Thursday, June 14, 2012

The King of Tooro

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Hey everybody, I'm sorry this has taken me so long to post but I couldn't access my blog account until I completely reset my Gmail account. Apparently Gmail thinks my account was hacked because it was accessed from Uganda and the Netherlands within a short amount of time and it took me a while to figure out. Anyways, I've been waiting to post this for a while now:

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On Wednesday we had the honor of meeting with the king of Tooro - King Oyo - at his "Kampala Palace." It was a beautifully built, walled-off mansion in the middle of an extremely wealthy neighborhood that overlooked Lake Victoria. While this is not his main palace, King Oyo still visits it often when he is vacationing and when he has business in Kampala.

The thing about King Oyo is that he is no ordinary king. He was the youngest king in the world at the time of his coronation - at the early age of 3 & 1/2! What's equally interesting is the story of how he came to be king. King Oyo was crowned after his father was murdered by the Ugandan Prime Minister in 1995. The Prime Minister had been having an affair with the Tooro queen and wanted her for himself, so one day he decided to poison the king. Now, the ex-Prime Minister is locked up in Luzira maximum security prison. (We learned about all of this from the MUBS students and from Professor Fred Luganda after our visit).

Now King Oyo is 20 and he plays an enormously important role in the kingdom of Tooro. He considers himself a "leader and a businessman". But, he also functions just like any other normal 20 year old. He goes to university in England, he has an Xbox 360 and enjoys gaming (in fact he was playing Xbox right before we dropped in for our unexpected visit), he loves hanging out with his friends and relaxing, and he wears Polo tshirts and jeans.

How would you feel if you had that kind of responsibility at this age?
How would you live your life differently if you knew you had to e the role model for thousands?
What do you think of the way King Oyo lives?


Fun Facts:

The kingdom no longer collects taxes (because of Museveni) but the government now gives the kingdom local grants.

The Tooro Kingdom is very generous in giving back to the local community.

The equator goes through the Tooro Kingdom.

The kingdom also has Renzwari Mountain which is the tallest mountain in Uganda.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Microfinace
The microfinance session was put on by Reach Out organization. Reach Out is primarily a HIV/AIDs treatment and testing center, and the organization essentially stumbled into creating a system of microloans and savings for the local community, both patients and non-patients. What they have in place is a VSLA (Village Savings and Loan Association) model where a few community members are educated on how to run the group and then become fully autonomous and run the groups on their own. These groups, made mostly of women, save money and contribute to the fund on their own and take small loans when needed. At the end of the year the money is redistributed with those who saved more getting a higher percentage of the money. Theoretically the amount of money in the fund will be much higher because of the interest paid back from the loans. I was very impressed at the system, but also felt that there were a lot of limitations.
What does everyone else think? Is the VSLA model sustainable? Do enough people have access to this service? Where are all the dudes?

PS. Sorry it took so long to post this everyone our cabin never got the stick in country and then I got locked out of my drake email, but its all good now!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Uganda Parliament presentations were very educational. We learned about a lot of different Parliament information such as the history, seating situations, types of special groups involved, the process of a member or government bill, and more. There seemed to be quite a bit of mixed feelings about Uganda Parliament. The first speaker praised the "fair" Parliament system but the MUBS students did not seem to agree. They brought up questions about funding and corruption that led the speaker to refuse to answer anymore questions about that topic. I definitely felt some tension in the room. The next speaker seemed more reasonable and knowledgeable. He centered the discussion more on economics. I thought he was not as scripted with his answers but he was still in favor of the Uganda Parliament system. This is not surprising because these presenters work in or with Parliament and of course they want to give a good impression of it.
One of the discussed topics I found most interesting was the special group representatives. The different types of groups include women, disabled, youth, army, and labor unions. I think it is a great thing to have these types of people represented in government. The only issue is the size of these groups. With 385 or so Parliament members, I believe they could have more than 5 of them represent the youth or disabled.

What impressions did you get from the speakers and MUBS students? Do you think there is corruption in Parliament? What topics discussed did you find most interesting? Do you think the Uganda Parliament will be sustainable?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Colin's Dinner & Culture

Today, we all traveled up the hills to Colin Sentongo's beautiful home. Here we all enjoyed meeting members of the MUBS board, the ambassador of Japan, and many other special guests. We all mingled before dinner and got to know a little about what some of their duties consisted of. Many of us were given the chance to enter their culture in different ways, such as talking with the ambassador, the way we were seated (women on mats and men in chairs), the order in which we received our food (men going first), and the different dances we were shown. After dinner, we had a short discussion on the differences between the Ugandan culture and the US culture. We got to hear all about Colin's cultural background and some of the invited guests as well. It was very interesting to me to hear about their "clans", or what animal everyone was. We also presented Colin with a new Drake Blvd. sign to put at the end of his lane, where earlier students got to plant their own trees as a sign of sustainable development. He was extremely thrilled and could not wait to put up his new signs. We all then enjoyed the rest of our night with lots of dancing and laughing.


What do you think the major cultural differences are between Uganda and the US? Are there any similarities? What were a few sustainable developments at Colin's house? And what was one new cultural idea that you learned at Colin's house from him, the guests, or the MUBS students? 

Luzira Maximum Security Prison: Here's to second chances

Today, we had the privalege of visiting Uganda's maximum security prison and for many of us this was our first time experiencing what jail life looks like. As we walked into the courtyard filled with hundreds of male inmates, all eyes and attention were directed on us. Many of us were surprised that the only barrier between us and the inmates were just a few guards here and there. This prison has the capacity to hold 20,000 inmates and includes as many as 500 men who are currently on death row. The inmates on death row were all dressed in a white uniform, while the others were dressed in head-to-toe yellow. Even though the inmates in yellow aren't on death row, some maybe facing up to 310 years in jail!

 Luzira Maximum Security prison has recently been the subject of a welfare project by the African prisons project. About 3 or so years ago, the prison joined hands with Makerere University Business School and now provides education to approximately 50 inmates. As well as providing university level education, the prison also offers primary, secondary and vocational schooling,in which 1/3 of the inmates are engaged in some sort of education. While 60% of the teachers are hired women, some inmates teach along side them because they may have bachelors degrees already. The biggest surprise of the day was when we learned that those on death row tend to be their best students. Many who are on death row and are performing well in school can get change their sentence from death row to a certain number of years. What are your thoughts on changing sentence time, especially changing a death row sentence? Before these programs existed, riots occurred about once every three months and now they also never have any. The aim of these programs is to give inmates a second chance at life once out of prison and their moto is that age is not a problem, as long as you want to get something out of it. What are your thoughts on prisoners receiving basic education as well as degrees while in jail? Is educating prisoners sustainable?

 Also, since the judicial system in Uganda doesn't provide access to a fast and speedy trial, many prisoners maybe awaiting their trial in jail for 3 to 5 years and are found to be innocent.What are your thoughts on this process? Is it economically sustainable to look after these people for 3 to 5 years only to find them innocent?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

MURCHINSON FALLS!


For the past two nights we have been off the grid at Murchinson Falls National Park. We experienced a completely new level of darkness, an entirely new environment and a lot of different animals. The campgrounds itself were a very interesting sight. Upon our arrival, there were wart hogs to greet us. That is when it dawned on most of us that we were in the middle of nowhere. Once everybody settled in, we sat around the lawn looking up at the stars and were awestruck by how vivid they were. The next day, we woke up bright and early for the sunrise and to cross the Nile to experience an African safari! The safari was phenomenal! We sat on top of our safari vans and snapped thousands of pictures of the wildlife that we encountered. After a tiring 4 hours of the safari, we experienced a 3 hour boat ride down the River Nile to view Murchinson Falls. The day was near perfect with the views and the magnificent Ugandan weather.

During our time on the safari, we learned that oil was found in the park. What do you believe will happen to the park in the next 5 years? 10 years? Will it make Uganda more sustainable or less sustainable? What was your favorite part of the safari/boat ride? What would have made your experience even better?