the racism behind Kampala

A short while back I received a message from a young fellow called Benard Acema, requesting that I run an article here on this blog under my own pen name because the content suited me (or words to that effect).

I automatically thought, “Er…no!” but kept an open mind as decency would require, and encouraged him to email the content.

I was both flabbergasted and flattered, and by the time you are halfway you will understand why.

Here it is, by Benard Acema, with only a few mild alterations made since I first received it:

Kampala’s Racist Design and its Mental Effects on Ugandans Today

When politicians blame Uganda’s problems on Colonialism, most Ugandans especially the young people will inevitably (with immediacy and precision) sneer at such “old peoples” comments and say how these politicians simply have failed to move on and are blaming their failures on a “long ago” past.

But my question is…is it long ago though? Think about it, a 55 year old man is older than Uganda as we know it from Independence in 1962 to today as you read this.

So instead of dwelling on the “past”, I have decided to bring it forward to today, to the present to show you how this affects us today and how a lot of it is the reason many young people fail to succeed in Uganda or have to overcome incredible odds just to make it.

Let’s start with the inevitable question…Is Kampala’s design really racist, as the title suggests? And does this hard-wired design hold us back?

BUT…Aren’t we all black Ugandans now and does colonialism still really affect us today? If so, how?

Why don’t we just move forward and forget the past?

Let’s look at the actual design, the brick and mortar, the physical landmarks left behind, and we’ll begin to see the motive for the design and that still permeates through to this day.

Kampala City was designed by a German man named Ernst May who lived here between 1934-1954 (right in the middle of colonialism) and to think that our parents and grandparents were already born during and before this time in the 20’s, 30’s 40’s and 50’s.

We can speculate why the British used this German man to design Kampala, having been at war with Germany in the Second World War at this exact same time period. Was he a Nazi racist designer who understood how to do this or was he on the oppressed side of the war, which would make it a pity that he would undertake this? Either way, the design is here so lets look at it.

First of all Kampala was designed with a boundary “Ring Road” that encompasses only two hills of the city – Kololo Hill and Nakasero Hill. This ring road goes around this area only.

From Kira Road Police Station up towards Kamwokya straight to Mulago roundabout to Wandegeya onto Bombo road joining Kampala road and runs all the way down to Uganda House from where it joins Jinja Road and runs all the way along Jinja Road up to the Lugogo Indoor Stadium (now the MTN Arena) from where it turns left onto Lugogo Bypass Road (Rotary Avenue) past Kololo Secondary School and back up to Kira Road Police Station.

That is the ring road around Kampala that I will be talking about in this article.


In the image above, the Green zone is the “White Area” in the ‘centre’ and the Asian Buffer of Three Streets on the Perimeter is the “Red Boundary”.

Now, the way that this design was put together ensured that the British (and any other white people) would have to live inside the ring huddled up on the inside. And naturally of course, not wanting any contact with the black natives (that would be you the Ugandans now reading this), they “insulated” this “Ring” with a “Three-street” line boundary of Asians. I’ll show you how…just follow along.

Lets go back to Kira Road Police Station; all along the boundary of this ring (everywhere) you have an “insulated” perimeter wall of precisely “Three streets-in” of Asians before you get to the inner “White Communities”.

Look at it like this, you have Kira Road from the Police Station going up towards Kamwokya (which is the actual dividing tarmac), then you have Bukoto Street on the “inside” and again further in you have Kanjokya Street. These three “layers of streets” are what would be considered an “Asian Insulation” that the British put between themselves and Ugandan black people – and even to this day this “insulation” still stands (even with Ugandans living on both sides of it now).

Notice how the majority of Kira Road, Bukoto Street and Kanjokya Street buildings are Asian owned as you move along heading towards Kamwokya stage and onwards slowly towards Kisementi and the present-day Acacia Mall?

This Asian community still stands to this day.

As you stand at the Kamwokya taxi stage on your way towards Kisementi, on your left all the property is Asian owned (where Kololo Polyclinic is, then a DTB Bank Branch, a Mahindra Distribution Office, Bank of Baroda, Cavendish University…all this, Ugandans by pass this everyday without ever noticing and putting this together). To your right, on the other side of the road just foot steps away is the largest slum area in the country, Kamwokya slum, there is even a stage across the road called Kasasiro stage (garbage stage) right by the road side where all the waste from the Asian houses used to be dumped across on the Kamwokya side.

Now any Asian (specifically Indian) reading this article in Uganda will immediately get nervous and apprehensive but you need not be, this is about the Ugandans just being aware of the colonial British past and how it affects them today so they can move on with some understanding.

Ugandan Businessman Andrew Rugasira of Good African Coffee dedicates an entire Chapter in his book “A Good African Story” to addressing the issues of race and colonialism in Uganda’s past and how these things affected him indirectly and directly “today” in getting into the coffee business not only in Uganda but in the United Kingdom as he tried to export this coffee. (This book is a MUST read for all Ugandans – “A Good African Story” by Andrew Rugasira).

We as Ugandans are not going to be successful in moving forward before we address head-on the demons of the past. There will be finger pointing to supposed “Dictators” like Idi Amin who sent the Asians away in the 1970’s but as we can see today some Ugandans have given the Chinese “businessmen” the same 90days or just a few months to leave the country.

This shows you that Idi Amin was not the problem per se but this deep rooted psychology of a city designed to oppress the Ugandan and to put the Asians in a precarious position in the middle of all this; this pain and oppression that Ugandans feel and whose origins they do not realise but react to every so often.

The British know this. They designed it. The same British are the ones who trained Idi Amin. Amin saw this and now the British call Amin a Ugandan Dictator. Were the British, in all this, really “innocent”?

When the British uprooted themselves and left, the Asians were left between two groups of very upset Ugandans. The elite political class who took over everything the white people owned, and the downtrodden citizens who lived outside the ring which sandwiched the Asian community in the middle of a very precarious position (physically and mentally).

So, the rise of someone like Idi Amin was an inevitability that was going to happen for sure. For the British to lie that it surprised them, is for them (the British) to be hypocrites (they knew it was coming). For the Asians to say they were “shocked” at what Idi Amin did to them is also for them (the Asians) to be living in complete denial as to what was on the ground. They were accomplices to the British crimes against Ugandans and should instead have put the British to task for using them and abandoning them inside a Lions Den of angry, oppressed Africans.

The inevitability of the return of that boomerang thrown by the British could be seen coming a mile away.

So for this never to happen again, not only should Ugandans be aware of this history and its implications today, but the Asians (Indians, Chinese businessmen in Kampala today included) should be aware of this pain and oppression that exists (mostly mentally today).

We all (whether it’s the Asian community or the clustered white community in Kansanga, Kabalagala and Muyenga) need to find out how we can best understand this instead of just dismissing it. When you hear phrases like ‘Asians are rude’ or ‘working for Asians is horrible’, you need to address this attitude with utmost seriousness so that the bubble never rises to the surface again.

I was at Tuskys in Ntinda just the other day and an Indian man cut the line to the checkout and this one lady behind me just lost it…its like a switch just went off as she started to fire a barrage of insults at this man. “Is that how you do things in your country?” she charged.

Looking him dead in the face. “I am tired of these people, they’ve done this to me every time and I am now tired!” speaking about his cutting the line in front of her. I am not sure this would have been the same reaction had a black Ugandan been the one to cut the line.

Nothing an Indian does in Uganda is isolated, it’s always “them”. If one is rude to an employee, its not just that employer, it become “Indian employers” and this is an issue the Indian community must be honest about. It makes the good guys get lumped in with the bad apples.

A simple example of the physicality of this is…stand at the Mahindra building or DTB or Cavendish or Baroda in Kamwokya and walk up to the first floor of these buildings. From there, look down at the vast slum of Kamwokya barely 30 steps from the door, across the road. That slum has stood like that for the last 50 plus years, and at some point you have to begin to wonder what those people in that slum looking up at you are really starting to think.

The Ugandans living on Kololo Hill won’t feel this way because of course they don’t have to, they have a better end of the deal. Again just like in Colonial times, this leaves Indians sandwiched in the middle. Maybe you should take a stroll down there and look up at your building and see what you think the message that is being sent down is.

Can DTB, Baroda, Mahindra, Cavendish and the Asian business community reach out to that community in some way? I don’t know. Sponsor a clinic in the slums, perhaps? Maybe  a maternity centre, or a sanitation project? Should the Asian community work with the KCCA on this?

When a movie like Queen of Katwe is telling an inspirational story of the struggle of one girl growing up in one of the worst ghettos in Kampala but no one bothers to find out how all these people ended up in Katwe in the first place right next to a well built Old Kampala occupied by the Asian community back then…then we have a problem.

And also not forgetting the irony of having the movie directed by an Asian-Ugandan (without taking anything away from Director Mira Nair’s incredible talent). But the effects of this era are everywhere around us and this movie almost feels like it has a ring around it…with the “inside” white people at Disney not wanting to associate “Directly” with the black Ugandans so they had to put an Asian Director to be the final contact with the “blacks” (I am obviously stretching it here…maybe not that much…since Tendo Nagenda was the production head but you do see my point and the very real similarities of this situation).

Anyway moving on with the design, as you leave Mawanda road (which is entirely an Asian community) and head on down towards the British High Commission you’ll notice all the Asian buildings on the right side of you towards the “Uganda Museum”. I put that in quotes because the “Uganda Museum” is not Ugandan, it was a museum meant for the amusement of the British ruling class, built in the compound of a primary school (think about that…a primary school) – Kitante Primary School – a school built for the children of the British.

What still bothers me to this day is the elitist mentality still permeating from Kitante Primary School pupils and former students (and this is where I get to the part about how colonialism affects us today).

We have these “Blankets and Wine” wannabe picnics at the very Museum grounds built by the colonialists and do exactly what they (the Colonialists) did at these grounds…which is have picnics with their families there and have dates with ‘blankets and wine’. Oh, the irony! Any kids who grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s in Kampala will remember this “picnic craze” (someone needs to break out the real history here and tell the truth).

kitante-primary-school(British Kids attending Kitante Primary School with the Golf Course stretching to the Background behind the school without any fencing separating the two…notice the basket the mom is holding, Ugandan kids still carried these baskets to this very school in the 80’s and 90’s, completely mimicking what the British did).

All this reminds me of something I read about.

When studying rapes and kidnapping victims, authorities would often realize that if there was a more prolonged time in captivity, the victims of those kidnappings and rapes after an extended period of time began to get closer to their captors and even started to develop intimate feelings towards them and obsess over them. Sometimes, when they were finally rescued the victims did not want to accuse their captors of any wrong doing and instead defended them vehemently to the authorities, excusing and trying to explain away the horrible events of rape and kidnappings.

This is a lot like Uganda and many ex-colonial countries being obsessed with British life, wanting to be just like your captor, the one who raped you. You laugh at anyone who doesn’t speak the “Queens Language” well. You make sure to have your “High Tea” and “Evening Tea” promptly everyday.

This can be seen globally, from the Americans being obsessed with British Royalty and British Pageantry as though these were not the same British who colonised and ruled over them. Think of Nigerians completely obsessed with anything British, making all that wealth in Nigeria and going to invest it  buying a street of buildings in London instead of back home. It is beyond me. Again like I said, the obsession with your rapist and your captor. To this day, one of the best selling movies out of Nollywood is a movie titled “Osuofia in London”.

So, why does a Kid from Kitante Primary School somehow feel a little more superior to a Kid from say City Primary School (which is now Arya Primary School near Kisementi) and why does another from Nakasero Primary feel the same way towards one from Buganda Road?

This can all be traced back to colonial times where the white children attended Kitante Primary School while the Asian children attended Arya Primary School or City Primary School. After independence, the politicians in power wanted all their children to attend Kitante Primary School and not Arya or City Primary because they somehow wanted to feel the sense of superiority over the Asians by attending a “white school”.

It’s pathetic, I know, but also true, that even as Ugandans we needed to get some sort of self-esteem boosting from doing something “white people” did just to feel good about our selves, but the real question is…would you blame these parents and most importantly, would you blame a kid who had nothing to with where they ended up for primary and it has somehow helped with their self-esteem today?

Just as you would not blame an Asian Kid for feeling 100% Ugandan because he was born here even when others saw him otherwise. He still calls Uganda home and feels every bit Ugandan as you and me.

What we have to keep from is having to make that kid feel superior to other Ugandans kids which then perpetuates that historical cycle and vice versa with the Ugandan black kids. That’s why the historical perspective is so important.

So onwards we proceed towards Wandegeya (with a large hospital on your right ’Mulago’ ready to cater to these communities) all the way to the Wandegeya Police Station. I’ll pause here for a second and allow you to visualize the placement of all the police stations along this perimeter. You have Kira Road Police station, Wandegeya Station, Central Police Station, Jinja Road Police Station and back to Kira Road Police Station.

These police stations were not designed and placed there at this perimeter line for community law and order, they were designed by their very placement to protect the “Ring” from the outside or from having Ugandans crossing over into the white neighborhoods, let alone the Asian ones.

From Wandegeya onwards towards Norvik Hospital and Bat Valley, Buganda Road…again we find the “three-street-perimeter Asian buffer” with Bat Valley on the other side of the road, Norvik Hospital on the upper side, Buganda Road Primary School, which still has the names of the Asian owners on the wall of the school to this day (Norman Gordhino is the name.)

Moving along Bombo Road where Asian owned properties line both sides of the road with few Ugandans inserting building like ’Sure House’ in there. The owner, Sebaana Kizito, was only able to do that because he was the Mayor of the City then until much later when the likes of Nalubega Plaza found their way there too.

Then you have Watoto Church, which was not a Church back then but rather an Asian-owned Cinema that Canadian Missionaries headed by Pastor Gary Skinner helped buy from the Asian owners for the Church premises that is now Watoto Church. The whole of Buganda Road is Asian from the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) building all the way to the Central Police Station on both sides of the road, including the Buganda Road Flats.

Back to Kampala Road and 80% of the building lining both sides of Kampala Road are Asian owned starting from Odeon Cinema or Fido Dido building on both sides to Shell Capital –  a few Ugandans like Mabirizi fixed buildings in there only recently.

On to City Square with the Centenary Bank building (Mapeera House) there (which is new) then Crane Bank House, Kampala Boulevard House, Amber House, Bank of Baroda, Tropical Bank, Former Steers Fast-food House, Diamond Trust Bank House, Charm Towers, the vast majority of the prime real estate along Kampala Road is all Asian owned.

And as we head on to Jinja Road you still see that “three-street-Asian-buffer” with Nasser Road, Nkurumah Road, Kampala Road and Parliamentary Avenue. (The Government decided to house its Ministries along the Asian owned properties that now make up the Parliamentary Avenue.) Again between Kampala Road and Parliamentary Avenue you have all Asian buildings all the way down via Esso corner with Victoria University and up to the entire Dewinton Road all the way down to Shell Jinja Road and only broken by Wavah’s Spear House and Nema House.

Then we reach an interesting round about, which is the roundabout older Kampalans know as “The Yard” where “Centenary Park” is, just below Airtel house. Next to Airtel House you will notice the only Cemetery that is “Dead Centre” (pun intended) in the middle of the city and that is…you guessed it…the “white cemetery”. The white people cemetery had more prime real-estate than actual living Ugandans!

Onwards up towards Jinja Road Police Station and to the Cricket Oval in Lugogo. Very few Ugandans even stop to ask what two cultures are most obsessed with cricket (That would be the British and the Asians, so we can be sure that Oval was never designed to cater to any Ugandans.)

And with that we find our way back onto the Lugogo By Pass (Rotary Avenue) and as you approach the outside of the perimeter opposite City High School, you will now find the Asian Cemetery and Cremation center.

Also interestingly as you move along Lugogo By Pass Road past Tata House you come across the New Kensington Housing Estate which ironically was the City Dump and Landfill for all the garbage generated from the Hill of Kololo by the British all the way down. Again old Kampalans also know this Kensington place as Kasasiro or Garbage dump (scavenged daily by the slum dwellers of Naguru go-down), en route to the Kira Road Police Station.

All these racist markers are hard wired onto our streets, actual physical landmarks you can’t ignore and it doesn’t take long for a foreigner to walk into Uganda and know all the “White Areas” of the past (with the Victorian architecture on houses in Kololo and Nakasero Hill) and all the Indian Architecture lining the Asian “boundary areas”.

White people come into Uganda and are automatically inclined to want to live within this perimeter because of the hardwired names of these places. They are attracted to living in Kololo and having their tea at Acacia.

Now let’s look at some of the naming of the streets in the City and how this affects the everyday mindset of the Ugandan.

Again we’ll start from Kira Road Police Station. The road is called Kira Road (an indigenous name), the second street in is Bukoto Street and the third street in is Kanjokya street but something very strange begins to happen to the names of the streets after this “Asian three-street buffer” is done. After that you get to the fourth street and all the street names become British names.

For example the very next street after Kanjokya street is…’Prince Charles Drive’…and that is when you know you’ve entered what used to be a white community area.

As you head on further inside towards Kololo Hill. You’ll see McKenzie Vale, Baskerville Avenue, Roscoe Road, Elizabeth Avenue, Hesketh Bell Road, York Terrace, Philip Road, Ridgeway Drive, Windsor Crescent (along which you find none other than the British High Commission even today as you read this).

But as you get back out to the perimeter towards the Asian buffer the Ugandan names start sounding again, like Buganda Road, Nakasero Road, Kampala Road. One minute you’re on Baskerville Road but as soon as you cross the road to the other side, you’re on Naguru Rd.

That is the psychological mindset I said was holding Ugandans back, is it any surprise today that to feel “important” one has to try to live within these areas or at least have some association there?

Here is now where you find Uganda’s top judges living alongside the top politicians, military leaders, and even the State House (or Lodge) in Nakasero, the place the President of Uganda lives in, is nestled between three roads named Ternan Avenue, Princess Avenue and Victoria Avenue. This is where the State House of the Nation is located. Rather telling, right?!


(Streets in Kololo with British Names…also the entire green space is the Independence Grounds, and the Uganda Golf Course. The Golf Course is a total waste of the city’s prime real estate and the independence ground was an airfield to evacuate white people quickly in case of emergencies)

So…Are we independent?

Physically we are but mentally there are a lot of Ugandans who still need to deal with it as it now presents subliminally. One has to actively search it out. The way it manifests every day is in small things like saying, (and the reason I am talking about this area specifically is because this area affects the entire country), “Top politicians live here, the President lives here, Supreme Court Justices live here, the Governor Bank of Uganda lives here…”

If this mindset enslaves them too what do you expect the rest of the Ugandans to do? What happens when your Supreme Court Judge wants to live on Queen Elizabeth Avenue and not want to be associated with living on Naguru Road? It’s subliminal but that’s where the most mental power is derived from.

So, onto things Ugandans will say that shows you this mental enslavement:

Saying, “Me, I only take my children to Kololo Hospital or to Nakasero Hospital when they get sick.”

Saying “My favourite ‘pass-time’ is golf,” played between two “previously white communities” on prime real-estate that would build incredible housing and facilities for Ugandans on the lawns of the Golf Course Fairway. Instead, we hang on to it (the golf course) as our pride and joy, depriving hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be created if an entire satellite city were built and tucked into the golf course land (with schools, Churches, houses, hotels, shopping centers and play grounds with parks for the kids living in Kampala that need open safe playgrounds.

Just imagine how much business Centenary Park, Oasis Mall, Garden City and Golf Course Hotel alone generate every single day…now Imagine that this was stretching all the way across the entire golf course land, the development to the city would be mind blowing, but here we are barring anyone except the “exclusive members” of the “club” from going onto the golf course grounds.

Then we make our way to go and relax at “Fairway” Hotel sipping on a Johnny Walker (because it makes us “feel” important).

We still call that spot along Entebbe Road…”Queensway” as we refuse to raze it down and remove “Her Majesty’s” Clock Tower and yet it impedes traffic flow along Entebbe Road and causes a massive bottleneck for road users everyday. (Who are we serving here…Ugandans or former colonial masters?)

We build all our Houses today with a “Boy’s Quarter” without even realizing that the “Boy’s Quarter” is where the Black Ugandan Servants to the White People lived because as you may be aware the word “boy” is one used only by racists towards black people. Young or Old doesn’t matter…as their rooms where called “Master’s Bedrooms” or “Master Bedroom” which was the room or rooms in the “main house” where the “master” lived.

Today we have Ugandans building houses with “Boy’s Quarters” and “Master’s Bedrooms” without even thinking about it (I am sure they’re some white people “Bazungu” who see this going on in Uganda but won’t say anything and just look at Ugandans doing this like…WTF are they doing)…build a guest house not a “boy’s quarters”.

We think we are better because we attended Lohana Academy, Kitante Primary School, Nakasero Primary School and anything inside that Ring, we give the Queen guided tours of Kitante Primary School 50 years later just because its where the “white people” used to study.

We still sing songs about “London Bridge” and “My Fair Lady” and the “General McNamara” in our primary schools. We teach more European History and Geography in our High Schools than African History and Geography. Students know more about Napoleon than they know about Lumumba and yet they live in a Hall named after this very Lumumba at the University.

We can’t wait for our functions to be held at the Sheraton Hotel or the Serena Hotel, we feel good when our offices are located at the Crested Towers or our house is located along Elizabeth Avenue or Prince Charles Drive.

We refuse to give due respect to the “John Babiiha Road” as it was appropriately renamed by the City and instead insist on calling it by its colonial name “Acacia Avenue” because it sounds cooler and more westernized, not “local” like Babiiha. Is it a wonder then that the two most prominent racially charged incidents in Uganda’s bustling night life happened on this “Acacia Avenue” with one such racial incident at the Irish Pub O’leary’s where Ugandans where being turned away if they did not show up with a “white friend” and another at the now defunct “Mish Mash” where the proprietor yelled at Ugandans that they were ruining her place that was meant to cater to only “white tourists” and “white people” living in Kampala?

Maybe if the place was named ‘John Babiiha Road’ these “Bazungu” may finally get the message that this is Uganda. But as long as we keep pandering to their egos that is what we should expect. Name changes change attitudes. Just ask the former members of Northcote Hall in Makerere University, a simple name change to Nsibirwa Hall erased a volatile and rebellious past from the hall and pacified it almost immediately to one of the most serene and docile halls at the campus.

We want to do our shopping at “Acacia Mall” and not Kamwokya market across the road because we think it demeans us and makes us “local” and lastly we equate the word “local” with all things bad and evil and backward and shameful all because we are mentally enslaved and find it hard (impossible even) to move on and never support anything ‘Local’.

The “learned people” then go and “protest” at a “National Theatre” that was built by a colonial governor for the entertainment of white Parliamentarians (without realising the National Theatre was part of the compound of the Parliament with no fences or separation, just like it was with Kitante Primary School, the Museum and the Golf Course which where all essentially within one large compound inside of the “white area”.

Why else would we be ashamed? This mentality unfortunately has tricked down to tribalism in the Country where giving you a house for rent or a job may come down to how your name sounds.

And most are willing even today to give you a Job if you’re named “Acacia Avenue” and not to a name like say “John Babiiha” just because ‘Babiiha’ doesn’t sound cool enough or like someone I like to associate with. Just listen to how people in Kampala (maybe you included) talk about a place like Karamoja with the same elitist nose up in the air attitude that the entire Africa would be talked about in the halls of the House of Lords in London. They are backward, uncivilized, barbarians…completely oblivious to how full of themselves they are just because they made it to Makerere University and got a Masters Degree in English and Literature and don’t care about a single vernacular African proverb.

But we can change, just like the conscious leaders of Kampala today who will name a road in Nakasero ‘Lumumba Avenue’ or ‘John Akii Bua Road’ and another in Kololo named ‘Malcom X Avenue’ right next to Elizabeth Avenue (who knew the Queen of England’s neighbour would be Malcom X?) in solidarity with what was and is going on around the world and acknowledging this past as well.

I say we should rename the roads at the British Embassy Idi Amin Road and where the American Embassy is at Nsambya to Martin Luther King Jr. Road just so we can get that psychological message across, otherwise what point is there in me growing up and having a childhood along Elizabeth Avenue, my former colonial oppressors name, if not to torment me everyday with the past?

The British Embassy’s Physical Address in Kampala should read…Plot 1, Idi Amin Road. Kamwokya, Kampala instead of one on “Windsor Crescent”. (That should put some hair in their nostrils) Just like the President of Uganda leaves the State House in his motorcade and drives onto a road named Victoria Avenue (shame).

Without understanding this past and what it does to the psyche, we as Ugandans cannot embrace a bright future from this 2017 moving forward and we will never be truly independent in our minds.

Fifty years plus down the road and it finally took the guts of a one Jeniffer Musisi to break the barrier of this design and finally upgrade and expand the city, and where did she start…you guessed it…From Kira Road Police Station going up towards Bukoto – a road which remained only double-laned along the perimeter and as soon as you started going up to Bukoto it was single-laned which caused night mares in traffic for years.

And for it to finally be double-laned now in 2016-2017 (which seamlessly connects to Lugogo Bypass double-lane by the way is testament to the fact) all the way to Kira Town completing the actual Kira Road that hasn’t been completed all the way to Kira Town for almost seventy (70) years.

Most young people think Kira Road ends at the Police Station and that is because of that psychological shift when moving from the double lane Kira Road or Lugogo Bypass road on to what was a single land road going up to Bukoto.

She has also had to take it outward using Jinja Rd to Nakawa and now to Ntinda and slowly expanding it and hopefully these past boundaries will be truly blurred helping Ugandans, especially Kampalans, finally move on from the past.

She went down to Kamwokya Ghetto and upgraded the roads, went into Kisenyi and Katwe and upgraded the roads…she went into the very ghettos that were designed to hold Ugandans back and upgraded those roads and in so doing begun to free a lot of minds and got many to believe in themselves again.

People are starting to feel good walking inside Kisenyi albeit for all the problems that still exist on that upgraded road or in Kamwokya and in Katwe, property prices in these ghettos are going up daily, new businesses are springing up every week and true development and hope with it is finally in sight.

People now feel good owning property in Kisaasi and Kyanja because of upgraded infrastructure with roads, water and power lines, improvement of sanitary conditions and so on. This KCCA finally seems to get it as the “new Kololo” now shifts to these areas whose “local names” sound sweeter everyday.

Just like we changed the “Airstrip” which was a real airstrip to cater to the white Kololo residents was changed to ‘Independence Grounds’ and redesigned by the UPDF so should every road in Kololo be renamed beginning with Elizabeth Avenue and Prince Charles Drive as we truly become Independent from the British…in our minds.

(Just so you know…this is how racism is designed in cities around the world. Paris is “ringed-in” too with the blacks living outside the ring in designed ghettos, so is London, so is New York with its five Boroughs, no one has to tell you in which Borough the Black people live, and so is Los Angeles…do you think the Los Angeles riots in 1994 just so happened to have Black people clash Directly with Asians?…this was no coincidence as Asians are also placed between the Black and the White communities in the U.S. as well. An Asian buffer ring is being placed around every black community in the U.S as well. Imagine, that we feel it here fifty years on and the white people are not even here, now imagine what the Black community in the U.S feels right now…unbelievable…with railroads and highways slicing and dividing white from black communities everyday)

Lastly I would like to name the ghettos designed around the ring in Kampala (many think it’s a mistake, coincidence even, that Katanga is where it is or that Bwaise just happened by accident).

Kamwokya Ghetto is just footsteps on the other side of the road from the ring and we can see this all around the ring in Kampala with Mulago-Katanga Ghetto opposite Nakasero Hill, and along Bombo Road (look behind City Oil on Bombo Road and you’ll see one of the Biggest Ghettos in the Middle of the City).

As you get to the city everything from Kampala road to Old Kampala is Asian owned buildings mostly (now dotted with many Ugandan “plazas” and as you can see it in the city with Ugandans relegated in the past to areas of Kikuubo, Old Taxi park, Nakivubo, Katwe and as we move along Kampala Rd we see on that side of the hill the Ghettos of Kibuli and Nsambya, Railway grounds. As you go up towards Jinja Road and Lugogo Bypass, you have what used to be the infamous Naguru go-down Ghetto which is still there right opposite the plush Kololo suburb. Even the Naguru Hill itself with all the “new money” building up the hill (which just started in the 90’s from land that was left to fallow) is still no match to the Kololo hill that looks down upon it because no one was allowed to build on the “Hill” across from Kololo Hill. Ugandans could only live in the valleys like Naguru not the hills.

I have finally come to the conclusion that these places are not just hard designs on the streets of Kampala but mental barriers that prevent us from moving forward while still comfortable in our own skins…“feeling white or feeling British” on the inside which unfortunately many kids growing up in areas such as Baskerville and Elizabeth Avenue begin to feel like…when their inner “white mentality” (due to all that western television and wannabe imitation life) begins to get ashamed of their “actual black physical body and skin” and then you have a real conflict on your hands.

Actress Lupita Ny’ongo (Queen of Katwe) alluded to this, she found herself in this precarious situation growing up…she sounded British, felt British, is the daughter of a former Kenyan Ambassador and Senator in Kenya but looked very Kenyan and African and that is where the real battle began for her as she has explained numerous times in interviews…

She also said at an Essence Magazine event, “As a young girl I prayed to God to make me white or light skinned as I slept in the night but I would wake up in the morning and still find myself black.” And until Lupita dealt with this “complex” did she FINALLY break free and begin to truly succeed, something you thought should have been obvious growing up in the elite upper mid-class family that she did in Kenya.

And this is happening all across Africa with many Nigerians preferring to give their children two British names or two English sounding names instead of having any indigenous sounding Nigerian names.

This is the mindset that Africans and Ugandans finally have to break from. We need more names like Rukahana Rugunda or Odongo Otto if we are to truly be mentally free. Why would a Ugandan kid be named Charles Cooper Jr?

So the next time you walk into “Acacia Mall” or should I say “John Babiiha Mall” to buy your little girl a small white barbie doll…think about this very carefully or the next thing she will be asking for is a blond wig, blue contact lenses and skin bleaching cream and kneeling by her bed side at night praying to God to make her white by morning.

Lastly, the irony of having to write this entire article in “English” is not lost on me. So just like me, I suggest we simply eat the chicken and leave the bones. (I would throw a watermelon reference in there just to make everyone uncomfortable but you get my point).


Again, this is by Benard Acema.

All I can say is:





208 thoughts on “the racism behind Kampala

  1. Enlightening, informative, educative and reflective.
    The kind of article that poses mind blowing questions and makes you research on the subject.

    The writer addressed the issue of Mental Slavery deeply tattooed in our melanin today.
    The cause of self hate(bleaching and all)- it’s an African epidemic.

    The writer is conscious but just as racist as his enlightening article.

    I re-share.


  2. On the whole its a well researched article.

    However i am surprised that people are surprised that colonialists might have been a tad bit racist and segregational.

    These divisions have been obvious to me most of my life. Maybe not the three road buffer but all else is pretty self evident.

    Like a previous commenter I take issue with the conflation of urbanisation to some kind of “whitification”.

    To the author the black Ugandan society is meant to be monolithic, with same interests and aspirations, all stuck in some kind of traditional African society. In the writer’s mind it seems that the adoption of practices that have now become standard for city dwellers the world over especially those with some money to spare and not fighting for survival (like shopping in supermarkets, going to the cinema enjoying outdoor concerts in a picnic environment etc) somehow point to an abandonment of their africanness.

    Mr. Acemah, we cannot all be tillers of the land or herders of cattle. Neither should we all live in some kind of african themed urbanisation where we are all buying at the same market stalls and furnishing our homes with hand crafted chairs and beds from the local artisan round the corner.

    In Mr. Acemah’s estimation if i live in Kamwokya and choose to buy stuff in acacia mall i am somehow thumbing my nose at Kamwokya market. Quite absurd.

    This assertion would make sense if both venues sold exactly the same things and had the same amenities. I lived i Kamwokya for a while and I know what i can and cannot find in that market.

    There many other issues i have with this article.

    One glaring one is the suggestion that people refuse to accept local names for places because of some inferiority complex and a love for colonial names.

    I still call St. Balikkudembe market Owino market and it took me ages to stop calling Yusuf Lule road Kitante road.

    Sometimes people just get used to names and they don’t care whether the name was colonial or not.

    Someone needs to get a chip off his shoulder.

    People will go to good schools and be proud of them regardless of whether they were built by indians, British or Ugandans.

    Its ages since i left Kitante primary school but back then we were proud to be associated with it not because, as the author erroneously claimed, it was built by the British but because it was one of the best in the country.

    I would be hard pressed to find somebody with children in Kitante primary school today harbouring pretentions of superiority.

    A parent with children in Greenhill or Kabojja junior on the other hand….

    The point is if the school is performing well people will be proud to be associated with it regardless of whether it was built by locals or the colonial government.

    The same with hotels. Sheraton Hotel and Serena hotel both started their lives as locally owned hotels built by Obote and Amin respectively. They were the venues to have your wedding, or to enjoy the trappings of an up market hotel environment, then as they are now (even after being taken over by foreign owners). That was because they were lovely places to be in and most people like a splash of luxury every once in a while.

    We can have an argument about whether the same exact hotels with their amenities and ranking had been built in the “none white” or “none indian” surburbs of Ntinda or Buziga they would be less appealing to the average Ugandan. But that’s for another day.

    Acemah’s article is generally an interesting and illuminating one but I can’t help but think that in the process of trying to make a valid point he resorted to seeing racism and inferiority/superiority complexes in everything (even where there was none or where the situation had since metamorphosed into something different from what the colonial government had in mind.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So true. And to be honest, we can gain 1000 times the value from doing better today, than blaming people who are dead.

      I promise that laziness, greed and personal irresponsibility will mess up a Ugandan’s life way before stuff being owned by someone from India will.


      1. I uess you guys are missing the point. Its not about blaming the past or shopping at Acacia mall versus shopping at kamwokya mall. The real Point is “Does it stroke your ego better when you frolic at Acacia than when you do at kamwokya market ?” Is the answer is YES, There is the problem.


    2. I thought the article to be both thought provoking and informative. While some inferences are debatable, the article is quite eye-opening and should be a must read for all well meaning Ugandans – black, white, and everyone in between.


    3. I found the article long winded and frankly exasperating. I have not been to Uganda yet but many members of my family are from and live in Uganda, the author would want us to assume he despises all things Western (clearly a falsehood) as the very essence of this essay is a clear demonstration of the qualitative Western Education the author enjoyed. Were real issues raised? Absolutely, can they be helped emphatically yes.But let us not presume that these very Europeans themselves. In their countries do not have areas of exclusivity where the majority of their own people would and could never live. It is the nature of man yo want more and aspire for better, be it education, health, wealth or living conditions.. If that defines a slave/colonised mentality then it is what it is and I am what I am


    4. Jaymwine.. In first addressing your points I’d argue that Ugandans have never been monolithic,nor just ’tillers of land or herders’!!….they had blacksmiths/carpenters/herbalists/Plumbers etc all community based & always welcomed new ideas that served’s your ignorance of this fact that’s not surprising!!…& the author’s assertion of the neo-colonial influence where we’re not taught this proves the point. Also,the world’s rural populations flock to cities looking for ‘work’ (again white education inspired) & in Kampala still restricted to these city areas exactly because of those names & what they mean to rich Ugandans/Indians/Foreigners …even some tourist in the know(Brits)
      Secondly, what’s wrong with ‘African themed urbanisation) or locally hand crafted furniture??!!…for petes sake!!…did the whites design Benin City/Dzimbabwe/Timbucktou/Dar-es-SalaamBulawayo etc??
      were there no cities in Uganda or east Africa that had planning??(FYI there were no slums in large cities worldwide in ancient civilisations before ‘white’ style cities) foreign corporations have ruined 3rd world forests(while keeping their own pristine) so why buy imported furniture(to be ‘civilised’ according to you)
      Thirdly, you use two examples of name changes yet both are ‘local-local’..!!…the foreign-local are few & far between..again FYI I lived in Zims from ’82…2 years after Indepence till @’90 & still All(BLACK/COLORED/WHITE/INDIAN) races would use the old colonial place names at least for a few years & all had been changed!!..but eventually…
      As for schools…wrong again…such ‘elite’ schools were started for royals & kids of ‘prominent subjects’…thereafter even jobs were tagged to your schooling/affiliation after the initial independence job filling(jobs were always plentiful till the ”80’s-’90’s onwards) schools are money generating businesses simple.
      Finally if you think that what is on the ground now ‘metamorphed into somethin different from what the colonial govt had in mind’ then your naïveté & ignorance is heartbreaking!!…(study the 1947 ‘division of India’ as presided over by ‘Lord Mountbatten’ (or look at the present clashes on TV!!)…if at all you doubt the colonialist don’t plan for years ahead..
      For Pan-Africanists coming up against you..Aluta continua
      Get your head out the sand


    5. Jaymwine.. In first addressing your points I’d argue that Ugandans have never been monolithic,nor just ’tillers of land or herders’!!….they had blacksmiths/carpenters/herbalists/Plumbers etc all community based & always welcomed new ideas that served’s your ignorance of this fact that’s not surprising!!…& the author’s assertion of the neo-colonial influence where we’re not taught this proves the point. Also,the world’s rural populations flock to cities looking for ‘work’ (again white education inspired) & in Kampala still restricted to these city areas exactly because of those names & what they mean to rich Ugandans/Indians/Foreigners …even some tourist in the know(Brits)
      Secondly, what’s wrong with ‘African themed urbanisation) or locally hand crafted furniture??!!…for petes sake!!…did the whites design Benin City/Dzimbabwe/Timbucktou/Dar-es-SalaamBulawayo etc??
      were there no cities in Uganda or east Africa that had planning??(FYI there were no slums in large cities worldwide in ancient civilisations before ‘white’ style cities) foreign corporations have ruined 3rd world forests(while keeping their own pristine) so why buy imported furniture(to be ‘civilised’ according to you)
      Thirdly, you use two examples of name changes yet both are ‘local-local’..!!…the foreign-local are few & far between..again FYI I lived in Zims from ’82…2 years after Indepence till @’90 & still All(BLACK/COLORED/WHITE/INDIAN) races would use the old colonial place names at least for a few years & all had been changed!!..but eventually…
      As for schools…wrong again…such ‘elite’ schools were started for royals & kids of ‘prominent subjects’…thereafter even jobs were tagged to your schooling/affiliation after the initial independence job filling(jobs were always plentiful till the ”80’s-’90’s onwards) schools are money generating businesses simple.
      Finally if you think that what is on the ground now ‘metamorphed into somethin different from what the colonial govt had in mind’ then your naïveté & ignorance is heartbreaking!!…(study the 1947 ‘division of India’ as presided over by ‘Lord Mountbatten’ (or look at the present clashes on TV!!)…if at all you doubt the colonialist don’t plan for years ahead..
      For Pan-Africanists coming up against you..Aluta continua
      Get your head out the sand


  3. Something else I would love to read about, that touches on our colonial mentality is the issue of picking up accents, selectively, when Africans travel or worse still, when they change their accents without ever having left their own borders as they interact with bazugu from the USA and England. Have someone travel to the US, however long or short the stay, and they come back with an accent. Have someone work at an NGO that also happens to have American or British staff, and the accent changes. Conversely, you do not hear an African with Indian, Italian, or even Scottish accent, EVER, however long that party has worked with or dealt with those nationalities!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! Wow! Wow! I’m not a big fan of long posts but the flow of an analytic expose’ just got me hooked. One of the best pieces I’ve read so far…so rich in imagery, identity/Africanness and proudly Ugandan. Hats off!


  5. Nothing new to read about this article. I advise the writer to first deal with what is in his reach like swearing an affidavit to change his name from Benard to African


  6. Wow! Familiar questions have always run through my mind whenever traversing this so called ring area.
    What an article! All Ugandans need to read this, where are the newspapers guys?


  7. Why does Kampala still have street names like Queen Elizabeth??? What the hell? Anyway, even Nairobi was designed by mzungu for his own benefit. The city is very marked with areas where Asians,whites and Africans live to date. There are schools that are still Asian only, others are whites only teaching international curricular. The police stations in formerly white areas of Nairobi are well maintained and that is why MPs and rich people are arrested there. Only Tanzania escapes this kind of set up. Ugandans are obnoxiously impressed with mzungu stuff even the rich ones opt to give birth in US or UK! Total nonsense. Wake up Africans!!!


    1. You want to be clapped in Ugandan hospitals while giving birth? Na! Infact that should be the next article. Negligence in uganda’s medical facilities… colonialists treated Ugandans like shit but Ugandans treat each other worse!


  8. There you go with many destroying their African beauty with cosmetics to make the skin look white or hair. During one Christmas one of the type called me local when he found me taking my Ajono or Malwa instead of sipping mbu John Walker! Honestly the change this mindset the focus should begin with the children.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow! nothing better has been written or said about the mental effect that colonialism left behind or is leaving behind… I am so in love with this article and I am bound by my love for it to share it to all in my circles.


  10. While I’m a Ugandan, blaming the British for enforcing their tactical and strategic means of governance is not idealistic. This is exactly what colonialism means. We should only blame them for the vice, not the means to achieve their objectives. This is exactly what all conquerors do. Ceaser, Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler etc. In Iraq, the US introduced American music, dressing, food, cars, marriage and so on. In DRC, CAR, south Sudan and Somalia, the UPDF has significantly adjusted the natives way of life.


  11. am surprised pple are jst noticing this now bt the self hate, superiority complex , stockholm-sydrome & brain wash instilled in us is too strong to see some of these things


  12. Nice article. However I think we shd maintain those places the way they are for history telling and tourism. We shd learn to be as organised as those colonialists. Iam dreaming of another residential area with a golf course , big compounds, walkways , good security etc. Perhaps if those people hadn’t come, the whole of Kampala would be a more chaotic slum.


    1. Those places should all be distroyed. It is a shame on the country. Your children need not be burdened down by one of the darkest chapters in your history.


  13. really felt enlightened, proud and happy, u deserve an accolade or lets say a presidential handshake


  14. Woah! Very enlightening article. So relatable for someone like me who lives in Entebbe. Trust me, it’s worse there…much worse!


  15. great article there. unfortunately such infrastructure exists in Kenya even my small town has a Ring road which surrounds the former colonial residences, and an area still named Asian quarter. I had never thought deeply about it till now


  16. Interesting and informative for our young generation! To me this article is a ladder to climb on for the next leaders and rename our roads after our people e.g. Museveni , Obote , Amin , Binaisa, Muwanga , Musiisi, Kagiina, Kawesi, Kagezi, Saleh, Sebutinde, wapakaburo, Akibua, Kipolotich, Kadaga. mutebire , and many more that have contributed to Ug well being, Thanks Simon Kaheru , I believe he is a Kitante kiddo


  17. Wow, Very enlightening piece. I read the entire piece and raises critical questions around the social construct of Ugandans, giving subtle solutions to planning and development of what must become a true African urban city. Thanks acema.


  18. Amazing. This is an amazing read; very analytical and thought through. It brings out a lot of things I have never paid attention to. Btw, I am a Kitante Primary school product.


  19. I thought it interesting. This happened similarly in the UK when we were colonized by the Italians (Romans). They built military roads, forts and even a big wall across the country to keep the Scottish Heathens out. London was called Londinium (Latin) by them and was designed to defend the colonial rulers and when the Roman’s finally retreated back to Rome for several hundred years the indigenous upper classes imitated the former colonials. They say history repeats its self.


  20. An eye-opening article! We want to be associated with everything within the ring road without knowing why. I’ve actually always found the museum a little creepy due to it’s colonial vibes.


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