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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

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Rosebell Kagumire

Worrying war rhetoric ahead of Feb 18 Uganda vote

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Kale Kayihura addressing police officers via RedPepper Twitter

Uganda is set hold presidential and general elections on February 18. Eight candidates are vying for the seat but the campaign is more of a three-horse race between incumbent President Museveni, leading opposition figure and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Kizza Besigye and former Prime minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi. The last four elections conducted during President Yoweri Museveni’s 30 years in power have all been marred with irregularities and violent incidents.

Less than a month to the vote, an increasing climate of fear  hovers over the country. The Uganda Police has recruited about 11 million crime preventers whom critics say are more or less a standby government militia to be used in case things don’t go well for the regime. Besigye’s party FDC says it has 10 persons per village ready to guard their vote and he continues a message of defiance that is not fully explained. Amama Mbabazi at rallies has emphasized that his go-forward team is ready to defend the vote.

Human rights organisations have called for suspension of crime preventers to prevent election violence. And in response Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura is quoted in the media to have told critics to ‘go hang’ and warned that he will not ‘allow’ opposition to destabilize the country.

“We shall not hand over power to the opposition to destabilize the peace which we fought for.” Kayihura told crime preventers to get ready for war. “We are going to change you from having sticks to rifles. Get ready to defend this country in case of any attack.”

These words have since been denied by the police after a backlash. It is not the first time the police move to manipulate the situation instead of apologizing for such unfortunate events. By telling the world that all media present “misquoted” the IGP on this story, they are kind of telling Ugandans to look away as the partisan police chief continues to sound war drums. Newspapers have since then carried a police press release that denies these words.

Nonetheless, Ugandans have continued to voice their worries about what role an openly partisan police will play in the upcoming election.

“Elections are not war. They are supposed to be the free and fair expression of the will of the people in whom all power is vested by law, said Ugandan lawyer David Mpanga tweeted. “All talk of war, violence and refusing to honour the outcome of a free and fair election is not only unlawful it is primitive and backward.”

Others like Emmanuel Kitamirike via Twitter were quick to point out that crime preventers could be a ploy, a form of election rigging mechanism. There about 15 million Ugandan registered voters in the upcoming election.

Crime preventers translates into 73 % of eligible voters on the nominal roll. They will be no need for NRM to solicit votes”

 

Some wanted details from the police chief.

Sarah Bireete, a rights activist urged  Ugandans not to  give in to intimidation.

As the IGP changes crime preventers from sticks to riffles and sounds war drums, the people should not be intimidated.

Just as the police were peddling the well known excuses of being misquoted, , an audio -yet to draw ‘i have been misquoted’ response, by the Secretary General of the ruling party Justine Lumumba emerged warning people at a really that “State will kill your children.”

These words are adding fuel to an already tense atmosphere as we head into that last three weeks of the campaigns.

These threats come after a January 20 opinion poll by A new opinion poll by Research World International (RWI) put Museveni at 51 percent, Besigye at 32 percent and Mbabazi at 12 percent showing steady improvement for the opposition. In the same poll 56% of the 2685 did not think President Museveni can peacefully hand over power if defeated in an election.

The US has issued warning about the campaign violence and highlighted the disappearance of Amama Mbabazi’s head of security Christopher Aine. A few days ago the State Department issued a security alert for Uganda.

The US Department of State statement described Uganda’s electoral environment as “deteriorating” pointing to Uganda Police “using excessive force” and the continued disruption of opposition campaign rallies.

There have been violent incidents in areas like Ntungamo, Gulu, and Bukwo between police, opposition political parties and their supporters.

Earlier this month, a Human Rights Watch report highlighted the intimidation of the press to keep people uninformed. Journalists have been beaten, equipment broken by Police as they covered opposition politicians. President Museveni’s campaign team temporarily banned Nation TV (NTV) over the latter’s refusal to air drone images by NRM party.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) revoked the license of Endigito FM and confiscated its broadcasting equipment on January 20, one day after the station aired an interview with opposition presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi.

UCC director Godfrey Mutabaazi initially told reporters that the station’s license was suspended because it owed 38 million Ugandan shillings ($11,000) in licensing fees. The station’s owner, Nulu Byamukama, said he had paid the outstanding fees in full following the suspension of the station’s license, according to reports and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Endigito FM, just like many privately owned radio stations broadcasting to rule communities face a lot of pressure from the regime not to host opposition candidates.

Meanwhile the first batch of the ballots are reported to have been delivered but the Electoral commission Chair Dr Badru Kiggundu couldn’t ascertain how many ballots had been delivered. The biometric voting system is here but we dont have trained personnel in place yet. Since this will be the first time the system is used in Uganda you would expect such training to have been conducted months ahead.

But amidst the rising election pressure, there are some initiatives by ugandans looking to maintain peace.

One of them is the Women’s Situation Room (WRS) aimed at “mitigating conflict, provide system for rapid and immediate response to reports of electoral violence and guard against violations of citizens particularly women’s human rights before, during and after elections.”

Initiated in Liberia in 2011 by a coalition of Liberian women and youths, the Women Situation Room (WRS) was in 2012 adopted by the African Union as a best practice for promoting peaceful elections in Africa.  Since its establishment the WSR has been duplicated in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Malawi and most recently Nigeria.

Launched in Uganda last week, the WRS will have a Call Center to receive and record incidents reported from the field for intervention by the “team of African and Ugandan eminent women with experience in election monitoring and mediation.”

Yvette Chesson-Wureh, the coordinator from Angie Brooks International Centre in Liberia is already in Uganda working with Ugandan women to ensure any incidents are reported and brought to the attention of authorities.

“We have the ability to create and the ability to destroy. We can either cause violence or uphold peace,” said Wureh. “We are here to ensure any incidents are reported and authorities handle them properly to avoid a likelihood of violence.”

Also Ugandan women activists under Uganda Women’s Network are calling for peace and tolerance in the face rhetoric that has increased tensions.

“We call upon government to urge its institutions such as the police to ensure utmost impartiality by working strictly within the law,” said a statement from UWONET . The activists urged youth to Ugandans to desist from being lured into militias/vigilante groups by politicians but to concentrate in exercising their rights to participate in electoral process.”

 

As Uganda enters the last campaign stretch, the stakes are higher each day and if the rhetoric by those in charge of security don’t cease, this is a country walking on eggshells.

What Least Developed Countries (LDCs) want from Paris Climate Conference

The Bandiagara plateau in Central Mali has been hit by repeated droughts. Climate change is making the weather unpredictable, resulting in poor harvests and increased malnutrition (Photo: Irina Mosel/ODI, Creative Commons via Flickr

For the next two weeks, world leaders, business leaders and civil society are in Paris at the COP21. Uganda is one of of the ‘least developed countries’. It is one of the most vulnerable to climate change yet like many LDCs emits least.

For the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the outcome of the Paris climate talks (COP21) is crucial. Ahead of COP21 in Paris, I worked with IIED’s LDC Independent Expert Group (IEG) of which I am a member to hear voices from LDCs in this  series of interviews with political leaders, experts and civil society representatives from nine of these countries to about the situation they face, and their hopes for a Paris deal.

The Least Developed Countries have contributed little to the global tally of greenhouse gas emissions, but many have submitted plans ahead of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP21), detailing their intended actions on climate change (INDCs).

Read more from IIED 

Africa needs a clear political strategy to get a better deal out of Paris Climate Talks

Plenary session at ccda-v by Photo by IISD/ENB

Between November 30 – December 11, the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) to the UNFCCC will be held in Paris. A new climate protocol to succeed the Kyoto Protocol is to be reached by world governments.

African governments, negotiators, civil society met in Victoria Falls Zimbabwe between 27-30 October at the 5th annual Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-V) to work on various positions ahead of the Paris talks. The CCDA is hosted the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), African union Commission (AUC) and AfDB and this year was under the theme “Africa, Climate Change and Sustainable development: What is at stake at Paris and beyond?”.

There was a charge that lack of political strategies pause a hurdle for African countries to achieve fair deals from UNFCCC talks. Many speakers also cautioned that even if African countries have submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) or post-2020 national climate action plans where governments will pledge their contribution to curbing down Green House Gas emissions with mitigation targets, they shouldn’t lose the sight of adaptation. 
Continue reading “Africa needs a clear political strategy to get a better deal out of Paris Climate Talks”

Police Brutality and Violence against Women ahead of 2016 Uganda Elections

Horrified like most Ugandans by Police actions against opposition politicians, I join concerned Ugandans and echo this call to sanity.

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STATEMENT FROM UGANDANS
DEMANDING AN END TO POLICE BRUTALITY

To
The Ministry of Internal Affairs
The Speaker of Uganda Parliament
The Inspector General of Police
The Uganda Human Rights Commission

RE: POLICE BRUTALITY AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AHEAD OF 2016 UGANDA ELECTIONS

We, concerned citizens of Uganda,
Outraged by the recent brutal actions of the Uganda Police towards opposition politicians and supporters

Cognizant of Uganda’s history that is tainted with gender specific crimes against women by security forces

Mindful that Uganda’s General elections are four months away

Appalled that our Police has exhibited that it is ill-prepared to ensure law and order in an impartial, non-discriminatory and civil way

Do address you as follows:

Continue reading “Police Brutality and Violence against Women ahead of 2016 Uganda Elections”

Janaale attack on Ugandan troops: the conflicting figures out of Somalia shouldn’t be ignored

Above: Lt. General Jonathan Rono, the Force Commander of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the AMISOM Ugandan Contingent Commander Brigadier Sam Kavuma visit AMISOM front-line troops at the Janaale base in Lower Shaballe region, Somalia on September 05 2015. AMISOM Photo

On September 1, Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants briefly seized control of an African Union after ramming a suicide car bomb into it.The attack took place at the AMISOM base in Janaale.

First diplomatic sources reported over 50 soldiers had died and then Somali military sources said 37. More than 48 hours after the attack on September 03, Uganda’s army spokesperson Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda tweeted that the estimates of more than 50 was a lie.Finally he told the nation that only 10 Ugandan soldiers had died in Somalia.

Continue reading “Janaale attack on Ugandan troops: the conflicting figures out of Somalia shouldn’t be ignored”

“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.
LISTEN:

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

 

 

Continue reading “Investment in local enterprise crucial to tackling poor sanitation”

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.

Continue reading “Uganda: Shit is not just a poor man’s problem”

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.

Continue reading “Is Uganda deployment in South Sudan more than just a citizen evacuation mission?”

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.

Continue reading

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