Some of you are probably wondering how the trip to Buvuma Island went last week. I returned late Saturday to the mainland. I was glad to be out of the fray. Party elections concluded yesterday in Uganda, which is like our nomination system, except the candidates are determined here by popular vote in each district across Uganda. And politics here are quite different (and from another era) than what we are used to in the U.S. – very boisterous, often violent, usually contested, and sometimes terminal as one candidate or another is murdered on the sly by the other candidate. Alfred told me that about ten MP’s (Members of Parliament) died last year under “suspicious” circumstances related to poisoning. Another Ugandan told me that last year a winning candidate was actually beaten to death by a mob just after the election.

In the midst of all this national fervor, we arrived at the island on Sunday and settled in, getting ready for the training at the Lake Victoria Bible Institute as the week of training three times a year has come to be called. It sounds grand, but in truth consists of one teacher, me, and about 60-100 students from the islands. We always have a good time.

This time as I arrived, I noticed a lot of people driving up and down the dirt roads, and the guesthouse was unusually full of loud, and raucously-laughing-late-into-the-night guests. These people were “politicos,” people brought to the island to promote a particular candidate. It happens that the guesthouse on Buvuma is owned by an MP. So he typically hires all these people and sends them to the island to promote him for the election. They stay free at the guesthouse, the manager explained to us with a sour expression, and because they stay free, they tend to abuse their privileges by partying and general disorder and messiness. So we spent the week climbing over stacked equipment – audio speakers, tarps, and various gear – and sometimes pushing through milling crowds just to get in and out of the building every day.

The Christian Candidate for MP, Proscovia (orange dress), giving a speech to people at a market center. I am told, though unconfirmed, that she lost the election and must run as an independent on her own funds if she chooses to continue.

The Christian Candidate for MP, Proscovia (orange dress), giving a speech to people at a market center. I am told, though unconfirmed, that she lost the election and must run as an independent on her own funds if she chooses to continue.

In addition to all this, many pastors here get very wrapped up in the elections, campaigning for one candidate or another. Our attendance suffered because of this, and many were in and out through the week. And you could probably guess that if any group gathers anywhere during this time, they will be targeted by various candidates who want to interrupt the meeting to speak to the crowd. On one day, I noticed two distracted looking men whom I had not seen before sitting toward the back. They were not together, but both looked monumentally uninterested in the training. I thought to myself that it was strange that they would come to the training if they cared so little about it. Later, Alfred explained to me that they were not pastors but candidates hoping to speak to my group, so they just wandered in and sat down, hoping for a chance. When I did not give them such an opportunity, they finally got up and wandered out, and I didn’t see them again.

So our week was spiced up by the constant activity of campaigning and speechifying; trucks roaring up and down the roads full of men brought in from the mainland either to guard the polling places during the voting on Monday, or to masquerade as local citizens and illegally vote for the candidate who hired them, a common political trick; candidates dropping by to have a chat with the musungu who ended up asking for a contribution to their campaign, as if I, a U.S. citizen, could risk deportation by providing U.S. funds for a particular candidate in a Ugandan election, unless, of course, I gave to the winning candidate who would then use their influence in my favor; and a Christian candidate who dropped by for prayer, which was a good thing.

All in all, it was an challenging and chaotic week. I was relieved to be back on the mainland, though if you read my previous post, you know I didn’t exactly escape the effects of the elections by returning from Buvuma. To those of you who know me personally, if I ever plan a training mission during election week in Uganda again, just shoot me…

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