Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

September 21, 2003

Prayer request update

Last week I wrote, asking prayer for a critical land situation in my village of Kyevunze. It seemed that someone was buying up a considerable amount of village land, kicking people off that land, and planning some pretty major development. People were greatly upset and rumors were flying.

During the week I did my best to sort through all the gossip and to quiet my own concerns. I heard everything from "It's nothing to worry about, just a guy reclaiming 2 acres from squatters," to "Foreign investors are coming and buying up 40 - 60- even 90 acres." People were being compensated for having to move. Then I heard they were not, but just being kicked off. Surveyors came on Thursday and surveyed up to the property adjoining mine, and I started getting nervous -- that was definitely more than 2 acres away from the highway, where all the action was supposed to be taking place! Everyone had a different story. Some had been to a village meeting, some had not, but everyone had their story of what was happening to our village. The most current thing I heard was that the villagers were planning to resist any evictions with violence…

Finally on Friday I was able to meet with our Local Chairman (like a chief), knowing I could trust him to give me the facts aside from hearsay and gossip. I learned that some "American government" project is investing development money throughout the Luweero Triangle, an area of 3 districts that were the most devastated during the civil war. They are buying up largely untenanted land in a number of areas, and putting in hotels, service stations, schools and hospitals (medical clinics? The word is the same in Luganda).

There are 80 acres being bought up in and near Kyevunze. The boundary will be only one plot away from my land, on the opposite side of the small road I drive on to get home. The 80 acres will take up that side of the village and on down into the swamp, towards Luweero (the town 3 km. away). Some people are being forced to move, but they are being fairly compensated, either with money or by having a new house built for them elsewhere. The younger ones are happy to receive the money, but the older ones are greatly disturbed, not wanting to leave the land and houses they've probably always lived on. There is also the issue of what will happen with the family graveyards, which traditionally are kept behind the houses.

My concerns of course revolve around "What am I soon going to be neighbors to?" And since there is already a school in Kyevunze, is it going to be driven out of business by a nicer/cheaper/ bigger school? If there's a hotel put in, will it be used as a nightclub to drum up business, with loud music, drinking, prostitution? The LC assured me that the hotel would not be like that, and if by some fluke, it was attempted, he and the Village Council do have the power to shut it down. So I was not to worry.

Then he reminded me with a big smile how when I had bought my acre in Kyevunze to eventually build a house on, people had been upset then too. I was the first white person to ever live in a village, and people didn't know what I might do to their place. But not only has it worked out, but the majority of the people love having me here, and would gladly sell me even more land. They like what I've done with my land and have enjoyed the certain amount of "prestige" that came with being the only village to have a "muzungu" come to live in it! Changes are usually met with initial resistance…

So please continue to uphold us in prayer. It seems the situation may not be as critical as I had feared, or as it might have become. But we need prayer that there will be fair collaboration with the village by the investors and/or government representatives, not only about the development itself, but especially about the people being relocated. Pray that the younger ones, happy to get the money, will use the money wisely. The tendency in this environment of severe poverty is that when people do get money, they spend it foolishly, often with drinking and such, rather than reinvesting, which drives them deeper into poverty. And pray for the elderly ones who will be greatly grieved at having to leave their homesteads for any price. And pray for me that I will continually be guided by God's wisdom in dealing with conversations and situations that will inevitably arise during this time of transition.