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Why Kasese pubs are always empty

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An empty bar.  PHOTO/

Kasese is a large town that is strategically located to succeed as a tourism hub. It lies at the northern edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park, right before you enter the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains.

Both places are huge tourist attractions, receiving thousands of visitors annually. For instance, last year, Rwenzori Mountains received more than 7,000 climbers, many of whom likely passed through Kasese Town. This makes Kasese a busier town than most countryside towns.

Compared to many towns in the country, Kasese is a serious town with classy pubs, nice hotels, clean streets and street lighting that makes walking in this town at night feel safe. A perfect town to go party-hunting. But nights in this town are very quiet and the bars are empty. And I am not talking about Tuesday nights. I am talking 11:30pm on a Saturday night.

You take a walk along Rwenzori Street, a large, well-lit street on a Saturday night and every single pub is nearly deserted: two young guys playing pool here, four middle-aged men catching a drink there or two bored waitresses waiting for revellers across the street. Just a boring spectacle. A street of 10 nice pubs that has less than 15 revellers in total, on a Saturday night? In a busy town like this?  This is unacceptable.

So as a hardened party-hunter, you grab a boda and tell him to drop you at the best bar in town. There is one bar that keeps coming up as the best in town, the kind that you must visit before leaving Kasese. You mention it to the boda guy and he instantly lights up, telling you it is the place he is taking you.

Minutes later, you arrive at Skyz Lounge on Kilembe Road. Neon lights, expensive branding from beer companies that are visible from a far and good music. Looks good. Definitely worth a shot. To cement your hopes about this place, BBQ and rolex stands are everywhere, on both sides of the road. All great signs.

Boredom sets in

Upon entering the pub, the picture is different. The few people present (not more than 15) are bored as hell. One girl seated on a corner chair is leaning flat on the table, so much that her neck and chin are lying flat on the table. The spectacle is so shocking that you have to crosscheck to see if it is truly Saturday night. 

The first thing you will notice in this pub are the dazzlingly beautiful bar maids. It finally sinks in your head that Kasese girls are pretty in a very peculiar way. Many of them are light-skinned and petit. You have been noticing this all day, but it did not register, until you saw these waitresses.

Clearly the recruiting person strictly considered beauty before hiring. All of the bar maids are above average hot and all of them are wearing matching, flimsy and tight white dresses that leave nothing to imagination. But even this overt invitation to debauchery has not helped pull young men to the pub.

As you sit pondering this strange state of affairs, over beer, it finally occurs to you that it is probable that there is just a shortage of young people in Kasese. And you know why.

Uganda’s hospitality largely rests on Kasese to provide all the waiters and waitress. For some reason, a smile from a mukonjo always feels genuine. Their humility is always disarming, their hospitality skills are enviable, read they are hard-working and they have a high degree of integrity, making the youth of Kasese a favourite to hoteliers and restaurateurs across the country.

 The young people of party-hunting age are all away, either in tourism school, hotel school and working in fancy hotels and tourist lodges. This is the most plausible reason for the shortage of partiers in Kasese town. You can’t tell if I am joking or not, right?

On a serious note, many in Kasese are not yet confident enough to go partying after the recent Allied Democratic Forces rebel attacks. The streets are well lit and security personel can be seen patroling the dark edges of the town, but this has not done much to allay the fears of  the natives.

Kasese Marathon

Looking at these empty pubs today, it is hard to imagine that two months from now, these places will be swamped with thousands of revellers, when the Tusker Lite Mt Rwenzori Marathon comes to town in August.

Last year, more than 2,000 runners from over 17 countries descended on Kasese Town and painted it red and shut it down. It was reported in the media that people partied so hard that on the day of the marathon, there was no chicken left in the town by 6pm and no alcoholic drink was left on the shelves by midnight.

This year, at least 4,000 runners are expected in this town and they will all likely be thirsty in the evenings. So, if you have had a boring party in Kasese, like I did, just head back their on August 24, this year and experience party like you have never partied before.