Editor at large J. D. Douglas again reports from Africa.
It was Saturday evening, and the Lake Victoria Hotel was crammed with Ugandans celebrating the second anniversary of liberation from Idi Amin. The clerk was apologetic: all accommodations were taken. Those who had come to dance were staying overnight because guerrillas in the surrounding countryside made it dangerous to be out during the hours of darkness.
There was no alternative. My Australian colleague and I, glad to be out of the drizzling rain, settled down to sit the night away in the only space available: two chairs in a corner of the bar.
We had arrived two hours earlier at Entebbe on one of the national airline’s irregular flights from Dar-es-Salaam. So desperate is the fuel situation that the plane overflew an intermediate stop in Tanzania. We were four hours late. The handful of passengers was hurried through immigration and customs formalities; officials wanted to get home before dark.
Our own unexpected arrival worried them, for it was impossible to get to Kampala (over 20 miles away) that night. They advised us to head for the hotel, four miles away. We managed to get the solitary cab driver outside the terminal building to agree to take us to the hotel for only a couple of dollars. But the hotel was a different matter. A meager portion of chicken, potato, and spinach, a little watery cordial, and the cost of a room available after midnight left us nothing for breakfast out of $130 we had dutifully changed at the airport.
There was something bizarre about celebrations in a country whose economy is in ruins through sheer mismanagement. Inflation is running at 100 percent (but, pointed out a resourceful evangelist, “the wages of sin are still the same”). On ...1
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