Kenya Project Trip Part III of III

The project team, overlooking Lake Nakuru National Park. (L to R: architect Jill, civil engineer Elisa, Jason, architect intern Jaclyn, civil intern Travis, architect Casey, ag engineer Roger, and me)

It's a small national park compared to Masai Mara and the others in Kenya, but it was loaded with rhinos and flamingoes (we saw about 20 rhinos). We did a 4-hour safari drive on the last day as a closing time activity. The park was actually about a mile down the road from our hotel.


On Thursday, as we returned to work on the project, we began to hear reports from back home that riots had broken out in Kampala. Since this is not all that unusual of an occurrence (maybe once or twice a year), we weren’t too concerned about it. But on Friday morning, Alisha called me with panic in her voice telling me that they had just announced that they were closing the school for the day since the riots were spreading out from the city center into other parts of town. Alisha was pretty scared and started crying since it was sounding like her worst nightmare could be playing out – that is, that some type of mass chaos would break out while I am away on a project trip. After we hung up, I thought through a plan for her trying to think of any and all contingencies – if these riots were to explode into a civil war (a la Rwanda or Kenya), she would likely need to be supplied for several days or weeks and could possibly not be able to leave the compound. If things progressed from bad to worse, she could possibly even need to be ready to evacuate in a moment’s notice (obviously a very dire, worst-case scenario and highly unlikely, but nonetheless a possibility).
So I called her back and told her to run to the store on her way home and take out as much money as she could, pickup any food supplies she would need for a week, buy as much phone airtime as she could, and then go home and pack a small backpack of money, our passports, and our external hard drive containing all our information backed up.
It turns out she was stuck at the school for another 2 1/2 hours after talking to me waiting for all of her students to be picked up. Apparently, the town had been shut down and getting from one place to another was very difficult for some of the parents. As she waited, she began hearing some of the stories and rumors from people arriving – gunshots heard down on Gaba Road (about a kilometer from our house), the rioters trying to shut down the communication towers (i.e. cutting off cell phones), and people seeing bodies in the street. Of course, most of these were an exaggeration to some degree, but when you’re in the middle of a crisis it’s easy to believe some of these stories. One friend said her husband was stuck at the ARA club since the security guards wouldn’t let them leave. There was rioting out front and someone had been shot by the police or military that were now moving in on the city to try to restore order.
After the emotional day we had had the day before, I could not believe that we were again in crisis mode. I couldn’t stop pacing, trying to think 4 steps ahead for Alisha, and plan for contingencies that would include her and the boys being evacuated out of Uganda, or us losing cell phone contact. I felt bad for her, as she usually doesn’t have to think of such things since she knows I am the paranoid, planning husband. The boys were also a bit scared; though she did an excellent job of shielding them from knowing what all was going on.
What scared me about this particular situation was the reason for the riots. In the past, it’s just been the taxi drivers or some other group who is mad about the police deciding to start enforcing some law. But this was a much deeper issue that could have potentially affected the stability of the country. Apparently, a feud has long been brewing between the central government (the President) and the traditional King of Buganda. The majority of the people generally support the King since he is a figure head of their heritage and tradition. However, the King has little power otherwise (though it could well be argued that having the support of the people is power enough!). Well, the King had planned to visit the Kayunga district area of town that weekend – an area of Kampala inhabited by a tribe of people who claim to have their own king and who didn’t want the Buganda king to visit without permission from their own king (even though many if not most consider the Buganda king the king of the entire country).
Jason hard at work, 'two-fisted', with Ag engineer Roger in the background.

Final preparations for the presentation

Well, sensing an opportunity to show its power over the monarchy, the central government backed the Kayunga district’s position and set up a road block for one of the king’s ministers who was to make a pre-trip visit to plan for the king’s visit. Well, this very public event started the rumor mills, which quickly turned the blockade into the minster being arrested and the kingdom under assault. The streets flared up immediately as the rioters sought to keep people from entering the downtown area of Kampala. On the road to Jinja in the town of Mukono (historically a place all too willing to join in with any rioting going on, I learned from Farouq), the main highway from the east was shut down with burning vehicles and demonstrations (this is also the road our team planned to travel on to return that following Sunday!).
In the end, Friday turned out to be the worst of things as the military moved in and restored order. But not after 20 to 30 people were killed – mostly by gunfire as the police shot at rioters to disperse the crowds. And though order was restored, a long-term solution to the problem is still needed, especially before the elections here in 2011. If the government and the kingdom don’t figure something out before then, it could result in a terrible tragedy in Uganda at that time. With the crisis in Kenya still fresh in people’s minds, and the Rwandan genocide serving as the recent historical backdrop, there is a sense of uncertainty that has some people on edge. And while such a large scale problem like what happened in those countries is unlikely in Uganda for a number of reasons, we can all be praying for the people of Uganda to be spared of such atrocities, even on a smaller scale.
The final presentation - shown on a laptop propped up on our storage box in the absence of our newly thieved projector!

As we finished up the project trip that week, I was impressed with the team’s ability to fight through the distractions (and the limitations of having half of our computers gone) and finish the project just as well as if nothing else had happened. The presentation went very well as the ministry was very pleased with the master plan.
The presentation went very well - the ministry was happy, which is our job #1
The architects did an impressive job of not only fitting everything on the site but orienting things in a way that provides proper circulation between the ministry functions. The water issue was also discussed by the civil engineers, with the 3 options all presented: buying water from the neighbor’s pipeline, trucking in water to the site, or spending the money to drill the borehole despite the water surveyor’s recommendation.
Roger the agricultural engineer also presented his findings and recommendations. Roger turned out to be a major Godsend on the trip, as he had a very wide knowledge and experience base that served the team in many areas (he was also a great guy with a great sense of humor - I even forgave him for being from Texas! :) ).

The final Master Plan (or at least the sketch of what will be the final Master Plan in the final report to be completed sometime in November)

More of the sketches produced by the architects for the presentation

The trip home was uneventful, though still long. As we neared Kampala and passed through Mukono, we could see remnants of the week’s activities – with vehicles burned out, lots of burned marks on the pavement where bonfires had been lit and traditional decorations set out in a symbolic support of the king. We also saw a conspicuously heavy presence of armed military throughout the route.
One of the burned out vehicles we saw in Mukono.
Fortunately we weren't involved in this head-on collison, one of three big accidents we came upon during the 10-hour trip home.
The whole 'team', including the ministry

It’s always sweet to return home to Alisha and the boys after project trips, but in this case, it was an especially good feeling to be able to hug them and just be back together again since a few days prior we weren’t assured of when or where that might take place!


Kacie said…
Wow...that must have been scary for you Alisha! so glad to hear that everything was okay. I bet it was SO good to have Brad home from that trip.

Any sorry about all the stuff that was stolen, Brad. ):

You guys are doing awesome. Hang in there!
brian c. berry said…
well I read through all 3 of these Kenya posts today and wow... what an emotional roller coaster I was on.

On the one side, I'm not sure there is any more redemptive work happening in the Kingdom of God than the work God is doing through your family and EMI.

On the other side, man I wish there was less to redeem in this world and more gone right. I'm praying that these final 8 months in Uganda for you are filled with adventure, transformation, hope, and peace.

You are loved and valued. So wish I could have been there to "defend" in your absence Brad... and also fully aware that "defend" against a riot is a ridiculous presumption. So I'm praying for Angels to do what only they can do against the darkness. I know that sounds hyperspiritual, but I am more convinced than ever that what we really need are spiritual solutions and spiritual protection these days.

Loving and praying for you 10,000 miles away.

Amanda Baca said…
Ugh-how scary! I'm so glad the riots didn't get worse and that everyone was OK!! Praise the Lord! Press on as you faithfully serve the Lord and work to restore His Kingdom!

Popular posts from this blog

Early Summer 2017 Update

Summer / early Fall 2017