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{UAH} Allan/Edmund/Gook/Pojim/WBK: Kampala more liveable than Kigali, if you thrive in chaos and fun

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There are many reasons why I think I am lucky. One is because I spend most of my time in two remarkable cities; Kampala and Kigali, in Uganda and Rwanda respectively.

I was born and grew up in Kampala and have lived there for some decades. It is nearly two decades since I first set foot in Kigali and have lived there or frequented it all these years. Each is now home.

Each city has its own charm and attraction, and bits that need improvement.

Kampala has a great and noisy social scene: Lots of showbiz, parties, bars where people drink till dawn, even on weekdays, casinos, nightclubs, and a couple of cinemas.

There are also makeshift video shacks, complete with live commentary for patrons who turn up to watch movies in English but don't speak a word of the language.

And then all manner of sporting activities, including marathons to make this or that event or fundraise for this or that good cause.

There are even goat races where the city's socialites and their hangers-on go to show off many things, including their funny hats in the same way our former colonisers, the Brits, do when attending their famous horse races.

There is so much to do, observe and experience in Kampala that one has to really work hard to feel bored.

The problem with Kampala, though, is the sheer lawlessness of its inhabitants and their total lack of respect for, and consideration of, the other person.

Here, motorists drive whichever way they want, sometimes even on whatever side of the road is convenient, including on pedestrian walkways.

The more important they feel, the worse. Even when they are out and about, cops enforce the law as and when they choose to. You want them to come and attend to a problem at your house or in your neighbourhood? Hahaha; you have to be very lucky or very important.

Robbers and burglars know this so well. Here too, bars and nightclubs as well as churches have as much right to keep you awake or wake you up when you would rather sleep.

You want to avoid trouble with the law if you have committed an offence? "something" (a bribe) will likely do the trick.

Kigali is where I want to be whenever I need some peace and quiet as well as predictability in my relationship with my neighbours, the authorities and institutions of the state in general.

There is little random or unregulated noise in Kigali. There is therefore little risk of going home to find your neighbour staging an all-night party, complete with loud music, of which you would have not been made aware and your acquiescence sought in advance.

And whatever the case, there is no such thing as noisy all-night parties in residential neighbourhoods. Otherwise the neighbours will alert the police and soon enough the culprit will be paid a visit by the cops.

In Kigali, there is no risk of waking up and finding that someone has opened up a pub or nightclub or even a church in your neighbourhood and that they are happy to keep you awake at night or interfere with your plans to lie in on a Sunday morning as they attend to their clients' needs or praise their god at the top of their voices, complete with mega-sound systems.

In Kigali, one goes to bed safe in the knowledge that no armed robbers or burglars will visit one at night and that in the very unlikely event that they do, one can alert the cops and be guaranteed the right response within the shortest possible time.

And by the time the cops turn up, neighbourhood amarondo (security teams) would have come to your rescue.

You want to drive around Kigali undisturbed by the cops? Carry your driving licence at all times; do not speed, jump traffic lights or throw rubbish out of your vehicle; do not drive or park on pedestrian walkways.

And don't you go drinking and driving with more alcohol in your system than is allowable under the law.

While you may be lucky to tempt a cop with "something" and be let off, there are few, very few of those. The risk of offering "something" is that you could be arrested and charged with attempted bribery.

What is missing in Kigali and what drives many locals to head for Kampala and in the past, to Bujumbura too on long weekends, is a vibrant, fun-filled social scene. A lot has changed in recent years.

But even with its somewhat dormant social scene, Kigali is a more liveable city than Kampala. This, however, is not what folks at a US-based consultancy firm, Mercer, think.

Recently, they ranked Kampala ahead of Kigali in terms of its liveability, using levels of traffic congestion, quality of public transport, electricity supply, banking services, crime levels, education, political stability, housing, food availability and entertainment.

Certainly, there is more fun in Kampala and the city has a wider assortment of schools and institutions of higher learning.

For the rest, Mercer are simply not serious.

Frederick Golooba-Mutebi is a Kampala- and Kigali-based researcher and writer on politics and public affairs. E-mail:

Kampala more liveable than Kigali, if you thrive in chaos and fun - The East African

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