This morning, I was at interpol headquarters in Kololo to process an important document. This is my story;
Aged between 17-25, they flocked in. Some in groups, others individually. They mostly wore casual, some even shabbily. No skimpy wear, no fashions, no styles from the women. A few looked agricultural, even fewer looked dingy. Most were just ordinary. In hand was paper work, passports, photos and pens. I counted 13 young women with children , some carrying months old babies. For the time I was there, they were in their tens and could have hit 100 as soon as I left.
Some had hope in their faces, others were lost in thought, unsure of whether they were making the right decision. They were all here to process ‘certificates of conduct’ as a pre-condition for their travel abroad in search of jobs.
If the word ‘kadaama’ is used in derogatory terms to lower the self esteem of these young men and women, Ugandans should feel ashamed. Their witness was that they are going to Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia; either on the advise of friends, prompting of their families or lure of the businessmen who are recruiting them. A girl who came with her two children told me she was a single mother who had given up on life. A guy who wore dreads swore to me he will never return once he boards that plane.
As they sat waiting in the queue to have their finger prints taken, a few squeaky clean gentlemen in suits and blazers paced the compound with files in hand. They were making calls, issuing instructions, waving car keys and a pile of passports.Clearly, they were the investors in whose hands the lives of these young men and women depend. I can’t paint you the grim picture of these job seekers experience at this stage, but it is torturous.
I am weak when it comes to seeing dis-advantaged groups of any kind and I melted at this sight. I shed a tear or two when I heard one of them on phone – a woman telling what seemed like her mother – that ‘am leaving the kids with their grand mother only God knows whether I will ever see them again’ I turned and indeed saw the woman crying as she said this.
This debate of whether our countrymen and women should be allowed to go and suffer in Arab countries in the name of jobs will not end but I finally have a position. Let them make their own decision. They face near slavery, potential death, exploitation and de-humanization but this is the price they have to pay to stay alive. The alternative is to commit suicide or turn to a criminal life as a means of survival.
I await to be educated on the word ‘kadaama’ and what the true intentions of it’s creators were. Wherever I’ve heard it being used, it’s to demean. To portray these Ugandans as worthless and a shame to the country. When they use it themselves, they seem not to care and have now adopted it as their brand.
Lastly, many Ugandans are harshly critical of the businessmen who are investing in this trade; accusing them of manipulation, exploitation and de-humanization. Tell that to these young men and women who are willing to risk everything; including their lives, own children, family and even own humanity, in exchange for hope. To them, life in Uganda has become hopeless and therefore meaningless. Their saviour is the one who offers them a drink in the desert; hope. That’s their angel.
After looking straight into the eyes of several of them for the first time and witnessing first hand where it all begins , all I have is a new respect for ther jobs.
‘Kadaamaism’ must be viewed only as a concept. A concept of hope.
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