Tuesday, 21 April 2009



Ngai, this past or so has been crazy. My cuzo M has been HIV+ for some time. I feel close to M because we were in high school at the same time, and would always hang out during the holidays, and he had a sense of humour that I really enjoyed. He’s been + for at least 2 years, but in denial for the most part. In fact, I doubt he has acknowledged his situation, and what I know is from my relatives. M has been getting quite sick and may be going downhill already. I haven’t seen him since getting back in September last year (my bad) but we’ve been talking on the phone quite often. He kinda feels lonely and deserted. So on Saturday 11th April (Easter weekend) I called my mum and told her that M feels lonely, she needs visit him etc etc. At that point she told me that even his sister is really sick. Where, I asked? Same disease. The following day, mum called to say that S, the sister, had passed away. Her body was laid to rest on Saturday the 18th. I wasn’t really close to her since she married a widower (connect the dots) when she was really young so we had no time together. But still—-it made me think how short –and difficult-her life was. She was 28.


Now that M is sick and I’ve been thinking of all the few years we shared growing up, I’ve been finding myself thinking about my late cousin named M as well. Agikuyu (Kikuyus) name all the first sons after the husband’s father, and among all my grandmother’s 12 kids, only the boys (5 of them) lived to be old enough to have kids. So we have a lot of Ms. My brother is the 5th M. The sick M is the third one, and the late M was the fourth one. He was a year ahead of me in high school, and we shared similar ambitions. We were so close that after he had passed away, my mum told me that when we were in high school, she always worried that we may ‘get married’ (read have sex). M didn’t actually pass away- he was brutally murdered by the Mungiki on the night/morning of 6th January 2003 when they terrorized Nakuru. He was 27, married with 2 kids, and lots of aspirations.
I was raised in a village in Nyeri, but we moved to Nyandarua the year I went college. I feel a bigger sense of belonging to my Nyeri village than the Nyandarua one, partly because I’ve never spent more than a month in our Nyandarua one. But that’s where my mum now lives. Mum called me this morning saying she wanted to go Nyeri because “andu ni moragirwo muno” –people have been killed too much. What, I ask? It’s the Mungiki. Mum told me that they killed M the son of G, his brother M, W the son of N, and even T the father of W, and W himself. Even K, a boy whose mother married by neighbour when K was about 4. He finished form four last year. W the son of N was in the same class as my young uncle who is two years older than me, and was married to P, my standard six best friends. Basically, all are family friends. My uncle J is moving to Nairobi to stay with my uncle K for a while.Not sure where my aunt and her young son will sleep tonight. You can read the story here and some a bit here.

I am devastated, my tribal pride hurt. Death, your sting hurts bad.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Mob Justice

Yesterday I forgot my phone in the office, so I had to come get it just in case. Took a matatu to Wandegeya and was walking towards the office when I saw a crowd gathered around a shop on the road that goes to Mulago Hospital. On drawing closer, I could hear a lady screaming, so I went all the way to the front. Inside the shop was one mama with a thick stick hitting another mama who was screaming and begging, occasionally getting onto her knees. My Luganda is still a work in progress so I couldn’t tell what she was saying. At first I thought they were fighting over a man. The mama with the stick was undressing her so that one of her boobs was hanging out as she (the stick-holder) struggled to get the other mama’s skirt off. From what I could tel, some people were saying ‘don’t undress her’, while others were shouting ‘undress here!’ There was also a man standing guard at the entrance so no one could actually go in and help. From what I could gather, the lady-in-beating had stolen lots of money; in fact the stick-holding one was waving several wallets in the air, opening some and asking if she was the one in the pictures inside? Anyway, I felt sorry for the poor mama who had allegedly stolen and was now being publicly humiliated. So I requested them ‘muyitire polisi bambi’ (call the police for her, please), as were some two other men beside me. They responded that she has stolen too much and the police will do nothing, really. So ask, ‘sente meka-how much money? I can pay and you let her go with me?’ while attempting to go in and grab her arm. The dude standing by the entrance pushed me out, asking me if I know here and informing me that she has stolen far too many times. When the mama-in-beating saw I was kinda trying to help, she was like ‘nyambako bambi’-help me please. Then one dude behind me asked me ’how much do you have? She has stolen about 500,000’. Like we could bargain. Not that I walk around Ksh 20K in my wallet, but even I doubted the guy was the one she stole from. Anyway, I got out of the crowd, asked a boda boda guy how far the police station is, and he offered to take me there for UGX 1,000. It was like 2 minutes away. I get to the police station, tell the story, and after a bit of arguing among the officers on who should go (“I’m not in uniform”. “It doesn’t matter you can just take a gun” etc etc) the uniformed officer I was talking to asked me to get boda bodas to take us to the scene. So I go out and call 2 boda boda drivers, but then officer changes his mind and decides we are better off walking. We get there, they take the mama, and the wallets, and me, I proceed to the office, log onto face-book, only to find a Nairobi magistrate has lost his life to mob justice in a case of mistaken car identity.

Thursday, 09 April 2009

Scared Kidogo: I was Rude to a 'Big Person'

I'm not sure why the phones keep getting directed to my desk instead of the reception. So I've been having to run other errands like transferring the calls, giving messages etc, which has been a little annoying. I've stalked to the relevant people for some time now but it hasn't been fixed. So this morning the phone rings:
PKW: Yes?
Other: Eish, is that XYZ (the project manager)
PKW: No, it's PKW. Not sure why but the calls are coming here instead of other people's offices. Has been happening for some time
Other: Anti you people fix your phone
PKW: I don't work on phones
Other: But since it's your office...
PKW: I just don't like how I get distracted from my job all the time.
Other: Are you a staff of...? (It's a project with several partners, and at this point I figure out she is from the main partner)
Other: What's your name?
Other: And you work with which partner?
PKW: Let me tell XYZ to call you back, OK?
{I hang up}
Then tell XYZ to call his main office, realizing that I didn't even get the caller's name.
I'm now a little worried because I think it's the second highest office holder on XYZ's partner organization in UG. And knowing just how much 'Big People' are feared around here, hope I've not just made a big mess. I feel like not answering the phone for some time today.

Tuesday, 07 April 2009

MTN MobileMoney, Nakumatt Oasis na Kadhalika

Mobile Money
MTN, the mobile network with the largest market share in Uganda started offering mobile money transfers modelled exactly like Safaricom's M-pesa a month or so ago.Called MTN MobileMoney-Go send Money Now Now-I like they used that Luganda-ish phrase-people often say now now, directly translated from kati kati-right away.
Just like M-Pesa may have made it difficult for some people to instantly switch to Zain despite the Vuka tarriff in Kenya, I think MTN MobileMoney will make people stick to MTN.
I'm an MTN Mteja, for the mere fact that it looked more popular than Zain, Warid, UTL, and Orange when I came in.Additionally, most of my contacts at home are on Safaricom and I'd only get local rates -UGX 2000/day (about one USD) when I'm calling Zain-Zain only. I only know 2 people on the orange network in Kenya, so didn't even check them out. Plus I can call Safaricom in Kenya from my Safaricom line for 10/= flat...Only thing I don't uderstand is how MTN discounts their MTN-MTN calls; it could be 0% discount one moment and jump to 60% once you're done talking.

Oh well, too bad multi-currency, cross-border mobile money transfer is still a dream. If Zain introduced Zap regionally, forget number importability, I think I'd move ASAP. Or if Yu in Kenya sold to MTN, as per one Kahenya, and the mobile money thing went cross-border.

Nakumatt Oasis
It's set to open on April 9th at (or is it next to?) Garden City, if all goes according to plan.Some major competition to Uchumi next door, no doubt. Garden city is where the life-style shopper goes.

Moving out, and on
I moved into a nicer apartment the last weekend of March. Not the one I'd talked about in some earlier post. I'll have to do a whole post on it. Bad thing is that my commute is longer. Matatus go to the New Taxi park, which gets real muddy when it rains. Was not planning on getting a car this year, we'll see how that goes as it gets wetter.

Easter Plans, Scenic Uganda, Triathlon
Had talked with Tumwijuke about a possible Murchinson Falls Park visit, but due to some 'complications', may end up at Bujagali Falls. Uganda is v. beautiful, and the people nicer than the Kenyans, I feel. I went rafting on the Nile on Valentines Day weekend, and participated at the Entebbe Triathlon a couple weeks ago by cheering on a couple colleagues that are more athletic than I. Gorilla viewing at Bwindi is too expensive-close to $500. Not willing to part with that much. But paycheck allowing, and God-willing I wish to see more of this beautiful country.