Kitgum lies about three hours east of Gulu, and is the largest town in the Kitgum district of Northern Uganda. It is a place where, as I stepped out of the front door of the Sunshine Modern Guest House (singles from 16,000 shillings), I was privileged to witness the entertaining spectacle of a resistant pig being lashed to the back of a motorbike.
It’s a busy town on weekdays, as bicycles, motorbikes and – at the top of the food chain – white Land Cruisers jostle for space on the two tarred roads and the many which are not. Up and down the main tar strip are a series of general stores, guesthouses like mine and an oddball mix of hardware sales places and beauty salons. Called ‘saloons’ in this part of the world, adding a little unintended flavour from the wild west. Most are built in the style of a border-town trading store, a square design, one story high with a front patio and extended roof over it supported by columns. Think of a trading post in the Free State, if you are South African. If you aren’t, then try and imagine a dusty Texan town from a spaghetti western, but using brick and cement. That is kind of close.
One notable exception to this architecture is an art deco petrol station. Its forecourt lies at the front of the rounded, two-story structure, beneath a balcony whose pyjama-wearing owner can presumably stroll out and check out the activity on the forecourt, newspaper in hand. This last part is pure fantasy. Nobody in their right mind would stand in the sun here a moment longer than they needed to.
there really should be a book or two written on South Africa in Africa. We’re kind of a big deal.
Kitgum also sports a Stanbic Bank – evidence if ever it was needed that South Africa is doing as well at colonising the continent as the British ever did. Stanbic is simply the last-frontier stretch of an empire that begins back at the Woolworths in Kampala. The only South African company with a wider reach is the mobile phone company MTN, whose canary yellow paint has found its way into covering general stores in towns that consist of… well.. a general store. As much as China in Africa is a popular topic at the moment, there really should be a book or two written on South Africa in Africa. We’re kind of a big deal. (makes note of book idea)
The low buzz of the motorbike indicates that the pig has now gone to market. It’s probably not going to work out well for him.
I still have three hours to wait until the bus back to Kampala leaves. Possibly five. It depends how fast it fills and what the driver’s mood is like. I think I’ll pass the time watching and writing a little more. Saskia has just found a frog in her luggage. I think he likes the shade in there.