Autofiction in response to Siddharth Kara's book Cobalt Red: How The Blood of The Congo Powers Our Lives.
This story does not take place in the Congo. However, I suspect conditions are similar to what Siddharth Kara’s book Cobalt Red describes, and they’ve been going on for many years. His recent interview inspired me to extract this story from an unpublished manuscript.
I do not condone the behavior presented here. I’m also refraining deliberately from showing pictures of the women, men, and children working in the quarry because it feels wrong to present those images as a spectacle of misery. They are on google anyway if you want to see them.
Nor am I an expert on the subjects of mining, refugees, Ugandan politics, or HIV. I can only offer what I saw and how I felt, my own memory. And because it is a memory and not a recorded record, I use the label of Autofiction.
All our memories become unstable fictions over time.
Names and details are changed and any similarity to real people other than myself is a coincidence.
Please share with me in the comments whatever thoughts this tale causes you to ponder.
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*Based on a true story
Kampala, Uganda, 2005
We listened to the news as I drove Isabella to the top of Kinawataka’s rock quarry on the eastern side of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. The radio show’s host predicted rioting if President Museveni won again, reporting angry demonstrations already breaking out around the city. People no longer wanted the same leader for 20 years. Gangs of men called Kiboko, or stick squads, roamed the streets with homemade batons, stalking and beating protestors. Rumors circulated that the ruling party hired these young men for pennies, rather than using the police. Kampala was tensed up and braced for trouble. We passed people waiting in long lines holding yellow plastic jerry cans to buy extra water and petrol.
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