Home Africa Why Do Ugly Ugandans Feel More Ugandan Than Others?

Why Do Ugly Ugandans Feel More Ugandan Than Others?

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By Daniel Kakuru 

Daniel Kakuru 

The other day, I was in a mall a stone throw away from New Taxi Park, Kampala. I wanted a blazer; the kind big boys wear to places where you will find a bottle of whisky costing five times as much as your monthly salary, before you meekly ask for Guinness or Nile Special. A neatly organized boutique had countless of them hanging on its walls. At first, I was dumbfounded. My eyes darted around the boutique. I wanted all of them, those stunning blazers; until I settled for one that is of a nameless color lagging between red and brown. Is it maroon? Dark brown? I didn’t study colors because I skipped nursery school; that thing was a concealed gazette for the over privileged kids and I had no place among them. I hope I get away lightly with my childhood adversity.


The moment I politely (not necessarily so) greeted the seller, ‘Jeebareko ssebo’, he beamed like he had just won a bet and sent the Indian man back home. I needed not be told, he had already made up his mind that I was incontestably a walking container of cash. Dollars? Pounds? Incalculable shillings. Whatever, we shall never get to know. That’s why when I pointed at the blazer that had appealed to me the most, he announced that it would cost me ‘only’ three hundred fifty thousand shillings. I never talked back to him. The snarl on my face unmistakably said everything I would have wanted to say in a not so sociable tone.


But you guys have legions of cows back home, he said. You could just sell off one heifer and buy this boutique or even dial a number of one of the movers and the shakers of the UPDF, evict me from here and offer me a new home in Luzira Maximum Security Prison.


Still, I said nothing in return. I picked up what was left of me and showed him my heels.


In 2018, I travelled for my first time in a green van with tourists. Sempaya Hot Springs in Bundibugyo was our last stop. Of the people in that van, only the driver and I were black as my buttocks; the rest were white. They were from different fragments of the wide word; California. Istanbul. Los Angeles. Oslo. Kiev. Such places. And yes, my role was to be their interpreter just in case we happened upon anyone who couldn’t comfortably express themselves in English. Having made prior visits to the fabled Semliki National Park (where the hot springs are situated) I knew everything about this place – entry fees into notwithstanding. We arrived, safe and sound. The driver did not say a word throughout the journey, but my rambling mouth had squandered the whole time yammering to no end about having the entry fees on my fingertips. I was (and rightly so) sure that it would cost $2.7 for Ugandan tourists and $15 for foreigners to gain entry into that coveted piece of paradise.


The gates flew open when our driver made known our arrival with a horn. Our van crawled in. We stepped out of it, swellheaded, the way impeccable souls step into heaven whenever they decamp from here. I led the way to the reception area. A hungry looking askari held his gun tighter, like we had come to snatch it and make away with it. A lady on our crew handed him a twenty-thousand-shilling note and he smiled, showing off a set of yellow teeth battered by a lifetime of smoking. He expounded on the fact that only one of us could move into the offices and meet the receptionist. You guessed right, that ostensibly had to be me.


These days I hear newcomers talking of love at first sight, but I did not like the receptionist the moment I beheld her. She was an amorphous woman looking like she was too heavy to carry her weight. Her face was narrow and round. So was her nose; which held her spectacles firmly. She drew a black handkerchief from her handbag. Said no word; neither did I. Pointed at a seat for me. Blew her nose hard enough to be heard 100000000000 miles away. When she was done, we exchanged pleasantries and she handed me a piece of paper which was supposed to be the menu. As I had told my crew during the ride, the prices were still undefiled. I nodded in approval as she handed me a piece of paper to write down the names of the people I had flanked myself with.


Having scribbled down their names, I returned to her office with the list. They were seven in number and I the eighth. Our tour guide waited outside and struck a noble rapport with my disciples. The receptionist read through the litany of incomprehensible names: Roberto Christensen. Lionel Llewellyn. Emerson Webb. Jack Wills – Powers. So went the list. She looked up at me, then at the list of the names and then at me. Without saying a word, she rose from her seat not without difficulty. It creaked for help but what was there for me to do? A scent of boiled eggs hit my nose in vehement whiffs as she sauntered away. She opened another door after I’d had handed her the money to cater for all eight of us. Moments later, she reemerged from wherever she’d been. Mr Kakuru, she said, the price for foreign tourists has lately been revised. Each of them will pay $35 instead of the $15 you saw on the menu; those are the old prices. My mind went blank.


My memory is short. I can’t recall the exact date, but I was recently scrolling through my Twitter feed when I chanced upon a photo of young men and women from Western Uganda. They were smart as London blokes, having just come to a grinding halt of a monthly youths’ meeting where they had been discussing what they never disclosed. Someone in the comments’ section remarked that those were Rwandan occupants disguising themselves as Ugandans in order to starve us of what is duly ours. This particular comment peeved me and made me want to visit the toilet for obvious reasons, but still I held my nerves. When I was still younger, such are the comments I used to respond to the way Al Shabaab recently responded to the ATMIS (I refuse to say UPDF) troops at their Bulo-Mareer base and nearly annihilated all of them. Such are the comments that used to make me mention Latin words like stultus, civivi. But nonetheless, I remained calm as the breast of a lake when the loud wind is laid.


There is a false credence among ugly Ugandans that they are more Ugandan than others. Did God take his time and use his gifted hands to mold you into a stunning or handsome human? Everyone along the streets will say you are not Ugandan. You probably sneaked into this country when Rwandans were still butchering one another just for the memory of it and did not return home when the guns fell silent. Is the shape of your nose different from the kind our Baganda friends are famed for? You are Rwandan, and there’s money spilling from your back pocket. You are closely connected to the handful of the people who own the country’s resources and neither of them is really a Ugandan. You are not supposed to be here, and the earlier you retrace your roots back to Rwanda, the better it’ll be for you and your loved ones – for this is not a safe place for you. Are you in a restaurant, hungry as death, baying for a piece of edible stuff? It is highly likely that you will cough out five times as much money as the ‘real Ugandans’ will.


It appears like for one to be considered a ‘real Ugandan’, one mustn’t be in the image of God. One must look like a reincarnation of Kato Lubwama (God bless his soul). One must look more like a descendant of the apes that just fled from the good old Bwindi Impenetrable forest. It doesn’t matter how fluent you are in the indigenous languages; as long as you are either more handsome or beautiful than average, you are Rwandese and your mission in this darned country is to spy for Rwanda. Before I forget, you are to blame for the disconsolate life the pariahs in this darned country are leading. Always remember that as you roam this country. A time comes when you will be sent back to Rwanda in spite of not knowing where such a country sits on the world map. Because everyone seems to have forgotten or even arrogantly refused to accept that all of us are immigrants who randomly walked into these countries and settled down according to the history we were taught in primary school.


I do not know who will speak out on behalf of the white foreigners who come here and pay inordinately for otherwise cheap things, but the injustice being meted out to those of us from Western Uganda is a matter that should be looked into by the powers that be.


The writer is a worthless MugOfPorridge. His articles have appeared sporadically in print and online. He drinks, smokes and hopes to die by suicide.


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