Nyege nyege: The composition of Uganda’s  new social fabric

Author: Karoli Ssemogerere. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • At Martyrs Day at the Catholic shrine, that was animated by Jinja diocese, a popular comedy strip on show media was created recreating the day’s big events.

I had an urgent business meeting on a Sunday afternoon in town, those are the few days, it is possible to drive up and down Kampala’s thoroughfares.

Even the notorious bootleggers, thieves of phones and car accessories take the break for the day. There was a big mass of people walking from Nsambya.

I thought they were coming from one of the many churches that surround the old Nsambya Catholic mission and Hospital. For some reason, the Catholic Church in ecumenic spirit leased many holdings to the evangelicals. Modern evangelicals spend little time attacking them possibly as a result.

In the current social wars, they are often on the same side. Big reason, they share the same congregations. I was told there is a big I can help you movement that braves these trips from all corners of town to learn “life lessons”. Their congregations are bigger than what you find in most formal religious gatherings.

In another religious ceremony in my neighbourhood, in Garuga on Sunday. I sat inside a home where a Muslim wedding was taking place. It had a high degree of informality.

A young man barely in his twenties conducted the ceremony. Interesting inside the sitting room, most of us; after introduction were not even Muslim.

A well laid out table was the centerpiece of the room, indicating that the total time allocated for the observances was limited by other urgencies, Ugandans notoriously poor timekeepers have this habit of limiting time for interpersonal interaction.  

The recitals were familiar, a testament that Islam and Christianity are much closer than their adherents admit.  I suspect the Israelis and Palestinians pounding each other now in Gaza know the same truth.

What we need to understand is why, Uganda was so attractive to the missionaries in the 19th Century, and whether some of these traits remain today.

At Martyrs Day at the Catholic shrine, that was animated by Jinja diocese, a popular comedy strip on show media was created recreating the day’s big events.

It made short laughs out of the political realities of these events that force government leaders and opposition politicians to uncomfortably share places, before they retreat to the default positions. Tear gas, use of force etc.

You wouldn’t also expect the MC of the day, Justine Lumumba Kasule a former Sabakristu at Parliament only months later to badmouth her boss who was the chief guest, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja who attacked her for gatecrashing the UN Annual General Assembly in New York.

Nyege nyege has also tested the thin wire in Uganda’s competing social constituencies. In Uganda’s commercial scene, it is the second most lucrative social event, just after Martyrs day. For days, the younger generation will drown Jinja and its suburbs. A three-day stay at the festival may cost upwards of Shs1 million.

Young people open saving accounts for this day. First Deputy Prime Minister Rebecca Kadaga last year, went head-on against her superiors who wanted to ban “nyege nyege”.

She should have also noted, that the biggest cheerleaders at a favourite of the slightly older crowd, the middle aged in Uganda are folks like her boss, again Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja.

You are not going to find these people at museums, or even game parks. That’s for foreign tourists. Leaders of big business or even content distributors must get to the bottom of this.

In 2022, Itanda Falls, a long forgotten stop, one of the seven remaining undammed falls on River Nile got a lot of publicity.

Only that this time revellers demanded they spend less time navigating slippery rural roads and more time shaking their bodies to the beat of all sorts of music.  That is the new Ugandan society. 

Mr Karoli Ssemogerere is an Attorney-At-Law and an Advocate. [email protected] 
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