View from the 18th green at Jinja golf course. It is not possible to play here without paying for a caddy and having them mark your card; two conditions that could be problematic for one of my esteemed colleagues.
A mid-winter break allowed a quick trip to tropical Uganda. The big news during the week I visited was that the president Mr Museveni had publicly tested for HIV infection and that the 30 billion Ugandan shillings (about 7.5 million UK pounds) uplift to the parliament car park had been completed. Other news was of an Arsenal fan that lost his car in a bet with a neighbour. Had Arsenal, rather than Manchester United, won he would have stood to gain the neighbour’s third wife.
I’d forgotten how dusty and chaotic street life is anywhere within 50 km of the centre of Kampala. In Jinja (the town sitting at the source of the Nile) the pavements have pot holes. Despite being behind with respect to developing infrastructure there are similarities with South Africa. In general Ugandans also seem to be both cheerful and friendly. Both countries have made strides in reducing the rate of new HIV infections and the increased access to anti retro viral treatments has lead to decreased mortality rates from HIV related illnesses. There are though concerns in both countries that some of the younger generation may have become complacent and are not always taking precautions to prevent infection.
Both countries have alarming accident rates on their roads. In South Africa over 1,000 people die in road accidents each year over the four week holiday period around Christmas alone. In Uganda, boda-boda (motor bikes used to taxi passengers for a fare) drivers are at risk of death throughout the year. In both countries mini buses used as taxis are frequently involved in fatal pile ups. The mini buses in Uganda are older vehicles that were manufactured by PSV. Most taxi drivers name their busses by adding a banner to the rear window. Names I’ve seen include City Chopper and Wayne Rooney the Third. We travelled from Kampala to Jinja in a bus named Destiny. For the driver to make money the bus must travel full, this can lead to a long delay at Kampala taxi rank while passengers are collected. While a sitting target waiting on the bus, vendors will pass by selling peanuts, fried grasshoppers or watches by the kilo.
I spent most of the week in Jinja which sits on Lake Victoria and has a slightly colonial old world feel to it. It is very popular with tourists and ex-pats and has become something of an epi-centre for charity HQs. The Ugandan government has recently been criticised for not always ensuring aid is used for its intended purpose. It has responded to this criticism by implying that NGOs themselves need to do more to be accountable and to demonstrate that funding has been put to good use. So, even on holiday, I am reminded of the need for open and transparent monitoring and evaluation systems.
Mr Museveni is not a big fan of the Bagandan area (his NRM party lost this seat last time out) and is of the opinion that the people of Jinja only grow a brain once they reach the age of forty. Another member of the NRM claimed that Jinja was forty years behind the times to which the Lord Mayor of Jinja replied “that’s the way we like it”. It certainly suits me.