Return to Kitgum - USAID and the WFP
14th December 2006
Inside the building we met one of the top officials and asked him to give us permission to visit the IDP camp. I explained that we were here representing GrassRootsUganda.com and were looking to learn as much about the place as possible so as to sell the crafts better. He initially refused as we didn't have any official papers identifying us as an NGO, but after some to-ing and fro-ing I eventually talked him around and he gave us our Official Piece of Paper to guarantee our entry into the Labuje IDP camp.
The World Food Program,
and your tax dollars at work
We showed the camp manager our Official Piece of Paper and he happily flagged us through. We traipsed the twenty or so minutes through the camp and came upon a mass of people receiving food packages.
I was happily snapping away on my camera when an irate man came up to us and demanded we leave and that I stop taking photos. Turns out that it was the same guy who attempted to wrestle Gigi's camera off the last time we were here. I showed him the piece Official Piece of Paper, which he read and said, "I have read your piece of paper, but you may not be here. You come back tomorrow."
Some heated arguments ensued between Mzunugus (white person), Ugandans and official guy. We eventually decided to leave and go back to the camp manager and told him what had happened. He said that the stoopid guy had no right to kick us out from the camp, but could ask us to leave the food distribution area.
I was pissed. I wanted to go back and confront the guy, but Amos insisted we didn't "for the sake of peace". We didn't go back.
Now this whole sorry tale raises a couple of interesting points.
Firstly, why didn't the guy want us at the food distribution point? Why did he not want me to take photos of him doing a "good deed"? The short answer is that he didn't want any photographs or independent accounts of his corruption. You see, not all of the food goes to the hungry. A lot of it will get kept by corrupt guy and then sold for profit. Git. Profiting from the misery of his own people. He reminded me a lot of Semeh Roberts.
Rose said that what he most feared that we would tell others of his corruption, he would lose his contract to distribute food, and then - of course - lose any money that he was making. And he was damn right to fear, cause here I am telling his story!
Which kinda brings me on to my second point. I got a bee in my bonnet and wanted to pick a fight. If he wouldn't listen to me, then I'd go over his head. Go right to the head of the UN itself if necessary. I wanted to write to Kofi Anan and say, "Hey buddy. Lemme tell what is happening in Kitgum...."
But then, you think some more. If I - a dumb Mzungu tourist - could find out what was happening, then surely the head of the UN would of as well. It is no Big Secret what is happening at Kitgum. Kofi Anan knows. President Bush knows. But for stupid reasons too big for me to deal with, it continues to happen.
So, I guess the moral of this story is to know which fights to pick. There is not a damn thing I can do to solve the problem of people selling aid packages for profit. Me getting shot would be the most likely outcome. I would be against that....
So Amos was right, for the sake of peace, we were best advised just to ignore the whole thing and walk away...
* Though thankfully not at the moment due to the ongoing peace talks.
2005, 2006 and 2007 Malcolm Trevena.