Kampala from a first time visitor’s viewpoint

By Alex Keillah Taremwa
Most of us have visited Kampala for at least more than once; that’s my assumption but none of us has ever taken a step to make an account or judge the impression they got from Uganda’s most Administrative and Industrial city.
For starters, therefore, let us see what a first time visitor to Kampala city would write about the environment, nature, cleanliness, and arrangement of the city.
A FOREIGNER/TOURIST: Let us pretend that we have been graced by the visit of tourists from cities like Stockholm, Dublin, Vienna or even New York and London. Of course, for the London settlers, they will not be surprised simply because they are responsible for the mess that we are locked up in but at least he will be shocked at the slow incremental change in which Kampala is transforming even the Americans.
Nevertheless, for other visitors from Ireland or Austria, they will be forced to make exclamations just as Pope John II (R.I.P) did the first time he got to Kampala. The Pope asked the people who had come to pick him up from Entebbe Airport that “Is this your Capital?’’ I can cook up an excuse to justify our state of existence then by asserting that Kampala was under a “popularist” leadership where the people who formed the major voting blocs also made the greatest contribution towards making our beloved city dirty, congested and confused and these were and still are the taxi (kamunye) buses, the boda- bodas and the hawkers. The difference between then and now is that the administration has transformed from a popularist regime to a technically competent and anti- congestion regime of KCCA compared to the then KCC administration so people who would be prepared to make such insulting comments would find something else to rely on as a possible excuse.
However the Irish, the Danish or any other visitors would be alarmed by the nature of business that the streets of Kampala exhibit ranging from fake passport Identity Cards, Local Council ID’s and the last time I came amidst Kampala with my white friend Melissa from Georgia if I recall very well, she was freaked out by the way the boda-boda cyclist our eyes had chosen out of the many was negotiating the small corners as he saw us through the heavy traffic. That wasn’t all; she also had issues with the local pronunciations of petty commodities especially grasshoppers, she also asked me where taxi stouts get the energy to shout Bweyogerere- Kireka-Banda like a thousand times in a minute.
To be honest, she loved the City and the people most especially the ones in Owino market whom regardless of the language you speak, they always have a special kind of treatment they set aside for such special case people. The hospitality was unbelievable especially at the hotels where we had our meals throughout her stay. She bought me a lot of things around town and the explanation she gave to convince me take them was “this is Uganda; a lot of things are pocket friendly. ” these included hand bungles, expensive necklaces, locally designed T-shirts and a hat made of backcloth that I’ll wear when celebrating 50 years of Uganda’s Independence.
She was also amused by the way, Ugandans respected religion, and Sabbath at large simply because of the turn up those Uganda Christian University students displayed on one Sunday and a while before she had been at the Baha’i House of Worship the day before her flight the next day. While at Entebbe Airport, she stared at the City and said “Goodbye Kampala for your hospitality and friendliness, my family and I will be right back to eat those nsenene literally referring to the fried grasshoppers again.” Then we drove and I’m sure they left a while later. I recently heard from her family asking me to schedule an appointment when I’m ready to host them and take them through Kampala at Uganda at large again.
The impression I got is that she had sold Kampala to the residents of Atlanta, Georgia that teased their adventurous nerves to demand a footstep on the streets of Kampala.
That was an outsider’s tale. Someone who has seen bigger cities far much better than the Kampala that we are proud of today. Let us now listen to the tale of a fellow native from Ibanda; a newly established district that is located 70 kilometers northwest of Mbarara and if you are driving to the same destination from Mbarara by road, it is 43 miles far.
So; Kenneth my favourite cousin is a couple of years older than I’m but he had never been to Kampala certainly because his family had a negative attitude towards the city due to many constant rumours about businessmen who by day used to sacrifice people like me to gods in turn of business success and prosperity. A case in point, The Godfrey Kato- Kajubi case where Kasirye (12) was sacrificed by this businessperson from Masaka. Therefore, here is Kenneth’s worst nightmare:
While undertaking one of my early semesters at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, my mother developed an illness for which she was admitted so she asks Kenneth to carry 1.4 million shillings to Kampala where he would meet me and hand over the money. Either by that time, Kenneth was not coversant with the banking systems or mobile money ways of money transfer so he called that entire sum of money on him. He got out of his bed at around 5am for that matter he was already in the city by 11am given the bus means of transport that he used. When he exited the bus with his money still, Kenneth reached for the public pay phone to call me so I could make snappy the means of picking him up which I did. However, before I even got to the Kisenyi Terminal Bus Park, I found Kenneth already humbled by the situation. He had already lost the 1.3 million except for the hundred thousand he had set in the opposite pocket to cater for his transport and accommodation fares. He was traumatized by this experience that he couldn’t even tell how he lost the money. He remembers being surrounded by a group of youth and he could not remember what happened next.
I comforted him by throwing around a common cliché’ that urban Kampala chaps use. “Kampala si bizimbe ate si kibuga kya bafaala” which literally translates that Kampala is not comprised of just buildings nor is it a city for slow village people.
When Kenneth went back home the day after, he narrated to the people of my birthplace the way things transpired, which on top of the already conceived perception that my people already had about Kampala made the situation even worse that everyone who appears uptown to my village including myself is perceived as a threat to them and therefore should be taken seriously and kept in watch or their custodian and elderly eye.


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