Thursday, August 11, 2011

Refusing Corruption

Uganda is a lot of things; it holds beautiful scenery, wonderful people, it is cheap, it is dirty, and it is also corrupt. Throughout my experiences in Uganda and with corruption I have come to believe it begins on the top political levels, and has trickled down to all levels of society. Those with power have led by example, and decades of influence have certainly left their impression.

My first experience has been recurring every day: Muzungu Pricing. How can a business charge different prices based on skin color? Because they expect that I have money do they deserve to take more? At first I was amused but no more. While visiting Rwanda (due to visa complications and the need for a mini vacation) we experienced minimal muzungu pricing, and we especially noticed the difference in the organization of the transportation system. The bodas (moto taxis in Rwanda) were required to carry helmets for their passengers, and thus could only carry one person. Yesterday I saw three adults and two children on a boda in Jinja. Also it is so not okay to bribe your way onto a taxi bus. Bribery in general is a big no-no. ... Of course once we were back in Uganda we may or may not have bribed the bus driver to get us from Kampala to Jinja.

A Rwandan described the unorganized transportation chaos as corruption. I was relieved to hear him say this, as I was having trouble accounting these problems as corruption, thinking I was being too critical.

Other experiences that have reached me personally include having the electricity cut, for various reasons, for over a week at both my home and at work. My family did not want to report the man who conned them. They explained two reasons for not reporting; he is the friend of a friend, and revenge is very common. With David going off to school, he fears the man would come after their home to harm the family for costing him his job. They also say he is conning other people so someone else will report him… probably.

The final experience I will share here has been one of poor leadership. A Sacco under ORUDE has been having trouble with the treasurer not turning in the money he collects from members. Another intern with FSD faced similar challenges of a chairperson using the funds they raised to buy goat feed for his farm. I am amazed and confused as to how people can remain in their positions after raising such distrust. And how can they walk around their community, around their friends and colleagues when everyone knows what they have done?

These challenges and more have been frustrating throughout the summer as I acclimated to the business cultures here. I have high hopes for Uganda’s future, that someone will decide to sacrifice and lead by example, refuse the corruption, and bring along the slow and tedious process of raising Uganda’s standards.

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