The cost of preparing for the world’s attention

Posted: August 2, 2007 in Blog

Just when I thought I had found the perfect place for a haircut, the city moved in earlier this week and razed nearly the entire slum. The city has been randomly clearing-out illegally developed market areas recently, likely related to the city’s efforts to clean itself up in time for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Uganda in November.

I walked past the space yesterday and stopped to take in the empty patch of dirt where only 24 hours earlier an entire maze of stalls and huts were bustling with activity. The only thing occupying the space were two men sitting on a rug selling shoes they had fixed up and polished. When I asked them what happened, the one man told me in broken English that the city had come in and wiped the whole place out. “Everybody’s business, gone,” he said. The other guy stayed seated, and just muttered “CHOGM” under his breathe. There’s a fair bit of bitterness on the streets here about what’s being done to polish up the city for this conference. I’ve been working on a story about that issue this week that I’ll post when it runs.

Continuing my walk to work yesterday morning, I ran into the barber who had cut my hair in that stall. I asked him about it and he said the same thing– that workers just came in and cleared everything out. He said that everyone who had stalls there were told in advance that it would happen if they didn’t move their work elsewhere. But he added that none of them has the money to move their businesses, or bring them up to code. He said his work as a barber was finished because he couldn’t afford the rent of a legal space, and couldn’t risk building another illegal one only to have it torn down again.

  1. […] 5th, 2007 · No Comments A couple months ago, I wrote about the trials and tribulations of finding a good place to get my hair […]

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