The next three days will feature posts from Jeff Atherstone and his experience two years ago trying to negotiate land for what is now African Renewal University.
It's no secret that corruption is a major problem in Uganda... on the world Corruption Perception Index we ranked #127 in 2010... which isn't as bad as Somalia at #178 but it still isn't anything to brag about.
What might be surprising to some who haven't experienced this type of corruption is that it is everywhere... the police, courts, government, church and business to name a few.
And today it is staring me in the face with a price tag beyond anything I have ever experienced.
Yesterday I was asked to pay a judge $1,000 which might not be much to some, but if I don't pay it, ARCC (Africa Renewal Christian College) could also lose another $100,000 (and yes, I am referring to US Dollars)!
First the good news! We found the owner of the troublesome land that I wrote about last June and agreed on a price for the land and drafted a purchase agreement with our board and lawyers in November,received all the funds and made the payment for the land in December. This last week the seller (after much prompting) filed a court case to stop the squatters from all construction, farming or any other developments. This is a great step. Next, the squatters will face off with the seller in court. The seller (a lawyer) has all the proof required to show that they settled on the land illegally. The final step will be that the court will remove the squatters.
Here is the problem: even though the seller has the proof he needs to win in court, the judge is asking for $1,000 and the seller is demanding that I pay it!
If I don't pay it, the seller is saying that he will drag this case on as long as he wants (months, years, indefinitely), as a lawyer (and nephew of a well known politician) he is telling me that I have no choice. He can and will delay as long as he wants - pretty nice for a guy who introduced himself to us as a Born-Again Christian!
There is also an additional price. The longer this goes on the more problems we have with the community around us, because the illegal squatters all received their land from the local
Muslim mayor and he is doing his best to convince them that the Mizungu (white guy) will eventually get scared or impatient and pay them to leave. This also has a price! As soon as you start paying people who have broken the law to leave you alone, it invites new people to break the law in order to get money from you.
So, what do you do?
Sell your integrity for $1,000?
Risk losing the $100,000+ you paid for the land?
Risk threats from the squatters who still think they can get money from us (they have used poison to kill our animals in the past)?
After a sleepless weekend and some great counsel from the ARCC Board, the answer seems simple: It is time to ask God's people to pray...
More on what happened tomorrow.
Jeff is the Vice-Chancellor of Africa Renewal University. One of the greatest needs in Africa is the training and mentoring of pastors. Before coming to Uganda Jeff served as a Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church of Moorpark and has been involved in pastoral ministry since 1998. Jeff has a Bachelors Degree in Theology and a Masters of Divinity from The Masters College and Seminary. He lives in Uganda with his wife Christine and their two sons Noah and Kadin.