Main | The Dark Side of the Moon »

When Security makes you Insecure

November 1

"Is that camera?"

I nodded. The woman in the crisp uniform and beret looked at me sternly. Behind her stood several officers holding AK47s. "Where you taking?" I had no idea what she was asking, so she repeated the question more loudly. "Where you taking?"
I just looked at her stupidly. Did she want to know where I was going, or what pictures I was taking. There are about 47 languages spoken in Uganda. While English is the only universal, meaning that everybody in this country speaks English poorly. Few as poorly as this woman.

My brother attempted to answer her and she ordered us all to get out of the car. Jonathan, Tito and I were scanned with metal detectors by a small team of men in fatigues who then searched the car. In front of us a 19 year old touched his rifle tightly. It was pointed at the ground but could be aimed at me in seconds. Once they determined we were not hardened criminals we were allowed to pass. But this is not a random check point or the edge of some high security government installation. This is what you go through to get into a grocery store.

They've had such security for quite a while, but of course things have greatly intensified since September's shootings at the Westgate Mall in Kenya. Nairobi is about 350 miles away, but this was the same type of shopping center and the same chain of store, so you can't blame them for being careful.

We have repeated the ritual perhaps eight times since then, and people just accept it as part of the hassle of living in the modern society. It's actually not a very good check, I can spot a lot of ways around it, so even with the dogs and teams of young people in fatigues it's still mostly security theater.

My real concern is, will such security theater be coming soon to a shopping center near you?
 — in Kampala, Uganda.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>