Thursday, 18 February 2016

What Starts with Chaos Must End with Chapati

Well, Election Day is here, and it's amazing how quickly things can change! We've been sanctioned to the safety of our home until prior notice, which isn't horrible, but also, isn't great.

Over the weekend - while attempting to purchase those food stores we'd been advised to gather - we drove passed, and in some cases through, several rally's for current president Museveni. There was a lot of excitement, but I was also happy to just be breezing through. Not really a place I'd want to be caught in - especially given the events of the week to come. In addition to the excitement, there was also an obvious increase in military and police presence. There's just something about a bit unsettling about being stopped in the middle of a crowd that is being supervised by a number of depressingly fit men in uniform causally toting AK-47s.

Monday saw a very drastic change in atmosphere. I could almost feel something different when I walked out of the flat on my way to work. There wasn't anything obvious, per se, but it just felt... tense. This, of course, was only exasperated by the fact that at around mid-day the local (and international) news outlets were reporting the arrest of presidential candidate, Dr. Kissa Besigye. This came with a lot of police action in one area of Kampala*. There were stores looted, tear gas used and other such drama. This of course, only raised tensions in the city. The arrest, apparently, was due to Besigye creating traffic disturbances in the city centre**.

Tuesday was a public holiday, or as some suggest, a last-ditch effort at winning over a few votes. Why, you ask? Well, this is the first year that this public holiday has been observed. And, not only is it the first year for this commemoration (will get to that in a second), but it was declared on my birthday... February 11th... LAST Thursday!

The public holiday is known as the Archbishop Janani Luwum Public Holiday. The Archbishop comes with a very... shall we say, colourful?...story? You can read the full Wikipedia notes, but basically, he was arrested in February 1977 by then president, Amin. The Archbishop was accused of treason and aiding Amin's predecessor, Obote. And then...surprise!... Amin had him killed. It's actually a lot more brutal than the 'jazz-hands' recount I've just describes, but, sometimes you just need to, because otherwise it's really, really disturbing.

Anyway the overall atmosphere had definitely toned down from the previous day, which was good. But people, I think, were still on alert. In the evening there were helicopters circling the city - for what purpose, if any, I don't know. This was both a bit unnerving but also really exciting. And of course, all I could think of was Arnold shouting - "Get to da choppa!"

Yesterday (Wednesday), proved to be fairly uneventful aside from the lack of chapati production near my office. This of course, was because many people have begun travelling to their villages, where they will be casting their ballots today. Luckily one of my co-workers had a vehicle, and a few of us dashed off to the nearby market to rectify our chapati deprivation. We probably placed far too much enthusiasm into this 'mission' than was necessary, but I mean, chapati... AND rolex!

Election 'eve' views from the balcony. See! All is calm.

Good luck to my fellow Ugandans. May your votes be heard and may your voice be reflected in the results.

-the Orange Canadian

*Close to my office, but not close enough to hear or see anything, or to be worried.
**He was actually on his way to a rally, which was shut down before he arrived, the alternate venue was also shut down, and so he decided to gather his supporters in a public setting.

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