Friday night has turned into Saturday morning at the Club Vegas in Mbarara. The deejay is spinning Doctor Victor’s “I’m a warrior fighting for freedom”. There’s frenzy on the dance floor. A party of mzungus, as we like – with affection — to call our pale brothers and sisters from the North, is setting the pace. Perhaps they are on their way west to gorilla country. Their bodies and hair fly every which way to the beat. In the centre of a grooving circle, home grown wannabes are taking turns to strut their stuff.
Fiona Mutesi, 24, from Rwanda, is perched at the bar with friends. She’s a third year medical student at Mbarara’s University of Science & Technology. She enjoys living in Uganda, she says. It’s safe here. There’s freedom in the air. It’s open and easy-going society. The nightlife exemplifies that. When they can, Fiona and her friends head east to Kampala for a night out. They never feel they have to worry about getting home unmolested.
“I have lived here in Uganda for the last three years and to be honest, I feel totally at home here,” Mutesi told us. “I love the peace, the freedom and the friendly nature of Ugandans. All these years I have been here, not once have I witnessed an incident that jeopardized our safety and freedom and I personally think the government of Uganda has done a super job in maintaining peace and freedom for the nationals and visitors coming to the country.”
We heard much the same as we made the rounds of Kampala venues last Saturday. Club Guvnor, Club Silk, Ambience, Amnesia, Sky Launge and Casablanca were all packed and throbbing like Vegas. Everyone we spoke to had good things to say about peace and freedom in Uganda. Some credited government; others said the government was just doing its job,
At Amnesia, we met Gregory Bol, a lanky visitor from South Sudan. He and Ugandan friends were dancing the night away, beers tightly in hand. Bol did not hide his happiness about being in Uganda. “I have travelled across the world and Uganda is exceptional. The friendliness of the people and the ease with which they take life always amazes me. Above all, the peace and how the government has managed to control the security forces are something that is worth my praise,” he said. “In South Sudan, night clubs are dens of soldiers who are all out to cause havoc especially when drunk. Here you hardly see a soldier in the clubs. I love the sense of peace and happiness here.”
Bol’s sentiments mesh with with the United Nation’s 2013 World Happiness Report which found Ugandans to be the happiest people in East Africa, based on a survey that measures generosity; having someone to count on in times of trouble; feeling a sense of freedom to make key life choices; objective circumstances of life such as income and healthy life expectancy; and perceptions about the prevalence of corruption.