Now that I’m back in Kampala I’ve got tho make the best of my time and revisit the places and faces that made such an impression on me last time I was here.
First stop, Wakisa Ministries Pregnancy Support centre. Last year I spent time assisting to get some basic finance systems in place. It’s a great to see these changes have been well received and still in use.
Next stop stop – Jave café. It’s just down the road from Wakisa and provides me with my daily (as a minimum) mocha coffee and access to free wi-fi. (Although this year I’ve found Kampala wi-fi to be a little more than problematic).
In the same 5 minutes that Julie arrived in Wakisa back in 2012 Bella was about to get her marching orders and be evicted from the Wakisa Ministries Pregnancy Crisis centre in central Kampala.
Bella had already endured so much in such a short life by the time her’s and Julie’s paths crossed.
Her parents died when she was very young and living in Burundi. Somehow she came to be living with her grandmother in the slums of Kampala. At age 8 (?) Bella’s aunt forced her to move into their family home with her husband and baby to keep house for them. Bella has no idea of her birthday but believes she is aged 16. We are not so sure – she looks now, more like a 12-14 year old.
By person unknown she was raped but by good fortune was helped to find protection and care with Auntie Vivian at the Wakisa centre.
Bella has had it tough but she knows how to look after herself, whether in the ramshackle housing in the slums or on the streets of Kampala she has had the strength to survive. Unfortunately she didn’t know how to temper this toughness when she arrived in Wakisa.
Julie and Bella’s paths crossed in Aunt Vivian’s office. Julie was being introduced at the start of a 3 week volunteer counselling programme and Bella was about to be shown the door on her way out, for good!
Somehow Julie, in those few brief moments believed that Bella could be reached. Julie convinced Aunt Vivian to let Bella stay and struck a deal to work with Bella to accept and work with the others; the girls and the staff in the house.
Two years on and Bella now has a baby son aged 1 year and 1 month. Her Jajja (grandmother) looks after the baby fulltime, and this year Bella started at boarding school. In a brief 6 months she has learnt to speak some English.
Yesterday we were invited to the school Visitors Day. It was an opportunity for us to meet Bella’s teacher and hear about her school progress but more importantly to spoil her rotten. If that were possible – we had taken her and 1 close friend to the local Java’s café the previous weekend and introduced her to chips, meat pies, mango juice smoothies and chocolate croissant.
Anyway, after delivering sandwiches, biscuits, drink concentrate, chocolate bars and school supplies we eased away from Bella’s firm grip and tears, and promised to return next year.
• Surprisingly a Prime Minister and the King cannot agree on the way forward for their country.
• The locals are unhappy with the Prime Minister and mutiny.
• A Prime Ministerial representative is sent to negotiate with the mutineers and he is also held hostage
• Promises are made to improve pay rates and army personnel are promoted.
• Neighbouring country Nationals are banned from government office and then finally removed from the country all together.
• Others of Indian origin, many of whom are successful businessmen are banned from running local business.
• The Prime Minister enters into secret deals to trade arms and munitions for gold with a neighbouring country.
• The parliament sanctions an investigation into corruption.
• The Prime Minister responds by suspending the constitution and appointing himself to the position of President with unlimited power.
• The President authorises the army to stage an armed attack on the King at his palace.
• The King is forced to flee from his country through the wilds of Africa. He holes up in a villager’s home for several days before making it all the way to England to live in exile.
• An army Major General, who fought alongside the British stages a military coup seizes power and appoints himself Field Marshall.
• The exiled King dies, apparently from poisoning.
• The new President’s rule is characterized by human rights abuse, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement.
• An attempt to annex portions of a neighbouring country go horribly wrong and the President flees the country to live in exile.
• Two further presidents make short appearances before
• Elections are held and results disputed but the President ousted in the previous coup returns for a 5 year reign.
• A guerrilla war fought in the bushlands of the country brings a new President to power.
• 28 years on and this President is still in office.
And this is the story of Uganda over the past 40 years.
We toured the Kings Palace and received a fantastic narrative of recent history in Uganda from our tour guide. Alongside this story we also experienced the raw shock of being in one of Idi Amin’s torture chambers. Once used as the armoury this bunker, a thick concrete walled shelter built into the side of the hill facing Entebbe was eerily quite. But step back from the walls and you can see the writing etched in by previous occupants, it wasn’t difficult to imagine the shouts and screams of the estimated 15,000 who lost their life there during Amin’s rule.
As an uneducated man, Amin’s solution was to imprison those who he thought posed a threat to him and his rule. Estimates of the number of people killed under his regime range between 100,000 and 500,000.
This quote from an officer in the army says it all for me, “Idi Amin is a splendid type and a good (rugby) player, but virtually bone from the neck up, and needs things explained in words of one letter”.
Uganda is obviously still righting itself from social and economic impacts that resulted from the events that followed Independence in 1962. There are positive signs but there is still much much more to be done.