Many times I have felt as if my life was about to end, never in my life had I ever been as scared as I was one fateful afternoon when I was in Kampala.
With three of my friends, after watching a Premier League game, we strolled down to the taxi park. We passed a crowded boda boda area while we talked and argued about the game.
My two friends went ahead of me by just a few footsteps and as I hurried to catch up with them, I bumped into a badly packed empty special hire cab that blocked the whole pedestrian pavement. On top of that, the driver’s door was open so that it forced me to walk off the pavement.
Instead of walking off the pavement, I pushed and closed the cab’s door because it wasn’t just inconveniencing for me but for everyone that passed by. As soon as I closed the door, the cab owner, who was seated on a stool with his friends at a kiosk, came running after me like a mad man.
He immediately gripped my small wrist and with a lot of anger ordered me to reopen his cab door. To emphasize his point, the man dragged me back towards the door and ordered me to open the door. I looked on in amusement and I was like, “eh, eh!!” confused, I wondered what I should do next.
I was about to succumb and open the door when my two friends closed in and told me not to agree because it was the cab driver who was in the wrong for leaving his car door open.
Instantly, I pulled my hand free from his grasp and with assured boldness I told him that I would not open his car door. At that point in time, the man who looked way older than my dad became so mad and tried to hold my shirt but one of my friends pushed him away.
Before we realized it, we were surrounded by over twenty rowdy cab drivers, some of them already adventuring into our pockets. They pushed and shoved us around and threatened to beat us if we didn’t open their colleague’s cab door.
One of my friends who was more stubborn, encouraged us to be resilient and refuse to adhere to the bullies. While they still wondering what to do with us, one of the cab drivers said in Luganda, “Tubokye! Tubokye!” meaning, “Let’s burn them! Let’s burn them!”—I froze!
Back then, mob justice was on the increase in Uganda. The mode of punishment an angry mob used was either stoning a suspect to death, or tying rubber tires around him and setting them ablaze. In my mind, I started seeing the three of us burning to death and this made me panic.
Within a few seconds, the whole crowd was singing, “Tubokye! Tubokye!” We tried to free ourselves but it was all in vein, the crowd was already trying to cuff us with ropes and was not listening to whatever we were screaming. Some of the men went to look for tires and petrol while the rest kicked us and fastened the ropes.
Suddenly, two policemen with guns appeared and in a blink of an eye, the crowd quickly dispersed, leaving us on the ground dirty, beat up and scared to death. We were saved by the policemen!
I have never been as scared as I was on that day! Ironically, closing a crazy man’s cab door almost led to my death!