Here I am, 3 weeks to date in a land that once laid claim (still does) to the phrase, The Pearl of Africa. Located in the Eastern part of Africa, lying to the South of the Sudan, East of Kenya and bordering the expansive Congo and Tanzania to the West and South respectively, welcome to a proud Nation called Uganda…U.G to many
Uganda, a landlocked country in the heart of Africa, shares the waters of Lake Victoria (2nd largest fresh water lake), considered the source of the mighty River Nile, with both Kenya and Tanzania.
The name Uganda derives its origins from ancient Buganda Kingdom of the Buganda people that flourished in the land in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The Buganda Kingdom stood out as the dominant monarchy amongst other dynasties that included the Bunyoro and Busoga.
Recent times in Uganda history include power struggles, most famous in the late 1970s and early 1980s during and after Dictator Idi Amin’s reign of terror.
So much about history, this is actually meant to be a personal account of my observations, learning, interaction and experience during my stay here.
THE COAT OF ARMS / THE FLAG
I have taken quite an admiration to The wordings that feature in the coat of arms , “For my God and my Country”. The phrase seems to ooze some sense of patriotism and sounds like a clarion call to the citizenry to rally together for their country.
The country’s flag is adorned in Yellow,black and red, with the official recognized Emblem being the Crane bird.
With a total population approximated at 36 Million,Uganda would be considered a relatively small Nation relative to its neighbours that constituted the original East Africa Community i.e Tanzania and Kenya.
Kampala City is the country’s capital city with a population just shy of the 2 Million mark. Kampala has been widely referred to be the city in the hills,with key landmarks being numerous hills.
Overlooking the city suburbs from Lubowa
It is no surprise to notice residential houses,private and government offices ‘competing’ for spaces / occupancy of sections atop the numerous hills in the city. It is considered ‘prestigious’ to occupy residence ‘above’ other city dwellers,a concept widely believed to have been picked up from the early day monarchies that had Kings seek to locate their ‘palaces’ overlooking their subjects.
An interesting aspect of the capital city is the presence of thousands of motor bikes(boda boda) considered to be a quicker and cheaper alternative to cabs and other public service vehicles. See, Kampala is rapidly growing alongside the country’s economic outlook expected to grow over 6% this year.
Previously shunned or overlooked,Uganda is quickly emerging as an ideal investment destination. Despite having been in power since the ouster of the notorious Idi Amin over 30 years ago,the current President Mr. Yoweri Museveni is credited with having overseen to a relative calmness and economic recovery in Uganda.
Metroplex Mall – Naalya
Kampala’s skyline is now witnessing the opening of new buildings and entry of regional retail giants such as Nakumatt, Uchumi,Mr Price. This has seen to the rise of a middle class,targeting to be where the action is,i.e Kampala leading to near status of congestion. Motor bikes or Boda Bodas have literally ‘invaded’ the city as an alternative and preferred but unchecked means of ‘public’ transport.
…Of the Police…..in White and all
Hard to miss in Kampala’s landscape are the cops in white..Traffic police save for their boots and caps are resplendent in white uniform and discernible from miles away. I am yet to understand why white of all colours would be chosen as the preferred uniform for the ‘men in blue’.. I guess the term here should be the ‘men in white’
I would be stretching to far if I was to describe the country as a “police state” from the little I have picked out so far,yet the numerous uniformed and armed men in various military fatigues that I have come across offer no consolation otherwise.
Open decked Toyota Landcruiser vehicles dot the Kampala roads with no less than 4 officers seated on a uniquely constructed bench rest at the rear of vehicle. These are also used as patrol cars, escorting dignitaries, Senior government officials from one end to another.
License to party..amidst police watch..
Kampala evening traffic – Entebbe Road
Different police units are identified separately by the uniforms they wear,from the
charcoal green / khaki to the more common dark blue military fatigued police
The Social Scene
I have been told that nobody in the East African region parties like Ugandans do. Sample this… Waragi is the widely acclaimed local Vodka; Weekends can see to Music clubs blazing their music until 2.00 am , proximity to residential houses notwithstanding.
Some of the biggest and well paid artistes in the region are from U.G, the biggest names going by the names – Chameleone,Bebe Cool and Bobi Wine.
The gossip mills are filled with tantalizing tabloids like the enticing Red Pepper, with stories that seek to incriminate politicians,clergy and music celebrities.
Perusing them tabloids over bottle of “Bell’ Lager
Football(Soccer) is the most followed and loved sport in the country. Many people can easily relay the nation’s football team (Uganda Cranes) line up,unlike other countries where much affection is extended to foreign players especially in the European leagues. The Uganda Cranes T-shirts that come in Yellow,black and white are often adorned by many soccer lovers in the country.
English is considered as Uganda’s official language. The language is a key communication tool as early as grade school all through to University. It is therefore a welcome attribute that from as low as sentry,boda boda taxi driver or househelp would have a fair command of the English language.
As many African communities,Ugandans – the ones I have interacted with are generally a friendly lot. Depending on your engagement in the country, official duty, evangelical or touristic,you are sure to sense different reception that border from slight hesitation/suspicion (official), co-operation(evangelical) or politeness/friendliness (tourism).
Majority of the people in Uganda are Christians. Stories are told and references made of early Christian Missionaries and explorers e.g John Speke who made their way to the heart of Africa on exploratory as well as evangelical missions.
Pilgrimages are now made to the famous Namugongo Martyrs shrine, where 22 converted African Christians were Martyred in 1886 by the orders of the Buganda King for failing to renounce Christianity.
Martyrs’ shrine – Namugongo
Unlike many African nations that bear the burden of drought and famine.. Uganda seems to have steered off such epidemics. The country is endowed with natural resources,with rainfall being a great addition to all year round agricultural sustainability.
A meal will not be considered a proper Ugandan dish if Matoke (Mashed banana) – a delicacy here,cassava,sweet potato,beans and peanut sauce served with fish or fried beef is missing. Needless to say,this is quite a mouthful that leaves one quite ‘overwhelmed’.
Will you make it through lunch?
Humid,hot and rainy best describes the weather experienced so far. Sweaters or heavy jackets are rarely worn in Kampala,so one is better placed not carrying too much stuff when visiting the city.
So much for my introductory notes and insights on Kampala and U.G as a whole. Hope to pick out as much as possible for sharing during my stay. Would be interesting to hear experience from those visiting,living or who have made a stop over to the country…
Tunaalabagana!! … See u soon.