A car free Kampala?

During the first Car Free Day in Uganda, over 350 people cycled through Kampala’s city centre to raise awareness about sustainable modes of urban transport. The event drew attention to growing concerns over the capital’s traffic congestion and air pollution.

A typical Kampala view Photo Marlies Pilon

Rush hour chaos has become a troubled reality of life in Kampala. Zigzagging matatu’s, crisscrossing boda-boda’s, cars, bikes, pedestrians and livestock fight to be mobile on the cramped and potholed roads of the capital. Foggy residues from old motorised vehicles create an eerie, purplish sky. But this morning is different.

About 350 people drive their decorated bicycles freely through the centre of Kampala on the first Car Free Day in East-Africa. Motorised traffic is blocked on the designated cycling route that meanders straight through the capital with help from local authorities and the police.

A participant of the car free day strikes a pose Photo Marlies Pilon

Read the whole article about cycling in Kampala on RNW’s Africa Desk

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Biologisch in Oeganda

De potentie voor biologisch geproduceerd voedsel uit Afrika is enorm.Vruchtbare grond in overvloed, en het overgrote deel van het voedsel is bij gebrek aan intensivering van de landbouw milieuvriendelijk verbouwd. Oeganda is Afrikaanse koploper op het gebied van biologisch geproduceerd voedsel  (296,203 ha), gevolgd door Tunesië (154,793 ha) en Ethiopië (140, 308 ha).

Als Afrika-correspondent van de Krant van de Aarde onderzoek ik maandelijks een bepaald onderwerp. Deze keer dook ik in de wereld van biologisch verbouwd voedsel. Wat zijn de obstakels, en waar liggen kansen?

Klik op de afbeelding om het artikel over biologisch voedsel in Afrika te lezen (op pagina 34-35)

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Dutch bakery opens shop in Uganda

Like every true Dutchy, I am a sucker for fresh brown bread. So whenever I can, I take the boda-boda to Kampala’s chaotic city heart, and buy one of the delicious and fresh brown breads available at the newly opened Dutch bakery-cafe BBROOD.

BBROOD colleagues Rosette and Ann in Kampala Picture Marlies Pilon

For the Africa Desk, I wrote an article and made a photoslide about the Dutch bakery in Uganda’s capital Kampala. Do the Ugandans favour the Dutch bread flavour? What is Dutch about the store, according to Ugandans? En what exactly is ‘ebbanja’?

Read the article about Dutch bread in Uganda on RNW’s Africa Desk

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Ugandans think aid feeds corruption

The Dutch aid cuts are big news in Uganda (see picture). While talking with ordinary Ugandans over the cuts for an article on RNW’s Africa Desk, it struck me how easy and practical they can discuss the aid debate. In Europe, the debate is loaded with ambigious feelings caused by an uncomfortable history in thinking about ‘Africa’, and a hidden sense of superiority.

Besides that, I also realised how often we don’t hear African voices in the debate about aid. They know, much better then Western academics, what works and what does’nt, and understand the local structures that help or frustrate aid effectiveness. Surprisingly (to me), 73% of Ugandans think aid cuts to their government are a good idea!

Wanna know more?
Here is what (some) Ugandans have to say about aid and corruption

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The HUB, or how to avoid the freelance blues

Picture: Flickr CC

The life of a freelance foreign journalist is full of hidden hazards
There is no mentor, no structure, and working alone so much makes the computer your new best friend. The anticipated romance of wild trips to new places and ‘going undercover’ in exotic cities are reduced in reality to press meetings and some interviews on location. Because the budget is generally small, you can’t spent to much time in ‘the field’, so you run back home and be one with the screen again. Because of all this isolated time, the average freelancer is socially funny, to say the least.

The HUB Kampala
I too was suffering from some of the above mentioned symptons. They have reduced considerably since I have a workspace at The HUB Kampala. This ‘collaboration-space for creative, like-minded enterprising people’, offers flexible workspaces for artists, entrepeneurs, journalists and designers, among others. The Dutch Jantien Zuurbier got the idea of creating the place, and runs The HUB with that typical Dutch no-nonsense attitude. Different nationalities occupy the fresh and colourful building, strong coffee is never far away and the lunchroom is in the backyard.

The HUB Kampala Picture Jantien Zuurbier CC

So, my remedy to beat the typical freelance-symptoms and create a structured and socially healthy existence as freelancer;  hop The HUB, or any other shared workspace.

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Besigye vs the State; the saga continues

Dr. Kizza Besigye picture: Ronald Waswa

The neverending saga between oppositionleader Besigye’s attemps to stage demonstrations against the high price of living and the state authorities trying to prevent this from happening reached another climax last Tuesday.

A hired mob went to Besigye’s house, demanding payment for some vague tasks they supposedly performed during the February elections.

Fight between the two parties

When Besigye’s supporters suspected thy were goons, a fight broke out and at least a dozen people got seriously injured. I spoke with Anne Mugisha, secretary of International Affairs of Besigye’s FDC, and the most likely person to succeed Besigye in 2014.

According to her, the state showed a new low by huring mobs to attack Besigye and undermining his freedom of movement and right to demonstrate. The Africa Desk published my article about the day and the interview with Anne Mugisha.

Click on the image to see the article picture: NTV

Saga continues
You can find it here.
The day after this happened, Besigye got arrested for the 9th time in 6 months as he tried to walk to work. The saga continues…

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Oil curse in Uganda?

Oil is the new gold. And money corrupts. What will this mean for Uganda, the landlocked East-African country were major oil reserves were recently discovered?

Click on the picture to read my article about Uganda's oil

Sources in the oil industry describe Uganda as ‘Africa’s hottest inland exploration frontier’. It is believed that Uganda’s oil is the biggest find in Africa of the last 20 years, with estimated reserves of at least 2.5 billion barrels of ‘black gold’.

Although Uganda’s oil is still underground, heated debate in the country and cracks in the political ruling party lead some to think the oil curse has already arrived. I wrote an article for the Africa Desk about the oil controversy and the implications of the black gold for Uganda.

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