Soccer fans gathered in bars and restaurants around the globe to watch the final game of the World Cup last night. In Uganda, these celebrations were interrupted when bombs exploded at two popular nightlife spots in Kampala, the country's capital.
Ugandan media are reporting over 40 deaths so far, with dozens more injured in the explosions. Ugandan police have suggested that Somali militant group al-Shabab was behind the attacks. One of the group's commanders recently called for attacks against Uganda, which contributes troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. The group has praised the attacks but has not claimed responsibility.
Ugandan blogger Gay Uganda writes:
Uganda attacked. Really, it is humanity attacked. Who has the gall to be happy at such atrocity? Apparently, Somali insurgents are happy. Because they are fighting African Union troops in Somalia, who have stopped them from establishing an Islamic state under Sharia law.
….What I see are country mates, human beings who were doing nothing worse than watching a football match who were killed and maimed, in the name of ideals that they may have no real thought about, actions that they cannot control in the least.
Ernest Bazanye cautions against jumping to conclusions about who set off the bombs too soon:
It’s too early to say who is responsible or why, and even though it is whispered abroad that it was a pair of suicide bombings staged by Al-Shahab, the Somali terrorist organization. We should know by now that the truth doesn’t get here that soon and that any conclusions now would be premature.
Trevor Snapp, a documentary photographer living in Kampala, was at Mulago Hospital, where many of the victims were taken, after the bombings. He writes:
Family members milled around the front reception area while doctors and bodies covered in blood were rushed in and out of surgery. In the surgery hallway a man’s body lay in the floor bleeding by his head, it was impossible to know if he was dead or alive. A few feet away in a small storage locker, staff had created a makeshift morgue, 6 bodies lay on the tiles, some had their clothes blown off. They were all young.
Many bloggers are shocked that the bombings happened in Kampala, widely known as one of Africa's safest capital cities. Joshua Goldstein, a former Global Voices author who used to live in Kampala, describes the locations where the bombings took place:
Kampala's Rugby Club is a sprawling bar, adjacent to the pitch, where many of Kampala's college students come to hang with their buddies. If Uganda had fraternities, this is where they would throw their parties. Here the smart set drink Nile Special with reggae and hip hop blasting in the background. On weekend days the same crew watch rugby, collars popped to block the sun.
….Across town Ethiopian Village, down the street from the American Embassy, is in the dead center of Kabalagala, the Las Vegas of Kampala. The restaurant, the most high end of the half dozen or so Ethiopian restaurants within 500 meters, sits at the intersection of Ggaba Road and Tank Hill Road. In the afternoon, Ethiopian dissident journalists pass their exile by chewing miraa and discussing the day's news. At night, the neighborhood lights up with bars and dance parties.
To give this a little perspective, I’ll point out that up-til now, Kampala has been one of those places where at 03:00 AM, one can walk from one end of the city to the other. And that we are the kind of people to complain about rising fuel prices, high Pay As You Earn taxes, impossible airtime charges…basically a very high cost of living. But in all this, we’ll still go to that new hangout place and pay UGX 5,000 for a beer. And we fill the place to the point that you literally have to fight your way to the bar to get a drink. And that’s the average hangout.
And then you hear about bomb blasts…