You and I, Okello
Are like downtown Kampala
On a sunny Saturday
3 days to a school term opening


We become a din of madness
One nice chaos to another bad one
Stubbornly unwilling to sail across
The hordes of people
To the sea of forgiveness


We weave our way through somehow
Plant our feet firmly on the ground
And walk through the craziness
To what we seek
To what we are
To what we need
To the us we see
To what we want to be

We find us

©️ Laker Winfred L

My magic potions

You bedazzle me, Awobi!
You entertain my madness
Lit wiya ni pe ilworo
You love me kede like that

You awaken the genie in me
Ineno ber na that others don’t see
You see uncut diamond where I see nothing
You are one in 3,000 years

You are 0.89274 of 99%
A rare percentage occurrence
You are that flight of love to board
Lighting through the dark-dark skies

You are the unexpected expectations
A blank canvas nino ki nino
Iweko mar tek dok yot
Easy to love and hard to love
What is that even?

You make love interesting
You make love adventurous
You make love surprising
You make love annoying

Ituc ki kwene mono, kulu Nyagak?
Which winds brought you?
Which hills echoed you?
Which of my magic potions are you, Okello?

©️ Laker Winfred L

Karama is for Min Ot

Photo by Pixabay on

This Nalweyiso girl. She sends me subtle annoying text messages. Says I can keep the ring. While she keeps the man. She does not know who the real keeper of the man is. An. Me. Min Ot. People do not call me Min Ot pa Okello for nothing. I am the wife. She is the lineswoman. Always running on the touchline with a colored flag and awkward shorts. I am the Mrs. I keep the pitch and the game running. I am the one with the cards. An referee.

She doesn’t know that she is another of his fads I have decided to look away from; like his annoying love for Arsenal, fast cars, pig-hoof soup, electrical stuff we never use, and TNT movies.

She brags about how Okello has taken her to Ssese islands. But Okello and I have combed every inch of Kalangala; end to end. She brags about how they have gone to Amabeere Ganyinamwiru caves. But Okello and I have gone beyond the Zambezi, to the Mosioa-Tunya; The smoke that thunders or Victoria falls to the Waitomo Glow-worm caves!

She says he has kissed her under lush waterfalls of those wonders in Kabarole district. But I have been pinned by Okello against the Borassus trees of Kidepo and incoherent Luoglish things murmured against the back of my hot ears. Even yesterday he was murmuring words Luoglish against my warm beautiful Mucwini neck.

She says in her mingo text messages how he has asked her to be his official kachumbali. But what is kachumbali sincerely? What is it? Nyanya ma nyanya. Mere diced tomatoes laced with onions and, sometimes cilantro. An incomplete meal. Pe yengo dano. Not filling at all. Who gets a full belly from eating raw poorly squared tomatoes? Anga? Who?

She says he tells her am old. That I refuse to dye my greys. That my zing is zanged. That I am a lunatic that wont give him peace. That he’s with me pien lotino tye. That he is stuck because of the kids. Ni if the children didn’t look like him and that I was threatening to take them, the house and our very many investments, he would have left long ago.

She insists in her messages that he will leave me once the kids grow out of kindergarten and Junior reaches senior six. That he is with me because his mother wont let him leave me. That the Mothers’ union are on my side, always saying witchcraft prayers that work. The by-fire-by-thunder kind. That I have dried myself and refused to leave the house even when he mistreats me.

Eeh eeh eeh my Lord I wonder! Eeh! Those lies! Who believes them? I cannot believe she is that blond headed to believe those lines! Okello has told them. His father has told them. His granduncle has told them. His cousin has told them! His forefathers have told them. It’s the lies coo spin. Heck, it’s a generational lie. Abrahamic! The I am only there for the children lie. The some-leg lie.

She thinks I am stupid by provoking me this month. Aming ku ba. I am not. She thinks wanga pe. But I have eyes. She thinks I am not woke enough to notice she wants my December. Ento my eyes are open. I am not playing with December. Not this month. No way. Hapana. All my Karama cards are held to my chest. I am working right. I am playing smart. I am a Pro at this. I didn’t come into this marriage to play. I came to stay. To have my Okello all December.

Nalweyiso doesn’t know that when you decide to settle for a Cwaa mon alwak; a man whose penchant for side women is like a lizard and lazing in the morning sun, you know your angle. You learn when to fix your shade and work him to your corner. You plot all year. You plot for your children. You plot for yourself. You plot alone. You plot with your friends. You plot with your mother. You plot with your mother-in-law even when you don’t like her. You plot for your happiness. It’s plot after plot after plot until he retires.

You angle your way through every single day in the jungle that your marriage is. You drive through it like a smart but mad Kampala driver going through panyas-panyas and racing on the wrong lane, pavements, and parking on the kerb near the mall when totally unnecessary. Sometimes you are like a crazy Subaru driver raving mad through Jinja road oblivious of that Police station opposite the car shop. You learn things. You do things. Strange things.

In December, arweyo Okello like a new born baby is massaged with moo yaa by a Luo grandmother. I will not pick fights i dog Karama. Adegi. I wont. December is for letting him know he means the world to me. It is when I am at my best behavior and he is at his kindest and most romantic. It is when we reconnect after a crazy year. We are all loving and caring this month as if Christ is preparing to be born in our very backyard. We are at our happiest. And no latin anyaka is going to ruin that.

I will deal with that little aweno brained Makerere girl with fake eyelashes growing on her forehead in those lousy months of July and August when there are no public holidays and I am totally idle. I will reply her messages in September when my year is done fitting in the calendar, fees are cleared, and my Christmas budget is fully funded.

Besides, that kiss at Amabeere Ganyinamwiru or not, Okello returns to me every night. and runs his fine Luo hands through my greys. This anyaka pwaa-ne nono. She is paa-paaring for nothing. Her being all over the place is a waste. She doesn’t know that i nino Karama kany, us we will wear matching Kitenge; from kids to grandparents to godparents. We will go to the St. Stephen’s church of Uganda, perch ourselves on the part of the pew labeled Donated by Okello & family for lega me cawa angwen. That 10am service. While she, Nalweyiso, incessantly checks into that iPhone of hers for the next 45 days until February or until the next Miss Fake lashes topples her. Okello will be off the grid.

December megwa, me and Okello. It’s when we show up and show off as a couple. Dwe me Apararyo wa poro odenge. We play heavily into our rainbow of hypocrisy. When you have decided to be with a laco ma wange tar, a man with shiny amorous eyes, you need to know how to play with your script. You don’t goad the king but praise him; like Queen Makeda did.

December is beautiful. Dry. Sunny. Dusty as heck but beautiful because I have the ring, the man, the holidays, the kids, and Christmas. Me and Okello wa aa kama bor. We come a long-long way. He has his ways. I have my ways. We have our ways. Nalweyiso doesn’t know. She will never know. But Christmas; Karama with Okello is mine. Karama pa Min Ot. Christmas belongs to the wife. Like it or not, it is.

PS: This is a work of fiction ojone!

Merry Christmas!

By Laker Winfred L

When her Chi is dancing Myel-lyel

Growing up, there were days when you would feel ignored. Extremely ignored by the adult of your affection in the homestead. The neck of the house. The human whose core is the center of your happiness. Your mother. If she was happy, you were happy. If she was sad, you were sad.

If her Chi was in a turbulent mood, the entire household would be inside out. There would be a heaviness that everyone stayed away from because of lworo. Fear. And most times you would not be able to pinpoint the cause of this judu. Her brooding.

She would pout dangerously from the eye of the morning while mindlessly sweeping the chicken coop. We all knew yweyo cet gweno was usually left to the boys. So the day she did it meant a storm was gathering. Close.

You would go about your given chores and do them to perfection. Your bed would be laid out neatly like the dormitory matron at your boarding school-St Magdalene insisted on. You would be at your best behavior and remain spotlessly clean all day. All the while wondering why you are being ignored.

You would ditch your mates and give the one who was sent to ask you to join in the day’s play that look like he carried the worst plaque. A two-gemo. Not happy with the messenger, they, your friends, would all gather at your house, to check if you had caught the malaria again. Or anyo; since there was a measles outbreak anyway.

You being clean and clothed in your best garb all day long meant you were heading to Ot Yat Madit (the Referral hospital), Ot yat Mission (that Catholic hospital run by the Italians), or visiting your father’s favorite sister somewhere in Kitgum Quarters. Your family always dressed well for hospital, for a visit to your auntie’s home, and on nino Uhuru. This day would be different though. You were clean but going nowhere.

You would tell them; your friends, that you weren’t playing that day. Then, crestfallen, head back indoors. You would sit at the corner of the children’s side of the family red-almost-maroon-beaten-down sofa like your uptight cousin Peter does every time he visits.

A series of questions would race through your mind about what was bothering your mother as your bottom sinks into the softness of the sofa.

Is this about the bowl Adaa gave her on their wedding day that you broke last Uhuru? Is it about the stone you intentionally threw at Peter’s uptight head and he had to get 5 stitches from Ot Yat madit? Is it about the time her best friend visited and you hang around the cupboard too much, eavesdropping on their gossip?

Is it about the time you fractured your right arm and couldn’t do exams from school and the kind class teacher Baba didn’t like had to bring the exams to your hospital bed? Has she found out that you know that she and her best friend lace their tea with arege ?

Is it about not cleaning the dishes to precision like she always wants? Have you run out of your year’s pardons already? What did you do?

You would shuffle through your list of misdeeds wondering which one was causing her distress for a second time. You would find none and look outside your box of mischief to your father’s. He had many of those. Well, according to your mother.

You would ask yourself again. Why is Mama giving me the silent treatment today?

Is Baba over drinking arege again? Is he spending more time at the Tee Okutu drinking joint and putting all his salary on kongo arege doki? Or is it about that secret trip he made to Gulu?

You remember how she went and beat up the owner of that Tee Okutu bar once and pray it’s not that. Because the last time that happened, she was in a mood for a whole month and kept mumbling in song that Jesus was her husband and the father of all her children while your Baba tiptoed around the home like a lost thief. And your friends kept teasing you about it for a whole school term.

Is Baba hanging out with Mukungu Omona again? Your mother has called him that-good -for-nothing-drunk-who-ruins-people’s homes countless times. Your home is not ruined. Your friends’ homes aren’t ruined. Mukungu Omona’s home isn’t ruined. So you wonder how does that art of ruining homes. But your mother is always right. So he must be a ruiner of homes somehow.

You continue to wonder off in thought of how Mama and Amaa (your grandmother) never get along. Amaa loathes your mother. Your mother loathes Amaa. Your mother says she’s a bad mother-in-law. Your grandmother says your Mama is a bad wife. You are all used to it. They are always at logger heads. It’s like that callus; that acany on your toe the good Dakta said is harmless. But it’s there anyway. It makes wearing shoes uncomfortable sometimes. But you still wear shoes on Easter.

The only glue between your Mama and your Amaa is you and your siblings. Apart from that, these two women are never nice to each other. There is always a frightening cold war between them, except for where you are concerned. So they tolerate each other under one roof because they all love you intensely.

But today you don’t feel so loved. Your mother is upset over something. Something you can’t put a finger on. And your grandmother is a distant storm afraid of the wind. She is evasive today. She has been sitting under the mango tree all morning, her back to the house. Your siblings aren’t home either. You are alone in this today. Itye keni.

You keep wondering and wondering. Itamo hard. Matek. All day you are caught up in this space of worry. Of par. You want to find the cause and treat it. But it eludes you. You want to talk to your Mama, but she is not in the mood. She is like this thorn in your foot whose location you cannot pinpoint.

You have spent a whole important 12 hours of your school holiday wondering what went wrong. Why is Mama like this today? What have I done again? Did I put too much sugar in my tea again? Is it about the torn shirt yesterday? What is it this time? What did I do? What did Amaa say now? Baba dok otimo ngo? Why is she like this tin? Is it the neighbor’s goat again? What is going on?

Then suddenly she comes breezing through the living room door like the sun after the dark clouds have moved from underneath the eyes of its rays. That evil shadow of darkness has left her space. She is a floating happy cloud! Her Chi is dancing larakaraka now, not the sad myel-lyel; the grieving dance it was doing earlier. When her Chi is dancing myel-lyel nothing good happens.

She enters the room and finally notices you. Smiles and compliments you on being such a wonderful and clean child today. Brilliant kid. She asks where your siblings are and says you can go play outside with your friends. “You have been cooped up all day in that corner like a sick chicken. Go out so the wind blows on you. Wek yamo okuti” she quips brightly.

You get up. Confused. But happy. The worrying for the day is over. You cannot put a finger on things. These adults confuse you most times. Their ways are weird. You smile back at her with your full upper mapengo in view and head for the door.

“Here” she says as she hands you a mug with steaming millet porridge. The aroma wafting off is of tamarind and odii. “Take this nyuka kal to your grandmother before she tells the whole clan that I intend to starve her to death” she adds as she leaves you with the mug of hot porridge. You are still confused but take the porridge to Amaa.

Your Amaa is still gazing blankly into space, her back stiff with resistance. She does that when your mother is upset over things other than her. She smiles at you and receives the porridge. She says “Apwoyo Coogo na. Since she gave it to you to bring, it’s not poisoned. Come. Tell me. Has the dark cloud left her yet? I am tired of sitting under this tree. I need to move to the verandah”

You nod in excitement. She rises up. You fold the mat she’s been sitting on as she picks up her walking stick, her porridge in the other hand. And you all get going towards the verandah. You are back to the happy child again.

This is how I generally feel when heading home on a heavy traffic day and the powpow have finally let my lane through after a long unexplained one hour plus forced delay. Why they do this beats me.

You can be ignored and not let through for one solid hour. And you will see 4 or 5 of them chatting away while one incessantly blows the whistle beckoning those heading out of town to Entebbe, Nsambya, Namwongo, Kabalagala, and wherever like these places are loaded with Jadeite and the entire continent’s survival depends on it.

I just wish this would stop, especially in the evenings. I know they are clearing the city but hey, we all are heading home somehow after a long day. Help us cross too. On time. That wait is not fun. Aren’t we all valued citizens?

Yeah, I know. This whole thing was about certain routes being ignored most times during heavy traffic.

By Laker Winfred L


Back in the day in Chua county Mucwini. Around that time when Oxfam came and helped rid us of Guinea worm; two choo. Before the war pa Abiro came and we had to go all the way to Lubone through Paloga as oring-ayela. Refugees…….

Before Alice Lakwena took our fathers to war and some never came back. Before the herds of cattle, goats, sheep, and not the pigs were ruthlessly taken away by the Karamojong cattle rustlers from our lands……

Before Kony came and forcefully took our children from school and the safety of our homes and butchered our brothers and sisters. Before the displaced persons’ camp forced us out of our wide homesteads……. 

Before the tarmac road came traversing through Mucwini. Before the nodding disease infested the lives of our young. Before our sons got possessed by the need to play karata by the roadside, those matatu card games. And before the kongo saket was discovered. Before our men started to indulge in adulterated organ stopping liquor in sachets…….

…………………………………….the sunset signified many things……………………………….

It meant the lads of the home were soon returning from Kulu Olee or Kulu Aringa from their evening bath. They would return with lak-yen or logs of dry wood for the wang oo fire. They would then go ahead and make the evening fire for the family to gather around.

It meant the lad in charge of tending to the cattle for the week was just about done milking the cows and leaving the calves to spend the night with their mothers. It meant he was about to bring a jar of fresh frothy milk from the kraal. He would present it to the matriarch of the family. My grandmother Min Amoo or Maaa as we called her.

Maa would summon all her grandchildren from the wives of her sons she loved and the wives she didn’t love so much, and any other child passing through our homestead, for the mandatory evening fresh milk drink.

It was her favorite evening routine for days she wasn’t too blazed from drinking kongo arege. Waragi. The local potent gin that was mostly made by one of my aunties. My father didn’t like them brewing arege in the homestead, but still they did. Stubborn sisters are like that.

Upon being summoned by Maa, we would gather around her. We would each take our turn to drink from the jar. You guessed right. The milk would be drank the way it came out of the min dyang’s cak. It was taken without it reaching near any form of heat. Raw and organic it was.

It would also be the time she reminds us that the milk with all its bwoyo or “frothy-ness” was good for our health. That it was best not boiled. At this time when the sun was setting was not the best time to upset her. It was not the time to disobey your grandmother. We knew only to go with the flow. So we took our turn gulping from the milk jar; the fresh froth leaving white creamy circles around our mouths, a mark on faces pale from the day’s running around.

The sunset meant we were about to have our dinner of cak ma wach ma ki nyobo ki layata; sour milk mixed with mashed sweet potatoes or boiled pumpkin mashed with ground-nut odii. Sometimes it would be lajayi and on a great day anyeri! That grasscutter rodent is quite a delicacy. And yes us of north proudly enjoy that!

The sunset was a time to do a mental head count for the girls in the family. The day you allowed the sun to set before you were home unaccompanied by an older relative would mean trouble. First, you would have a lot of explaining to do, with the eldest boy of the family doing the kind of FBI interrogation.

He would stoke the embers in the evening fire, eyes halfway open with an unreadable expression and ask these closed ended questions he would make them sound like open ended ones. And you would get caught along your teenage lies.

On a fairly good day you would be spared the rod. On others you would be beaten. On a terrible day when the kac was not on your side and you had exceeded your limit of pardons, you would be asked to go back to the idiot that made you reach home late.

That’s how some people would elope. You would get tired of this kind of questioning knowing that he is also responsible for some girl reaching their home late. You would realize you need to be with your lover forever and just head back to him. Sometimes it would end in a luk, then keny, then happy babies. Sometimes it would end with you coming back home.

The sun’s going to bed set pace for evening events. So many stories would be told. Tales about obibi, apwoyo, hyena, ladenge, the general events of the day and the plans for the next day, and the future would be brought to life through stories.

Above all, it was the beginning of a routine, a ritual, when all family members gathered around the fireplace, shared the evening meal and the elders passed on life’s lessons, as the young listened wide eyed.

That’s where we learnt to respect the elders and not interfere when they talked, learnt to listen, learnt about the stars, the position of the moon, family bloodline, whose family not to marry into, dreams, herbs, how to mind your own business, and to keep time among others!

The Wang oo was an important aspect of our lives. It was where we learned and got chastised. It was where we loved and loved back. It was where we disagreed and agreed. It was where we laughed and cried. It was where we passed on family recipes and traditions. It was where we got discipline and disciplined. We mourned and danced around the Wang oo.

May we keep the Wang oo alive. May we keep our traditions alive. May we keep passing life’s lessons to the generation after us best way we can like the Wang oo no matter where we are. May we have a Wang oo of our own to share and love around.

May the sunset have more meaning in its rare orange for us. May the sunset bring forth our Wang oo.

By Laker Winfred L

Electricity shenanigans

Every neighborhood has that one influential person. Ours is Jedekaya. We call him Jedii, with the double “i” intensely pronounced. I don’t know how the “e” was dropped. Don’t ask me.

His friends call him Jed. But if you came to our village on a hot Sunday afternoon looking for Jed, we will point you to the next hot village. Until our last Uhuru service we didn’t know this Jed version. It’s the good Reverend that announced that our influencer is called Jed by his friends. Still, someone will point you to the next village. Not all of us are Sunday church goers.

These past few days has been a mix of no electricity, dim electricity, and no electricity. This doesn’t happen when our Jedii is present. He is certainly not around because this hide and seek game electricity is playing would not be.

He must have merely gone to the kyaro to have his uncle Mukungu released from the local prison. Mukungu’s wife, Min Jok has probably been persistently beeping Jedii. Then, when he returns her call, wailing incessantly in between mumbled talk she asks him to have her Mukungu released, saying he is going to die in prison if he is not freed before Christmas. She does this in between heavy sobs. It’s a routine.

The rich man knows grannies like Min Jok just don’t give up. Like the lady in the Bible that kept badgering the king, their persistence is annoying. The Reverend read us this story from the good book once.

Jedii has decided to go to the village and have Mukungu released. Last thing he wants is upsetting the mother of twins; Min Jok. Hence our phase of darkness. When Jedii is away, electricity goes with him. When he is around, electricity stays.

See Mukungu is a man who likes to test his nephew’s limits. He enjoys pushing boundaries beyond his coop. He will take every thing from a poor widow and her children. If he must. Big leech that one. He believes what belongs to his departed brother belongs to him. Not to the widow and orphans.

He would have stripped Jedii’s mother, and her children of their inheritance had it not been for the firm presence of the local Ot court, St. Stephen Waribe Widows’ group, the Village council, the young sub county chief with a law degree, the retired Deputy Police chief, and the local Judge in Jedii’s village.

These stakeholders, and all other manner of odds have been weighing heavily on the other side of Mukungu’s greed scale. From the day his dear brother passed he has wanted his brother’s estate. Before his brother was put in a casket, he had already taken a mental note of the assets. And before St. Peter had time to find the departed‘s name in the big book of life, Mukungu had made his intentions known.

Good thing the cherubs never sleep on the job. So, nothing has ever balanced off for Mukungu. Well, nothing ever does until Min Jok makes that one phone call.

Because the clan, the Police, the prayers of the widows’ group, the Ot court, the young sub county chief, and LC won’t let him have his way with his late brother’s estate; he has made it his life mission to stress Jedii’s mother. And messing with her means angering her kids. Hence the many times Jedii has put Mukungu in jail.

When his nephew decided to do some work on some acres of land, Mukungu was irate. He went crazy like the dry season fires. First, he quarreled with no one in particular and then went to the Trading center drink hole to announce his intentions.

Jedii planted teak, pine, and eucalyptus trees.

One fine Tuesday, in the middle of the dead night, Mukungu went to the tree farm; uprooted the baby teak trees before their first birthday, moved the 3-month-old pine trees, and set the 3-year-old eucalyptus trees on fire.

Jedii was livid and had Mukungu jailed. That wasn’t the first time.

It’s this cycle of events. Mukungu moves the boundary stone of Mama Jedii’s shamba. Mama phones Jedii. Gives him these lose ended cues in a long paragraph about his uncle. Says her pressure is up again. She can’t feed the chickens properly. The ducks won’t fly in a peaceful single file anymore. Her feet hurt like the other time. And she can’t weed her spinach in peace.

She will go like……..

Yes, the headaches are back. The goat cheese I have been attempting to make with the Widows’ group was an absolute fail. The cows have that brutal cough again. I may have that sugar disease Min Jok has, Jedii. Yes, the rabbits gave birth again, the Angora ones. Those creatures nyal tutwal, they are too busy populating. Tell your wife the ones I sent are not to be petted but cooked into rabbit stew with chilli or odii. You should bring that rabbit sausage machine this weekend. No. I don’t know what to do with that acidic man Mukungu

She is stressed. And that upsets Jedii.

Jedii phones the police chief. Police chief calls the constable who looks for Mukungu, takes him to write a statement, and charges him for disturbance of the peace.

6 weeks Mukungu is away in prison. The village is a quiet peaceful existence. Until his old kind wife Min Jok pays him a visit. She misses him. He begs her to call Jedii. Promises to keep it together this last time.

She makes the call. Wails on the phone-incessantly. Jedii calls the judge. Judge releases Mukungu. Mukungu then forgets after 6 months. Disturbs the widow again and is sent back to jail. It’s as predictable as the wheel of a bicycle.

So because our influential person is away handling Mukungu and burnt eucalyptus, electricity at our place goes off over the slightest of things. Just a ka dull-dull thunder rolling from 1000 kilometers away in the skies and jwich! Power goes off!

Now yesterday it was a confused cloud hanging about aimlessly in the skies. The kind that is not sure whether it should rain in Kumbuzi or those ends of Kisaasi. And this unsure aimless floating of the December nimbus got us switched off.

Sometimes it’s a small cloud. A baby cloud; the size of the bottom of a one-day old tot. Not dark gray, but the angry and threatening kind. This thing will just peep below, and power will go off. I mean how can something as small as a lanyuru’s pwol be harmless?

The turning off of this mac thing must be manual. The chap responsible must be some tired human. The kind of employee that has done the same role for 40 solid years, wants respect, feeds on self importance and couldn’t care less.

He has seen the electricity institution from when it was a kiosk on Old Kiira Rd, and power was rationed, and generators were the norm in towns far from source of the Nile to now when people don’t have to go to the electricity office to queue for the purpose of paying for electricity.

When he hears distant rumblings, he will lazily press the off button and go back to his nap no matter what time of day it is. When he sees a distant lightening sliding across the horizon, he will press that red button down and go back to tuning his ka small old raspy oloyo lwiyo radio so as to listen to the Arsenal game. Never mind their position in the EPL.

Gone are the days when we used to brag about our neighborhood having constant power despite its remoteness. We used to tell our friends and anyone who cared to listen that apart from the dust, cold, and puddle filled potholes, electricity disappearing was the least of our problems.

Those days, whenever power would go off, you would count to 5 and bam, it would be back. If it went to 6, you would leave your seat go check the neighbors to the east, west, south, north, upstairs, downstairs, and scan the rich people’s hills of Ntinda, Najjeera, and Kyanja.

If the entire place was in darkness, you would rule it as a general thing and go find your solar lamp. If not, you would check your Yaka just to be sure and check the battery percentage on your phone.

You would get off social media because your phone is showing 2% and you couldn’t tell when the switch guy will get off obsessively tuning his raspy senile oloyo lwiyo radio.

On a bad day, your solar lamp will last a few minutes and start blinking. This, because you weren’t mindful enough to check during the week whether it was charging. And because you forgot the sun was hitting the window from another angle since it is December.

The solar lamp eventually blacks out. You remember you have an old power bank somewhere. You locate it, plug your phone to its beaten side. The two connect! You’re elated! But your victory dance doesn’t last long. The two disconnect because, again, you didn’t charge the power bank.

So you start this redundant and unproductive touch game with the power bank. You press the on button. It comes on. Your phone springs to life. A few seconds it goes off. You give it a minute. Turn it on again. Phone springs to life, well until your power bank tires of this nonsense and goes off for good.

That’s when you realize you should just go to bed. You turn those switches you have been hoping you won’t-off. You unplug your charger from the socket. Collect your angry self and go to bed. As soon as you put your bottom on that bed, you see light.

The entire neighborhood is lit including your kitchen. You want to give up and go to bed, but then you realize the series you were watching is probably still on. So, you go back. Turn the TV on. Then, you see those white tiny sentences going up. Even the Nigerian movie you had stumbled upon has the “In God we trust” line plastered across the Telly.

You are a trouper. You decide to watch the next movie on the line up but before you sit power goes off!

You just pick your tired self and go to bed. You take a mental note to add a prayer request; that Jehovah sends the neighborhood more Jediis who hate the noisy generators and don’t like solar energy to your neighborhood.

You also pray for them to have no deranged and acerbic uncles to attend to when you need electricity.

By: Laker Winfred L

PS: Oloyo lwiyo in Acholi refers to a something far better than whistling.

Cwara Mara

Photo by Taryn Elliott on

Dear Future Husband,

Once upon a time, in Gulu town; long before we became a city, long before our dirt roads got lined with thick layers of tarmac and solar lights lit our nights, before they mended the walls around Pece stadium, renamed, and fenced it off, there was a lela, a type of bicycle, baskili called Cwara Mara.

All women short, tall, wide, round, skinny, dark, Mirinda yellow, and Pepsi dark knuckled loved by their men had those in Gulu town. Their husbands bought them those bicycles. It was a key sign of love and affection for their wives.

It was a fine kind of bicycle. It wasn’t those sport bikes Luo boys like to walk around with aimlessly while wooing a girl. No. They were special. Original. Feminine. Medium sized. They came with their crossbars bent inwards between the frames; so the ladies would easily get onto the seats without their dresses and knees being lifted way too high above a certain degree.

You should have seen how those women rode those things! There was pride in every push of the pedal. The hand bag or purse would be nicely placed in the front carrier. Sometimes Junior or Abigail, their youngest, most loved and adorable tot would be perched on the back carrier. And this baby would instinctively hold onto their mother’s waist as the mother rode through town to run whatever errand took her to the town that Gulu sunny day.

So I was wondering, as we continue debating about my love for scientific things, the new taxes coming upon us, ridiculous requests and insane opinions, whether you could be so kind as to get me one of them Cwara-maras? They are still on the market, you know.

I don’t want a Roadmaster. That thing is too high and I am not that tall. I can’t be seen trying to master the potholes on our roads in these times with cars zooming past and crazy bodaBs every where. No Lapal-Cwinya. No Love. A Cwara-mara is like a Vitz and can be ridden in the tinniest of spaces. It will work better.

See, Ladit Lobo the other year said he was going to yabo a lela faktori kany. Yes, the Big Man said he was considering opening us a bicycle factory. Imagine that Awobi! Just imagine! A bicycle minting factory on our lands! Ka terwa kany! In our country! Do you even know how much fuel money and the part of the stratosphere we shall save?

I would have loved to be one of the first to get a locally made one. It would really be cool Awobi. You would stand out proud and tall amongst your kin and drinking mates Cwara as one of the first Luos to get his Min Ot a Cwara mara lela.

But you know our things in this Pearl nation; they take time, campaigns, supplementary budgets, re-elections, contractors, arrests, foreign traders, money misallocation, retreats, debates, this, that and the other before things get onto the cogs. It will take long Awobi. Long before a bicycle factory is built here.

So get me a lela Cwara-mara made from anywhere in the world. I will ride the thing with the pride of a Mucwini lioness! All the neighbors and those who care to listen will know ni you’re the most compliant citizen of this nation. Ni imara loyo ringo abula, beer Bell, and Arsenal combined. They will know that you love me more than roast meat!

I will ride with awaka madit my Love! I will ride with my neck extended those ends like those of a woman loved intensely by cware and let all the women of Pece Vanguard know. If we have to extend the awaka to Te-gwana I will! Pe abe leyo wii! Abe pilo wii mapaaaat! I shall make you proud, Awobi, with every step on the pedal.

The President says it’s healthy and safe in these times to ngwec ki lela. That instead of sitting for hours on end in taksis we should start riding baskilis and walking. He showed us how to do exercises from our ot namo the other year. He even showed us the importance of lela on a farm the other-other year.

He says it’s possible I could ride the lela all the way to Matuuga from Kampala. Just imagine that? Just imagine! After all that riding, I would be too tired to nag or fight with you over my Zee world episodes, your annoying football reruns, BBC Africa things, those fast running cars Louis Hamilton competes in, the Telly remote or my Telemundo rants by the time I reach home.

Think about it Lawi-awobe! Think about it! There will be no more arguments about transport money ka iwila lela, Wod Luo. I will just pedal to wherever you are or wherever I got to be! No more transport money needed.

Wila lela keken and part of our problems will be history! Buy me a Cwara Mara bicycle.


An ki gen

Your most delicious Malakwang

Part of the statistics

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By Laker Winfred L

I regret joking about it. Covid19. I shouldn’t have. But I did and it was one of my regrets last year. I still remotely feel bad for throwing jokes around in relation to this virus when it had just started spreading. This thing came to our world, put us on our knees and savagely took people we knew, loved, laughed with, communed with, and cared about. It turned our world upside down. We are still trying to turn it right back up.

Around January of 2020 there was an outbreak of flu at my workplace and around the country. I kept saying we had already got the virus every time there was talk about Covid. Then I had this weird theory that these flus never reach our territory. It’s for the Bazungu, Indo, Sino and Oriental regions. They get hit by the flu the most and have to take flu shots. Us here, flu is not a big deal. Little did I know that in less than 10 months from those theories I would be a victim of the virus! Talk of poetic justice!

When the Ugandan government made the announcement about patient zero, I started to worry. I got scared too but still didn’t expect to catch the virus. I intently listened to the announcements and decided to carefully follow the SOPs being advised.

I was very serious at the beginning. I sanitized, washed my hands vigorously at every opportunity, wore a mask, avoided social gatherings, drank herbal teas and took myself to work.

When the news of the first lockdown came, I was ready to stay in doors. And indoors I did stay until my bones started to literally pain. I was not working out at all yet that was something I did more than 5 times a week. Still I watched where I went and kept reading information on the virus and the signs and symptoms. I started to avoid visiting friends too.

When the spread of the virus got contained, I relaxed and pretty much went back to my old way of doing things. I wore a mask only when using public transportation and in spaces I didn’t trust. Soon we all sort of slacked as the government loosened things a little.

Mid October I got a relief work assignment along Entebbe road. I ditched public transportation and started to drive to work. The assignment went on up to the middle of November.

A week or so to the 17th of November 2020 I started to feel weird. My head was persistently aching. It was a mild distant headache that wouldn’t leave me be. I thought the lenses for the glasses to correct my myopia were the cause of the headaches so I made a dash to the Optician and had them replaced. Nothing changed. The headaches got worse.

Soon I started to feel fatigued and promptly attributed it to the long 40 kilometer daily commute, being stuck in the Kampala traffic gridlock, and the workload at the time. I wasn’t thinking of the virus. And this is the period where the only interactions I had was with the people at work. I had fully stocked the house with supplies and avoided areas I thought would expose me to the virus. I expected not to get the virus.

The headaches got worse and the fatigue turned to body pain. I got serious aches to the bone coupled with chills. Insomnia moved in. I got red itchy eyes. My throat was a sore irritation. And my nose was on fire. I love food. I really do but my appetite was gone. I have gone through bouts of malaria, typhoid, got hit by brucellosis and at some point in my teenage years got bilharzia but even through these illnesses, I ate food without a hustle. My appetite was always intact. But this time, I didn’t want food. Still it didn’t dawn on me. Sigh!

By the time my relief assignment came to an end, I was exhausted, edgy and my temper a ticking time bomb. I reported back to base on a Thursday and struggled through work. I thought it was the fatigue and I would be better by Monday.

Monday came and I started to see things. I was having hallucinations. I was delirious and more angry at nothing in particular. I was afraid too. Remotely I was aware that I had the virus. I could feel my energy slowly slipping away like a dodgy lover. My throat was a mess. My chest hurt. My sight was horrible like a bat’s. I had these phases of fever and chills. The headache was a complete equation of painful prominence. And my nose this time was like a piece of Hades was incubating a nest of imps in it.

I texted a doctor friend and told him what was going on. He was honest enough to tell me that I most definitely had the virus and would have to go get help at the hospital. I called our Wellness Specialist and shared my fears with him. He pointed me in the direction I should go to get tested and all. I started to literally tell people to stay away from me and my desk. A little too late if you ask me. But I kept telling them to stay away from me anyway.

I left early that day for home and the taxi trip was horrible. I was tired, weak, sick, sleepy as hell, and seeing things. I still wrote the virus off. I kept saying, Maybe it’s malaria. No, I took milk the other day, could be brucellosis again. I also took that juice whose source I don’t know so it could be typhoid fever.

Tuesday morning was the day of reckoning. I woke up with a bad stomach and stayed on the potty for close to half an hour. Still I refused to let it sink in. As I was brushing my teeth I suddenly realized there was no fluoride in the Colgate toothpaste. The previous night it did have.

I sniffed the toothpaste and nothing! No smell! I tried the bathing soap, nada! No scent whatsoever. I started to panic. I rushed out of the bathroom and tried 3 separate bottles of perfume. Zilch! Nothing! Couldn’t smell a darn thing! Lotion maybe? Nope! That too was a blunt scentless thing!

The feeling of having completely no sense of taste and smell was very scary. Extremely numbing fear is what I felt. It was this blank space of painful confusion and shocking realization that such a thing actually exists. It’s at this point that I accepted the reality presented to me that fine morning and decided to head out to the hospital for a test.

I sat down on the bed and sent an email to work that I wouldn’t be going in and that I may have the virus. Thoughts, wild and intense ran through my mind on how this news would be taken in at work. Would I be blamed? Would I be looked at as the one that brought the virus to work? The careless one? The negligent one? The one that broke the seal of safety? The one that decided to mix with everyone else yet she knew she had the symptoms? You can only imagine the answers.

Those who got Covid19 in 2020 will tell you how the stigma was rife then. It was raw and heavy. You could feel it in the gazes, in the around-the-corner-hushed toned gossip, talks going on in the corridors, conversations online, and all. The grapevine was churning headline after headline of the victims. I was already afraid of this. Very. I was afraid of cimo tok. Stigma. Before I even got to hospital.

I called the insurance healthcare provider who advised I get a referral from a doctor first before heading out to a specific hospital to get tested. Oh, and we aren’t going to pay for the test. We don’t cover that she said. But what’s money when you are dead? I just told the lady on the phone that I was gladly going to pay for the test. I want to live. There were like 3 or 4 places only doing the tests at the time.

In between my journey to the hospital I cheekily wondered whether I would be able to know the feeling of real Acholi chicken against my tongue again. Or whether molokony soup laced with chili and nicely boiled cassava would taste the same.

I went to a clinic nearby for the said referral. While there I maintained my distance and when I went in to see the doctor and told her what I needed, she was explosive and mad that I had showed up there. Where else was I supposed to go? Jupiter? To the moon or the stars for a referral? Come on!

She gave begrudgingly me the referral anyways and off I went.

When I reached this private hospital I thought I would find a specific tent meant for only those suspected of having Covid19 but waaah! It was a kayoola affair with literally no social distancing. We had our masks on fine but people were mixing themselves like porridge.

Patients were being wheeled off, someone was taking his wife and new born child home, someone with their 80 something year old granny were waiting to go for a procedure, the askari with his gun on his left hand and a chit on his right was scanning for the owner of the red Vitz who had blocked the arrogant owner of the black TX with red plates and was desperate to leave, plus a lot more.

At the reception there were a number of us. I could tell there were those testing so they can get out of the country and go back home, there were those testing because they had to go abroad for health reasons, work and stuff, and then there was me; waiting to confirm the obvious.

I did the usual paper work and was told to wait. It was 9am but the lady at the reception was already pissed. I keep wondering why people at hospital receptions are always not in the mood to smile. Anyways……

My turn to see the doctor came and we had the usual; When did it start? Oh! Sorry. Open your mouth. Stick out your tongue. Open your eyes. Let me check your ears. The headaches, are they frontal or like a migraine? Fever? Hmmmmm. And you have been having trouble sleeping as well? Any body pain? Oh, aches and chills instead? So your nose feels bigger than usual? It’s on “fire” you say? Is it runny or stuffy? Blocked. I see. Most unfortunate but treatable. Do you have a history of rhinosinusitis (blank stare from me), I mean Sinusitis? You do. Ok. What did you last eat? Open your mouth again please. That potty situation you mentioned; was it loose? No? Just air? Ok, runny.

And he went back to his desk and typed all these things in there. After this most vital Q&A session, he decided to send me to the lab for a calvary of tests to be sure he said, on top of the other test that took me there.

The line at the laboratory was long as hell’s. In my myopic bubble I always thought high end hospitals barely had queues. I imagined those things of lining up to see a doctor or waiting for hours by the laboratory door was a thing only patients going to government hospitals experienced. That day changed my perception. These queues are everywhere kumbe. And I liked it here because those jumping of queue nonsense some boisterous Ugandans like was not allowed.

While waiting I posted something on my timeline about a first born challenge that was going on at the time on Facebook. I was trying to crack myself up instead of breaking down. Sometimes, some Ugandans like me will joke about something when we are at our lowest to lighten things up. We try to find humor in the midst of our pain. We will joke about it as we ponder on the way forward. That was the time for me. I didn’t know what was coming but I chose to pick humor from another aspect of my life.

I finally got called into the first lab meant for the to-rule-out-anything-else-that-might-bebothering-you tests. Man, it took forever to get there! This lab wait ojone! After, I headed to the section where the tests for Covid was being done. They had cordoned off a section of the waiting area for this.

I was welcomed into this space, closed off by light blue curtains reaching up to the ceiling as if to prohibit the virus from creeping out through the ceiling. I was motioned to take a sit in this fancy coffee brown leather chair which I thought was odd to be in such a place. Our ordinary plastic chairs would have sufficed, I said to myself.

Either it was the state of mind and health I was in or something because I miscalculated the measure of distance between the motion of my body, weight of my sitting quarters, and the seat. I literally crash landed into the thing. Too soft and too comfy! What kind of hospital is this? Whatever happened to the cold metal chairs with tiny holes in? I mused.

Soon the Clinical officer was ready with those oddly long slim looking swab. I kept asking him all these questions as he was wearing a second glove on top of what he had. I was in such a chirpy mood that he was taken aback by my reaction when the swab touched the core of my nose. Remember the part I said felt like a nesting of the imps? The swab touched that very nest!

Tears suddenly started to flow uncontrollably. I chuckled in between the sobs reassuring him that I was okay. He kept apologizing while the second attendant looked on in distant disbelief. I was crying, laughing, and mumbling at the same time. The pain and the day’s stress had gotten to me. It was like those days when it shines and rains at the same time. The rainy days the Acholi refer to as kwach tye ka nywal. Days when the sun fiercely shoots its rays out, wanting its presence known as the rain carries on aggressively with its thumping at the same time.

I was happy that I had finally got the test done but also felt like crap. I was offered tissue and more apologies and then told to wait for a call from the hospital the next day.

My other results came through and I went back to the doctor who announced that all his other suspicions were wrong and that most likely I had Covid. He went on and gave me a prescription and advised I return the next day upon receiving a phone call from them.

I started on the meds that night and managed to get some small-small sleep. Anino olo manok nok kenyo.

Next morning I missed 3 calls and received a fourth from the hospital. They needed me to go get my results. I went there still thinking well it could be anything else until they gave me that odd looking paper with the word POSITIVE stamped on it. For the first time positive didn’t look nice in red!

I saw the doctor again and was told to go home and go return incase things deteriorated. I headed to the automobile, shut myself in, and started weeping. I had become part of the statistics. I knew that that evening when they read the news I would be part of it. After a few minutes of sobbing I realized I was being melodramatic. Here I was, not even taken in, able to walk, and yet here I was crying instead of being thankful that I could afford to see a doctor, get medicine and go home instead of an isolation center.

I sobered up and went home. At home I got into a frenzy, freaking out and worrying about the people at work, at the taxi stage, in the taxi, the vegetable stall and everywhere else I had been to in the past few days that I may have exposed to the disease. The guilt was horrible.

I informed my employer about my results and in less than an hour I received a call from a counselor and Lord bless her, she put things into perspective for me. She told me to stop self stigmatizing myself and focus on healing. She reassured me that my colleagues would be fine and that it was no one’s fault that I got sick and no fault of my own that any one of my colleagues could be ill too.

Well, the next two weeks of isolation were filled with me taking the medicines, drinking concoctions of lemon-ginger-garlic-honey in warm and sometimes hot water, trying to eat and spending my mornings in the sun like a girl gecko. Every single day I made sure I took a selfie as a milestone note. I looked like crap too. Chapped lips and all.

I got phone calls from colleagues and that made the journey of healing even much easier. I felt loved and valued. I also kept my social media activity seamless like nothing was going on in the back end. My mom had advised that we keep this information to ourselves so that the other family members wouldn’t worry. We did just that but the ones that got to know where worried sick. I could tell from the twice a day dose of phone calls.

15 days down the road I headed back to the hospital to check whether I was clean. I waited for 3 whole days without hearing from anyone. I made some phone calls and soon the results were forwarded to me. I saw the adjective sorry in the body of the message I knew the people who said no news is good news were big fat ugly liars. I opened the attachment and it was the big red POSITIVE again, right there before me!

I stayed home again but this time didn’t lie about in the sun like a gecko but rather exercised, forced food down, and did the steaming thing like it was my invention. In between there Christmas came. Though I was pretty much recovered, I spent it at home, couldn’t even drink a glass of wine or interact with family over food. Heck I don’t even remember how I spent the day. It’s not been saved in my memory.

And a day towards new year’s I went back for the third test. This time round things felt different. I was energetic. My appetite was reluctantly coming back from its forced hiatus and accepting the taste of chili. My sense of smell was around the bend too returning to moi, and I was sleeping much better. The hallucinations had gone back to Hades from whence they came. The fevers went. The imps failed to hatch. My bowel movement wasn’t a race of battalions anymore.

This test came back NEGATIVE! A happy NEGATIVE! Funny huh?! The word negative has never looked so good! Some of the symptoms stayed a while. The chills especially. Waking up in the mornings became a painful problem. I lacked the zing I had before Covid. My temper was this frail thing that could easily break. I became this different person. A person doing wild things.

I am moving on. It will be a year soon. I am pretty much out of the long hauler category I can say. The brain fog is gone. I have been left with some bad allergic reactions but that too will go. Would I wish this virus on anyone? Absolutely not. I saw people I grew up with go. I saw people I went to school with go. I saw people whose homes I visited and had a meal with go. All in a space of 40 days. Some people lost their entire family, friends, and acquaintances. No, I don’t wish this on anyone.

Maybe if we had believed from the onset that this virus was different and a wild horrible fire demon, if we had taken things seriously and not thought of it as something that would remain in Wuhan, perhaps we would have been more careful and limited its spread.

The Acholi say pe i nyer odo ma ogoyo nyeki. Do not laugh at the cane that strikes your husband’s other wife for you do not know when your turn will come. I wish I had not joked about it. Maybe I wouldn’t have caught it.

You may not believe it but you might want to go get that vaccine. You can never tell how your body will handle the virus. It could be worse. It could be debilitating. Don’t deliberately add yourself to the spike on the graph of fatalities. I thought I would sail through incase I caught but that virus sure did kick my arse!

I pray we never see another pandemic as bad as this one when the whole world stood still because of an unseen enemy.

Be safe!

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