Japan, with all its robots, needs gentle nurses, not weightlifters

Thursday July 29 2021

Author: Daniel K Kalinaki. PHOTO/FILE.

By Daniel K. Kalinaki

To get a visa to visit a typical European country, the average Ugandan must show evidence and a series of documents to prove that they intend to return home at the end of their visit.
Some are basic – application forms, passport photos and the like. But they also can include a dazzling array of intrusive asks: Bank statements, marriage certificates, employer letters, land titles, and other forms of proof to show one’s social ties to the country. A well-worn Uganda Cranes jersey, from what I gather, is not acceptable proof.
These documents then have to be photocopied, certified and stamped, and presented in a certain order. An appointment has to be made and a visit arranged to the embassy or processing centre to prove that it is you, as you, applying for the visa.
One small sudden movement could be fatal. A dropped pen could indicate intent to hurt old ladies on the train. A sudden bout of scratching could indicate an undeclared tropical disease; a cough could be tuberculosis.   In fact if you want to see humble Ugandans, visit any visa application centre.
No one jumps the queue; everyone keeps time. No one asks why a till isn’t manned. People wear suits and they sit quietly, their legs shaking nervously. They answer questions fulsomely.
Visa officer: ‘How are you related to the person you are going to stay with?’
Ugandan visa applicant: “Okay, sir, you see, that is a very good question. In fact, I call him my younger father because for us here in Uganda that is what for us we say, but he is, in fact, my uncle, the one who follows my father who born me.”
Officer: ‘Your uncle, then?’
Applicant: “Yes, because him and my father, for them they are brothers and he is the one who follows, because my father for him is older…”  
By comparison, a 20-year-old school dropout working as a bricklayer in Merseyside turns up at Entebbe Airport with a bag full of dreams and 50 dollars in his pocket. He gets his visa with no fuss. A few months later he owns a tourist lodge or works on a donor-funded project, having obtained experience volunteering with an NGO in exchange for accommodation.
The difference between that bricklayer and Julius Ssekitoleko, the 20-year-old Ugandan Olympic weightlifter returned to the country for attempting to stay on in Japan is mostly the passport, and the inequality built into the global systems of movement of labour and capital.
There are many things to blame Ssekitoleko for. Your columnist isn’t qualified in crime but something tells me leaving an incriminating note announcing you are going underground isn’t smart. Neither is doing it in a country where you don’t speak the language, in the middle of a pandemic. And you try to win some damn medals, first, and see if that raises your chances of getting a better gig. But we – and certainly this column – cannot blame Ssekitoleko for seeking a better life for himself and his family.
To do so in a country where exporting young unemployed people to work abroad is official government policy is hypocritical. And to keep him in custody, as the police have been doing, is virtue-signalling to the Japanese and the international community, and, now well after 48-hours, clearly unconstitutional.
There are many things to propose making this a just and equitable society that provides opportunities for all, but let’s set the bar low and be pragmatic with two basic proposals. First, if we want to be respected, we must respect ourselves first. We should impose reciprocal visa requirements with every country that requires them of us, and work together to retrieve and punish those who violate them.  Of course some tourists will go elsewhere, but many will respect societies that see themselves as equal and welcoming. The race to the bottom is rarely a good pricing or sales strategy. What’s good for the Greeks should be good for the Waganda!   
Secondly, since we are in the business of state-sanctioned slave trade, let us do it right. Japan has an ageing population and younger Japanese, unlike their Ugandan counterparts, seem disinterested in shaking timber bedframes to increase their numbers.
So take interested and capable young Ugandans, train them as nurses to world-standards, teach them Japanese culture and language, then negotiate proper working conditions for them to take care of the ageing populating there. Japan, the home of robots, doesn’t want weightlifters, but it could use some gentle hands.
Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and  poor man’s freedom fighter.
[email protected]
Twitter: @Kalinaki