Until you take a closer look at the relationships between the republic of Uganda and the democratic one of Congo, you may not easily understand why one should invest millions of dollars to build roads in the other. Now Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Felix Tshisekedi are pushing ahead at full throttle to build Uganda supported roads in DRC.
The reasons are partly hidden in the arbitrary borders drawn by a group of outsiders sitting in Berlin some 136 years ago. The symptoms from the arbitrary borders became nakedly manifest through more recent events in the region, making it inevitable to conclude that Uganda must build those roads, and should actually have started building them at the two countries’ independence six decades ago.
One symptom manifested two weeks ago as media reported how Ugandans who want to dance have to travel to the Congo. For since President Museveni first locked down the country after Covid-19 struck a year and a half ago, the one activity he has vehemently refused to consider easing even a minuscule bit is dancing, with its mother clubbing and father called drinking in bars.
If your happy citizens need to travel to another country to enjoy their hard-earned money, building roads there so they move smoothly and return quickly in time for to work the next day “has no Satan in it,” to put it in Kampala-speak.
But besides going to DR Congo to make merry as we do in current times, Ugandans went there in the past to fight wars. Rebels went there first and the Uganda government secured permission to take its troops into Congo to fight its rebels. But when government boys were in Congo they did not just make war; they also made love; and very well too. So when time to pull out came, the Congolese women were not willing to be separated from their Ugandan lovers.
Thousands of Congolese women trekked hundreds of kilometres to follow their men into Uganda. Before embarking on the hazardous journey on foot, the Congolese women were blessed by priests — real regular padres in mostly Catholic churches — calling on the Almighty God to accord them protection and strength on their trek to follow their men to their new home.
The trek of love makes sense when you remember that Congo has been described as the worst place to be a woman, because local militias and most foreign armies alike rape and abuse females of all ages at will. So when soldiers of one country consistently treated the Congo women with tender love and care for the years they spent there, it was only logical that the women didn’t want them to go, and when they had to leave, they simply followed them.
When men live with women and in love, the natural outcome are children. How many babies? Heaven knows, but a quarter of a century has passed since battalions of Ugandan soldiers first went to DR Congo and stayed there almost a decade. Given the intensity of the amorous activities and the early age at which these things are started in this region of high female fertility, we can conservatively say that the ensuing human products and the subsequent products of the first product now number over a million. So how can Uganda deny its own children basic services like roads?
And then the arbitrary borders thing. People in Uganda’s south western districts have had land shortage for decades. Some relocated northward to Bunyoro in the mid-west and they were discriminated. Then they started going to farm in Congo by the day and returning to Uganda at night. Now you no longer hear of land pressures, thanks to our gardens in the Congo. Our even got wives and children in Congo. Can we deny our families roads because of a foreign drawn borderline?
In Uganda’s districts bordering Congo, half of the student population in some schools are Congolese. They leave their homes very early in the morning, make an international journey across the frontier to go to school. In the evening, they make another international journey to go home.
Uganda’s National Medical Stores in Entebbe gets constant reminders by public hospital managers in western districts that supplies allocated to them are far below their requirements as they are based on the populations of the districts, without including an equal or bigger population of our people on the other side of the border.
Matters spiritual are also shared. Go to churches in far west districts when researching a story (priests know a lot of stuff about the society) and many times, you find that the priest is away, having gone to Congo to teach Catechism, pray for a sick parishioner and such other priestly roles. Our priests also need good roads to go and minister to their parishioners. And yes, we also need to promote some earthly business and trade, hence our passionate road building in Congo.
Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail: [email protected]