An odd juxtaposition of headlines in Uganda's Monitor shows a strange set of priorities on the paper, writes John Nagenda in New Vision. Don't they know that Britain no longer rules on Lake Victoria?
Headlines in Tuesday's Monitor clearly pointed to the storms currently buffeting that publication.Since I would never be branded amongst its most fervent admirers, I should be cheering as I used to when Mohammed Ali (65 this week!) in his pomp, and what pomp, knocked the living daylights out of a succession of opponents; a very enjoyable thing to do. But with Monitor my cheers at its continuing fall were surprisingly muted.Was I going senile or was it the sadness of seeing a comparative heavyweight crack up before your very eyes? Its main front page headline read: "British parliament discusses PRA case".Big deal! Directly underneath was a secondary one, in much smaller type: "Chief Justice asks govt to respect law". That was our CJ, not the British one.The first headline could have [dis]graced a lowly college rag without the batting of an eyelid. At that early age writers do not necessarily understand the slavishness, the deep lack of self respect, of an approach placing higher emphasis on a foreign body than on its own sovereign state.The expectation is that they will grow up and learn. But for a leading publication to gloat, to jeer, in this way is a perturbing spectacle. Where is its nationalistic pride, its sense of patriotism? Why its misplaced sniggering? Such questions should make the top Monitor leadership squirm with shame, wake up in deepest night covered in sweat.
But you are talking, alas, about those immune to such things. Then under the main headline comes the smaller one about Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki and his important statement. This reinforces the feeling that the publication holds our venerable Chief Justice in lower regard than a foreign parliament.
Does it consider a mere mention of a case in the British parliament of higher worth than the Chief Justice's statement? Does the Monitor labour under the delusion that Britain still rules the waves on Lake Victoria? Does the paper leadership even know what we are talking about here?
Pity rather than rage should be our reaction. But you have to wonder what will be the reaction of owner the Aga Khan, and his representatives, when they see the type of editorship their paper enjoys (if that's the right word).
What should make MD Conrad Nkutu and his top team fearful and frustrated is that the Monitor today is, over its full range, a better paper in many ways than in the days of Wafula Oguttu and Onyango Obbo, who tried to take on Government head to head, and fell.
Those close to Mr Nkutu, and there must be some, should point out to him the fate of that duo now kicking its heels in limbo: one with the irrelevant FDC, the other "exiled" in faraway Nairobi, doubtless crying his eyes out of an evening, longing to come back home. Sometimes more can be less.
But here is a funny thing. Life being what it is, I find myself sometimes missing that rascally twosome! Meanwhile, as if the sorry tale above were not enough to bring a wetness to the eye of all but the most heartless, the buffeting continues unabated.
In the Sunday Vision, Works and Transport Minister John Nasasira had laid into the luckless paper as if his life depended on it. Previously they had picked on him for a number of imaginary transgressions, which included what they saw as criminal negligence in unspent funds.
Through him, they railed against the whole Government, going as far as to thunder in a front page editorial that it was not fit to rule.
Nasasira saw Monitor's weak chin and blasted it with a four-page detailed punching, straight onto the ropes.
Lesson? Don't use lies and inaccuracies to attack your prepared enemy, for Works and Transport had all its facts and figures. Could we hope the same for other ministries?
Let's have some other kind of fun! In Thursday's Vision was an article where the Jinja municipality mayor advised his people to "produce children fast, in fact like rabbits".
This was so that Jinja's "dream of becoming a city [might materialise]." How? Use of drugs increased "the male sex drive and makes women's breasts firmer. That is enough to trigger massive reproduction and boost Jinja's population." I kid you not.
He was speaking in favour of drugs made by a Chinese company. Could this be, already, a direct spin-off from last year's China-Africa summit? And China is very far from the world's least populated nation. The mayor stopped there, but your columnist's imagination soared off!
If Jinjans produced like rabbits, what was to stop them looking like rabbits' progeny? Such as their noses twitching incessantly? And for those people who enjoy a bit of rabbit, in future wouldn't this make them rabbit cannibals?
No, Jinja friends, do not vote your mayor in next time! Which presupposes rabbits have the power of the vote. I have perused the Constitution on this subject, and nowhere has it ruled on it, whether for voters or candidates.
Looking around, it is perhaps too late to worry; especially with the regard in which the Speaker holds his flock! The mayor's name, incidentally, is Baswale (Let them be ashamed) Kezaala (The Little Thing Produced Himself). And you still don't believe in Chinese drugs?
Let me end on my best call of the week: being invited by James Tumusiime to launch a book of essays on the Rwanda massacre of 1994. It was most moving for me, despite Kofi Annan's failure in it to acknowledge personal responsibility.