MBALE, THE CITY AT THE FOOTHILL OF MT. ELGON
Mbale is a municipality found in Mbale District in the eastern part of Uganda. It began as a commercial centre for Arab ivory traders and later attracted Indian traders who had come to East Africa to build the railway line. Eventually, it became the Uganda Government’s administrative centre for the Eastern Uganda region.
Mbale is located on the foot of Wanaale Ridge of Mt. Elgon which is 8,000 feet above sea level. It covers a geographical area of 2,435 hectares. Mbale’s central location makes it attractive, competitive and a business hub in the region. It serves over 20 districts in eastern and north eastern Uganda.
Further, its location and multiple entry points and its close proximity to Kenya through Lwakhakha, Busia and Malaba borders make it accessible to all regions and provides opportunities for enhanced trade activities that attract local investment necessary for economic development.
Mbale is home to multiple higher learning institutes and financial institution branches. Areas of investment include industry, tourism, hotels, entertainment, education and healthcare among others.
Mbale was recently considered by Government of Uganda the regional city for Eastern Uganda because of its strategic location, structural development and the progressive business and tourism growth it commands.
The Mbale District Council has since created two city divisions for the long-awaited city status. These are Bungokho and Industrial City Divisions.
Bungokho City Division comprises Northern Division, Nakaloke Town Council and the sub-counties of Bukonde, Nakaloke, Namabasa and Namanyonyi. Meanwhile Industrial City Division comprises original Industrial Division, Bugema-Nauyo Town Council and sub-counties of Bukasakya and Bungokho-Mutoto.
Mbale prides herself of a very rich heritage. It is home for Imbalu, the traditional circumcision custom among Bamasaaba. Every even year, Imbalu is launched at Mutoto Cultural Site, located within the vicinity of Mbale town. The launch alone attracts hundreds of thousands of people for near and far. Imbalu launch is believed to be the second largest festival after the Brazil Samba Festival.
It is home of Bugisu Arabica Coffee, the commercial flagship of Bamasaaba, traded under. Bugisu Cooperative Union, a farmers’ cooperative formed in 1954.
Visible from all parts of the town with its picturesque cliffs, cascading waterfalls and green cultivated slopes, the Wanaale ridge supplements the town’s allure; the white rocks along the hills are spread like a white sheet on the hills, no wonder the late colonial agent, Semei Kakungulu called it a white cock due to the white rocks that appear from a distance like a white cock.
Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is found in both Uganda and Kenya. In Uganda, it is found in the districts of Kapchorwa and Mbale. The National Park is a gazetted international ecological conservation area, as a habitat to unique vegetation species. The Park is also home to a number of endangered animal species, including buffalos and cheetahs which traverse the Mount Elgon ranges on both Uganda and Kenya sides. In addition, the Park is also habitat to bird species not found in other parts of Uganda.
Besides the wildlife, the Caldera found at the most top of the Elgon ranges is a key attraction of the Park. The Caldera remained as a depression on top of Mount Elgon after the volcanic activity. The depression is 8 kilometres in diameter and has a circumference of 40 Kilometres. Other attractions within the caldera include hot springs, crater lakes, the swam gorge with heavy population of wild game and scenic peaks rising up to 4321 Kilometres above sea level.
Bufumbo and Wanaale Forest Reserves
Bufumbo and Wanaale Forest Reserves are found at the ridges, located about 5 Kilometres East of Mbale town. The key attractions at the reserves include the forest walks, primate viewing, bird watching, cave exploration, cliff viewing and mountain climbing. There is also a campsite at the Wanaale ridge. The primates found include blue tailed and black and white monkeys. The shy African Civet mammals are also a common feature. Viewing of birds such as the Turakos is a common experience.
Night life in Mbale is not so busy but quite interesting. El Tanjia and The Thatch are among the most vibrant night clubs in Mbale town. Between Friday and Saturday, by midnight the dancing floor is busy.
Taste in fashion does not fundamentally differ from the one in the city. Tight fitting and skimpy wear seems to be the generally accepted standard of dressing in those hot spots. It appears the tighter or the skimpier it gets the better the fashion statement made. Shouting colours like all red, lemon green, hot pink and royal blue are not uncommon, especially among the young revelers.