Yesterday, I woke up and prepared to go to work just like any other Monday morning – grumpy, tired and a little excited about voting for the very first time in the coming presidential elections only two days to go. Now, one day to go. I was really looking forward to it but now, I am just really scared and here’s why.
I’ve always known Uganda to be a peaceful nation. It probably has something to do with having been born after the duka duka days. I have heard stories though. I thought that Ugandans would rather die of disease and hunger than be in war…
We Ugandans are a prayerful lot; our motto is “For God and My Country.” Lately, we’ve been praying for peace, free and fair elections. But what I saw yesterday had me questioning the quality of our prayers.
The Peace keepers
Last afternoon, I spent hours my face pressed against the window of my work place, watching the police mambas, patrol cars and military slope down Kisekka market. ~ Kisekka market is famous for two things in Uganda; auto spare parts and riots.
When I saw the police heading for that direction, I knew they weren’t looking for auto-spare parts for sure! I quickly logged onto Twitter and checked the current feed under #UgandaDecides in case I missed something. Turns out that, presidential candidate Kizza Besigye had been arrested along Jinja road on his way to a campaign rally at Makerere University.
The crowds started to gather; I started to take photos and sent updates on Twitter. Before I knew it, my photos were making rounds on all social media platforms by media house accounts without my permission or any credit. People are so rude.
The crowd started chanting songs that demanded change. As the crowd grew bigger, the police deployed more men, more teargas, more rubber bullets and pink water.
The crowd got rowdy; the police reacted with slaps and batons. That’s when I started to panic. Things were getting out of hand real fast.
The police would clear the roads only for the crowd to multiply. After seeing all the teargas canisters and rubber bullets all over the place, I decided to leave the city. I bought food from my usual kafunda, I got into a matatu and headed for my friend’s place in Ntinda. Little did I know that I was headed to a war zone!
Before reaching Wandegeya roundabout we bumped into a rowdy crowd, we tried to get the driver to stop so we could get out and run for safety but he insisted until the passengers were so angry, yelled insults and almost got physical. The atmosphere was filled with teargas, we started to cough and our tear ducts opened. One of the passengers was, a white lady had a bottle of water and had me regretting why I didn’t have a bottle myself. Other passengers begged her for some water to wet their throats and handkerchiefs so they could wipe their eyes. She was hesitant at first and understandably so, I mean this was a situation where every drop of water counts. Thankfully, humanity kicked in and passed around the bottle.
We managed to come out of the taxi without any harm. I tried to take photos but the goons tried to snatch my phone. No surprise there. I ran into a building and saw old men crawl because of the teargas. I almost laughed but my throat was parched…
I couldn’t take the teargas anymore so I decided to find means of continuing to Ntinda.
The scene outside was pitiful, there was blood, more people crying and crawling. Some were carrying the injured to a small corridor.
Blood was shed
Luckily I managed to get a boda boda guy who after much pleading accepted to take me to Ntinda for twice the usual charge. No problem. I just wanted to get to safety. Only problem was, we couldn’t even get to the Wandegeya roundabout. The place looked like a scene from a war zone film. I said my little prayer, I put my life in both God’s and my boda boda guy’s hands.
A brave boda boda man in Wandegeya
I don’t even know how he changed route to Nakulabye. Before I opened my eyes, we were in Makerere then Bwaise. I asked him how he was able to see where we were going because my eyes were teary, he replied, “Just raise your hands and do the peace sign so the crowds can allow us to pass. Chant those change things if you can.”
That’s how I found myself in Kalerwe and not in Ntinda as I had planned.
My boda boda guy braved rowdy crowds, bullets and tear gas for a mere ten thousand shillings. He finally took me to Ntinda via the bypass. He was my day’s hero. I feel bad about not knowing his name but the situation just couldn’t allow it.
I can’t help but wonder, was all that necessary? Are we safe? Are our votes safe?
For God and my Country, Uganda.