Today’s wounds & scars: The Impact of Colonialism

Uganda as well as Indonesia rank very low on the transparency international corruption perceptions index with 144 and 96 respectively. The structural corruption, patronage, and nepotism is visible every day from police checks on the road to natural resource deals with top politicians: 

“These days, Indonesians have rather a low tolerance for real corruption, for pure, self-serving greed […] That other type of ‘corruption’ – the one that leads to bad appointments and bad roads – is complained about endlessly. And yet no one gets voted out of power for that kind of patronage (In the 2004 elections in South Sulawesi, eleven of the thirteen provincial parliamentarians who had previously been convicted of corruption were re-elected”) That’s because everyone continues to expect their Big Men to deliver to their clan.” Pisani, Elizabeth. Indonesia, p.158. Granta Publications, London, 2014. 

And as you get more involved, the boundaries of corruption and “a deal” get very blurry, particularly in Indonesia, a nation that has been successful in trading since the 12th century. I have never seen so many “Middlemen” helping to serve but also taking their proper share of “the deal.”


Our exceptional tour guide and multiple young entrepreneur, Nasser is very proud of Uganda’s independence.

Many of these power patterns came with colonialism and imperialism. European (and later Japanese) violence, massacres, and genocide in Indonesia and Uganda are still ignored in the west, but so much burned into their society’s DNA. Even after liberation in Indonesia (1945) and Uganda (1962) the violations patterns repeat. Former victims become perpetrators themselves, like the “Butcher of Uganda”, Idi Amin regime killed 100,000 to 300,000 citizens.

Fairventures is planting a symbolic tree in the Buganda king’s garden Kampala

Idi Amin’s torture chambers in Kampala on Mengo Hill

We visited one of Idi Amin’s torture chambers in Kampala on Mengo Hill after we planted a tree in the marvolus Buganda king’s garden. The beauty and the cruelty are just a few steps apart. Andrew Rice’s book “The Teeth May Smile, but the Heart Does Not Forget”, Henry Holt & Co, New York, 2009, describes this ambiguity and their roots in European colonialism. The western greed for spice, gold, oil, and slaves caused so much human, social, and environmental damage. 

And it started very early. “The massacre of 1621 was led by Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the ambitious new Governor-General of the VOC, who had, as a young trader, witnessed the ambush and murder of his boss by the rulers of Banda twelve years earlier. He responded with genocide. His men killed anyone that they didn’t think would make a good slave, then exported the rest, reducing the islands’ population of 15,000 to a few hundred souls. The Gentlemen 17 told Coen off for his excessive use of force. They also paid him a bonus of 3,000 guilders.” Pisani, Elizabeth. Indonesia Etc. (S.17). And the reason was to create a monopoly on nutmeg trade for the Dutch East India Company, the first shareholder company in the world. At that time military, trading, and business mixed, still visible in today’s business English e.g. “conquering new markets” or the “Chief Executive Officer”. 

Bribery, slavery, bounty hunting, and cruelty was there before in Indonesia and Uganda, but Europeans “scaled” it to completely new “levels”. Raoul Peck’s movie “Exterminate All the Brutes ruthlessly uncovers the deep-seated doctrines of white supremacy, denying other races life existence. 12.5 million Africans slaves have been deported to the Americas and at the same time several million Americans were killed in the genocide of indigenous people. Our history books need to be re-written. The most important “revolution for liberation” was 1791-1804 in Haiti and not the French Revolution (1789) nor the United States Declaration of Independence (1776).  

Therefore, I try to avoid judging any of the difficult topics in Uganda and Indonesia because my own well-being has been built on this in-justice in place for more than 400 years.

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