By Abubakar Bin Siraji
Residents of Bukhoba village in Wanale sub county, Mbale district now walk while looking down to avoid bat droppings falling into their eyes and making them blind. Colonies of bats have invaded the area.
A spot check by this reporter established that the trees and roofs of most houses are filled with bat faeces. Paul Mungoma, 73, whose home has been invaded by the bats said bat faeces are acidic.
“When their waste falls on vegetation, it turns black, a clear sign that the faeces have acid that burns plants,” said Mungoma.
“If the plants can change colour then it means if the waste falls in our eyes we will go blind due to the acidity,” he added.
Locals claim that one of the villagers developed complications on his head after the droppings fell on him some years ago.
“The last time we experienced such an invasion of bats was two decades ago and one villager got complications after bat droppings fell on his head. That is why we fear walking while looking up,” said Mungoma.
James Mwambu, another villager, said that besides fearing the bat droppings, many are weary “of being slapped by bat wings and becoming deaf’.
“There is this myth that when you are slapped by bats in the ears you become deaf because bats use echolocation to emit sound and if you are slapped by it you will be unable to hear normal sounds but just echoes and noise,” said Mwambu.
“With such myths flying around, people are afraid to walk around freely. And that is why when the bats start hovering around, people take cover either in houses, buildings, or under open trees because they fear bright light,” he added.
Residents say they cannot cook vegetables from their farms because they fear the bat droppings are poisonous.
They even fear drinking water that has come into contact with the bats’ waste.
“We cannot eat the vegetables because they have been destroyed by the droppings changing from green to black. We are forced to buy vegetables on a daily basis,” said Margaret Namahe.
“It is both dry and rainy season but we cannot use the water we have harvested because the iron sheets are full of droppings. We fear that the water is contaminated and is poisonous,” she added.
Residents say a new wave of bats is spreading all over the village at a high rate, making a lot of noise.
“These bats have become a nuisance to the villagers; they keep on making irritating noise throughout the day and night,” another resident told this reporter.
Residents say the bats have divided themselves into two groups: The first group disturbs locals in the daytime and the second group causes nuisance at night.
“Around 7 pm the group that has been making noise during the day leaves to an unknown place and the second group takes over and when it reaches around 3 to 4 am the group that had left comes back for the day shift,” lamented Namahe.
“This has made us worry a lot and ask ourselves whether we are living with demons. And based on how the bats are behaving they are indeed evil spirits because why should the bats have shifted.” she paused.
Among the Bagisu, like many African cultures, bats and owls are considered a bad omen. Their presence indicates that something bad will happen, probably death or a catastrophe.