Rifles

By Lorella H.

Kampala, Uganda

I’m starting to get used to seeing men & women in uniform, many of them armed, all over town.  Most are rent-a-cops, like the security guards at our apartments or those who control access to the various parking lots nearby.  Some are Ugandan Army, Military Police, National Police, or Kampala Police, all highly visible in the capital city.  At court we have regular guards at the entrances and individual bodyguards for each of the High Court Judges; they are from the National Police VIPPU (Very Important Persons Protection Unit).  Interestingly, the bodyguards and our court security officers are not visibly armed.  Unlike the men in dark uniforms who keep a stern watch outside the office building that houses UNDP (United Nations Development Program).   And unlike the rent-a-cops at our apartment complex, who respond to a friendly greeting from people they recognize and who haven’t searched my backpack in a couple of weeks now.

All the rifles still worry me as I pass by, failing to look inconspicuous.  Are all these people really prepared to shoot somebody?   Most of the time they look completely bored and I hope they don’t decide to make their day more interesting.  Kampala feels like a pretty safe city, on the whole.  Some folks will probably say that it feels safe at least partly because of all the firepower in plain sight.  But to me that doesn’t seem true.  I mainly try not to notice the rifles—and try not to think that at any moment I could witness or experience a summary execution.

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