Two hours in Mogadishu

When I say I love traveling, my inner self feels convinced. To many traveling may mean boarding a plane to a place a thousand miles away or probably sitting on  a bus to go on a long journey, but for me, it means refusing to sitting in one place for more than 30 minutes.

This is not because of the kind of work I do, but may be because of my nature – I wouldn’t want to call myself restless but for lack of a better word , Yes! Restless!

Enough

Of course I got excited when my editor’s call came through that I should organise all my travel documents I would be covering the Air Uganda maiden Flight to Somalia.

Did you just say Somalia? The question resounded in my excited mind.

Picture the excitement and honour. I knew this was going to be fun but of course it was going to involve enduring a Yellow Fever vaccination injection which for years I had been reluctant to take.

“All programmes cancelled. I must get this vaccination done in the least time possible.” I said to myself.

In a few hours I  gladly surrendered my upper arm to the nurse’s palms.

So with all set, all I waited for was the D-day. I wasn’t excited because I was gonna fly, travel or something, the vigour stemmed from the fact that I was going to Somalia – one of  the countries on my  ‘to – visit list.’

My keen Interest in Somalia is also linked to the recent happenings in there, that I have always just read about in the news. I wanted to know how it feels to be in a place like one that is just recovering from insurgency – The journalistic Ego (Of, yeah I once was in Somalia)

I am simply being honest. I did not care if the trip was just for a few hours , just like it was – All I longed to do was to step feet in SOMALIA.

Well, at the eve of the flight, I retired home at the usual hours, and went to bed at about 11pm. I was meant to wake up at 2 and get ready for the 5.30am flight. I was up at 1.30am.

Quick through the process, at 5.30am, the much anticipated Journey commenced. For 2hr and 10 minutes I was catching sight of God’s beautiful space creation.

It was nothing short of Aaaaaammmmmmaaaaaazzzziiiiiing! Oweeeeesssoooooommmmeeeee!

When the hostess announced that we were landing…

The plane hovered over the waters, and soon we were on ground – Safely.

One word – Ancient

The smell of a semi desert.

An airport/ Military base – 9 of every 10 people you set eyes on, are dressed in military fatigue.

Place is guarded more than I had ever witnessed. The beauty was that the biggest number of the AU troops on ground hail from Uganda – they too were as excited to see an Air Uganda Plane jet in.  I keenly remember on of them telling me

“ Eh!, this has never happened, my heart has skipped seeing air Uganda plane land, ayaaaaaa, this is soooo goood.”

With these words I felt the joy and excitement of a ugandan who has been away from home for the at least eighteen months.

The tight security at the seemingly ancient airport for me revealed how much it may not be safe to travel further into Somalia, although the security operatives on ground kept assuring us that all was well.

The head of the Uganda People’s Defence Force contingency told me “People are happy, people are traveling, construction is going on, business is growing, Guns are silent here in Mogadishu.”

“Guns are Silent” that was the gist of the statement – what any entrant into Somalia would love to listen to. It made me feel at home.

And when these Soldiers walked to me giving greetings in our native Luganda language, I even fell more at peace.

About two hours in Mogadishu’s international airport and all I wanted to do was go even further – Oh I wish I could. I all wishes were horses…

Two hours well – Setting eyes on the Somalian President, interacting with Au troops, getting burnt under the scorching morning sunshine ( as If I even cared) and of course using my hand camera to document my first ever trip to Somalia.

In the few hours, I cannot forget to say my head was veiled. Somalia, wait for my Mega Return!

Yours Truely Uwitware

African Blood.

Just Beneath Mulago hill…

Kampala stands on seven hills.

One of them is where Uganda’s referral hospital (Mulago Hospital) stands.

we all believe hills are synonymous with beauty, most times including the surrounding areas (at least as far as I can recall for the ones I have known.)

Yes, but there is something rather unusual about this one.  Between Mulago and another slum Kamwokya lies a very small slum, It is not common, you may be hearing it for the first time, even when you know Mulago, am sure only a few of us can locate it.

It has a very complicated name (Butakabukirwa).

I will tell you why I know it. When I was a child, I frequented the place, because I had an uncle who had a small business there. I was shocked just sometime I was passing by with a friend and decided to branch off, he could not believe what he saw.

He told me “Is there a such a place here in Kampala?”

I told him, “You never dare to find out.”

That said, I took a few pics, which I will let tell the story because I have already written a piece somewhere about it but felt I should share this photography with you.

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The Masai woman: a true reflection of African Beauty

Masai Woman

She is black and beautiful.

A black woman’s smile like a two-edged sword cuts the eyes of those who receive it.

Her teeth shine through the gloom of her complexion.

Even free of any makeups, her clear and dark skin still glitters.

Sometimes bold headed, other times with rough, thick and black hair.

The Masai woman wears a bead head crown with filaments flowing right into her face, these just crowns off her natural beauty.

Her neck never goes bare; a thousand colorful bead ornaments dangle from round her long and feminine neckline.

Her ears are exceptional; always adorned with big beautiful earrings made of beads, sometimes metal, or even feathers.

She is unique; she is the typical African Woman, who leaves no stone unturned.

Who of you does not want to look like her? I bet none.

In this era of the olden-days fashion craze, many ladies, African and non-African, yours truly inclusive are acceding to this look.

To some of you, this may look like a primitive culture of the Masai people, please wake up because there is probably one thing you are missing.

I call it the screen genuine beauty because it is setting up a trend onto which modern day women are trading.

You may agree with me, that almost everything that there is to appreciate about African beauty is curved by such looks.

No wonder, our White brethren too are admiring it.

Men are not left out on this; ladies you must know that real gents are now days looking for this natural look. They hate forged beauty the ‘wigs and heavy makeup’ days are long lost.

“I do not want to date a woman who looks too plastic, I prefer her in her the way she is,” says Ignatius Matabisi, a Ugandan single and searching Gent.

We are off those days of the bleaching craze, when almost every black woman tried hard to look white. Could it be that Africans are becoming more patriotic? May be yes.

Clever ladies now know the trend and how to please their admirers, and so they are in for it.

Try the Masai Markets and you will be shocked at the numbers of women purchasing African accessories there.

One thing about this African jewelry, there are a variety of accessories made of different materials like beads, ivory, and metal among others.

Pieces produced include arm bungles, necklaces, rings, and head crowns, to mention but a few. This gives you liberty of choice so you can never go wrong.

They come in all forms and colours, making you even brighter when you wear them thus revealing your natural beauty.

Put on that bright head crown, blend it with those colourful beads around your neck, plus matching bungle and earrings would also do.

You can wear them for any kind of occasion, ranging from a simple home party to weddings and other occasions cultural and otherwise, just if you choose to go African.

You can also blend them with equally matching African fabrics such as ‘kitenge’.

How and where you choose to put them on entirely depends on you, also bearing in mind that Fashion is subjective.

When all is done, get back to me if no guy hits on you.

Sisters of Death; What does God think about your Business?

NTV Kenya is currently airing an investigative piece called “Sisters of death.”

It is about women who make alcohol mixed with antiretrovirals (ARVs) to make ends meet.

The documentary features HIV positive women in Korogosho slums in Kenya, selling the drugs they get for treatment, to other women involved in a liquor making business.

They sell Seven tablests for as low as 250 she (about 3dollars). Every patient is entitled to 60 drugs per month. So when they sell all in a month, they earn about…

They get these drugs free and sell to ‘be able to buy food.”

Well, everything is detailed in the video up here.

Here are my concerns.

First, the women who sell the drugs register at another health Centre as if they have never known their status, they are then enrolled twice and that means they get double the dose.

The drugs they get from the second clinic could have been taken by another patient.

All this happens at a time the government in Kenya and many African countries are decrying the scarcity of ARVs in face of the increasing Patient numbers.

This means that if this one lady gets double treatment, there is another patient who may not survive for another minute because her pre supposed dose is sold by another who wants to earn something small.

Yes.  They claim that they sell the drugs to buy food, but I find this too inhuman. If you can get little food and someone cannot live because they need ARVs that are in turn sold to make liquor, what is the gain?

Second, what do the women who buy the drugs for mixing in their liquor to sell think?

One of them says that even God knows she is not doing something wrong because she does it to survive and fend for my family.

These are the most inconsiderate people I have ever met.

What does this mean to the person denied of a life because the drugs she would have taken are mixed to make alcohol? Isn’t it possible that this person could even be related to you?

What does it even mean for the person who is going to consume the liquour? And what does it mean to you who, making such a ‘dangerous substance’?

This does not only depict the selfishness of Humanity, it also shows how much the world is going wild or better still coming to the Parousia days.

It shows how we are going against the love of Neighbour that God requires of us. Just because you want to survive, should you deny your neighbour of their survival too?

God says in his holy word…

Ask and you will receive whatever you need, pray and I will hear from heaven, and I will heal your land,

He says ask and I will give the nations to you.

O lord, I ask for the nations, please come and heal mother Africa, heal your people and all our grievances.

That each passing day, we may be mindful of the needs of others.

A stroll through kenya’s Kibera slums

Part of the slums as seen from atop the railway line

Yesterday afternoon, my adventurous self led me to Kibera slums.

Kibera is Kenya’s, East Africa’s and one of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest slums.

Even as I prepared to visit, I knew it wasn’t a safe place especially for a stranger like me, and more so a foreigner.

I tightened my belt, decided to dress casually (a boyfriend top, jeans and boots), carried no bag, crazed my baby locks and looked very simple so as to fit in the environment.

It was about a 20mins or so drive from the Nairobi city Centre in a matatu (public means) and I arrived at a rather congested place.

The moment I jumped out of the vehicle, I felt Insecure already, people hurriedly moved from and to every direction, people of all kinds, children, men and women, some smart but many of them dressed in dirty clothes.

As I waited for my friends who would guide the tour, I inevitably stood amidst this confusion, loud music of all flavours cutting through the waves, and hitting my ears, the people, walking and running past me, noise- these one shouting, children crying, many playing , while some laughed aloud.

The best I could do was to stare and stare and stare. This brought out the stranger in me, and got me excitement and afraid at the same time.

One, I was excited because I was about to explore and this is something I really love to do, two, I was afraid of the people I was about to meet and how they would behave towards me.

Finally my friend Robert Odingo was here and we started our tour.

“I feel insecure,” I told him.

“You better be,” he replied.

Robert knows Kibera much more than I do, he works with the Hot Sun foundation, a project seeking to transform lives of youth in this slum through visual arts (film making). They run a film school sponsored by the Belgian Embassy.
I got confortable the moment I got him and soon he led me to their offices where we met another friend Wycliff.

Wycliff is kibera himself, he told me he was born in this slum and has grown up here, he knows every corner of the eleven villages that make up these slums.

“You are safe with me, I know everybody here, and no one can touch you,” Wycliff assured me.

We were good to go, for sure, everywhere we passed, everyone greeted him, I was to secure, I thought.

Although they had given me an assurance that i was safe, i feared everyone who came close to me, I was cautious not to over look at people as i feared what their reactions towards a stranger would be.

One thing about this place like in any other slum, the people make it what it is, the population, the people are many, doing different activities.

Women sat at their stalls selling vegetables and commodities, some sat frying fish, samosas, roasting meat among others.

Men, majority of them drunk, stand or sit by the paths vending commodities like shoes, used metal , electrical appliances, to mention but a few.

Children played, everywhere, in a trenches, by the railway line, in ditches, they seemed not to care. Many ran from up and down and looked like they enjoy the life they live.

There is something about the people here, they are happy.

When you have a view of the houses before walking there, you may assume there are no walkways there in-between, they are there, very tiny though, you need to be careful as you walk as you may not avoid stepping in dirt , stool and stagnant water.

The houses, bent and on the verge of collapsing, many built of mad and wattle, short, and congested, you may assume no people live here, yet that is a lie, there are thousands of residents in here.

Many of the hoses you see here are also video halls. But almost each roof here has an antenna, it is crazy how there are so many video hall then.

There are also a remarkable number of bars; some people sell the liquor in the same houses in which they reside.

And as you walk……

Be sure to jump over trenches every after a minute, be sure to step over garbage, dirt water and sewage flows freely in here, may be in front of someone’s door, but still one prepares the food they eat just there, next to the trench of sewerage.

There is a railway line cutting through the slums, it is a long one that when followed leads you back to the city Centre, a lot of business take place along this line, vending of clothes, shoes, food commodities among others.

My visit was a Sunday afternoon, people her do pray, there are churches around the slums but there is a remarkable number of ‘Legio Maria believers, a group of believers who dress on white robes and walk around in groups, their churches are more or less the houses in which they live, Wycliffe told me this is a sect that seceded from the catholic church and they are quite many her in the slums.

There are other faiths too, not only Christians, Muslims too, it was Eid day, and there were a number of them.

Kibera slums are a mixture of all cultures, for the few hours I spent there; I met people of all kinds, speaking different languages.

The health here like in other slums leaves a lot to be desired, the drainage system is too poor, people ease themselves at convinience, anywhere, by the road side, by the railway line, in the trenches, next to a restaurant or even near the door. This poses a great risk to their health.

Some projects have been put in place to help keep health standards like building public latrines but the population is way too big compared to the facility.

The security, just like I felt insecure because of the way people are rough, this place is not safe especially to strangers. There are many bars, drug abuse is on, i met many of the kind, this gave me a picture of something like crime rate is significant.

For instance at the time of my visit, there was a guys, who seemed like a drug addict, he was gambling with kids, one thing that really amused me is that here, there is no police as such, but community policing is really in place.

A leader here, was forced to arrest this man together with the children and take him to the chief’s place where i was told they would be punished.

To also enhance the security, the government put installed flood lights to make sure the place is bright even during the night.

Of recent, there are so many projects coming up jeered at helping the ghetto dwellers, many by NGO’s and others by the government, helping drive behavior change especially among the youth, they hope this will change the way people here are perceived and have an impact on the way they live.

I also found something rather interesting about these slums, they are located at the other hand of a magnificent place, a road only cuts across, you literally see riches shaking hands with poverty.

I could not tour all the 11 villages in Kibera slums but after the few hours, I just got another view about life.
“While some people live, eat and sleep well, others just survive to see tomorrow.