Olive takes us to Kasenyi Landing Site
When I arrived, most were sitting in little groups discussing the death of a recently drowned colleague.
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First published: December 4, 2007
Hidden about three kilometers away from Abayita Ababiri, Kasenyi is a fishing town on the shores of Lake Victoria. Having often heard about it but never actually been to the place, I visited Kasenyi landing site to find out for UGPulse all that there is to this town. If traveling by public means from Kampala city, a taxi enroute to Entebbe town will drop you off at Abayita Ababiri. The journey to Kasenyi from Abayita Ababiri is best made by bodaboda (hired motorbike).
On this particular Tuesday, I easily found one and started the bumpy and uncomfortable ride to Kasenyi. To my chagrin, a truck ahead of us left a cloud of dust behind it, making it difficult for us to either overtake it or ride fast enough. The seven-minute ride eventually ended when we got to the main entrance of the landing site. A guard manning the gate asked for my identification. He curiously looked at my card, before reluctantly handing it back to me. Meanwhile, many other people freely entered and exited, making me conclude that he probably knew all people who work or live in Kasenyi.
Welcome to Kasenyi Landing Site.
Once I went through the gate, my nose was hit by the overpowering smell of fish. I looked around, hoping that something or someone would catch my eye and started to move towards the lake. I was met by curious stares. This confirmed to me that the people who work or live in this area know each other very well. Any stranger in their midst can be spotted right away. I decided to zero in on a man seated outside a drug shop and strike a conversation with him. He introduced himself as Mwiine, adding that he has worked at Kasenyi for about ten months now and knows the area well enough to guide me about. Satisfied with my identification tag, he offered to take me around.
My guide: Mwiine.
Mwiine says that business at Kasenyi is good; the landing site thrives mainly on fish business. So, almost 80% of the tiny town's population deal with fish. While some offload fish from boats, others smoke it and some sell it in a market. The market itself takes the form of an open area right next to the lake. Stalls are strewn all over the sand along the shore. Women dominate most of the market activities. Mainly, they sell fish, sweet potatoes, bananas, yams, and other foodstuff. When I arrived, most were sitting in little groups discussing the death of a recently drowned colleague. Most of the men in the market are chapati vendors and fishmongers. Since the fishermen's boats had not arrived yet, the fresh fish stalls were empty. A few stalls however, had smoked fish on display.
A kigege on its way to Kasenyi.
Mwiine intimated that Kasenyi is busiest on Mondays and Fridays, which are the official market days. On such days, businessmen from Entebbe, Kampala and some islands nearby bring their goods in for sale. For mainland traders, the main modes of transport are commuter taxis (kamunye/kigege) and rickety Toyota Corona cars that have separate loading areas at both the Old Taxi Park in Kampala and Abayita Ababiri town.
At Kasenyi: Carrying passengers to the shore.
Mahonda Badru, a fish buyer and rally car driver, says that fish brings in the most business to Kasenyi. Badru, who comes to Kasenyi daily, adds that the fish market in Kasenyi attracts fish processing companies from as far away as Kampala, which come to buy fish in thousands of kilograms. He showed me refrigerated trucks owned by such companies parked in the fish loading area. At the start of my visit, the packing area was being scrubbed in preparation for the cleaning and weighing of the fish before the fishermen arrived. Fishermen push their boats out into the lake to catch fish at night and usually return between midday and 3 O'clock in the afternoon. When the fish arrives, porters immediately bring it in, weigh it and pack it with ice into the trucks. Some fish is bought by local fishmongers for sale at the Kasenyi market.
Mahonda Badru, (right) and a friend.
Selling clothes at Kasenyi.
Despite the dominance of fish trade, other businesses still thrive at Kasenyi. Shops selling clothes, shoes, sugar, beans, rice, etc, are numerous. Mwiine says that many residents shop in neither Entebbe nor Kampala. All the common commodities they require are normally available in shops at Kasenyi. At about eleven o'clock in the morning, boats started landing to drop off passengers from the islands of Koome, Nsazi, Kiimi and others. Other boats stopped just to refuel at the only petrol station in Kasenyi. The sight of porters wading into the lake to lift people and goods on and off the boats was amusing. Their distinct pink shirts distinguished them from the rest of the crowd standing by the lakeside. The most common goods brought ashore are fish, charcoal and foodstuffs.
Shops at Kasenyi.
Next to the fish packing area in Kasenyi is a residential compound said to be owned by an Indian. It overlooks the lake and a few old boats lie on the sand before it. Nearby is a huge park where locals usually sit or take naps after work, under several fruit trees. A bushy path leads to a group of rocks on to which one can climb for a better view of Kasenyi and get the rare opportunity to meet monitor lizards taking a sunbath. Sekidde, a porter, said that his boss is contemplating turning the place into a public recreation center and beach, due to demand from residents and visitors.
Mwiine is all praises for the security at Kasenyi. He said that cases of theft in the area are rare. The presence of a police station has helped maintain law and order in the area. A police officer, who declined to be named, agreed and added that because the community in the area is relatively small, the police officers know most people personally and therefore netting an errant person is very easy. Besides, the landing site hosts a Presidential Guard Brigade barracks. It is not wise for anybody to get on the wrong side of the law in a place like that.
Kasenyi's residential area is characterised mainly by wooden/tin structures. There are very few good structures and they line the road leading to the beach. The shanty structures were built so close to each other and give the whole place a rather unattractive look. Badru attributed this to the fact that most of the businessmen/women who operate in Kasenyi do not actually live here. He estimated the population at the landing site to be 1,000 - 2,000 because people come and leave every other day.
My efforts to trace a decent restaurant were futile. Those I found were makeshift shacks, filled with smoke and the endless chatter amongst the women who run them. Should you feel thirsty, sodas and beer are available in most of the lock-up shops that have fridges. Behind the market area, makeshift bars, which sell locally made alcoholic drinks like malwa and waragi host the residents (especially the fishermen) at all times of the day. Mwiine says that the fishermen, on making their day's sales, often go on drinking marathons. He adds, "It does not necessarily mean that they drink all their money away. These men are wealthy and own real estate."
Apart from the businessmen who come to trade, Kasenyi often hosts students undertaking fieldwork activities. On such days, the residents profiteer by inflating the prices of most commodities, especially fish and other kinds of food.
Towards the end of the day, the little town turns into a deserted area. Mwiine says most of the business folk close their shops by eight in the evening and retire to their homes around Entebbe and parts of Kampala. A few residents stay up conducting business until about 10 pm when the breeze from the lake gets cooler and sends them to their wood and tin homes. Regardless of where they live, they all look forward to another busy day at the landing site. Mwiine says that although business is often unpredictable, Kasenyi continues to grow and the people who live or come to it continue to make money. "Although the landing site has hitherto thrived mainly on fish trade, the next few years will see other types of businesses booming here."
Kasenyi as seen from the rocks.
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First published: December 4, 2007
Olive Eyotaru Yemima is a graduate of Mass Communication. She first worked with Ultimate Media in 2005 as an intern and returned in 2007 as a features writer.
A Ugandan talented creative writer, Eyotaru now writes for both the local and international media and continues to shine in the media every day that passes.