Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pickpockets and Kenya Elections

Pickpockets in Kampala

I spent Christmas with my friends in Entebbe. It was incredible to say the least. I had pizza on the beach of Lake Victoria one day and then stuffed the most amazingly rich food into my face the rest of the time all the while enjoying the peace of not being called Muzungu for the first time in several days.

Getting into Kapmala, was another story entirely. I had my backpack stuffed full and as a white guy I’m, of course, a target for pickpockets. I was careful to not pack any valuables into pockets that were easily accessable. I had even put my phone deep into my backpack to get it out of my pocket.

Kampala was PACKED with people on December 23rd. Everyone trying to leave the city at once to go visit their loved ones, who all seem to live in the bush. As I made my way through the bus park to the taxi park to get to Entebbe, I noticed a 13 year old boy wearing a read shirt, following me. My walking strategy is to quickly duck and dodge in and out of people, leaving a difficult trail for someone to follow. I glanced back a second time and saw this same red-shirted boy who caught my eye this time and then proceeded to look all around like he was looking for someone in particular. I reached back for one of my side pockets and found it open. (I had cleverly put my underwear in those pockets to surprise any pickpocketers.) I just stood there and pointed at the kid while staring him down. He got the message and bolted.

That was pickpocket attempt #1. The second came as I was about to board the bus back to my village. I was bargaining for my bus fare (this was before the Kenya riots and hiked gas prices) when a laughing and seemingly friendly man who was trying to befriend me, casually reached into my pocket where my phone was. It was subtle, but not so subtle that I didn’t notice. I jerked back and put my hand in the pocket and half pretended that I didn’t notice. I don’t want to react too much in such a situation. I’m the only white guy there and who knows how many of his friends are around. Not that I don’t feel safe, I just feel outnumbered and I’m never sure who would pick to be on my side in case fisticuffs broke out.


As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the election in Kenya has been in the news. The current president is being accused of rigging the election as early results had reported the opposition leading by a million votes before the current president miraculously pulled out a victory.

Since that time 600 people have reportedly been killed and 100,000 have fled their homes. Here in Uganda the effects have been felt. Uganda is a landlocked country that is dependent on Kenya for use of ports in Mombassa. The scuffles caused the import of goods, namely gasoline, to cease which then caused fuel stations to ration their petroleum and for some to run out all together. Once the filling stations ran out those who did have gas were reportedly selling it for upwards of $20 a gallon. Public vehicles are charging upwards of 4 times their usual rates, which are already hiked due to the multitude that travel during the holidays. Fortunately for PCVs, we use bikes and thus haven’t been as effected by the petroleum shortage, but we have also been ordered to stay at our sites.

Here's the latest article about running the marathon.


At 17 January, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Brian! Just read that Lance Armstrong is running the Boston Marathon this year and it reminded me of you being here. You always have a place to stay if you want to run it again! We're moving next month (need more room for the baby we are going to have!) but still outside Beantown.
Keep well, stay safe!
Kate Reuther


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