Monday, March 26, 2012

Men With Guns

So Joseph Kabuleta had decided to retire from writing his sports column in the back pages of Sunday Vision and at such a tender age. Why? Did he ask for a pay rise and Vision sports editor, Fred Kaweesi said “no?” Did his nemesis, football guru, Lawrence Mulindwa storm his house with iron bar goons? Or did he simply fizzle, burn out – something that happens to the best of writers?

Kabuleta was no doubt a talented writer who did a lot to expose the seemingly endless rot, corruption and greed within sports in Uganda and especially football. Whilst I am sure many of us will miss his ramblings, there is one person who must have thrown a mega bash. No need to guess who, but just in case you never used to read Kabuleta’s works, it is Lawrence Mulindwa.

That said, I think I am beginning to lose my touch. Last Sunday I flattered a number of women and today I am all over Kabuleta? Eek!

There is something about men and guns. Or is it anybody who has a gun? Guns make people feel big, superior and in-charge. An illiterate and disabled ten-year-old boy with an AK-47 is as intimidating as a forty-year old with an AK-47.

Back before the millennium, I used to hang-out with Watembezi who used to live down the road from my folks. Since I was new in town, he would take me places – like Blue Note in Kansanga which, used to kick. One night and seeing I didn’t have a ride, I waited till he had had his fill of ale to hitch a ride home with and it was a long wait – till 3:00am. To say I was relieved when he said it was time to go would have been an understatement. And into his Pajero I clambered for the ride home. However, there was a ‘but’, in fact, two of them.

The first ‘but’ is that we turned into the Kibuli Road and headed down past Greenhill School and back then, the stretch of road just past Total petrol station was not tarmacked.

The second ‘but’ is that Watembezi slowed his ride and pulled out a pistol. The closest I had previously come to seeing a pistol was in a James Bond movie and in a holster that was wrapped round the waist of a cop in London. Watembezi’s pistol looked big and larger than life. And he didn’t stop there. He also cocked it and the conversation that followed went along these lines.

Watembezi: “Tim, you have to be careful. There are car thieves everywhere and this road is dangerous.”
TB: “Are you in the security services?”
Watembezi: “Getting a gun in Uganda is almost as easy as buying a beer!”

With that, and with one hand on the wheel, the other holding his a cocked pistol, he drove while peering out of the window looking for perpetrators. There were none – unless they had seen the muzzle of the pistol sticking out of the window and decided it was not worth being shot at and scarpered away.

In Kampala Casino, he put it away and we took a table at the far end, on the stage where the band, Misty Jazz, does its gig every Thursday. Slightly worse for wear and wanting to sleep, Watembezi was not in control and it was evident when his pistol fell out and clattered towards the floor.

Waitress saw it and an element of fear gripped her. She obviously told other Waitresses for they gave us plenty of space. If they were scared, I was terrified for we still had to drive home and that trip was one I don’t want remember and I think I should end that chapter.

A few years ago I was at The National Leadership School in Kyankwanzi. Not that I volunteered to go but somebody out there perhaps saw it fit that I could do with a bout discipline, cold baths in the morning and a couple of days devoid of pampering.
The real interest with Kyankwanzi comes when the AK-47 is laid out in front of you and you have to disassemble it, clean it and then put it back together. It took the best part of an afternoon to get to grips with that process followed by a lecture from Instructor on the power of the gun as well as a pep talk on the impending visit to the shooting range the following day.

For once, there was excitement especially from the unruly and riotous boys from Makerere University’s Lumumba Hall. I don’t know what they were expecting to get out of the trip to the shooting range but with Rambo, Chuck Norris, Steven Segal and Jean-Claude van Damme being mentioned, it was all about they being movie actors who play with toy guns and fire blanks while they, Unruly and Riotous Boys were going to be doing the real thing - real AK-47s and real bullets that can do anything from maiming to taking life away.

And the following day after a less than hearty breakfast, we were at the range. Instructor gave us another brief – not just once but three times just to make sure the message stuck. And then he pulled out his pistol and assured. He assured that should any of us disobey instructions, stand up or point the AK in an unauthorised direction, he would not hesitate to put a bullet into our heads.

The firing mode that Instructor decided upon was ‘single fire’ as in when you squeeze the trigger, it will release one bullet at a time. The first group went and followed Instructors instructions to the letter and so did the next three groups. By now our ears had gotten used to the sound of shooting at a close range which, made me wonder why I used to get scared whenever I heard a bullet go off.

With that thought, I practically beat myself for cowering, for letting Soldier in gum boots intimidate me at a road block simply because he was carrying an AK-47. I thought back even further to an altercation I had with Police Woman who was guarding the American Embassy when it still on Parliament Avenue. She had me practically doing susu in my pants because pointing her AK at me, she assured me that: “I can kill and I have killed before” and then called for Military Police back-up who frog marched me to CPS.

I was now bold. I understood the doctrine of the AK-47. I was on the same brain level as that of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the man who had invented the world’s most popular killing machine. And the mere sound of a bullet was no longer going to scare me!

Just when I thought I had all the confidence and that the balls I had were no longer soft and mushy but were as hard as golf balls and that a kick from a woman’s stiletto would have no impact, one chap forgot what Instructor had told him.
“Before you start firing, make sure you have selected the single fire mode.” Chap on the other hand had selected rapid fire, that when he squeezed the trigger, a multitude of bullets ringed out. It was terrifying! I felt like I was in the middle of Bagdad, Iraq when Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell launched the first Desert Storm Gulf War.

I was accustomed to single fire shots and not rapid fire. Obviously I didn’t hang around. I fled and for the people who have been to Kyankwanzi will know it is a fair distance between the firing range to the Quarter Guard (almost the distance between Speke Hotel and Garden City). The ‘golf balls’ of balls that I thought I had, had turned all soft and mushy that a kick from a stiletto would have me withering on the floor in agony.

I still respect guns and to be honest, I am absolutely terrified of the people who carry them, for when it comes to shooting to kill, Chap with a PhD will shoot and kill you in the same manner as Chap who is a nursery school dropout.