Uganda Moment: Expat, CHOGM, Laico, Nirvana

I made a trip to Kampala Uganda last week, which was very short but very relaxing two days. Unfortunately, it was an all-conference (business) trip over two days that left very little time for sight-seeing compared to the last time I was in Uganda, in 2007, but quick in-and-out airport – hotel – conference – hotel – airport with chats with taxi drivers and few locals is how a lot of non-residents form decisions about a country. The town looks better; much spruced up, cleaner, and greener.

  • Election fever: from kids humming his song at the beach ‘Yes, Ssebo!’, to his posters all over town, President Museveni is in election mode, and while it appears early now for campaigns for an election next February (all the candidates, are on the nightly news at rallies), one local remarked that perhaps the president with ‘unlimited’ budget hoped to exhaust his opponents financially by election time.
  • Mobile Issues: Just what is Safaricom roaming? At JKIA I enquired about roaming tariffs in Uganda and was told to leave my line as is. But there, the charges were astronomical, about Kshs 30 to send an SMS and Kshs. 50 to receive a call! Fortunately, I was able to top up with M-pesa. Also, in different parts of town, the roaming partner would change from MTN, Orange, to Warid etc, and sometimes my remaining balance would change.
  • Also as you walk around Nairobi and take it for granted that Internet is everywhere on your phone, the same is not true in Uganda where there was no internet (at least for roamers) and buying a SIM card just for the internet was not worth the effort; so I’d be offline all day till I got back to the hotel in the evening which had a guest wi-fi. a must for any modern hotel
  • CHOGM: There’s a Uganda parliament report on the 2007 Commonwealth heads of government summit (CHOGM) on how money was diverted to build roads to private hotels and apartments, BMW’s and missing blackberry with actions recommend be taken against the vice president and various ministers. Serena and Utalii College are the only Kenyan connection I saw.
  • I went to a bank hall and shock on me was that there is no bullet-proof glass separating cash tellers from customers, and you exchange money over the counter as you would with documents at a customer service desk in Kenya (ok – security guards are armed and everyone goes through a metal detector at the bank door).
  • Finally,  the most telling moment on the trip, was a half-hour at a public beach in Entebbe on the shore of Lake Victoria. This was about a kilometer from the Laico Hotel (yes there’s also a hotel in Uganda controversially transferred and renamed the Laico, not just in Nairobi) and I sat on a beach with our taxi driver and had a Pepsi drink. It was a very peaceful moment, and one you’d be hard-pressed to enjoy in Kenya where every few minutes a hawker will approach you selling fish, music, mobile phones, clothes etc – or in Mombasa at Serena beach, for every walk 20 meters you walk/jog on the beach a young man steps forward to offer you a boat ride. That’s not how it should be.

6 thoughts on “Uganda Moment: Expat, CHOGM, Laico, Nirvana

  1. DMX

    Hello Banks, nice to see you hop over the border for a bit. You cannot get internet if your roaming, thats been a thorn in my side for ages.
    And Entebbe is definitely the place for peace and quiet, visit the botanical gardens next time. And squeeze in some time to have deep fried nile perch at Gaba Beach. Cheers.

  2. bankelele

    DMX: thanks, I’m so used to mobile internet everywhere now – car, matatu, home, – which UG provider is best?
    – Next time will make effort to explore around the lake, falls, and River Nile (note such an excursion had been arranged for after the conference)

  3. Adou Elenga

    the frequency and quality of posts on this blog has gone down just when I was beginning to get hooked. Still indispensable but… I hope whatever has preoccupied its author will pass and Bankelele will return to greatness maybe migrate from blogspot. Just hoping.

  4. PKW

    Yes to rafting the Nile before the power project makes that impossible.

    Kampala is definitely much more secure than Nai-guess with all the armed guards, it’s more risky for would-be thieves.I’ve never even had my pocket picked even at the most crowded place like Owino market.

    I try so hard not to have a political opinion, and succeed most of the times.

    Interestingly, am always able to have the limited Safaricom mobile internet for the same rates (and masaa ya SMS-5 for 5/-) just like people in Nai, though I rarely use it. I rarely use my Safaricom line to call home. But M-Pesa guys charge us extra to send money.

  5. Anonymous


    Was also in Kampala a few weeks ago.

    There was a shortage of good accomodation because some Conference/Summit was goin on. The likes of Serena, Sheraton, Protea were all packed and ofcourse…Munyonyo was too far off.

    If you like eating out like i do, next time you’re there, try The 7 Hills Revolving Restaurant as well as Cayenne…great food! great ambience! great band!

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