Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Acholi Quarters

I've been trying to figure out what to write about the visits I’ve been making to borrowers. I’m still trying to figure that out, but I’ll start by telling you about the Acholi Quarters where I have gone for a few of the visits.

The Acholi Quarters is an area of Kampala mostly inhabited by members of the Acholi tribe, people from northern Uganda and southern Sudan, many of them displaced by the war that has been going on in northern Uganda for the past 20 years (and God willing will end soon as Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has indicated that he will sign a peace agreement on April 5).

To get to the Acholi Quarters from the LiA office, Teopista (the loan officer) and I take a matatu through Ntinda to Spear Motors, a big transfer point, and then take another matatu to a stop about 1-2 miles further on. Then we walk through a marketplace consisting of stalls on either side of a dirt (or mud) track through a small valley (it can get very muddy) and up again, across the railroad tracks, across another paved road, and up a hill. That gets us to the Acholi Quarters.

From there, Teopista will ask someone to take us to the home of whomever we are visiting. The Acholi Quarters is a labyrinth, as far as I’m considered, densely populated with very small, usually one-room, houses. Houses have cement floors and often walls made from logs covered with red mud. Pigs are in pens; goats, chickens, cats and cows travel freely. Water comes from community taps, but many houses have electricity. The terrain is hilly and there are rock-lined ditches throughout the Acholi Quarters to aid in water runoff.

Quarrying is big business in the Acholi Quarters. I asked one of the borrowers why this area is so good for quarrying and she said, “God made it that way.” I also gather the rock is hard and good for construction, but at the moment much of quarry business is not possible due to the flooding of the rainy season.

It’s a tough place to live and the people who live here, I suspect, are always close to disaster. On our second visit, a day after some heavy rains, one of the borrowers told Teopista that a child had been killed by heavy waters on her (I think it was her) way to school.

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