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Rosebell's Blog

"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

Push for transparency at G8 alone will not solve land grabs in Africa

This week I am working with the IFCampaign at the G8 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. The G8 leaders are discussing trade, taxes and Transparency and a good deal of parternships will be announced regarding G8 countries and role in developing countries. I will be blogging about any initiatives. This is the first in the series of blogs.

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President Obama meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron

In May 2012, a few months before he passed away, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi while attending the World Economic Forum on Africa was asked a question that intrigues most African citizens. Why do African leaders- revolutionaries turn to looting their own countries once in power? The brainy later leader of Ethiopia responded by highlighting foreign corporations’ role in impoverishing Africa. He hinted that African leaders, in their quest to find jobs for an increasing unemployed population, were being held hostage by corporations that come in to invest.

Continue reading “Push for transparency at G8 alone will not solve land grabs in Africa”

A father’s day note

Happy Day to all moms who work day and night being both father and mother to your children! We live in an interesting world where fathers never turn up when you need a pencil, a school bag, tuition fees or at a school event. They are never anywhere close when you are doing homework each night.

These are the fathers who will fight to be present at your graduation, remind you how they are your father and list all their entitlements on the news of a possible marriage or simply turn up at your door to because now you are somebody.

I have had close friends whose never-ever-present fathers turn up to ask their fiance loads of money a few weeks to their wedding and well those whose fathers only remember them when they hear they have got a job.

There are also those male relatives who are supposedly your father according tradition- because your father passed away at a young age. They never ever supported you but they will force their way to wedding meeting to demand their’rightful’ place.

These are true stories have plagued some peoples lives today.

So such on a day, I thank all fathers who are doing their best to be good fathers and good role models for your children especially daughters! Who believe that your daughter can be as good as your son and show it. You are gems!

When I think of good fathers, I am drawn to The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, first book in the series by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith set up in Botswana. His lead fiction character is Mma Precious Ramotswe, the first female private investigator in Botswana. Precious is always talking fondly about her late father Rra Obed Ramotswe who allowed her to inherit his herd of cattle in a culture where women aren’t really allowed this right. Precious describes herself as a “girl who has had a good father.” And this drives her to do great in her career.

To all fathers, I hope your children can proudly say, today or later in life, that they are proud of what you are doing for them! I

Happy Fathers Day from Belfast!

Seven days in Myanmar

I had spent two nights -one in Nairobi and another in Bangkok thanks to Kenya Airways great service. So I arrived in Yangon whn over 200 Young Global Leaders had already immersed themselves in great discussion and I had to catch up.

1: Learning about Turkey in Myanmar

On my second day in Myanmar we visited a training institute for young leaders to discuss public leadership. One of the great presentations came from Turkey.  We were at an organization called Egress to exchange ideas on democracy and transitions. So I learnt that though Turkey has had free and fair elections, ethnic disputes and separatism have not gone away. Our presenter Umit left a couple of points for our hosts and I.

  • Transition doesn’t mean immediate consolidation with a few exceptions.
  • Elected governments are not necessarily much more liberal than military governments
  • Having elections and changing a constitution are not enough: authoritarianism may be in the society’s DNA so people might have gotten too used to it. There’s need for more work after those two processes.
  • Democracy and human rights do not often rank very high on the voters priority list.

I found these lessons not only relevant for Myanmar but also applied much to Uganda. I was amazed by the Myanmar youth who shared with us what they thought their government should make priority. Peace and security was high followed by education and political inclusiveness.
Continue reading “Seven days in Myanmar”

Seven stories in seven days in Myanmar

I got off the Bangkok Airways flight at Yangon International Airport. At the arrivals, the long line for visas on arrival welcomes me and after an hour i get my visa. Things are a little slower than most places I have visited. So much paper work!!

I am in Myanmar for the Global Young Leaders forum run by the World Economic Forum. The Forum  will take place on the sides of World Economic Forum on East Asia both in Yango (Rangoon) and Nay Pyi Taw. I read in the Myanmar Times that the gathering of about 900 delegates will be the largest gathering the country has hosted in 20 years. I had read from ForeignPolicy  a few days before that “between 1900 and 1990, gross domestic product (GDP) growth  increased at no more than 1.6 percent a year — half of the rate of the rest of the world.”

From BBC I had read “from 1962 to 2011, Myanmar was ruled by a military junta that suppressed almost all dissent and wielded absolute power in the face of international condemnation and sanctions.” And i also have a Burmese friend who has been at the forefront working with dissents in the diaspora since late 1990s.

A mural at the Young Global Leaders Forum
A mural at the Young Global Leaders Forum

As I go deeper into the Myanmar Times pages, I find an MTN advert and all the talk is invest in this, invest in that. It’s a country that has been closed to the world for long and now everybody is rushing. Everybody talks of how much opportunity exists.  MTN is here because for the first time the government is going liberalize the telecom sector.

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US is about to pump in a lot of money after decades of isolating the country. Myanmar has oil, gas, timber and minerals. Its a market of over 60 million people.

As we drive past the Yagon University, the driver smiles brightly and tells me Obama came to the university on his visit recently.

As we close in to my hotel, I realize how heavy it’s been raining and it trained for most of my first 48 hours in Myanmar.

Mr.President, we have a letter situation…and then Obama

Three months ago a letter supposedly authored by a little known member of opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Catherine Ddembe caused a buzz among Ugandans on social networks. “

The letter detailed a plot to frame senior government officials in subversive activities. The letter also spoke of plans to kill key figures allegedly opposed to what has come to be known as the ‘Muhoozi project’. The project of trying to groom Museveni’s son Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba for the presidency (We don’t know when- the father hasn’t shown signs of retiring in 2016).

Continue reading “Mr.President, we have a letter situation…and then Obama”

Crackdown on freedom of expression: Ugandan Radio Talk show host detained, intimidated and freed

Ugandan journalists and activists working outside Kampala face some of the worst threats and sometimes these threats go unreported. If the stories are reported, they generally don’t receive the same hype as the arrests or mistreatment of those that are Kampala based.

Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) working with security operatives have been at the center of threating freedom of expression of Ugandans upcountry. Every now and then a talk show host is threatened or kicked out of job for opinions that are everyday broadcast on stations held in the capital.

Opposition candidates are finely denied airtime to articulate their side of politics on radio stations outside the city. Most Ugandans upcountry whom the current government largely depend on radio. This makes the job of a radio journalist riskier.

On May 08, a Radio Political Talk show host James Kasirivu of the popular “World Express” program on Mbarara based Endigito Radio station was arrested. Kasirivu was picked up by plain clothed security operatives, first detained at Mbarara Police station in Western Uganda before being transferred to infamous Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Kireka, Kampala.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) says  security operatives did not tell Kasirivu what crime he had committed offence, and neither did they allow him to call his relatives or lawyer. Kasirivu was held for one night and was driven back to Mbarara in the night.

Kasirivu told HRNJ-Uganda that one of the officers threatened him with shooting once he asked why he was being held. HRNJ-Uganda in statement said Kasirivu was accused of obtaining about Shs 870 million equivalent to US $ 348,000 from a certain herbalist. When asked the head of SIU Chelimo Beata told HRNJ-Uganda that Kasirivu was implicated in the conning of money from a certain woman of about Ug. Shs 400 million equivalent to $ 160,000.

Sources told HRNJ-Uganda that “Kasirivu has been stopped from mentioning anything to do with Ugandan current affairs –be it politics, economics or social issues in his daily program ‘World Express’ which highlights currents affairs happening around the globe. Kasirivu’s show was previously shut down after receiving numerous warnings from the UCC.

Ugandan security forces have given themselves a right to hold Ugandan citizens incommunicado. Sometimes people are held for months in these units without charge and Kasirivu’s case could have gone unreported.

microphone

There are a limited number of critical shows that serve most of rural Uganda. Most radio stations upcountry are still owned by NRM linked businessmen, ministers and government officials. This means the critical debates that urban communities in Uganda are treated to everyday are a rare thing for rural Uganda.  Not much is available online about the radio man who’s known as ‘The Great’ whose show is well respected in south western Uganda districts. A facebook page for the show that Kasirivu runs has 116 followers https://www.facebook.com/groups/170672033058793/

For a government that seems to be using all means necessary – including trying to expel MPs from parliament- to shut up divergent views, talk show hosts like Kasirivu are perceived as a threat.  Their role in imparting knowledge in the rural populace can’t be welcomed by a government that benefits from such information gap.

These arrests and intimidation are not a new project they have been here for sometime, the only difference is the tougher the road gets for NRM, the rougher their means become.

The police has also been on the tail of activists behind the Black Monday Movement.  Six members of the civil society-led campaign that preaches against corruption in public offices were arrested in February for allegedly distributing flyers. The Police asked the campaign to register their publication. The team has moved on the look into audio messages. The Police ruled that the campaign messages were “inciting.”

Like my teacher and journalist Bernard Tabaire wrote in Daily Monitor “Every constitutional lawyer who passed exams thinks the NRM leadership has taken leave of its brain. That is sad. Kind of.”

Tabaire’s may have been referring to efforts to expel MPs from the house, but with such intimidation of people like Kasirivu and Black Monday campaigners the statement fits many actions of our government.

Press Freedom Day: Ethiopia’s jailed journalist and Uganda’s restrictive laws

A few weeks ago I spent a night in Addis Ababa –in transit to Accra because of a flight delay. Like on many other trips to the capital that hosts the African Union, you immediately feel that somehow Meles is not dead. Former Prime Minister’s photos still greet you at the airport and on most roads. These photos give you a feeling of visiting an orphaned nation. You will not easily have a clue that Ethiopia has a new leader. Just like the photos of Meles in the streets, his policies are still well implemented by his party EPRDF and journalists like Reeyot Alemu are at still at the receiving end of these undemocratic policies and outright repression that he presided over.

Reeyot's photo at the award ceremony for 2013 World Press Freedom Prize in San Jose Costa Rica.
Reeyot’s photo at the award ceremony for 2013 World Press Freedom Prize in San Jose Costa Rica.

Continue reading “Press Freedom Day: Ethiopia’s jailed journalist and Uganda’s restrictive laws”

President Museveni’s sack of shame

If you have been following Ugandan news in the last few days you couldn’t have missed that photo of President Yoweri Museveni handing over $100,000 to a loose group of youth from Busoga. Twitter and Facebook are still having discussions on this #sackofmoney.

The president was apparently fulfilling a promise he made during the 2011 elections. The president proudly announced his donation sending the crowd of ordinary Ugandans in a village into celebration. Museveni in the past has handed over brown envelopes to sustain his patronage and stay in power.

Museven's sack-of-money photo from New Vision
Museven’s sack-of-money photo from New Vision

Many ask, what’s wrong with a sack of money?

Continue reading “President Museveni’s sack of shame”

Uganda and ICT: The world digitizes, Museveni wants millions for photocopying

Uganda remained at the 110th position out of the 144 countries in the Global Information Technology Report 2013.

The Networked Readiness Index, calculated by the World Economic Forum, and INSEAD, ranks 144 economies based on:

their capacity to exploit the opportunities offered by the digital age. This capacity is determined by the quality of the regulatory, business and innovation environments, the degree of preparedness, the actual usage of ICTs, as well as the societal and economic impacts of ICTs. The assessment is based on a broad range of indicators from Internet access and adult literacy to mobile phone subscriptions and the availability of venture capital. In addition, indicators such as patent applications and e-government services gauge the social and economic impact of digitization.

Uganda ICT reeadiness

The Global Information Technology Report also shows that digitization has a measurable effect on economic growth and job creation.

Continue reading “Uganda and ICT: The world digitizes, Museveni wants millions for photocopying”

Pornography according to Lokodo (Part I)

I have just read the anti Pornography Bill that is currently before our parliament. This Bill was brought soon after the MPs stifled debate on the Marriage and Divorce Bill, which millions of Ugandans need urgently in place.

Lokodo’s anti-pornography bill however doesn’t just threaten women; it is attacking press freedom too. The media is portraying the Bill as a ‘mini-skirt’ law but if passed it has far reaching consequences on press freedom, freedom of expression, Internet freedom, right to privacy and culture.

According to the Bill

Pornography means any cultural practice, radio or television programme, writing, publication, advertisement, broadcast, upload on internet, display, entertainment, music, dance, picture, audio, video recording, show, exhibition or any combination of the preceeding that depicts (for now I concentrate on the clause) “Sexual parts of a person such as breasts, thighs, buttocks and genetalia.”

Continue reading “Pornography according to Lokodo (Part I)”

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