The much-anticipated Kampala urban transport buses finally arrived and are operating, competing with the matatus. As a result transport fares have been slashed by almost half. And so I found it easy as I jumped into the comfort of the Pioneer Easy Bus heading to the city center. Upon arriving, an Afrigo Band video playing at TV repair shop has caught our attention. A black kaveera (plastic bag) in one hand and a small rugged backpack hangs on the back off his shoulders. His feet are bare and his dirt is caked on his toes.
“My name is Byandali Geoffrey. I’m originally from Bugerere,” he tells me. Geoffrey has been on street for less than a year, but is not sure how many months. “I have never seen my parents. I used to stay with my grandmother from my mother’s side. Then when she passed away, and I had no one to stay with. My uncles shared the portion of the land we were staying on, but I wasn’t given a share. Things became tight on my side. I had two hens. I sold them at a total price of 15,000 shillings (about $6). I used that money to pay for my transport, boarded a Costa bus, and then came to Kampala.”
He explains that he sleeps around KPC (Kampala Pentecostal Church) building on Kampala Road. At some nights though, the men who guard the building chase him away. When they do, he and his friends move across the road to a grass patch with benches.
“The grass is usually cold at night. So we lay boxes on the benches and sleep. The problem is when it starts raining. There we have to look elsewhere to spend a night.”
Byandali speaks in a low tone while leaning on one leg. He is scratching his right leg with the toes of his left foot. Curiosity gets the better of me and I ask what is inside the black kaveera. He pulls the handles apart while saying, “I picked these at the other end of the street”. Inside is Katogo (meaning “a one plate dish”, which is popular throughout Uganda) of matooke and groundnut sauce.
Though shy at first, Byandali gets more relaxed as we chat, but speaks looking more down and lifts his head occasionally to look at the passing cars. “Ah, in the backpack? I’m carrying my sheet for sleeping. At night I roll in it. And when morning comes, I roll it and keep it in here.”
When asked whether he can go back home, he keeps quite for a bit longer than any other time during our conversation. Finally he says, “I have nowhere else to go now.” I feel heaviness in his voice. At the same time, I feel as though we’re developing the type of bond shared by old friends. Sensing my brother’s existentialist angst, I give him $1 and spend a bit more time with him before bidding farewell. I hope we see each other again.
They are kids (dogo = small) on the streets of Kampala (“Kla”), Uganda. They’re invisible to most; but this is their Twitter diary, @Kladogo, written by Kampala-based journalist Hillary Muheebwa (@MuheebwaH) and sponsored by AddisTunes.com (@AddisTunes).