Opinion | General Aronda, deal with the stench coming out of the Passport Office – By Daniel Kalinaki

Posted April 17, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Opinion ~ 3,424 views



There is a stink wafting out of Old Port Bell Road in Kampala. In all fairness, this street has always had a bad smell: from the curing tobacco in the BAT premises, to the burning carcasses in the city abattoir to, farther ahead, the city sewer works which, on a particularly bad day, can shake one’s faith in humanity.

The Passport and Immigration Office has been in the same neighbourhood for as long as I can remember. A few months ago, they moved their operations to Old Port Bell Road. Now you can smell the office from a mile away, belching into the air the acrid stench of bureaucratic incompetence.

I recently received a new passport after several months of trying and with the assistance of a connected friend. I should, as is our norm, smile smugly and look down upon the suffering masses from my lofty post, suspended above the madness by the delicate connections to friends in high places.

Yet my conscience refuses to stay quiet, refuses to hold its nose and jump over the sewer of suffering. Many are not so lucky. A friend recently went through the office to renew his passport. I summarize his experience below:

There were a couple of hundred people milling around the Passport Office with no sense of order or process. No list to indicate names of those whose passports were ready, no list to show incomplete or problematic cases. Just a swirling, milling, mob of desperadoes all dressed up with nowhere to go sans passports.

The doors to the hallowed office were finally flung open just after 8.30am. Those lucky enough to make it into the office were confronted by “angry and arrogant pencil-pushers who made it very clear that we were lucky to be within their presence”, in the words of my friend.

Orders were barked. Saliva-laced questions spat at applicants through a spray of false superiority. Noses were thumbed. Withering looks cast.

At 9.30am, the office shut down. Breakfast was being served and the princes and princesses inside wished to eat in peace. It reopened an hour later and the madness resumed, but not for long. At exactly half-midday, the giant wheel of bureaucracy ground to a halt once again. It was lunchtime.

This time, the closure lasted until 2pm. Keen not to lose their places in what passed as an informal queue, many applicants forfeited lunch, listening instead to the symphony of satisfaction wafting from inside the office as jaws tore through flesh and as nutritious marrow, hiding in the recesses of animal bones, was sucked out with satisfying pop! pop! sounds.

The brief afternoon session was no less curt than the morning. Applicants were tossed from one office to another, hurried along in a malicious merry-go-round.

The lucky ones fell off the circus wagon, clutching their passports like lottery winnings. The less-fortunate ones were brusquely told to go away and return the next day, or week, or month – to each their own – and try their luck again. Can’t General Aronda Nyakairima, the Internal Affairs minister, smell this stench wafting up to his office?

These horror tales abound in other offices – Lands, Administrator General, et cetera – but there is something poignant about it happening in the Passport Office.

Take away the accident of history and the reality of geography and you will find that many people are only Ugandan by passport. Without jobs that matter or votes that count, their passports are not just functional; they are an ideological form of identity to a birthright that once was.

Take that away – or take away the dignity and pride of acquiring one – and you take away more than just a document; you take away meaning, identity, and belonging. And that just stinks.

Source — The Daily Monitor

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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