on Um Zayd wa Atheer (Uganda), 08/Mar/2012 11:25, 34 days ago
Who's Cid?In Uganda many names are sort of recognisable. Jesca is Jessica, Sylivia is Sylvia and poor Violent is actually Violet. So when I saw Cid's name on a file I assumed he was a Sid, as Pottier or James. Two hours later I realised that this was not a fair assumption. The man's name was actually Alphonso.Last Wednesday night my bag, purse and mobile phone were stolen. It was serious enough for me to need to report the incident to the police. As one would expect it turned out to be a lengthy process and I spent most of Thursday afternoon at the local police station. That's where I met Cid. He was a police officer and actually CID. You can now see where I went wrong. In my defence it had been a pretty harrowing 24 hours.In the days of Dixon of Dock Green police stations were solid buildings. They needed to be, to exude the authority of the arm of the law and to temporarily house suspected criminals. Modern police stations, being purpose built, took on a different look but are presumably still as impenetrable and there still have an impressive light outside. Now my local police station is a collection of random looking 'buildings'. Some are in a state of collapse although one at least was built as a donation from the Irish government, a country incidentally very generous in its international aid.The Desk Officer listened carefully to my account and then painstakingly entered the details in the giant ledger. I was crime number 39 on that day.From the ledger we moved to the First Information, again hand written on a sheet of paper. We got to 'Occupation' the officer wrote n…, stopped for a minute or so and then said, 'Can you help me?' I wrote nurse on a scrap of paper he pushed in my direction. Meanwhile other complainants lodged their stories around me.Theft, fraud, attacks and domestic violence. Crime reports rose above 50. Gulu suddenly didn't feel a safe place to be. As my own story unfolded it changed from theft to robbery.I was then led out of the back door and across a yard littered with rusting and disowned motorbikes and bicycles. The picture was not getting rosier. Interview Room 2 had little visible floor and desk space. It was overcrowded with tables, chairs and benches half hidden by heaps of orange dust stained papers, all held together with bits of string. As I waited my turn I tried to read some of the hand written statements, which separated me and Cid/Sid/Alphopnso. I stopped looking after I saw a file labelled homicide. We tried a conversation but failed and so I was invited to a chair on the other side of the table. As I was about to plunge into the gap Cid grabbed a handful of ties attached to the seat of the chair, deftly swished them round to remove the dust. Very effective I must say.We went through my story again. When we got to the items stolen I repeated bag, phone and purse. Cid wrote down p….. stopped. By now I was catching on to the difficulty with 'urse' words and before the scrap of paper headed my way again I spelt out p u r s e, purse as in nurse. For some reason this made Cid laugh.Neither my story, my experience nor my surroundings allowed me to laugh at that moment. A large blue and red poster taped onto the grubby wall opposite tried to encourage me with the words 'Jesus is the answer'. It failed, as did the bible. This was brought in for consultation on another case, possession. This was not about ownership but madness of a woman. Her shouting and screams echoed around us all as she was locked into a cell. I hope the officers found an answer to her crime in the book. I hope like me she was treated kindly after being offended against. I hope her investigating officer was a person like Cid, sorry Alphonso.