this day in 1979, the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was deposed. A Major General in the post-colonial
Ugandan army, Amin had seized power in a military coup in 1971,
overthrowing socialist Milton Obote. His regime was characterised by use
of military force, human rights abuses, and political repression against
dissidents, especially violence against ethnic groups (predominantly
Acholi and Lango peoples). Between 100,000 and 500,000 were killed by
his eight year regime. Amin’s behaviour became increasingly erratic throughout his rule, and he gave
himself numerous titles until his full title was “His
Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin
Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the
Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and
Uganda in Particular”, and claimed to be the uncrowned King
of Scotland. By 1978, Amin’s support had dwindled and dissent was on the
rise as the Ugandan economy failed. The dictator invaded Tanzanian territory, which caused
a war in which his army was defeated and the capital of Kampala
captured. Amin was forced to flee into exile by helicopter on April 11th
1979, going first to Libya then to Saudi Arabia where he died
in 2003; he never expressed remorse for the crimes of his regime.
Learning other languages and stuff… I was taught a few phrases in Gulu, this means: what is your name? My name is Renee. How are you/are you good? I’m good. You are very beautiful, God loves you very much… I love you very much. How old are you? I’m 26…God loves you very much. <3 I’m learning! They said if I had another week I’d be fluent and speak like a local (;
I love how every time I go abroad I am convinced I am going to blog all the time. I think it is a noble goal of mine, and one that I keep up until I get too busy.
Lately, when I have free time, I dedicate it to my ISP (Independent Study Project), which is coming up in a week, or to assignments. Today, Kim and I will visit Butare to see our probable apartment, which a Rwandan friend of mine at the National University of Rwanda helped us find. It sounds like a sweet deal: a charcoal stove, electricity and hot running water, a gate guard for safety, and other international workers. Right now, there is a German guy living there, and a girl from Belgium will arrive soon. Could be a really interesting environment! It is also a prime location; 50 meters from the main road. We haven’t seen it yet, but the price is right, and we don’t really have any other options that wouldn’t be ridiculously expensive.
So… to recap from the last time I blogged… I’ve gotten very close to a bunch of my fellow students, and am having a hard time with the fact that in a week, many of us are scattering. We can still serve as a support system by phone, but I will really miss spending time with people for the next month. Then we come together for a week, and then most people leave. Scattered again across the US.
On Monday, I returned from two weeks in Uganda, where we studied the conflict in Northern Uganda, which has recently been in the news, because Obama has sent 100 troops to help stop the Lord’s Resistance Army. We began our Uganda travels in Mbarara in the South, visiting the Naakivale Refugee Camp there and speaking to Rwandan refugees. We watched the World Food Programme in action, and heard about the difficulties of life in the camp, as well as the difficulties of returning back to their home country.
From there, we drove to Kampala to spend one night before heading to Gulu, the main point of our trip. In Gulu, some of us met the SIT group that is studying there. They gave us some insight into Acholi culture and how Gulu has been rebuilding since the LRA conflict left Uganda in 2008. A chief showed us to Patiko, the site of the slave trade in Uganda. He showed us where they kept people, and where they dismembered those who were not subordinate to their authority. Later, he took us to his office, where he told us about Acholi culture and how it has been transformed since the war. Children welcomed us with dance, and we all made fools of ourselves trying to find the rhythm that the children knew by heart.
Also in Gulu, we visited a health center, a primary school, and a former IDP (internally displaced person) camp, where many people still live. This was one of the more difficult parts of the trip. How do you explain to someone that you are there to learn from them and to share your experiences when you go home, but that you cannot help them monetarily? How do you enter someone’s reality, see their need, and walk away? This is something that is a big struggle for me. Accepting that structural change is needed, but that the band-aid solution is also necessary… because structural change is not always possible, and is not necessarily a foreigner’s place to work for.
So what is my place? What is the place of a foreigner in Rwanda or Uganda? I want people to make change for themselves… I don’t want to push a western agenda onto them, but I also want to share my ideas and experiences. I want to encourage, but not contaminate.
Enough for now. Now that I have an internet modem, I will hopefully update more often!