In the fall quarter, Global Public Affairs (GPA) at UCLA Luskin hosted Ssembatya Fred, a grassroots activist from Kampala, Uganda, to discuss a movement he is enthralled in: Dembe Ku Kubo (Freedom in the Streets). Fred was at UCLA working with Amy Ritterbusch, assistant professor of social welfare, on “Violence Against Street-Connected Children in Uganda,” a participatory action research initiative. He returned home at the end of October to continue pursuing freedom from state violence for all people in Kampala and beyond. John Danly, GPA staff member, recently chatted with Fred to get an update and see how he was getting on, especially in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
John: Fred, It’s great to reconnect. How is everything going now that you are back home?
Fred: Since I came back, I managed to get my own place to stay with my nephew, Robert, so I don’t have to sleep on the street any more. I appreciate this so much. I also don’t have to worry about food like I used to. I used to steal or lie to get the food I needed in order to survive. My whole mindset has changed now that I have discovered my freedom. I am more positive knowing that I have set up a good foundation of justice and love for our Kisenyi community (Kampala’s largest slum).
John: Where do things stand with Dembe Ku Kubo?
Fred: I’m currently trying to accumulate some money to officially register the organization. I’m blessed to have great friends with which our outreach continues, leading on drugs and violence. My bro Bruce leads games after we get food and also helps with medical issues. We do outreach Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 AM to 1 PM.
John: When you were back in the USA, UCLA helped connect you with Namati, an organization that is also fighting for global justice and freedom with a global community paralegals. Have you been able to talk with them yet?
Fred: Yes, I met with Namati members called “barefoot law”. They told me the first step is to find at least 3 members of the organization and they can help me register Dembe Ku Kubo. I had to spend time with my leaders to train and learn with them. I hope we don’t have to pay for registration because I don’t have money left. I don’t have any legal documents but my effort to seek justice grows every day because there are so many reasons to fight. Two days ago, my friend Ivan was beaten to death because he was stealing to support his family of 2 children and his wife. I’m fighting for him.
John: Where do you see Dembe Ku Kubo in five years?
Fred: In five years I see Dembe Ku Kubo officially registered and as a place where people of Kampala can come to rest, be safe, and also help people with trauma. It will be a place of freedom for all of us.