Uganda as a Body:
Every one of us has a brain.
Profound words, off the bat.
Let’s say you walk into the industrial-sized freezer at Costco. You are looking for the largest bag of chicken patties you can find. Your 2 boys just hit puberty, and they are threatening to eat you into massive debt. Your brain knows you are having a hard time, and decides to help. When it sees – wow, that is a philosophically-loaded phrase – that you are approaching the freezer, it starts to warm you up even before you go in. You shiver, your blood vessels constrict, you experience piloerection. Don’t worry, that just means that you get goosebumps. All of these, signs of things to come. So too is it with Uganda.
Please know that what I am about to write makes me profoundly sad, and scared.
Listening to a handful of people so far, the question doesn’t seem to be if Uganda will fall back into violent strife, but when. Our professor shared that he thinks when Yoweri Museveni, the current president / dictator of Uganda, dies, things are going to get messy. Our wonderful guide, Herbert, agrees with our professor. Herbert grew up in Uganda, and still lives here. Father Kevin thinks that a larger war might be coming in the next thirty years. A war that involves tensions from Uganda claiming water rights in their section of the Nile, the Chinese building a hydroelectric dam on the Nile in Northern Uganda, and Egypt’s disdain for all of this. A war like this, Father Kevin says, might not even allow the United States to remain uninvolved.
Here is my point: These are our “people on the ground”. Between the three of them, they have decades of experience in the region. Just like your eyes communicate to the brain, these wonderful men are saying:
“Something is happening”
“Things are changing…”
“We must change”.
Whether or not Uganda will walk into the proverbial freezer or not, I do not know. From what I’ve read and heard, things don’t look good. If things don’t go well, Uganda will fall sick.
- Political elites all show up to Museveni’s funeral, but are eyeing each other more than the service –
- The microbes have invaded your body.
- Museveni’s government persists, but is quickly fractured when elites peel off and start their own rebel movements –
- General weariness sets in. You have felt this before, but desperately, more than anything, want to continue your work day. After all, you were making real progress on your project, and don’t want to stop.
- The shell of the past era falls away, along with any fledgling social institutions that might have been nursing under its care –
- You’re in trouble now. You have a fever.
- Innocent bystanders, citizens of Uganda, die. Children are kidnapped. Families are rent apart. Refugees are displaced to neighboring countries who may be in a transient peace –
- You have transient periods of consciousness as you struggle to discern between reality and fever-induced hallucination.
- After years, one of the rebel groups takes decisive power, and sets up a government –
- After what seems to be a lifetime, you emerge from your bed, spent. Angry. Due to your prolonged incapacitation in bed, your work project was scrapped, and all of your work was lost.
I really love the people I have met here already: Sam, Herbert, Kizaza. Lewi. I’, not going to think about what might happen to them if the body falls sick. It breaks my heart.
My Own Body:
I noticed that I felt a little strange during our bus ride today. I asked Herbert, our wonderful guide, what the air quality regulations were like in Kampala. He simply answered, “Not good”, and gave me this to read. The problem is largely caused by 1980s – 2000s diesels running unchecked – there are no emissions checks in Uganda – on the streets.
I am a little relieved we are leaving the city tomorrow. We will be on our way to Gulu, then Adjumani from there. I think I will be happy to retreat to Colorado for a few days shortly after our return to the United States; for respiratory recuperation ;). Other than a little lightheadedness from fumes, I am in great health. For now, I will go to sleep before my body decides to punish me for publicly celebrating my thus far lack of diarrhea ^-^.
Update on June 10th: Herbert recently said that he thinks that Museveni’s son might take power after Museveni dies. The son is currently a high-ranking military officer, giving him a prime position to keep the presidency “in the family”. Perhaps this will keep things stable after Museveni’s death.