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Uganda Postcard: When People’s Lives Are Cleared Away In The Name Of Progress

Officials want to revitalize the country's ailing railway system. But it comes at a cost for the people who live in the way.

Photo of Uganda Railways Corporation worker Samuel Nyero checks tickets before passengers board the train at Kampala Railway Station.

Uganda Railways Corporation worker Samuel Nyero checks tickets before passengers board the train at Kampala Railway Station.

Patricia Lindrio

NAKAWA — Moses Musafili moved from his rural hometown of Masaka in search of more opportunities and higher wages in Uganda’ capital, Kampala, in 2005. Two years later, a friend told him about an irresistible land deal southeast of the city in Kiswa parish and Musafili used all of his savings to buy a plot.

Musafili says he bought land from Uganda Railways Corporation (URC), a government-owned company, and built a house believing the sale was legitimate. Seven years later, Musafili, his pregnant wife and their three children were among thousands of families told they were illegally living on the railway corporation’s land. They were evicted so the company could carry out improvement work on the East African country’s rail network and not offered any compensation as they couldn’t prove they owned the land. Their plight underscores the persisting tensions between economic development and basic rights.

“During the 2014 evictions, police raided our home at around 2 a.m.,” Musafili says. “My home was demolished. My wife, who has high blood pressure and was pregnant at the time, had to be hospitalized. I know these evictions emotionally drained her and led her to miscarry.” Musafili says their 6-year-old son also died from a stray bullet during the eviction.

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Coronavirus

In Shanghai, A Brewing Expat Exodus As COVID Crackdown Shows "Real" China

Not only strict rules of freedom of movement as part of Zero-COVID policy but also an increase in censorship has raised many questions for the expat population in the megacity of 26 million that had long enjoyed a kind of special status in China as a place of freedom and openness. A recent survey of foreigners in the Chinese megacity found that 48% of respondents said they would leave Shanghai within the next year.

People walk in Tianzifang, located in Huangpu District, a well-known tourist attraction in Shanghai.

Lili Bai

SHANGHAI — On the seventh day of the lockdown, Félix, a French expat who has worked in Shanghai for four years, texted his boss: I want to "run,' mais je sais pas quand (but I don’t know when). A minute later, he received a reply: moi aussi (me too).

Félix had recently learned the new Mandarin word 润 (run) from social network postings of his local friends. Because its pinyin “rùn” is the same as the English word “run,” Chinese youth had begun to use it to express their wish to escape reality, either to “be freed from mundane life”, or to “run toward your future.”

For foreigners like Félix, by associating the expression “run” with the feeling of the current lockdown in Shanghai, “everything makes sense.” Félix recalled how at the end of March, the government denied rumors of an impending lockdown: “My Chinese colleagues all said, Shanghai is China’s top city, there would be no lockdown no matter what.”

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