Pareto Efficient

In search of pareto improvements

Posts Tagged ‘uganda

Fires / Riots in Kampala

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Tensions between the Buganda Kingdom, Uganda’s largest and most influential tribe, and the Museveni government have been escalating as Museveni has moved to limit the power and influence of cultural leaders and kings.

With the 2011 elections just around the corner, tensions are mounting.

Yesterday, an unknown arsonist burned the historically significant Bugandan Kasubi Tombs to the ground.  The Tombs were the final resting place for the last 4 kings of Buganda, making it the most hallowed ground of the Buganda.

After the fire started, it didn’t take long before demonstrators and rioters took the streets.  That never ends well…

Most journalists are focusing on the immediate impact of 3 rioters dead and police on the streets.  Unfortunately, the real issue is that the Bugandan people will assume the government had a hand in the fire and rumors extremely powerful regardless of their validity.  Let’s hope everything calms down soon…

Read the NYTimes Story


Written by thetyson

March 18, 2010 at 7:17 am

Sarita is at 70%, but my macbook is dead

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Many thanks for the thoughts, prayers and well wishes.  Sarita was diagnosed with typhoid fever a few days ago and she really had a rough go of it for a few days.  Thankfully, the love of my young life is feeling about 70% and she’s on the path to full recovery by week’s end.

In no way equivalent, but still crushing…My macbook hard drive crashed the same day Sarita got sick, but unlike my resilient little half puerto rican wife, the macbook is dead.  The data was backed up, but I lost my coding environment in the middle of a new project.

My dear wife was kind enough to lend her computer (part time) to my coding efforts.  Time to setup my rails environment on her macbook, yay!  Unfortunately, Macbooks don’t ship with a compiler pre-installed.  Therefore, I have to go online to download Xcode 3.1.4 to compile my ruby build.  Turns out Xcode is 950 MB and I’m in Uganda.  Yep, its been 3 days of trying and still no Xcode.

Its been kinda brutal:

  • Attempt download via MTN wireless card. Estimated download time 3+ days.  Not worth trying.
  • Attempt download at UN IOM office.  Estimated download time 12 hours.  Sit for a 5 hours, internet connection hangs, and Apple Developer Center session expires; lose all download progress.
  • Attempt download at BJz bar/grill.  Estimated download time 8 hours.  Sit for a few hours, and the internet goes down; lose all download progress.  Told internet will be back in 1 hour.  Wait a 4 hours, but still no internet.  Leave.
  • Attempt download at NUMAT.  Estimated download time 3 hours.  Can’t even log in to the Apple Developer Center.  Try for a few hours on different laptops with different privileges.  Every other site is reachable, save the Apple Developer Center.  The NUMAT network engineer is baffled.
  • Attempt #2 at Bjz. Set download to run through the night on their server.  Power goes out that night; all download progress was lost.
  • Attempt #3 at BJz.  Returned several hour later to check progress only to find that the power went out and all download progress was lost.
  • Attempt #2 at NUMAT.  Several hours spent fiddling with the firewall and proxies is fruitless.

Funny thing is, I only need Xcode to build/configure ruby, then I probably won’t need ever it again…  Haha.  Good luck to me, sir!

Written by thetyson

March 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Sarita has typhoid

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My wife, Sarita, has been feeling ill for 2 days.  At first we thought it was malaria, but lab tests show positive for typhoid.

She has meds, but it could be pretty nasty for a few more days.  Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Written by thetyson

March 13, 2010 at 5:37 am

Posted in Life

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My life has changed, a brief update

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Life is great.  Things are moving quickly, and I’d like to update everyone on where stuff is going.

Firstly, I married a great lady on August 29th on a 4,200 acre ranch in northern Virginia.  If you haven’t met Sarita yet, just take my word for it.  She’s perfect for me.

Secondly, I moved back to Gulu, Uganda to do some stuff here while Sarita continues her work with war-affected girls.  Lately, I’ve been teaching some business classes to the local peeps, starting a pineapple farm and doing some internet consulting for a company in the US.

Thirdly, Sarita and I have rented a house for 800,000 Shillings/mo ($400).  This is not easy in Gulu where NGOs inflate the housing prices to levels rivaling the US.

Fourthly, I have secured a device that delivers internet via MTN cell phone connection.  Its slow, but I can def use when creative inspiration strikes in the middle of the night — which tends to happen to me:)

Fifthly, I’ve rented a 100cc Bajaj motorbike for 40,000 Shillings/wk ($20).  Now, I’m mobile baby and things have been getting weird.

Next, I’ll write more about a few adventures I’ve had lately — drunk elephants, vehicle breakdown in the bush and other life-threatening situations.

Written by thetyson

October 27, 2009 at 10:32 am

Posted in Life

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Day #11: Corruption? No way.

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Today I read about some controversy around President Museveni’s “investments”.  I think Mr. Museveni is just a little misunderstood, and I’m here to defend him.

I feel you, dog

Come on.  Everybody knows that lobbying the other countries for debt forgiveness and foreign aid is a thankless job.  But hey, somebody’s gotta do it.  And President Museveni does it every day without ever asking for anything.*

*Note: Except the basics.

Strategy: Impress the pants off of ’em

Look, he is asking Britan for $1.07 billion in aid.  What better way to close the deal than to roll up in a brand new $36 million Gulfstream V jet. I mean, the British PM Gordie Brown goes commercial when he travels to Uganda – what a sucker.  Perhaps the Gulfstream actually could impress him into sending aid.

Ah ha!  You have the cunning of a jungle cat, Mr. Museveni.  I like it.  It makes total sense: spend lavishly to show them how much you really need the money.  You are a genius.


Faking it until he makes it

Which is why I also fully support other recent key investment initiatives like:

  • $121 million to host the Commonwealth Heads of Govt Meeting in 2007
  • $41 million to refurbish the Presidential Palace in 2007

Its only a $200 million request in total – just 0.3% of Uganda’s GDP (is that a lot?).

You are a visionary.  Its true that 1/3 of your country lives on less than $1/day.  But ya gotta spend money to make money in this high stakes game of international aid. Everybody knows that, right?

Good luck, sir.

Written by thetyson

October 18, 2008 at 6:37 am

Day #9: Time to Cooperate

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I’ve spent the day working at Luxury Computers of Gulu and hanging out at Kope Cafe – talking to the random muzungus that cycle through.  After an hour of talking with different people about their organization, mission, next steps, blah, blah, I realized something.  Many of these groups are doing almost the same thing and they don’t cooperate at all.

If I’m starting a company, then I have to know my space.  Who’s in it, how am I different, can we partner.  If I don’t know this, then my company will likely fail.

NGOs don’t appear to have these motivations.

Why?  Why don’t they seek out everyone who’s doing similar activities, pool resources, and achieve a greater outcome?

  • Is it just too hard to keep up on what everyone else is doing?
  • Is there an information sharing product needed here?
  • Is it because of differing religious beliefs?

I need to look into this more, but it just seems a little weird to me.

Written by thetyson

October 16, 2008 at 1:36 am

Posted in Adventures, Uganda

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Day #8: IDP Camp Visit

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Juba Road

Today, my friend and I headed north on “Juba Road” to the Awer IDP (internally displaced people) Camp.  Sudan imports most of its products from Uganda and Juba Road is the primary international trade route between Uganda and Sudan.

The NAFTA treaty was signed between Canada, US, Mexico when I was a teenager living in Houston.  This kicked off billions of dollars of infrastructure investment in roads.  Since Houston would be a major stop on this international trade route, Hwy 59 would become 6 paved lanes in each direction and become Hwy 69 aka the NAFTA Freeway.

You could imagine my disbelief.  The pic below captures perfectly the Juba Road experience.

Yeah.  Imagine two trucks passing on this road...

Um, yeah. Trucks actually pass each other on this road...

Hollywood expectations

As we drove the bumpy 30 km to the camp, I began thinking about what I would see.  I thought it would be something out of the movies like the Constant Gardener or Blood Diamond.

  • several hundred huts housing the thousands in the camp
  • kids playing football in the field
  • parents farming the rich soil on the outskirts of the camp
  • NGOs driving though camp in nice white SUVs distributing food
  • people lined up for free shots from volunteers in white lab coats

Ah, not so much…

The outskirts of Awer

Next stop Awer IDP Camp - you can see the huts in the distance

Awer IDP Camp

I was wrong.  My expectations were mostly wrong.  I saw no farming activity, no SUVs, no NGOs.  I was struck by this and asked about the camp’s leadership.  There didn’t appear to be any camp leader(s).  It was crazy, just a bunch of people 30 km from the nearest town – the middle of nowhere – hanging out with no real leadership, no business, no infrastructure, nothing.  Hmm…

So what is Awer really like?  I need to get out, walk around the camp and see things for myself.

The photo commentary that follows is limited because many adults have a fear of being photographed because they feel it may cause them to be targeted for violence.  So, most of my pics are of kids.

The first people we encountered were a group of nice ladies who were preparing food.  They were friends of my friends and they were keen to talk (through a translator – my Acholi isn’t, well doesn’t exist) about their work and their situation.

The rice shows up on trucks, but it still needs to be processed

The rice may show up on trucks, but it still needs to be processed.

Of course I wanted to give it a try.  The women laughed and said that food preparation was woman’s work.  As if I couldn’t do it.  Well, my attempt was good for laugh and the quickest way to make new friends.

I love woman work

I won't make a sandwich in the US, but, in Uganda, I'll pound the heck out of some rice.


When you take a bunch of people who are used to living with several hundred meters between huts, and compress them into the density of the camps without proper sewage infrastructure, disease is ineveitable.  You can’t just walk out of your hut and pee on the ground anymore because that affects your neighbor who’s hut is 5 meters away.

Tight fit

Liiiiiike a glove -- Ace Ventura

The US sends some supplies in sturdy aluminum containers.  This aluminum is turned into everything from musical shakers to doors (below).

Hanging out.  These guys are only a little afraid of me.

Hanging out. These guys aren't really afraid of me.

Some of the kids aren’t used to interacting with white people.  I get it.  We’re weird.  Our skin is white and we have arm and leg hair (they don’t, really).  Can’t blame them for reacting that way.

This guy was really afraid of me

This guy was terrified of me.

There it was.  In the middle of the foot path.  A tombstone for a lost loved one.


Amon Ventornia. Born 1908. Died 2-11-06.

Farm this stuff

I finally reached the south end of the camp.  Just look at all that fertile land.  Why isn’t anyone farming it?  What’s the deal here?

Ripe for the taking.  This land should be farmed.

Should be acres of agriculture, as far as the eye can see.

The path back to camp

Groups of interested kids waiting for us on the path back to camp.

What a great visit.  I look forward to coming back again soon.  There was so much that I wasn’t able to document on this trip.  I really want to learn more about the camp social dynamics.  When I do, I’ll report back.

Written by thetyson

October 15, 2008 at 11:41 pm