Tuesday, June 28, 2005

so, i guess peaceful protest ain't on the 'yessir' list

So, a couple of hours ago I headed downtown on a boda boda to meet Katie for lunch at Cafe Pap. As we (me and the boda driver) headed into town and onto Kampala Road, I felt my phone vibrate and answered it while still driving along on the motorcycle. It was Katie calling to warn me 'not to go on Kampala road, there's this massive protest going on.' To which I replied, "Too late! Already on Kampala Rd! And i can hear the protest I think I'm getting..." and then I hung up before I was able to finish my sentence with the word 'close'. I had frantically shoved my phone back into my bag and started yelling at the driver to GO GO GO because i looked behind me and realised we were about 20 feet ahead of a police truck that was spewing tear gas at the protesters. At the moment i saw the truck so did everyone else - and everyone just took off, running in all directions. The protesters themselves seemed pretty oblivious until the last minute and probably got the worst of it. The boda boda driver swerved off down a sidestreet to get out of the 'line of fire' and I speed-walked down towards Katie's office to warn her not to come up to Kampala Road to meet me. (We had lunch at a Ugandan restaurant near her office instead, as it meant we wouldn't have cross the teargassed Kampala Road. I had matoke, potato, beans, greens, cassava and chicken stew for lunch. ) An hour later after we'd eaten, I headed back up to Kampala Rd (I needed to go to the forex bureau) only to discover that people were still walking around with handkercheifs over their noses and mouths. I tried to breathe as little as possible (easier said than done) and got away with a sneeze or two.

Incidentally, this is actually the second time in the last few months that I've been in the line of fire of tear gassing. The first incident also involved me being in the wrong place at the wrong time, when I was heading to my apartment, located about half a mile from Makerere University. Apparently the student elections there are pretty controvertial stuff, and the police truck with the gas tanks was leaking so badly that that my cab driver had to pull over so we could each scramble blindly for our door handles so that we could get out of the tear-gas-filled car and and cough and sneeze and scratch out our eyes for a couple of minutes. When we got back to my apartment I invited the taxi driver in for a glass of water, as we were both having trouble with the 'breathing' and thing.

Both of these incidents involved pretty peaceful protest. I mean, how violent could student elections have gotten? And from what I saw of the protest today, the weapon of choice was slogan-bearing placards and chanting.

Could some aid agency please give the Kampala City Police some megaphones? (Or, alternatively, a crash course in Intro to Democracy?)


At 6:53 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it odd that people take to the streets for student elections. This is a very foreign concept for me. I appreciate the passion and the drama of you being involved in it. Did you have an inner urge to join the protest - deep down the Queen's AMSer in you must have wanted to express herself. Brett

At 4:35 p.m., Blogger Deanna said...

You gotta get over the AMS thing, man!

That people would get animated enough over student elections to warrant tear gas seems pretty weird to me too. I was actually just driving past the campus on my home that day though, and am generally just pissed off with the addition of bad traffic (on a better day) or tear gas (that day) to my life as a result of all that activism!!

Congrats on the first blog comment, brett! ;-)

At 5:19 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard the students really did get violent though. You know those two German girls I know, Paul's ex girlfriend and the girl that dates the guy you think is anoying with the big hair. Well they both go to the university through an exchange thing and they said that week was terrible, that the two sides would start stoning each other spontaneously. Betty stopped going to class after she got caught in the middle of a stoning. The whole week they said all the students not involved were running back and forth to classes and lots stopped going to school because they were afraid. Apparently the universities are even crazier in Kenya and thats why so many Kenyans come to University in Uganda and not the other way around.

At 10:11 a.m., Blogger Deanna said...

hmm, I didn't know that! I just knew that I saw that the campus seemed totally silent at the time, i didn't see people around, and I made assumptions.

By the way, i'm guessing that you're Kelly, anonymous? I'm not sure who the annoying person is... maybe you can tell me on email ;-)

At 12:17 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't imagine things ever gettnig to the point of teargassing over student elections at York. I can, however, see me teargassing the most nervously annoying research methods prof in the world...

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