking of how to solve real world problems you will be struggling to decide which TV screen to look at.

Sitting by the poolside just feels like heaven (not that I have died and gone there) if you allow me to explain. It would be unfair to just say the hotel has a swimming pool. It doesn’t. It has a hypnotic pool experience. Apart from the shimmering sight of the pool as it negotiates how much sunlight it will take in, the waterfalls on one side offer the right soundtrack that holds time still.

While sipping my spiced African tea at this spot I even got my Lupita moment. Yes, my dream to eventually write a book become more valid for this is the very place where great writing inspiration happens. While here you get to see a bit of the different aspects of the hotel be it the exquisite rooms, Maisha Health Club, the swimming pool, open air shower by the pool and the restaurant terrace.

Kigali Serena is also the ultimate spot for conferences and social events. I have watched Anne Kansiime perform here and attended lots of conferences in the same venue. Oh and there is the gift shop that has all the Rwandan crafts to pick from so you can prove to others that you were here without showing them selfies on your phone.

The author at Lake Victoria Serena

Chilling at Lake Victoria Serena…one of the finest Serena properties I know of.

I have been to four different Serena properties in Rwanda and Uganda so far and what I can assure you is that each of them offers a unique feeling and yet there is that Serena experience that cuts across thanks to the amiable staff and quality services you are sure to find at any Serena Hotel. Whatever magic you guys do, please don’t stop.

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The Chinese dude who is going to make me filthy rich

That nuclear war head that every teacher has also know as the 'stop it right now' look

That nuclear war head that every teacher has also know as the ‘stop it right now’ look

Many times when your bank balance is not as interesting as you would like it to be, reading about those with obscene (it is obscene from my point of view) wealth becomes a pastime. I am talking the billionaires in US dollars. The ones who could easily wire me $3m and the press would not bother them or even notice.

One such person a guy called Jack Ma. His name may be short but his wealth is not. Jack (I will call him Jack to feed my imagination of knowing him on a first name basis) is a Chinese entrepreneur, the founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba group.

He is the richest man in China. Hold on, let me rephrase. This guy has more money than over 1 billion people who share citizenship with him. According to Forbes, he is worth $19.5Billion.

The fact that I am not even the richest in my village is proof that my situation should be declared a humanitarian disaster. I am not the poster child of poverty but I can only prove that I am not a child. Poverty and I are not such enemies; we do hang out more than we should.

Reading about wealthy people is not just fun for me, it is also part of a continuous research to try and find anything we have in common of which money is clearly not. I struggle to look for the slightest commonality and thus hope that maybe one day, preferably tomorrow; I too will be a billionaire.

Well for Jack I didn’t have to look so hard. It turns out that somewhere on both our CVs (I know he no longer needs one) it says ‘Teacher’. Yes both of us are teachers and to be precise, English language teachers. That is not all as we both left the class to do other things with our lives. He became a businessman and a billionaire while at it and since I have the time to blog about this you can tell I am neither a billionaire nor a serious entrepreneur.

Anyway, the English teacher bit is enough and I am not satisfied that sooner rather than later I am going to be a billionaire too. Yes very soon, I will be hiding from photographers and dealing with endless requests from universities to come and inspire their students.

Surely obviously there must be something about English language teachers that propels them to vast wealth. Maybe it is our knack to correct people’s grammar. What if correcting grammar is not so different from seeing loopholes in stock prices.

What if our ‘don’t dare mess with me’ look that scares students who risk to interrupt the class as we teach, is a key to manage human resources on the way to your billionaire dollar status. I am totally convinced that there is $omething about teaching the Queen’s language and Jack has discovered it. It is clear that he has not yet shared the secret with most teachers that why we are still poor.

I am just waiting for him to send me the secret formula and if he is too lazy he can just send me the $3m. He can keep the rest of the rest of the $19.something million (I am an English not Maths teacher). Hey, Jack I am refreshing my browser looking for a sign from you. Thanks in advance.

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Mish Mash Uganda: A fusion of arrogance and plain stupidity

Although I work in Rwanda as a freelance writer/journalist, I regularly return to Uganda to visit my family and friends or to attend to different social of work related engagements. .

The seventh day of the month of June found me in Kampala. I received a text message from a friend, Moses Serugo who asked whether I could make it to town for a brief meeting with a PR friend of his. I responded in the affirmative and quickly set off for the city centre.

We met at around 10am and set off to meet his friend who works in Kololo. After the meeting, I asked Moses to accompany me to Mish Mash, an arts-themed club located on plot 28, Acacia avenue. I’d been told that I could buy some nice T-Shirtsfrom their crafts shop.

The shirt that I wanted to buy from the craft shop at Mish Mash

We walked to the place that was less than 100 meters away, and told the security guard what we wanted and he waved us on. When we got inside we asked the lady at the counter about the T-shirts designed by Green Backlight and she assured us they were available.
There was only one small problem; the shop would not be open until 11am (it was about 15minutes to 11am). We asked the lady if it was ok for us to sit and wait for the shop to open instead of leaving and returning later and she said there no problem in that.

So we sat quietly and Moses started telling me how amazing the place was, thanks to its regular art festivals, concerts and movie nights. Then as we sat there constantly checking our watches, a white lady (Genevieve) who I was told is one of the owners of the place sauntered in from one side of the establishment.

She walked to the counter and was soon involved in a light argument with a male staff member over something to do with a beer that had not been registered in the records of the bar. I jokingly told Moses that it must be hard working in this place as the owner was a strict person (nothing wrong about that).

Shortly thereafter, Genevieve approached us and greeted us and we responded aptly. She then asked how she could be of help, and we told her that actually we were just waiting for the craft shop to open (it was now a mere 5minutes to 11).

Genevieve then informed us that Mish Mash does not open until 12pm and that we were not even supposed to be there. We took the time to explain to her how exactly we came to be inside the establishment before the time she was talking about but she started raising her voice claiming we had forced ourselves in after ignoring a sign at the entrance that read 12pm as the opening time.

Moses assured her that there was no way we could have forced ourselves in yet there was a security guard at the entrance whom we had talked to before proceeding inside. Shockingly Genevieve was having none of it even after we reminded her that after getting past the gate, another of her staff members (lady at the counter) had kindly allowed us to sit and wait for the craft shop to open.

She persistently claimed that we had simply disrespected the sign at the entrance and forced ourselves in. After more back and forth arguments she grudgingly agreed to open the shop for us to buy what we wanted but as she moved to get the keys to the shop, a gentleman, Adam, who I later told was Genevieve’s hubby and a co-owner of the place appeared wearing shorts and a T-Shirt.

He inquired from her about what was going on but she just said, “It’s fine, I am opening for them the craft shop.” As we walked towards the shop, Moses softly exclaimed, “Mish Mash, good Lord!” That is when Adam literally charged towards Moses and said, “Mish Mash what? Mish Mash what? We are racist, is that it?” To which Moses replied, “Who said anything about being racist?”

Adam asked us whether we could just walk into any establishment before it was open. I reminded him that we had actually not just walked in as he was implying and that we had had this whole argument with Genevieve and we’d reached an agreement that she was to open the shop so we could buy what we wanted and then leave.

That is when Genevieve (in a rather patronizing tone) quipped, “It’s fine, we are here to support Ugandan art & crafts and we are opening the shop for you.” My reading of this was that by opening up a small club in Kampala, Adam and Genevieve saw themselves as saviours of the Ugandan art and crafts industry.

As Adam and Genevieve went on and on about how Mish Mash does not open before 12pm, I pointed out to them that the craft shop that is inside the establishment had 11am as it opening time clearly displayed on the shop’s door. Genevieve then run to the door and ripped off the “Open@ 11am” notice and screamed “Not anymore!”

Anyway, at exactly 11am, the girl who works in the craft shop showed up and we were let in. I then proceeded to check out the shirts as Moses assured Adam that there was no point in continuing with the complaints now that the shop had been opened. He assured him that we were not going to be long since we knew what we wanted.

As I tried on one of the shirts to see if it fit just fine, the security guard came into the shop and said, “Gentlemen I kindly beg you to leave because my boss is complaining a lot. I do not want to lose my job.” We informed him that actually the same boss(es) had opened and allowed us into the shop so there was nothing to worry about. However he pleaded that for the sake of his job we should leave immediately.

By now I had had enough of it and decided against paying for the shirt. I put it back and told Moses that we should leave for two reasons. 1. To save the guard from losing his job over a stupid incident and 2. I was not comfortable spending my money while being treated like trash. After all, the shirt was not a freebie. I was going to pay 30,000 Uganda shillings (about $12) for it without bargaining.

We finally left the place and on our way out we saw the small notice that read 12pm as the opening time. It is actually interesting that the sign at the entrance read 12pm yet the one inside at the shop read 11am and on their website the opening time is still written as 11am. Actually 11am is mentioned twice on the home page of their website.

Please note that I have just checked their website and the mentions of 11am have been changed to read midday – 23:22 Ugandan time. Interestingly the contacts page still shows 11am as the opening hours.]

At the beginning of the year there were reports of “racist” or plain abusive acts by the owners of Mish Mash circulating on Facebook and Twitter. A quick check on the Time Line of their Twitter Handle (@mishmashuganda) reveals that most of February was spent responding to these racist claims from different people.

Personally, I do not think that Adam and Genevieve Williams, (I am told one is British while the other is Australian) the owners of Mish Mash are racist but I am damn right sure they are very rude and very stupid. And I would not bet my life savings on them not being racist either.
I tweeted about this incident yesterday and I must admit I was overwhelmed by the numerous responses from people claiming that the Williams are not the best mannered people out there. I am also very certain that I will not be going back to Mish Mash ever again. Like Moses tweeted soon after the incident, I am also persona non grata henceforth. I am so done with Mish Mash.

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No news in missing the neighbour’s feast

Back in the day before capitalism took root and saw all those with some money digging up foundations for high perimeter wall fences not necessarily as a sign of insecurity but more of affluence, a neighbour was a real friend.

The morning routine was always started with greeting neighbours if you could see them or when you met them as your sett off for the day’s programme. Not any more. Now we all live in estates and flats where the wall fences are as common as the roofs.

Every home is an island. And no one cares about what happens even if the neighbour has a feast. We still don’t care. It used to be almost taboo for your neighbours not to attend if you had a feast or even a funeral at your home.

This scenario best represents what the East African Community is going through right now. The other day Tanzania marked 50 years of independence but none of the other four East African leaders was around for the feast in Dar.

This prompted some to argue that the absence of the leaders was a negative signal towards Tanzania whose leader dodged the last EAC summit to attend to American leader GW Bush. I totally disagree with that line of thought.

Many may not have noticed but missing a neighbour’s feast is now common even at the level of our leaders. Let say it is true four presidents did not attend the Dar celebrations because Jakaya Kikwete had not attended the Bujumbura summit.

Did you that he was not the only one absent? While Kikwete was sharing jokes with Bush, Pres, Kagame was trying to visit as many South Korea tech firms as possible. And in Bujumbura, Pres. Museveni who had airlifted his armoured convoy from Kampala left before his host Pres, Pierre Nkurunziza could even make his speech.

My conclusion was that the Burundi EAC summit was only attended by 2 and a half presidents. The half being Museveni’s brief stay.

As if to vindicate me, when Kenya celebrated its 48th Independence or Jamhuri Day as its referred to by the Kenyan, again other East African leaders were nowhere to be seen on my TV as I watched the live proceedings thanks to Citizen TV.

When Kagame was being sworn in, Museveni was not there to share in the celebrations. And the same thing happened when Museveni won his re-election. So next time your president has a big feast and a neighbour is conspicuously absent, just know its the new trend and they are only keeping with the times.

God bless East Africa!

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Uganda’s media crackdown: Katandika butandisi…

In a poor country like Uganda most people only interact with Hollywood in the ubiquitous video shacks where action-packed movies are screened at a small fee with a video-jockey doing voice-overs in a local language (Luganda).

Every now and then, the VJ will remind the audience that the movie has just started by saying “katandika butandisi…”  This is done to reassure those who entered the ‘cinema’ a little late, not to feel cheated.

Kantandika butandisi has consequently become common street lingo equivalent to the American, “You aint seen nothing yet.” And to me it best describes the current situation faced by the media in Uganda.  As we approach the half way mark of the year all I can say to my colleagues is that it may have to get worse before it can get better.

The recent political pressure resulting from the campaigns by opposition under the umbrella, Activists for Change (A4C) have sent the recently re-elected government of Pres. Museveni into panic mode.  The government’s brutal response to the Walk-to-work campaign was well covered by the media something that left clearly angered the powers that be.

Pres. Museveni has gone on record naming media as ‘enemies of Uganda’s recovery’ and promising a crackdown.  And now foreign correspondents have now formed an association probably to buffer them selves from state repression.

In a space of just two months we have seen the police raiding two media houses. The government broadcaster UBC was raided on grounds of corruption although some have argued that they are being punished for covering the riots and even for having aired the Arab revolts.

Just this week, a vernacular newspaper Gwanga was also raided and its editors arrested. The police even laid a siege on the company that does the printing for Gwanga newspaper.

On May 12, as Pres. Museveni was being sworn in for another presidential term that will see he clock 30 years as the country’s leader, his nemesis Kizza Besigye spent most of the day on the road from the airport wading through thousands of cheering supporters who turned up to welcome him.

He was returning from Nairobi where he had gone to seek medical attention after being sprayed with pepper spray and tear gas at point blank range something that temporarily cost him his sight. The government’s response was to beat up Besigye’s supporters but more significantly journalists were beaten and their gadgets confiscated. They were only returned later with the footage deleted.

Citizen journalism also got a scare when government ordered ISPs to disable access to Facebook and Twitter. This happened soon after the banning of live broadcasts of riots in the city.

All said and done, tough times lie ahead for the media under a presidency that has been in place for over 25 years and is gradually being exposed as a vulnerable one.  In other words, although there is nothing is new about attacks on the media, more should be expected.

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