After three years in Luzira prison, Jaffari is back to his spot in the city. Back to homelessness. Back to sleeping under the bare sky. Unsure of where to start from. Prison gave him food and shelter, but the streets give him hope and freedom. The a 23-year-old narrates his story.
“ My father run away to another town leaving my mother with hardly nothing to take care of my siblings and I. My uncle took me in when I was four but life was tough, many nights we went hungry. I started school at Buyaya Primary school in Mbale. But you know how those village schools are. It was difficult to concentrate in class on an empty stomach. In Primary five, I dropped out of school. I was eight going onto nine, I started collecting maize stems for a man in my village. I got paid and I escaped from my uncle’s home, took a taxi and came to Kampala.
The taxi dropped me at Nakasero market.
The first weeks, I was wandering around the city as I familiarised myself with the place. Good thing, it was Ramadan, at the mosque, they served iftar everyday. When Ramadan was over, I scavenged for empty plastic bottles and sold them to get some money for food.
Months later, because I frequented the mosque, I met a woman that asked to take me to her home as houseboy. We agreed that she would be paying me 40,000 shilling a month and that she would keep for me the money until I was ready to go. A year alter, she introduced me to vending boiled eggs. I sold eggs for two years, every day, I took back home 20,000 shillings. She was happy with me. I was content since she was buying me clothes and giving me shelter.
When I was thirteen years, I felt like I had mastered this egg business. I asked her to give me my savings for the three years I had been at her house. She told me that her kids were going back to school so I should be patient. I waited for another month, I was growing impatient. I think my pestering wore her out. She kicked me out of her house.
Luckily, I had made friends on the streets so I went back to one of my buddies who connected me to a man, I started hawking Samosas but I was sick and tired of the cat and mouse chases with the City Council authorities.
I decided it was time to get a less risky business. I went to Kiseka market where I got a job to vend sugarcane. It is my thing. I have mastered it. I saved and bought a wooden wheelbarrow and started my own business. It was thriving. I had a glimpse of a life free from poverty. But then something happened, I got into a fight with someone who was also into the sugar cane business in Kampala. I punched him in the wrong place. I was taken to Luzira prison for assault where I spent three years. I have just come back. I am still figuring out where to start from. The thing is, I am a believer. I know that this will soon be over. I hope that when I have saved up money, I can return to my sugar cane business. It was earning me money.”
“How much do you need to start this business?” I asked.
“Two hundred thousand shillings would be enough for me because all I need is a wooden wheel barrow, sugar cane and a knife.” The 23-year-old Mafabi Jaffari said.