Saturday, February 10, 2007

Rain in Uganda

Last night the rain came. It fell upon Kiboga like a painting in the sky and sent everyone running for their buckets to fill (free water!) and then away into their homes. I too brought out my bucket, then found a place to sit outside to watch the beauty of it all. I was in awe; sitting there, looking up at the storm.

The lightning lit up the sky, each time spreading through the darkness like the branches of a tree. I have never seen lightning like that in my life! So I sat outside in the stillness of a village-in-hiding, listening to the rain pour down and wash through the streets. Through the stillness, came the thunder and in the darkness, came the light in the sky. A reminder of all that is Uganda- In darkness, there is always light...

Once again, the peace talks have come to an end. Ending the hope in the north and through much of Uganda. So the war rages on - the killing, the suffering, the hurt, the children who carry the burden on their bodies and in their hearts. All because the Lord's Resistence Army wanted the peace talks to be in Kenya or South Africa instead of Southern Sudan and the government wouldn't budge. (In the past, talks in LRA territory have meant an attack by government forces during meetings for peace - so the LRA have since learned to demand the talks be elsewhere, somewhere government forces won't attack) The players fit together like the pieces of a puzzle - the leaders, the past tensions, the politics, the arms dealers, the so-called american war on terror - exect the last piece is missing - the one which represents the children. All those forced to kill, all those killed and tortured and assaulted and taken as wives, taken from their families, forced to kill their families - the ones who wanted nothing to do with the puzzle in the first place.

When you walk through the streets of Kiboga, there are children everywhere - because most don't go to school. After many late night talks with the locals, I've learned that the government implemented a program for free primary education. Which sounds good in theory, but in reality is not as powerful. On the ground, the average family can not afford to send their children to school - even though the schooling is free, the shoes and books and uniform are not. Costs that are far too high for most. When I asked the teachers about percentages, their guess was that only about 10% of Ugandan children graduate from form 6 (grade 12)

As a result of hte well-known structural adjustment programs that ran through Uganda at the hands of the World Bank, Uganda has become largly privatised. Even water has been controlled. During times of drought, costing up to 1100sh/per fill (a container about the size of a gas can) - more than most make in a month. Even in Kiboga, it costs 50sh - the impact is seen everywhere. Even in the local hospital, there is no water available due to costs. And now the government is trying to implement a program which will destroy traditional agriculture and wipe out the small-scale farmers. The government has been approached by a major corportation wanting to make mandatory the use of DDT!

And yet, everywhere in Uganda there is light. Everyone has a story: the teachers, the students, my friends. The stories are haunting - lives of neglect, death, loss and stuggle. But always there is strength, courage and inspiration. Everyone here has a dream - for a better Uganda, that future generations not experience what they did. They have nothing, yet still give to help the next generation of hope. From the struggle comes hope and through the darkness, light. It is an honour to hear the stories, love the people and see the glimmer in their eyes - for here they truly live and breath the light.

....And today the nurses finally let our friend leave the hospital. It seems they have agreed...she is not in labour : )



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