With its 100 bars, drunkards and sex workers, Kololo is now ‘normal’

Thursday March 14 2019

Kololo hill illustration

The abrupt change of lifestyle has been a traumatic culture shock to the ''normal'' Kololo residents who cannot have a decent night's sleep as music blares all night long from the 100 bars. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NMG 

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The name Kololo connotes a very quiet, lonely place, so named from the cry of a vanquished king a century and a quarter ago.

The British empire builders using Sudanese mercenaries, superior weaponry and local traitors had defeated the Ugandan national armies and deported their great kings Kabalega of Bunyoro and Mwanga of Buganda to islands in the Indian Ocean.

The British felt it was safe enough to exile their Acholi colleague internally across the Nile in Kampala, 320km away from his kingdom. “An atye kany kololo,” Chief Awich cried out, meaning “I am here alone!”

Indeed he was.

The new British rulers settled on Nakasero hill next to the lonely Kololo, developed Makerere Hill for education and left Mengo Hill for the subjugated Buganda kingdom. Religions were left with Rubaga and Nsambya for Catholics, Namirembe for the Anglicans and Kibuli for Muslims.

The original seven hills of Kampala accounted for, lonely Kololo remained almost unpopulated, later it attracted diplomatic residences and some extremely wealthy settlers. Native African workers settled in the valleys that are separated by the hills and in between were the Indians traders and professionals.


The settlement pattern of Kampala remained thus, even after the 1972 total expulsion of Indians, their places simply being taken over by the new African traders as gradual takeover of European homes by the new African elite that had started at Independence in 1962 continued.

And though the city’s population of 300,000 in 1972 has since grown tenfold to three million, Kololo had remained a quiet, spacious hill which even now, is not served by public transport. Besides the diplomatic missions, the hill also hosted telecommunication, radio and TV masts.

But as nature cannot tolerate a vacuum, growing populations and economies also don’t allow a big part of the city to remain ''empty.''

First came a lone classy Indian restaurant and the diplomats did not mind it. Then a cozy little colonial style hotel and the wealthy residents on the lonely hill also welcomed that. Foreign non-governmental organisations followed.

Then some corrupt officials started selling off institutional plots on Kololo Hill and the new owners started constructing apartment blocks. By the time ''normal'' residents of Kololo thought of complaining, the hill had started attracting bars and nightclubs and with these, all the unwashed of Kampala had been welcomed onto the quiet hill.

National media recently reported that there are about 100 bars on Kololo hill, with only 30 of these licensed. The arrival of everyone to Kololo wouldn’t be a problem, after all it is the Independence Hill where the instruments of statehood were handed over by the British to the locals on October 9, 1962.

But the abrupt change of lifestyle has been a traumatic culture shock to the ''normal'' Kololo residents who cannot have a decent night's sleep as music blares all night long from the 100 bars.

Uncontrolled parking of bar goers borders on the hilarious as some residents have been blocked from driving out of their compounds in the morning because the drivers of the said vehicles are still holed up in the bars, and no one knows who they are or where to find them.

Children going to school in the morning see strange sights of drunkards arguing with semi-nude sex workers who are winding up their business day.

Though geographically still at high altitude, Kololo has been brought down to everybody’s level. As the poor in the valleys complain over noisy overnight prayers in makeshift night-long churches, the rich on the hill are suffering from unregulated bar noise. Prayer and sin are the great equalisers.