Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Quest to Get Chapatti and the Lack of the Capitalist Mindset

My housemate, Kate, and I went to get chapatti. Remember, chapatti is the amazing Ugandan tortilla that is one of the best flat breads I have ever put in my mouth.

Our house sits on a hill and if you go down the hill, it is slums on either side; this slum area is appropriately called "the go down". The go down has probably 8 chapatti stands, so we didn't think we would have any trouble getting a chapatti.

We went to the first stand. I walk up and say nothing, but the guy says "not yet" . . . not yet what? . . . i was really confused. So, I ask him what he is talking about, and he just repeats himself. So, i finally deduce, that although he has a table full of dough balls (that just need to be rolled flat and put on the hot plate), he is not currently making chapattis, even though he has a customer willing to buy them.

So, we go across the street (literally) and there are 2 guys frying up chapattis. We ask them for 6 chapattis and they say "yes, 3,000". Now 300 Ugandan Shillings is about $0.15, but the guy directly across the street and the other stands I have gone to sell chapatti for 200 which is about $0.10. So, the price difference is very small, but I hate being taken advantage of, so we say "no! we can get it for 200 just up the road" and walk away. They don't even stop us, even though they know we will get it for 200 elsewhere.

So, we go to another stand. Once again, this stand has rolled up dough that is ready to be rolled out and fried. There are 2 guys behind the counter and I make my order and they stare at me. From my experience here, when people don't understand you, they just stare. So, I repeat myself slower, and the guy says "It's over." And I was like, what!?!?! . . . He said "its over" as if he was breaking up with, but that couldn't be it. And the dough was there, so they can't be finished making chapattis . . . then finally the guy that I bought chapattis from last time I came to this stand showed up and said they would fry some up for us.

It was mind boggling that people at these shops were so unwilling to fry up chapattis. I mean, they are chapatti stands frist of all. Second, these things are really cheap, we are in a really poor area, and I doubt they get many orders that large. So, this should be a great opportunity to get some business and keep business from us. The capitalist mindset just really has not set in among the chapatti dealers of the Naguru go down of Kampala. Not to mention that once again, I am having communication breakdown left and right!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Riots in Kampala

Kampala erupted with fires, tires, road blocks, demonstrations, tear gas, and looting yesterday. Riots had started in a nearby town called Kyunga earlier this week, but have since moved to Kampala.

The issue is this: the Baganda tribe's king (kabaka) is trying to take a tour of the country (or just regions of the country). Now, the Baganda are the largest ethnic group in Uganda and is the vast majority in the central region which includes Kampala. However, there is a sub-ethnic group within the Baganda tribe called Banyara who actually want to have their own king and do not recognize the Baganda king as their king even though they are part of the Baganda tribe. So, this small group, which is being backed by the government (the government is in the business of divide and rule in order to maintain power), is preventing teh king from visiting these different areas. They and the police are blocking the King's way out of Kampala.

So, the Baganda people are rioting in order to break down the police barriers and allow the king to get through.

President Museveni (who is actually a dictator, not a democratically elected president althought that is what he says . . . Uganda is not a democracy really) is trying to meet with the king but he won't meat with him because the king cannot talk to commoners (Museveni is seen as a commoner and is actually not even Baganda but is Munyankole).

So, anyway, the riots continue and people are freaking out here. In fact in a suburb called Wandegeya, the rioters have taken control of a police post.

The most interesting thing it that teh government is making such a big deal about htis when most government leaders are Munyankole. This really is not their dispute, but they are strongly taking sides with the Banyara. This is not hte first time Museveni has done this. He has been slowly breaking apart the Baganda nation. He as already crowned kings of the Banyala, Baluli, and Sabakoki groups which were all sub-groups within Baganda. So, it seems that Museveni is trying to break down the Baganda tribe and thus weeken it. By doing that, he also gains support of those parts of the Baganda because he is the one that crowned their king and thus they will support him. I am guessing that Museveni sees the Baganda as the greatest threat to his power, so he is attacking them before they attack him. This is a very intersting mix of inter- and intra- ethnic politics and conflict.