Archives for March 2009

Madagascar Top 40 Count Down

Joseph Warungu | 17:33 UK time, Saturday, 21 March 2009


What have Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson and Rihanna got in common with Andry Rajoelina, the new leader of Madagascar?

On the face of it, or even by their faces, nothing. But this is where sophisticated intelligence from my Revolutionary Africa Command Stool, RACS comes in.

As you know by now, as Chair of RACS I work by night.

It's the best time to gather intelligence on the strange or suspicious movement of people, ideas and money on the continent - RACS' noble mission.

Night is when night runners run. I've spotted many of them from my observation post above the African skies.

Some run in their pyjamas and nighties from one house to another in their neighbourhood - I can't quite follow why; or why they sneak back to their houses all sweaty and exhausted.

Others run with their hearts in their hands pursued by machete-wielding, gun totting men who fancy the idea of extracting taxes from innocent souls heading home from a hard days' work.

And then there are those I've watched running from themselves.

Perhaps the skin bleach is melting them back to their colour of birth - which is dark and unacceptable or the wig is constantly falling off displaying a hairline that is hard to match with age 20.

This last group runs the fastest. I guess there's nothing as terrifying as being pursued by yourself.

On this particular night, the RACS audio monitoring gear is creating mayhem, temporarily distracting me from Africa's night runners.

The racket from the speakers is unbearable.

From the intelligence sound files downloading by the minute from our agobas (agents of a better Africa) on the ground, I can tell the noise is coming from Madagascar.

My laser-guided night vision cameras zero in on the Presidential Palace at Ambohitsoritria in the capital, Antananarivo.

You won't believe what I'm seeing and hearing.

Andry Rajoelina, the new President is stooped over a sound deck, one hand holding one half of his headphones to the ear, while the other is busy loading, unloading and shuffling music CDs and old school vinyl records.

The dexterity with which his hands shift from the CDs and records to the sound mixer and the flashy ipod clearly tell of years of experience.

Of course this is the former DJ turned head of state.

He's surrounded by jovial army officers who've packed the room swaying happily to the beats that rock the palace.

Apparently the newest member of the African Union club of big men has decided to throw a celebratory gig to say a final goodbye to his days at the helm of the sound system in the city's clubs and scream a formal hello and welcome to his future as the man of the moment.

His choice of music this night is deliberate. He's playing his own top four of the charts.

My narrow knowledge of Top of the Charts shows tells me most DJs go for a top 40 countdown.

So why only top four?

My invisible omni-directional mics pick up one General explaining to another that it's something to with DJ Andry's superstitious beliefs regarding the figure 40.

Perhaps he has a point. There's so much history and bad vibe associated with 40.

40 is the age when the knees of many people begin to express loud, unwelcome sounds synonymous with worn, unoiled door hinges.

40 is when many look in the mirror and unable to recognise what they see, nevertheless punch the air and say 'life has begun!'

40 is the fiction and Biblical writers' favourite number: a fast of 40 days; forty years of this and forty years of that; Ali Baba and the 40 thieves...

40 is also the minimum age specified by the Madagascar constitution which a person must attain before being declared President of the country.

You can see why at the age of 34 DJ Andry has 40 reasons for staying away from top 40 and sticking with four.

But the Generals who relish parties have no choice. The man is President, if he says we dance to top four we shall dance to top four.

And so DJ Andry spins into action with his top 4, occasionally dipping the volume to drop in his version or interpretation of the lyrics.

This next section of the blog is interactive - you might need to find Andry's hits and play them as you read in order to hear and feel what the DJ and his crew were feeling and hearing that great night, and what I was getting down to atop the RACS deck.

4. Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Singer: We could be jamming all night long
DJ's rant: (say it loud, yeah, yeah..)
The vibe is coming over me so strong
I'm feeling we've just begun
Let me help you put it on...
(yeah, yeah, put a ring on democracy)
All my single ladies throw your hands up
(all surrender, or I'll shoot)
In the air!

Do it, do it, do it
(and that's an order)

Me: I've had a long relationship with my mind. And this song's hot; but the antics she engages in on the video, which due to my age and rank in RACS I can't quite get into here, are a little disarming. Suffice to say they involve rhythmic movement of her hand and the gluteus maximus.

3. Kelly Clarkson - My life Would Suck Without You
DJ: This is dedicated to my predecessor as he tried to cut a deal with me, but too late...yo...yo...
Singer: Maybe I was stupid
(say that again...)
For telling you goodbye
(it really is goodbye, mate...)
Maybe I was wrong
For tryin' to pick a fight
(some you win, some you lose...)
I know that I've got issues
But you're pretty messed up too
Either way I found out I'm nothing without you
(too late...too late)

Me: I can't believe the beef between these two is this deep.

2. T.I. (Feat. Justin Timberlake) - Dead and Gone
DJ: These are his final words as he finds a new home beyond State House....yeah...yeah.
Singer: I turn my head to the east
I don't see nobody by my side
(No AU, No EU...yeah)
I turn my head to the west
Still nobody in sight
(No SADC, No UN...yeah)
So I turn my head to the north,
(Indian Ocean?)
Swallow that pill
That they call pride
The old me is dead and gone,
The new me will be alright
(only if you remember to carry a life vest.....yeah, oh yeah...)

Me: I think, I'd better head south with my RACS vessel, it's getting hot in here.

1. Rihanna - Shut up And Drive
DJ: (This final number is for my beloved country which cried out for me in a loud voice....yo...yo....yo.....)
Singer: I've been looking for a driver who's qualified
(check me out...oh yeah)
So if you think that you're the one step into my ride
(the people have spoken)
I'm a fine-tuned supersonic speed machine
(the country is ready)
With a sunroof top and a gangster lean
(the heavens have approved)

If you prefer your African news read rather than sung, then swing to:

Uganda family affairs

Joseph Warungu | 10:19 UK time, Thursday, 19 March 2009


Oi!........Oooooi! Stop right there! Yes, you! And you, you! Where do you think you're going?

Sorry, I'm not screaming at you the reader.

I'm addressing the five people captured on the monitors of my Revolutionary Africa Command Stool, RACS, which is gently orbiting above the African clouds on the look out for strange movement of ideas, people and money on the continent below.

Just a day after launching this African spy mission I have hardly slept.

The sophisticated electrical circuit of RACS nearly came apart with frantic electronic intelligence beamed to me by agents of a better Africa (agoba) at our Kampala earth station.

Five people have been spotted together carrying highly sensitive documents relating to the Republic of Uganda, but only one has the people's mandate and level seven security clearance to do so.


Although I can't forgive him for nearly blinding me with the fierce reflection from his bald patch which seriously clashed with RACS's infrared equipment.

Where's his cowboy hat today?

Back to his accomplices. What are they doing meddling with the source of the Nile, the pearl of Africa or U.G. as we call it here at RACS?

Ping ting tin pee - I tap into our state of the art computer that contains the database of all movers and shakers in Africa including some who are simply milk shakes - insignificant people of no use even to themselves.

But we still keep their profiles because you never know when a DJ can turn into commander-in-chief of a progressive African democracy.

In a matter of seconds I have the identities of the six subjects.

1. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni - Chairman, ruling NRM; President, Republic of Uganda
2. Janet Kataha Museveni - wife of the aforementioned YKM
3. Gen Salim Saleh - brother of YKM
4. Major Muhoozi Kainerugaba - son of YKM
5. Natasha Karugire - daughter of YKM
6. Sam Kutesa - his daughter married to son of YKM

There are others named on the agoba list but because they are still in school uniform we shall protect their identities until they reach political maturity.

'The five subjects are related,' reads one helpful comment from one of our new agobas in Kampala.

Of course they are...duh! Even my sleepy competitor the US Africa Command Centre would be able to work that one out!

Did I really hire the right calibre of agents for this mission?

Hang on. The man is not done yet, and it seems was not hired in vain.

'YKM is President; his wife is Minister of State for Karamoja (a marginalised region of north-east Uganda). Salim is the Senior Presidential Adviser on defence; Muhozi is Commander of the Presidential Guard Brigade (mechanised), while Sam is the Foreign Affairs Minister.'

So what have we got here? Five government salaries all going to one household.

Ok, we know that government pay in Africa is not great and one can never build a bamboo shack to live in let alone support a proper livelihood on the state payslip.

However, in these times of credit crunch, bone-crunching hunger, drought, village warming and all, one cannot scoff at a few spare shillings or francs trickling into the household.

RACS is not in any way opposed to five ambitious Ugandans reaching out in umbilical unison to serve their country. This type of sacrifice is commendable.

Only a disgruntled enemy of development and the well being of Uganda can blame Museveni for appointing Museveni Junior to lead the brigade that guards the President.

The presidency in Africa is becoming a highly dangerous profession. See what the army did in Guinea Bissau: violently reducing the life expectancy of African heads of state by despatching President Vieira to an early grave.

And see what just happened in Madagascar. The boys in uniform, like an irate landlord, woke up one day and drove their tanks to the Presidential Palace and booted President Ravalomanana off the premises.

They didn't even have the courtesy to offer a refund of his March rent.

A decent landlord would at least give a one month's eviction notice to an errant tenant; but not these boys.

Would Ravalomanana have done a runner if he had Ravalomanana junior running the Presidential Security team? Absolutely not.

He'd still be drinking Malagasy soup peacefully under a coconut tree at the Presidential Palace, watching lemurs with their ever curious eyes.

So back to Museveni. He's learnt the hard way.

He's seen how on 25th January 1971, like a neighbour going next door to borrow some sugar, President Milton Obote popped out of the country for a few minutes to attend the Commonwealth conference in Singapore only to find he'd been unceremoniously evicted from State House, Nakasero in Kampala by his army commander, a certain well fed Idi Amin Dadah.

Museveni knows history has a nasty habit of repeating itself; unless of course you re-write it before it becomes reality by getting capable flesh and blood to sacrifice their comfortable lives by serving the nation in neglected and demanding capacities.

So in this instance RACS is satisfied that the movement of money - five sets of fat government monthly pay packets - into the Museveni household is being done in the interest of Africa.

What has rattled RACS however, is the movement of a strange idea around Africa - the difficulty of finding suitable candidates to fill key public positions which forces the beloved leaders to resort to kith and kin.

In explaining his decision to appoint his beloved better half to the unloved Karamoja Ministerial position, Museveni told BBC Network Africa that ministers were reluctant to take up the Karamoja docket.

Listen to President Museveni on the BBC

Karamoja is a hardship region of Uganda. It's quite hostile. You have terrifying cattle raiders who would drive the fear of God into US Marines; you have people who use AK47s as walking sticks.

Bringing lasting peace, stability and development to the region is a tough, demanding job.

If no other Ugandan apart from Janet is willing to do this what is the CEO of the country expected to do? Shut down the vital ministry altogether?

However, it's not fair that the difficult task of running a nation be left in the hands of one family. They too need a break.

RACS would like to help by issuing an appeal to all lovers of a better Africa to rise up to the challenge of developing their continent.

We need to build capacity and share the burden with the First Families of Africa.

If there's anyone out there in Uganda who can train under Janet so that one day they can inherit the job of turning rusty Karamoja into a thriving Kampala, please contact RACS.

If there's an experienced mother in Sierra Leone who can work as an intern under the guidance of Teacher Alice Koroma, mother of President Ernest Bai Koroma with the aim of one day becoming special adviser to the People's Leader, do write in.

We need to help the poor woman who only a few years ago was pulling the ears of young Ernest to get him to concentrate on homework.

Now his ear lobes are watched keenly by State security and protected from a mother's itchy fingers, so her job is simply to counsel ...quietly.

And if there's an Egyptian willing to learn the skills of leading the nation to spare young Gamal "Jimmy" Mubarak the exhausting and depressing prospect of having to inherit the seat of power occupied by his dad for the 28 years, we'd like to hear from you.

But if you stumbled upon this fact laden, highly sensitive briefing from the Revolutionary Africa Command Stool by mistake and simply wanted an unadulterated view of the continent please go to

By way of introduction

Joseph Warungu | 14:00 UK time, Thursday, 12 March 2009


My name is Joseph Warungu.

By day I'm the Editor of the BBC's daily flagship news and current affairs programmes for Africa - Network Africa and Focus on Africa and the Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly BBC Focus on Africa magazine.

A proper, responsible and respectable job.

By night I'm the unseen chair of the Revolutionary Africa Command Stool, RACS. A mad, sensitive and highly sensational job.


The RACS is a mobile, amorphous vehicle orbiting somewhere over the African skies. For security reasons I can't tell you the exact location.

But I can tell you that the vehicle is equipped with more sophisticated monitoring and evaluating gadgets than Air Force One.

The RACS is served by millions of unseen agents of a better Africa who send regular intelligence on the activities on the continent.

The RACS deciphers, translates, analyses and publishes this information via this blog.

The Revolutionary Africa Command Stool is not to be confused with the inferior Africa Command Centre run by a bunch of Americans somewhere in Africa.

Like a proper traditional African stool, RACS is founded on three legs: people, ideas and money.

From aboard the RACS where I have a commanding view of Africa, I monitor, follow and question any significant or suspicious movements of people, ideas and money on the continent.

The mission

Each week I will be blogging about any such movements that catch my eye, ear or irritate my nose and hands.

To avoid duplicating ourselves my competitor, the US Africa Command Centre has agreed to restrict its activities to chasing a bunch of panting and sweaty guys running around with UO's in their hands - that's unexploded ordnance.

I in turn will have an unobstructed view of the heavily suited, pot-bellied occupants of air-conditioned offices who launch Africa's hard-earned capital into outer space; fire off poisonous ideas in the name of development and frequently place the wrong people in the right places, or the wrong people in the wrong places or the right people in the graves.

Welcome to Warungu's Africa.

If this sounds too scary for you, there's a more balanced view of the continent at:

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