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Monday, June 1, 2009

Lake Visit

Hope you all enjoyed getting to know our faculty and staff better tonight with our round-table!

Today, we had a day full of busing, watching Scott almost die, and the beauty that is the “Switzerland of Africa.”

One of the things I have been focusing on this trip is the transportation and its inefficiency, along with how the poor conditions of the roads negatively affect the people of Uganda, and also the country’s economy. Today we spent about 8 hours in the bus and it was extremely rough. Multiple times my butt bounced inches off the cushions. I have had discussions with a couple of you on your take on the roads, but was wanting a few more opinions. The roads and the transportation system in general are very crappy. Trips that would take an hour in the US, can end up taking three hours in Uganda. Vehicles need to stop and swerve often to avoid potholes and road bumps. The roads are also two-lane, making passing uncomfortable at times. The lack of efficiency is definitely increasing transportation costs, making goods more expensive to the public. Also, it is a huge downside to Uganda’s developing tourism industry. These reasons, along with the obvious frustrations of personally traveling on these roads raises a question: What else is it going to take for Ugandans to become more proactive? Djamila ignorantly confronted the IGG with no basis for her claim. What does it take for some Ugandans to get organized and make a strike on the government because of the problems or try to pass some legislation through their local representative? I don’t know the answer, but I was wondering if any of you did.


  1. First off just to clarify Scott is fine, he just went for a swim and was never in any danger. Interesting question concerning the road conditions and the rsponse of Ugandans. from talking to our colleagues many are upset about the condidtions. The real question is what options do they have or what recommendations would you make to them to try to change the situation?

  2. I want to reiterate that Scott is fine!! I visited last evening with a contractor from South Africa that works with stone crushing equipment for road construction. He travels all over Africa and talked about the roads in numerous countries. Though we think the roads in Uganda are pretty miserable apparently there are other countries with even worse roadway infrastructure.

  3. Interesting question... This is tricky. I think that in order to become proactive and confront the government on important issues such as road infrastructure, people must have their basic needs met. In Uganda, 31% of the citizens live on less than a dollar a day. This implies that their basic needs are not being met. In order to have one's basic needs met, a shelter must be in place, food must be on one's plate, employment is evident and so on. This is not happening to all citizens in Uganda, which prevents them from focusing on confronting the government. This 31%, which is an official stat so there is probably more than 31% living below this line, leads to a weak civil society. This weak civil society is unengaged in government and affairs that it entails because these people are focusing on survival. Not road infrastructure. So, ultimately, I think that in order to make civil society stronger with a stronger participation, people's basic needs must be met. Then they will focus on more luxuries, such as road infrastruture.

  4. This is a very tough question and to start off, I agree with Shannon. The basic needs of society need to be met first, and then can come other luxuries. However, I dont know where transportation falls in here because in a way it is a luxury and in a way it isnt. Infrastructure is very important to every society so while it is a luxury, it is also a need.

    I dont think the roads are going to make drastic improvements here for awhile. The government has other issues on its hands at the moment. To me, since this is not a democratic nation, the main concern of government officials is to stay in office. To them, the roads are not a pressing matter at the moment.

    I do believe the roads will improve slightly over time, but not at the pace they should. When the government and the rest of the economy stabilizes, then infrastructure progress will be made.

  5. Roads are expensive, and I think the citizens of Uganda believe there are more pressing issues to take care of, such as simply making it through another day. To me, it seems that the people of Uganda have almost become complacent re. their government, because they know corruption exists, but they also know there's not much they can do about it. Not to mention, many people are benefiting from the legislation passed by the National Resistance Movement. For example, the female MUBS students are thankful for the improvement of women's rights over the past few years.

    Making a strike on the government may be just seen as a waste of time for a majority of Ugandans.

  6. In my opinion, what it's going to take is anger. I feel like there are so many issues that the people are facing; there is so much for Ugandans and for the MUBS students to be angry about. Yet, when we discuss it, their responses tend to be explanations for why things are they way they are instead of what they want to do about it. They inform me of what is really happening and of what the "truth" is. Yet, I don't see them getting angry enough to make something happen. I know that these issues cannot be changed over night. I also know that I am lucky, because in America so many of my rights have been fought for without me having to do anything. But I also know that in studying the course of American and global history, the most consistent aspect is that nations change when people band together and demand it. I don't live here and I don't have to endure the complete lack of government for the rest of my life, but just sitting through a few presentations by government representatives and other officials is enough to make me angry. Anger at injustice and a will for living in freedom are what inspired struggles for independence, anti-segregation, the women's movement, and a lot of struggles that people continue to fight every day. I know that the deck is stacked against them, but until someone gets angry enough to light a fire and demand change, the government will hold all the cards and injustice will continue.

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  8. The infrastructure has a long way to go. You think you had it bad being on the Bus I was in the smaller car constantly dodging the gigantic craters in the road. I know roads may not seem like a priority but I feel like they are a very important issue that needs some help. Part of becoming sustainable is having the transportation to transport goods to create the supply chain. It is very difficult to do this with the current state of the roads and lack of modern transportation system such as refrigerated trucks.

    Some of you spoke of it being necessary to meet their basic needs before worrying about the roads and to a point I agree. But look at health care if you’re up in one of the villages and you need to be rushed to the hospital, how is that going to be possible with the horrible conditions of the main roads, not to mention the dirt roads.

    But before any of this is going to happen the Government needs to shift itself into gear and get things done instead of playing around with corruption and claiming to be a democracy.