I was halfway through seeing the patients on the ward when the deafening noise of a jet plain roared over the hospital, disturbing our ward round. I asked my Uganda doctor friend what was happening.
“Is that a jet plane???”
“Yes, they are bombing Southern Sudan”
“Really??? But Uganda isn’t at war in Southern Sudan”
(Dr. Laughs) “Of course we are, but we aren’t like you westerners, we don’t tell everybody when we go to war – it ruins the surprise”
Sure enough he was right. Three days later Uganda announced that they were at war in South Sudan, supporting South Sudan’s government forces. Uganda weighing in has stalled peace and I’m not sure if we’ll see true peace in our nearest neighbour Southern Sudan during the whole time we’re here in Uganda. And the support is massive. Many people here say Uganda is doing most of the fighting in Sudan, and I’m inclined to believe them given what we’ve seen.
We were on a Boda heading to town when we passed 5 tanks and 3 troop trucks heading north to Sudan. I asked our motorcycle driver how many tanks he had seen. He replied “over 50, but I’m not counting any more.”
Interestingly, people don’t seem to be worried at all about war coming back to North Uganda, which is sensible an accurate. They know that this conflict is about something else, somewhere else. But they also know how wars like this affect them. One man I talked to said “This is just another new way for the government to spend money somewhere else and not in the North”
Uganda is really struggling for money at the moment. The intern Doctors I am with haven’t been paid in 3 months, and the same is happening with government professionals anywhere. Government coffers are emptying for a whole lot of reasons. Here’s just three
1) Massive governmental corruption last year which swallowed millions of aid intended for the North.
2) The new law against homosexuality – World bank just suspended 70 million in aid and by the looks of it, that’s only the beginning of the aid drought.
3) War in South Sudan. We all know how much war costs. In the money they spend in a week in south Sudan, they could probably build the road to South Sudan that has been needed for so long
You think America couldn’t afford war in Iraq? Well Uganda can afford it a lot less in South Sudan. There are endless other reasons not to send troops to wars in other countries, but money is probably the one that affects people here the most. Many richer Sudanese have fled to live here, raising the price of rent and food a little bit. The war’s ripple effect might not be a tsunami here, but it’s certainly washing onto the shore.