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Peter M. Kahindi: the lawyer wearing many hats

PK. That’s his moniker. Not Paul Kagame. No. Just PK. The lad from Kabwohe. I knew him off Twitter (X) many years ago. And our physical paths eventually crossed at Gardens, Najjera. Tall. Soft-spoken. Brilliant. I haven’t met many people who have a clue about almost everything under the sun. He does. From legal matters to Formula 1, from artificial intelligence to rock music.

I caught up with him over a cold one (of course). And we broke bread.  

Let’s break the ice. Tell us about yourself briefly.

I am human, before I am anything else. Then the rest follow; a man, a son, a father, a husband, a brother, and hopefully, a friend. Professionally, I am a lawyer by both qualification and practice, and I have been at it since 2010 (I know). I am also an entrepreneur and philanthropist. I hope that’s brief enough.

Take us through your upbringing and education journey.

I attended Kindergarten (many people my age missed out on that) in Kabwohe, Bushenyi. I can’t recall the name of that school – if it had one, anyway. See, back in the day, we would refer to the kindergarten by the teacher in charge. Strange, now that I think about it. I think mine was called Mama Marvin or some such name. I proceeded to attend Nganwa Junior School. I was compelled to repeat P. 1 because, in the eternal wisdom of the class teacher, I was not old enough to attend P. 2 at 6 years. Again, strange. I spent 7 years at Nganwa. I love that school. I must admit that I was an ill-behaved pupil, to put it mildly.

After P.7, I went to Mbarara High School where I spent the next 6 years. During those 6 years, I picked up interesting life skills and habits. That school teaches you survival against all odds. Going through the six years without any disciplinary blemish still shocks me up to now. After Chaapa (fiercely proud of that one too), I proceeded to Uganda Christian University, Mukono (it’s not Mukono University, by the way) where I enrolled for a Bachelor’s Degree in Law. There was an admission at Makerere University for private sponsorship since I fell short of government qualification by a mere whisker (if only I was female!), but I chose UCU. That is a story for another day.

After my first semester, I was lucky to get a bursary that would cater to about 85% of the tuition fees. It was called Friends and Scholars. It was available to the best two Ugandan students after the first semester (I have my moments of cleverness). From UCU, I proceeded to the Law Development Centre (LDC) where I obtained my Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Got through that hellish place in one year (thanks to the universe) I have gathered a couple of post graduate certificates along the way.

So, Kabwohe, is that where you call home?

Yes. My family has been in Kabwohe for about 400 years. I can recall and cite my ancestral lineage up to my 11th great grandfather and founding father of our clan. His name was Muganga. That chap settled in modern day Buhweju District and after several generations, his great-great-great-great grandson, Ndereya Mabanga, settled in present day Kabwohe. That is towards the end of the 19th Century. We have been there since. So, yes, Kabwohe is home for all intents, purposes, and aspirations.

Bushenyi is known for its strong political roots. Should we expect you to roll your sleeves and join politics soon?

I actually have strong political genes. So, from time to time, people back home, after several drinks on my tab, will declare that they are ready to support me should I choose to run for political office. I have not seriously thought about that, really. I think that the current local leadership is doing well, all circumstances considered. Right now, my focus is on building our businesses and my professional career. I know this is a political answer, but isn’t that the whole point?

Why law though?

During the first semester of Law School, one lecturer asked us why we wanted to be lawyers. One of my classmates vehemently volunteered this answer: “I want to fight all the injustices in the country!” Truth is, most of us were thinking either that, or “to make as much as possible.” The lecturer, with a sarcastic smirk, said, “I wish you luck!” Anyway, back to me, I chose law because it was the natural choice, given my High School combination and my academic prowess. Law was the best program any Arts student would aspire to. Law was simply my classification as a student. Simple and straight.

Any key highlights in your law career so far?

Yes, sure. The challenge with our profession is that we have to carefully tread around what we have done. But I pride myself in having taken core responsibilities in the following.

During my URA days, I was placed in a unique position where I had to make multiple decisions on whether or not some multinationals (including the two main Telcos in the country, four commercial banks and the two biggest players in sugar manufacturing industry) should be entitled to certain tax incentives. Some of those decisions formed part of what our tax laws are today.

Second was when the Firm won an opportunity to take up two critical projects on the review of the Amended Traffic & Road Safety Act plus the existing Regulations as well as the formulation of fresh Regulations. These exercises gave birth to several impactful Regulations and subsequently to a new law on Speed management on our roads. Third, I have helped to set up the Kiira Motors Corporation Legal Department.

I am very happy with this because KMC is one of those government programs with the potential to turn this economy on its heels and so, to have set up one of the vehicles required – both strategically and substantively – to accomplish its aspirations is worthwhile. Along the way, there have been other highlights, but I can’t mention those for confidentiality reasons.

Almost every week, there’s a conversation about young lawyers. What’s your advice for them?

I love young lawyers and I have been seen to empathize and sympathize with them from time to time, much to the discomfort of my peers. I have my controversial ways. My advice to the young lawyers is not just one shoe-fits-all.

I think the advice should depend on the circumstances that the lawyer is confronted with. If I am asked whether someone should dive into starting a Law Firm straight from enrollment, I will advise that they should instead invest three to four years into learning and building networks and a clientele base. And then they can kick off if you must. You need those skills.

If I am asked whether young lawyers should demand for better pay at work, I will certainly encourage them to aggressively push for their rights, which includes looking for better alternatives if that push is not fruitful. If I am asked about career choices and specialization, I will advise the lawyer to open up their mind and think outside the box, because I doubt there is a more versatile discipline than Law. Everything that we do, every day has something to do with (the) Law.

So, I would need context, in order to offer advice.

Kiira Motors Corporation; how did the journey start?

I joined KMC in the last two year as part of their Strategic Business Plan to build robust structures across the entire organizational structure. Any organization with the vision as big as KMC’s must have such structures. I reckon my expertise was required especially in ensuring that there is regulatory compliance (internal and external), and the Board Affairs are operating smoothly.

When dealing with a State Enterprise, the bar is even raised higher because you must ensure that all the governance and compliance aspects are always observed fully, otherwise, you may have serious questions to answer from some of the key stakeholders who may determine whether or not the entity is going to exist for the next few years. The work is intense, and that is why I love it. Anything that is less than challenging is terribly boring.

You co-own and run Gardens, Najjera. How did it all come to life?

Oh dear! So, to start with, I like to hang out. So, naturally, it was easy and natural. My colleagues and I decided to build a nice and chill hangout towards the end of 2014. We needed it to be near our homes. We put resources together and took time to get the right architectural plans (you can tell that everything about the workmanship, design and structure-placement is deliberate), and put one structure up, one at a time.

By April of 2017 most of what was needed was in place – for a functional hangout. One evening, we decided to get a few drinks and just sit inside the structure that is now the main restaurant area. We had carried two or three plastic chairs from our homes. While there, two cars randomly drove in, and the occupants insisted that they wanted to have a drink with us. I am not sure what attracted them because there was no music – save for a DJ Tumz rock mix playing off my old Blackberry – and hardly any external bright lights. Next thing, one of us went out and b(r)ought two cases of drinks and one of us jumped behind the counter and begun selling. The next day was Friday, 07.07.2017. The rest is just vibes.

Should we expect more Gardens’ outlets around the country?

Oh yes! The medium-to-long term plan is to spread out a little. The idea is to retain the character and the vibe and then branch out, in a measured manner. Who knows? Maybe folks will love it out there. I can’t divulge specifics for now, obviously.

How do you find bar business in Uganda? Lucrative, huh?

My sentiments are within public domain on this, Ed. But, to reiterate, running the bar business is not easy. I am not saying it is not lucrative, but it probably is not as lucrative as most would imagine, if you are running a legitimate business. There are overhead expenses that a bystander will not even notice, because they think that “this is standard for any normal bar.”

Secondly, it is cutthroat, because you are all pretty much fighting for the same clientele, in the same the geographical area. So, to survive, you wear a metallic wrapping around your fragile throat and then spend days and nights coming up with ideas. And then the next day, those ideas are duplicated by someone else. Then you go back and cook. The precise answer is, it can be lucrative, but you must be very alive to the expenditure involved in making the money.

Any other business ventures in the pipeline?

Like I said, I like to invest in what I like doing. So, a while ago, some friends – interesting friends who collectively go by “Random Plot” – and I decided to get into the tour and travel business because we love (road) trips. This gave birth to the outfit known as Tembezi Travels. We have beautiful, spacious, and comfortable tour vans for very affordable hire. Trust me, bro.

Then, because I think that there is some ka money to be made from transacting in money, a friend of mine and I are launching Logan Financial Services in August 2024. There shall be signs.

You have a penchant for rock music. When did your love for rock music start?

It was during the American Top 40 show with Ricky Dees. This was as early – or late – as 1994/5. We had a radio at home that had a compact tape-recording option when the FM radio was on. So, every Sunday, between noon and 2pm, we would tune in to Capital FM and I would be sure to record only the rock songs on the show. I believe those tapes are still safely stashed away in one of Mum’s ancient cabins. Gosh, is that 30 years ago!

Speaking of rock music, should we expect a rock festival this year?

This year, we will be having the third volume of the UG Rock Festival. This version is intended to be all-involving. We want rockers to own this episode and enjoy it fully. At the right time, you will see what we mean by that. But, bottom line, we want to give rockers – and their buddies – a strictly rock n’ roll memorable experience that should set the stage for future, bigger, festivals.

Rock music was a dying breed in Uganda. What influenced you to keep it alive?

I have always loved rock music, but I think Steak Out made me believe that this passion could and can be monetized. So, I won’t deny that Steak Out placed the belief firmly in my mind/heart. Secondly, I was inspired by Touch FM. I was permanently tuned into that station. Beewol did very well for the culture. Then there was Rudy’s Soft, Hard and Heavy on XFM every Sunday. Loved that show.

But what really keeps it going are the people that turn up every Thursday and at every Rock Festival. Even during lockdown, when we came up with an idea of a Twitter (X) Space about rock and roll, guys really jumped on and gave deep insights. So, I think that what we are doing is providing a central venue, but rock is very much alive amongst the rockers. I wish for as many venues as possible to start playing rock music. I don’t understand how someone can’t love rock music. But that’s just me.

We understand you are part of the amazing rotary family. Tell us more about it.

I love giving, generally speaking. I am too generous to the point of recklessness and that is why I have learnt to check myself when going overboard. I belong to the Rotary International Family, and specifically the Rotary Club of Upper Kololo under District 9213. I won’t bore you with the Rotary norms and all, but we believe in service above self and that little phrase defines by entire existence. So, I am proudly associated.

What are your other passions?

Family – this is everything for me. And then some. They are my strongest support system. Charity – I do have a dream of starting an Orphanage by age 50 – which isn’t that far, anyway. Formula 1, definitely. I am vintage Ferrari and was already working (as if) when Kimi won us the last Championship in 2006. SMH. Still, we move. Golf. I love it but need to work on the consistency in order to push my handicap to respectable digits.

Do you like your food microwaved late in the night?

Why would I want to eat late at night? LOL.

Three people who inspire you.

  • Samuel Kahindi
  • Steve Jobs
  • Samia Suluhu Hassan

Your parting shots?

We didn’t participate in the decision to be here on earth, but now that we are, may we always aspire to live this life on our own terms.

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