Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Independence Day Getaway

October 9th, 2009 marked Uganda’s 47th year of independence from Great Britian, which ruled Uganda as a protectorate from 1894. Since independence, Uganda’s history has been blemished by the rule of many corrupt leaders leaving me to wonder if ‘independence’ is really the correct term. The first president of Uganda was also the Kabaka, the king of Buganda, a tribe located in the central region, around and in Kampala. In 1966, he was overthrown by the Prime Minister, Milton Obote. Obote was a ruthless dictator, best remembered for torturing his people. He is also responsible for initiating Uganda’s history of ostracizing its Indian population.

Although originally friends and colleagues with Obote, Idi Amin, Uganda’s most notorious ruler (as seen in the film The Last King of Scotland), staged a military coup in 1971. While popular with Ugandans at first due to taking out Obote and promises of a democratic and free Uganda, Amin quickly changed his tune, entitling himself “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, Conqueror of the British Empire.” Amin continued Obote’s policy of nationalization, ousting the Indians and thereby destroying the economy. He also tortured and killed many Ugandans. Estimates of the number who died during Amin’s rule range from 100,000 – 500,000. After Amin invaded and annexed a region of Tanzania, the Tanzanian People’s Defense Force and exiled Ugandans waged a war against Amin. In 1979, Amin fled to Libya and then Saudi Arabia where he was never tried or punished for any of his human rights violations. There he lived a long and abundant life (the US and the rest of the West were well aware of this arrangement, but no need to upset your friend who provides you with oil just for housing an international criminal, right?)

Several of Obote’s close associates and party members served as president between 1979-1985 before Yower Museveni and the National Resistance Army seized control of the government. Museveni is hailed by the West for his efforts to fight AIDS, bringing the percentage of Ugandans infected down to 6 from 30 percent. He has seen the economy grow significantly and brought stability to Uganda with the notable exception of the North where a large population of Ugandan’s still live in IDP (internally displaced people) camps because of Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army. He also eliminated presidential term limits, exiled journalist who were critical of him, and recently bought a $50 million dollar jet when he already had a perfectly good one. The next presidential elections are to take place in 2011.

uhuru means freedom

Phil got to meet President Museveni when he was
flying for the Ugandan paratrooper training

Whatever it is we’re celebrating, this year I did it with a trip to Fort Portal with Alison, Els, and Sarah, a relaxing three day weekend at Kitojo Tourist Home Guest House. We had sunny skies and warm weather, perfect for romping around the lake district, playing games (which Els always won) and drinking Vodka Sprest (a mix of Sprite & Krest Bitter Lemon) on the veranda, and doing a little yoga.

practicing an arm balance pose

Sarah, Alison, and me
swimming in a crater lake

tea pickers in the field

our view at breakfast
snow-covered Rwenzori Mountains
(using my new zoomy lens)

dinner at the posh Ndali Lodge

Our new friends Barnabas & Lucky
(Els tried to sneak Lucky in her suitcase)

Els taking in the view

a flower - so beautiful it looks fake

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