Archive for February, 2010

McGun

The guy with the shotgun isn’t a soldier, he’s not even a policeman, he is the security guard outside the Ugandan version of McDonalds. OK comparatively it’s a little more expensive than McDonalds, most Ugandans wouldn’t be able to afford to eat there, but it’s a burger joint and not even a good one at that, having said that the chips are good, chunky chip-shop style; beware of the ketchup though it seems to stain white people’s skin red.
The gun man is watching an English Premiership game on the TV fixed to the wall of the restaurant, Man-U v Everton. I think Man U won because later that day we saw hundreds of people roaring down one of Kampala’s main streets on the back scooters waving and cheering. It’s a safe bet to say they weren’t Everton fans. The city seems to be split down the middle between Arsenal and Man-U, it’s like living in Finsbury Park again, apart from the Man-U fans.
Armed men are a frequent site in Kampala. There is a man in our neighbour’s garden whose job is to sit there all day with an AK47 on his hip. We live in an affluent neighbourhood, though you wouldn’t know it from the roads, and even then we’re only a stones throw away from a shanty town (rusty corrugated iron sheeting shacks, open sewers et al.)
It is the disparity in wealth that makes the AK47 a necessity. In the UK the statistics for house break ins are falling because there isn’t much in your average house that a burglar would want to steal. When a DVD player costs £30 it’s not worth breaking into a house to knick one because you’ll not get more than a fiver for it at cash converter. Unless you’re a drug addict you’re unlikely to risk prison for a fiver.
Here for a lot of people there are a great many things worth stealing inside an affluent person’s house, things they would never have a hope of being able to afford without stealing. Nutritious food for example. The rich are therefore faced with a choice: redistribute the wealth, or pay for someone to sit in their front garden with an AK.  It must be a burden on the economy, imagine the % of this country’s GDP that is spent defending the haves from the have nots. Something to think about the next time you begrudge someone picking up their housing benefit, at least your not having to pay someone to shoot at them.
Update: I have since discovered that these security guards are some of the worst paid people in the whole Ugandan economy which defies logic. If you are paying someone to stop poor people from getting into your house then surely it defeats the object to employ and then arm a poor person to do it.
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