Kampala, a 24-hour bustle and hustle city with a warm tropical climate, could borrow from the good old days in the countryside villages. Those are the days, in the now rapidly urbanizing villages when the footpath was a date venue, with lovers cuddling in the sunset with eyes wide open for the prying neighbor. I stepped out with a backpack on the dusty paths of much of the urban and suburban Kampala metro. You feel that the footpaths have become busy driveways and roads for the pedestrian majority. If you cannot afford paid club membership, forget about taking an evening stroll or jogging around the neighborhood.
The good old village path glittered to the lovers in the human social connection it afforded users and the relative privacy afforded by the dimming sunset rays. Kampala metropolitan city is a city of cars and mechanical connection through hooting engines, with sunset hidden behind the canopy of houses that block the ray’s access. At the base of the series of hills that form the metropolitan poor scramble for space while the few hilltops provide panoramic views of the gyrating countryside. With the diminished dating site for the average hill base resident, street dating opportunities have sprouted. These consist of twilight girls hunting the deprived alpha male.
The booming sex trade in the lodges that dot streets and satellite towns is a courtesy of the death of the village path human connection. Given the diminished human social connections, commercial sex workers provide intercourse opportunities for pent-up (sexual) energy. Village paths on the other hand provided emotional-based social connection opportunities that served to preserve pent-up energy for better use in the garden for the farmers or fishermen and so on. Through the rehabilitation of public parks such as Uhuru park and city park and the integration of walking paths for the public transport corridors, the Kenya government must have realized the importance of providing the hill base residents with enough opportunities for daily interaction.
A friend explained the challenges that her young primary school daughter experiences when walking from home to a school in the neighborhood but on the opposite side of the busy Kampala Entebbe road. In the morning, she has to accompany her every day to see her cross the road. If not, the daughter has to walk for four kilometers (about two and a half miles) to the nearest pedestrian bridge in Kajjansi despite the half-kilometer distance between her home and school. By contrast village paths, like the footbridges, provided faster avenues for human social connection amidst the cacophony of singing birds.
The fixation with fixing motorways and glorifying driving is not only killing the dating scene but also human spirituality. Prayer, for example, requires the undivided human senses which are impossible in Kampala’s bustle and hustle. Street preachers cut a figure of lonely crusaders with no one sparing thought at their drowning voices. The churches are running empty with reports of pastors and priests paying congregants to show up for Sunday services or to serve in the choir and so on. Besides, the increasing number of Christian divorce rates point to a couples’ mismatch occasioned by the diminished footpaths. A futuristic city like Kampala with a majority under 35 years requires more footpaths and public places.