Column Squad

How I Survived Afande’s Wrath On Valentine’s Day


There is no way you can ignore Valentine’s Day in Kampala even if you wanted to. There are Radio commercials, lovers’ events and so forth all in preparation of the big day. While listening to one of the radios I am amused by the presenter’s cynical attitude towards the whole thing.  Without giving valid reasons, she keeps telling her cohost that “tuli bakoowu” meaning that we are tired of the love thing.

Her none intelligible arguments transfer me back to my youth when I almost  lost the true love of my life thanks to Valentine’s Day.  I am from that generation that felt the full brunt of Valentine’s Day. You see Valentine’s didn’t arrive in Kampala until the 90s when it became such a big deal thanks to savvy marketing and FM radio stations.

Those days unlike today, everyone on the street would be decked out in black and red. The talk would be about gifts and plot for the big Day. Woe unto you who had no one to give you gifts or to take you out in the evening. At Mary Stuart, the day was such a big deal that some girls would send themselves gifts and others would hide until the whole frenzy died off.

I on the other hand had a very unique problem; I had two suitors.  This was the time the NRM war Kadogos were coming into their own. They had grown up, exchanged their rags for stonewash jeans, drove Land rover 110s and had an unsettling sense of entitlement. I had unfortunately attracted the attention of one of these former kadogos who expected me to drop everything and everyone to jump at his marriage proposal which came the very first time we met.

I had politely turned it down and informed him that I was already spoken for and things were in advanced stages with my childhood sweetheart. But he didn’t seem to understand the meaning of no.

Three days before Valentine’s he came and informed me that he would be taking me for Afrigo where I was to meet some of his family members.  I reminded him that I had a boyfriend and that I would be spending the day with him. It was as if the words would enter into one ear and get through the other. Probably those guns had left him deaf. He went on telling me about how important this day would be for US and therefore how I should be at my best.

On D-Day, I heard commotion outside the hall and curiously I went out to see the cause. There was my afande in our parking lot with a pickup full of presents.  Dresses, shoes, bags, a humongous radio cassette, cups, carpets, mattresses (army issue), teddy bears, biscuits, bottles of quencher, chocolates, wines and of course so many flowers that made the pickup look like a florist’s van. To say I was mortified by the extravagancy is an understatement.

The afande ordered his escorts to unload the stuff and bring it up to my room.  And this is when I decided that it was time to communicate to this afande the only way he would understand. I quickly wrote a note saying I had gone to spend the day with my boyfriend and apologized for letting him down. I gave the note to my roommate and left the hall as fast as I could for the safety of my friend’s room in Africa Hall where we stayed holed up till the following day.

In the morning I trekked back to Box only to be welcomed by my Valentine’s Day loot which was spilling into the corridor. As I tried to make some sense of the whole mess I found my sweetheart’s  bouquet of plastic roses and a card professing his love the only way Hallmark people know how to.  My legs turned to jelly and my heart almost jumped out of my chest. I didn’t hold out much hope if he had seen all this stuff. I knew I had some tough explaining to do, that is if he would give me the chance to talk to him. But for now all I could do was enjoy my loot and new-found reputation as the most sought after girl in Box.

Happy Valentine’s Day