Thursday night 2 a.m. the music plays loud from the joint around the corner. After the dancing and praising of the Born Again Community next door had stopped in the evening the night life started. Singing and dancing almost the entire day and night, Kamwokya is a very lively place that undergoes constant change due to its proximity to down town Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.
With roughly 1.6 Million people Kampala is the biggest city of the country and its social, economical and political magnet. With its green grasslands and banana plantations Uganda is located at the strategically important source of the Nile, the Lake Victoria, which supplies the downstream countries South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt with water. It is a formal presidential democracy which has not seen a new president since 1986. In the past years attention has been drawn to the country through the controversial Kony 2012 campaign. A one-man hunt campaign initiated by an American activist targeting Kony, the leader of the LRA (Lord Resistance Army), a rebel group destabilising the countries North for more than a decade. The country is faced by challenges such as internal social and economical problems and its localisation in an unstable region, with neighbours South Sudan and DRC-Congo.
In 2009, I was working as a volunteer in North Uganda, I met a young man from Kamwokya. He invited me graciously to this vibrant part of Kampala and I stayed for a week at his parents’ home. By then Kamwokya counted maybe one or two multi-storage buildings and one finger was enough to count the tarmaced roads. Even though now more roads have been tarmaced and the real estate boom has brought many rental houses to the area the structures and problems of the people as you slop down from the main-road have remained more or less the same. The drainage system is not sufficient and at those ends where it could actually hold the tropical rainfalls it is usually blocked with rubbish. The local authority responsible for the rubbish collection drops by once in a while and only if you are lucky, which means you are at home by then and live closely enough to the main-road, you will be able to dump your rubbish in the overloaded lorry. That such a drainage and rubbish situation leads to health issues does not need a deeper analysis, it becomes evident the moment you pass through the tiny path ways and look around. The stagnant water provides a perfect home for anopheles mosquitoes to breed; hence malaria becomes a permanent partner in people’s life in Kamwokya. The income levels in this area are low and building space is a rarity, yet increasing urbanisation pushes more and more people from the villages into towns. Here they hope to find a better life and a job, but only few can earn a decent living. Administrative failure, mismanagement and overpopulation are some of the reasons why Kamwokya counts among the poorest areas of Kampala city. Facing this reality and seeing the daily life struggle people in Kamwokya go through, the story of the young men I met five years ago who was born and raised in this place sounds like a fairytale. A person achieving what he achieved, out of what he had (or better what he did not have), must be gifted with enormous compassion, faith and a strong will.