On our hike to see the gorillas on the second
day, we hike through a small village called Chumbugushu. They
are having a town meeting, or a “Local 0” meeting,
as our guide explains. From the smallest village up to parliament,
each Ugandan has a voice. The small villages (or neighborhoods
in a larger town) are the ground level, called Local 0. One representative
from each Local 0 represents the community at the corresponding
Local 1 meeting (encompassing a larger land area and larger number
of people – e.g., all the villages in a certain area or
a larger town). Similarly, a representative from each Local 1
goes to the corresponding Local 2 meetings, all the way up to
Local 5, and then to parliament.
village Local 0 meeting
Our guide and trackers express differing views
on how well the system was working. Some say that it is good because
everybody gets a say, but others said that it is still quite corrupt
and that the system really doen't work very well yet, but that
they have hopes of it continuing to improve.
We ask what some of the biggest issues are
for this Local 0 – what are they likely discussing at this
meeting? Our guide tells us that the biggest issue is a new road,
and that schooling for the children is also important. At present,
the road leading to this village is horrible. It is only a partial
dirt road that is difficult even for a 4-wheel drive vehicle,
and the rest of the narrow road has to be negotiated on foot .
This means that erecting new buildings is very slow and difficult,
since all the materials have to be carried in by hand. Our guide
says that it might be years before they get their road, if ever,
since they are at the end of the line instead of on the way to
some other villages.
On the way back from the gorillas, we are surprised
to discover that they are still having the meeting (more than
3 hours later). And everybody is still there; men, women, and
children – the whole village – about 30 people, all
dressed in what we would learn later are their finest clothes.
We are told that these meetings commonly last all day long, rain
or shine (and today has been both since it had rained hard for
a while on our way back from the gorillas).
We want to take a picture but feel awkward
about imposing, so we ask our tracker if it would be okay. Fortunately,
we are last in the hiking line (except for the armed rear guard),
so the rest of the party has already passed through the meeting
and out of sight around the next curve in the trail. After a brief
conversation between the tracker and some of the elders, our tracker
tells us it is okay to take their photo. We also decide it is
a polite time for us to make a small contribution.
We ask for the Local 0 representative. A man
raises his hand, and a murmur of surprise passes through the meeting
– it appears that simply knowing the term “Local 0”
was a good start. We approach him, thank him for allowing us to
take a picture of the meeting and hand him 10,000 schillings (about
US$6), telling him that this is a small contribution for their
road, and that we hope they can build it soon. He smiles and looks
somewhat surprised as our tracker repeats what we said in Becheega
(the local language, the spelling of this may be incorrect). At
this point, the attitude of the entire village changes from tolerant
to friendly. It is a small amount of money to us, but seems to
make a big difference to them. As we leave the village, we think
about how much we take for granted in life.