A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Waiting on Empty Promises?

Elections are coming up here in Uganda in 2011. Many hopeful-elects are busy campaigning giving their promises out like songs on the radio. The current president, Museveni, is also running for reelection. Please keep in mind he came to power in 1986 and changed the constitution years later saying a president could run for president as many times as he wants. I'll let you judge the legitimacy of that one.

Along with campaigning, the current government is trying to show it's citizens they have their best interests at heart and are actively working to make the country better. This means, among many other things, major roads are currently under construction and food prices are pretty stable. On a district level, it means funding is being found for programs that have been absent for the last few years and past promises are being distributed.

A few weeks ago a representative from Wakiso District (the district I live in) came through Gayaza and registered people to receive mosquito nets. I was away at the time but a fellow teacher, Harriet, registered me. She registered me as a family of four. When she told me this and gave me the voucher to be presented at a later time, I laughed and asked what I possibly was going to do with 4 mosquito nets when I already have 2 working nets and only one bed. And, I'm not even a Ugandan citizen! How do I qualify for a Ugandan government program? She informed me that when the ministry comes to give things out you have to take as many as you can because it'll be a long time, if ever, they come again. And, they registered me under my first name and my Bugandan name so the ministry will think I'm Ugandan. The logic my dear friends have here always makes me take a step back. Is this a form of corruption? Of course to an American, we say yes this is corruption. But to a Ugandan? It's survival. Does survival justify corruption?

Somehow news traveled that the ministry would come to Gayaza today to distribute the nets to all those who were registered. My school was used as the pick-up location. People were told to arrive at 8 am. All day long people gathered. There was no sign of the ministry. It rained and people crammed into classrooms. The classrooms were full with people waiting. I asked my neighbor Rose if the ministry would really come today. She said, "They say they are coming. They might not." So why are people waiting all day?

The ministry came. At 6 pm. Then in true Ugandan style they gave a speech for a while and then attempted to form some kind of order. They called off names and you presented your voucher in order to collect your net(s). I was told I couldn't go because they'd see my face. Jen took my voucher and claimed the nets for me.

Now, the questions remains, what do I do with 4 mosquito nets?


  1. you make a dress out of mosquito nets.

    and mandyj, you raise an interesting question indeed... survival/corruption... interesting indeed.