‘Evil disguised itself and walks besides us under the mid-afternoon sun, darkness no longer its only haven.’ Evelyn
Guest Blogger; Anonymous
I’m not much of a writer. I journal, if that counts. So I am honoured and humbled to have been given the chance to feature on My Beautiful Sweet Friend’s Blog.
I like to think of myself as more of an explorer because I love to be in places that not many would willingly go. More than that, I Love to know peoples’ stories, how they got to where they are and all that. I was lucky enough to have met some people who were more than willing to show me a different side of Kampala.
I went through slums, saw a lot of people, a lot of drugs, and smelt a lot of burning plastic and it was eerily quiet. And everyone was so angry; angry with the injustice, with the Government, and some with God.
One of the friends who took me to these ‘dodgy’ places had always been talking about leaving the country. When he finally got a chance to go to South Africa, he hopped at it and called to tell me. I didn’t ask too much because honestly, I had so much going on in my life (I’m ashamed to admit).
Well, its half a year later and we are sitting in a small restaurant type place…you know the ones with plastic table covers, always dark yet somehow always crowded…And he begins to narrate how His ‘Uncle’ (We all have those) told him about the work in South Africa, the money, the freedom and all things ever dreamed of.
He asked him for about 400,000SHS to get him a Passport ASAP and another 400,000SHS to get him a Visa in a day, to which my friend happily obliged. Of course he ended up having to pay much more for all the ‘necessities’ because
as his ‘Uncle’ put it, he ‘just wouldn’t have the time’ as work was to start immediately upon his arrival. Now, for the more seasoned traveller, all these would be RED SIGNS screaming RUN!! For the less seasoned one however, it was simply too good to be true.
Passport and Visa in Hand, having forked over his savings and most of his parents’ earnings, (almost up to 3 Million, possibly more), he boarded the flight to South Africa. As with most of these stories, it was actually too good to be true.His new passport was taken from him ‘for safekeeping’ and he watched in confusion as his ‘Uncles’ friends proceeded to manually remove his visa ( who knew that was even possible). He was told he wouldn’t need it anyway since he was probably going to stay a really long time.
Himself and many others were put in the back of a truck and taken to a city they didn’t know, and put to work in a garage, a warehouse and other places he said weren’t worth mentioning, just never the one he was promised.In a few days, he had gone from having a home, a community and familiarity, to being homeless, stranded and completely abandoned. He was paid 5 Rand a day which he had to hand over for a corner in a room to sleep, and even though he had known poverty at some point, he says he could never have imagined such a place existed, especially not after all the wonderful things he had been told before going there.
He called his ‘Uncle’ by the hour, to ask him what was happening, if this was just temporary, perhaps it was a mistake; and each time the phone went unanswered, he felt his heart drop even further and his hope disappear.
Each sentence filled me with dread as to what the following days held. Would he be used as a sex slave? Would he be beaten? One thing is for sure, he is different from the friend I had before he left.
Yes, Thank God he made it home, I’m still not sure how because he didn’t seem ready to talk about it. As he wistfully recounted the story with tear glazed eyes, I wondered how many more like my friend are still out there.
Sadly, his story is so unrelatable and in fact so unbelievable to those he tells in his Community, that many are convinced he stole the money, went abroad and went through it so quickly that he had to come back. After all, anywhere but Uganda is Heaven, and success out there is a given. Since his return he has felt guilty, ashamed and deeply regretful; as though this injustice were somehow his fault.
He is now back home working for 450,000SHS a month, 14 hours a day and still dreaming of the day he leaves this country, never to return. He is still trying to pay his parents back for all the money he begged them to loan him.
Why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you this because that ‘Uncle’, and many like him make a business out of this modern day kidnapping. He is doing the same to so many like my friend knowing that there are still many desperate to leave the country; so for now and a while to come , his ‘business’ is a lucrative one.
I’m telling you this because this is just another form of Slavery. With his Eyes Wide Open, my friend was taken from his Home, made to work in hopeless, degrading and unbearable conditions that he was only lucky to escape.
I hear countless stories of people saying ‘I was supposed to go to Dubai’, ‘a guy got me a job in Germany’, ‘I’m leaving to work in Paris, I know someone there’… And I wince at the thought of their fate being similar to that of my friend, with possibly worse consequences.
I want my country to flourish, to change and to grow Desperately… but sometimes I wonder when that change will come. When will we be able to go to the Police and report ‘Uncle’ and have the case seriously followed up? When will a woman be able to report domestic abuse and have a response other than laughter and even more abuse? When will our country be a place people run to, as opposed to running from? I wonder… And what can I/we do to bring this change.
I lay here most nights thinking and wishing, pondering and praying, With Eyes Wide Open.