It is called the greatest show on earth. East Africa’s annual migration of two million wildebeest is indeed a spectacle to behold. And it is going on right now. Just come to Kampala before January 5.
You can sit in the middle of the high street and have a cup of tea in the deserted city. Two million “wildebeest” have migrated as they always do a few days before Christmas.
Kampala is a city of about five million people by day and three million by night. But come mid-December, all activity is geared towards the great migration to the villages of origin. My estimate is that of these, over two million residents of greater Kampala take off, despite the doubling and tripling of transport fares.
In these days of social media, everybody gets to see this great East African annual migration.
Photos have been shot at the highways exiting the city. A particular photo viewers wait for a day or two to Christmas–like the New Year Sydney fireworks–is of a stretch at a major junction at Kampala’s exit. It can have a few kilometres of traffic jam featuring hundreds of powerful sports utility vehicles (SUVs), real beasts that make to occupants feel like the president of the US in his official ‘Beast’.
The smaller but majority wildebeest are packed in buses, with hundreds of suitcases laden with goodies bought in Kampala.
And that is the only weakness with the annual migration that the business community needs to set right. Just imagine the effect on the local upcountry economies if the two million seasonal migrants bought all their festive season goodies from their villages instead of picking them from Kampala!
That seasonal boom would put enough money in the upcountry pockets to power the national economic growth faster that it is today. The business community needs to send those goods to the upcountry dealerships so that the two million loaded migrants from Kampala find them there.
And oh, by the way, I am also told there is another seasonal migration elsewhere in East Africa. I think it works somewhere between Serengeti and Masaai Mara.
In a way it is a replica of our annual migration from Kampala because it also involves some two million migrants. And just like the seasonal migrants from Kampala to different villages of Uganda, the migrants from Serengeti to Masaai Mara do not go through immigration formalities and nobody asks them for their IDs, despite their crossing international borders.
Maybe the other similarity between these two migrations are the unfortunate casualties that do not make it to the end of the journey.
The migrants from Kampala have watched their counterparts in the Serengeti-Masaai Mara show being eaten by crocodiles, thanks to National Geographic and similar programmes. The ones in the Kampala-village show get killed by reckless drivers in a rush to deliver them upcountry and return to carry more.
But the Kampala migration is the one to beat. Early January, many Kampala neighbourhoods are engulfed with a smell of burnt food because housegirls have not yet migrated back, and the wives are struggling to cook properly.
In the spirit of East African integration, we need to redirect some of the few thousand SUVs that leave Kampala every December to Masaai Mara and Serengeti.
And the Serengeti-Mara wildebeest should be helped to check out green Uganda where pasture and water are ever present, January to December.
Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist.
Source link : https://allafrica.com/stories/201912290076.html
Publish date : 2019-12-29 14:42:41