Well, i am a little tooooo late for #NationalPoetryDay but i still couldn’t let this one pass.
This here is a completely cool friend of mine who decides to beautifully pen a brief poem. Once upon a time he published them on the world wide web, but not anymore. Apparently he grew up. Hahaha. I wonder where that leaves the rest of us!
Ladies and gentlemen, i present to you my first guest post(er), John Wafula.
That’s the picture painted when the windows open, this morning.
Moaning, sounds of the moment pleasure-yawning when sun is dawning,
Daunting, thoughts run up and down on tracks of ponder, in wander;
I wonder, how you are this morning with your glory eyes, shining like the sun.
That’s the picture you are when your eyes open, this moment.
Maybe one day, very soon, i will share a bigger story, but today, this is my short one;
I grew up in a peri-urban environment. Every adult,including mine, was on a quest for survival. Every child, including myself, was looking up to the adult, hoping for a better childhood. A better life.
It didn’t turn out so bad for myself. I have ordinary humans to thank for that. Humans who wouldn’t have cared less!
But most of all. God.
4000 children in the slums of Kibuli have the chance to have what i did not have. I have seen them, known them, and they need this more than I did then. We can be the ordinary humans who couldn’t have cared, but we did. We took the matter into our own hands and brought hope to our learned, innovative and exceptional friends in the future.
With your help, 40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation will build a Learning Centre in Kibuli, a Kampala city suburb, providing free access to books, computers and a space for skills development for in and out-of-school children living in the slum.
We can give 4000 children, 4000 stories to tell today and tomorrow.
Click here to learn more and donate! We have 9 days left to do this. 🙏
“To Mob the guilty and Mop the blood of the innocent.”
And just like that, is how another child has to painfully respond to their friends or a concerned adult at a particular point in life, that they didn’t grow up with a father because well… we decided to take matters into our own hands in the very literal sense that it is. We will also lose a friend, a brother, a neighbour, a husband, acquaintance and all form of relation; but even then, it will hurt. It will be a painful confusion of WHY.
Sometimes, maybe not why; but HOW it is that a human out there had a rush of excitement with blood rushing and gushing through their veins to cause the death of another man with their own hands, not out of defense or protection but rather out of the sheer “excitement” of it. Maybe they’ve suffered in the hands of a criminal themselves; they’ve been a victim of malice, robbery, and the many other kinds of evil humans do to each other on a daily. None of that justifies an angry mob’s gruesome act of “justice” for their past, present and future losses.
I guess people can judge all they want; heck we all silently judge passersby every now and then, but it is not in order for a responsible (or not?) civilian to punish another for crimes that the law has been written for. Whether the law plays its part is another story for another day, surely, because a few months ago i witnessed the police stand aside as boda-boda men and a Pajero owner (of responsible citizens ey?) quenched their thirst for violence by stoning and breaking every limb on a young man’s body. The Police, your saviours, watched. I was dumbstruck. Are they tired? The heck? But again, not today, Karen.
So I also reached out to a few friends on the matter, just so i could share more than my words, and they were glad to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences;
“I cannot pronounce myself on Mob justice. Crowds often find that due to the incompetence of the Police they should take justice into their own hands and deal with matters once and for all without the judicial red tape.
What crowds never do though, is think.
In that moment of madness, they never think about the consequence of what they are doing. They never think to ask who it is they are exacting judgement upon. They never think to find out why the judgement is being exacted.
I know of a story of man who used to visit his brother’s shop once in a while in Nansana. On one fateful day he got there in a taxi but had no change. He told the conductor he was going to the boda stage to get some change and when he got there and gave one of the boda men his 50,000 shilling note, the boda man started shouting “mubbi! mubbi!” – “thief! thief!” and in a matter of minutes he had been rained on to death. But before he died he had been shouting and pleading, asking the crowd to go his brother’s shop and ask his brother to confirm that he knew him and wasn’t a thief. His brother hadn’t yet opened his shop but had heard the commotion. When he got there, albeit too late, his brother had already been killed by the crowd.
Mob justice is absolute and the problem with its absolute manner is it depends on bits and pieces of information and never really knows the truth.
Personally, lifting a stone to cast upon someone accused of a crime (someone I do not even know) is something I am afraid of. Killing makes me shiver.” – Joel Ntwatwa (@nevender)
“The word justice can be defined as just behavior or treatment. In society’s context, this behaviour is usually agreed upon by a majority and set as the governing rules of the land. Consequently, the treatment of the offenders that break the rules is also catered for in the very same breath, thereby leaving no room for poorly-thought-out action.
That’s until a thief or defiler is caught and everybody (including you and I) loses their minds!
What happens when you see that thief is remember all your hard-earned belongings that have been stolen/conned/grabbed/burgled from you. You no longer see a person that broke the law you agreed to institute. You see the loss you’ve suffered – loss with no vengeance. You see the selfishness of the world about to be handed to the system that you don’t trust to dispense fair justice. You are reminded of your personal pain, that nobody else can feel, until now, because now you pick up a stone!
Mob justice, much like smoking, drinking, masturbation, buying a prostitute is a quick temporary relief from life’s aches. It’s a pain-killer when what I (know I) need is to see a doctor and get proper medical attention. It’s an itch to put myself first that I have accepted. And, by the way, it doesn’t start with seeing a thief who’s been caught.
Mob justice starts in my mind, when a random car splashes sewage water on me while I wait under the rain for a taxi to get to an interview. It starts in my heart when the LC Chairman asks me for 10k to stamp my letter, with no explanation as to where the money’s going, and no receipt for my payment. Mob justice starts in my home when we’re watching the news and a new government scandal is being aired and analysed yet the people behind it remain untouched.
Do you know how long it would take an angry crowd to convince you to stone a thief with them? Too much time! That’s why, when you join the crowd, you don’t join with their conviction/ache/vision, you join with yours. You crucify a fellow man because he is a ready conduit for you to vent your frustration with life.” – Boyd Migisha (@b40deep)
“I believe mob justice feels right! …but it actually is wrong. I think that people who carry it out feel justified and feel gratified only temporarily, but in the end they feel bad for the act. So really even in a fallen state or world, the mass madness can seem suitable but it helps no one and just affects everyone; especially when i think about the images the kids might see, the callas cold hearts that grow when the older people see the act and grow to become inert to the grim and gruesomeness of it.
But mostly all this pales in comparison to the possibility of innocence; To Mob The Guilty and Mop The Blood Of The Innocent. Being as they aren’t guilty till tried, but also because sometimes they are victims of a con by wiser rascals.” – Wafula JohnMark (@ugxfiles)
“Mob justice feels like the best possible option in the moment to whoever is carrying it out. They are the judge, jury and executioner at the same time. Judgment is definitely blurred here and wrong decisions are always made. The victims never get to be heard. Mob justice should never be carried out in any society” – Ninno Jack Jr (@NinnoJackJr)
“Mob justice is insane…it deprives the person in question the right to ably defend themselves. I would never participate in it. How would I live with the guilt of having summarily stoned or clobbered someone innocent?” – Paul Kasami (@PaulKasami)
“I’m not for it. I don’t think anyone should take the law into their own hands. Sometimes people kill someone for something as small as a chicken. Other times the crime is horrific but it’s better for someone to be judged and punished accordingly. I’ve had a guy steal from me in a taxi, and I just asked for my mp3 player back. He told me I’ll go to heaven (laughs).” – Yusuf Mago (@MagoMcAw)
“I could say Mob justice is lately on the rise due to technology, because it claims to connect us yet it’s not done better. It’s more of an anti-social network. People watch lots of violence and resort to practicing it and the news is full of violence too. People don’t have the patience to talk to each other but instead rush to practice what they see. So basically in my view, I would connect mob justice with technology.” – Malaika Tabby
“I feel no one deserves the kind of torture and prejudice that befalls them as a result of mob Justice. Sometimes, and if so most times, the victim needs to be heard and judged with righteousness before any course of action is taken. Yes, at times the alleged perpetrators could deserve that and worse but it’s outrightly not a fine vice to execute.” – Pius Enywaru (@penywaru)
“Would I want it to be done to me? No. The Bible says in Matthew 7:12, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets.” If every time I sinned regardless of the gravity of the sin, I would need to be saved. I’d want love. I hope we can reach a place where love is a choice even when it hurts.” – Faith Edigold (@Owaa_Monday)
Long story short, it was December 2015 when Bridget finally flew to Oman…
Bridget was her name, she was about 18 going to 19, a child according to the Ugandan law. We had met a few times because she was a cousin to John, a former workmate who she visited every now and then at work. Bridget was orphaned when she was little and her mother struggled to raise her and her siblings single-handedly. Consequently like many Ugandan girls, she had to drop out of school because of poverty. Neither literacy nor numeracy was her strong points, at least that’s the deduction I made from the conversations we had on those few occasions. English comprehension wasn’t her forte but as I tried to talk her out of going to Oman, I really hoped she’d understand.
Hitherto that she’d told of this exciting opportunity John had found for her on the Internet. Everything she explained was too good to be true; a good paying job as a domestic servant, no travel or visa costs and then expeditious handling of her travel plans. Of course, being as cautious as they come, I conducted due diligence on this God sent agency. A website with insufficient information, a fictitious address and to top it, shared the name and branding of a renowned human resource agency overseas. It then dawned on me that the agency was a possible trafficking scheme.
In a lengthy conversation later that day I explained my fears to both John and Bridget. I explained to John specifically about the role he’d played in selling this child and the consequences on the Prevention of Trafficking Person act because together with her mother, they’d bought into the juicy idea and could take no advice to cancel plans as the adults. For Bridget, I tried to explain the plight of many Ugandan domestic workers abroad in the middle east especially. But that did not faze her, no amount of video or newspaper reports changed her mind.
John took my advice but his aunt and cousin, not so much and now John appeared like one sabotaging a good future for the teenager now that it was seemingly real. He had become the enemy of progress. Bridget would be a maid, take care of rich old people and send her mum the killing she’d made, or so they thought. I cautioned her, told her of how traffickers confiscate passports and phones and that she should be careful and survive at whatever cost and look for a way to contact home while planning an escape from whoever had enslaved her in case the need arose.
Long story short, it was December 2015 when Bridget finally flew to Oman with the encouragement from her mother without informing anyone. It is a year and 4 months now and nobody, not even her mother, has heard from her. Our fears are yet to be confirmed but we only hope she’ll live to come back home someday. This is probably a story you’ve heard a thousand-fold. But yes, we now join the many other families that are waiting for their children, husbands and wives, if not rich like they’d hoped, but at least alive.
Just a couple of weeks ago, news broke out of 4 young women from Kampala who were rescued in Tororo after the Police were tipped off by hotel management; they would soon be crossing the Malaba border to Kenya to catch their flight to Oman. None of that made me sleep better, because more girls had probably crossed over a few days ago, and more still did a few days later. It doesn’t stop. I am now pretty sure that’s what happened to Bridget. Kenya now provides a quick and more insidious manner for trafficking.
I do not know if it is our ignorance or something worse; because these recruitment companies are obviously trafficking. Even I could tell that this company was shady. What of the police who undergo vigorous training, aren’t they able to discern and pick out these wrong characters? I sometimes wonder to myself, am sure other citizens have carried the same thoughts; “if I were the police, I would just go over right that moment, arrest them, lock them up and close these life-threatening agencies. I mean, these unlicensed agencies are right here under our noses; they’re not even hiding!
It keeps getting worse, I say. These adverts not only (boldly) run on our national television stations, but also on the streets printed on A4 sheets complete with contacts. It is easy to think that security would call these numbers undercover and close more agencies the next day but well… what do we know?
I am just saddened that at that time with all my suspicions, I did not tip off the police; maybe the agency could have been closed, and a lot of girls saved. (I am however told that these unlicensed agencies have mastered their art of survival, and that is why they boldly advertise on TV without coming to any harm. I do not want to think about how they do it.)
What is not being done right? From recent stories, a number of women and men have been assisted by the police to come back home; but is that the primary place we should be looking? Should we not focus on who is taking them away while they’re still strong, healthy but naïve young people instead of how to rescue them from the Middle East after they’re battered and weak from ALL kinds of enslavement?
In a Ministry of Internal Affairs’ 2013 annual report on the trend of trafficking in persons in Uganda that was published in February 2014, among the national interventions to combat trafficking was to form working groups in stakeholder ministries, departments and agencies on trafficking in persons, which by the end of the year were formed but lacked institutional support. I guess in simple English it just means that not enough work is being done. On top of that, “…a total of 8 capacity building workshops were held with a total of 350 stakeholder members trained…” all in regards to practical investigation techniques among others.
All the above are great initiatives. But if only we could start with the simple exercise of just visiting these offices that don’t care to stand out in the city and closing all that are unlicensed, we would have fewer victims to rescue with time. Most of the victims are young men and women who are only comfortable expressing themselves in local dialects, I, therefore, think that an advert should run on every local TV station depicting a brief Trafficking experience to create awareness of the vice and ways to avert it.
On many days, I have repeated myself; told you the same story, the same words over and over again like you never heard them before because I just really wanted to keep talking to you.
On other days, I have exploded inside with those words, pretended to tell myself my own stories because I was unable to talk to you. Because we were both sulking and broody over trivia and it’s relatives.
On those days, I have prayed for a sooner sunset. For the sun to go down on that day and wipe it off the memory of the universe, as I awaited the innocence of the morning.
But today, I will repeat myself; tell you the same story, the same words over and over again like you never heard them before because I just really want to keep talking to you.
Once upon a time – I’ve only started a story in that manner once, don’t be frowning – in the evening of 2015, I got an opportunity to be part of the team of adults to supervise a group of young people in a youth club; but really to share with them a few of my new ideas and activities, to widen their understanding of the world around them and to foster an intercultural learning. Sounds like a lot of clever stuff right? I thought so as well, haha.
In Denmark, (I later learnt that it is locally written as Danmark) the local authorities are obligated to offer leisure activities to children over 10 years old after their usual school program, and with that, they set up youth clubs in every community where kids will go to immediately after school at 2pm.
The youth club is a building set up like a home for the comfort of the kids. It will look like a typical house with couches for lounging, a kitchen to make snack and drinks, play areas all over the place for all kinds of indoor games that the particular youth club could afford. The youth clubs prioritise social activities like music, art and performing arts, sports, films, and various outdoor activities; they’re supervised by adults who are paid by the local authorities. I think it is an awesome government initiative.
The younger kids in what we’d call primary level will get off school and come in at 2pm until 5pm. While the older kids in high school will come in from 5pm until 10pm. These clubs serve as an alternative for otherwise reckless activities children might want to stealthily get into after school, but also as places where they can get extracurricular learning. The parents sign them up, and roll calls are done for accountability to parents.
Despite the freedom the youth have in there, it is a smoking and alcohol free zone. On a normal day, they’ll come in and play their favourite games, hang out with their friends from different schools while they have the best time of their lives and all that is going on in your mind is the memory of your childhood when you had to be back home immediately after school to go do the dishes, mop the house and do your homework with hardly any games to play until you reported back the next day and had that game of “bladder” (jumping the rubber rope) at break time that made you no more clever than you were in your school work. But cultures differ, right? A lot of us turned out alright after all.
So here I was, trying to make this intercultural thing work, but boy was it hard! The children mostly, were so shy. They’re not very familiar with their English, as all their lessons in school are taken in Danish except for the English class. On inquiring from the other facilitators, they said that the children were not confident enough to express themselves in the little English that they were just learning in class. But hey, work had to be done, right? I told my other colleague, Raphael that we had to mix it up with signs to help us get it done. So we did.
You’d find us trying to get into their space and get them to do stuff with us while waving our hands all over the place, hoping that we were making some sort of communication with signs that made sense. It worked most of the time, even though it was really exhausting. The high school kids that showed up in the evenings knew English alright, save for the fact that they were seeing strange African faces and they weren’t sure they had so much to let us in on. They eased into it a little later but honestly, English is not their cup of tea. It seemed like an exam you gave them if you were holding a conversation with them. I almost felt sorry for them and wished I could speak Danish to relieve them of the discomfort.
It was nice to know them. I made more friends with the younger children who came earlier in the day though. This particular boy was one heck of a rebel, he basically ran the whole place crazy and could not make friends with us until he realised we were going to be in his face all fortnight long, then he caved. He’d pronounce Raphael’s name as “Raphi-Lion.” We tried to help, but that’s the best he could come up with, and Raphael decided it was a cool twist to his name after all. My name, Karen, was pronounced Kayuhn, “Care-un” like you’d say the word care and un in one go. It sounds strange…but I found out it is an actual Danish name and is pronounced that way. How cool, right?
Then came this little girl one bright but yet chilly afternoon that warmed my heart and left me bewildered at the same time… you know how other continents still think we live in caves and trees? (True story) Yes. Even the children, somehow they either get it from the discovery channel, or they get to hear it from a friend who heard it from a friend whose mother watched the news about donating to a naked African child somewhere in the Sahara. Well, the children that need help really do exist, but even apart from that, Africa has made major steps of growth in civilization and economics and to know that is just a click away on Google. But that’s a story for another day.
The little girl about the age of 10 or so was burning with concerns and questions and because she couldn’t properly communicate in English, technology came to her rescue. Armed with her iPad, she came over to the kitchen where I was trying to help with their afternoon snack, and she was determined to use Google translate. She would type her questions in Danish on the translator and then I’d read the translations and respond accordingly.
“Do you have iPhones in Africa?”
“Of course we do!” I’d say with a broad smile. “We also use technology back home; smart phones, tablets like the one you have now. Here. I also use a smartphone that I bought” I took out my shiny slim phone and showed it to her. She nodded. (But really I didn’t buy it, I borrowed it because I messed mine up and yet I had to take pictures and stay online and in touch with my people while in nchi za nje, Hahaha. But you get the point. We buy smartphones here too)
With a poor communication system with the children, I almost felt uninspired for what to do some days until one of the facilitators (who rarely ever spoke with us for the same reason), suggested through a translator that I should involve the kids in a new hands-on skill. I immediately thought about making paper beads. What’s funny is that the only way I knew about making paper beads was because I watched someone explaining the procedure about 3 or so years ago on Television. Television, people. How convenient. It was an easy process and so it stuck in my mind somehow but I trusted my memory, even as I explained and listed the materials we needed, all the while thinking that if I mess this up and can’t come up with a proper paper bead in at least two attempts so I can teach the kids, I am screwed.
You can’t blame me. I used to be an artist, but not very crafty with my hands. It is the girls that showed up obviously to make jewellery the next day. I had to quickly try out a couple of samples to make sure I knew what I was doing! Otherwise, I’d be a laughing stock. I desperately needed to get closer to these kids to find a point of interaction and if it meant forging a supposed skill, I had to do it. Ha! That was crazy, right? I know… but what is so hard about paper beads; I cracked the trick, and suddenly I was a pro. The satisfaction that filled my insides, even I could not contain. When the children would finally ease up to me (still with signs and a few English words) because they had no choice but to ask me for clarity, I felt that my job was as good as done. It was a major accomplishment.
While in our awesome paper bead making class, another set of questions came up;
“How come you know how to make these beads? Do you guys have papers like this in Africa?” – This was the kind of paper used to print magazines, brochures, flyers, you know that kind? Yes. Art paper.
For two seconds I wondered what to say. Bambi the children also imagine we have no kind of education, paper, pens or pencils that we use over here. But my job was to get them talking and eventually change those perceptions.
I smiled. “Sure. We have all kinds of paper and also old magazines, which we use to make these beads. We find all the other materials we are using in the supermarket as well.”
Another added, “I don’t want you to go back because you may not have food to eat.”
Now, it was our last week and we were just about to leave for home in a few days, and they knew it.
“We do have food at home, and we buy it in the market and at groceries just like you.” I assured her.
In this business, you can’t just be laughing fwaaa even as much as you are dying to. You have to remain as objective as possible and understand that these stories and perceptions are real and we have the opportunity to change the narrative.
The biggest memory for me is another one of the little girls. She was very slim, blonde, and quite taller than the others and reserved in big measure. I had never really had an interaction with her because she preferred her peace and quiet and hanging around her friends. So much so that on our last day, when all the girls, including her friends, came in to make paper beads with my final supervision, she had no choice but to come in as well only to watch them while she remained her usual silent self.
She knew how to play the guitar. She must have thought to herself prior that she needed it there for the distraction, and she plucked the strings now and then as everybody else was busy with glue, paper, toothpicks and all. I didn’t know what was running through her mind. What I would learn later would melt my heart. Somewhere towards the end of our exercise, she started to play a real song and eventually sing along to it. She was singing a song in English.
American hip-hop artiste, Wiz Khalifa’s “See you again” ft. Charlie Puth.
She kept going with the lines “It’s been a long day, without you my friend. And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.” She kept going and going, singing the whole song apart from the rap. I even caught myself singing along. She was very calm and almost sombre while she sung; I can remember the sadness in her voice as she sung the sorrowful tune like it was yesterday. I remember telling her that she had a beautiful voice, and she managed a smile. When she was done singing, she left the room.
It was way later after that episode that reality remembered to visit. It hit me. The little girl was singing for me, seated right in front of me while I bent all over the table trying to make sure the kids were getting their beads right and while I sung along to her serenade. She sung for me; that somehow, while she avoided me the whole time, it was because she was only a shy little girl who secretly loved my presence every day and was sad that I had to leave eventually. I must have developed a lump in my throat from that realization, because I hardly paid so much attention to her in that moment.
Moments such as those defined my stay, and every time I think about it, a smile plays on my lips.
We clearly have a problem, and it needs no introduction…
Heading out to work on a field-day, driven on the Kabale – Kisoro high way far off in the South West, I sat by the window of the double cabin every morning so I could do the usual; think my life through and wonder how I got myself to a particular point in my life that I happened to be reminiscing on that morning. There was however a constant sight I didn’t miss; the little girls and boys in blue shaggy and faded uniforms walking barefoot in a single file on the side of the high way as they knew to be the safest way to get to school, lest they get run down by a crazy driver at those sharp turns on the hills.
The thing that caught my attention was that every day the children carried brooms and others, the older ones, hoes to school. As my daily assignment was to visit as many schools as possible, I took the opportunity to inquire from one teacher in one of the schools about it, and he said that the children were required to carry brooms for general cleaning and the hoes so that they could dig and till the school land as part of the afternoon program; it is from that land that they would grow some of the food they feed the children.
I felt my heart sink a little lower. In that moment, I started to think about the children back in Bweyogerere, a Kampala suburb where I live, who get to be picked up by buses to school and never have to carry along with them a broom or a hoe because one child pays school fees enough to educate 10 others of the ones I saw every morning along the high way. But of course, one is poverty stricken and can only depend on the questionable government initiatives, while the other has got it all together.
Poverty is definitely a longer story for another day, but I believe that Uganda can do much better in educating its poor children. That at least a rather comfortable education can be afforded to these children so that we are rid of the shortfalls of illiteracy in the future of the nation. With billions of dollars given to the education sector every Financial year; my focus is really on primary education where school begins, that actually spends about 54% of the Education budget, at least according to FY 2015/16 which allocated approximately 1,095bn, you agree that it’s probably not much, but that for starters, the children can be afforded a meal at school and not have to dig in their free time when they should be taking the chance to play and just be children, because these same ones come from homes where they have to follow their parents to the garden to do just the same; sometimes before they head out to school.
On top of having to go through imposed child labour at school, they are most likely to miss a couple of lessons because their teachers won’t show, or they just simply lost enthusiasm about going to class. In a recent visit to a Kamwokya KCCA school, one of the counsellors and founder of a sponsorship program sadly expressed to me that “…the kids no longer want to come to school, because they see no reason why; they have little or no inspiration. They fall out and end up not doing their PLE…” Children (pupils), I found out, are quickly affected by their surroundings, and so they will either be eager to learn or hate their school experience altogether. This definitely affects their general performance.
We clearly have a problem, and it needs no introduction; although in a report by the New Vision, the minister of Education and Sports highlighted in her speech at the 23rd annual education and sports sector review workshop saying… “…I can honestly dare say that the largest giant of a challenge we have today is indiscipline and selfishness that make people misappropriate the resources meant for Government work which we will now have to fight and try to plug those holes so that all the resources we get in our budget serve the purposes of this sector…”
And with that, we can only do so much as citizens to implore that these fights indeed be fought so that the nation’s children are afforded a normal education that could change their stories and give them a chance to celebrate knowledge in the wake of their dreams.