Travel Diary, Day 2: The Past, Present, and Future of Uganda

YouthAIDS founder and vice president Kate Roberts travels to Uganda.

After a middle-of-the-night arrival and a cold shower this morning, Robert, my driver for the week, takes me on a bumpy road to the office. I then realize why Winston Churchill calls this country "The Pearl of Africa." There are the most gorgeous flowers everywhere — so green and lush, and a wonderful sense of calm. I was greeted at the office by Rodio Diallo, the YouthAIDS country director. Originally from Senegal, she has served in a number of PSI countries, including Togo, Haiti, and Mali. She talked with enthusiasm about our work and her staff, and I was soon to discover why.

The staff that I met — Twebesse, Lillian, Milly, Jackie, Muna, and others — were very impressive, all perfectly qualified and capable of working for an international company. All had studied at foreign universities and gushed with such passion about their work with PSI. They expressed that even though they had been educated in England, they felt a need to come back to serve in Uganda to make their country a better place.

It was a good day today for PSI Uganda: The Queen of Uganda had recorded radio spots for us to talk about the dangers of "sugar daddies." Queen Silvia is an advocate for reducing "cross-generational sex," and there was an article in the national paper about it. Any public figure coming out like this on such a controversial subject really helps us with our work.

Today I also learned about Idi Amin. When asked to talk about him, voices got louder, and it was explained that life was impossible. Roadblocks on every corner, women being raped at road junctions, men with guns everywhere, people disappearing, and so on. Every family lost at least one relative.

Our cameraman, Tendo, told me a story that while his uncle was celebrating his engagement, the rebels arrived and took him away. He was punished for having a party and was never seen again. I inquired if they had seen the movie The Last King of Scotland. Indeed, it had run for a month in Uganda, but apparently it did not even begin to talk of the terror that ended just two decades ago.

Then came The Lord's Resistance Army, which still rules today. The LRA has driven people into camps in the North of Uganda. There are about 1.6 million displaced people, refugees in their own country. Some have now been there for more than 20 years.

Kate's previous diary entries

Day 1: Off to Africa