I was standing by the roadside in my home area of Kitintale one day waiting for a taxi when a car pulled over with several men inside it.
“Hello!”, one elderly gentleman called out in Runyankore. “How are you, my child?”
The African habit of respecting one’s elders kicked in immediately.
“I’m fine Uncle”.
“How are mommy and daddy?”, he exclaimed enthusiastically.
I tried to place him in my memory which is very popular for being similar to that of a goldfish.
“They’re fine Uncle”.
“Are you going to Nakawa? I can give you a ride!”
I was late for work and here was a guardian uncle offering me a quick hop and a skip and a jump. I clambered in. I noticed though that they did not put me in a window seat. One man got out and I was made to sit in between three fellows. ‘Uncle’ was one of them. All in all I was in a car with five men I didn’t know.
In minutes they got down to business. ‘Uncle’ pulled out a black paper bag and begun speaking in Congolese all of a sudden. I don’t know what he was saying but it appeared he wanted me to buy these very precious ‘diamonds’ that he was shoving in my face.
I knew on the spot I’d made a terrible mistake getting into that car.
“I don’t have any money to buy your stones”, I politely said. ‘Uncle’ looked angry. His voice rose as he protested my poverty in more Congolese.
“I want to get out now”, I didn’t pretend not to be afraid. Timidly I asked over and over: “Please can I get out of the car?”
He stopped being friendly. He abused me long and loudly but the important thing is he let me out of the car.
Since that day I do not know how many uncles I have offended by telling them to their face I don’t know them and refusing any attempt at conversation.
Better safe than sorry!