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Father Claude

As I was saying.....

I embrace the world from my backyard at the University of Portland, January 1, 2018. I again invite you to "clod-hop" with me on my journeys to Latin America via this blog. More...

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Joseph Ssekandi and his two sons joined me for lunch, last week. His daughter, the youngest, stayed home with Mum, in Nkozi.

Joseph was my Executive Assistant when I launched the EAST AFRICA SCHOOL FOR DIPLOMACY (EASDIS) in 2009. Only his two boys, Felix (8) and Brave (5) came with Dad. Mum and youngest daughter stayed at home. I hired Joseph in 2009 to assist me in launching the Masters in Diplomacy. He was fresh out of graduate school from the UK and anxious to work. Along with guiding me through the labyrinthian obstacles of local and national academic administrations (he was a master navigator), he was building his house for wife and kids in Nkozi. I include pictures of the two boys and their dad at lunch, and a picture of Joseph at work in 2009 on the foundations of his house. I will send updated pictures of the house, sons & daughter & mother with the next entry.

After lunch, Felix and Brave had an unexpected encounter at the restaurant. Bursting into the toilet as boys do, they bumped into the Vice President of Uganda, Edward Ssekandi with his many body guards. If that wasn't enough, the Vice President gave each boy a 10,000 shilling note to remember the occasion Dad tells me that they returned to school, bubbling with the story of the amazing encounter with the VP in the restaurant toilet. Little Brave may not yet appreciate the full import of meeting the VP of his country under such informal circumstances.

During Easter vacation, I've been delighted everywhere I go by the many smiling and welcoming families. As I walk through the neighborhoods of Kampala and visit the malls, I see that this is a country of happy families with small children everywhere. And yet, Uganda faces all the traditional challenges of a former protectorate (Uganda was not a colony like Kenya). And so, it is a shock to rediscover the recurring issue of child sacrifice. While Ugandans struggle with extensive and pervasive government corruption (misuse of international grants, especially), with environmental issues (the pollution of Lake Victoria and lack of drinking water), bishops and clergy living openly with wives and families (April 1, the local paper announced that Pope Francis would make his first visit to Uganda - April Fool), lack of infrastructures (roads and bridges), and poor education -- to mention the more prominent challenges -- however, I am especially struck by the growing problem of ritual sacrifice of young boys and girls for success with major constructions and with new enterprises. After appropriate rituals of this gruesome tradition, entrails and genitals are placed in the foundations and offered for success and prosperity. Reportedly (BBC), over 60 cases are reported every year and in spite of a government department to stop the practice and religious efforts on all levels, this gruesome practice appear to be impossible to stop. In yesterday's news, two young girls (under 6 years) were returned to the place where they were kidnapped because they had pierced ears and that is unacceptable for the success of the ceremony. Damaged goods. Can you imagine. The going price for an unblemished child is 500,000 shillings or more. (appros. 200 dollars)

I have tried to place these horrific practices in a larger, comprehensible context -- if possible. Is Uganda so much more barbaric in its treatment of children than other countries? Certainly, the involvement of individual cult leaders in such practices seems to set Uganda apart. But, as I consider the widespread violence against children (from sexual exploitation to child soldiers), rape, especially of women), the homeless, displaced persons, prisoners (tortured and abused in our "civilized" prisons) I wonder if Uganda's problem may not be a sobering and stark reminder of the general inhumanity resulting from misuse of power. Ugandan families love their children and work hard to provide them with a bright future. As I visited a popular mall on Easter Day, I though it was a picnic area for a nursery school. What is it in our culture that shapes decisions that allow young children the be tortured and murdered -- from a government like that of Syria that displaces uncounted numbers of suffering children and their families, that allows the kidnapping of children in Rio and Sao Paulo for the sale of body parts, the continued use of antipersonnel land mines, and the random targeting of families by unmanned drones in the name of national security.

So, a ray of hope as the UN General Assembly approves (almost unanimously, but not quite) the global control of arms conventional arms. Uganda is a small microcosm of humanity struggling to find respect, security and joy in a complicated world.

I am, once again, delighted to be in Kampala, and imagine a better world for Felix and Brave. And Mum and Dad too.

Permalink | Wednesday, April 3, 2013