An expression in very free verse, written for spoken poetry event that was cancelled.
Idi Amin gone six years, all NOT well in Uganda,
in second reign of Milton Obote.
Do you have any money?
This politely to the bank teller.
Naaa, maybe next week, he said.
Have you got any petrol?
This at the fuel station.
Naaa, maybe next week, if God wishes.
Two hundred dusty cart track miles to Kotido town,
almost at the end of the world someone said.
On the way, remains of youths butchered by army,
a few bones left by hyenas.
Anglican diocese, Welsh bishop:
White men on pedestals take frequent falls, saying
‘People who live in grass houses shouldn’t stow thrones’.
The president is coming!
We must paint the town.
English man give us paint,
National colours red, yellow and black.
I’m terribly sorry, Town Clerk,
I have only white; white man grins and adds,
Maybe he can bring it when he comes.
Summoned to the District office,
for meeting with local heads:
District Commissioner, Administrative Secretary, Party Chief,
Police Commander, Army Commander
and, of course, the Town Clerk.
How can the President concern himself with paint?
You British are the ones who taught us,
‘when in Rome do as the Romans’.
Would you say that about your Queen?
Well I might sir, but you are right of course;
No disrespect intended to his Excellency,
Or indeed to anybody else.
Everyone afraid for their own skin.
As it was, the President never arrived.
Two weeks on: Our man is threatened,
Give that Land Rover, we go help him,
He hears we did nothing where shall we be?
This from the ‘friendly’ local militia.
‘Be Prepared’, we also taught,
spark plug leads swapped in advance
removed the need of having to say ‘no’.
Obote fled to Kenya, now General Okello rules.
Dilemma: now he’s not the president should the apology be
Museveni’s rebellion gaining strength,
Teenagers recruited to fight him.
January 26 1986, six months to the day:
Okello follows to Kenya too.
Rebel Museveni now reigns in Kampala,
But here, fleeing soldiers run rampage.
Builder loosens fuel pipe on diesel Landy,
‘loses’ keys. Give us keys, open the gate.
Foolishly responds: Don’t have, it’s not my car.
Men, take down the fence;
Don’t need keys to bump-start a diesel with no steering lock –
or to take po’ whitey’s clothes from the line.
Two crazy aid worker friends drive down from compound on hill,
to see how bad things are in the town;
Stopped and were told of two Landies taken.
Get out, get out of the vehicle or I shoot!
Soldier points gun mounted grenade launcher.
I’m getting out, but if you shoot that you won’t have a vehicle.
Soldiers race vehicle away – ex-pat lungs in shock, full of road dust.
An Englishman, an Irishman and an Australian,
were left standing in the road,
The English man says, would you like a cup of coffee?
The Irishman says, Coffee? after that we need whisky!
Terribly sorry, but Anglican church here does not allow alcohol.
Cawfee it is then mate! said the Australian.
Kind bishop drives crazy friends home up the hill;
for them, one vehicle gone, five remaining.
Evening comes, Army helicopter passes low overhead,
Bishop yells at English colleague shooting photos.
Such a noisy night!
Deserted barracks full of materiel, collected by locals,
time to finish old grievances between neighbours and clans,
Guns and mortars – surround sound, the whole long night.
Under the bed safer? on top more comfortable.
Morning comes with relative calm,
But daylight offers different opportunities:
Kids playing with mortars which … ‘played’ back;
Report of diesel Landy found abandoned,
no wheels, no brakes, no cylinder head;
Women pass by, carrying on backs,
bundled guns, for their men,
like so much firewood
– for future cattle raids perhaps.
Teenage soldier returns from the front – to protect, he says;
But, high on local brew, fires indiscriminately at shadows;
Joint action with tall black priest to take boy’s set-down gun,
which Whitey picks up, gingerly pointing upwards,
as priest and boy fall in rugby tackle on hard road;
Enough delay to reach empty police station,
Pass to barracks where drunken sergeant accepts offered gun,
Cocked ready to shoot, his colleague said.
Said the Bishop: You should have got a receipt!
Pecking order for departure of foreigners from rural war zones:
Aid agencies: immediately (if not before),
no expense spared – most likely by plane,
Land, load and off, avoid local officials if poss,
Debrief in capital, off for unplanned coastal holiday.
Anglicans: first fumble, discuss, pray, um and ahh,
Eventually they trickle out, by plane or by road, depending on
Roman Catholics, mostly Italian, they never leave it’s said –
maybe that’s why they get so many converts?
Six days on, cadge lift in Catholic vehicle,
to Kenya, via the back escarpment road,
built in 40s by Italian POWs.
Travelling, relaxing, visiting friends.
Then, Feb 16, ’86, preparing soon to return:
walk last seven miles up to the crater of Mount Elgon,
4000 metres high, and seven miles back.
Welsh Bishop arrives that evening –
passing Kenyans calling on the way:
Don’t leave now, they need you more!
If in Uganda, would not so quickly have received
news of mother’s death in England that night.
Take a month off, said the bishop.
© Nicholas Robert Jewitt and nickjewitt.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas Robert Jewitt and nickjewitt.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.