Salambo in Addis

Salambo discovering Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s neighbour Uganda

I am just back from another work assignment, in Uganda this time.  It sounds like I am travelling to many exotic places, but for the readers who haven’t followed, I have to get out of Ethiopia to be able to work. I am not permitted to work in Ethiopia as I entered the country on a “spouse” visa.  On the positive side, I get to visit new countries in the region, on the downside, I have to leave my family to do so.

The Nile river in Jinja, Uganda, at the exit of Lake Victoria

The Nile river in Jinja, Uganda, at the exit of Lake Victoria

This assignment took me to Jinja, a small town, east of the Ugandan capital Kampala. Jinja is a pleasant place on the Nile river (known as the White Nile), at the point where the river comes out of Lake Victoria to go on its journey North into Sudan and then Egypt. Just before Khartoum, the White Nile joins in with the Blue Nile flowing from Ethiopia to make one of the longest rivers that is the Nile. Jinja has become a weekend retreat for residents wanting to escape the city. I can understand why: the traffic in Kampala is unbearable. It took me four hours to drive from the airport in Entebbe (on the shore of Lake Victoria) to Jinja, two hours to go from Entebbe airport to Kampala and another two hours from Kampala to Jinja. I thought then that I was crossing a good part of the country only to realise when I checked on a map that the distance was a mere 120 kms. The traffic is so intense that cars drive at an average speed of about 30 to 40 km per hour.

After going through miles and miles of semi-urban areas around Kampala, the scenery became very pittoresque with tea plantations, sugar cane fields and dense forests as we were approaching the Nile river. I got the impression of a lush and fertile country. Uganda is very much an agriculture economy with coffee as one of its main commodity export, however, unlike in Ethiopia, there is no coffee culture in Uganda, they prefer to drink tea (I had to drink Nescafé for breakfast). Culturally and economically, Uganda is very close to its neighbours Kenya and Tanzania, and quite different from Ethiopia. Once again, it made me realise how unique Ethiopian culture is in East Africa.

I wasn’t in Uganda for very long, so I can only give a first impression of the country. However, I was there long enough to understand that the anti-gay protest movement is virulent. I happened to approach the subject with a Ugandan colleague, I wish I hadn’t. Her anti-gay views were extreme and quite intolerant. I quickly found out from the discussion that her views were shared by many there, to the point that I felt it was wiser to drop the subject as it could not lead to any constructive debate.




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