One singer expressed her dissatisfaction about Ugandans; they will make noise during day about anything and everything that one might be tempted to think they don’t have another more ‘exciting’ life at night.
Another sang about how life is enjoyable at night (Obulamu bw’ensi bunyuma kiro). Were they right? Well, what is not disputable is that Ugandans party and party hard. Little wonder Big Trill’s song, Parte After Parte is dominating the airwaves.
Those of us who go to our beds early never know the other life, and last Saturday I decided to stay out late and explore.
On one side of town, the downtrodden, the wretched of the earth, in Frantz Fanon’s words, when the rest of Kampala is returning to the suburbs to rest, they are coming to the verandahs vacated by traders, which they call home.
Some have spent more than a decade without knowing how it feels, having a roof over one’s head and surrounded by walla. I found these mainly on Namirembe road and areas near Shoprite on Ben Kiwanuka street. There were men, women and children, many of them sadly disabled, betraying the brokenness of our society. Rugs, cardboard boxes, gunny bags made their beddings.
I walked away with a heavy heart, mumbling about the unfairness of society and how it treats its weakest. My walk ended in Kamwokya – not the ghetto, but upscale Kamwokya.
That Saturday I had agreed to meet up with an acquaintance in town. Problem was, she made the program without checking her diary; otherwise, she would have known that an old friend had a birthday party that would climax with visiting a club to ‘shake it up.’
At the last minute, she called trying to cancel but I was already in town walking the streets of Kampala as I waited for the agreed time. There was no way I was leaving without seeing her. It was already past 10 pm. At first when she said she would be at Acacia, my mind raced to the big mall.
But she quickly corrected me that the place was called Bubbles O’Leary bar along Acacia avenue (now John Babiiha avenue). The last time I visited a nightclub was in 2012 – Ambiance discotheque in Masaka. We had travelled to the region for a friend’s wedding. All my colleagues went to the club and to fit in, I grudgingly followed. The experience was horrifying. The noise from the music would not stop echoing in my head several days later. Since then, I am averse to noise.
Now reunited with my car, I arrived 30 minutes earlier than my friend and started scrambling for parking space. The potholes that are slowly but surely eating up the road, coupled with the state of Ugandan drivers made the experience harrowing. When I finally got a parking slot, another driver probably high on something parked right in front of me, locking me in for a full hour.
Which bar had he entered? When he finally came back, he did not even apologise; he just drove away. At our agreed point, there was an entry fee of Shs 15,000 which revelers paid without hustle.
I wondered, are these the same Ugandans who complain about how expensive the daily Shs 200 tax on social media is and they can’t afford it?
In the bar, young women probably from universities were the majority, many in company of men much older than them. Many young men were also in the company of white women who looked older than them. Maybe I am old-fashioned, but if you saw the way those young women were dressed, you too would wonder how they left their houses.
Many wore bikinis and leotards, as though going for sunbathing on the beach. I kept on wondering whether they were not freezing, especially with the current weather in Kampala.
When do Ugandans work?
By the time I left Bubbles at midnight, many more patrons were just streaming in. Their night was just starting. In fact, I asked my friend whether the bar was not already too full and posed a danger to its patrons.
“No, it isn’t; when it is full, they will close the gate,” she assured me.
At midnight the roadside was teaming with cars. I wondered whether police even knew this area. Otherwise, nobody would be getting away with the law while drink-driving. Interestingly at one of the bars, it was actually police directing traffic of mostly drunk drivers. In this area, this is the routine throughout the week.
A friend of mine once remarked when we used the road on a Wednesday and we found as much traffic as on a Saturday: “But when do these people work? It is 3 am and they are still in bars.”
I did not have an answer then, but a simple Google search about alcohol consumption confirms that Uganda is number two, just behind Nigeria, in Africa. According to 2018 results, Uganda consumed 11.93 litres of alcohol per capita. Only four per cent and two per cent of that is beer and wine, respectively; the rest is constituted of local brews that can have dangerously high levels of alcohol content.
Like my friend, the author of the article on the website Howwebiz wondered when Ugandans work.
“During my visit to Kampala, I wondered whether actually Ugandans had jobs. Twenty-four hours, seven days a week at every time, people were in the pubs consuming alcohol. If not for the respect of statistics and the heavy population of Nigeria, Uganda would have easily become the drunkest nation in Africa by a million miles,” the author notes.
In the region, Uganda is followed by Kenya at 9.72 litres per capita, Burundi 9.47, Rwanda 9.10 and Tanzania at 7.7 litres.