Retracing Kisubi boys’ narrow escape during the 1986 liberation war in Uganda

One early January morning 34 years ago, the hurly-burly of life at St Mary’s College Kisubi, one of Uganda’s premier secondary schools was thrown out of gear when a group of haggard-looking government soldiers, fleeing from disheveled but heavily armed National Resistance Army [NRA] rebel soldiers scampered through the school compound.

Several volleys of automatic gunfire had earlier been heard, not far away from the school. None of the petrified students who were at the College that day had ever imagined that their school would become a flashpoint of conflict.

“It was the morning of either the 23rd or 24th of January-1986. The school had just re-opened after a holiday recess. I was in S3 then and we were in class when several rounds of automatic gunfire started going off. The firing went on for a while and then we saw government soldiers running through the compound-shedding their uniform as they fled towards the lakeside,” Andrew Magona, one of the old students, calls to mind.

“Shortly after, we saw young boys in rugs, barefoot and armed to the teeth, giving chase in what we later found was a surprise NRA attack to cut off Kampala from Entebbe.”

Ronald Mutumba, now a certified Public Accountant vividly remembers that day.

“That morning, I remember one of my roommates hastily waking me up. I was not accustomed to rising early. Because of fright, I did not even have breakfast. I remember joining other students as we figured ways of staying safe.”

Luckily for the students, the rebel soldiers were not the forbidding type.

“They were amiable and approachable. That gave us the confidence to accost them and have a chat. By the time, the rebels got back to the College, after pursuing government soldiers, some of our colleagues had picked up some discarded boots from fleeing government soldiers and had tried them on,” Magona recalls.

The rebels who by then had gotten the worst of some back and forth battles with government forces in a bid to capture Entebbe knew that their presence at the college raised the specter of a government reprisal attack and so they advised the students later on in the day to find their way to Kings College Buddo through Kawuku.

The rebels who were under the NRA's 5th battalion rationalized that Buddo would be a good sanctuary for the students since it was in an area that was under their control.

When the students led by Brother Peter Kazzekulya, who was the school’s headteacher reached Kawuku, they were advised to eschew using the main road.
They moved along a tiny checkered footpath that led them to villages such as Ssisa, Nakonge, Nsaggu, among others.

When the students with their headteacher got to Ssisa, which is about five kilometers from Kawuku, it was decided that they would camp for the night at St Peter’s Primary School.

“That night the Milky Way was resplendent with shining stars. Many of us just gazed and feasted our eyes on the starlit sky for most of the night. Very few people slept,” Nick Mujira, an old boy and now the proprietor of Inspection and Certification Company, Inspecta Africa Limited, recollects.

Earlier on as the sun hit its twilight that day, the students heard government helicopter gunships hovering through the skies.

“We had earlier been advised by the rebels to leave spaces between each other as we slept as a means of eschewing death in the event of a government helicopter attack,” Andrew Yawe, one of the old boys tells Masaabachronicle.

Rather ill-advisedly the next day, the students were given the cue to head back to the college. It was a false dawn. A few kilometers into their trek back, sounds of heavy gunfire rang out as government forces fired on fleeing rebels. The rebels met up with the students.

“The rebels were making a tactical withdrawal. There was pell-mell as we took to our heels. Everyone ran. That day was a far cry from the previous day when we calmly walked and reached the Primary school without much incident. In the process of fleeing however a stray bullet ripped through a shoe of one of our colleagues who has since passed on. The bullet grazed his ankle, causing even more panic,” Magona recalls.

Reliving the experience

On Saturday 7th March, about 55 of the College’s old boys, who lived through the chilling scare gathered to relieve the experience, principally reenacting the grueling 25km trek they made as they sought to reach Buddo in 1986.
It wasn’t just walking however for the students, most of whom were teenagers then. On occasion, they ran especially when they had gunshots.

At the crack of dawn, as glints of sunshine penetrated the school horizon, the nostalgic jaunty trekkers were flagged off from the College’s football pitch by Kazzekulya.

Dressed in tracksuits, custom made t-shirts, sneakers and shorts, the trekkers who included Fabian Kasi-the Centenary Bank Managing Director of, Brother Francis Aganze-deputy headteacher of SMACK then, Eng. Godfrey Kaaya, Godber Tumushabe- the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies-Associate Director, Nick Mujira- the Inspecta Africa managing director, Charles Odaga-the Finance Trust Customer Service Manager and also the President of the SMACK old boys association seemed buoyed as we approached Kawuku.

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A three-day Northern Uganda tourism expedition-that was worth every while

From a local tourism point of view, northern Uganda still largely remains uncharted territory.

For the most part, awareness about the region’s best tourist gems such as the Murchison national park, Aruu falls, Fort Patiko, Solar Eclipse monument in Nyamuriya, Delta camping site, etc remains low;  yet, to all appearances, they are some of the most attractive and pristine tourist sites in Uganda.

Riding on the Uganda Wildlife Authority bus with the rest of the Tulambule Northern Uganda team, a week and a half ago; brought me to that-low awareness-realization.

From the conversations, I caught wind of, on the bus; I arrived at the deduction that, just a handful of guys we traveled with, had hitherto, ever heard of the sites, we were slated to visit such as Aruu falls in Pader or Fort Patiko in Gulu.

It is quite an indictment that people from abroad [foreign tourists] know more about Uganda's premier tourist gems than many of us. 
Now that is not supposition; its truth.
But again, the foreign tourists have the wherewithal to spend; unlike many Ugandans.

There is hope; however, that the Tulambule local tourism campaign will bring about a change in that status quo.

The campaign, which is in its fifth edition, was launched in 2016 and aims at encouraging more Ugandans to tour attractions in their country.

And while it is safe to say, local tourism has grown steadily through the years [Uganda Tourism Board declared 2018 as the best year for local tourism], there is still leeway to be made up.

Looked at in perspective, the 20-year-old civil war in the North put a huge blot on its tourist sector, and regrettably, it is narratives about the war and its evil protagonist-Kony-that, have, to some degree, still taken precedence over discussions about its tourist potential.

Fast forward to 2019 and thus far, some leeway has been made up; that is from the perspective of the Tulambule Northern tour, at least.

The three-day awareness-raising tour, organised by the House of DJs; cast a bright light on some select tourist sites in the North of U.G.

The expedition was eventful in every sense of the word.

The only anticlimax was that first day tours to some select places-listed on the itinerary [like Kafu river-a short stop, Karuma falls-photo opportunity, and Delta camp] were put off because the expedition team left Kampala, late, midday, to be exact, yet set-off time had been set for nine in the morning.

In the end, the tour team missed out on what was to be the first day’s highlight-a waterfall boat cruise on the Nile River.

The level of excitement as we left Kampala was palpable and it reached fever pitch, when the tour team, led by high profile names such as Golola Moses, Godfrey Kiwanda-the flamboyant State Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Gaetano Kaggwa, Fabiola, Marcus Kwikiriza, Salvado, Miss Uganda UK-Penny Wampamba, etc made its first stop at Luwero market.

The idea of using high profile Ugandans to promote local tourism is presumably one that will open new horizons for the local tourism sector.
With time, it could just be draw-card or that grain of mustard that brings grist to Uganda’s tourist mill.

Back at Luwero market, vendors struggled to have a word and to catch a glimpse of Kiwanda, Golola, and the posse of dressed to the nines-socialites like Fabiola who disembarked to buy some bites.

Beyond Kafu River; it’s beautiful open country to every end of the North.

After getting lost several times, the tour team, at length, got to the scenic Pakuba Safari lodge; which is nestled on the eastern bank of the Albert Nile, in Murchison falls national park in Nwoya district.

Before camping for the night, the tour team was advised to play for safety as they were camping right in the middle of wildlife habitat.
Just the thought of a wild animal such as a lion creeping up in the camp petrified many, but luckily, the team slept safe and sound, till the crack of morning.

The next day is when it felt like the real tour experience in the park had begun.

The 3,480 sq km park was gazetted as a game reserve in 1926 and is home to over 76 different mammal and 451 bird species.

A traveler without observation is like a bird without wings, so it’s said.
Bearing in mind that, most of the tour team, who had never caught glimpses of wild animals, waited with bated breath.

And so at the crack of dawn, the tour team embarked on the game drive, where they caught sight of several of the park’s animals such as Kobs, warthogs, antelopes, giraffes, buffalos, and elephants.
The park’s 189kg-129cms Lions and 35-36kg Leopards were hard to come by, however.

According to Henry Buzo, a tour guide at the Park, lions were not easy to come by at that time of day because of their nocturnal routine.

“At day time and when it’s hot, they are mostly in shades. The best time to sight them, just like the Leopards, is late in the evening,” Buzo told Masaabachronicle.

It was worthwhile riding through the park; which is according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, tour handbook, the largest and oldest conservation area in the country.

In Murchison falls park, depending on your budget, you can also enjoy spectacular views of the Nile cascading over 23kms breathtaking rapids.
The area, for good measure, is perfect for water rafting.
You can also enjoy other activities such as hiking and nature walks, birding [Avi-tourism], sport fishing, launch trips, etc.

Buzo says the number of Ugandans visiting the park has been on the ascendant in recent years.

“There is an increasing number of daily visitors. In a day, we can host over 300 visitors and of those, 30-60 are Ugandans.”

"The beauty of Northern Uganda tells its own tale. Granted, some things take the shine off Uganda, but none of those is related to our beautiful countryside. The tourism experience, Uganda offers is second to none,” Joselyn Kayima, a royal princess from Buganda, told Masaabachronicle.

Later in the evening, the tour team headed for the Para ferry landing site, still in Nwoya district.
The landing site is where the River Nile cascades into Lake Albert.
Its ferry connects both sides of the park.

The tour team was welcomed at the site by the Mubaku musical team, who to their credit gave a good account of themselves with their music.
The irresistible sound from their traditional instruments drew forth smiles and dances from the socialites on the tour team.

The real icing on the cake for the tour team, however, were the visits to Aruu falls and Fort Patiko in Pader district.
The splendid Aruu waterfalls are a scenic charm.

The waterfalls cascade splendidly from their crest, through rough cliffs and escarpments, into river Aswa, also in Pader.

For hikers and waterfall enthusiasts, the sight, spray, and sound of this awe-inspiring waterfall was something to behold and experience; therapeutic to some, though the experience, would have been much more worthwhile if the team had visited during the rainy season.

“That is when the waterfalls are awe-inspiring,” Lazarus Obbo, L.C, 3 Chairperson of Angagura sub-county in Pader, told Masaabachronicle.

The tour team made hay, playing in the waterfalls and swimming in the wide water catchment area, just below the huge rocks that the falls cascade into.

It was most definitely the tour’s highlight.

After the swim, the tours high profile names got into the Apirr, Bola, and Adyere dances, solemnized by the Otto clan, at the Aruu Falls campsite.

Golola and Gaetano were the highlights, here; as they cracked up most of the local dancers and villagers, by colorfully and at times, comically imitating their elaborate dance moves.

Camping at the site is only sh25, 000, so go for it, if you have time on your hands.

Fort Patiko was the last stop on the tour.

Many guys on the tour had admittedly only heard about it in their history lessons.

Here is the interesting kicker, however; the fort’s relics still look sturdy.

Built-in 1872 by Sir Samuel Baker, the Fort was gazetted as a national monument in 1972 and was ostensibly built to stop Slave trade in the Equatorial Province.

The team visited the vestiges of the Fort’s grain stores and took time to climb the numerous boulders adjacent to the Fort.


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More Kanye's, more Kim Kardashian's-Tourism-Uganda's calling card.

At 56, Uganda has come a long way.
It is a country far removed from its atrocity ridden past.
[The country recently celebrated its 56th independence anniversary]

For the past 3 decades, Uganda, in many respects, has experienced upward trajectories of growth, though its overall potential, across the board, remains unrealized.

Many of the country's leading political analysts contend that the upward growth will continue provided Uganda stays on a political straight and narrow, devoid of political violence.
“At 56, opportunities for national and individual growth in Uganda abound,” Vincent Okwalinga, a Political scientist, says.

“There is however still a lot of leeway to be made up. Uganda is a country with a lot of potential and that potential will only be harnessed effectively if vices like corruption are dispensed with."

“Recent incidents of political violence and the cold blooded murders of prominent Ugandans have raised the spectre of insecurity. Any semblance of insecurity will have an adverse knock on effect on our tourism industry, an industry, which is still by far, the nation’s leading foreign exchange earner,” Robert Wamukota, a seasoned Political scientist and opinion leader in Mbale, told Masaaba chronicle.

Notwithstanding, recent reports like the 2018 Africa Risk Reward Index have cast Uganda in good light.
Uganda is cited as one of sub saharan Africa's strongest performing economies.

The report indicates that ongoing national infrastructural projects and other developments in the country would not be possible if there was political instability.

Uganda’s risk profile Index has also reduced significantly, through the years. 
This denotes more visitors for the country.
According to the Inform global risk index, Uganda’s risk index is now 6.0.

Inform is a global, open source risk assessment for humanitarian crises and disasters.

That said, analysts say the voices of Ugandans disillusioned with the status quo should not be ignored.

“Ugandans intent on changing the status quo should however steer clear of putting false constructions on the country’s political and economic situation. That as a means to an end is counterproductive,” Wamukota argues.

“It is incumbent upon the government however to address the grievances of all Ugandans.
In many areas of the country, tangible evidence of progress for many citizens remains elusive.”

Analysts state that tourism as a sector will most likely bear the heaviest brunt should the country’s image continue to be tarnished.

At present, the sector contributes 10% to Uganda’s GDP.

“Recent projections by the Minister of Finance that Uganda will in the near future receive 4million visitors annually will only come to pass if the country enhances its tourism industry competiveness and markets itself better abroad,” Okwalinga argues.

Uganda currently gets 1.3 million visitors annually.

The most recent high profile visitors being the African American Hip Hop artist-Kanye West and his wife-Kim Kardashian.

“Uganda needs to invest more resources in its tourism sector,” opines Amos Wekesa, the proprietor of Great Lakes Safaris, Limited.

“Regionally, Uganda is lagging behind yet with 10 unique national parks, principally world heritage sites such as Bwindi, Mgahinga and the Rwenzori mystic mountains, Uganda should be one of the top tourist destinations in East Africa. More also needs to done to improve on tourist infrastructure.”

Uganda is one of the best places to track mountain gorillas.
At present, Uganda is home to half of all mountain Gorillas in the world. 480 out of 880, to be precise.
The economic value of gorilla tourism in Uganda is estimated at up to $34.3million.

The need to promote the country’s tourist sector was again re-emphasized by President Museveni on the [30th September], whilst passing out game rangers in Nwoya district.
The President noted that Uganda can earn more tourist foreign exchange if it efficiently promotes and markets its tourist potential.

Currently, Uganda spends far less on tourism marketing compared to her regional neighbors, yet the second national development plan lists it as a priority sector that will if harnessed well have a great multiplier effect on the country’s economy.

Kenya spends $3.37 on promoting and sustaining its new tourism markets.
Rwanda on the other hand, spends $40million on its tourism advertisement campaigns.

“Marshaled well, Uganda’s cultural and heritage tourism sector represents a potential major area of growth. There are heritage sites around the country, which are in many ways still tourist virgin territory or which have not been developed enough to attract visitors,” John Kityo, a travel and tourist, expert, says.

“Take for example, the Namugongo shrine, the Rwenzori cultural trail and the Mutoto Cultural grounds in Mbale, where the inauguration of the revered Imbalu custom takes place.

Mutoto which attracts up to 1000 foreign visitors biennially is devoid of an Imbalu paraphernalia museum, yet, to all intents and purposes, it should have one.
Construction of a museum at the site has been long overdue.

There are several other cultural and heritage sites in the country which can stand the country in a good stead financially.

“Uganda has 600 years of kingdoms and over 40 different indigenous ethnic groups, who immense themselves in a variety of cultural norms and customs. These can all be of financial benefit to the nation.
Now is the time to amplify efforts to market Uganda as a worthwhile tourist destination. It could be a grain of mustard seed for the country,” Kityo says.

One of Uganda’s greatest tourist secrets are the white sands of Ssese Island on Lake Victoria.
The white sands, the uncrowded beaches and the tranquility of the place create a never ending honeymoon experience.

On Lake Victoria as well, there is the picturesque Equator Island-Lwaji Island. The equator runs through Lwaji and Damba islands.
The two archipelagos are diamonds in the rough. They are marvels of nature, with plenty of bird life.

By all accounts, Uganda is home to over 10% of the world’s birds and 50% of Africa’s birds-home to 1,072 different species including some of the rarest birds.
Some of these can be found on Equator Island.

Jinja, the adventure capital of Uganda-Jinja deserves more promotion and marketing as a leisure travel tourist destination.

Jinja’s overall tourist potential remains unrealized.

With more advertising Jinja, the source of the world’s longest river-6,853km [4,258 miles] will get more visitors.
Whilst in Jinja, visitors can enjoy bungee jumping, quad biking and safe whitewater rafting and kayaking.


Uganda Celebrities get in on the tourism awareness act

The fifth edition of the Northern Ugandan-tulambule tour [tour of Northern Uganda] kicked off-Friday[1st March] at the independence monument in Kampala, Uganda.

The all agog tour team, which included a bevy of Ugandan Radio and T.V celebrities, tourism media enthusiasts and Uganda Wildlife officials were flagged off  at 11a.m, by the flamboyant Ugandan State Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Godfrey Kiwanda.

The mostly youthful, sowing wild oats-team are on a three day awareness raising tour of some of Northern Uganda’s best tourism destinations.

House of D.J’s, a company whose niche is event concepts, event marketing, amongst others is behind the tourism awareness initiative, which has been named Tulambule.
They are supported by the Uganda Tourism Board, Koi Koi, Uganda Wildlife Authority, amongst others.

“Our tours to Northern Uganda are aimed at showcasing and creating awareness of the available tourism destinations in Uganda.
We will cover the multiple aspects of every site we visit in order to promote the captivating aspects of each location and region.
The upshot is to create exposure of the sites through an aggressive Public Relations campaign,” Philip Mukusaba, the events operations manager, told Masaabachronicle.

The itinerary starts on Friday [February 29th] with visits to Ziiwa Sanctuary (Rhino Tour), Kabalega Diner (High Way Stop), Kafu River Bridge (High Way Stop), Karuma Falls (Chimpanzee, Falls Tour), Sundowner (Chobe) Gulu (Bomah Hotel), Night Scene in Gulu.

The first day was eventful, through and through.

"The beauty of Uganda tells its own tale. Traveling is like falling in love. Its beautiful open country to every end of Uganda once you leave Kampala. It is as if  Uganda is straight out of the bandbox,"  Joselyn Kayima, a royal from Buganda, told Masaabachronicle.

Lots of activity took place on the first day. The tour team had their fling on the Uganda wildlife Authority tour bus.
Before the first stopover in Luwero, enroute to Pakwach, there was a plethora of loud activity; with the NBS team filming the "Another round" show, to celebrated Comedian, Salvador cracking up the team with his impulsive banter.

The penultimate day or day two [Saturday 2nd March] will see the team touring Pakwach Bridge, the Solar Eclipse Monument, Pakuba Safari Lodge and the day will end with a boat cruise at the foot of Murchison falls.

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Using high profile Ugandans like Motor-mouth-Moses Golola-to promote Northern Uganda tourism, a good idea

It has never been in doubt that Motor-mouthed Ugandan Kick boxer Golola Moses can set his wits to work.

Metaphorically speaking, dude is a human tourist attraction, who, if given chance or occasion, can talk the hind legs of a donkey [Pun intended] and who in his own words, can make a woman pregnant by just his glance.

With his spontaneous wit, gift of gab and with much needed adjustments to his wardrobe, Golola would do just good attracting-lady tourists to Uganda like moths to a flame.

Anybody can get in on the Uganda tourism promotion act, whatever their hustle.
If the missy curvy people are doing it, why not Golola.

Seeing that his kickboxing star is slowly fading [I stand corrected], he should make do with second strings to his bow-such as comedy, movies and tourism promotion.

Golola’s numerous one liner jokes and humorous anecdotes-undoubtedly made him the life and soul of the recently concluded eventful three day Northern Uganda tourism tulambule tour.

The tour, aimed at raising awareness of some of Northern Uganda’s best tourist sites started on Friday [1st march] last week and ended on Sunday.

Granted-Cutie-Fabiola, Gaetano and funny man Salvador, were the poster guys for the tour but Golola flipped the script as he held down the showstopper fort, right from the time, the tour team, left Kampala for their first stop in Luwero market.

His charisma and wit [both work like charms] were evident for all to discern.

The idea to use Golola and other young high profile Ugandans to open new horizons for Uganda’s tourist sector is a welcome development.
It could be the grain of mustard that brings grist to Uganda’s tourist mill.

On the tour first stop, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Golola had Luwero market on lock down, as the food vendors, all struggled to catch a glimpse of the half man, half amazing.

Celebrities-Gaetano, Fabiola, flamboyant State Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Godfrey Kiwanda, Marcus and Salvado, all caused excitement but it was nowhere close to the excitement Golola drew forth, when we got to the market.

Golola literally took the shine off them but nobody made a palaver of it.
To all appearances, there was a great sense of occasion, as it was playing right into the hands of the organisers.

Back on the Uganda Wildlife Authority tour bus, Golola who clearly knew his limits; kept spewing more sporadic jokes as we traveled forth.

At one point on our second stop in Murchison falls National Park, where there were kobs, warthogs,  antelopes and elephants galore; he had the happy camper-mostly-young bread buttered on both sides- tourism awareness team and tourism media enthusiasts in grin from ear to ear- fests of laughter, when he uttered loudly-“I am so hungry, I may have a miscarriage.”
Needless to add, our lunch had been delayed.

The all agog tour team included a bevy of young-dressed to the nines- flamboyant women, who, on several occasions; spoke with plum in the mouth accents; that at some points, our hosts asked if they were not Ugandan.

Its amazing how movies and songs make our millennials get accents and live in a make believe world; when some have not even crossed the Rwandese border [read the border is closed].

The upshot of the rounds of alcohol being served on the tour bus was that the back and forth conversations became louder and riveting.

Nothing gets louder than an alcohol induced conversation and usually it gets even the shiest of folks buoyed up.

And for good measure, it did on the bus; cept ofcourse for the teetotalers, who were few, however.

The NBS “Another round team” also known for inebriation during their show, got on in the act and so did the masterminds of the tour-William Byaruhanga and Tendo Kaggwa.

A hankering for travel is something the young-pie eyed women and men, all shared and at every stop, we made, the big grins on their faces could show.

At the magnificent Pakuba and Para safari lodges and Para ferry landing site, in Nwoya district, all and sundry, got into taking selfies and dancing to the Mubaku musical team, who to their credit, gave a good account of themselves.

The good sound from their traditional instructments made Fabiola and Miss Uganda UK- Penny Wampamba, get their grooves on, to a turn.

The real icing on the cake for the tour team, however, were the visits to Aruu falls campsite and Fort Patiko in Pader district.

It was a tad piping hot but it was lit all the same, at the tour posse made hay, playing in the water falls and swimming in the wide water catchment area, just below the huge rocks that the falls cascade on.

It was the tour’s highlight in every sense of the world.

After the swim, the tours high profile names got into the Apirr, Bola and Adyere dances, which were being solemnized by the Otto clan.

Golola again was the highlight, again, cracking up most of the local dancers and villagers, by colorfully and at times, comically imitating their dance moves.

Fort Patiko was eventful as well, but mostly for the selfies aficionados and those seeking lessons on its slave trade history.

A back of the envelope calculation shows that Golola was paid handsomely and it was not money for old rope, for the record.
Dude brought his A-humour game to the tour.
The smiles on the faces of the tour team, every time, he dropped a joke, speak to that fact.
Iam sure all and sundry would love to have him on the next tours.

House of D.J’s [event concepts, event marketing] were behind the Tulambule tour.
They were supported by the Uganda Tourism Board, Koi Koi, Uganda Wildlife Authority, amongst others.

Child Labour still rife in one of Uganda's top rice producing regions

Butaleja, located in the East of Uganda, is one of the country’s foremost-rice producing districts.

Rice farmers in this waterlogged region, have through the years, made a killing, selling the grain, which is, by all accounts, a staple for many Ugandan families.

As any rice farmer in Butaleja will tell, however, growing, weeding, harvesting and producing rice does not come easy. It is a labour intensive undertaking, which calls for time, money and reliable labour.

To that end, most farmers go to extremes to produce the grain; including hiring child workers.

Whilst, many in the district, are quick to drop a veil over it, it is a glaring fact that, there are children in Butaleja, who are cajoled and on occasion, compelled to work in its rice fields; for long sustained hours.

It is a disturbing phenomenon, that 15 year old Latif Birya has bore witness to.
Looking disheveled, Birya says he works the rice fields, often, to get money to buy his scholastic materials.

One wonders, however, when he gets time to go to school, when he, to all appearances, spends most of his time in the rice paddy.

“My work is to scare away birds. On occasion, I assist the owner of the garden, to harvest. I always find time for school, however” Birya says with a mortified gaze on his face.

While it is hard to quantify the magnitude of the problem, it is a harsh reality; that district officials are aware of but have struggled to eliminate.

In some select rice fields in Namaganda, Muyago and Wega, the practice of using children is rife, though one will hard pressed to make contact, or to speak to the children, working the fields, as they either hide or walk away.

“Child labour is indeed a problem in some areas of the district. The practice of employing children to dig, plant and scare away birds from the rice gardens is not cordoned but it has been happening. The children are paid money for their work but that should not be encouraged especially during times of school. The problem has been exacerbated by the eschewing of responsibility by some parents. Not sending a child to school means he or she is vulnerable to exploitation,” Hamile Koire, a rice farmer in Butaleja says.

Patrick Mudida, a rice farmer in Busibira subcounty is however quick to dismiss the notion that the practice is widespread.

“The usuage of child labour on rice farms is something I do not cordon, but I also know that it is not, in every part of Butaleja. Finding children running around the rice farms does not mean that they are compelled to work on them and it does not also mean that their parents are not responsible enough to pay for their education,” Mudida says.

Alex Kambo, a rice farmer and teacher says child labour on Butaleja’s rice farms has been happening and has to be outlawed.

“In the areas, where it is happening, it has to be stopped. Our children ought to be in school, not on rice farms. Butaleja’s children should not be lured or coerced to work in the gardens for money. They should instead be encouraged to embrace school.”

Ritah Wapela, a rice Farmer in Namaganda, says she has not seen firsthand, any child working on a rice paddy.

“There are several rice farms in Namaganda, but I have never witnessed child labour, on any of them.
The children, I see, are there to chase away birds and they only do it, after school.”

Plans to tackle the issue

Richard Waya, the Butaleja district chairperson, says the district has started operations to bring a halt to any forms of child labour.

“Our position as a district is that it is illegal for any child in Butaleja to work in a rice paddy, when it is school time.
The district has put in place an order to arrest children who work in the fields, instead of going to school.
The fine for a child got in a rice field, during school time, is sh5, 000. Parents, who send their children to the fields, instead of school are liable to pay fines,” Waya says.

James Waluswaka, the Bunyole West county Member of Parliament, objects to the notion, that child labour is endemic on Butaleja’s rice paddies.

“That happened in the past. It is only when children have broken off from school, that you will see them, working in the rice paddies. The ordinances, the district recently passed in relation to the issue make it hard for anybody to compel a child to work for them, in the rice fields, during school days,” Waluswaka says.

Side Bar

According to recent statistics from the Butaleja district education office, the school dropout rate in the last four years, has surged from 45 per cent to 78 per cent.

Statistics also show that the dropout rates in upper primary are between 60 to 70 per cent.

In the year 2000, over 200 Child Workers in Butaleja District were detained by the Police.

The law

The Constitution of Uganda Article 34 states that children under 16 years of age have the right to be protected from social and economic exploitation.

The Constitution prohibits child slavery, servitude, and forced labor.

Government policy

This year, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development launched a national strategic plan to eradicate child labour in Uganda.

Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, the State Minister for Youth and Children affairs, said all children of school going age should not be employed, but sent to school.

In 2016, the Government approved the Children (Amendment) Act, which outlaws the use of children for labour exploitation.

The Government also launched the National Social Protection Policy that targets child labourers.

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Lake Victorias Equator Island is a Jewel Plan a visit soon

From Entebbe’s aero beach, it took us approximately 25 minutes to get to Lake Victoria’s Equator Island.
The winds were blowing mildly and the lake’s blue waters were tranquil. Our destination was an Island on the lake where the lake’s waters straddle the equator.
It is said the Equator line runs through two of the lake’s Islands, principally Damba and Lwaji.
Before we embarked on our voyage however, we had to bid some time, spending close to half an hour, waiting for the mechanics to prepare the ferry’s decks for the ride on Africa’s largest lake.
Excitedly waiting with me, were the East African Mariners, most of whom seemed very eager to stand a treat of their maiden voyage on the famed lake.

The excitement was written on almost everybody’s face. Aside of the adventure, the mariners also had a worthwhile cause to accomplish that day. They were on a mission to donate life saving jackets to the Islander’s fishing communities.
Going by the accounts I heard before we set forth, majority of the lake’s fishermen go on ill-advised fishing expeditions without life saving jackets, even deep in the night when even people without aqua phobia would be dead frightened to ride on the ominous looking waters.
When we finally departed, it was an exhilarating experience. It was a joy ride devoid of bumps and grinds, due to the fact that the lake’s waters are free of reefs and there was not a single trace of a tidal wave. Those sitting down as we rode were heard saying, the ferry was going perpendicular, straight like the way the crow bird fly’s. From the vantage point of the deck however, one could see that the ferry was making turns.

Everyone seemed buoyant when we caught sight of the first Island. There was lots of hoopla all around us. Smiles seemed not locked away. Face’s lit up, by the endless repertoire of jokes, coming courtesy of the many happy go lucky emcees we had onboard. Amazing charms struck our eyes as we rode off on the rather placid waters that characterized the lake that day. It seemed only natural when an old gentleman seated at the back of the ferry exclaimed, God is great. It was spell binding watching the different varieties of birds chirping and flapping away. We caught glimpses of Kingfishers and the egrets flying low on the surface of the water, eager to catch some prey. It was fun too watching all the revelers on the sandy beaches we were leaving behind in our wake.

The Kamikaze fishermen paddling their canoes past us however seemed non chalant. Most looked all too consumed up in their trivial round. Regardless, the sight of them trying to catch fish with their baits ticked the fancies of many on the ferry.
Midway through our voyage, Uganda air force planes hovered over us. Luckily we had some UPDF marines on deck to charm everybody down.
Lake Victoria has many ring shaped archipelagos that many of the fishing communities’ inhabit. They are eye candy especially when you are riding on a ferry.

On the face of it, many of these communities abode in old corrugated iron sheet shelters. All the structures seem provisional. When we went past one of the inhabited Islands, a group of 6 bark naked men were taking a bath on the edges of the Island. Some even had the nerve to wave at us in their birthday suits. As our ferry cruised past the many archipelagos on our way to our destination, almost everybody wanted to catch a glance of these curiosities of nature. It is said Lake Victoria has 84 of them.

We finally reached our destination, Lwaji Island. Plenty of Bird life exists here, going by what we saw when we alighted the ferry. There were many birds flying in and out of their nestling grounds. What fascinated us most however, is the fact that this particular Island seems un-inhabited, save for the few UPDF marine soldiers we found there. Some bits of the Island are cleared of bushy vegetation whilst the rest seems more like bear garden.

On this picturesque Island, one can enjoy a wide view of the lake, the Entebbe airport run way and the other surrounding Islands. The atmosphere and breeze all around us was pleasantly refreshing. On the Island too, you will be able to spot a tree that has incredibly grown on the Island’s rocky surface. The Island can be a good respite, place if you fancy a quiet place to lay your life issues to heart. If sightseeing is your cup of tea too, this island is the perfect get away The Island just like the rest on Lake Victoria are of considerable conservation value but nothing seems to show this particular one is or has been visited or revamped of recent. Before our tour ended, we lined up for photo opportunities at the Equator line. There is a signpost designating the spot where the equator line passes just like in Masaka. ACCESS To get to Lwaji Island, one will have to part with a small amount of money. There are ferry’s that take visitors there often. Ask when you reach Entebbe town or aero beach.

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 It is often said a traveler who does not observe is like a bird without wings. Like the rest of us, a bird without wings, hardly ever experiences what birds with wings experience, that panoramic and picturesque view of Mother Nature
For you the Ugandan or the Visitor with cast about eyes, quite an eye candy feast awaits you, that is if you travel around Uganda often, especially to regions of the country which are virgin territory in terms of visits. One such place is Wanale Mountain in Bugisu.
It may be hypothetical to say but there is some degree of truth in the oft-held narrative that Ugandans are apathetic as regards things like tourism. The picture could not any clearer, looking at it from the Wanale perspective. Visitors and recreationists visiting Wanale have kept on dropping through the years.
That said however, Uganda, without a shadow of any doubt, still remains one of the best endowed nations, nature wise. When you pay a visit to Mountain Wanale, you will agree with me.
Perhaps the highest praise Uganda ever got was from Sir Winston Churchill, he bestowed on Uganda, the Laurel-Pearl of Africa.
To bear witness to what Churchill said, travel around the country often. You will stand a treat of the best nature has to offer in its majesty.
Churchill did not visit Mbale but if he had, he would definitely say something about the undisputed grandeur of Mountain Wanale. This is a place of such transcendent beauty. If your are into Mountain climbing or trekking, Wanale should be a great attraction. The ascent to its peak is an exhilarating experience.
Wanale or Nkokonjeru Mountain as some people call it, is an impressive mountain splendour, replete with precipices, escarpments, deep valleys, water streaked cliffs, caves, rocks and rugged crags.
Standing at a length of 7.67 kilometers, Wanale can be viewed from all areas in Mbale. It covers a huge portion of Bugisu’s land surface. Mbale town literally lies at its foot. From town, one can discern three splendid looking waterfalls. These all originate from the mountain top.
From the mountain top too, one will have an amazing panoramic view of mbale town.
“Wanale is Bugisu’s temple of nature. From the days of old, many visitors expressed instinctive awe at the sight of this mountain. The waters that flow from Wanale spread to every river in Uganda,” States 86 year old Muyesa Francis, an elder in Mukhuwa village
Named after one of the sons of Masaba, the patriarch/father of the Bagisu, Mountain Wanale is believed to be the place where Nabarwa, the Kalenjin woman who prevailed upon Masaba to get circumcised before they got married, came from, on her way from Kenya.

“The Nkokonjeru name that Semei Kakungulu’s people used to refer to that mountain came from the legend that Wanale, son of Masaba, reared only white chickens. Wanale lived on top of the mountain Friends from Bugisu called Wanale, Singokho or someone who likes chicken. The Baganda chose to name the mountain Nkokonjeru because of the many white chickens, Wanale reared. They assumed every inhabitant on the mountain reared white chicken,” narrates Mzee Moses Wakitonyi, an elder in Mutoto, Mbale
Wakitonyi says many of the mountain’s earliest inhabitants lived in caves. “There are many caves on the mountain, though people know only one. The early Bamasaba who called Wanale home dwelled in these caves. Wanale has 4 hills. Few people know about this too. A hike through a trail at the western end of the ridge will lead one to Khaukha cave, which is the most prominent cave of them all,” Wakitonyi says
Legend has it that Khaukha cave which is embossed with unique calligraphic inscriptions on its walls, has an ill fated water stream. Wakitonyi says the tale told of the stream is true. Many people thought it was an illusion until 4 men became lame when they crossed the stream. Nobody could explain how that happened. It was and is still a mystery,” Wakitonyi explains
The other wonders that Wanale offers are its many waterfalls. If you are a mountain recreationist, you will be spoilt for choice.
The beauty of Wanale’s waterfalls is unmatched.
Namatsyo waters falls for example, falls two miles down from the mountain top and submerges in rocky tunnels deep.
“The waterfall disappears down in the rocks under. It is completely obscured and immersed. The water reemerges and hits the surface from its underground pathway in villages like Bumboi and Mooni,” Wakitonyi states
From the high court in Mbale, that is if you decide to walk, it is approximately 18 miles to reach Wanale.
To get to Wanale with a taxi or personal car, brace yourself for a 30-40 minute road ride.
Take a left turn road after the Mbale high court and follow the road that goes down to Busamaga Primary School.
On reaching the aforementioned Primary School, take a right turn, follow Bumboi road. Proceed along the main road.
From Busamaga Primary School, it will take one roughly 15-20 minutes to reach the peak of Wanale.
The other routes to the mountain top may be slightly risky, especially if one is making a maiden visit.

Enroute to Wanale, accommodation can be got at the nearby Elgon suites in Mango village.
It is on the highway as one heads to the Mountain top. Accommodation can also be got in senior quarters, Mbale.
If you love mountaineering or you are that person who just wants to have an aesthetic appreciation of nature, make it a point to visit this magnificent temple of nature.
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INEMBA: The Beat of Manhood; the Dance of Men; performed in the early months of every odd year in Masaba land.


In Bugisu, tradition demands that Imbalu initiates (those circumcised in any even year) marry only after performing the Inemba dance.
The dance is performed in the early months of every odd year.
The dance is usually punctuated by celebratory singing, drumming and merrymaking.

Richard Wetaya---- explores what lies beyond the Inemba fanfare

At the assembly point; elders from different clans are gathered with their initiates. Some kneel, while others stand in lines, facing each other.

The initiates are then instructed to run to the venue of the dance.
At the venue, crowds are gathered and drums are reverberating.
The Inemba dance is on.

Wilson Wakinya, 20, of Bunanyuma village, Bushika sub-county in Bududa district and his collegues, fully dressed in their regalia, locally known as tsisumbati, come running with long painted sticks (tsimbani) in hand. Wakinya and his collegues quickly perforate holes in the ground, using the tsimbani, before they set forth to the dance floor.
The tsimbani ostensibly represent weapons that a Mumasaba man should bear at all times to defend his family, clan and society.
Patrick Wabuteya, a clan elder in Bunamasongo, explains that the Isumbati, which is a bull or he-goat skin, is a symbol of the power accorded to one to perform Gisu societal rituals, such as naming offspring, offering sacrifices and performing Imbalu rituals.
“The Isumbati is only worn by Bamasaba elders. Being dressed in an Isumbati, also means that one has been given the right to sit with elders and discuss issues of importance,” he explains.


For Wakinya and colleagues, the event officially marks their induction into the club of Basani - full Bamasaba men.


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