Standing up to bully conductors on the local suicide buses!
I had to go into Kamuli Town several times during my stay with Innocent, travelling on the awful taxi buses – I call them suicide buses and really have no choice but to use them. It’s too far to travel on a motor bike which I would actually feel slightly more safe on! It is illegal to have more than 14 passengers on these public buses and when you get nearer to Jinja town or Kampala the rule is enforced strictly but heading into Kamuli the drivers and conductors don’t care and they fill the bus up and fill it up again! Several times in the past I have made a stand and did it twice during this stay.
The first time, although the bus was overfull, it stopped for a passenger and the conductor indicated that I should move over to make room for her, so that we would have to share ‘my’ seat. I decided not to move and fortunately he gave up the fight quite quickly. I did feel a little sorry for the lady but the buses come along frequently.
The second time it was a bit more difficult. The bus was full and the conductor stopped to let a man get on who tried to push me over. I just sat fast and stiff in my seat, which was really uncomfortable as the cushion had disintegrated and I had a metal spike sticking in my bum, but I was determined not to be bullied! The man and the conductor laughed and were obviously talking about this mad Mzungu the whole time and didn’t give up insisting I should share me seat. In fact the man ended up half stood and half sat on me!
I could see I was not going to get my way so I told the conductor out loud that I would only pay half fare as I only had half a seat to sit on. He laughed and then ignored me until I got out of the bus in town and handed him 1000 Ugx instead of 2000 Ugx! He was furious so I offered to call the police, reminding him that it is against the law to overcrowd your bus. He asked Innocent to ‘sort me out’ but Innocent, though surprised at the stand I made, supported me. The conductor refused to take my half fare so I walked away across the road, not looking back. Next thing he was at my shoulder saying he would take the half fare! Great fun! Innocent told me the rest of the passengers said they wished they could have a Mzungu on every journey! I don’t know why these people won’t stand up for their rights. These men are just bullies! The buses are dangerous enough without being overcrowded!
The return journey was slightly more comfortable, not that comfortable is a word I would ever use for those buses, but at least no one challenged me! In fact they couldn’t have been more helpful as the reason I had come to Kamuli was to buy some cushions for Innocents furniture as I was finding them rather hard and low for me! We searched out the best bargains with the help of his cousin John Baptist and they were tied to the back of the bus. I did have to pay another 1000 Ugx (25p) for the service though. They look really good in his home and my back is happier too!