Volunteer(2/3) - Luuk Kops

Independence On 9 October it is celebrated here that Uganda is independent. On 9 October 1962 Great Britain officially handed over the administration of the country. An event like this is celebrated annually in many countries, proudly and with the express hope for progress. But whether this is entirely justified in Uganda, I ask myself more and more often. It is well known that in Uganda much happened after that October 9, 1962. And of course I am referring primarily to the negative things in the political field. At present it is fortunately much better, but to be honest I get more the impression that many areas in Uganda are still not independent.

Here one finds it quite normal that money comes from the USA, Europe and China. Money that is donated from around the world will get its own place in the budget. Like I need the contribution of my parents to study, they are dependent on external funding. And that money is not used for additional projects to tackle, to make progress. The money is used for very basic needs, if it is well spend anyway. Even for fairly urgent things is not enough money. And with urgent things I mean for example, restoring a prison wall from collapsing. It seems to me of primary importance to prevent detainees to break through a wall without too much effort. But no one looks up amazed, there is simply no money.

The dependence is not only the budget of the newly elected government. Workers in Uganda, for example, are completely dependent on their superiors. Personal initiative is a completely unknown concept, and almost nobody has the guts to stick his of her neck out. And that's probably not without reason I guess. So when the Officer in Charge of Kigo Prison is one day out of office no decision that may be relevant is taken. But no one worries about it, "This is Africa", is invariably said.

Luuk Kops The moment you're a guest in a country, you yourself have to adapt to the norms and values of the host. At least to some extent. But I believe that countries and organizations can make some demands when they are in some way involved in helping to improve Uganda. Uganda for example, occupies the 19th place on the list of most corrupt African countries. With a good strategy, we at SCS encounter relatively little corruption, and where each Shilling is carefully examined before it is spent. This means that we not just blindly adapt.

So I tried to explain that I am not used to wait the whole day until the boss finally comes to give an opinion on something trivial. I proposed that from now to think in the way of 'Time is money' instead of 'This is Africa'. There was some laughing, but the following days revealed that many of the prison staff did not forget it. Fortunately, because otherwise I think in 2062 when celebrating the 100th anniversary of independence, Uganda is just as dependent on the rest of the world.

After this sad story the question arises whether we are having a correct approach. Do we leave the prisoners 'our boys' just to their fate? Or should we just now give them a second chance? I think the latter! And so I start with a lot of energy in the final month of my stay here as a volunteer to return to work in the Kigo Prison. Because the people of Kigo Prison are for the time being mainly dependent on support from SCS!