I’ve been at Makerere University slightly over a year now and obviously my dates with teargas have neither been few nor insignificant. So from hereon, take my word as fact.
In my relatively long life, I have not inhaled anything as mean as teargas. There’s no feeling like your lungs constricting and threatening to give up on you so fast. I have seen a marabou stork choke and collapse from teargas. I have seen big muscled men bend in half and cry. I have seen girls wobble and hallucinate as if possessed by demons.
A whole wildfire rages on your face and your eyes cloud in a hazy balloon. Your throat turns sore like a grinding stone and your own saliva becomes nauseating. Water cannot help but only dissolves the irritable gas into your skin. Then begins the itching. When a person tries to strangle you, you can kick and twist but how about when this colourless assassin gets hold of your neck? There’s nothing as futile as trying to stop breathing, or running fast before the gas fully diffuses and engulfs the whole space of air around you.
I speak so authoritatively on this matter because I have inhaled a whole cannister of teargas singlehandedly. (ok, plus my roommate) A brute of a policeman hurled a cannister straight into my room last semester when he saw me taking pictures. Boom! It ricocheted against the window seal and let out a puff of blue dust that settled on every inch of space inside my four walls. Momentarliy, I had a throwback to the diffusion experiments of Form 1 chemistry. Never mind that it was a Thursday. I have a feeling that that specific batch of teargas was never meant for us Makerere students because its concentration was on another level. I believe that teargas could have made even the eyes of a herd of elephants sore. Infact, at that time we were convinced it was shopped in the run up to the February general elections in anticipation of civil disobedience which never materialised. But I guess some law enforcer felt that teargas so potent could not be wasted but had to be utilised. We were the unlucky children of God who happened to be available. God bless that policeman.
It is paradoxical how I still sing weewe.. whenever there is a strike. Blame it on the Lumumba indoctrination perhaps. But, one thing is for sure, I scamper whenever I see the teargas trucks arrive. I don’t even wait to watch what happens. I learnt my lessons. Makerere teaches plenty of lifeskills you know, all those Ugandans in international universities will never know how important such skills are.
Now, it wrenches my gut whenever I imagine what the Jews in Hitler’s concentration camps went through in the gas chambers or what the Syrians now face at the hands of chemical weapons. In real military battle, that’s way below the belt. But as for strikes, there never was a better way to teach a child not to shout Weeeeewee..(in the presence of the police)