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"You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore."-Cesar Chavez

“No, Yes”, Ugandan artist piece evokes conversation on sex, consent and women’s voices

Earlier this month,a few days after returning to Kampala I walked into the Kampala Art Auction as Serena Hotel. At first, I was excited to see a piece that captured the obsession with ourselves- the ever increasing narcissism of our time – the Selfie. Minutes into the auction one piece captured the audience evoking laughter and comments about this piece by Violet Lynus Nantume,a Ugandan Artist.

The piece was bought at UShs 4 million. Violet explained her piece titled “No, Yes” a flaccid penis pointed at an ear is about sexual relations between men and women in Uganda and Africa today. She said she wants to contribute to the conversation where a woman’s no is ‘taken’ for a yes. Sex, consent and women’s voice today! Great piece, important conversation that must continue. Violet says she was inspired by writings of Dr Sylvia Tamale a Ugandan academic and human rights advocate.
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Investment in local enterprise crucial to tackling poor sanitation

Over the last two days I have been startled by Uganda sanitation statistics and how the country loses a lot of money and time to treatment of diseases, which are preventable. One person suggested that may be it is a matter of people in finance not being able to make the link that prevention costs us way less than treatment dedicated to 75% of disease burden from poor sanitation.

With about a thousand days to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline, some 780 million people will still not have access to improved water supply and many countries including Uganda are going to miss the targets for sanitation. About 2.5 billion people worldwide still do not have access to improved sanitation. About 1 billion people still defecate in the open and Uganda contributes 3.2 million to this figure.

Girl fetching water in Kampala photo by Andy Kristian
Girl fetching water in Kampala photo by Andy Kristian

 

 

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Uganda: Shit is not just a poor man’s problem

A while back, a friend returned from a funeral of one the big men from his village. The man had served as a minister in one of past regimes and had generally lived a good life. My friend’s story from the big man’s funeral wasn’t about the pomp, which many often try to put up even at funerals in our rich world. It was about one shocking aspect of the man’s life. This big man had lived in Kampala and kept his village home like most Ugandans do but to the surprise of my friend this big man’s village home where he was buried had had no toilet/latrine facilities. The only standing structure had been quickly erected at the news of his passing.

I was reminded of this story at a sanitation meeting that is taking place in Kampala, which brought participants from 21 countries.
When I first saw the theme “unclogging the blockages” I wondered if we had even anything blocked in the first place. Contrary to held myths that open-air defecation is done by poor people, this story of the big man shows that shit matters in Uganda are everyone’s problem.

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Is Uganda deployment in South Sudan more than just a citizen evacuation mission?

It started on Sunday, December 15. I woke up on Monday to the news of a ‘failed coup’ in South Sudan that now many believe never was. Next day, President Salva Kiir wore his military fatigue as if to reinforce that idea that this will be solved militarily- in a country where he has yet to bridge the political and ethnic divides. The fight that started as squabbles between members of the SPLM exposed divisions – both political and ethnic- in the worst way possible.

A week later, UN agencies put the number of dead at 500 and most of them civilians. Many graphic stories are going around about how people were hunted down in their homes and hacked and killed in some of the cruelest ways imagined, just because they belonged to a different tribe.

For many months there was consistent talk of a possible coup with Kiir dismissing an entire cabinet. This was a man in a paranoia mode. From then on nothing has been the same. Many people I know in South Sudan believe Kiir is been putting a lid on the party, the government and the army and not allowing dissenting voices or a resemblance of democracy internally. What appeared a political rift at the top of the party this this week degenerated to fight for power along ethnic lines.

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It is been tough months, the kind of tough I wouldn’t easily put down on paper! I am sure the last two weeks you read and re-read articles about life and the passing of former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela. I quietly read a lot too.

I wrote this small piece for Radio Netherlands Worldwide about what I thought of his life and legacy. I hope you still find it interesting.

I was barely 11 years old when Mandela was released from 27 years of inhuman incarceration. At home we didn’t have a TV and I bet that my day – that great day in history – went on like any other day of an 11 year old in rural Uganda.

Many years later, I would read of President Mandela saying: “The curious beauty about African music is that it uplifts even as it tells a sad story.” It reminded me of my childhood and how music introduced many of us to the apartheid and the evils in South Africa. The songs of Miriam Makeba and Lucky Dube would be danced to in my village, but they also sparked passionate discussions.

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Beauty remains amidst struggle; Lives of Congolese refugees in Uganda

For two weeks in October, I worked with a research team from Isis-WICCE to document Congolese women refugees experiences of war. The research is supposed to inform various political efforts to end the conflicts in Eastern DRC.
We travelled to Bubukwanga, a refugee transit camp in Bundibugyo district at the border with DRC. At the time of the visit, the centre was still receiving about 250 refugee arrivals per week.

Most of these refugees fled back in July when rebels reported to be ADF-NALU took over Kamango, a town about 10 KM from the Ugandan border.It is Beni district, North KivU Province. Some reports in Uganda media questioned if ADF was really behind the attacks.

Unlike other attacks in North Kivu, many reported the rebels attack on Kamango was more of a tactic to force displacement. One woman told me “they came to my house and said i should go to a refugee camp in Uganda because they needed this place as their playing field.

There was no report of sexual violence, the attack took many by surprise, although there had been some abductions and killings in the area for sometime.

Many reported that rebels had carried out killings especially of people who had either refused to leave or tried to go back after the day of the attack. The chief of the area was killed in the first hours of the attack, a tactic to instill fear in the population to force them out.

In Kyangwali refugee settlement where more than 5000 had been relocated, beginning a new life in a new place is tough. I spent more time at Kyangwali and got many images but would like to share these. For many elderly people, this was their 3rd time to be displaced into Uganda. In fact some of them narrated their stories in Rutoro/Runyakira.

A Congolese man carrying their daughter was walking with his wife on the way from the garden. I asked for a photo and this is what i got. This is a very rare sight in Uganda where generally gender roles can be well defined. Many men hardly carry their children.
A Congolese man carrying their daughter was walking with his wife on the way from the garden. I asked for a photo and this is what i got. This is a very rare sight in Uganda where generally gender roles can be well defined. Many men hardly carry their children.

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Rape and the culture of victim blaming in Uganda

This blog post is part of the Blog Action Day and this year’s theme is human rights.

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At the end of September, a Youth Minister in Uganda Kibuule went on record to say a woman who is indecently dressed and is raped should face charges and the perpetrator should be set free. Journalists recorded his voice at a function in the western district of Ntungamo and the next day newspapers carried the story.

Kibuule ran to radio stations claiming he was misquoted, he even opened a twitter account to dig into the debate where I and many Ugandans had contributed condemning this rape apologist.

More than 20 girls are raped everyday in Uganda but the silence continues. Most of these rapes are committed by close friends and relatives. But for people like Kibuule, the obsession with women’s bodies blind them from the reality.

They blame clothes not perpetrators. Like many other instances in Uganda, a minister like Kibuule can abuse women and spread hate speech and incite violence and get away with it.

Not much time has passed and we are hearing a harrowing account of 23 year old girl who was gang-raped by Pakistani men.

There’s a public outcry and like in many other sexual violence cases it has emerged the file initially at Kira road police was mismanaged. This girl is living in fear because those who gang-raped have threatened to hurt her more or even kill her. But this is not new, many rape cases are never prosecuted to the end.

It was only last year the Police Form 3 was amended for law enforcement agencies to record medical practitioner’s evidence in cases of sexual violence including rape and defilement.

Before then only Police surgeons could use this form and be acceptable before the courts of law. You would find long lines at the surgeon’s office and there was no privacy. I visited two surgeons while doing a story back in 2008 and it was clear to any one who entered which cases the victims were there to report. A man with her daughter in tears would easily tell you how she’s been raped and many women seated in silence as they waiting for this one man to examine them.

More than the justice system we have a culture of silence and victim blaming. If a woman or girl is raped we have first find out if she didn’t ‘deserve’ it. We need a society that can support rape victims to be able to speak out with out rape apologists like Kibuule threatening them. If we have ministers who are on the side of rapists and actually advocating for rapist’s rights to rape we are far from the morality that we all like to go preaching about.

Like Norbert Mao said, we need to go beyond public outcries whenever cases like these come out.

First, parliament should pass the Sexual Offences Bill. This law should have provisions that protects rape victims from traumatic court sessions, creates a well facilitated sexual assault police unit, creates sexual assault response centres in our health centres to deal with the risk of HIV infection and provide post exposure prophylaxis, and which emphasises protection of child victims of rape. Second, there should be a public education campaign targeting men to sensitize them about the difference between consensual sex and rape. That’s the only way men will understand that women have a right to say no to sex. Is is also the only way we can build a society that can groom men who respect women. Third, we need more men especially those in government and parliament to take a courageous stand to end sexual violence.

Kibuule had some backing and it was heart wrenching to see young men posting on twitter in support of him. They seemed ignorant of the fact that what is decent to them can be indecent to another.
That we have laws and that under no circumstance can one excuse rape.

Those horrified by the Pakistanis who gang-raped this young woman who was only out to look for better employment, must know the link between statements like Kibuule’s and the perpetuation of rape and the silence that follows this crime.
Without structures to cater for such victims even in the face of persistent threats we can’t hide from the fact that our leaders would rather obsess about women’s bodies than put measures to ensure women are protected. If they weren’t obsessed we would see more laws that enhance women’s equality and protection passed. We wouldnt spent time speaking about the length of a skirt when more horror is delivered to our door steps every day!

A peace dialogue in Karamoja

Last week, shortly after the International Peace Day I went to Moroto with Karamoja Cluster Project, My graduate school University for Peace is starting.
At an intra-community dialogue, held under a tree, between Tepeth elders on resolving the cross-border conflict between the Tepeth in Uganda (in alliance with the Pokot) and the Turkana in Kenya, i took these photos in Kalemungole village, Tapac subcounty.

Peace in Karamoja is fragile. After decades of armed violence through cattle rustling, Uganda government enforced disarmament. But Kenya instead decided to arm their warriors. This dialogue showed a change in the communities and their embrace for protection from armed forces instead of arming themselves.

One of the most important issues raised at a dialogue where the LCV was present was where is the 3% the communities is supposed to get from Marble mining? Karamoja also has gold and other issues arising are land rumored being grab. Most Karamojongs lost cattle and struggle but not much is known about gold mining and trade from Karamoja. Not that I intend to scare but there’s a mega road construction project by Chinese and rumours were rife that the Chinese are trying to get a stake in Gold. Am ignorant of the gold mining venture in this part of the country just like most Ugandans but i thought these issues regarding extractive industries need to be given attention and coverage to put such rumours to death.

I captured these images as the dialogue went on.

Elderly woman at the dialogue
Elderly woman at the dialogue

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Soldiers listen in during the dialogue
Soldiers listen in during the dialogue

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Found this kid with mum, in earlier photo he showed great interest in the camera, i bet he will be a journo some day
Found this kid with mum, in earlier photo he showed great interest in the camera, i bet he will be a journo some day
Never seen such big guns with Police but this really shows the fragility of peace in Karamoja.
Never seen such big guns with Police but this really shows the fragility of peace in Karamoja.

We are NOT ONE.

rosebell:

One of the most thoughtful commentaries that I have read after Westgate mall attack in Kenya.
Like the great 18th Century English Writer Samuel Johnson said “It is unpleasing to represent our affairs to our own disadvantage; yet it is necessary to shew the evils which we desire to be removed.” And that sometimes “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Originally posted on Gregg Tendwa:

I refuse to suck up to this fake sense of Kenyan patriotism.

I grew up reading books on Kenyan history and singing to the tunes of patriotic songs that were constantly propagated by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. I went to school in a single party state when there was no difference between government and political parties. I was taught history that was cooked by the curriculum developers to deliberately make me become patriotic to the country Kenya.

At school, I was taught to sing the national anthem as well as recite the national pledge, which at the time, was coined to end up with pledging loyalty and allegiance to the president of Kenya. I was taught that Kenyatta was the Kenyan Jesus. I was taught how to sing for the president, and bow my head in respect.

In church, I was taught to obey and not question authority. I was…

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Uganda Police to embark on killing spree?

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I woke to this headline and I am yet to understand why Uganda Police heads thought Ugandans will buy into this Bull****. You neglect the country for months to surround Besigye and opposition and make sure they don’t set foot where the powers that be don’t want the, crime increases and now you come to tell us don’t worry we will kill all these thieves!!

You have turned the police into an army. You are supporting mob justice and you think it is worth it announcing your planned killings! This is lazy ass policing where you make killing civilians a priority!

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