Every once in a while, when I’ve completely forgotten where I am, something very African happens to remind me. I was indulging myself with an Indian dish at the little cafe in Makerere University, one of the oldest and most prestigous universities in Africa. I was enjoying every bite of my creamy palak paneer, and my saavy Kampala lifestyle in general. And then an angry mass burst forth and yanked me out of my reverie.
Everything happened, and all at once. Waiters looked frantically at barmen, the manager yelled to the guards, they in turn locked the gates, and we were whisked into a nearby room. Stones flew past and the gate rattled.
I could see all of the Columbine atrocities happening again, I could hear the gunshots that were about to be fired and I could smell the sweat of the man who was about to step in the room and shoot us all.
But we lived. The mob yelled and shoved the fence for a while longer, but quieted down once they’d gotten refreshments. The cafe closed shop for the day for fear of being looted, as they had in the previous protests (seems like this whole experience was new only to me).
The diners were freed, but faced with a new question – should we stay in the cafe with the armed guard or step out into the university where the rioters were still on the loose? Should we forget about our plan and just leave the university? And if so, from which gate would we be least likely to get hassled? Does anybody see I am a young white girl in the middle of a rioting African mess?
There was later an article in the paper about the riots – the students had wanted better sanitation and some money to go with it. But it had to be messy, it had to be dangerous and it had to be blog-post worthy. ‘Cause this is Africa…