Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rioting in Kampala: The Sarah Perspective

As some of you know, Kampala has been a little crazy these past few days. For those that don’t, let me inform you, American style. I say that mainly because the complexity behind all of the violent riots isn’t understandable by American perspectives. Though there are protests in America, rarely do they get violent especially violent enough for deaths. There’s rarely that sense of chaos. The thought of being so upset with our government that we would take to the streets, burning buildings, police stations and killing people? Unthinkable. Why? Well, I have many thoughts on that. Perhaps because no matter what, we have a government that we know we can trust. No matter what decisions they make, we can trust they are making decisions for the betterment of our country. We can disagree with them but can trust them. For example, I believe that Obama thinks that this form of health care reform is the best thing for our country. I can’t believe that he would purposely want to mess up our country. In his heart, he believes this is the best option. Do I disagree with him? Yes, but I don’t doubt his motive. We can trust when a police officer stops us that it is to protect us and those around us. Here, you try to involve the police and government as little as possible. Why? There’s no trust…and for good reason. Feel free to read my previous post on getting pulled over for further justification.

Onto the story…

News is slow here, mainly done by word of mouth. Therefore, almost all of my information was found out through other Ugandans and Ugandan news websites. There’s different tribes in Uganda and the Buganda tribe has their king, the Kabaka. The Kabaka wanted to visit this area, Kayunga, where part of the tribe was. That part of the tribe that he was going to visit wants out of the tribe and didn’t want him to come…or something like that. The government, ruled by President Museveni, sided with that part of the tribe and wouldn’t allow him to go. Why? They said it was for “safety reasons”. The Kabaka said that he was still going and the Buganda were mad that the government was getting in the way of where their king was going to visit. Hence, the Bugandans took to the streets to show their anger. The government brought in the military and they both battled the streets of Kampala. If any Ugandan would like to correct me on my details, please please do. I have enough confusion in all of the details. (Sassy Andrew, I’m talking about you here.)

Thursday was a normal day in the office. I got a lot accomplished including finishing a project I’d been working on for weeks. Around 4:00pm, Kate came into my office to let me know that our co-worker, Richard, told her that he thought we should go home early. I went into the main office to inquire further. Richard mentioned that there were riots in town and that it might be safest for us to go home now instead of later. He went back and forth on this decision until finally deciding that yes, we should leave now. Right before we left, another co-worker, Francis, came in. He had been attempting to go into town but things were too crazy and he had to come back. That solidified our decision. As we were about to drive out, Richard came running to the car and asked if we wanted to see what was happening downtown on TV. We agreed and huddled around the TV in Francis’ office.

It was unbelievable. The screen showed piles of tires being burned on the main streets of Kampala, people getting caned by the police, a body laying on the side of the street, heavy military vehicles, people throwing stones and more. I felt like we were watching scenes from a country far far away instead of streets that were a 20 minute drive away. It felt unreal. We left and headed home where we would remain for the next two days. With fears of the riots spreading, we were told to stay in the compound. I made all sorts of comments about being “compound bound” which is seriously not exciting, perhaps even the opposite. It’s one thing when you want to stay home all day, it’s another when you’re forced. Details. We were blessed with safety. We kept up with our friends that we knew were close to the riots. Their stories made it all seem real. Knowing that my friends were close to this chaos was frightening.

News websites were showing pictures of burned out cars, flames from burning tires, relatives mourning their dead and more. News reports differ on how many were killed. The last I saw was 14. 14 lives taken away and for what? It’s amazing all that can happen in three days.

Now, it’s over. The riots have stopped. Life is back to normal…for now. Nothing has fully been resolved. The Kabaka has postponed his visit but for how long? No matter what, the underlying issues are still there. It’s hard for me to understand the tribal differences, as, in America, we’re all Americans. We may think differently, disagree and argue but we’re all Americans.

I had pictured a situation like this prior to coming, more as a “what if?” What if I’m in Uganda and things get crazy? What happens then? Will I be safe? Will I be cowering under my bed fearing for my life? Running for the airport? So many what if’s. In this particular instance, I was completely safe. I had absolutely nothing to fear and didn’t fear at all for my personal safety. I had more concerns for my friends and the kids. The thing is, no matter what, God is still control. My life is still and always will be in His hands. Please, continue your prayers for Uganda. It’s much needed.

1 comment:

Meredith said...

Hey Sarah, I am glad to hear you are ok! My trip got delayed for a few days due to the rioting. I am now arriving on Friday the 18th. I would love to connect somehow when I get there!