Translation: I’m afraid there’s none in English. In Luganda, it’s what you might say, to bundle up someone with their argument and dismiss them both at once! I would not recommend frequent use. It’s not terribly polite.
The last time I came here, I was thrown out seething and spitting world-class arguments. The girls who were carrying jerrycans, with lessus tied round their waists, had tried to warn me. They live here, they would know. But their pleas fell on liberated 21st century ears. What do you mean, women in trousers aren’t allowed in here?
I matched right through. This is my country too, right? No. Scratch that. This is my kingdom. I mean, I was born and raised in this monarchy. I have tribal rights.
Straight on we match. Me & my laissez faire ideas.
See, I can even ‘walk’ like a Muganda. I kweddira a civet cat. My father who gave birth to me is Ssengendo. I am the grandchild of Lubwama who lies in Kisembi. Our clan head is Walusimbi, he sits on the hill of Bakka.
Two men walk towards me. Are those snarls on their faces? No, thank God! Just sneers. Behold, an abomination stands before them. They shall not defile themselves by speaking to it. They point it towards the gate. But gestures can be ambiguous. I point my nose towards the first path I see and follow it.
The younger man, no more than 23 years, I judge, approaches. Women in trousers aren’t allowed in here.
What do you mean, women in trousers aren’t allowed in here? Do you know the century in which you live? Do you even know your subjects’ demographics? Wait, are they even following you on instagram? You, my friend, are #inabubble!
The young man calmly asserts. Women in trousers are not allowed in here. These are the norms of our Kingdom. The older man is now at the gate, pacing with a stick. Oluzungu lwo lutwale ebweeru. Take your English outside. He barks.
Listen young man. Yes, yes I heard you. But now let’s discuss this matter like the civilised. What do you mean, women in trousers are not allowed in here? Remember the time I came for the Kabaka’s Birthday Run? Yeah, I had on skinny leggings and nobody asked me to go back and put on a gomesi. Wait. I did see some women running in gomesis! 6am, I was here on your hallowed grounds. Waved at the Kabaka himself. Ok. There were just thousands of us. Remember when he was driven in and we all danced and shouted and waved? See, I am loyal. As loyal as the kanzu’d men who prostrate flat on the bare earth before him. Yes, that marathon. The one the kingdom put together to help women with fistula. The one where I ran 100km. They said they were ten. And I crawled back in through your gates, knees barely hanging onto their hinges. What do you mean, women in trousers aren’t allowed in here?
No, none of this finds its way to my mouth. By now, I am being squeezed out the small back gate by fear and threats. The older man is swinging his cane.
The girls with the jerrycans are staring, terrified. Or blank? I can’t quite tell. I’m blinded by steam from my boiling ego.
I stomp off clutching shreds of my dignity, relieved to be in one piece (phewx!) and baffled to infinity.
I’m sorry, what century was that!? Time travel is not a myth after all.
Today, I am back. A good girl. I have tied a long scarf over my vintage flared trousers. Matched right through the gate. A respectful bow to the man on the stool. I have been tamed. Broken in. I succumb. Kyoyagala kikuseeza. The price we pay for the things we covet. Today I just want to take a stroll through my Kabaka’s backyard and connect, you know, explore if you don’t mind.
Today I walk on, stalked by neither heckle nor stare. Blending in, but really feeling like the insider on the outside, sticking my nose to the display glass.
What do I see?
I see a kingdom who’s wealth is not flaunted in gilded buildings. Rather, it’s embedded deep in the fibre of its people’s very existence. They seem to be governed by some unwritten code that demands respect and inspires a certain pride in their heritage. No one paid them, but they throng the streets to catch a glimpse of their King. Even the ghetto president croons of his undying love for him.
“For the youth of the Mutebi Era”
That’s the tagline of their newer radio station CBS FM.
They are literally writing their own history. They are not leaving this high task to a foreign explorer. No. A book was published, documenting the reign of Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II. King on the Throne. And this, by his very own right hand man, stellar orator and lawyer, Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga. Yes, that’s Buganda’s Prime Minister. He has rallied the subjects behind the monarchy’s causes. Individuals and institutions alike, with reverent pride, give ettoffaali to rebuild the Kingdom’s infrastructure and glory.
But if you asked me, and I am no expert, these people’s strength is neither in pillars of gold, nor wells of rich black oil. It’s in their hearts. An identity dating back through generations. And they kwenyumiriza in it. They are like the proverbial tree with the ancient roots. Cut it down here and tomorrow, a new shoot will sprout up there. 50 years ago, one President dared. But here it stands.
Straight on we match. Me & my curiousity. We ‘beat ourselves‘ a selfie or two. We’re stopped here and there by the odd gaurd. They all ask the same questions;
Who are you?
Where are you coming from?
Where are you going?