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Makerere: The Naked Mile has run its course

by Editorial Team
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By Alex Balimwikungu

Whereas university is about freedoms, here is the naked truth about the Naked Mile; it has no place in society, more so our universities. This is 2022. Why cling on to foreign traditions as far back as 1986?

To the uninitiated, the Naked Mile has been a popular campus tradition ever since 12 members of the university’s men’s and women’s rowing team and varsity men’s track team made the first streak down in a university in Michigan in the US in 1986.

More recently, The Naked Mile, a 2006 American sex comedy film released by Universal Pictures, put it into perspective.

Sixteen years after the movie in 2022, a group of students at Makerere University chose to do the Naked Mile. Was it part of celebrations to mark the institution’s 100 years?  No way.  The perpetrators are still dwelling in the past. It is as well the university administration suspended them.

Ritah Namisango, the university principal public relations officer, confirmed the suspension and issuance of warning letters to the culprits, but declined to identify the affected students. She, however, said the “university re-affirms zero tolerance to bullying, physical assault and destruction of property.”

She was being polite.  What these people (the bullies), mostly continuing students, did was to wake up the freshers deep in the night to participate in the midnight jogging as part of tradition.

If the Naked Mile at Makerere University’s Nkrumah Hall achieved anything, it showed that the ban on secondhand underwear by government was a joke. From pictures seen by The Kampala Sun, it showed that many freshers needed to get rid of their old underwear. Many had undies with worn out elastic, holes, or — gasp — skid marks.

In this day and era, the only thing one can benefit from participating in the Naked Mile is waking up and finding a picture of you in your underwear on a trashy website.

During my times at Makerere University in the early 2000s, we were not so innocent. Of course, for initiation, we were taught a rich repertoire of profanities. We were, however, not under any duress to gush them in public.

Part of the Lumumba and Mary Stuart (Lumbox) cultural traditions was dressing up the Gongom and Gongomess monuments.  We saw no harm in sheathing Gomgom’s fully erect manhood with ‘protection’ and walk away.

For us, worshipping Gongom wasn’t farfetched. A story is told that shortly after Lumumba Hall opened in 1971, Idi Amin’s soldiers invaded the neighbouring ladies hall, Mary Stuart. Lumumba students who up to now call themselves Elephants fought back to repulse the soldiers. It’s from here that a one Gongom lost his life and a monument was erected in his honour. The Gongom monument welded from iron is addressed as His Majesty, Highness and dressed in an attire (a graduate gown). They are symbols of unity. What is the symbol of nudity?

It should be noted that even in the Western World, there is reduced participation in the Naked Mile.  There have been increased police enforcement and a university-sponsored ad campaigns encouraging students not to run the mile.

The lacrosse team of Michigan University that popularised it recently came out to reveal that the Naked Mile is no longer something the team wishes to be associated with,” said former men’s lacrosse team president Greg Walker in a written statement.

“It used to be a fun outing, but for the past two years, it has become increasingly uncomfortable and unsafe. We don’t want our team to be linked with the circus the event has become.”

Timothy Kintu, a university fresher, however, sees no harm in turning to the streets, shedding some clothing and making a celebratory run for it.

“University is about being unhinged and a moment of self-discovery. Participating in the Naked Mile for me means I am independent, mature and can do as I please,” he concludes.




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