Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AGLI report February 16

February 16

Dear All,

Actually this is a report about Uganda. For the last three days Gladys and I were visiting the AGLI programs in Bududa, Uganda. Bududa is a district on Mt. Elgon, but on the Uganda side of the border. It is actually a canyon type place with a small hill with a road all the way around it. The mountain towers up over Bududa and the slopes are filled with people growing bananas and plantains (cooking bananas). I would guess that the annual rainfall is 70 to 80 inches per year so everything is lush and green. The area is heavily populated and Uganda's birth rate is one of the highest in the world. This is very obvious in Bududa where children are everywhere. AGLI has two programs, a sponsorship program for 200 orphans (in Africa an "orphan" is anyone who has lost at least one parent) and a technical school called Bududa Vocational Institute (BVI).

I was told that there are Kenyan refugees in Bududa. In particular, there is a part Kikuyu woman and her son who were burned out of their house in Mombasa. She had been formerly wed to a man from Bududa and so she has returned to him -- I understand he is not very happy about this return of a long lost wife. The son is about 14 years old and having grown up in Mombasa speaks much better English than others and is way ahead of the children in Bududa in educational achievement. But he is not allowed to go to the local secondary school free because he is not Ugandan, but Kenyan. An American couple visiting, Barbara Wybar, an AGLI peace team member currently in Bududa, has agreed to pay for his first term fees.

The previous Saturday the orphans program had its first gathering since the beginning of the year. 118 orphans showed up. The program has a teacher with first aid experience so students who had health problems were asked to see her; about 15 did. The first was a girl who had a badly infected arm with puss flowing out. One of the American couple immediately took her to see a doctor in Mbale (the nearby big town) that Eric Goldman, AGLI's former peace team member in Bududa, recommended. The girl had a bone infection and was given antibiotics and will have to have an operation to clean out her wound. Luckily she will not lose her arm.

The second was a boy who had tied a rope around his wrist as he was walking a cow down the road. The cow bolted and the rope slid off his hand, seriously scraping off the skin. The third was a girl of 13 who had a sore on her leg. This looked simple until she said she had "women's problems." After some discussion, it turned out that the girl had been raped and had venereal disease. Besides treating the sickness, Barbara wants to get her counseling which is probably not available in Bududa so she will have to take her to Mbale which is about an hour away. The rest of the children just had the usual bumps and scratches of childhood that needed to be patched up.

I report this to indicate the complexity of the situation of poor children in the region.

When we returned from Bududa yesterday, Barbara called me to report that during the day, a policeman had gone to a small village nearby to arrest someone and he was attacked by a mob with machetes who slashed him to death. I was surprised because, while this happens often in Kenya, it is rare in Uganda and unheard of in Rwanda and Burundi. The people in Bududa are a Luhya group called Bugisu who are closely related to the Kenyan group on Mt. Elgon called Bugusu. The explanation of why this happened was that the violence in Kenya is becoming "contagious" to people in Uganda. On the day we went to Uganda there was a report in the paper of a violent conflict between a landlord and the kiosk owners/hawkers which became very violent and the police were unable to control the situation -- it seems just like many of the conflicts in Kenya. It is easy to let the genie of violence out of the bottle, but very difficult to get that genie back in again.


David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams
P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya 254 726 590 783
1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104 USA 314/621-7262

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