The ‘nsenene’ (grasshoppers) delicacy has never failed to light a controversy when in season. For one, while it is food for many, it is also one of the Baganda totems. The Nsenene clan is one of the original clans of Buganda, and many a leading notable in the region hails from that clan. For others, their cultural biases fill them with trepidation at the thought of crushing these insects between their jaws. I will come back to this.
Growing up in Entebbe then, the Town (now Municipal) Council ensured that all street lights were in perfect working order. Yes, even outside our little shack in the African Quarters where lower cadre civil servants lived, the street lights worked all year round. And then in the months of October, November and December, these delightful creatures would descend on the town. It was a social event to behold. It was also the festive season and the young, the old, and the amorous would not pass off the opportunity to be out harvesting nsenene in the night. Just right outside our home, using one of those cotton ‘suukas’ that my Maama had provided for the event, we would trap the nsenene and stack them in tins, bags and other convenient containers.
As the time approached midnight, my father would call in the minors to catch some sleep. (Self-respecting male civil servants could not be seen catching nsenene, in those days.) We were always reluctant to be turned in because of the excitement. But hey! That is the time the adults got to flirting and doing those other things we kids were not supposed to know about. In a word, the nsenene season was the courting season, as barriers came down and every one was light hearted. I am sure many were conceived in the season of the grasshoppers.
The nsenene were so plentiful, they could sometimes be hunted and caught during the day. If it was during the holidays, it was fine. But during school days, that could get you in trouble. It was also around the nsnenene season that Idi Amin expelled the Asians. As one of their cars sped to the airport, one of our neighbour’s kids who was running about the roads, oblivious of the risks to himself, got decapitated by one of the ‘muyindi’ cars running away from ‘Kijambiya’. There was so much shock in the villages of Katabi and Manyago, that we did not dare go out to trap these delicacies for a while. What is the point of all this drivel from me? It is to bring home the point that the business of dealing in ‘nsenene’ is anachronistically associated with the poor, the under privileged and unwashed.
Fast forward to this season. For most of this year’s nsenene season, the jokes and memes where about the curfew, and Masaka people not sending some of this delicacy to Kampala. That it had to take the intervention of the “Ghetto President” for us Kampalans to enjoy some nsenene. These jokes were all par for the course until one Mubiru Paul (sic) arrived on the scene. Not only did he go and engage in the catching and trading of the delicious ‘nsenene’, the uppity fellow also had the temerity to have a video of himself vending the little creatures on our newly acquired Neo A330 before take-off to Dubai!
The video was posted on social media, went viral and has since then caused an uproar. The Acting CEO of the Airline hastily promised to add ‘nsenene to the menu, the chattering ‘elite’ classes expressed their incense, the Airbus crew were suspended, and Mr. Paul Mubiru was forced to ‘apologise’ to Ugandans for his ‘odious’ act. Mr. Mubiru and his accomplice have since been arrested and face seven years in jail! If I have not yet told you why Mr. Mubiru is a ‘thug’, and a pariah, I will tell you next week.
Samuel Sejjaaka is Country Team Leader at Mat Abacus Business School