Uganda's Independence day, what makes it such a unique African country?
Today, the 9th of October, Ugandans celebrate 55 years of freedom from British rule. Uganda's capital Kampala offers a mix of highly entrepreneural individuals with nearly half the adult population in the city engaging in one trade or the other; a vibrant night life and follow their local traditions religiously.
Way before the British arrived, the Ugandans were ruled by kings, with 4 major kingdoms making up the country - Buganda, Toro, Ankole and Busoga. Unlike most African countries Uganda who got rid of their monarchies to make way for western traditions, Uganda still has kingdoms and the largest one, Buganda, is ruled by King also known as Kabaka Ronald Mutebi II and Queen/ Nnabagereka Sylvia Nagginda. The current Kabaka has ruled since 1993.
Ugandans take pride in their traditional attire. The women wear what is known as Gomesi, a floor-length, brightly colored cloth dress with a square neckline and short, puffed sleeves. The dress is tied with a sash placed below the waist over the hips. The men on the other hand wear a Kanzu, locally known as Mulera which is a white or cream floor length tunic and is usually paired with a dark coat. Both are worn at traditional weddings also known as Kwanjula. You will find the younger generation wearing more modern local designs from popular fashion boutiques like Bold Kampala which house several local designer collections.
Kampala is well known for its night life, and as the city doesn't sleep, especially from Thursday to Sunday. The more expensive, swanky clubs like Club Guvnor will have chic patrons but if you want to live like a local, head out to a local small bar also known as Bufunda. You can easily find a Bufunda in every street corner and I bet it's the best way to get to know the locals properly, no pretentious fancy interiors, just a small corridor with tables mostly covered by branded plastic table covers where you can share a bottle of Waragi with a stranger. Waragi is a potent local gin, wouldn't recommend drinking an entire bottle on your own.
Another business running parallel to the crazy night life is the street food. You will find long rows of street food vendors all around Kampala especially strategically located near the bars. The most popular food at 3 am is the Rolex which combines an egg omelette and vegetables wrapped in a Chapati (similar to Indian roti) or a more heavier meal made of TV Chicken which is roasted in a make-shift rotisserie oven that resembles a television hence its name. It is served with home fries and salad. If you are a big fan of markets, the best place to find all types of street food is Wandegeya Market.
Kampala is also known for its horrendous traffic and this has given rise to an influx of motor bikes, locally known as Boda Boda. You will literally see thousands of them in the city. The most notorious stretch of road in terms of traffic is the Entebbe Road leading to the airport. Many travelers have underestimated the time it takes to get to the airport and it's common to see well dressed travelers abandon their air conditioned taxis and jump onto boda bodas with their luggage on their laps in order to make it for their flights. Boda bodas are probably the most versatile form of transport and can be seen carrying anything ranging from water tanks to cows and entire couches.
Lastly, all Ugandans born after 1986 have only known one president, Yoweri Museveni. He has been in power since January 1986 and doesn't seem to want to retire any time soon. Museveni is one of the longest serving presidents. In 2005 rules limiting presidential reign for only two terms was done away with allowing him to stay on. The opposition has accused him of rigging elections, even though the Ugandan citizens want a regime change. The Ugandans who opted to give up hope of a free and fair democratic election decided to wait patiently for him to turn 75 as the only solution to vote in a new president, because constitutionally the presidential age limit is 75. However, his party recently tabled a motion to increase the 75 year age limit which will allow him to reign for another term. This caused an uproar from the opposition which involved fist fights between MPs in the parliament which caught the world's attention, with videos circulating on social media. We are keenly watching to see if Museveni will actually get away with this.
All in all, Uganda is a beautiful country with several tourist attractions including white water rafting on Lake Victoria for the nature lovers, the people are laid back and extremely friendly, you will feel right at home in this East African country.
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