Take a stroll, you will find the homeless people of Uganda on main streets, markets, nooks and alleys. During the day, most are invisible. They blend with other kampalans. The homeless of all ages sleep on street verandas at night – children, teenagers, old men and women waiting to die. Those that were are street born, those that came seeking a better future, the trafficked, the battered women escaping abuse.
Let them go back to the villages where they came from- some Ugandans said when I asked them. But why did they run away from their homes in the first place? Hunger, stinking poverty, despicable health and education services. They are lazy, that is why they are on the streets -some said – but if lazy means small sized men carrying 200-kilogramme sacks on their backs only to sleep in alleys and use concrete as their pillow – I need to cross-check my dictionary.
Call me naïve, but there is certainly something we are getting wrong.
Let me rant.
The police are active in arresting, bundling and beating up the homeless, the city council is desperate to remove them off the streets. Like a herdsman spraying stubborn ticks off his cattle. Energy has been invested in keeping away street vendors to modernise the city more like covering a rotting wound without sanitising it. Why there are many homeless people on our streets is a question that we are yet to ask. One that we shall only move on when we get an answer. And many a pay-cheque away from homelessness. And then we wonder why kifeesi terrorises Ugandans. The kids grew up to be men- hardened by cold and concrete.
The theft of public finances headline newspapers only to be forgotten the next day, public servants that go to address villagers dressed in suits, driving luxurious fuel guzzling automobiles, large per diems if summed up can feed an entire village for a month. Parliament is only full to capacity when allowances, salaries, money for iPads and money for big cars, debating removing income tax for their salaries. What plans does this parliament of owls I mean legislators have for the homeless Ugandans?
The pulpit is preaching prosperity, the preachers getting richer, their cars getting bigger and their homes getting larger. Their churches getting fuller. The message on their lips. Sow a seed, sow a seed and you will get bigger miracles. Night prayers and fellowships dominated by supplications casting out the demons of poverty. Ever innovating ways of leeching their forlorn flock; holy rice, holy water, plant holy trees and poverty will never come to your home. Selling hope in kilos. “How many kilos of hope do you want ma’am?” Rather than “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers.”
The civil society gathers in swanky hotels over sumptuous lunches, teas, coffees and dinners to discuss Sustainable goal number one to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2030.
Uganda is scoring well on hosting refugees- 1.8 million of them- The whole world is proud of us. How about we also invest in the child of the house as well? Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Katumba Badru, an Award winning freelance photographer has captured homelessness in Kampala with his camera.