A SPECTACULAR display of fireworks in Kampala city ushered in the year, 2008, as revellers cheered at various vantage points.
Kampala Extra Police chief, Edward Ochom, said save for a few incidents in which some thugs were arrested while trying to grab items like jewelry, the celebrations in the city were â€œlargely peaceful.â€
Huge crowds assembled at Sheraton, Serena, Golf Course and Africana hotels and patiently waited as the clock ticked away to midnight for the annual fireworks.
An equally large crowd, mainly of teenagers, filled the walkways, terraces and parking lots at Garden City, where they danced and drunk as they waited for the New Year. When the clock struck midnight, Kampala was thrown into a frenzy as residents screamed into 2008.
The cityâ€™s normally dark skyline, was lit for over 15 minutes with fireworks that streaked through the sky before exploding into a dazzling array of colours.
At Golf Course Hotel, a loud bang exploded into plumes of light. It was a call for attention. All revelers obliged and fixed their eyes into the skies as the magnificent display melted into small multi-colour clustered petals.
Simultaneous explosions reverberated across Kampala, from the Sheraton hotel in the city centre, Club Silk in the Industrial Area in the east, to the Kabakaâ€™s palace in Mengo in the western part.
The Garden City roof-top provided the prime view point. For sh5,000 entry fee to the Venue pub, one could watch the action from the major hotels.
The roads leading to major hotels and other venues were jammed with cars. In total disregard of the recent CHOGM beautification works, cars were parked on the grass lawns, flower beds, pavements and everywhere.
Many people were forced to remain in their vehicles to watch the displays.
At Garden City, skimpily- dressed students on holiday ecstatically paced from floor to floor, hugging and kissing friends along the way. At the Venue where loud music blared, ensconced youngsters swiped all brands of alcohol and other fizzy drinks, dancing at perilous angles.
In the city suburbs, there was relative calm. Kireka, Kitintale, Bugolobi, Kiswa, Namuwongo, Kibuli, Kabalagala, Kansanga, Bbunga and Nsambya calmly celebrated the new year. Children hit empty jerrycans and blew whistles along the roads. This year, residents respected the Police orders not to burn car tyres in the middle of roads.
At Didiâ€™s amusement park in Kansanga, hundreds of people watched the fireworks, which capped a â€˜Fire in the Cityâ€™ concert.
Owing to heavy deployment of security personnel, there was little crime unlike in the past years. Sources disclosed that 1,360 Police officers, supported by the Military Police, were deployed.
About 400 were at the Lubiri palace and 320 at Hotel Africana and Kololo airstrip, where they were reinforced by the Presidential Guard Brigade. A total of 300 guarded Namboole stadium, where Christians prayed overnight.
Regional Police spokesman Simeo Nsubuga said three vehicles were stolen during the celebrations. Two were commuter taxis stolen from Kibuye and in Mengo, while a car was grabbed from Mohamed Muwonge on Wakaliga Road.
Contributions by Henry Mukasa, Milton Olupot, Herbert Ssempogo, Steven Candia and Patrick Jaramogi
Ugandans welcome 2008 in style