My apologies for not updating the blogs for a few days. We have been rather busy. The recent team of volunteers has now returned to the UK. They were good to be with, worked well together and with the local people and came with a variety of useful skills. Even those who thought they did not have any skills found that they had!
I have now reached the half way point in my trip. This means that I am in a pleasant hotel in Mbale, a town about an hour away from Kumi. I have 36 hours to rest, think, write, read and walk. And I have had the first proper shower in three weeks!
So, this is where my pondering is up to:
I still find Ugandans friendly and welcoming. I am now used to being “white” when out and about. At first, when I arrive, I always think I stick out like a sore thumb and my “whiteness” seems an embarrassment. Last night, whilst eating in the hotel, I belatedly realised that I am the only white person in the building. That fact had not occurred to me before then.
Murchison Falls National Park, one of the most wild and beautiful paces I have ever visited, is on the brink of a potential environmental disaster. They have discovered huge quantities of oil beneath it. Yesterday, in the Ugandan Parliament, the minister for energy announced that in the year 2020 they will be producing 200,000 barrels of oil a day and will join OPEC. Even for Ugandans, this is optimistic!
The National Park was created in the same year as the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire, where I live. What is potentially going to happen in Murchison is the equivalent of building oil production facilities all over the Hope Valley, removing many local buildings, excavating much of the countryside and then laying an oil pipeline, with many pumping stations, across the Park to connect, ultimately, with the Manchester Ship Canal.
I run a discussion group, with our teams of volunteers, on this topic on their last morning in Murchison. We get many and varied views. There is no doubt that oil could improve the well-being of many millions of Ugandans but, sadly, that requires the type of organisational skills, political thinking, absence of corruption, and business-like approach that is so often lacking in this country. One only has to look at Nigeria for the worst case scenario. If Uganda could follow Norway’s example, they would be able to preserve the environment, improve infrastructure and benefit people. And Climate Change is another big topic of its own – it is here and real, but local Ugandans see it as a local problem and think that is because they have cut down too many trees. Nothing to do with CO2 emissions, then.
In a way, the saddest thing is that there is no public outcry in Uganda about digging up a National Park.
To close for today, here a few of the more amusing signs found in our travels:
“Bob Marley Rastas’ Family Club” – this was a rough looking bar.
“Faith Drug Shop” – I think this was a pharmacy but local people might ask if you have one why do you need the other.
“Los Angeles provides you with a Better Service” – This was written on a fence in Kampala. I could not see any business nearby with that name so perhaps it was a travel advertisement.
“Kamua Used Property Company” – this might have been an estate agent or a second hand shop.
“Put an end to Crime with Roofings Wire” – This grand statement was by a company selling fencing.
And my best of the last week, seen on the back of a bus:
“This is your last Mistake” – One wonders how many passengers they get.
These birds are hornbills – they are the size of turkeys and they are outside my window as I type. The male on the left has such a large beak I doubt if he can see where he is going.