"Please pray. The violence is spilling out onto the streets."
This was a text I received last week from a friend of mine who lives in Uganda.
As the headlines have largely been concerned with other things, I emailed her to ask for more details of the situation. She has given permission for me to post a summary here - although it's quite difficult to summarise all of it, I will pick out some of the main points.
- The current Ugandan president has been in office for the past twenty five years. A great plan for development and getting rid of corruption and violence has ended up with more of the same.
- Fuel prices are really high - tripling in the space of about 2 months, and this leads to higher food prices because the food needs transporting from rural areas. Inflation is at about 14%.
- Those in rural areas are starving as they were unprepared by the relevant government departments for drought followed by flash floods. Some families of eight or ten are eating a small sparrow sized bird for dinner - if they can catch it. Pregnant women may only have a meal of termites to last a whole day (about enough to fill a small yoghurt pot).
- The global fund corruption and scandal has meant that the next round of support has been cancelled. Hospitals are having to cut down on employees and recruiting patients. Only one quarter of people needing ARVs (Antiretroviral drugs ) are getting them. Drugs supplies for those already on ARVs has reduced - those who can't afford them have to go without or try and change medication which entails resistance to the drugs or side effects.
- At the government hospital there are two generators working, hardly any doctors and all medicine has to be paid for. They won't treat you if you don't bring your own gloves - they don't have any.
- Mothers give birth on the floor because there aren't enough beds on the maternity wards.
- Donated drugs that are supposed to be free are taken by health officers and sold at private clinics.
- Despite a 'free for all' education at primary level, because of corruption they have no desks, chairs, reading materials and even meals in most cases. They have gone to introduce 'free' secondary education without dealing with these issues.
- Roads are terrible - full of pot holes. Every time an election nears they put a thin layer on top for the canvassers to get through - then it wears off again.
- Corrupt government ministers responsible for some of these issues have been in power for many years.
- An inaugural party is being planned by the president as well as the purchase of fighter jets. He claims not to be able to do anything about the food and fuel prices due to the global economic crisis. Opposition leaders claim otherwise.
- A pressure group was started, supposed to be a peaceful protest, where people walked to work in protest of high fuel and food prices. But the government sent in police and militia (not always easily identifiable) who would get into scuffles with opposition leaders and bundle them off in vans. Rousing the people's anger, riots have broken out, with tear gas and pepper sprays being used and also shootings - a two year old baby was shot dead and another man shot in the head and the thigh - both in their homes trying to avoid the riots.
- A few days ago Besigye, a leading opposition figure was in his car, which was attacked and he was doused in pepper spray (BBC report here). Spontaneous rioting broke out all over Kampala.
My friend says "it seems like the rule of the law is dying if not all ready dead".
Please pray for the government to make a concerted effort to improve the situation and bring costs down, diverting money away from unnecessary expenditure and into areas of need. Pray against the corruption - "I don't know how it can stop if the big fish won't get caught," says my friend, "but also the biting poverty has meant that everywhere someone is trying to make an extra buck which is terrible." There is a real feeling of hopelessness about this.
My friend has also expressed concern that there is a lot of censoring in the media, the Internet and even on phones. She says: "We are worried that we may one day not to be able to speak freely about what is happening...we need wisdom about what to say and how to say it."