Sunday, 24 February 2013

Day 7.1 - Politics

Today is Sunday and there's not a lot to do but sit around and think.

I've been thinking a bit about the presence of the army here in Uganda. When I was here last I saw no military personnel. However, recently Uganda withdrew their troops from missions across Africa amidst accusations that they were providing assistance to rebels in The Congo.

Now they roll around Kampala in open backed trucks with giant wheels reminiscent of monster trucks. I can only imagine how terrifying such a sight must have been for those in the Congolese jungle and what those soldiers have likely seen.

The police are also a strong presence on the main roads with their dark blue camouflage uniforms and outdated rifles (often carelessly pointing out to the traffic or their own heads). They cut quite a stern presence and they scare me a little. Yesterday when we were on the way back from the restaurant we heard sirens and several police trucks went past, rows of officers sitting on the benches in the back of the trucks. One of them smiled as me as I stared open mouthed. I'm sure he was just being friendly to the M'Zungu, the fact that his rifle was across his lap and pointing in my direction didn't set me at ease. We then had another police man approach us to see if we knew where we were going. He was so friendly and we got chatting for a little while, him amazed that I knew a few Luganda words. It's amazing that most people who come here don't even bother to learn 'Hello' and 'Thank you'.

With the army having returned to Uganda some journalists have speculated about the possibility of a military coup. People openly discuss their feelings on government corruption and there is no doubting that competition is squashed with the opposition leader barricaded in his house a few villages up from us. However people remember the days of Amin and while happy to discuss what their current government are doing wrong, they remember it could be much worse. Given that, I'm not so sure the people would support an overthrow. Not that I know anywhere near enough about African politics for my opinion to be reliable!!

As we gave the house a bit of a tidy this morning to prepare for new volunteers arriving today, a chicken wandered in to the lounge. It was about to jump on to the sofa when Leckie busted it and it hightailed it out of there. There's been a rooster trying to gain the courage to come in to the house from the other side today too.

Around lunch we walked to the local shop to grab some supplies and picked up a few newspapers. One paper we got is a trash tabloid and the newspaper responsible for the whole 'name the gay' thing. Across the front of today's edition reads "Top Uganda Gay Recruiters Busted". The paper names Ugandan gays, many of whom are activists that we knew from an excellent documentary we saw called "Call Me Kuchu". I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in this issue. This paper alleges that David Kato was murdered by his lover and not by a homophobic mob and that these people are recruiting by force.

The lack of understanding really is astounding. I really don't think that there is any understanding not what 'gay' means and it astounds me that so much homophobia exists in a country where men frequently stroll around holding hands. The article we read today is nothing short of sensationalist lies. It tells people that gays are 'recruiting' their children and where to look out for them. The article is so incredibly fabricated that I can't see how anyone could believe it. For example, according to this paper, in gay slang, Somali means 'a guy without an arse.' What the actual f***?!

There have been encouraging developments though. One gay Ugandan man had his house raided and computers seized. He sued the Attorney General and won. Another newspaper was forced to cease trading for publishing content like this. Legal action was taken successfully by those named and Rolling Stone had to stop trading.

I think it's important to note that I don't think this newspaper's views are reflective of the general population. People in Uganda don't hold back on telling you what they think and I have never had anyone mention homosexuality to me.

This blog on the issue is really quite interesting:

Unbelievably, further on in this same newspaper there is an article on beastiality fantasies. They are not portrayed in a negative light, more as something that is just plain natural.

Truly unbelievable.

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