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A Bomb Survivor

Andrew Kabuura/Twenty Ten

Location: Kampala, Uganda

The obvious fact that I will never, ever, physically see one of my best friends again is a disturbing thought that I have been meditating on in the wake of the Kampala bomb blasts.

It’s even far more disturbing to think that I could have been the one lying in the wooden coffin amidst hundreds of mourners at the Kamwokya Catholic Church. My friend Tinka Steven is dead, courtesy of the bombs blast at the Kyadondo rugby ground.

Images of me and him chatting moments before his last breath kept going round and round in my head as the pastor delivered his sermon at the funeral service.

We were together for over 30 minutes as Tinka demanded I tell him all about my trip to South Africa, where I watched the opening rounds of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Then I received a text message informing me that another friend who, like Tinka, did not survive the blasts. She actually wasn’t that close to me, but I had just given her a t-shirt and Vuvuzela for wining the “who can blow the Vuvuzela loudest among the ladies” challenge minutes before the game kicked off.

To any football and fun loving Ugandan, July 11 started as an affable day. First, Africa’s first ever World Cup was showing on big screen, secondly, many local artists were set to grace the event, and thirdly, it was the biggest game on planet earth –the World Cup final.

Being the Promotions Manager of Vision Voice, a radio station, I went over to the venue to confirm branding material was in place and the venue was good to go. The radio was co-sponsoring the event.
The to-be fateful twilight was promising and by 5pm, revellers started arriving in great numbers. The sight of Vuvuzela blowing soccer fans screaming either Spain or the Netherlands made me want to hastily jump onto stage and start my day’s role - MC-ing. Little did I know that a mass assassin was somewhere in the crowd helping to register this day as a dark moment in Uganda’s history.

By 7pm, a co-MC and I had started arousing the crowd before the 9:30-kick off time! By 8pm we started giving out different prizes like Vuvuzela’s, branded t-shirts, squeeze bottles and more to different party goers that dared to compete in our competitions. Popular musicians drove the crowd wild with tracks off their latest albums.

As fireworks lit Kyadondo grounds, and the game kicked off with screams and loud Vuvuzela noises, soccer fans were glued to the screens.

Me, and three friends opted to catch this historical game at the very end of the crowd. It’s now that I realize how lucky I am, considering I was meant to sit on the front row, only metres from the first blast!

At the 87th minute I heard a very loud blast, and saw people running and screaming. We started to reassure the people and tell them to calm down, considering the match was at a critical stage. None of us realized what had actually taken place.

Almost 30 seconds after the first blast, another went off and the massive screen we were watching was shattered. The scene was mayhem and I wanted to run. Fragments of the bomb were flying through the air, injuring many in the process.

On my way to the exit with a traumatized friend, I saw the fans in the front row seats and knew that they were either dead or in shock. Meanwhile, I saw my friend Tinka Steven on the floor, but there was nothing I could do to help him. The sound of people calling for their friends and family members still haunts me to this day.

Within five minutes all the able people had evacuated the venue. There were still people inside who needed medical care.

Back in my office I am trying hard to forget that night. All I can see is images of the people I hugged only moments before the bomb blast, deformed and filled with blood. It’s very hard to describe what I feel about July 11. A day that started with promise and joy, ended with trauma and silence, and I am a survivor.

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