There was recent legislation by KCCA banning taxis from parking in certain areas in the city center of Kampala. Taxis that used to have stages around the City square have been forced to find room in the Old taxi park and I must say the city did seem a great deal less congested. However, I did not think ahead as to what the effects would be or better still how the taxi drivers and their significant others – conductors would respond to all of this new change.
So today I will focus on an incident that gave me a glimpse of what could go wrong and it took place a week after the regulation was passed while on a taxi ride plying the Kamwokya - Jinja road route.
The taxi I was in was ¾ full and 2 full bodied dark chocolate females flagged us down along Wandegeya traffic lights and squeezed themselves through the doors managing to get past me to the last seats available at the back. The ladies spoke a dialect that was quite foreign to me, not that I assume to understand all the languages within Uganda, but this one was nothing I had ever had before and it is only after a while that I saw one of the ladies face art on her forehead that I realized they must be from Sudan. I did not think much of their entrance and ignored them for the most part since there was no cause for alarm right up to our decent around CPS to the city square when they wanted to get out of the taxi. Now while on Buganda road, the conductor had asked the entire taxi full of passengers whether anyone was coming out and he received no response. I wondered why he had asked us so early then I recalled that the City square stage had been removed and we would therefore not be able to make a stopover.
Sudanese women: “……. “ (Chattering on in their local dialect intoxicating the taxi with it)
Conductor: “Waliwo omuntu agenda okuvayo?”
Taxi: …… (No response)
Conductor: “Wereza ku sente oba onovayo ku square … owaye wereza kubanga temugenda okuvayo ku square kubanga ebintu bichuse tewali stage wano.” (Hand over your taxi fare if you intend to get out at the city square … please we are not stopping at the square because thing have changed there is no stage here it was moved)
I was rather annoyed at how insistent the conductor was about us paying our fare early enough and I did not understand why until one of the ladies spoke up after uttering nothing in the English dialect their entire duration of the ride.
Sudanese woman: “Stage!” she said this right in the middle of the city square.
With no other taxi parked there, the driver did not look like he was up to taking chances that would warrant a run in with the law so he did not stop. By law I mean one of our very own traffic policemen or women clad in their signature whites for uniform that can be seen from a mile away; as they were stationed at blind spots the entire stretch between the City Square and Post Office that day. I thought to myself are these women kidding, can’t they see how many taxis had been pulled to the side and were being fined by the police or chased after for the offence by often plain cloth KCCA officials. As this went on I was snapped out of my mental rants by an even more agitated voice;
Sudanese woman: “Stage, are you deaf! Why can’t you stop?”
Conductor: “Nanti mubadde mu manyi ntino nabadde musiru nga mbabuzo ani avayo!” (Huh so you thought I was stupid when I asked who was coming out ahead at this stage)
Sudanese woman: “* %@/?^ ,” she went off in Sudanese and sadly none of us understood her.
Conductor: “…...” (He remained in silence as he looked straight outside the window with no response)
This continued until we got to the Total opposite Uganda House where he finally got the driver to stop since he had found parking and was tired of the yelling from within the taxi by Sudanese woman.
Sudanese woman: “What is wrong with you are you mad, why you don’t stop?”
Conductor: “…..” (silence)
Sudanese woman: “ So you want to take us to your home ehh, you think all of us are from your home ehhh!”
Conductor: “Ah lekera awo oku lekana nyo.” (Ah stop making so much noise.)
Sudanese woman: “What are you saying? Me I just want to get out, I do not know what is wrong with you – you arrogant banyankoles! You think all of us speak your language.
Conductor: “Munyankole who is dat – I tell you to give me moneys if you want get out at square. You quiet.”
Driver: “… mu dinka atabuse, ” he said as he laughed while peering through his rear view mirror from time to time to catch a bit of the action. (The Dinka lady is agitated)
Sudanese woman: “Do you think we all come from Nyankole – ahhh “* %@/?^, open I want to get out now.”(She said this as she began to get out of her seat while the taxi was still in motion.
Conductor: “Owaye, sirika – me nyankole sha ndi musota. (Goodness keep quiet – me a Munyankole no, I am from the Snake clan.)
Her travel companion was flustered but silent while she on the other hand almost seemed ready to fly through the windows that seemed miniature in relation to her size. As the door finally flung open and she stormed out she said “so have you taken me home?” We all bust out in laughter and I personally think that the conductor learnt a crucial lesson that day ; one that he should not take things for granted and two not everyone knows or understands Luganda (the local dialect that he spoke).