Namugongo: Party, prayers and everything else

Pilgrims pray at one of the effigies depicting the killing of the martyrs at Namugongo on June 2, 2022. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI.

What you need to know:

  • Temporary bars and other hangout areas have been set up outside the two shrines.

On Monday, Mr Peter Wakabi set up a makeshift club outside the Catholic shrine to entertain revellers during the Martyrs’ Day celebrations.  
The structure has been set up at a large parking space opposite the shrine with plastic chairs and music equipment operated by a Disc Jockey (DJ).
“The last few nights have been the busiest and most profitable for us,” Mr Wakabi told Daily Monitor on Wednesday night.

He added: “I remember one group of six men who came over and spent more than Shs500,000, which, was some good money for us.”
But, while Mr Wakabi is rejoicing over sales made, other businessmen and women are speaking a different language.

One beverage supplier who often makes deliveries to Club Two, a discothèque outside the shrine, said the sales have been poor this year.
“My team has been making deliveries here [of mostly beer] but people are hardly buying them,” he told Daily Monitor on condition of anonymity
The scene on Namugongo Road is largely that of a huge party. Youth, both male and female, who are the majority, keep roaming out and about along the road and at other entertainment night spots within Namugongo.

Revellers at a merry-go-round in Namugongo on June 1, 2022. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE. PHOTO/

“I came here to have fun with my friends,” Ms Betty Karungi, a university student, told Daily Monitor. When asked what she meant by having fun, Ms Karungi responded, “to dance and drink with my friends”.
However, there are those who said they were simply touring the area during the festivities following the two year break due to Covid-19. 
“I am just here to see the place and head back home,” Mr Willy Mukasa said.

The Martyrs’ Day celebrations were reopened to pilgrims this year after the Covid-19 cases declined in Uganda and other parts of the world.
As expected, due to the large numbers, some individuals are taking advantage to commit crimes including theft.

The phone thief
At about 11pm on Wednesday, a woman was heard screaming after her phone was stolen at the trading centre opposite the Anglican shrine.
“My phone! My phone! Someone has grabbed my phone,” she shouted.
A police officer who was patrolling the area rushed to her side asking for more details including whether she had seen the person.
“No I did not see his face. I was dialing a number when it was grabbed,” she responded.
The policeman could only console the woman and advise her to take care next time. She left the scene crying.

The police has been patrolling the areas around the two shrines urging individuals to be extremely careful especially with their phones and bag packs, but with such numbers and under the cover of darkness, it is difficult to keep track of all that is happening. 

A woman displays clothes on Namugongo Road on June 2, 2022. PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI.

Noise pollution
While many are merrymaking, for others it is frustrating. The complaints come mostly from the residents who say they barely sleep in the night because of the loud music being played from various social hangouts.
Ms Karen Apio, who lives close to the Anglican shrine, said: “The music is so loud that I have barely slept during the night in the last couple of days.”

Inside the shrines
Inside the shrines, however, the situation is different with the focus being on holier matters. 
The Catholic shrine was full on Wednesday night and pilgrims were forced to find whatever free spot they get to lay down for the night.

At 9pm, many attended the Mass that was taking place.
Since it was late and cold following an earlier shower, an announcer kept interrupting the Mass to issue instructions for the pilgrims to keep awake and follow the message.
While some heeded to the call, others kept dozing off before eventually falling asleep where they sat. The pilgrims sat and rested at different designated open alleys, in clusters of their respective regions including Bushenyi, Lira, Tororo, and Masaka.

A pilgrim prays infront of an effigy of St Kizito Omuto at the Catholic shrine on June 2, 2022. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA. 

One exhausted female pilgrim, Ms Immaculate Apio who arrived late in the night from Lira District said she was happy to have arrived at the shrine despite a few challenges she encountered on the way.
“My legs got swollen on the way but I persevered to walk until I arrived today,” she said.
Her colleague, Ms Christine Aumo, was also delighted to have arrived at the shrine though her only complaint was the weather.

“The coldness is too much, yet, I carried only a sweater which can hardly keep me warm because the material is too thin,” she said.
The cold, however, did not deter other pilgrims from roaming about in the shrine. Some went to grab what to eat at the different food and drinks stalls, while others, using mostly jerry cans, collected holy water.

Compared to the Catholic shrine, there was not as much activity at the Anglican shrine as the number of pilgrims is smaller. 
The majority were praying under the marquee erected at the shrine before going to rest at the dorms where they are being sheltered.