Times when we try not to conform
I recently had to get someone arrested as we came across evidence of large-scale theft. To my surprise I had to drive the police officer, along with the person being arrested, in my car to the central police station. The police officer then asked me for money to get home and when I gave him the exact amount to get home he wasn’t happy, pulls me aside and says: ‘you give me more’. I refused. This is an everyday occurrence here. Local drivers regularly break the law, either driving without a licence, in an un-roadworthy vehicle or over-loading to an extent where the lorry looks like it may topple over. Drivers accept their fate: police will pull them over and ask for a soda (otherwise known as a bribe), they pay and then keep going. But corruption doesn’t start and end with the police, it’s right through the system. A local mate of mine had a job interview at a large bank. During the interview process, he and probably everyone else who was short-listed (about 12) each handed over an envelope with a large sum of money to the human resources officer. His opinion: the largest secret bidder got the job.
I walk into a local hardware store, buy a range of tools, and then when I said I need a receipt the shopkeeper asks me: ‘how much do you want me to write on the receipt?’
When you drive the 330km journey from Kampala to Gulu (which can take up to seven hours) the roads are pretty good for the first half but as soon as you get more into the north the road suddenly turns into something you would expect on the moon. Locals answer to this: the money was ‘eaten’.
The saddest part of all of this is muzungus participate. The easiest option is to pay a small bribe to the police, a government representative or whoever. By participating we are also stating that corruption is acceptable.