Kabale

Travelled to Kabale over the weekend for my friend Harriet’s giveaway ceremony. Congratulations Harriet and may God bless you and Andrew with a happy, happy future.

A couple of observations from my trip – first, it is great seeing how the upgraded road is turning out. Obviously, I’d have loved to see a 4 or 6 lane highway from Kampala all the way to Kabale but that remains a dream for now. So, I’ll settle for what is being done which is actually quite good. The quality of the tarmac seems to be really, really good with multiple thick layers. They are even laying some sort of waterproof canvas underneath the tar layers to prevent water from being drawn up and causing damage – this is the first time I’m seeing this being done in this country! Then, although generally the overall width of the road is disappointing, they’re putting in place climbing lanes for many of the slopes which should make overtaking slow-moving traffic a breeze. All in all, it looks like quality work even to my untrained eye. Something else – the sheer quantity and quality of equipment deployed tells me RCC is a serious contractor (remember how they saved the government from the embarrassment called the Bugiri road?).

Second – this global warming thing; is it for real? I mean, Kabale was so, so, so cold that we simply couldn’t spread margarine on our bread at breakfast – it seemed to be frozen rock solid! Even for a ‘person-of-the-soil’ like me, it felt colder than usual. And this is July, a traditionally hot and dry time of the year. Spare a thought for my co-travellers, especially the two of them that were born and bred in central Uganda.

Third and last – my friends know that the car fanatic in me hates the Mitsubishi brand with a passion. Interestingly, the vehicle we used was a Mitsubishi Lancer borrowed from a friend and yours truly was the ‘pilot’. Imagine the shock (in a totally positive sense) when, despite my heavy right foot, we used just over 27 litres of petrol to cover the 410km to Kabale. This translates into approximately 15km per litre. Never in my life have I experienced such fuel economy (certainly not in my beloved BMW 528i – RIP :-)) and to say I was impressed is a massive understatement. This is a car tailor made for these hard economic times. Certainly, the smooth stretches of new road helped but even then, coaxing more than 11 or 12km per litre in any car on that road is very hard. My loathing for Mitsubishis is officially over and after hitting ‘Post’, I’ll be logging onto the Mitsubishi section of the tradercarview.com website…

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Our dear leader is not affected by the $$$

Reading this Monitor story, I couldn’t help but smile. Especially since, of all things, the President decided to use food as a reference. If only he’d glanced at his garage(s), hangar and even his wardrobe beforehand, I’m sure he’d not have said what he said. Let’s check out the afore-mentioned locations, shall we?

Garages: A couple of luxury Toyota Cygnuses, a fleet of Mitsubishi and Toyota pick up trucks and a couple more SUVs (mainly Mitsubishi Pajeros and Toyota Landcruisers). Plus a handful of support vehicles and outrider motorbikes. Does our beautiful country manufacture any of these vehicles’ spare parts? Or the lubricants needed when they’re being serviced? Are they running on fuel from the Lake Albert region already?

Hangar: Gulfstream G550. Are the Katwe boys actually manufacturing spare parts for this sleek jet. Heck – I’m sure even the servicing is done far away from our borders.

Wardrobe: I’m willing to bet a reasonable amount of cash that most of His Excellency’s suits are not of the locally tailored kind.

And so on and so forth (used to hear this a lot in class back in the day :-)). I would love to know whether his wife’s book was actually printed in Uganda.

The funny thing is what he said is absolutely true – if we were not importing stuff, we wouldn’t be so worked up about our struggling shilling. But not importing stuff means we’d basically have to live stone-age lifestyles. No modern technology like current telecom & ICT, entertainment would exclusively be village wrestling, buildings would be mud & wattle and there’d be no cars! NO cars!?!? I for one wouldn’t like to live that kind of life.

So what would the non-import alternative be? Making everything ourselves of course. Brilliant. Until you realise that to make stuff, you need to have certain essential factors of production. The most important of these, imho, are electricity and transport. The government that His Excellency leads (and has been leading for almost half the time since independence) has utterly failed in regard to putting the two in place. I recall the frustration of trying to complete a certain urgent project just after completing university (self-employed then) and yet I only had power on average three days out of seven. Its better not to even talk about the transport systems here. Another important factor is abundant skilled labour. That too is asking too much of our broken education system where cramming for good grades and cheating is the order of the day.

Ultimately, even with everything in place, there are things that we’d not be able to make and we’d still have to import them. A strong dollar will therefore always inflict pain on mere mortals like me and you even if our President is not affected. But, being the President, I’d imagine even if he doesn’t feel the pain personally, he should feel the pain of his people. That’s what leadership is all about.