Threatening phone calls
It started with phone calls. Aggressive phone calls. The District Chairperson said he was under “enormous pressure.” The police commander hinted he might loose his post or be ‘transferred’ if he continued operations to impound those cheap, strong alcohol sachets. Who was making these calls?
Meet Amelia Kyambade, Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.
Why does she care about Gulu District’s Ordinance? Word on the street is that the alcohol-sachet companies in Kampala ‘compensate’ her rather generously for her advocacy efforts on their behalf. These companies don’t fancy loosing Gulu’s lucrative market.
How did our leaders respond?
The mouse. Our Police Commander, warm as he was to the law which he thought would reduce crime rates, ran away with his tail between his legs. Since Snake upped the anti, he has delayed, dodged and played down police commitments to future enforcement.
The Owl. The District Chairman, a true politician responded politely and firmly, telling her that Gulu has legitimately passed a local law, but welcoming discussion and accepting to meet her in Kampala.
The Rhino. There is this odd position in Uganda called the ‘Resident District Commissioner’- basically its the eye, the arm and the office of the President in each district. While I’m sure our Commissioner in Gulu fufills all these requirements, he also has a particularly passionate vendetta about alcohol. He stamped his feet and shorted at Snake, challenging her to put anything she has to say in writing… implying she has no grounds to interfere in Gulu.
I was impressed by the sneakiness of Snakes next move.
Snake Move #1 Instead of writing just to Gulu, she sent a letter to all the Commissioners in Uganda. First, she announced that a national ban on sachet alcohol would be enacted in September 2017, and that Districts shouldn’t do anything in the mean time to ensure companies have time to “adjust” their packaging. “Adjusting packaging” means switching to small (thin) plastic bottles which can be just as cheap and portable as the sachets. Which would achieve nothing. Gulu’s law demands all alcohol to be packaged in glass bottles larger than 250ml. Also, the September ban will never actually happen.
Snake Move #2 Owl and Rhino went to Kampala and met Snake’s team (she didn’t show up in person). I wasn’t privy to the meeting, but they assured us they kicked butt. A week later, the Owl gets a ‘whatsapp’ message of a photograph of a letter from Snake (sooooo professional), giving a twisted summary of the meeting. The letter celebrated the fact that Gulu and the Ministry are “on the same page”, and emphasizing that all would be fine if Gulu just waited till September. She requested Gulu to call a full Council meeting to discuss the matter further, and asked Gulu District to attach a budget for the meeting.
Upcoming show down.
Owl and I drafted a response to Snakes ‘whatsap’ letter. It was strong. But, being the Owl that he is, he changed the last sentence. Instead of insisting there is no need for Council meeting to review the law, he welcomed the meeting proposal, and his administrators indeed attached a budget. I sneaked a look- a whopping 9 million Ugandan Shillings. Did I mention that Gulu District is in a lot of debt? And that councillors are livid at having not been paid? Seems like Owl couldn’t turn down such a lucrative opportunity.
It seems like a dodgy game to me, opening us right up to attack. Will Snake use this as an opportunity to buy off our councillors? How loyal are they to this law? When will this meeting take place?
We are preparing for the show down and snake move #3
Heres the Acholi times article on the Snake-Owl clash so far
What a frustrating round of ‘red tape’ to tangle your good work.
Your animal images are brilliant, and help us your prayer supporters to appreciate the characters you are dealing with. May common sense win this battle, that many lives will be saved from the damage of alcohol abuse. Fight the good fight, Tessa & Nick. you are making a difference!
Thanks Rose, you are always so encouraging 🙂
Your posts have become extremely fascinating as I follow this saga with you. Some caution though. These days anyone can find a blog, including these politicians. One of my missionary friends almost got kicked out of the country for criticizing some of the politicians or president on facebook. A friend she had in government told her her social media activity was being monitored as well as her phone being tapped, and if the activity continued she would be forced out. I would just consider if you would still write these posts knowing the police or the politicians might be reading it. I’m not telling you what to do, it’s tricky. Whatever you decide to do, know that what you are doing I think is awesome, keep speaking the truth and what is right!
Hey Anthony. Thanks so much, you always have something thoughtful to say! My sense is that its OK. I’m by no means a sole critical voice online on this topic (as I continue the story I’ll link to what others have also documented, and published in local and national newspapers). Another thing to remember is that as far as we’ve been able to ascertain, its just Snake and the alcohol lobby that have been attempting to quash this. I’ve been told other Ministers in Kampala have congratulated Gulu’s Speaker and Chairperson. Gulu’s law was approved by the full proper process- local government office in Kampala, Attorney General’s office in Kampala, so its been 100% above board at every stage. I’ll keep alert though! (and although you might not notice, I have actually edited one thing though as a result of your post!). Hope you guys are happy and into things in Kenya 🙂
Sounds good. We’ll keep following your story!
Related, here is a documentary we just watched today about alcohol in Uganda –
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