What's up: Kalungi Kabuye
A few months ago I went down to an ATM at the Lugogo Mall to draw some money. There were three people in the queue, and another two lounging against the wall about three metres from the ATM, deep in conversation and seemingly minding their business.
After the third person in front of me had done their business, I made to enter the ATM booth, whereby one of the lounging guys said that “they came first.” I ignored him and entered, and he tried to stop me, still arguing that they came before me and so should enter before me.
I tried to explain that he had to be in line to use the ATM, but he insisted that this was Uganda, he was Ugandan, and he could stand anywhere he wanted. It had been a long day and I didn’t feel like arguing with anybody so I just pushed him away and used the ATM.
When I got out he was complaining to the security guard on duty how I had abused his human rights. I just laughed, told him that Uganda was backward because of people like him, and left him fuming. By that time a lady behind me in the queue had also entered the ATM, ignoring the fellow’s cries that he came earlier than everybody else.
I have had a long running debate with a colleague of mine whether Ugandans are allergic to law and order, detest it to their deaths, or whether they are just plain ignorant. Or do they just love chaos, also known locally as ‘kavuyo’?
Kampala’s passenger taxis and the people who drive them are the manifestations of just how much Ugandans will go out of their way to ignore law and order, and make sure that chaos reigns.
The story is told of the taxi driver that drove on the wrong side of the road and was stopped by a traffic policeman. His plea to the cop? “Forgive me, I didn’t see you.” To his mind, his fault was not that he had broken the law, but that he had been caught, otherwise it was perfectly fine to do the wrong thing, as long as you are not caught.
The basis of every orderly society lies in the ‘first come, first serve’ principle, but it is amazing how many Ugandans ignore it. If you are willing and patient to let the person who is front of you get served first, chances are you will listen to Jennifer Musisi when she says don’t throw litter anywhere you please. You are also probably the kind of person who will stay off the grass, and use designated crossing points on major roads.
You will also do your best to be on time for appointments, and not try to find excuses when you show up late. If you are running late, because at one time that will happen, you are the type of person who will call in and let them know.
When a concert is advised to start at 8pm, you will probably be there at 7pm, not wait till 10pm to struggle to get in when it is ending, and then complain loudly that you were cheated, like what happened when R Kelly came to town.
It must be only in Uganda where drivers complain about policemen regulating traffic during the rush hour, insisting that they will sort it out themselves. Which, of course, will never happen. It is Uganda where this girl finds you all in a line in a bank, dashes straight to the teller’s window, and when you tell her to line up like everybody else, will do a double turn and exclaim, ‘oh, I didn’t know!”
It is also interesting that many Ugandans think it is only in banks that people line-up. There is a kiosk near the New Vision where we buy stuff, so this guy brushes past everybody and demanded airtime for sh500. We told him he had to wait, and he goes: “is this a bank?” Yeah, I pushed him away, too.
In all the cities and towns all over the world, drink driving is a serious offence, but in Uganda when the police started clamping down on it, there were howls of protest about drunks’ human rights.
A facebook page was founded where many Ugandans are complaining how the police are detaining drunk drivers unlawfully, and infringe on their rights by allowing them to be photographed and filmed by TV crews. (As an aside there was a period in Boston when 70% of drunk drivers arrested were Ugandans).
You know why Ugandans typically always wait for the last minute? It is because they will not let first-come-be-first-served. They would rather have the chaos that has been our society for the last 40 years or so, and which has defined us.
Those guys I found at the ATM are the types who will wait till it rains and then throw garbage in the drainage, believing it will be taken away by the water. It won’t, and ends up blocking the drainage, after which those guys will start complaining about flooding.
Those same guys probably speak very loudly on the phone, eat with their mouths open, and scratch their groins every chance they get. And yes, when they put their money together and buy a car, it will most probably be an Ipsum.
And that girl who tried to jump the bank queue? I remember the soldier that had parked wrongly and had his car clamped. When he came back he shot the chains off, and the crowd along Kampala Road cheered him on. That girl must have been there.
Catch KK on twitter at (@KalungiKabuye)