Category Archives: Uganda


Many a false prophets have used the phrase “the Bible says…” in order to promote their personal will and deceive the masses. Such prophets are now using “the Bible says…” to amass personal wealth by extracting money from members of their congregation.

Recently, KTN Kenya aired an investigative piece titled “Prayer Predators” (English version)/ “Makri ya Injili” (Swahili version). It looks at one Victor Kanyari who purports to be not just a preacher but a prophet and a doctor. The piece shows how he manipulates his congregants and others members of the public into bankrolling his “ministry.” He gives sermons but his walk is evidently kilometers away from the Bible he quotes so often. He says that God has given him a message about person ABC who is suffering from disease DEF and character GHI who has issue JKL. It turns out he has staff members who source these stories from unsuspecting congregants. The stories are then written in a book that Kanyari references while preaching. He claims to be able to cure cancer and HIV, among others. In reality, his staff members give false testimony that they had diseases that were cured due to Kanyari’s prayers and the financial seed that they planted.

What Kanyari does is disturbing and shocking. He preys on people who are struggling to make ends meet, searching for hope to cling to, desperately trying to find a cure, and in some cases looking for a way out of their current situations. He does it with such brazen confidence too, like that’s the price people have to pay for his existence on this earth.

Kanyari isn’t the only one. There are many others like him who have and continue to capitalize on religion. It’s not just in Kenya either, we see it happening all over Africa. These so-called prophets and preachers are trading “miracles and prayers” for money. If you want to pray for a person, just pray for them. Why do they have to part with money for that to happen!? The same applies in the case of miracles.

These crop of preachers constantly take from worshipers, and when there is no more left to take they bang on the pulpit, evoke “the Bible says…,” and ask people to dig deeper into their pockets. Obviously they are the only ones who know what to do with the congregants’ money. Obviously they are the only ones who need it. Obviously these preachers are the only ones who need to buy luxurious cars and live in mansions. Obviously they are the only ones who should be seduced by, and protected from the elements of nature by wearing custom-made outfits. Obviously they are the only ones that deserve to be able to afford to be pampered in spas and beauty parlors. Obviously they are the only ones who should be able to pay for their children’s education. They are, after all, (wo)men of God. Why should anyone else be able to do such things!? Why!? Especially when you don’t sacrifice your time to master the Bible and share it’s teachings with the rest of the masses. Why should the rest of society get a slice of the good life!?

Such preachers keep prospering though, and they are not shy about letting the public know just how many ways they have been “blessed.” It doesn’t seem to matter to them that worshipers in their churches continue to struggle physically, emotionally, mentally and financially.

Unfortunately, a number of the faithful members of such preachers’ churches don’t have the opportunity to watch or read the investigative pieces that expose the shenanigans of their leaders. There are also those who suspect something is amiss but are afraid to speak out against the (wo)men of God because “the Bible says…”  It doesn’t help that there are really no life-changing consequences for such preachers’ actions. Sure, there is the public shaming and ridicule, and meme-sharing on social media, but after that people move on and eventually forget.

The worst thing that happens to such preachers is that they become the running joke and their names are turned into verbs. The best case scenario is people writing pieces about business lessons that can be learnt from these strain of preachers. Yeah, the people who faithfully give their hard-earned money every month to these preachers are really curious about business lessons they can learn. Sick people who give financially in the hopes of being cured would really love to know more about these business lessons. The people who are groped, and asked for a small donation in the name of healing  would really appreciate your insight on the business lessons they can learn. Seriously, turning lemons into passion juice is good and all, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. If you look hard enough, you will find business lessons from a seasoned car thief too. How long will we continue to applaud and reward such behavior either overtly or covertly?

There has to be an effective way to stop these predatory preachers. Does anybody know of one!? Maybe throw the same “the Bible says…” quotes at them when they ask for a small donation in exchange for a prayer or miracle. The Bible does have a lot to say about money, healing, false prophets and deceit, after all.


Shedding Culture

How do we go about doing away with aspects of culture that have and will never be beneficial to us, individually as well as in our different communities? This is especially difficult amongst African communities since “culture” is the invisible cloth that we are reluctant to take off. We cling to culture and constantly use it as justification for carrying out violations, especially against women.

One of Uganda’s daily newspapers, New Vision, published this interview with an upcoming female musician who was also the runner’s up in a Coca Cola sponsored singing competition in 2013.  It is evident from the initial questions that the young lady is a go-getter and has accomplished a lot as a result.  However, the interview took a turn for the sad when questions about relationships were asked. The lady’s responses were disturbing and heartbreaking. It is scary to know that there are many more African women who share  her sentiments.

When asked  whether she would leave if her man hit her: “If he hit me for the right reason, I would stay, but if he hit me over something flimsy, I would leave. I admit sometimes we do things that make our better halves angry. They are human too. When people get angry, they do things they can regret. I would still forgive him. My parents hit me since I was young, but do I hate them? No.” And what would this right reason be: “Maybe if I went out all night and didn’t pick his calls and then I was rude to him (which I am never), I would take the beating.”

Eh! Is there ever a (right) reason to hit a woman? The correct answer is NO, NEVER.  The fact that someone has somehow found a “right reason” is baffling to me. Equating being disciplined by one’s parents to being hit by a man is startling and an indicator of some of the negative aspects of culture that we need to rid ourselves of.

People are still steeped in the women should be “disciplined” belief. This is something that has been accepted and even considered part of many African cultures for years. It is considered normal, you know, just like breathing. Men have historically been taught that, as the authority in the home , it is up to them to ensure that people in the house toe the line, especially their wives/girlfriends/partner. A woman is considered a minor who has no business pursuing any of her interests without her husband’s/ man’s consent.

Despite all the progress that women’s rights movements across Africa have made over the years, this particular aspect of our collective culture stays the same. The opinion of the Ugandan lady in the interview above is just one example. How many of you have, or know a young African woman who has, been told that attaining higher education will make her intimidating to men? Will result in her not finding a husband? Because African men are not interested in women who are more educated than them or earn more than they do. “You can’t be too independent, no African man will want you,” is a statement that I have heard.

African women today are still expected/taught to bend over backwards and work overtime to appease the men in their lives. If the relationship fails then it’s your fault young African woman. You should dress to impress your man, keep him interested…pull out all the stops so that he doesn’t stray. You can aspire to be anything you want as long as your ambitions leave room for the man to be the head/leader. You should always cook…it’s a woman’s job…the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach after all. You can’t go out all night with your friends and not pick up his calls…how else do you expect him to show he cares if he can’t keep tabs on you? Oh, he hit you? Well, he was just “disciplining” you…your ways need to be corrected from time to time…you know how we women can get. He hits you because he loves you and wants you to be the best version of yourself…yeah, sure, as long as that best version stays under his thumb and learns to respond to his every whim. So what if he is unfaithful?…you know how men are…they get tempted easily…forgive and move on. You can’t leave because he is cheating or hits you every now and then…good men are hard to find my dear.

It’s all very disturbing especially when you hear/read about a young lady buying into these notions. It’s sad to know that such beliefs are being, and by the looks of it will continue to be, passed on from generation to generation. How then will we enact societal change? How will we, once and for all, do away with this cultural bondage?

Fiction Tuesday – Beautiful Beginnings

For the next few months, I will publish fiction stories by African writers every Tuesday. These stories were submitted as entries for the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize, which is part of the Writivism Program, run by the Center for African Cultural Excellence (CACE). CACE is a not-for-profit organization, headquartered in Kampala, Uganda, committed to entrenching a wide understanding of culture and identity from an African perspective. The Writivism Program connects literature to reality.

Today’s story is one that most, if not all, ladies who have ever permed their hair will identify with. That creamy crack  relaxer struggle is legitimate. Enjoy! (Side note: Also thought the story’s title was spot on given the fact that this is the first “Fiction Tuesday” on this site.) OK…carry on.

Beautiful Beginnings

by Beverly Akoyo Ochieng’

Urembo Parlour. The salon in Judy’s bedroom. Two floors below Brenda at the C3 block in Highrise.

Brenda passed it every day, slowing down to mouth along to the songs floating out of the salon. TLC, Aaliyah, Tamia – Brenda hummed along, like a secret. Sometimes she paused to stare at the poster on the front door. Absorbed by the picture of the girl with silky hair, stylishly cut with a fringe swooping over her eye, imprinting every detail onto herself while tracing over the pink floral lettering. Beautiful Beginnings.

The door opened with a sudden sweep.Judy found Brenda humming along to Monica while clutching a lock of hair.

‘Aah, I see you’re enjoying the music!’ she cooed.

Brenda smiled nervously. Judy followed Brenda’s gaze to the poster.

‘Think you’d like to have that done?’ Judy asked.

She nodded, containing herself. Of course I’d love to do it!

Brenda stood awkwardly while Judy peered at the bird’s nest atop her head and gave it a poke. ‘Your hair is so nice and thick,’ she said, ‘the chemical will hold well!’

Brenda spent the days that followed dreaming herself into the poster and mulling over Judy’s words. She tugged obsessively at her hair. How would she ask Ambetsa? Her mother could be so unyielding at times. When Brenda had asked for a mobile phone, she had muttered grouchily about ‘Young people these days!’

‘Ama,’ Brenda begun cautiously. ‘What if I relax my hair?’

Her mother, who had been plaiting the hair in question, stopped midway. Brenda anticipated her anger, or the tired lecture about how she was just a child and did not know what was good for her.

‘Why?’ Ambetsa asked softly. ‘What is wrong with this hair?’

What is wrong? Brenda wanted to shout. It’s an impossible clump!

‘It will still be mine, Ama,’ she said instead.

‘When I was in school, we had to keep our hair short and natural.’ Her mother resumed plaiting and Brenda held her breath.

Ambetsa sighed, ‘Fine,’ she patted her handiwork, ‘but you will have to find your own means –’

‘Yes, yes, Ama,’ Brenda shrieked excitedly. ‘I will!’

Brenda had put aside three weeks of lunch-money, but now, as she sat in the worn green seat in the bedroom of Flat 4, she began to wonder if it was worth it.

She wanted to claw into her scalp with a nail. Anything that would relieve the flaming fire-ant itch that coursed through it. She tried to distract herself with the music. Boyz II Men crooned about reaching the End of the Road, not particularly a favourite.

Judy continued to apply the relaxer, oblivious to Brenda’s torment, moving methodically from root to tip, clogging the air with its dense ammonic smell. Brenda sighed and rolled her eyes. She wished she were at the end of the road! At her beautiful beginning.

‘Is this supposed to happen?’ Brenda asked impatiently.

Judy paused. ‘Imagine it’s just starting? Just give it a moment dear,’ she urged. ‘Urembo ni uchungu.’

Beauty is pain.

The chemicals bit into her scalp. She winced, clenching her jaw as she resisted the urge to scream. Where is the relaxing bit? Brenda seethed and suddenly longed for her mother’s cold fingers. The way they would comb through her Afro with pomade. The silent intimacy when she plaited her hair on Sunday evenings.

Brenda sat on her hands and bit her lip. She glared at the box that held the relaxer kit. She glared at the girl on the box. The girl in her head. Her promising smile detached from the fire ants marching over Brenda’s scalp.

Judy disappeared but Brenda could still hear her. A woman came in complaining about a lemon bleaching cream. ‘Ai! Judy! Is this supposed to make my skin itch?’

Mrembo, I was just telling her, beauty is pain.’

A maxim befitting the wonderful Urembo Parlour Brenda thought, and squeezed her eyes tightly against her itchy scalp and throbbing temples.

Judy came back, bustling about, singing along to Toni Braxton. ‘Let’s get you washed,’ she said cheerfully. Brenda needed no further encouragement.

Her cooked scalped breathed as the cold water ran through it. She inhaled the citrus scented shampoo and relaxed as Judy’s fingers worked through her hair. Her head felt light. Too light.

Has it fallen out? Brenda panicked for a moment. ‘Is it still there?’ she asked.

Judy clucked. ‘Haiya! Do you think I don’t know what I’m doing?’ She patted a towel on her head and sat her up in front of the mirror.

Brenda watched her wet hair tumble behind her. She twirled a soft lock. Giddy in her seat, she sang as though the song spoke to her. ‘Let it go, Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow, everything’s gonna work out right.’

Judy blasted the blow-drier, muffling the music, but the familiar tune played on in Brenda’s head. The billowing heat reignited her scalp but she was too lost in her reflection to care.

Straight, silky and sleek.

She even had a fringe!

Brenda absorbed the mirror image of herself. She tilted her head and it bobbed. She ran her fingers through the soft tresses possessively.

‘Just remember to come back every six weeks for a retouch,’ Judy was saying, taking Brenda’s towel.

She stared at Judy blankly.

‘The hair will keep growing, my dear,’ Judy chortled, tidying the small space.

Brenda blanched. I’ll have to do this again after six weeks? And then again? And again?  Her head spun. How would she tell Ambetsa?

‘So I’ll be seeing you soon!’ Judy said, leading Brenda through the narrow hall.

Brenda gulped but nodded.

A light breeze rushed in and Brenda’s locks danced in the wind, kissing her cheeks. She felt like the living image of the Beautiful Beginnings poster. Brenda took a deep breath and stepped out.

Beauty is pain.





The case of the anti (part 2)

I am convinced that some of our leaders are quite simply anti-women. Yes. Why else would people support and sign into law an act that has such vague descriptions of terminologies and puts women directly in harms way!? I am talking about Uganda’s anti-pornography act.

The anti-pornography act bans women from exposing their breasts, buttocks and thighs, and from “ dressing indecently in a manner to sexually excite” In order to comply with this law then it seems that you just have to wear a sack. You might wear your fitted clothes and someone decides that they are too tight and constitute an indecent act that will corrupt their morals. What exactly is considered indecent!? Are they going to circulate infographics on types of dressing that sexually excite people!? The act is extremely vague on definitions. It really is subject to the interpretation of the reader and the self-appointed keepers of societal moral codes…and that is a very dangerous thing.

The act has already resulted in the assault and sexual harassment of many women in Uganda.  There have been reports of women being undressed for wearing miniskirts as they are considered indecent. These violating acts are carried out by groups of vigilante men who obviously thrive on harassing women. Why else would they be so readily engaged in stripping women!? They justify their behavior with statements like “well she wanted us to see everything,” “it’s against the law,” “this will teach other women to cover up,” “why did she leave the house in such indecent attire?” There have also been reports of police harassing women and forcing them to remove their skirts in public. I thought the police are supposed to protect and serve!?…sigh

It’s infuriating to hear the so called leaders take on the matter. Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister, last year said that women who wore “ anything above the knee” should be arrested. Really Lokodo!? Why should they be arrested!? Is it because their uncovered legs are going to detach from their body and run off to rob a bank!? Or because they are going to interfere with the progress of development projects!? Perhaps women’s unclothed legs are going to engage in corruption…empty the public coffers and what not. Except politicians already have that angle covered. So why exactly should they be arrested!? Lokodo is also the same person that said “One can wear what one wants, but please do not be provocative.” Hmmm…so women are supposed to have the feelings and potential reactions of men in mind when they dress every day!? You can be covered from head to toe and there will still be someone who will be provoked by that. Why should women be assaulted/harassed/arrested because men cannot control and curb their sexual excitement!?

Yes, the act applies to everyone not just women. However, it is primarily women that are in danger because of the act. Why? Well, words such as “indecent” and “provocative” are more often than not used to describe women’s dressing. When is the last time you heard a man’s dressing being described as “indecent” or “provocative”? Even men who sag their jeans so low that you can see their knees aren’t typically described as being dressed indecently or provocatively. Makes you wonder, who is this act really against!?