Long time ago, after living in Uganda for 3 years, I made the following statement: “Those Ugandans are kind to us mzungus (whites), but hard on each other.” Well, either I was way off… and if so, willingly admit it… or things have changed. That was around the year 2000, and Peyton my son and I were still reeling from all our crazy African adventures. Perhaps I was a bit hasty, for here in this land, manners prevail. Kindhearted and obliging is an accurate description, and fortunately, I’m smothered within almost 24 hours a day.
The other day my friend and I had just off-loaded from the boda boda (motor cycle and driver that can even carry two) at our destination. As we walked away my friend noticed an elderly lady slowly making her way to the same boda. He took action and called to the driver to wait. He then assisted the woman. Examples such as these are common. My recent bus trip up country to Gulu, Uganda was an eye-opener. Sitting in row one allowed me to discover the intense road etiquette that rules. Everyone cooperates. From helping each other know when to pass, to obvious warnings of police speed traps, to moving off the road to allow passage, they appear to confederate.
However, paradoxically Africans fight. The war in the north came to an end only three years ago. Before that the town of Gulu was host to hundreds of UN workers there making effort to keep peace. The streets were loaded with children sleeping in town to escape being kidnapped and forced to fight. There was even a curfew. The Lords Resistance Army lead attacks on ordinary citizens, cutting off lips, ears, or tongues whenever they saw fit. The atrocities went on for decades and the scars of war are forever present.
Perhaps a history of war since colonial times has encouraged this welcomed wave of mutual respect. Even children are well-behaved and blend with the general population, sticking close to their parents at all times. Ask a Ugandan how things are here and they will almost always say, “Perfect. We are free and we are happy.” Whatever has caused the change is worth the recognition. At present, this is truly a peaceful country; full of dreams, life, and most of all, obvious regard for anyone who participates.