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How to turn around a ship of state?

By Vision Reporter

Added 9th January 2010 03:00 AM

SHIPS of State, like huge liners, are, or should be, precisely that; for one thing they take an awful distance of water to turn around. Not for them the skittish nature of racing boats, or even the smaller and more humble canoes, which can turn around a buoy.

SHIPS of State, like huge liners, are, or should be, precisely that; for one thing they take an awful distance of water to turn around. Not for them the skittish nature of racing boats, or even the smaller and more humble canoes, which can turn around a buoy.

BY JOHN NAGENDA

SHIPS of State, like huge liners, are, or should be, precisely that; for one thing they take an awful distance of water to turn around. Not for them the skittish nature of racing boats, or even the smaller and more humble canoes, which can turn around a buoy.

(That, by the way, punning-wise, puts me in mind of Noel Coward’s song, Mad about the Boy. Could be very skittish, Mr Coward!)

Great liners, and the huge vessels that transport oil and containers, should be solemn, deliberate and grave affairs; once started they hardly turn around. It follows all the planning for their journey must be immaculate and thorough; likewise for the ship of state.

In almost the same context, that formidable British woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, announced of herself, “This lady is not for turning!” The observations above were occasioned by the Annual reports from the Auditor General that Ugandan districts continued to be the most corrupt organisations. Who is surprised? What good reasons would they have not to be as they are? Consider how they came into being. Did a great deal of logical planning precede their formation, including what they were for, and how they would be supervised, and in what relationship to each other? (True, at the outset, there was talk of two or more of them forming, if they so desired, larger units, called, if memory serves, Regional Tiers.) But can you imagine those who have “tasted the fat” being willing to cede any of it to others in a bigger unit? This should have been obvious from the start.

By the time the ship of state has managed to turn round, perhaps five miles downstream, havoc has ensued. How sad! In the first place, what in God’s name makes it believable we possess over a hundred (and counting) district administrations capable of running their own affairs? And, as if that weren’t enough, how easily can they be supervised, and by whom? That understood, when the Auditor general finds the districts the most corrupt organisations, would it not follow to judge the ship of state, which is their “onlie begetter”, as being complicit in the felony, an accessory after the fact? And then what is to follow? We should have thought deeper before the myriad district approach. The journey back might prove hazardous.

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Some people have, in bucketfuls, what the Jews call chutzpah. Is it born in them, or is it acquired; and if so by what route? I am not asking so that I can join them. I do not for a minute suppose I could carry it off. It would be a constant drain on my mental faculties. And how (a common worry, I am told) could I ever be sure persons liked me for myself, rather than my bank account?

Bite your nails to the quick, zillionaire personality (mostly from public funds) Hassan Basajjabalaba: skin and hides trader, University owner, real estate tycoon! Just this week, face wonderfully unencumbered with worry lines, he said he was holding on to two title deeds unless he was paid 100,000,000,000 (one hundred billion shillings). God bless my soul, that’s a great many new friends right there! How does he get away with it? Isn’t it high time we tried to find out?
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Death comes to all, and on New Year’s Day at around three in the afternoon it reached out for our brother, Christopher Tendo Nagenda, always known, the world over, as just Tendo.

Amazingly he would have been 65 in April; he seemed somehow much younger, when he was still well, perhaps because he had never “taken root” in any of the usual check list of what the majority of people go through. He never owned his own house, had very few personal possessions, his knowledge of a daily “9 – 5” was exceedingly fleeting, as was a long-term living experience with any companion, although he was briefly married, in Paris, to Gillian, an English lady at the British Embassy. He was always thin, but pitifully so after a ruinous stroke 18 months ago; he died looking 85. He was a wonderful friend to most, who will always remember him.

Few of us will ever forget Tendo. It was in cooking that he has left his real mark, whether in Oxford at a celebrated restaurant, in Paris, where at one of the Queen’s Birthday Parties he did some of the cooking; and, longest, in Uganda. Here he cooked mostly at friends’ parties (he was rightly famous for his Bouef Wellington – an American Ambassador said it was the best he had ever eaten); although it was an occasional risk that he and the host of the evening might over-dwell on the gin and tonic, with not fully expected results. His and others’ dreams that he would one day form a restaurant of his own never, alas, materialised.

Dear old Tendo, he was in many respects a one-off, not always easy to understand; may he now rest in eternal peace.

How to turn around a ship of state?

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