Uganda: Sights And Sounds of Kapchorwa

Uganda: Sights And Sounds of Kapchorwa
The Monitor (Kampala)

COLUMN
7 January 2008
Posted to the web 7 January 2008

Phoebe Mutetsi

It is such a beauty to behold, Kapchorwa is! It is all those rocky hills lining that single tarmac road snaking through, climbing higher and higher into the town.

It is also the steep slopes, the cliffs, those magnificent plain lands that seem to be beckoning, asking you to abandon the slow upward drive and walk down East into the Savannah. It is the fact that no one ever speaks of Kapchorwa or its people especially in the line of Uganda’s main tourist attraction sites.

Everything about Kapchorwa is an attraction, and not just the Sipi falls – which by the way, are worth all the hype. Every high rock in Kapchorwa, seemingly, has got a mass of water gushing out; it could pass for a district built in rock, with numerous waterfalls to accentuate its beauty.

The town is very small and mostly uneventful except for the street children running around excitedly, speaking Sabiny and some Swahili (with a Kenyan accent) and or broken English if you engage them.

Street children

There is barely a street in Kapchorwa town, yet these "street" children are overwhelming in number and can be scary; the minute I walked out of Noah’s Ark hotel gates, they were there, all of them, and made a semi-circle, caging me.

Then they started talking, all at once and fast, in Sabiny. I couldn’t walk on, there were not going to give way. And yet with the big grins on their faces and intimidating, sarcastic laughter, I couldn’t walk back into those safe gates. So I stayed.

But then it dawned me; they just kids, and all kids love one thing – "Who wants sweets? Who speaks English?" I asked. And just like that they were doing my bidding, pointing fingers at each other and telling on one another; "He said you are stupid."

"She said you a crazy woman". "No he said it". With only about five sweets to dish out, many were not impressed by this little trick and as result they switched back to mode A; calling me names and laughing at me.

It was then that I knew I had to meet with some adults and have adult conversation.

Later that night, during the concert for which I had gone, I met with a gentleman, Michael Musao. Musao had come from Mbale where he currently works and lives, to be with his extended family during the Christmas holiday. And he was at the concert, like everyone else, to be a part of the once-in-a-Kapchorwa-lifetime entertainment show.

It is during this show that one of the singers from the group Dream Girls joked, in the midst of their performance, that she was willing to abandon her life in Kampala and settle in Kapchorwa if there was a good man willing to for her marry. Together with about three other guys, Musao, naturally, commented; "No one would want to marry her, she is not circumcised." That was my cue.

Female circumcision

With a lot of coaxing, Micheal Musao (says he is an engineer) informed that the reasons for which Sabiny women are circumcised are mainly two; "One is to ensure a woman’s cleanliness and the second one is to reduce or curb her sexual urge."

However, he later begged that I do not publish that second reason. "It is not a good thing if you quoted me on that one, people will misunderstand. And, these are supposed to be cultural secrets," he pleaded, and then continued; "It is not like our women do not enjoy sex or don’t reach climax like very many people like to say. They do."

Musao went on to explain that with female circumcision, only the tip of the clitoris is cut off, not the whole of it; "So she still has sensitivities, she still has her clitoris, only it’s cut in half."

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a woman, a Sabiny woman, to contribute to this conversation, the most they gave was a shy smile and "Ask him (Micheal Musao), he will tell you everything."

And he did tell me his side of "everything"; from the fact that Sabiny women want to be circumcised and actually look forward to it (the younger ones) to the fact that he has been sexually involved with non circumcised women before and feels sorry for their men.

"When a woman is not circumcised she is treated like an outcast. They are not supposed to get food from the granary, they are not supposed to engage in a public discussion (like at a village meeting) and these women are supposed to walk from far behind the other women, and even at the well, the uncircumcised woman draws water after everyone else has," he explains matter-of-factly.

So what does he have to say to the people who demand that female circumcision is wrong and should be stopped? "I really think those people are entitled to their uninformed opinions," he states.

"Look, most of the people speaking against female circumcision have even been at the circumcising ceremony. They have no idea about what exactly is done or how it is done. They do not know the difference (sexually) between a circumcised woman and an uncircumcised one… So we really pay no attention to such people. It is our culture and the women have no problem with it," he states.

That – was Kapchorwa.

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