I am back in Uganda this week for another installment of the Masindi Project—a juvenile justice initiative Pepperdine conducted in 2010. On this trip, I’m joined by Pepperdine Law professor Carol Chase and Michael and Karen Mudgett from Malibu Presbyterian Church. Michael is a lawyer turned pastor.
So far, things have been very busy. We arrived in Uganda late Friday night and slept 3 hours at a hotel before departing to head north. When I bring groups to Uganda, I like to start the trip with a quick safari over the weekend to get us out, active, and over jet lag.
On top of that, Paraa Safari Lodge is one of my favorite places in the world. I looks like the kind of lodge that Disney would design, except that it is a real safari lodge! I also love it’s celebration of African explorers—the walls are covered in paints of Livingstone, Speke, and the great Nile explorers.
The night we arrived at the lodge, we did the Nile cruise. Again, much like Disney’s jungle boat ride, except that it’s all real. Along the river banks you see cape buffalo, warthogs, elephants, hippos, and crocodiles. It’s calm and relaxing.
Early, early the next morning, we arose for the game drive safari—you head out before sunrise. I had one mission this time: see lions. They had eluded me the past two visits. We drove out quickly, blowing past the elephants and giraffes to try to find the lions early. Thankfully, we were not disappointed. A pride was spotted and we tracked them for a while. We saw 4 or 5 lions up close—within 10 feet at one point.
After the safari, it was back to Masindi—a long 2.5 hour bumpy ride on dirt roads. We pulled into town about 3 p.m. and checked into the Masindi Hotel, another one of my favorite hotels in Uganda. It claims to be Uganda’s oldest hotel (built in 1923) and lays claim to being frequented by Ernest Hemingway during his trips to Africa. I think they even claim he recuperated here after he crashed in an airplane.
We were also joined by all of the Pepperdine Law students and Professor Gash on Sunday night at the Masindi Hotel. We briefed the team on what to expect the next few days as start the Masindi Project. By evening, the local legal aid lawyer, Susan, and probation officer, William, arrived at our hotel and brought a few of the available case files.
My team will have about 7 or 8 cases. So far, we have two files. Both involve teenage boys accused of rape and imprisoned at this jail. One of the victims was 3 years old, the other was 12. The file also always thin, so our job is to figure out what happened in build the case for justice to be done.
For the most part, the kids here have been held for 1-2 years, far over the 6 month maximum that you can hold a child under Ugandan law. A few have even crossed the 2 year mark, which means they arrived soon after I left on the first Masindi Project trip.
We head out to the jail in just a few short hours. I will keep you posted on how this week transpires.