“There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech.” – Idi Amin Dada
Remember Idi Amin Dada? He was a dictator that ruled Uganda between 1971- 1979. He is famous for his “reign of terror”. People were leaving the country in droves. East Indians were expelled in ’72 bringing the country to a grinding halt.
International aid was being pumped in, and a new breed of expatriates arrived on short term contracts. These were very well paying jobs with an extremely generous travel allowance. This allowed them to import cars, washing machines, TV’s, stereos, modern kitchen gadgets etc, etc.
Stuff that was either luxurious or irrelevant to us in Uganda, but was the standard lifestyle these expats were accustomed too. Can you see where a problem may arise here? One of these problems was their discomfort level regarding the servants supposedly “low wages”. So they very quickly increased their servants pay substantially.
At the end of their term, which was between 2 – 3 years, many of the expats gave all this “stuff” that they did not need anymore to their staff, and merrily went on their way believing they had done a good deed.
The result of this action exasperated an already very fragile country resulting in a terrifying period. You see all that “stuff” that had no value before suddenly became very important. There was a major demand for it, and it was an easy way to make money. Break-ins became the norm which became dangerous life threatening situations. Trucks loaded with people carrying pangas (machetes) would descend on homes and break in. If you tried to stop them, they would slash you down. They hauled down curtains, whipped out carpets, filled these up, rolled them up, and in 5 -10 mins your home was empty.
The army then joined this game, and pangas turned into guns, so now there is no mercy. Local Ugandans are the ones that really felt the brunt of this. Women were raped and killed, and villages were pilfered, burnt and destroyed. Survivors that had very little to begin with, now had to pick up the pieces of their lives in a country that was out of control.
Now I’m not saying that this was all the fault of the new expats who believed they we’re doing a good thing, but it certainly played a major role. You see, those wages that were increased drastically were now out of reach for us local residents. So when the new expats left it also broke a cultural way that had been sustainable for everyone; the root of all this – a lack of cultural understanding.