When I started my travel in Africa I didn’t know much about Uganda, I read article about one guy who went to Uganda to do some voluntary service, he enjoyed his time there, met interesting people, last day of his stay he was robbed, he stay only with passport and flight ticket back to his country. Other article says about Uganda as most welcome country in Africa for refugee; Somali whose not allowed they women to keep relation with local men, South Sudanese and people from DR Congo. Stories as many but stayed in my head mostly. While I was traveling in Africa south from Egypt I met many travelers aiming opposite direction, they always shared their experience and memories placed Uganda as beautiful country with very welcoming people. Couldn’t wait to check it myself.
All way from Eldoret to Kampala I slept in bus, just out of the corner of my eye I noticed lots of green outside. South Uganda is taken by Lake Victoria, this biggest lake in Africa is shaping climate in all region, bringing lots of rain and keeping green vegetation even in dry season. In this part of the world it means also more mosquitoes who can spread malaria. As I thought I search for more info about and found rapport of Dr Perera Okui from 2012 supervisor of Malaria Control Program in Uganda which says that malaria exist for all seasons in 90% of country. Surrounding area of lake Kyoga in north is stated as one of most malaric place in the world. Jungle fever is killing 70000 people each year (more than AIDS), mostly children under 5 and pregnant woman, is causing serious damage for economy, adults absent they work and children – school, is absorbing 40% of all spending (not high in total) for national health system.
We are in 2017 and local people in Kampala are saying to me that malaria is not appearing in the city anymore but soon after I passed city center I could find lots of posters advertising anti malaria medicines in local drugstores.
Malaria from Italian means bad air, for long time people couldn’t find connection between malaria and mosquitoes but they realized sickness more likely hit in humid climate near to wetlands. Not so long time ago, maybe 100yrs, disease appeared very frequently in Europe, most infamously in Italy, especially in wet area south from Rome where occurred its most dangerous African variant, malaria were fight off there couple years after second world war stopped.
Kampala is called city of 7 hills but honestly you can count much more of them. Capitol looks very alive, business of country concertinaing here, similar to other big cities in this part of Africa. In the center area hotels, restaurants, shopping malls border with unplanned yet part of the city where slums grow and supply with cheap labor for planned parts of city center. Rich suburbs border with poverty districts. Walking around the city is easy to find church, mosque or hindi temple, huge market with all kind of goods, oldest university in country, golf course. Matatu, local micro-buses heading off in different direction. Dozens of taxi-motorcycles, here called boda boda, Indian company Bajaj waiting for passengers on every corner, mostly without helmets, often taking more than one passengers at once. It makes Kampala near to top on the list of most dangerous capitols in means of road accidents.
History of Uganda seems to be similar to many stories of African countries. Man made lines on the map lock inside boarders lots of tribes and kingdoms which had often nothing in common. When colonialists retreaded in hurry one of the lower grade office worker from northern tribes get to the power, his name was Obote. He start to be surrounded and keep an eye on business of people from his community. When the nation demonstrated the level of discontent he became more cruel. At the first opportunity his power was taken by army commander, primitive muscle-head Amin. Amin was famous for his faithfulness and big muscles in colonial army. His ruled over Uganda ruined country and transformed land into African dead fields. After 10 years when Obote back to country and took a power by rigging results of presidential election. It spark off a civil war and even more cruel time. From chaos of guerrilla fights 2 names become well known. First is Yoweri Museveni who in 1986 become president of Uganda and is keeping power until now. Second, Joeph Kony, war criminal, since 1987 commander of Lord’s Resistance Army, guerillas who kidnapped and recruited children to his army. Just not so far like couple of years ago his army still spread terror in north part of Uganda, South Sudan and eastern part of DR Congo. Its very possible that Kony and his extinguish army is hiding now somewhere of the Central African Republic territory. Musevenii designated in 90’s by western countries as example of great ruler in Africa succumbed to the temptation of power. He changed once written constitution to keep presidency until today. Even if economy of the country is growing each year 8% per capita he is most hated politic figure by the citizens from north. They accuse him of not protecting theirs interests and inefficient fight against Kony’s guerillas for dozens years.
In that kind of mood wondering around Kampala I met Justin who spouse to rent a car and in couple of days pick up friend Jan from next city and spend 2 weeks travel around Uganda. I joined them for a week, I was very curios what we can see in so difficult-to-access north.
One of the many pictures stayed in my head from this trip is beauty of falls in Sipi town east part of country just north from Mt Elgon, local people are very nice, they make excellent moonshine called here waragi. I manage to stay in National Park in Kidepo over night and haven’t been eaten by wild animals, park in north corner of country, seems forgotten (or not discovered yet) by tourists which make a visit really unforgettable experience. I visited Gulu where halfway houses for children from Kony’s army were located. I’ve seen Murchinson Falls where Nile river drop into 40 meter abyss and where Alice Aumy spouse to be possessed by demon of Lakwena before she led her army against government and which legacy had been continued by her nephew Kony. I finish my trip in Ford Portal where I could admired tropical beauty of Rwenzori Region.
One of the many pictures stayed in my head from this trip is a view of group of kids pushing a bike stripped with grimy-yellow jerrycans all around up to steep hill of dirt road. One of biggest problem of Africa is access to safe drinking water. Huge amount of people, sometimes kids, sometimes adults, traverse every day same way, carrying every day same grimy-yellow jerrycans to local water intake station. This absorbing great amount of energy what could be put to use in different ways, kids by spending this time in school, adults at work. Curious how it looks like in statistics I found a report from 2010 saying in average distance to water stations in rural areas in Uganda is 800m and in average queuing to fill up grimy-yellow jerrycans take 30 minutes. Upgraded report from another year says that only 53% of water sources were fully functional (18% were permanently shut down and 24% work temporarily). Africa can learn us how pressure resource is a water and how we should save it.
At the moment I’m heading towards Rwanda.
Must to see:
The Last King of Scotland (2006), Director: Kevin Macdonald
Queen of Katwe (2016), Director: Mira Nair
Must to Read:
Wojciech Jagielski, The Night Wanderers
Ryszard Kapuscinski, The shadow of the sun: my African life