Monday, November 3, 2014

What Do Museveni's Bodyguards Do With The Gift Bags?

Bodyguards, minders, bouncers. Call them what you want, but out there, are some important people who by the nature of the office that they hold, need to have protection to save them from nutcases, stalkers, assassins, kidnappers, thugs....the list is endless.

The Russian oligarchs transgress their business operations in fleets of armoured plated Mercedes limousines complete with a bevy of armed bodyguards. Film stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have muscled men to keep the nutcases and stalkers away from them while at the high end, Barrack Obama, Vladimir Putin and David Cameron will have a mini army following them everywhere they go.

In Uganda, there is a man called M7. M7, and by virtue of his job, has bodyguards who call themselves SFB. I think.

Apart from M7 and the people he employs, I hear that chick on Urban TV – Mary Luswatta has protection and she needs it because she has annoyed just about every person in Uganda. But Sudhir Ruparelia, Gordon Wava, Charles Mbire and Karim Hiriji for example and who are some of the biggest tycoons in the land, do not have bodyguards - at least not that I know of.

M7 and having SFB to protect him is justified for his job title reads: “Head of State”. When he goes to a function, his SFB will take over and do what is ‘necessary’ to protect him from his own people.

But SFB can be cantankerous. One day they are easy to get along with and at the next function, they are a living hell. Each time I am invited to a function and find out that M7 will be there, I pass because it is easier to explain something to a house-ee in the Katanga slum than it is to SFB.

Mind you, don’t get me wrong. Not all in SFB are hard to deal with. It’s the men battle fatigues who set up the outer perimeter cordon. Rightfully, they follow whatever instruction that they have been given. They won’t deviate and they won’t sympathise. With a straight face, they will look at you and say: “No”. Then “no” again. Thinking outside ‘orders from above’ is no option for them.

At a recent function attended by M7 and Presidents Kikwete of Tanzania, Kagame of Rwanda and Kiir of South Sudan, Chinese Host had a number of gifts to give out to all who attended. There were over 3,000 gift bags which contained a yellow t-shirt and a key holder and were being transported in a delivery cart from an office where they were packed to the function area. When we got to the SFB security check, all hell broke loose – something which need not have happened.

SFB: “What is in those bags?”
US: “Gifts for the guests.”
SFB: “They have to be checked.”
US: “Not a problem. How do you want to do the checking?”
SFB: “It is for us to tell you.”

So we give him a gift bag which he looks through and indeed there is a key ring and yellow t-shirt. Satisfied, he then says: “We need ten samples.” He retains ten gift bags. It took us four trips to deliver the gift bags and on each trip, ten bags were retained as ‘samples’.

I wanted to ask SFB why they needed to retain twenty plus gift bags as samples but I thought that would be digging a hole for myself, and let it slide. But the ‘samples’ had some effect on the SFB. It made life with them that much easier even though it was at the cost of some guests not getting gifts. But I just need to know what happens to the samples? Do they get destroyed or...?