Presiding over the cask are several
of Uganda’s alcoholic elite—the warlords and rebels of the vineyard. I’m
here to tell their drunken story, for they are otherwise engage and
incapable of coherent expression.
Waragi may not be the name of a
feared warlord or dictator, but it has a reputation just as fearsome:
blinding, crippling, and even killing many innocent civilians throughout
Uganda. Waragi is the local poison of choice, and this stuff ain’t no
papsak—and not because papsak comes with its own inflatable pillow, but
because Waragi will make your head so mush even a rock will feel as soft
as the finest imported Arabian pillow.
Charles Drunkwin (the
lesser-known alcoholic brother of Charles Darwin the naturalist) had
long predicted that wherever fermentation is possible, a high-alcohol
liquid would most likely be produced and gather around it all
intelligent live in the area. And he was right!
practically a type of paint stripper originally made from fermented
bananas—though in recent times some families have overcome their own
drunkenness and tried to go commercial with the brew. Now they make
Waragi out of cane sugar and anything else that will ferment, but the
idea and effects are still the same.
The informal process by
which Waragi is brewed and bottled means it never gets to the point of
being corked, so it is often scooped up and consumed straight from the
oil drum that birthed it. Many of the puddles in the village are
actually Waragi spills, and you won’t see any dogs, pigs, or chickens go
near those pools.
What surprises me about Uganda’s fondness for
the drink is that it is a voluntary surrender. This is not the case in
the Ghettos of America where white corporations saturate black areas
with bottle stores that are open 24/7 and even on public holidays to
help them van die wal af in die sloot.
Uganda is the only
African country that willing released the bottled demon, and its effects
are seen throughout Ugandan society (or what is left of it).
many African societies and tribes drink, but there is some form of
order to the whole affair and even an age restriction and gender bias to
keep the economy bubbling. In Uganda, however, Waragi is not
distributed in accordance to hierarchy; instead, it is freely given to
infants, women, children, the old, and the infirm alike. There’s no
discrimination when the Waragi starts flowing, and if there is trouble,
the whole village is criminally liable at the moment of contention.
I sincerely wish this were a first-hand account, I will merely be
interpreting what some lucky journalists had to say about their drinking
of Waragi. Take a manly swig of Waragi and watch as the colours of your
surroundings ooze out and evaporate. Keep at it and you’ll soon be
partying with the tribe in the ethereal realm. Out of body experience guaranteed should be Waragi’s slogan if someone ever commercializes it; that or Fuck you, liver!
the absence of proper medical care, Waragi is frequently administered
to women in labour to ease the pain associated with childbirth. But with
delivery being the protracted affair that it is, fetal alcohol syndrome
usually results. Fetal alcohol syndrome of course means ‘born an
alcoholic’—and no AA meeting or church is going to fix that! Look at me;
I started late on the bottle, and it’s already too late to stop me!
saw a heavily sped up interview with one of the locals, in which he
recounts one of his many misadventures with Waragi. “It was my day off,”
he said, “and I started drinking Waragi at sunrise.” He continued,
“Soon I noticed that the sun was already setting, but people in the
village told me it was only 11AM in the morning.” The poor bastard had
drunken himself into temporary state blindness! That is hardcore even
for someone who does not have to labour away for twelve hours under the
punishing sun the next day!
He can be lucky, though, that his
disability was not permanent. Many an unfortunate tourist with a weaker
constitution would have suffered permanent visual loss resulting from
such a feat of excess. The science surrounding this phenomenon is rather
simple. In an uncontrolled and runaway fermentation processes, methanol
(the truly dangerous form of Alcohol) is produced, and if consumed even
in small quantities, can permanently damage the retina at the back of
the eye; methanol literally dissolves it.
I say this with
sincere love and respect, but I find it hilariously funny to see a whole
village of Africans passed out in contorted poses … drunk out of their
skulls. Their struggles to reanimate themselves can sometimes be seen in
documentaries. Once such scene was next to a small stream running
through a village where one unfortunate bloke attempted to quench his
hellish thirst, but then found himself in mortal danger of drowning—the
near still-standing waters turning into an imaginary raging river from
the effects of Waragi.
The tale thus far is not literary
exaggeration either. Statistically, Uganda is, by far, the drunkest
nation in Africa! While globally, Uganda is ranked eighth in the list of
top ten drunken nations of the world. Now consider the enormous
economic differences between Uganda and countries like Germany and
Australia, which are ranked 9th and 10th respectively in that list.
has earned Uganda the title of ‘The Drunkest Place on Earth,’ by all
who’ve visit it, and is the only African country to have had its entire
economy ruined solely by alcoholism!
Many Africans may feel
ashamed for the conduct of their Ugandan brothers and sisters, but let’s
be honest; alcohol has been part of human culture for thousands of
years. One of the great crimes of modernity is that we silence the
drunkard before he delivers his message. In so-called ‘primitive
cultures,’ as dusk approaches, all the people of the village gather
around a bonfire to partake in a ritual that runs deep into the night.
As the sun escapes view, the barman brings forth jungle juice for
everyone, but the real poison is reserved only for wisest and most
experienced amongst the people: the clan leaders, shamans, and legendary
warriors. As the ritual progresses… one at a time… as if summoned,
people stand up, limbs flailing about in alcoholic ecstasy, and they
deliver a message of wisdom to their peers. And this process is
repeated, multiple times per week. Who says functional alcoholism is a
Though, honestly, near a fire is a dangerous place to be
if you are the typical Ugandan. The real veterans of the dram are,
understandably, out in the dark forests if continuing their drinking
after sunset (which they always do). Not to mention, anyone who sits all
day under the restful shade of a tree, knocking back cup after cup of
Waragi becomes a candidate for spontaneous human combustion if brought
near a flame.
I think a good business venture in Uganda would be
the selling of t-shirts with the slogan ‘Highly Flammable!’ printed
front and back in which the really drenched can be dressed to avert the
accidental necklacing of an innocent person when someone just lights a
cigarette. Not that innocence has ever prevented a necklacing from
taking place, though.
I can’t resist playing this necklacing
thing one more round. If one is going to die by way of necklacing, it
may be providence to drink a gallon of Waragi in preparation. Not only
will it dull your sense of pain but also, when the community is bashing
you with sticks while you writhe on the floor, engulfed in flames, you
will have sweet revenge when the Waragi in your stomach ignites and
turns you into a human bomb—taking out many of your persecutors in the
process and ending your suffering instantly. Horrible, but practical
advice, I think.
Moving away from the macabre, in family terms
Uganda is that one uncle everyone is trying to help straighten out and
get off the booze but on whom all attempts are wasted, as he loses one
job after the other, one wife after the other, and continues his descent
down the rabbit hole of infirmity.
Of course, to me, Uganda
sounds like the sort of country I should have immigrated to instead.
However, perhaps I can retire there one day—though retirement is still
many decades off for me.
All that said, I bow in respect to the
drunken warlords of Uganda for their indefatigability and their
commitment to spreading the joys of the fermentation process to an
entire country and everyone in it. While Uganda may not be Africa’s most
presentable or economically viable nation, it is, undoubtedly, Africa’s
So while I can’t get my hands on a Caltex can
full of Waragi, I will definitely pull some bruisers from my private
stash and try to keep up with my Ugandan kin!
And why don’t you keep up with The Last Contrarian on Twitter?
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