inAfrica

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Tribe and Proliferation of guns to terrorise neighbours

By Peter Wadri
The Karamonjong one of Africa’s notorious tribes and proliferation of guns for terrorizing their neighbours. ---The art of scaling down on African tribal skirmishes.

The Karamojong tribe, one of few African tribes that have continued to live in an 18th century lifestyle, has continued with barbaric acts of raiding their neighbours (tribes) and gone on practicing this at the expense of their own clan members.

Karamojong from Karamoja located in the North Eastern part of Uganda (small East African country) are a normadic tribe whose livelihood depends on keeping cattle. Located in a 27,200 square kilometer area of semi-arid savannah, bush and mountains, the region has dominant groups including the Dodoth in the north, the Jie in the central region, and, in the south, a cluster of closely related ethnic groups known as Bokora, Matheniko, and Pian all of whom are referred to generally as the Karimojong in the Karamoja Region

As described, the area has an ecological feature as a semi-arid living, varying rain pattern, mostly during June and September. This leaves the area greatly exposed to drought and therefore failing crop production, providing them with minimal options regarding livestock maintenance.

With this, the tribe has looked at livestock as economical and symbolic. With unpredictable rains and persistent drought, the Karamojong often abandon their homes to temporary encampments in search for pasture and water for their animals, occasionally crossing to neigbouring tribes.

This swift search for water and pasture has always resulted in tribal fights and a culture of raiding livestock. The Karamojong have a natural belief that all livestock around belongs to them. This is enforced by the fact that cattle are used for bride price and the raids a symbol of strength and manhood in the tradition of the community.

Through the years 1970 –1980, while engaging in civil strife, the Karamojong acquired guns from disgruntled soldiers. These arms helped the Karamojong to increase their strength and gain and advantage over their neighbours whom they ruthlessly attack, always killing, raiding and rustling cattle, and destroying crops and property.

During colonial and post-colonial times, several unsuccessful efforts were made by different government regimes to persuade the Karamojong to cease their atrocities against their neighbours, but there has since been no fruitful resolution.

This practice went on until 1986 when the government of President Yoweri Museveni came to power. Museveni and Human Rights groups saw the urgent need to quell the escalating problem in order to save the Ateso and Bagisu tribes from the pathetic life to which they have been subjected by the Karamojong. Until the Museveni presidential elections took place, the Karimojong wreaked so much havoc in the neighboring districts that cattle rustling became a major electoral issue. The Karimojong warriors mobilised and massively raided Teso and Sebei because there was 'no government'.

The subsequent intervention by the government saw to it that disarmament programs were to be initiated in order to cease and remove all illegal gun usage by the Karimojong. This is one of the several attempts by government and the Civil Society to bring the situation in the region to a state of normalcy (civility and legality). The subsequent incumbent President Museveni pledged in his election manifesto to end cattle rustling, causing a number of interim measures to be adopted.

Between 1997 and 2000, disarmament was high on the government's priority list. In December 2000, parliament passed the Disarmament Act. The objectives of the government's policy on disarmament were:
· Kenya and Sudan
· To stop inter-clan terrorism within Karamoja and infiltration of arms
· To deploy UPDF, LDUs and vigilantes in strategic areas within Karamoja and along the boarders to ensure protection of life and property
· To enlist support for peaceful disarmament of people at grassroots level through rigorous sensitisation programmes
· To co-operate with Kenya and Sudan in concurrent disarmament of the Turkana and Didinga
· To stop illegal trafficking of guns from Sudan/Kenya into Uganda
· To resettle and rehabilitate those who surrender guns and ensure social/economic transformation of Karamoja

· To improve radio communication for effective dissemination of information and education
· To beef up police and the judiciary to ensure peace and administration of justice
The disarmament programme was carried out in two phases. The first phase involved voluntary disarmament and started on 2nd December 2001 and ended on 2nd January 2002. Forceful disarmament, the second phase, commenced on 15th February 2002.

THE ROAD TO DISARMAMENT

Government offered a number of incentives for the Karimojong to voluntarily disarm, including the provision of iron sheets and ox-ploughs to whomever surrendered their weapons.
At the beginning there was optimism regarding the transformation of the livelihood of the Karimojong, from dependency on the cow to other viable sources of income after disarmament. Indeed, in the period between January 2002 and February 2003, it was evident that the warriors had stopped openly carrying guns along roads and in towns, a sign of the success of the disarmament exercise.

Similarly, during the same period, large-scale cattle rustling was reduced to isolated incidents of cattle theft by habitual criminals.

Voluntary disarmament had a number of shortcomings nevertheless:

· Because of corruption, the iron sheets distributed ended up in with people who never disarmed, for example in Panyangara and Nakapelimoru sub-counties in Kotido district. Many were relatives, friends and campaign managers of local politicians.

· The distribution of ox-ploughs was impractical for some ethnic groups like the Pokot, to whom likened it to punishment of their precious animals.

· The Tepeth on the mountain sold their ploughs because the steep terrain would not allow its use
· Disarmament was handled on an individual basis, which escalated inter-ethnic conflicts instead of collective incentives, which would have promoted community cohesiveness and reduced paranoia over public scrutiny.

· The community had to travel long distances to the arms collection centres that were located at district headquarters. Compared to the initial costs of buying arms, the incentive for people to disarm was not worth traveling.

ENFORCING THE DISARMAMENT

The UPDF (Ugandan Army) launched military operations to recover illegal arms after the expiration of an extended deadline for voluntary disarmament on 15th February 2002. They recovered, by force, only 1,949 guns from Karamoja and 763 from Kapchorwa. 1,378 guns and 40 homemade guns were handed voluntarily during the second phase.

Due to lack of co-operation, trust, commitment, common cause, and sincerity among senior local leadership on Karamoja, it became extremely difficult for the UPDF to mobilise forceful disarmament. This led to violent clashes between the armed Karimojong warriors and the UPDF.

In March 2002, hardly a month after forceful disarmament had been launched in Karamoja, government abruptly withdrew the UPDF to contain increased LRA rebel incursions in Northern Uganda. This heightened internal raiding by sections of the Karimojong that had not disarmed.

It all started when the Upe, who had fled to Kenya during the disarmament, returned and raided Pian and Bokora herds. The Bokora started raiding the Matheniko and Jie herds, and the Jie retaliated on the Matheniko. The Dodoth raided the Jie and Matheniko. The Turkana also intensified their incursions into Matheniko areas as far as Lorukumo. By the end of 2002, there was total mayhem in the region. Raiding spread to parts of Teso and Acholi.

As a result of these internal and external raids, different Karimojong groups started re-arming in order to protect themselves, an act that severely undermined the initial successes yielded by the disarmament exercise. State Minister for Defence, Ruth Nankabirwa was quoted to have said at the end of November 2003 that the government had conceded failure of the disarmament programme and that efforts had began to re-design the programme.

(Source: Building Local Capacity for Peace and Development in Karamoja, Uganda:
A report study by SNV, 2004)

CONCLUSION:

Insecurity - Inspite of government's efforts to curb insecurity in the Karamoja region, it still persists. This has a number of causes:

· Redundant unemployed youths (Karacuna). There are no economic activities that can pre-occupy the strong, energetic, tough and ready young Karacuna.

· Inability of the state security organizations to contain insecurity.

· An abrupt halt on the disarmament program sparks sporadic raids against the disarmed, especially the Kenyan, Pokot, and Turkana who were not disarmed by their government and thereafter intensified raiding in most parts of the district

· The proliferation of Arms has continued to re-enforce the hitherto volatile situation
· Colonial background: The colonialists decided to shift and relocate the Karamojong of Pian origin from their original land of Karita and Lokaalees currently occupied by the Pokot to the present dry lands of Lorengedwat Nabilatuk and Lolachat. With that, the Karamojong Pian continue to view the Pokot as their enemies who grubbed away their fertile land.

· Historical ethnic background: Apart from the above colonial factors, the current precarious insecurity is attributed to the ethnic and cultural difference a mong the Pian and the Pokot. The common local belief is that the two are traditional enemies to the extent that a raid from either group would be viewed as normal and expected. Tit for tat raids is the order of the day.

· Struggle for water and pasture areas.

· Uncertainties posed by cattle raids.
Community Development
· Children cannot go to school
· Infrastructure building has been affected by road thuggery
· Mobile population cannot access social services from government and national programs
· Spread of livestock diseases through cattle raids
· Loss of tough between the communities with their leadership and government
· Inaccessibility to the markets due to road ambushes
(Source: Nakapirirpirit District Local Government Three Year Development Plan 2003/2004 - 2004/2005
Visit.

UK students from Devon College Visit Africa-Uganda

All they have been hearing and seeing on television is the disaster, war and famine. Occasionally, images of malnourished children appear as strange stories are told about a war in Uganda. Many hear poor and inaccurate presentations of the rest of the story.

To face reality, visiting is the ideal answer. For that very reason, a year ago, students from Dawlish community college planned to visit the land of many puzzles and back image theories.
The purpose of the visit was to meet the people, feel the experience and learn more about Africa, but above all these students wanted to see how they could give help to the needy.Almost a year to the day after the plan was initiated back at school in Devon, students saw themselves touch down at the Entebbe international airport for their first time in Africa. Thanks to Experience Africa, the company that gave them the idea, the group was guided by Darren, group leader, and Denis Kigongo, a Ugandan working with Experience Africa in London.The students made a short visit extending to July 30, but with an interesting local travel itinerary.
This would allow them to find the beauty of the country and have the chance to see different local communities.

What a surprise start! The visitors began with a debating competition at Kitante Hill School, one of the local schools, where they shared ideas about the educational system, the differences and challenges of student life, and being youth.

"We did not expect this," Louisa Steel, a student teacher at Dewlish College, also once a student at the college said of the challenging start of the tour. "But it gave us a feel of how a class is here."

Believing everything was all the same apart from money, she said money seemed to be the biting pain here, but life all looks the same as it does back home in Devon.

"I saw there was high discipline." Louisa said. "The students are well disciplined and have sharp brains, we found them quite challenging."

"It was all a new experience," Emily Baker confided.Both girls admit this was a challenging debate. They believe Kitante has smart students who made creative arguments representing the rest of the students.

The women looked forward to getting to a rural school and see what difference regional factors will make.With a merry introduction, Friday morning's itinerary included a visit to one of the "anticipated places." Nsambya babies home is where young men and women can spend time with the orphaned babies.
This was a different experience.The students were told their parents had abandoned the babies, and some infants were left as soon as they were born. It was all very sad. Was this true, some asked; the answer from John Kasule, the child welfare officer, was a solemn "Yes."It sounded unbelievable, but the students were faced by the reality of abandoned compassionate love. Many kept carrying the babies with smiling innocent faces.
It was so hard to believe that someone would throw away all of this innocent love. It was a different situation for me to see someone offering love and tenderness to these needy children.The babies are here without the slightest idea of what or where they are.
To them, they are at home; this is where they were born.Love, compassion and joy filled the compound as a new day started for the babies with the visitors bringing in new life. The day was changed completely, from the look of this; it had absolutely a lot to offer.
The visitors embarked on cleaning rooms, washing clothes, carrying firewood to the kitchen and giving the babies a mother's warm arm.Two year old Moses was the happiest of the day, together with Melanie and Jolly. He had found what he probably had been looking for as he happily played with Jolly who kept on carrying him, tickling and throwing him up and down.
They had the most fantastic day, to the envy of 6 month old Dominic Ssemakula.Hard work was exhibited and the students handed over an assortment of goodies for the children. Janet Blair, the science teacher, donated over 350 pound sterling to John Kasule that had been contributed while home.

"This is to make a change in their lives," Janet said.After this outstanding experience the team headed to Iganga where they visited a clinic started by group member Dennis Lukwago. They delivered medical equipment and drugs to the clinic that serves the rural people in the district.

Dennis is a Ugandan working Experience Africa. This trip was one that he had managed to organize to promote Africa with an emphasis on Uganda.At the end of the tour, some of the students had already expressed their desire to stay a little longer and make future trips back.
From now on, when any of these students hear stories about the Uganda war, they know a little bit about the reality of the rest of the story.
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The gruesome way of making a living

The gruesome way of making a living .
By Peter Wadri

A young man sells local herbs and uses snakes to sell them in a bid to make a living
“If you are willing to buy my herbs, here you take it. It is going to help you treat all sorts of ailments, including snakebites from my snakes here.
Please take the opportunity now because soon I will go away and you will regret...”

These were words of a daring young man who, in a local language (Luganda), announcing the power of his herbs as he played around with live healthy snakes in a bid for big sales. The bouncy, shabbily dressed youth shouted about his business as many enthusiastic young and old looked in awe at him and considered his own game.

This seeming young man, carrying about 4 healthy looking cobra snakes and a baby one in his pockets, sells local herbs that he believes help treat several ailments. Thank God he made no mention of HIV/AIDS.

These were seriously big snakes weighing about 16 Kg, 4metres long with a thickness of 10 cms. Believe it or not, my eyes did not see those snakes on him, at least not at first.

In any natural circumstances one would faint at the sight of this snake game. I did not get the chance or the courage to ask his name, as the sight of these dangerous animals motivated me to keep a considrable distance.

Just like any other onlooker, I was keen on seeing what this man was showing us (meaning myself, an American on a fellowship at a local newspaper, and a young lady beside me, not forgetting an 8 year old girl who had probably had leave from school. I only realized she was around after she continuously kept making noise in an exclamation of what she was seeing).

If you have ever seen a snake and would dare stand close to it, then the one you would see would perhaps be a rubber snake or at most one that you would have bred right after hatching the egg from the warmth of your blanket.

Well this particular snake looked innocent as it coiled itself around the young man's neck but looked so aggressive every time the young man tried to put it on the ground. The snake gave the impression that it would go for any soul around, and you could tell how all of us, including John and Mary, would take off at a mere thought that the thing would attempt to put its head on the ground. What beat my understanding was how this man could easily go about his game, and how he has lived with these reptiles.

I know that these are common. Yes, you and I have gone to the circus shows and have seen a gloriously glaring muscular man jump on a lion or leopard, with comfort, moving around for all of us to watch. Why not believe this, I side with you that it can duly happen.

Back in our school days, we used to have these magicians come to our school and do all sorts of amazing things. I guess that’s why they called them "magic shows." One gentleman did turn cow dung into bread, then made sweets out of it. Later, pins that he swallowed reproduced hankies. I mean these were damn amazing.

Slightly easier was this one who could walk on a long string with a width of 2 mms and ride a bicycle backward. This was a heroic stuff to do and at least every one tried it out at the end of the day, but of course not this one who eats feces and pins to produce hankies and sweets. This was definitely too far, let alone those who knifed themselves or put spears through their abdomens, pulling them out as the wounds heal in the wink of an eye.

This man was one of the many witch doctors about that I heard had been traveling around the country, promising to do every miracle for those who would seek their treatment. There are those witch doctors who have said to have been involved in beheading young children, killing, and removing private body parts of people - all in the name of getting wealth. There are also those who are poor and help married or cohabiting partners, especially the women, gain favor with their husbands and boyfriends who would otherwise stray to other women.

This man was different from all the rest of the witch doctors because he concentrated on his stuff here and lived with his family of cobras, which he insistently said were very expensive to maintain. Were they really? Well, they may have been because these things loved their master so much from the way they fought in their tattered trunk until pulled out and displayed.

'Mr. Snakeman,' as I shall call him, unsuccessfully tried to woo some customers to his wonder working herbs. These herbs were not that expensive, but as I looked at the others around me, I realized those people could barely afford any of even the cheapest herbs.

These were people who, as a matter of fact, were actually walking home after toiling on a sunny day in and around the city, and as a normal routine would retire without much to spend apart from that saved for buying gas to light up the house and something for the kids at home. Something I am sure 'Mr. Snakeman' was looking for as well, but in a smarter way.

It was a pity for me to see both 'Mr. Snakeman' and these people, who were all looking at each other for consolations or entertainment. Yes, believe me, 'Mr. Snakeman' was happy that his skills were being appreciated and was in need of money as well. The people were excited at what they saw and willing to forget their own disappointments for a while.

I cannot tell what my colleagues, especially my friend from the States, felt, but I was beaten off and could still not tell what magic 'Mr. Snakeman' had. This was my first time seeing all this; the last time I saw a snake was when it had been crushed by a car in the night and had already been frozen in the morning when I got to it. Seeing a live one crawling around freely, and above all on a human being who is supposed to be its enemy, was quite different. I don’t hate animals. I know animal activists would hang me if they were to hear me use the "hate" word in reference to animals, but for Christ's sake, this was too much for ordinary imagination to conceive. It was utterly amazing!


www.voicingforyou.blogspot.com for local community news

Sunday, July 25, 2004

TRAVEL, Uganda: The Pearl of Africa

Adventure, discovering the beauty of the Pearl. 

By:Peter Wadri

The sun is shining, the few clouds don't obscure the beauty of the sky, the lake water is a clear and shining blue and the weather, with a comfortable temperature, gently relaxes the mind with the loveliness of summer.

It's all in this part of the world, that, the one time great wise man Sir George Washington came to refer to as the ‘Pearl of Africa’.

Many tourists have flocked for holiday and students come to volunteer at the end of their studies, not only to share their experiences but also enjoy the beauty of this beautiful country, Uganda.

Uganda is a landlocked country, covering an area of 24.139 square kilometers and lies between the Eastern and Western ridges of the Great Rift Valley in the Heart of Africa, boarded in the east by Kenya, the west by Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the south by Tanzania, and the north by Sudan.

The Pearl of Africa, Uganda, is a perfect destination for those who love to travel and enjoy adventure, with an amazing diversity of inhabitants and wild life.  It's home to many primates, including the endangered mountain gorilla, chimpanzees, and a wonderful array of small monkeys.

The central part of the country is dominated by large tracks of rain forest, with high altitude moorlands and forests on the mountain sides.  An arid savannah is found in the northern part of the country, and in contrast, marshy wetlands and lakes can be enjoyed in the central and southern, and eastern areas of the country.  Volcanic soils not only provide a bounty for beast, but also for man with extensive agriculture.

Among the lakes and rivers are Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Eastern Africa, and running through the country is the Nile, the second longest river in the world, stretching north to the Mediterranean Sea.  Tourists can navigate these waters by raft, and enjoy the pleasures of the Bujagali Falls located at Jinja, the adventure city of east Africa.

If nature and quiet are what you are seeking, the mountains should be your destination.  Bwindi offers the solitude needed for watching the wonderful wildlife, which includes birds, gorillas, and other primates.
  
The Mugahinga Gorilla Park in the south-west, which borders Rwanda and Congo, is comprised of three distinctive volcanoes and three extensive swamps.  Along with gorillas, the park supports golden monkies, elephants, leopards and forest hogs. The bird life includes twelve endemic species.

At the Murchison Falls, boat trips enable you to see crocodiles, hippos and magnificent bird life close up, with nature walks to the top of the falls.   Rwenzonri Mountain, commonly referred to as the ‘Mountain of the Moon’ and the Rwenzori National Park contains six snow-capped peaks, three with glaciers, excellent for mountaineering and hiking opportunities.  The Queen Elizabeth National Park borders Lakes Edward and George which are connected to the Kazinga channel.

In the east, Mountain Elgon, an extinct volcano and the fourth highest mountain in East Africa reaching 4321 kilometeres.  The park has magnificent water falls, caves, gorges, and hot springs and is excellent for mountain hiking, nature walks, and relaxation.

These amazing locations, with their beautiful camp sites, islands, remote, purely African resorts, and with clear waters and breath taking scenery, can stand up to the most remarkable available in Europe or Africa.

You must see it to believe the true beauty of the "Pearl of Africa".  When your friends see your photos, they will realize that Uganda is the destination for every adventurer's dream.

Clebrating the new year alone

Just the experince of celebrations  down here
 
By: Peter Wadri
 
Loneliness is a funny thing, it can be the worst nightmare you’ve ever had, or it can be the single most important event that happens in your life, the thing that makes you face up to the person who you really are, and accept for good or for bad your place in the world. Having ridden on both sides of this line, I have both enjoyed and hated the periods of loneliness in my life, I have found the strength to laugh in my isolation as many times as I have found myself drowning in self-pity.

Never does the worry of loneliness seem to hit the hardest but during the holidays. When friends ask me now how I celebrated last New Year, the only think I can do is smile and laugh (a little).

Let me take you back, there I can sit in my dark little bedroom, the candle on the table is slowly burning out, and the clock is ticking away, it’s 10:16 pm just 104 minutes to the New Year and I wonder if the candle will go the distance and keep me company in my vigil to the new year- I wonder how many other people on the planet are sat just like I am now- waiting.
Well as I keep pressing the ink to paper, buying away time into the New Year, the candle is growing weaker and weaker. It doesn’t seem like the flame will last, and seems likely I will be starting the new year in a pitch black room.

As the light slowly fades, I struggle to see the lines in my note book, so my writing is starts to look like little zigzags of railway lines- I should stop, 2003’s life is almost over. 2004 is already the darling of everyone. A real displacement, eh? Anyway, I am going to miss the celebrations, the chanting and adulations, the fire works and all that. I am lonely, but can not go out there in the wild where I have no friends, so I have no choice but to stay here in my room with only my notebook, candle and pen for company.In the small village where I live the preparations for tonight have been going on for days. I can imagine the celebrations taking place now, the fun I am missing out on. They will be burning the Christmas tree, this reminds me of the scouts camp fire where exactly 10 years ago I sat singing, chanting and dancing away the last night of the year.

Something I have never been able to understand it why the celebrations take place at the end of an old year instead of the beginning of a new one. It must be close to midnight now; the candle has nearly burnt out completely. I wonder how people in war zones and troubled country’s are marking tonight- will they even recognise it as anything more than the passing of another day? I close my eyes and say a silent prayer, wishing them peace and safety in the New Year.I wish I had a radio or television for another human voice to give me company. The candle is now burning faster. No! My candle should not leave me behind.  How I wish I had another candle to keep me going.
As the clock flicks over to midnight, and a new year begins I toast quietly with a glass of Coke from my local shop- a gift for my loyalty.

 I plan to learn a lot this year, that is the only resolution I am making. I have big plans for 2004 and big dreams. To my friends who will ask where I was on the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, I was in my lonely dark 'den' with my one companion, my candle.  Who, by the way, made it to the first glorious moments of the New Year. Thank you dear friend

An African Student in Sweden

From the deepest jungles of the heart of Africa to the brightly lighted Scandinavian streets. 
 
By: Peter Wadri

Have you even been to a totally different place - where everything was completely different from anything you’ve known? I had no experience with airplanes, cold winters, snow, and the first running tubes. I was exhilarated to get there and see it all for myself.

Cold Winter

Used to the otherwise hot temperatures between 30 to 50 degrees C in my little town in Uganda, I was suddenly hit by this new weather - winter with rain that is frozen and piles up instead of running through the land in streams and making small puddles, as I was used to. And the temperatures were as cold as 17 below zero degrees C, as cold as the last few miles to heaven.

The incredible cold almost forced me to fly back home. But when my skin cracked and I bled in the terrible cold air, it was enough to make me understand the nature of the cold.

Traffic

Back at home, I knew the zebra crossing points, named after the beautiful striped colours of the Zebra animal, but not traffic lights. It was all amazing. I was so used to our roads, and in Sweden I was trying to cross the road, looking to my right for vehicles, only to be almost hit by a vehicle coming from the left!

The pedestrians take their time. They cross so leisurely, as the poor drivers wait for them to reach the other side. At home, that would never happen. If you didn’t cross quickly enough the driver will "beep or brush you up" with the driving mirrors, just to make sure you go home with a lesson to fear crossing at your own pace.

People and Language.

When I went to the Swedish Embassy in Kampala and heard one fellow who I had queued up with for a visa, I thought to myself, how I would ask for even just water if I got thirsty in that country. I was going to a new place with a different language, and I thought I should start practicing Svenska right away.

But to my surprise, most of these people speak very good English. I think an Italian would strongly believe they did it even better than the English themselves! I wondered how and why, but I’m certain they get their share of learning through the televisions programs. Most stations have movies and soap operas in English and have a text translation. Anyway, I don’t think I still understand this, how the people have learned English so well. But even if you are a "doubting Thomas" as the Biblical Thomas was, and as I was, it’s easier to forget it and just feel at home.

Sites

Stockholm, I was told, was built on Islands. Islands???? I did not see any lake, ocean or anything other than snow fields. This snow skiing thing made it worse for me because I could not believe for a minute that where these brave, life-risking guys were actually playing was a "dead" sea.
Before summer, I was seeing barren hills and naked trees, the lawns covered by snow and the whole place looking like a deserted grave yard. The forests had no singing birds - I guess they all flew to safety in exile, probably in Africa. I did see rabbits, and wondered how they stood the coldness. I suppose they were not able to hop the long way to exile too.

Bars and Clubs

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to go to many clubs or bars, simply because I couldn’t take the cold. It was so very freezing that I just didn’t feel it was worth it. Twice I did try, but it was a nightmare. Just as I was starting to enjoy myself, the place closed, much earlier than I expected. In Kampala, you leave a bar in your own time.
In addition, I was subjected to beer with a 2.5% alcohol percent, very low for a guy used to at least 5%, if not higher, as is often the case.
I felt rather cheated by the laws here, and they seemed too unfair. I quickly lost interest in the bars, and decided to retreat to the comfort of my room after classes and take walks on the weekends.

Blondes

Yes, I did find one very cute blonde lady here, and she made my life there much easier. She was a great lady.

Back Home

And then, far too soon, I was back home, in the jungles of Africa, but that’s for the next story!

Differences in Culture

Strange, But To Who? What next?   
 
 By:Peter Wadri

I was seated at the shores of the beautiful Lake Victoria, in Uganda, with magnificent scenery and a cool breeze sweeping though, cooling down my sun heated body. The sun shines hot at the horizon, and I am wondering what the world will bring next to my country: new cultures, new traditions, new ideas…

The newest seems to be homosexuality. In my culture it is a serious taboo to have a sexual relationship with a fellow man. It would be seen as a curse to society. But as things have changed, now people talk about equal rights and protection for homosexual men. At the same time, there is talk about what could have happened for them to be “this way.” A friend of mine even suggested that homosexuality could be another deadly disease, like HIV/AIDS. There will be a cure, he insisted.
At the same time, I look at the traditional marriage practices of the tribes of my own country. And compared to much of the world, these practices that are so normal to us, may be as odd as is homosexuality.

The Baganda tribe in the central Uganda practices the tradition of arranged marriages, with a requirement for the bride to be a virgin. The marriage and the bride price hangs on the proof of her virginity, which is proved by blood stained white sheets. The bride’s aunt, who has instructed the young woman in the act of love, stays under the marriage bed until the act is completed, and will actually coach the young man if he is experiencing difficulty. Once the proof is on the sheets, the aunt tells both sets of parents, and a bride price is arranged with a special goat given for her purity. If the bride is not a virgin, the marriage is voided, and the bride returned to her family in shame to become an outcast.

The Karimojong Warrior tribe, who live in the north-east region, is a culture where there is no courtship. Sex before marriage would result in both parties being speared to death where they are found. But in order to select a suitable bride, a boy has to identify the girl of his choice and find a place to lay in wait for her. Usually this would be on the way the girl would go to fetch water every day. Once he made his intentions clear, the two would wrestle. If the girl wins, she walks away, but if the boy wins, he takes her to his village. Her parents will come to claim a bride price from the boy’s family but if the potential offer is too small, they have the options of taking their daughter back. Once the bride price is deemed acceptable, the father of the bride will be given a stick and taken to the kraal. He will throw the stick amongst the cattle, and the portion that runs towards the side where the father is standing, divided by the lay of the stick, will be the bride price.

In north and northwestern Uganda, the Luo, which includes the Acholi, Alur, Langi, and Lugabara tribes, have a somewhat similar system. Although courtship is allowed, premarital sex is not. The bride price is set by the girl’s family, with extra requested for a particularly beautiful girl or for a boy who is not considered handsome enough for their daughter. Additional payments are also made for the couple’s new home and for blessings for having children.
Although the customs of my tribal country may seem strange to some of you, the customs of the rest of the world seem very odd to us too.
I guess it’s all what you’re used to.

Illiteracy is Africa’s Most Virulent Disease, Especially For Women

A look at Uganda's educational structure. 
 
 By:Peter Wadri

Malaria, food shortages resulting in malnutrition, economic hardships, unemployment, war, and natural disasters, have impacted Africa severely. And education has been most seriously impacted. Most children don’t even start attending school until they are around 7 to 10 years of age, and traditionally, only boys have been routinely educated.

African culture and tradition has caused girls as a source of wealth, her bride price increasing the families fortunes. There has been no reason to educate girls, just to have them marry and care for the home and children of their husband. This has been a serious obstacle to bring even just primary education to all the children of Uganda.

The future of Uganda is in a vicious cycle. Economic underdevelopment
President Musevenicauses more children to remain uneducated - school uniforms and supplies often take a full month of a parent’s pay in order for a child to attend a school, even though enrollment is free in the public schools. Even sending one child to school can be a hardship - can you imagine sending four or five? And then, the uneducated of Uganda join the ranks of the unskilled unemployed, thus resulting in increased economic problems. Schools have traditionally been under funded, teachers making less than $100 USD per month, and children in secondary schools still have to pay to attend. In addition, there is a serious textbook problem, and if a parent wants a child to have a textbook to himself, it must be purchased. Otherwise it is shared by half a dozen students.

Fortunately, Uganda is moving away from this trend of making education out of the reach of the masses, with new incentives and programs to provide food for children who otherwise would spend their day working to earn enough for their own food. Disabled and female students are allowed to attend school and allowed to reach the level of education they are capable of, without the interference of their families. Pregnant girls are no longer expelled, deemed unfit for further education, facing only a swift marriage. 

The educational sector of Uganda has been liberalized with the addition of multiple private investors and individuals of means moving into the country. This is giving many the option of furthering their education. In addition, the single government university has been joined by over nine private universities.          
                     
MuseveniGroundbreaking reform has been instituted with the leadership of President Museveni during the 1996 presidential campaigns. He proposed that four children from each home school be educated for free. Later, this idea evolved into Universal Primary Education, known as the UPE, that provides free primay education to all children of Uganda, rather than the tuition payments previously required. This program has been the driving force in increasing the literacy levels in the country. Impressively, many other neighboring countries - Kenya, Chad, Malawi, Mozambique, and others, have embraced this program of change with similar results.

Unfortunately, this plan has not been without problems. Enrollment has skyrocketed, resulting in serious funding problems. There are few school buildings, and many children are taught under the shelter of a tree. And teachers often find themselves teaching as many as 100 children. Efforts to recruit more teachers have had limited success due to the low salaries of government teachers.

Critics have claimed the program will actually increase illiteracy because of the poor quality of education in state run schools. There is also no Universal Secondary Education program for children who complete primary school to attend free. Secondary education is far too costly for most families to afford. Hopefully, there will be some change in this situation, with the assistance of the US USAID and the European Union, who have recently come forward in the development of educational system. Their primary goal at this point is to refine the current primary education plans.

Here are some basic facts obtained from the Ugandan Ministry of Education official website:
The existing structure of the Ugandan education system was developed in the early 1960's. It consists of seven years of primary education, followed by first four years of secondary education and then two years of upper secondary education. This would qualify a student for three to five years of university study.

Successful completion of the first four years of secondary school would allow the student to proceed in the four following directions:
Upper Secondary School (additional two years)
Technical school for two to three year trade training
Teacher college (PTC) for a two year course of studies
Government department training colleges (DTC’s)

Graduates of the upper secondary education have several options based on their advanced level exam scores. They can:
Go to a private or government university
Attend the Institute of Teacher Education, Kyambogo (ITEK)
A national teacher’s college for a two year preparatory course
A college of commerce
A technical college
Uganda Polytechnic, Kyambogo

Many are able to pay for higher education with the assistance of the government or the sponsorship of a private party. What this educational system does allow is flexibility to allow the student to pursuit different options through the educational process, especially after primary school is completed.

The demand for pre-primary education is still low, with only 10 percent of school children having attended a pre-school. There has been a lack of governmental control over the private schools offering these programs, and there have been some serious questions about the quality and cost of these schools.

The demand for primary education as increased dramatically with the 1997 introduction of free primary education. School enrollment increased from two million students in 1986, to over six million students by 1999. There are, unfortunately, differences between the quality of education provided in urban areas when compared to rural locations, the urban areas often having more qualified teachers and better teaching materials.

Secondary schools have grown by over 20% at government aided secondary schools during the past 10 years. Private schools have seen a 15% in registration. Unfortunately, there are far more interested students than there are available places in these schools.

Between 9,000 and 12,000 students every year qualify to apply to a post secondary school. Unfortunately, only about 25% of these students are able to attend. Approximately 95% of all students attend the Makerere University, Uganda’s leading institution of higher learning. The rest are shared between the other universities. There has also been a sharp increase in tertiary institutions over the past ten years, but the need for more of these schools and training centers is clearly felt.

Education is the key to pulling African countries like Uganda out of the Third World and into the modern era. Through both government programs and private sponsorship and investment in educational facilities, the people of Uganda can bring their country out of economic desolation, and bring it into a thriving economic world.

Malaria Fatalities Tally over 100,000 in Africa

 Each YearMalaria Kills Large Numbers in Sub-Saharan Africa 

By: Peter Wadri

Uganda joined the rest of Africa on the 15th of April in marking the Africa Malaria day with a theme: "A Malaria Free Future - Children for Children Roll Back Malaria."
Globally, every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria with the vast majority of deaths occurring in Africa, South of the Sahara. Infection is primarily among pregnant women and children under five years of age, accounting for around 20% of deaths and 10% of the continent's overall disease burden.

There are at least 300 million acute cases of malaria, each year globally, resulting in a million deaths. Ninety percent of these deaths occur in Africa, mostly in young children. The disease has been estimated to cost Africa more than $12 billion every year in Gross Domestic Product, even though it could be controlled at a fraction of that amount. In Uganda alone it’s estimated that the country spends up to $50 million and many of the poorest families spend one quarter of their earnings on malaria treatment each year. The country’s death figure alone in children below the age of five ranges form 70,000-110,000 every year.

Pregnant women are also widely affected. In Uganda, about 1.3 million women become pregnant each year- about 80-90% of them are at risk of contracting malaria. The anopheles mosquito carries the disease malaria. Malaria contraction among pregnant women results in high numbers of miscarriages. Studies have shown that the parasites that cause malaria like to live in the placenta and because the fetus gets all its nutrients and oxygen through the placenta, the parasites end up blocking the placenta, denying the baby adequate nutrition. This eventually can lead to a spontaneous termination of the pregnancy.

Malaria in Africa as a whole accounts for 40% of public health expenditures, 30-50% of inpatient admissions, and up to 50% of out patients visits in areas with high malaria transmission. Malaria kills more people today than it did 30 years ago. Many factors have contributed to this gloomy picture including those which relate to the vector, the female anopheles mosquito. Human activity has inadvertently created more mosquito breeding sites. The impact of the increasing mosquito population and their migratory behavior has increased the incidence and spread of malaria. The region is also home to the most efficient and therefore most deadly mosquito species which transmit the disease, moreover many countries in Africa lack the infrastructure and resources necessary to mount sustainable campaigns against malaria.

Health officials, however, advise that a strategy of treating malaria among pregnant women has been developed through the Malaria In Pregnancy (MIP) control policy guidelines. Pregnant women should be treated with low doses of sulfadoxine pyimethamine (SP) and an intermittent preventive treatment, while women with clinical malaria get prompt treatment.
The Health Ministry’s goals for the year of 2005 are:
An increase to at least 60% of all pregnant women are protected by pesticide treated nets for sleeping.

An increase to 60% of all pregnant women with clinical malaria to get appropriate medical treatment, including drug treatment.
Currently, the use of Insect Treatment Nets (ITNS) is still low due to the cost of the initial purchase and further treatments to sustain effectiveness. It can easily been seen that the real killer of malaria victims is actually poverty.

Three wives and a Score of children, the African way ...

In a culture where infant mortality is outrageously high and the average woman has fifteen children. 
 
By:Peter Wadri

In a culture where infant mortality is outrageously high and the average woman has fifteen children, most of whom do not survive, polygamy has been practiced to not only show a man’s wealth, but also to assure the continuation of the man’s family. It is also considered a strong indicator of a man’s virility and need for sexual satisfaction.

Men can also accumulate wives as a result of inheritance. If a man’s brother dies, he would take over the family of his brother, including his wives. These women would be distributed among the surviving brothers, based on the preferences of the men and the widows of their brother. It is also common for a man to take the youngest wife of his father upon his death, and a father will take the wife of his son upon the death of his child. This keeps the extended family together and guarantees that the children of the family are raised within the father’s family.

In the common African community, life is hard and women have long seen the advantages of having co-wives to help share the burden. This allowed a division of labor, in which there were more women to build the family home, which is considered a female responsibility, and other work. It also eased the burden of child bearing, as each wife was not carrying the burden of the family procreation alone. Few women wanted to be a lone wife in a marriage, given the multiple burdens society and tradition would require of her.

Women, also being in the position of being held responsible for the sex of their children, risked being returned to their parents for not producing children of the sex desired by their husband. Therefore, women were far more secure in a polygamous marriage where there was less attention on a single woman and the sex of her children. Being returned in disgrace to one’s family not only was an embarrassment to her and her parents, but it was also a hardship as the bride price paid to her family had to be repaid.

Women are also responsible for weeding the family food garden, and due to the large size of these gardens, it was not a job for one wife. By tradition, the husband will invite friends and clan members to assist with this chore, so women do not only have help weeding their family garden, but are also obligated to help the women who help them. As this family chore is considered "woman’s work," there is no thought of hiring outside labor to accomplish this task.

Despite the dependence of the wife’s on each other to accomplish the burden of work and child bearing, there is always unavoidable conflict. A man showing preference for one woman over another, showing more love or favoring her children, would result in jealousies, although actual fighting is very rare. Fighting could result in the demand of the bride price being returned from the offender’s family, which could be devastating to her family as the cost to them could be as much as 20 head of cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens. Because the bride price received for a young woman would enable her brothers to pay a bride price for his own wife, it could be very difficult to repay the price paid. This often results in the women finding a way to stay in the marriage without altercations.

In order to reduce conflict, the man often will rotate his nights among his wives, sleeping in each one’s house in turn. When purchasing clothes, the same quality and style would be purchased for each, as would be done for their children. Unfortunately, this does not prevent the wives from instigating problems among the children.

Fortunately, this way of traditional marriage is declining, and victims of this in-fighting among the children of polygamous marriage are fewer. But although they share a father, the children always stay with their mother, in their mother’s home. Fights and hatred fueled by their mothers is common. If a wife dies, her children are often taken in by the wife she was the closest to, regardless of any prior antimosity.

My father has three wives. I am the oldest child of his first wife. Unfortunately, my father developed a preference for his second wife, which resulted in preferential treatment for her and her children. My birth mother is very close with my father’s third wife, although we, her children, are closer to his second wife’s children as we grew up together during a time in which our mother was away from the family.

Education, an important commodity, is also often unevenly distributed. In rare cases, when a man is wealthy enough to provide equally for all of his children, this is not an issue. But usually, the children of a favored wife are given more educational opportunities than the rest.

It is difficult to live in the polygamous family. Grievances are never forgotten, and there are deaths of parents and children resulting from poisoning and witchcraft that overshadow what could be a wonderful experience for a large family. Wives will practice witchcraft in order to eliminate the other wives and gain favor for themselves and their children. And, even worse, some children will kill their father, in order to inherit his wealth and afford more benefits for their mother and siblilings.

Wives practicing witchcraft , to eliminate one another and charm their husband to win over his heart for their to themselves and their children. Children in many occasions kill their father to assume heir of the family so they can have a big share of the family cake with their mother.

Although this form of marriage has benefits to both the men and women involved, it is often hardest on the children, who often end up the pawns of manipulative parents. Being a child of a polygamous marriage  myself was difficult, and I feel the opportunities for the potential of a wonderful supportive experience was wasted through petty jealousy and unequal educations for us. I was fortunate to find a sponsor to continue my education, but many of my siblings have not been so fortunate

DEATH AND SUFFERING

When Bullet fire and smoke are the fireworks for the end of the year. 
 
By:Peter Wadri

The fireworks for the end of the year in this part of the world: bullet fire and smoke.
By Peter Worogga Wadri. Kampala-Uganda The Arab world and many other countries — for reasons of religion, culture and tradition — choose not to honor the day of December 25th or take it on a later date. However, many across the world did celebrate the season’s date, coupled with the world’s appreciation toward the American led coalition forces in the operation in Iraq for the smoking out and the capture of the world’s most unfortunate self-styled King, Saddam Hussein. Many things did happen however, tending to overshadow the season.
In Iran, it was the devastating Earthquake that left tens of thousands of people dead and scores injured.

In Northern Uganda, the small East African country in the war-troubled Great Lakes region, first it was the Rwandan genocide that left 800.000 people killed in a single year, then, the protracted guerilla war in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this Ugandan Northern District of Gulu, while the world was celebrating the festivities, people were being herded into concentration camps for protection against another human butcher, Joseph Kony, and his rebel group, the so-called “Lords Resistance Army” (LRA). The LRA have been operating in Gulu for the last seventeen years. The UN also estimates a total of 1.2 million people in concentration camps up from 800.000 from the past year.

The LRA rebel group is allegedly sponsored by the Sudan government in retaliation for the support the Ugandan government gives to the Sudan Peoples Liberation/Army rebels (SPLM/A), operating in the southern parts of Sudan bordering the Ugandan northern district of Gulu. However, the government recently said it had stopped the support. It has involved in talks with its Ugandan counterparts and the SPLM/A.
The US has also labeled Sudan as one of its top ranked lists of the countries sponsoring terrorists.

People in this part of the country have gone through the wrath of Kony and his group committing atrocities against unarmed women and children, the young and old — mainly hacking victims using machetes and clubs, mutilating their bodies, locking the mouths with padlocks. They have attacked funeral sessions and made the bereaved cook and eat the dead and later massacred the bereaved themselves.

Children have been killed or abducted from homes or schools — some forcefully recruited into rebel ranks, others sold as slaves, young girls gang raped and forcefully married to rebel officials. According to UN monitors more than 8000 children were abducted in the last year the biggest number from the previous years.
When the sun comes up, the fresh air of the day is overshadowed with cries of death and screams of children. No decent burial for fear of delay and an imminent attack, just a fast secret burial.

It is common to find children moving around naked and malnourished, women and men half naked; they can not afford even the basic needs — a meal of porridge is all that is enough for twenty-four hours. Anybody’s hope now is for this suffering to end even sooner. Now that the United Nations has realized it has a lot of work to do in Uganda, hopes are lingering in the minds of the People of Northern Uganda and Uganda in general. United Nations and other European Union member states have agreed to push for peace in Uganda with an appeal of $130 million for humanitarian aid.

Yet, the conflict there is the biggest forgotten and neglected humanitarian emergency in the world. In the East African (the regional press) and IRIN (UN news service), Jan Egeland, UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, was quoted in saying that “the UN and the donor community had done so little”. This conflict has spread in the Eastern parts of Uganda, but the military campaign there with local militia, popularly known as the Arrow group, formed by the people of Teso, has limited rebel operations into the Teso region. The UN however resolved to push for promote peace through diplomacy rather than military means. With this there is much hope that the war will come to an end.

So as you celebrate your new year with fire-works, they are watching gun fire and smoke, hidden in grasslands in the cold with a prayer to see the sun again tomorrow
.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

WELCOME NOTE

WELCOME TO THIS NEW BLOG WHERE YOU WILL LEARN DAILY LIFE IN AFRICA.
 
YOU HAVE BEEN SEEING IMAGES OF T.V READ ABOUT AFRICA, MOST OF THE
 
INFORMATION HAS NOT BEEN THE MOST ACCURATE AS IT ONLY FOCUSES ON THE
 
UGLY SIDE OF THE PEOPLE AND THEIR LIVES. NOW YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO LEARN
 
AND SHARE WITH US THE EXPERIENCE DOWN HERE AS WE GET THAT FROM YOU.