Juice Wa Mango

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On our way back to Entebbe from Kampala last weekend, we had to stop as the President of the republic, His excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni himself, was about to pass by, headed to Kampala. My hotel taxi guy called Puff (he says it’s short form for some biblical name) –  a mad chap who drove too fast – pulled over at the shoulder of the road. He was wearing purple loafers. Purple! That’s a man who doesn’t give a toss. We sat in his car, his car radio cranked up on 88.5 Super FM, a local Luganda station playing some wonderful Luganda music.

I told l him I liked the song that was playing, the lady had a wonderful voice. He mentioned that she was called Rema Namakula.

“She’s good. Great voice.” I said

“She’s Eddie Kenzo’s wife,” he said in explanation. I don’t think her being good had anything to do with being Eddie Kenzo’s wife; she just happened to be his wife. I think she was probably good before she became his wife. Or might it be that Kenzo’s musical influence rubbed off on her. It’s hard to really understand what that statement meant.

“They must break into songs all the time in the house.” I said. He laughed and said, “Man.” I think it’s a Ugandan thing to say, ‘man’. “Man, you are lost.” “Man, we need to leave now.” “Man, extend a bit.” To ‘extend’ in Uganda apparently means to move a bit. Like if you were in bed with your wife and she was hogging all the space in bed you would say, “Man, extend a bit.” This is the kind of stuff that healthy Ugandan marriages are made of.

“I really love this song.” I said.

“It’s a good jam, it’s called Juice Wa Mango.”

(It’s actually called Yo Sweet. I googled it later at Entebbe International airport which has unlimited free wi-fi.)

“She’s singing about mangoes?”

He laughed and said, “She is saying that if you love her you have to treat her like mango juice.”

I kept quiet, let that important love advice sink in for a bit. It’s a fruity piece of advice, if you want.

“How do you treat someone like mango juice?” I asked.

Clearly he hadn’t thought this through. I don’t think many people have, really. Maybe it’s not crucial.

“If they are sweet, you treat them like mango juice.” he said.

“What if they are not?” I asked. “What if they are bitter sweet?”

He laughed. “I don’t know these love things, man. It is just a song, saala puleesa.”

We left it at that. It’s just a song about mango juice.

I asked him what Ugandans think of Eddie Kenzo, because I like his songs. He asked me what songs I know and I realised I only know one song, “Sitya Loss,” which is like saying you like “Bad” by Michael Jackson.

He sighed.

“He’s just theyia.”

“Where?” I asked, laughing.

“Mbu, he now only sings for party boys.”

“Party boys?”

“Yes, he goes there to Muyenga, Kisugu, for parties, and sings for the people in attendance.”

“Is that a bad thing, singing for people at parties?”

“Man, if you want to singi, you singi, if you want to singi at parties, you singi at parties.”

“I agree,“ I said, like singing for party boys, whatever that was, isn’t cool. “Where do you want him to sing?”

He turned to stare at me like I’d asked a foolish question.

“Of course, at the shows! The big shows and like in a stadium.” (You won’t believe how he pronounced stadium)

“We don’t sing in stadiums, back in Kenya.”

“Ahh, you Kenyans.”

Haha. Yeah, we Kenyans are a waste of creative space, using stadiums for sports and political party conventions. Complete waste of resources. And talent.

We sat in the car for a little longer. A presenter started talking in Luganda, which means it was fast-paced talk interspersed by him saying stuff like “iiii”, and saying “kakati” a lot. Outside, at the shanty kiosks that mark the side of the road, bodaboda operatives zoomed past. There are trillions of bodabodas in Kampala and they are all ridden by mad men who don’t fear cars. If you think our bodabodas are reckless, you haven’t seen one until you have seen a bodaboda in Kampala. Puff told me, “Man, they think the car should give them way. So I have to drive my car and drive for them,” meaning he has to think for himself on the road and for the bodaboda guy as well.

“What about Bebe Cool?” I asked. “Is he still cool?”

“Ah, Bebe is a star, man.” He did the horn-tutting thing with his hand.

“Chameleone?”

“Only you Kenyans love Chameleone.” he said and laughs.

“He isn’t big here?”

“He is theiya.”

“Where?” I asked with a straight face.

“Just, you know, he has some nice songs….he’s OK.”

The first presidential escort whizzed past at a terrific speed, blaring warning horns and flashing lights. It was a saloon police car driven by a stern-looking military guy in full military fatigues. (I assumed he was as I could only see his hat and top. He could have be wearing sweats below the window.) Then another saloon car zoomed by with the same military guys inside. Two outriders with powerful BMWs followed. Then those open military modified vans drove past. It had four indomitable-looking soldiers lounging in the open back, two on each side, full military gear, big guns, big ski-shades stuck on their foreheads, the type you would see in World War movies, only modern. They sat back on their comfortable seats, looking at the civilian world pass by. It was a show of military might, intimidating, romantic and gung-ho!

Then the landcruisers passed quickly, two of them in a blur of black.

“He is in that next one,” Puff said, and I leaned over to his side to take a glimpse of M7. The Cruiser passed swiftly but he wasn’t in it. “He isn’t in there, he’s in that next one.” Puff said. Sure enough I caught a glimpse of the big man for a fraction of a second. He was wearing his signature hat, actually that’s all I saw, and a fleeting image of his face. He must have been reading the newspaper, his head bent down. Either that or he had dozed off. He seemed oblivious to the eyes seeking him or the mouths mouthing his name.

Power is so alluring, I thought. We wonder why African leaders hang on but when you look at that show of power, that privilege, it must give one some level of highness, being escorted by men with guns, chase cars, military men. Men salute you, roads opening up for you, children running to the road to stare at you, your pictures hang in shops, the Chinese coming and waiting outside your door with their hats on their knees, waiting to hand you buildings to say thank you, artists making songs about you, women dancing for you in stadia. You are like mango juice.  

Two more vehicles passed quickly and then a large, bulky, white, caravan-like vehicle followed. Then an ambulance. Then some random military looking cars, maybe carrying an arsenal of weapons.

“What was that?” I asked Puff.

“That’s an ambulance.” he said.

“I know,” I said, irritatingly. “I meant the other big white one that looks like a caravan.” We eased back onto the road, driving towards Entebbe.

“That is Museveni’s toilet.”

I turned to look at him.

“Toilet?”

“Yes, he sometimes travels with his toilet.”

“Why does he need a toilet?” I asked ridiculously.

“To urinate!”

I stared ahead. “But between Entebbe and Kampala is less than 30mins for him, why does he need to use the toilet?”

He shrugged. “Just.”

That must be another Ugandan thing, explaining something with “just.”

I wanted to ask if his president had a bladder problem but thought better of it.

“Has he always moved with that toilet or is it a new thing that he acquired lately?”

He thinks about it for a beat then says he doesn’t know.

“Have you ever seen him use that toilet?” I asked.

“No.” he said. “But he uses it when he is going far, like Western Ugandan, for example.”

Museveni, a military intelligence mind, fought Idi Amin and Obote from the bush. I can easily see him stepping out of his car on his way to Northern Uganda and taking a leak from the bush because once a soldier, always a soldier, no? So his toilet baffled me a little.  But I wasn’t even so shocked at the toilet – I mean, this is Africa after all, but I wondered about the man who drives that toilet. A man whose job description is to drive the president’s toilet. How old is he? Does he carry a firearm? Will he ever get a chance to shoot it? If he’s married, I picture him waking up each morning and having a normal conversation with his kids and wife.

His wife tells him to remember to settle the balance of the school fees as he dresses up. He nods, tucking in his vest. He then signs the young ones diaries because he never signs them and the teachers are beginning to think he’s an absentee father. He then fetches his gun from the safe and his wife says, “Mbazira, where are you going today?”

“You know I’m not allowed to say,” he says.

“I’m your wife, not someone who wants to kill the president.”

“That information is classified, dear. We have been through this before.”

She sighs and dabs powder on her face.

“OK, what time will you be back, or is that also classified?”

“By 8pm.” He says.

“Try come back earlier, because today is when your brother and his wife are coming over for dinner.”

“I can’t leave the president unprotected because my brother and his wife are coming over, Rose. My job is not an office job where I wear a lanyard around my neck.”

I wonder if this guy ever imagined he would be driving the president’s toilet when he signed up for the military. I wonder what his busiest day looks like. When he says he had a long day, what does he mean? What inspires him? Also how can you bungle a job like that? How often does the president use that toilet? And does he get in there with his big hat? Or is there another military man who holds the hat when he gets in? And if he gets in with his hat, does he keep it on as he sits on the toilet seat? Or does he sit there with his hat in hand, turning it over, deep in thought? You must have seen those digital images done by the Italian digital artist, Christina Guggeri, of world leaders doing their thing in the small room. I wonder how she would have depicted M7.

I’m not implying it’s beneath anyone to drive the president’s toilet, because it’s a civic duty, and allegiance to the state and to the commander in chief of the armed forces. I’m just wondering where you move to after you have driven the president’s toilet. What’s your ten-year plan? What are your career growth options? Is it pensionable? Who supervises you? KPIs?

I can see him, at a pub on his day off. He’s seated in a group of mostly military types, enjoying Bell Lager. A lady seated to his right turns and asks.

“So do you also work for the special forces?

“No, I’m with the Presidential Escort Unit.”

She: “Oh really!”

“Yup.”

“What do you do for the Presidential Escort Unit?”

He will look bashful for a moment, “Oh well, I’m really not at liberty to get into the details of my job,” Blows his cheeks and exhales slowly. “It’s a security issue,…you know one those things we are not allo-”

“I understand, I’m not really asking for details I just want to know – “

Shifts in his chair. “ Let’s just say that I privately take care of Museveni’s shit.”

Her eyes open in large saucers, “Oh, wow. Like his right hand man?”

“Well, no, that would be an exaggeration and a gross misrepresentation in these circumstances.”

“You are being so modest..” Moves closer to him and leans on her hand, staring at him with a tilted head. “Tell me, how is it, anyway?”

“Quiet, mostly.” Sips beer. “Nothing exciting really ever happens.”

“Never?”

“Well, some days are a shit storm. But most days you don’t hear a sound.”

“Do you ever feel like you are putting your life on the line, is it dangerous?”

“Well, I wouldn’t call it dangerous, unless, well unless the president drastically changes his diet.” He chuckles at his own private joke.

She will have that “eureka” look. “Oh I now know what you do! You are those chaps who taste the president’s food and drinks to check for poison,” poking his arm playfully with one manicured finger. “You handle his food and drink, don’t you?”

“Eventually, yes. As a by-product.”

She will play with her braids and say, “You are so brave.”

“No, you don’t need bravery for what I do.”

“Yes, I think you do.”

“No…not really.”

She will say sarcastically, “What do you need then, officer Mbazira?”

“The ability to smell trouble.”

 

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165 Comments
    1. Recently, that truck passed by me and I was close enough to notice that the container at the back where the toilet is is made by a company called Cargo-Tuff. Now, I’ve failed to quite bring it out but I think there is a constipation joke in that setup.

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  1. She will have that “eureka” look. “Oh I now know what you do! You are those chaps who taste the president’s food and drinks to check for poison. LOL.tuesday made

  2. The guy who drives the toilet,ahaha. Nice piece Biko. Visiting Kampala is now in my bucket list. I might be lucky to catch the view of that convoy and see Museveni’s toilet.

    1. Kakati….. The man has ‘beautifully’ represented our former home. LOL…. the amazing thing is how after a while you adjust and most of these things become ‘your new normal’. Concerts at Kyandondo Rugby Stadium, M7’s loo, just/ theiya/ man/ extend (OK that one not really… never got used to it)

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  3. JaKindu, you make handling M7’s shit such an onerous duty that everyone with a half a brain should be lining up for the job. Unfortunately, you left out the perks.

  4. hhahhahahahha memories of Uganda the lady must love butunda much….. I acquired the habit of answering things by saying just from Uganda. I couldn’t help reading this entire article with a Ugandan accent. Munange Biko thank you for always doingi such brillianti articles.s

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  5. Only you chocolate man would choose
    to focus on the toilet driver and
    not the military van drivers not the BMW
    drivers nor the landcruiser drivers…..
    Only you

    1. Was thinking exactly the same..
      When i read presidential convoy & juice wa mango, didnt figure the conversation would lead to the presidential toilet.
      You get used to seeing the toilet though on Ugandan roads..#amsoUgandan

  6. You do realize that you are probably banned from Uganda and the entire republic of East Africa, when it happens and M7 is the supreme leader!!!

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  7. “Like if you were in bed with your wife and she was hogging all the space in bed you would say, “Man, extend a bit.” This is the kind of stuff that healthy Ugandan marriages are made of.” You are hilarious Chocolate man. Will they really let you back to Uganda?

  8. OMG!!! Thank you for coming back from “self exile” Mr. Chocolate man!!!
    …..’m just wondering where you move to after you have driven the president’s toilet. What’s your ten-year plan? What are your career growth options? Is it pensionable? Who supervises you? KPIs?…..
    #iDie

  9. Haha I loved this one. The Eureka moment is hilarious. And hard to believe that Chameleone is actually more popular here than there. Don’t Ugandans dance to ‘Valu Valu’? And here i though I was earning their ways through my mans Chameleone. Anyway Biko when you get carried by a GK Landcruiser and and break traffic rules you without worry you will understand why Museveni would rather have a toilet follow him than risk taking a leak in the bush like normal people doing roadtrips. Power is intoxicating.
    Good read.

  10. hahaha first time we were told to extend so that the guy could open the door we stared at him for a cool 5 minutes until he gestured with his hands.. 😉

  11. There are trillions of bodabodas in Kampala and they are all ridden by mad men who don’t fear cars. If you think our bodabodas are reckless, you haven’t seen one until you have seen a bodaboda in Kampala Very true its my one unpleasant experience in Kampala

  12. Nice read. Theiya….now I know “just” where the wife of a local governor got the idea from! She is driven around in a convoy that always includes an Excloosive!

      1. It is used as a continuation of a statement that that was suddenly interrupted. Its like how Kyuks say (someone said above theiya (lol) “Ateriri!” It wmeans ” As I was saying…”

  13. Chocolate man how dare you write about our President’s toilet, “man”? Bikozulu, the only one who can focus on something as mundane as a toilet and actually make a story out of it.
    It is a good read though from the perspective of a Kenyan!! Life is good though Biko here in the land of many hills.

  14. I have been looking for that photo by Cristina for months now. Finally got the drawer* It is the most inspiring piece of art for me. It makes me believe that everyone is eventually human… Everyone!

  15. Hehehe Biko my Tuesday done and dusted…“You handle his food and drink, don’t you?”

    “Eventually, yes. As a by-product.”

  16. Gosh, we dream of joining the military with the hope of being chopper or fighter pilots… Maybe to be trained into badass killing machines. Then we enlist… And driving the President’s choo around is all we get to do. Smh

  17. This is a good piece the Ugandan in me will agree with puff jose isn’t all that, apart from boda bodas there are trillion of speed police on the highway and they don’t take bribes easily.

  18. Biko bana! You left me hanging there on the way your driver pronounced Stadium – I really was looking forward!

    Great read, congrats. Especially at ending with the shitty business – where all food ends anyway after the best nutrients are removed in the stomach

    Were you inferring by any chance that all that’s left in M7’s legacy is shit? I mean, the last vehicle in his entourage is the shit carrier and all – his last years as prezzy could be shit to Ugandans…

    Like I said, great read.

  19. ..playing with her braids..you are so brave. .that cracked me up. Biko, you are just on another level.I bet her eyes were as big as saucers when she was saying that.

  20. Le sigh..why can’t he take a piss in the bush like the rest of us mortals? Unbeknownst to him, he’s depriving Ugandan soil of useful nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.
    Power is alluring..not because of people saluting, but is their a future or monetary gain outside politics for former strongmen and their cronies? and then the fear of prosecution for human rights abuses. M7 (and Kagame) have contributed a whole lot to the continuous instability in the DRC, and because the west needs cobalt..everyone turns a blind eye.
    The way I see it, they will be traveling around with their toilets for a very longtime as they fiddle about with their constitutions and give lame excuses as to why they should hang onto power.

  21. Great read Chocolate man…”Or does he sit there with his hat in hand, turning it over, deep in thought? You must have seen those digital images done by the Italian digital artist, Christina Guggeri, of world leaders doing their thing in the small room. I wonder how she would have depicted M7.”…..those pics almost made me lose a rib before i find a living one….made my Tue

  22. “Well, some days are a shit storm. But most days you don’t hear a sound.”
    Hahaha. This line killed it.

    I remember the first time i went to Kampala i got inside the mat and the conductor told me ” Ssebo, extendko alito” I told him pardon and the next thing i heard coming out of his mouth was a very long “iiiiiiiii!” I died with laughter.

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  23. If you want to singi,you singi haha. I hope the guy also pronounced the word thousand,therefore,bringing. Biko you made me extendko abit on my couch with laughter.

  24. Biko yet again I salute your literally skills,but most of all I would like to tap into your thought process, your sense of humour is on a whole different level,great piece! You need to do like those 1000pages and counting book!

  25. The amount of laughter I get from this blog!!! Thank you Biko!! May you live a day longer than me, so that I enjoy this madness to the end!!

  26. Dying over here… captivating style as always.
    It must be difficult for the chap, especially after a couple of years of rigorous vetting (maybe even counting of teeth like we do here) and intense army combat training;
    only to deal with ‘Matters of urinal security’..
    PS:Anyone else trying to figure out Puff’s full Biblical name?

    https://ianwainaina.wordpress.com/

  27. Infotainment!, but I got a challenge for you biko.
    Would you write a piece on how you have nothing to write about?, you are a great writer after all.you can write about anything.

  28. Power. Power is so alluring.
    That motorcade from these Currency boys, our Governors, leaves trails of how Kenya has two social divides.

    Look how this guy kills it.
    Thanks Biko.
    It makes my appetite of visiting Lugandan soil whet.

  29. Hehehe….. Eti the guy handles the president’s shit? From now on I will be taking any statement with the word shit a bit serious.
    By the way, the driver goes by the name Shikuku Shituma.

  30. Like always , you never disappoint. Good laughter to start the new month.i hope it is not just theiya theiya..

  31. Hahaha Biko you are one funny guy. Went to school with a lot of Ugandans and I was inserting their accent on every reply of Puff…made my day.

  32. Hahaha you captured Ugandan language so accurately.
    And you have forever changed the way I look at our president’s convoy.
    Good job, may you come to Uganda often and tell us all about it.
    Hilarious!

  33. Gwe boss. Kati you have no idea how many Special Forces guys will be going home early this evening to convince their wives that: 1. They DON’T go to bars and get chatted up by random chicks like that 2. They DON’T drive the toilet truck and that every time they used those phrases they didn’t mean anything shitty 3. They are NOT the ones in charge of holding the hat every so often, toilet or no toilet. You have just extended their problems theya.

  34. kakati yall…that’s a communication van not a toilet van…we ugandans love coming up with false stories that over time have become alternative facts!!

  35. how women have accepted our ways…same man has wife n now at bar being caressed by braid girl n it all is normal guess what the wife dnt know won’t kill her…
    hilarious though

  36. Banage
    There is so much nostalgia that comes with this piece.
    I am super hooked.
    I m inspired to write on a Ugandan’s perspective while in Kenya. Y’all better extend

  37. Kati this stuff of how Mbaziira has to take care of Museveni’s sh*t is super hilarious.
    I do hope you enjoyed your stay in the Pearl.
    You should have counted the cars the made the presidential convoy, but maybe that was irrelevant to the sh*t.
    Great Read.

  38. WE LOVE OUR UGANDA!!!! As a matter of fact, when Kenyans come and live here, get integrated into the society and systems here, leaving is futile.

  39. I visited Kampala a few times when i was back home in kenya. Now that am far away I know i will never see that convoy..
    Your articles makes me feel at home. good one Biko.

  40. This is perhaps the most hilarious article you have ever done. Perhaps you should stick to conversation (or is it called dialogue?) here and leave the prose to the Saturday magazine.