From revelry to tragedy on Uganda’s party boat

The MV Templar was recognisable because of the shark mouth painted on the bow

The MV Templar was recognisable because of the shark mouth painted on the bow

Six survivors of a day of fun and revelry that turned into a tragedy after a Ugandan party boat capsized on Lake Victoria tell the BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga what happened.

“The DJ kept irritating us, telling us to balance the boat,” says Tashobya Nsubuga.

“A good song would start playing and then you would hear, ‘Balance the boat’. That was a red flag already,” she says about the moment she knew something was not right on the boat, which capsized 200m (656ft) from the shore a fortnight ago.

The mother of three was lucky to make it out of Lake Victoria alive together with her younger sister.

But many families have been left broken with more than 30 people confirmed dead following the boat disaster.

Ms Nsubuga and her sister Esther Batahi recently met up with four other friends and survivors – Prince Arnold Simbwa, Brian Jjuuko, Sharifah Mbatudde and Francis Ssenkezi – at a hotel in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

In search of comfort, understanding and camaraderie, they have found themselves gravitating towards each other in the days after the accident.

One thing they all remember is that they were having a great party.

On board the boat, known as the MV Templar name after one of its owners Templar Bisaase, was an elite circle of people mostly from the Buganda Kingdom of central Uganda.

“There were three groups of people: one was a group of guys from the Buganda Kingdom, the other group was traders, then there was a group of royals,” says Mr. Jjuuko, a 30-year old marketing manager, who received his invite personally from Prince David Wasajja, the younger brother of the King of Buganda.

Ms Mbatudde, a young businesswoman who sells jewellery from China, was excited to get her invite from a friend who knew she loved boats.

On the day, the excitement about the party and taking a boat trip masked the signs that things were not right.

The revelers had a relatively early start for a party. They were told they would depart on the MV Templar from Kampala’s KK Beach at 11:00 local time (08:00 GMT), sail 12km (7.5 miles) to the K Palm Beach resort and then return to the capital by the evening.

But the boat was late and by mid-afternoon guests began to wonder if it was ever going to turn up. -BBC

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