This is why we need elections

When the police tip off the target before arriving and the Mayor blocks municipal officers from doing their job, how do you get a law enforced?

I haven’t documented all our failed experiments trying to get Gulu’s sachet alcohol ban enforced. For many months, it was just too depressing. One time our team identified 3 big targets, all suppliers of many smaller shops. We then waited around while police took four hours to get organised, then at the last minute, the head of the operation started saying we didn’t have enough ‘evidence’ to go.  We finally convinced him. When we reached the first two targets, we found them locked. In the middle of the day. The police didn’t seem surprised. Another time, we managed to reach open shops that hadn’t been tipped off in advance, but police and municipal officers were so disorganised and leaderless that searches weren’t done properly and very little was found.

Definitely time for a new experiment. We scrapped harassing police to lead operations, and we’ve decided to forget about the Mayor. The District Chairperson, the highest political office in Gulu, ranked above the Mayor, appointed his deputy ‘Simon’ in charge of alcohol law enforcement. In the shots below, you’ll see Simon and his hand-picked team, accompanied by police, raiding shop after shop. So far there have been three operations in different sub-counties. I accompanied them on two missions, camera at the ready. The strategy upon reaching each trading center was simple: split up, search each shop, and load the illegal sachets and plastic bottles of gin into the back of the pick-up. Any shop keeper found with a large quantity was arrested by police. I stood in the bright sunshine watching Simon and his team move about confidently and purposefully, and felt months of built up frustration subside. From Unyama and Awach sub-counties, 22 large boxes of sachets and plastic bottles were impounded, and 5 shop owners arrested and fined. In Paicho sub-county 15 boxes and 2 arrests.

Simon’s team captured ‘Royal Navy’ branded sachets:royal navy captured
Below: This shop keeper was busted with 5 boxes of ‘Chief’ brand plastic bottles.


Also impounded: boxes of ‘Uganda Waragi’, produced by Uganda Breweries. Thats the fanciest brand. first capture

These successful missions with Simon show the power in local democracy. In Uganda, Police are only really accountable to central government, and therefore are usually never held accountable at all. Accordingly, they don’t care about their work and look for any opportunity to take a bribe. Local government employees with their job-for-life contracts and pensions waiting tend to play it safe, avoid confrontation and do the minimum required. Local elected leaders, on the other hand, have at least some sense of accountability and want results they can tell their people about. I think Simon and his team were proud of these operations. I also believe action and actually getting stuff done is more fun than sitting in NGO workshops and pointless meetings. Whether or not we stick with this exact method, we’ve definitely made a breakthrough. Phew.

Heres Simon, giving an impromptu talk to locals and shop keepers on why this law is important:


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9 Responses to This is why we need elections

  1. Kaye says:

    Your determination in getting the outcome that was required, is to be commended Nick. Both you and Tessa worked so hard to get the sachets banned, and have worked equally as hard to ensure this was actioned.
    Congratulations on finally getting a positive result.
    Love to you both xx

    • ntlaing says:

      Hey Kaye this is Nick. To be honest Tess does all the work on the sachet stuff. I’m only into the health work :). Sorry its a bit confusing as to who is writing the posts!

  2. Jean says:

    I am delighted that you have had this break-through. Tessa and Group your tenacity is commendable. Well done.

  3. Kaye says:

    Sorry Tessa ❤️ what wonderful work you’re continuing to do for the people in your community. I’m sure that the families of those affected by the alcohol abuse are forever grateful for all you’ve done and continue to do. xx

    • ntlaing says:

      No worries! I can see our writing styles are converging as time goes on and its hard to tell who is writing!! Love and hugs to you and your family…I know you must be a bit lifted after the surprise election result 😉

  4. Myriam Cooke says:

    Wonderful breakthrough!

  5. Ray says:

    Good work Tessa, and your group.
    It must have been a relief to realise you had the assistance of someone who knew what they were doing, and didn’t lose momentum. You have really drawn the line against the alcohol.

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