When one speaks of witch doctors in Uganda, one thinks of ‘Abasawo abaganda’ as they are commonly referred to in the central region or ‘Abafumu’ in the western region. They claim to communicate with spirits of the dead and provide solutions to people’s problems. These range all the way from all manners of ailments and afflictions from cancer, infertility to HIV/AIDS, to offering success whether in business, politics, and education or just help someone seeking fame. These doctors usually demand a fee, on behalf of the spirits, before one’s problem can be addressed. This payment is usually a sacrifice in form of animals, most commonly hens and goats, but human sacrifice is sometimes demanded.
While witchcraft is a long-time custom in most cultures in Uganda, it was usually thought to be a practice for the rural, uneducated communities, but recently, it has become an almost commercial venture with an increasing number of the educated people turning to the practice. Many politicians, wealthy businessmen as well as celebrities in Uganda have been linked to witchcraft. A couple of years back, there was an increase in child sacrifice in Uganda, and this was linked to witch doctors. Many popular businessmen were said to be having children abducted and taken to witch doctors for sacrifice, being assured that they would get even wealthier. These particular witchdoctors catering to the elite class are very well compensated and have become very wealthy themselves.
In the rural areas, a number of communities still resort to witchcraft instead of hospitals when they get sick. Others go to witchdoctors to get revenge on their enemies, by having a witchdoctor for instance cast a spell on their enemy or the person who has wronged them. In some areas, it is used as a threat, to keep peace within the community. A thief would for example know not to steal anything from a particular village in fear of being cursed.
Witchcraft, although feared, is still a widely practiced custom in Uganda. Witchdoctors have come from as far as Tanzania, Congo, and Zanzibar to set up shop in Uganda.
Image Credit: Dave Catchpole
“The Pearl of Africa” is a phrase popularized by Winston Churchill when he described his impression of Uganda after his trip in 1907. Some sources however credit one of the earliest explorers into Uganda, Henry Morton Stanley, as the first person to refer to Uganda as the Pearl of Africa in 1871. Regardless of who came up with the phrase, both men had similar reasons for this reference; Uganda’s natural beauty- the lakes, mountain ranges, wildlife, the people and their culture.
So why Uganda is still referred to as the Pearl of Africa today? Let’s start with the natural beauty Uganda offers. We start off with the famous Lake Victoria- the largest lake in Africa, the largest tropical lake in the world and the world’s second largest freshwater lake. Lake Victoria is also the source of the longest river in the world, the River Nile. The Source of the Nile monument in Jinja is a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike.
The wild life is another unique feature that attests to Uganda being the Pearl of Africa. From the rare mountain gorilla species in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to the biggest number of bird species in Africa in Queen Elizabeth National Park, to the Big Five [lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos, leopards] and all sorts of smaller animals in Uganda’s other national parks. Don’t forget the lush mountains, the green forests, and the gorgeous waterfalls along the Nile.
Of course, the Pearl would not be complete without its people. Ugandans’ hospitality is a well-known fact in the region. You will not find a more welcoming, hospitable, and friendly people anywhere in East Africa. Even with the diverse culture spread over the different tribes, everyone is ready with a smile for everyone; even a stranger.
It was no mistake that Uganda was named as ‘the best country to visit’ by Lonely Planet in 2012 or as ‘one of the best travel destinations for 2013’ by the National Geographic. Uganda is truly the Pearl.
Photo Credit: stttijn
The dating scene in Uganda is a controversial one. The men will tell you that dating a Ugandan girl is dramatic and expensive, while the girls will say dating a Ugandan man is a road to heartache. Most young Ugandan girls especially the ‘campusers’ [University students] prefer dating older men- the working class, because of the financial benefits that their fellow university male students cannot afford to provide for them. So while the working class bachelors go for the campusers- because they are cheaper to maintain than the average working class woman, the working class ladies go for the married men. The majority of Ugandan men hardly settle with one woman.
Most married men often have a girlfriend on the side, commonly known as a ‘side-dish’. I have found that most girls do not mind being side-dishes, as long as the man provides for them, especially financially. It is common to find a group of married men boasting about their side-dishes over drinks in a bar. This practice is kind of an unspoken but acceptable situation in most marriages.
There’s been a recent rise in mixed relationships. Most Muzungu men [expats and tourists alike] prefer to date Ugandan girls. For most of these guys, it’s the allure of a new experience of being with a black girl. It doesn’t matter whether these men are married or not. It is a common occurrence to find a white man with both a wife back home and a girlfriend or ‘African wife’ in Kampala. Most of these relationships end when the man has to go back home. For the girls on the other hand, most of them go for the Muzungus because they are more generous than most of their Ugandan counterparts- financially, emotionally and sexually. What else explains a beautiful twenty-something Ugandan girl dating a seventy-something white man?
You will find a smaller number of Muzungu ladies dating Ugandan men. It could be because most of these women already have stable relationships back home- something that doesn’t deter their male counterparts, or prefer to date their fellow Muzungus.
Image Credit: Jake Stimpson