Uganda Days 52 & 53: First Police Visit
I tried to do write a post last night, but both my computer and the internet decided to have a meltdown. So here we are instead, two days in one!
As I mentioned in the last post, Wednesday morning I had to get up bright and early so that I could get to work in time to leave for an event. I was going with another person in my division, Rebecca. I arrived before 8 (which is when we were planning to leave), but then there were no drivers around. So we waited for another one to show up, but then there were no cars available—apparently they were all in the shop or otherwise broken down. So we tried to find alternative transportation, and in the end, someone who was driving to a meeting agreed to drop us off at the venue, though she was driving an FHRI car, so I guess they found one? When she tried to start it nothing happened, and we thought the battery was dead—but luckily it was just because the car was in drive instead of park, for whatever reason.
We were finally on our way. When all was said and done we got to the hotel a little more than an hour late, which is not terrible by Ugandan standards. It was the same hotel where we launched the election report, though in a smaller room. They had already started. It's a bit of a shame we got there late, because there was actually a buffet and some breakfast stuff, but the room was quite intimate and speakers were presenting, so it would have been disruptive to get up to get food, especially since I was the only muzungu in the place. So I had to wait it out, but I survived. Here's the only picture I could get whilst remaining discrete during the presentations.
It was a fairly interesting event. Basically the whole point behind it was to have a discussion on a draft bill for protecting the rights of "human rights defenders" and making a new body to govern it and things like that. It wrapped up around lunch time, and thankfully there was still some food left, so I didn't starve. Afterwards we took bodas back to the office, where I spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the ever delightful task of transcribing.
After work I had plans to meet André for what was probably our final weekly dinner (he leaves next week). We met at a place called The Bistro, which doesn't really have a particular geographic specialty, unlike our previous dinners. Still, it was good. We had some nachos (which were surprisingly amazing) and then I went for some fish.
We weren't really feeling the desserts on the menu, so we decided to take advantage of being right across the road from Acacia Mall and had some ice cream at Patisserie instead. Also an espresso in my case.
Ive already mentioned the computer troubles I had when I got home from dinner, which brings me to today. We had an interview at 10 this morning, with the Executive Director of an organization called Chapter Four. I think this might have been my favourite interview so far. He was so interesting. He's done all kinds of things, like being part of the challenge to the anti-homosexuality bill and drafting the very first iteration of the anti-torture law back when it was just a glimmer in an NGO's eye.
Then in the afternoon, we did our first visit to a police station. It was me, Aliana, Rebecca, and another guy in our division named Rashid. Quite a learning experience. We first interviewed the Officer in Charge [OC] of the station, who seemed quite friendly. After that came the more challenging part—interviewing detainees. We started by going to the holding cell—first the women's, then the men's—where we picked out the people we wanted to interview (based on how long they'd been there, etc.). The smell inside the men's cell was unreal.
We then took over the OC's office as detainees were brought in for the interviews. Normally we would all be doing interviews on our own to make the process go faster, but because it was my and Aliana's first time doing this we paired up. Unlike the other interviews we've been doing, these ones aren't recorded, and heaven knows that if I was responsible for interviewing and taking notes at the same time, I'd probably come away with nothing. Though I suppose I will have to learn that skill eventually.
I wouldn't say we were great at doing these interviews, but we got through, and it was a learning experience for sure. I'll have a much better idea of what to expect next time (although all police stations are different) and a better idea of how to interact with detainees. It was difficult...as soon as they see you they think you're here to help them, and many start clamouring to tell you their story and how they are innocent. We try to follow up with the police about some people here and there, but really, we can't do much.
Anyway, it was interesting. I can't say I'm looking forward to doing more of this, but at least I'll have some sense of what it's like.
I just got home from work, and I have a hundred things I need to do, so I'm going to wrap this up. As I mentioned, I'm going on safari this weekend! We leave super early Friday morning, so rather than trying to get across town at that time, I'm just staying at their hostel in Kampala tonight (which is where we leave from). That means I need to finish this, find something to eat, figure out what to pack, actually pack, and then grab an Uber out to the hostel. Packing is going to be a bit of a nightmare, since I really need to pack light.
I should be back on Sunday evening, though how late will depend on traffic and everything else. I have no idea whether I'll have internet access up there, so if you don't here from me for three days, that's why! But if there is internet, I'm sure i'll be on Snapchat and things. As for the blog, I probably won't be posting again until Monday or Tuesday.
Alright, that's it for now. Back in a few days. Wish me luck!