Not far from
Akii's street we came to a soccer stadium. Knots of frantic Ugandans, worked to
a frenzy by the cheers exploding from within, pounded on every gate. People
stood on rooftops. Akii led me around to a small iron door. He knocked and a
plate snapped back, revealing a single brown eye. Then the door flew inward and
we stumbled into darkness. Men embraced Akii amid waves of Swahili and ushered
us down a passageway into the rear of the officials' box. A game between Uganda
and Kenya had just begun. The box was packed, so we went to the end of the
field where rows of state limousines were parked. Between cars stood sober
policemen. Chains led from their wrists to the collars of nervous attack dogs.
Whenever the crowd responded to a play the dogs snarled and strained against
their chains. The policemen stepped on them, driving the animals to the
too close," said Akii, "and don't wander too far away from me."
He showed me
where a track, now overgrown, had once circled the ground. "They moved our
track to small stadium four miles from here. We protested, but they said this
stadium was to be only for football. There is so little interest here in
athletics. When we finish running in a race we go to the stands, so the others
will have someone watching. I help as many young athletes as I can. I give them
my training programs. But the standards are not high. We have six athletes on
the police club. We fight the other clubs like the army, the prisons, and we
win with just our six. I do both hurdles, relays, 400, javelin. I want to try
the decathlon, but my coach is not encouraging me."
your goals now?"
"I want to
stay well for 1976, to try to defend. I'll only be 27 then, still able to run.
Next year I'd like to better the record. All I would need is some more good
training on a Tartan track. We have the hills here. I have my heavy coat. But
you need to sprint on that Tartan.
finish with sports, I want to concentrate on police work. I haven't any other
good career than that." He demonstrated his aptitude later in the day. When
we stopped for gas, Akii leaped out and caught the station attendant in some
hanky-panky behind the pump. "They hold the hose high so it fills with
petrol you have paid for," he said. "Then when you have gone, they pour
it out and sell it again." This time there wasn't quite enough gas in the
hose to press charges. The man got off with a blistering warning.
At dusk we
stopped by a gathering at a local tavern. Singing, shoving matches and the
swigging of millet beer seemed well under way, but Akii assured me the party
hadn't started. He spoke into the ear of the proprietor, whose face fell, and
we left. "I was to come later and crown Miss New Kampala. But I am a
policeman. I cannot do those things without permission from my superior
officers. Besides, I am tired. Tomorrow I have to lead the Olympic athletes in
the Independence Day parade. And we must get you to Entebbe early."
the departing Asians jamming the airport made it necessary to reach Entebbe two
hours before my nine a.m. flight. I bravely considered taking a cab and letting
Akii sleep, but he wouldn't hear of it. "It will be better that I go,"
At six a.m. on
Independence Day it was night in Kampala. At 6:15 the sky was purple velvet
brushed with pink, and filled with birds. Crows, kites, canaries and eagles
dipped and wheeled and darted above the greening silhouettes of kalitusi trees.
The driver for whom Akii had arranged did not appear, so he ran a mile and a
half from his police-academy quarters to the nearest cab stand, and called for
me in the only vehicle he could find, a groaning Peugeot driven by a
16-year-old. Before leaving town we had to stop at a service station to fill
the radiator. The first roadblock was peopled by a handful of nodding, chilled
sentries who waved us through. Vultures prowled beside the checkpoint. One
flapped clumsily into the air and our driver had to swerve to avoid taking it
in the windshield.
On the open road
he whipped the car up to an earsplitting 120 kph. After 15 miles the radiator
blew, spattering the windshield with steam and rusty water. The driver calmly
turned on his wipers. When the vehicle started banging and missing, he pulled
into a clearing beside the road and shut off the engine. Huts enclosed a bare
earth yard. We sat in the suddenly bright morning, listening to the car hiss
and drip. Akii said something sharp in Swahili and the driver got out and went
behind the huts. A mass of yellow birds shrilled from a small, denuded tree. I
counted 54 swinging, woven grass nests. An old bicycle leaned against an oil
drum. Akii and I looked at it, and at each other.