ICC and rent defaulting in Uganda

Just when you think the International Criminal Court has gone off the headlines in the Uganda, it crawls back. But this time it’s not about Uganda having to arrest Bashir or General Kony(like most of his sympathisers love to call him).

The ICC building at the Hague where the court has headquarters.
The ICC building at the Hague where the court has headquarters.

The ICC in Uganda is being sued for failure to pay rent. In a country where the court’s involvement is still partly blamed for complicating effeorts to find the end of the war, such news about failure to pay rent is the last the court needs.

Well, rent defaulting in Uganda is not a rare thing and if you’re a land lord you understand the pain of having to guage a new tenant on their looks, mannerisms to identify any rent defaulting in them. In fact one cabinet minister is well known for staying in houses for free. The trick is that he will pay you the first months a lump some after that he will stay for free until he identifies another poor landlord to invade. The ICC has long vacated the premises where the owe this money and the case is before court. So I wonder if the ICC got their advice from this minister. But I am not sure the ICC wants to become a laughing-stone, oh! forget Kampala Mayoral language, the ICC can’t risk becoming a laughing-stock.

Women of Valour

The war between Khartoum and South Sudan may be long ended but the reconstruction of South Sudan is not going to be an easy ride. Even as the ruling on Abyei was recieved, African women and children in Sudan still face challenges from food, infrastructure to lack of security. One major obstacle left behind by the war are land mines. Some were planted by the Lords Resistance Army and others by government forces and rebels in Sudan. For this week’s Women of Valour, I chose the women of South Sudan who bear the harsh hot sun to demine the villages  to make safe places for people to resettle.

Read their story on BBC.

“Jamba Besta had planned to be a secretary, hoping to find work in an office as her homeland of South Sudan emerged out of a 22-year long civil war.

Instead, the pregnant mother heads an all-female team of de-miners, removing dangerous explosives from former battlefields.

“I never thought I would be doing this,” says Ms Besta, welcoming her six-woman team back from the danger zone they are clearing.

Tabu Monica Festo
Many people have died or had their legs shot off because of a mine
Tabu Monica Festo
Mine clearer

“But it shows those people who think that women can’t do jobs like this that they are wrong.”

Migingo Island: A clash of egos

Migingo Island row has raised its ugly head yet again. Teams of Ugandan and Kenyan

The disputed Migingo Island in Lake Victoria.
The disputed Migingo Island in Lake Victoria.

surveyors whom we expected to shed light on where the island lies have disagreed. And Uganda’s minister for East African affairs has said the matter could end up at the International Court of Justice which recently gave a verdict on the fate of Abyei region in Sudan which was claimed by both the government of South Sudan and the government in Khartoum.

After spending a lot of taxpayer’s money to the committees to demarcate the border, citizens in the eastern African nations will still have hold their breath for the way forward. I read a good commentary on the situation from Global Politician by Ronald Elly Wanda, a political scientist.

I agree with him that the dispute has been magnified and it shows that these governments aren’t that dedicated to find a amicable solution. But where I differ is the way he thinks that colonial agreements are being given too much attention as where the solution lies.

“In fact, one striking feature that the Migingo tussle vividly illustrates, is that the so called independence we were granted is in actual fact ‘dependence’. The territorial dispute and the references sought to pre-colonial documents (as a possible resolution), indicates a collective colonised Kenyan and Ugandan mindset that is still soaked in cultural imperialism.”

Much as I find it distasteful that we still have to be affected by these colonial agreements we can’t escape the fact we have to depend on them because after many years of defining our states many of us see ourselves more in terms of those boundaries that we didn’t put up. Migingo I believe shouldn’t be detraction for these two countries but where ‘big men’ rule and are in charge almost solely, we are bound to see such issues become a clash of egos.

Holocaust scholars praise Uganda on Bashir: but is it worth the praise

Holocaust scholars– including Yad Vashem Professor Yehuda Bauer and the president of Genocide Watch, Gregory H. Stanton – signed a petition praising Uganda’s move to ‘block’ Sudanese President Omar al Bashir from attending a conference in Kampala over the ICC indictments.

Map of Sudan showing Darfur region where Bashir's is accused of supporting a conflict that claimed thousands of lives of black tribes
Map of Sudan showing Darfur region where Bashir's is accused of supporting a conflict that claimed thousands of lives of black tribes

The media was awash of stories as Bashir kept quiet on whether he would attend the conference, a move that would have put Uganda between a rock and a hard place.

I know and I have gained from Gregory H. Stanto’s vast knowledge of the Genocide at the young leader’s forum in Montreal in 2007. I learnt alot about the stages of genocide and that genocide can be prevented.

While Santon and other scholars said “Uganda’s action helps isolate Sudan’s president and shames the Arab and African countries that have given him red-carpet treatment,” I believe their move is not worth the praise. This is because it wasn’t done in total belief in justice. Uganda simply did what was politically convinien by asking Bashir not to attent in person to avoid a diplomatic row. If Uganda really believed in the whole Rome statute the government wouldn’t be moving to enact a law that grants a seating president immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

See pictures from Darfur by Stuart Price a photojournalist who spent more than a year in the region.

Do horrifying images of dead bodies in Ugandan media serve any purpose?

This month, Makerere University Department of Mass Communication celebrated their 20th anniversary. One of the events was a media symposium which I attended and found interesting. The theme of the symposium was professionalizing the media in Uganda. I didn’t write anything about it but after spending a week in my village I feel obliged to write something.

At this event the main speakers included Barbra Kaija, the deputy Editor in-Chief of The New Vision. One issue raised by some of those who attended remained unanswered. There was a concern as to why the media in Uganda was consistently insensitive in publication of images of the dead. The person specifically pointed out Bukedde, a Luganda sister paper to the New Vision.

I must say I have always wondered why great editors would forego the tenets of journalism to publish abhorrent images of the dead, be it those involved in an accident or those in homicides.

I appreciate that the media has a duty to inform or even bring horrible acts to the attention of both the public and policy makers but I also expect the media to respect the dead and their relatives. I write this because as a journalist I believe in being sensitive but also as a Ugandan who has come to know some people who have lost relatives and the horrible images are published. It might be years after the local daily published these images but they remain vivid in the relatives’ minds.

Back at the symposium, Kaija unsuccessfully tried to defend the Bukedde policy of publishing dead bodies, saying that the paper was meant for a Baganda audience and that in the Buganda culture it was okay to view dead bodies. This reason was shredded by the Baganda and those well versed with culture at the event.  Kaija opted for the easy way out by telling the gathering she was only responsible for The New Vision and that she was not the right person to seek answers from.

After that the discussion stopped but this week I found the same discussion in my village in Bushenyi. Just like any other village across the country, in my village over 20 people share the day’s paper. I arrived late in the evening carrying Daily Monitor and New Vision, papers that most people rarely read because of the cost and access issues.

I found some three old men whom I have known since I was little to be keen on current affairs and for years their main source has been Orumuri, a Runyankole sister paper to the New Vision. The men wanted to peruse through the English dailies I brought. Then the discussion started on what was in the Orumuri of the day. The first page was full of some dead person and these men were not amused by the continued publication of such pictures in their favourite paper. They know me to be a journalist so they asked why their paper had changed to this and I told them I shared their concern but had no idea why this was being done. Just like Bukedde, Orumuri has been transformed and it now carries pictures of children hacked to death in disturbing close ups that you don’t want to give the picture a second look. When I reached home my aunt raised the same concern about the pictures in Orumuri.

While appreciate that the media should continue to cover these murders in the country, I think news managers must be more responsible and sensitive to readers especially relatives of those in the pictures they choose to use. The media should stop being another pain to those who have lost their relatives in such gruesome ways. I don’t understand what exceptional role these pictures play in bringing the story to the attention of the readers. The headlines are screamers themselves. The government has been keen on the media only if it is critical of their policies. It seems there’s not much being done to see that the press doesn’t treat the public like the dustbin, whether it is internally or by bodies responsible. What makes people’s concerns even more worth considering is the fact that our government has shares in the Vision Group. I know the editors at these papers know better than presenting these horrible pictures in the way they do but I can’t comprehend why they continue doing so.

LRA abductions continue in DRC

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is continuing to kill and kidnap civilians in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to the UN.

In the first fortnight of July alone, the Ugandan rebel group carried out 33 attacks in the districts of Upper and Lower Uele, killing 26 civilians and abducting 144, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Six of those abducted were children. On 12 July, DRC troops clashed with LRA fighters in the area, freeing one abducted child, the report stated.

Fifteen children abducted by the LRA on the night of 14 July were freed a few hours later after local self-defence groups took on the Ugandan rebels, according to Radio Okapi, which is run by the UN Mission in DRC (MONUC).

Since the Ugandan army assisted by Congolese and South Sudan troops launched an attack on the LRA bases in DRC last December, it has been questions whether it was worth it. The operation ensured LRA move is smaller groups which they have tended to run better in the last 23 years. The more fragmented they are more difficult it becomes to defeat them. Even more difficult, now that the LRA are operating in a vast area with no proper functioning government in the Congo.

There have been calls for another Uganda led offensive, an idea highly fronted by the Enough project and a current bill before the US senate committee on foreign Affairs. Just like Vice President of South Sudan Riek Machar warned the supporters of this idea last week, I believe a military operation to finish off Kony cannot be just short lived. And it cannot easily work on a highly disintegrated group like the LRA. But meanwhile the Congolese civilians continue to suffer the wrath of Kony and his fighters.

Ugandan MPs to visit Rugunda on Taxpayers money

For the whole of this week, the news about Bashir has been selling like hot cake not only in Kampala but around the world. Today I was about to wind up my day this came to my attention. MPs on the foreign affairs committee are travelling to the US this month to observe how Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda is handling business as the president of the UN Security Council.

“We are visiting the Security Council in session. It gives us an insight into what is going on and how our own is handling the security issues. It is a good gesture. We will give him a boost.” the chairperson, Lule Mawiya of the committee is quoted to have said.

Though details about how many MPs ares set go are  still scanty, normally parliamentary committees have about 20 MPs and I don’t know if all of them will be going. But what is more important is can the MPs describe well what boosting Rugunda will involve? Is it just going to be the tour of the UN building and taking MPs around to show them amazing New York City?

At a time when Ugandans are starving, the MPs are at it making endless not so important trips. What does Rugunda want from a committee that can’t be passed on to him? This is truly another way of the continued fleecing of taxpayers money with no sensitivity to the problems of the country.

Justice over relations; Museveni’s game on Bashir

Uganda is caught in between the ICC and its need to keep good relations with Sudan. The President has no position yet on Bashir’s visit and whether he would be arrested. He made a phone call to Bashir to ‘apologise’ for a statement made by Minister Okello Oryem that Bashir would be arrested.

sudan_presidentTo make his minister look like a mediocre who knows nothing about his limits (Museveni said Oryem is not the right person to talk on the issue) and the media like they had exaggerated (he said that’s not what the minister stated) the president seems to have no stand as his hands remain tied.

Well too bad for him minister but for the media, you can’t deny a statement capture by many on camera in front of the ICC prosecutor. If this statement had been told to one journalist, this government would have been quick to say they were misquoted and that it was full of lies. But we were all there and the minister meant what he said and he didn’t say anything wrong. May be because he told the media what he wasn’t supposed to tell them. But such is the position Uganda is in. Most leaders in the country seem to support the arrest anyway so whatever games President Museveni is playing are meant for the international community and Sudan.

We will wait to see if Bashir came make this trip to Kampala which could be fateful or remarkable in that he would go free and make a statement bashing the west when he’s killing Darfurians. But news from Ugandan Foreign Affairs ministry says They have agreed that Bashir could send a deputy.

My Karamoja disarmament dilema story in The Independent

Of recent Matany Hospital has seen a reduction in the number of patients seeking treatment for bullet wounds and the Medical Superintendent believes it signifies a reduction in the number of violent encounters either inter-tribe or between the Karimojong and UPDF.

Between 2006 and 2007, the hospital treated about 200 people with war wounds and these were probably just a few of those who survived in the fighting.

A Karimojong man injured during a raids lies on a hospital bed in Moroto.
A Karimojong man injured during a raids lies on a hospital bed in Moroto. violent clashes have reduced in recent months. Rosebell Kagumire photo.

“Most of them would actually come when wounds are already rotting, about a week after they were shot,” said a doctor at the hospital, “The hospital currently admits about 12 gunshot wounded people per month but the past data shows that before the forced disarmament started, for every two days two wounded people would be admitted.”

The read the story go to: