Greetings to you all,
I hope that you are well.
It has been a very sad week in Uganda because on Tuesday, we had three explosions at the Central Police Station and next to the Parliament of Uganda. These explosions happened around 9AM as many people headed to their workplaces. Some reports say up to 25 people died but the official number released is 7. This was not the first bombing; in fact, we have had 4 other bomb blasts in the last 3 months. This has been the most bombings since late-1986 when Museveni went to the bush to fight against then-president Idi Amin Dada. An Islamist organization with known links to ISIS has claimed responsibility. Ugandan security forces say at least three of the dead were suicide bombers.
I was strictly advised to remain home for the whole week as the level of insecurity within the city increased. There has been a high level of military and police deployment around the city as more threats flooded the country claiming that more bombs have been planted around the city and that places which are flooded with people within the city including road junctions with high traffic are some of the targeted areas.
As a result of all the bombings and threats, news media says that at least 10 people suspected of being involved have been killed by security forces. Social media and public opinion, however, says that likely their only crime was being Muslims. Many people, and of course this includes non-Muslims, are horrified and shocked that this profiling has happened. Some people say it has been tough recently to walk in the city with a big beard as most are looked at or treated like terrorists.
When there is such action or event, surely there is no way we can communicate goodness but rather we send positive thoughts to all Ugandans and all people who were affected including the families of the bomb victims and the families of the people who have been unjustly killed.
This week’s follow-up was done on phone except for the one visit I made on Monday to pay for Jolly’s training fees. Jolly is one of the daughters of Francoise L. who has been part of our program since 2014 when we had just started. We have seen this girl grow and study as a child, now she has grown into a young adult and we thought that the best way to send this young girl to the world was by equipping her with a vocational skill. Jolly wanted to do food catering about 2 years ago but then the pandemic hit and schools were closed. There was a promise that schools would reopen but before she could get admitted into the school, they were eventually closed again because of the second wave. Since that second wave in March 2021 hit, schools have never been reopened until recently. I remained in touch with them and always reminded them of this opportunity Jolly had received. About two months ago she decided to train in hairdressing and I spoke to her about this change but also the responsibility to give back by helping her mother daily.
Francoise, Jolly’s mother, suffers from a long-term illness and has been under medication for years now. Regardless of her state of health, Francoise, as many of you have read here, has fought against all odds to support her family for as long as she has been healthy. She has opened up businesses ranging from making a local brew, soap, selling dried food like beans, maize, and many others. She has done all sorts of business and has educated almost all her kids to the best of her ability. I share this with you because I want to paint a picture for you as to where our relationship has come from with this family and the decision we made.
While we support mothers with small businesses so they may in turn support their children in school, we don’t offer scholarships or bursaries of any kind. However, in some cases, we support short-term training like these that eventually become an income-earning activity for the intended persons.
This week I went down to Namuwongo, one of the slums where we have been working over the last 6-7 years. I met Jolly and her mother Francoise, went down to a local salon that she had identified, and paid for her training fees for 4 months. Both Francoise and her daughter agree that this course of action is the best for the entire family. This training and trade will help Jolly spend more time at home but also be able to work or train at the same time.
I called almost all other Mama’s to ensure that they are fine and the following paragraphs are what transpired during our conversations.
Irene L. our salonist made it back to the city safely and she is back at the salon in Namuwongo, Kampala. She left Gulu on Tuesday morning and she left all her kids safe plus she also bought them food just before she left. During our conversation before she left, she told me that she was broke and she didn’t have any money to come back to the city but also to buy food for her kids. She was coming back from a bad month from which she lost her mother, her first son had an accident and her youngest son got sick from malaria. She had outspent herself and had no money at all so I sent her money for both transport and for food. I am glad that she bought them food and also made it back to town in one shape. She has reopened her salon because she has a lot to catch up on the lost time. The festive season is closing in and she needs to set up and get gear up for the season.
Florence A. another salonist is also well. She is safe and was very far away from bomb sites. She says she only heard the sound of the explosion because Namuwongo is not too far from the city center. She didn’t realize it was a bomb until she heard it on the news minutes later.
The business is doing okay, she said. She took the opportunity to remind me of a boost she had requested that she would need around this time. She wants to buy most of the popular hair braids she usually uses to braid womens’ hair plus chemicals just before the festive season kicks in and prices rise.
Rovence N. our restaurateur is doing okay. Kisugu is the area where Rovence operates her local restaurant and it’s not far from Namuwongo so she also heard the explosion. She is safe and so is her family too.
The restaurant is doing okay, she said. Customers have become more consistent because I think almost everyone has returned to full service and work. Many people have gotten the vaccine and people are more involved in work than before. There is such a high level of poverty, and although when people work they may not earn enough to save anything, they can at least afford meals. I was glad this was happening for her and I hope this continues throughout the festive season.
Jennifer N. one of our Mama’s who works more centrally in the city more than any other Mama in the program is safe and doing well. She heard both explosions go off but didn’t realize what it was but moments later, her building was closed and people started vacating the city. Jennifer sells second-hand shoes in one of the shopping malls downtown and these buildings are usually filled with people who come to buy shoes both for resale and personal use. At the time of my conversation with her, she was already at home and she was well. Her building, like many of the other buildings, was closed due to fear and rumors about more bombs being planted in and around town.
Otherwise, Jennifer and her family are safe and well. She was back to work a few days later because she had to work. It is the same story for many Ugandans that they will tend to move on much quicker or faster than they ought to. I am glad that nothing has happened since Tuesday, concerning the bombings but rather only arrests and the killing of these 10 people who were suspected to be part of the act.
Margaret N. is also doing okay and safely at home. She lives in a place called Kawempe so unlike the earlier few, she didn’t hear the sound until someone told her. She was at her home and during my phone call, she had just gone to visit an old friend.
She is well and has not yet resumed business. She is still undergoing rehabilitation for her foot and also building a plan for what is next for her.
Anna M. who has been off the grid with me for a while is also doing fine. Anna is one of the people who have been working with us in our reproductive health classes and also during the processes of interviews with our Mamas.
She has now moved to a place or district called Mukono where she will be doing all her work and life at the moment. She told me that she needed a place that was good and relatively cheaper to be able to sustain her family. She has four wonderful children that she has been raising all by herself. She said that Mukono is cheaper to rent and also food is cheaper in the new place. She currently doesn’t have a business venture at the moment but told me she is working on a few things and she promised me that she is well.
Aidah K. is doing okay. She was telling me that she had just come from a bad week because she had just visited the dentist. She was telling me that, before this, she was just hearing about toothaches but now she appreciates this. It is very characteristic for most Ugandans to not visit a dentist at all. She visited one a few days ago and lots of her teeth were taken out. She told me that she actually didn’t hear the blasts at all. She only heard word going around that two bombs exploded in town. Aidah is one of the Mama’s who goes shopping in town every now and then as she buys vegetables and re-sells them in her stall. Luckily for her, Aidah has not been going to town to buy vegetables, and also she doesn’t go to that particular side of town. She goes to the opposite side at a market called Nakawa market. This market is where most rural dwellers buy agricultural produce.
Harriet L. is doing well and safe. She is continuing in her small retail tailor shop. There is nothing much going on with her but is continuing with her business as usual.
Annet C. the salonist is good. She lives incredibly far from Kampala as her salon is in a place called Mukono, actually closer to Anna M. She didn’t hear about the explosion at all. She also owns a decoration business and she was planning to visit the town to buy some materials that she would need.
I was concerned about her husband because the last time I heard, he was working in the central district but she told me he doesn’t work there anymore because he found a new job in another district but he has not worked for the last two weeks because they don’t have funding.
Jane N. water tank one has been well and also the business has been good because of the heat in the last few weeks. The sun has been so hot and her water business has been doing well. This water business is one of the most volatile businesses in Uganda as it changes a lot especially due to the weather. Kampala weather is very tricky and changes in no time. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Jane’s business being on the low and now it is back up.
She is well and her entire family is safe. None of them was affected by the blast.
Jane N. water tank two was also not affected by the blast as she was far from Kampala. She has been traveling between her village and town over the last few months because of her farming activities but also because her property is under the process of sale to some developers. She has and is not doing anything with her water tank until it is ready to be moved to her new home when discussions are over and the deal is settled.
Otherwise, she is safe and so is her family, none of them was directly affected by the blast.
Justine N. continues to recover steadily which I am glad for. Her plans to diversify her business continue to grow in her mind and that is good as this is a driver for execution. I will continue to walk by her side to see and determine when she needs help. Baby thoughts like these need a lot of encouragement, especially at these stages.
Rashida S. is doing okay. She had just come back from her market day buying vegetables. The business was slow a bit last week but has seemingly increased this time around. Her only challenge has been the sun that tends to scorch the vegetables at her stall display.
Semmy S. continues to be joyful as she is very grateful for life. She has a personal agenda to stay positive and remain positive no matter the situation. She was able to continue with her tutor obligations with her pupils throughout the week. Semmy is one of our Mamas who has been with us since 2015 doing popcorn at the school she taught at during that time. She drifted into new ventures like vegetable selling and soap making over these last few years. She is not concentrated on soap making and tutoring for a few pupils and one special-needs child.
Christine N. is doing okay. She has been struggling a bit this past week as her chickens seemed to have fallen sick. She got them treated and they are responding to the treatment and medication they were given. She was worried about them because the second batch for her last year didn’t go well because of disease so she is trying to do her best this time. She struggled with feeds a couple of weeks ago but we were able to fill in for her.
Otherwise, she is doing well and her pigs are doing well too.
Annet N. who makes porridge and tea at the roadside in Kyengera is doing okay. The business was a bit slow because of the hot sun: it was scorching hot last week even by 10AM. Most people naturally stayed away from hot tea and porridge during this time.
Finally, I wanted to end with one story that seemed captivating to me when I was talking to Hadija. Hadija makes and sells chips or french fries at the roadside in a place called Tula-Kirokole, I know this may seem like a hard word to pronounce but say “two-la chi-row-call-ee”. We were speaking with her about her business and she told me that when curfew time comes, they simply carry their items behind the shop blocks and continue so as to cook longer. Most of their customers know and they just walk as if they are going to their home behind the shops. I thought, well this is a brilliant way to continue making money until their food is completely finished.
At the start of all this pandemic situation as most countries did, they set curfews and all these restrictions that would help to hinder the spread of the virus. I must say that the majority of these measures helped countries like Uganda to limit the spread of the virus but what the government forgot was the economic burden it left most of the families that were vulnerable to poverty. I may not directly support the disobedience but for people like Hadija who survive on hand to mouth, they can’t survive if they buy food and they don’t sell it all. They have to be creative so as not to eat all the capital they have and they can’t sell all the food in the 3 hours they are allowed to operate before 7 pm.
I am glad that it looks like the insecurity situation is coming under control but we can never know for sure with these kinds of random attacks. Just two months ago we were dealing with a bomb blast at a local drinking joint and a bus in transit bombs, now three more serious explosions at the Central Police Station and Parliament Kampala and next to the parliament of Uganda. We are keeping our fingers crossed that for the remainder of the year nothing like this happens.
Thank you for reading and following our work, we appreciate your time and support. Please keep us in your positive thoughts that a country Uganda remains peaceful through these tough times.
Director of Programs, Uganda.
ISEE Solutions Society.