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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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Uganda

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.

“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:

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”

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.

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!

Continue reading “Uganda Police to embark on killing spree?”

Let’s go barter: Museveni govt cited in African migrants for Arms deal with Israel

For some time, secrecy had surrounded a racist deal made by an openly racist Israeli government towards African immigrants and some leaders of African countries.
When I first saw this report I thought, what an all-new low we are hitting in assisting trade in humans and promoting racism! I hoped that my president still had some moral bit left especially on an issue that concerned discrimination and dehumanization of Africans. But i was wrong!

A gag order on a secret agreement between governments of Israel and Uganda to deport African immigrants to Uganda was lifted.
Most immigrants in Israel are from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan.

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This deal between President Museveni, and Israel will see Uganda take in tens of thousands of African migrants or in some cases serve as a transit station.
Israeli Interior Minister said that they had obtained consent from Museveni government which a foreign ministry official was quick to refute . I say it is Museveni because there’s almost no respect for other aspects of government by Museveni.

Gideon Sa’ar doesn’t even conceal his racist language!

“In the first stage we will focus on raising awareness within the population of infiltrators while helping them with the logistics of their departure including their airfare and dealing with possession they accumulated.”

Continue reading “Let’s go barter: Museveni govt cited in African migrants for Arms deal with Israel”

Ugandan women in politics fight on amidst militarism

In Uganda and many postcolonial African countries, women’s political leadership has come a long way. At Independence while the continent celebrated the great milestones from Ghana to Kenya, Uganda to Malawi, women were quietly bracing themselves for the second independence- the struggle for a woman’s space in political life of postcolonial Africa.

Most independence struggles always highlighted men at the forefront for long at the expense of women’s contributions. Women’s achievements were not as revered as those of the men who led militaristic struggles.
Many decades later, Africa now has two female heads of state and many other women occupy key decision-making positions. Even with these achievements, many analysts believe the women’s involvement in post-colonial state governance has been painfully slow.

This week, Isis-WICCE organized a high level meeting of women from African countries discussing women’s political leadership on the continent.
The women leaders included ministers, Members of Parliament and academicians from South Sudan, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda.

Speaker after speaker these women leaders raised the glaring challenges faced by women in political leadership and high on the list was militarism and the sexualized nature of political spaces in their countries.

In past Uganda has had a female vice president and currently has the first ever-female speaker Ms Rebecca Kadaga presiding over parliament. Many may be quick to highlight this as a great success but the fact that it came 50 years after independence speaks volumes of the struggle of women to make it in the political arena.

Speaker of Parliament Uganda Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga. Photo by Edward Echwalu. Check out his Photo blog http://echwaluphotography.wordpress.com/
Speaker of Parliament Uganda Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga. Photo by Edward Echwalu. Check out his Photo blog http://echwaluphotography.wordpress.com/

Continue reading “Ugandan women in politics fight on amidst militarism”

Karimojong girls face enormous hurdles to attain education

In the village of Rupa, about 40 minutes drive from the regional town of Moroto, I met 11 year-old Clementina Loduk . I had gone there with a group of academicians interested in the development of the region at the beginning of July. This was my second trip to a region, which remains largely unknown to many Ugandans. I asked someone in the group to tell me the last story they had seen in the national media about Karamoja and many couldn’t point out any. Later we had a meeting at one of the villages.

Clementina and a friend.
Clementina and a friend.

Continue reading “Karimojong girls face enormous hurdles to attain education”

Seen in Moroto-Karamoja Uganda

I took a 3 day trip to Karamoja for a meeting last week. This was my second time in the region that most Ugandans know so little about. Most of our images on Karamoja are based on many stereotypes and myths. There’s now relative peace in Karamoja after disarmament process but much of the area still needs a lot support in order to develop- not forgetting making sure Karimojong people benefit from the gold and marble mined in the area.

Not many seem to know where the gold goes. There’s been a constant American soldiers presence in the area for some years that is unexplained. This is a region with great potential and beauty that has been mostly locked out by our governments.

View from Mt.Moroto. It is a great climb and good for viewing the sunset.
View from Mt.Moroto. It is a great climb and good for viewing the sunset.

Continue reading “Seen in Moroto-Karamoja Uganda”

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