Monday, March 12, 2012

The Al-Shabab Melee

I have a bone to pick with the Swagettes. Back then, we knew then as the ‘Small Brown Things’ – the bu-girls fresh out of campus and who would strut into Nandos or Steers, buy one Coke and like a miracle, make it last for two hours.

If not, when you asked them if they were hungry, they would say ‘no’ but as soon as your food is presented, they and without shame would start picking at your chips. Worse, everything that you did for them, they would twist it round and make it look like they were doing you a favour! If you picked them up from the depths of Naalya and took them to Club Silk, they were doing you a favour. If you dropped them home, still, they were doing you a favour.

Today, the ‘small brown things’, have been replaced by the Swagettes. Swagette is more aloof than Small Brown Thing. Their preferred footwear is sandals and when they walk, well, they don’t walk but merely drag their feet like it is too much for them to lift up their feet and put one foot in front of the other and walk the proper way. They also swing their arms lazily like they are a burden to them. Plus they are always chewing gum. Hmm chaps, it seems that Swagettes have a case of bad breath.

Enough of them I say. I am not a chap who has beef with other races, tribes or religions. Okay so I lie. While I have no issues with Muslims, I have a touch of beef with the local Imam near my house who wakes me up in the wee hours of Friday mornings when he is calling people to prayers. I also have issues with the Chinese. Why would they invent the chopstick when it is so much easier to use a fork and you can get more in your mouth? What do they do when they have to slice into a succulent steak? They didn’t think about that did they now? And is it the Karamajong who think it is hip and funky for women to knock their front teeth out and all in the name of beauty? Have I not justified myself as to why I would have beef with the people I have mentioned? You feel me now don’t you?

So there is that road almost opposite Pride Theatre that links Old Kampala to the Lubiri ring road – are you with me? It goes into a valley on which either side of the road are car mechanics or garages. Further up the road past the intersection is a mosque on the right hand side and some meters ahead is the Lubiri ring road. The busiest section of that road is between Pride Theatre and the first intersection. Mechanics run all over the place with spare parts. If not, they are busy doing a hasty spray job on the roadside. In that mix, there is the chap with a wheel barrow peddling pineapple, the ladies ferrying lunch while, getting their boobs and butts groped. Basically, it is a katogo – total disorder!

That section of town also has a large Somali community and while they are visible most days, it is Friday before and after prayers that they really show their numbers.
Why I was in that neck of the wood and on a Friday, I really can’t recall. Okay, so I lie again. I can remember. I thought it would be a shortcut of sorts to get to my meeting with Client.

But let’s put a bookmark there for a while and talk about the Somali’s. I have never been to Somalia – or is it Somaliland now and I don’t intend to go there in a hurry. And I also don’t know anybody who comes from Somalia save for a chap called Leeban Omar who once used to work with me at WBS. The little knowledge that I have about Somalia, I pick up from Sky News, BBC, UPDF’s Paddy Ankunda whom I believe is still based there and a chap called Joshua Kato who has a very safe desk job at The New Vision but has since taken leave of his senses to travel there and report on what is going on. Hmm, who does he think he is? Does he think he is the male version of CNN’s Christiane Amanpour? He however, is a gutsy lad and I commend him for his bravery for going to Somalia especially when it is ruled by all sorts of bandits, Islamic militant factions from Al-Shabab, Al Qaeda and God knows who else.

I am at the intersection which is chaotic. Every time I inched the car forward, Wheel Barrow Pusher popped out of nowhere. If not, it was kids or Chap carrying more sigiri’s on his back than he could manage. It was next to impossible to cross the intersection.

I had to be bold and I was. I screeched the car into the intersection. Just when I thought I had made it, there was a thud, a loud thud. But it was not a thud of metal against metal or car against car. It was car against human, and the thud was followed by a squeal. When I looked up, there were two Somali men looking at me, and the picture on their faces said it all. They were irked! The shouting followed. “Look where you are going!” they screamed. “Can you even drive?” the younger of the two added.

That was it! TB was no longer the coward. I unleashed a string of expletives that even I found rather disgusting and too hot to handle. And I didn’t just stop there. I went on with more expletives and I am sure, some of them, I just made up. Sensing I had cornered them and I had them reeling back, there was a need to execute the killer blow – the coup de grace, the beheading.

The coup the grace or the beheading spewed out and lingered in the air for what seemed an eternity. It was not “f**k you” or “tumbavu”, my favourite Luganda swear word. I yelled out: “You bloody Al-Shabab’s why don’t you just go back to Somalia and blow yourselves up!”
I was still smirking with a sense of self-satisfaction when suddenly Older Somali was by door. Before I had time to react, two swift punches came flying in through the open window. The first caught me on my nose, the second on my chin. Then he stepped back and waited for my reaction.

Of course I was not going to take the two punches lying down. I squirmed in the car seat, I wanted to do susu, I wanted my mummy, and I wanted to be at home!
By now Crowd had gathered and there was more confusion. They wanted a melee and in all the shouting that was going on, it was difficult to know whose side they were on.
Meanwhile, Older Somali still stood there with a clenched fist, waiting, waiting and waiting. I had had enough. I inched the car forward and while I once again did shout out ‘Al-Shabab’ and adding in ‘Bin Laden’ and ‘Al-Qaeda’, my voice was so timid, so low that even I barely heard what I had said.

Twenty minutes later while sitting in reception waiting for my meeting with Client and nursing a fat lip, Receptionist was itching to know what had happened. And she made it her business to call all extensions. I could lip read what she was saying: “Eh people, TB is in reception. I think he has been fighting.” To Receptionist I say: “If you are reading this cowardly tale, no, I was not fighting. Rather, I was involved in an altercation and there was no need for you to go telling the entire office so they could all come a gawp at me!”