Gender academician’s take on Violence against women in recent Kampala riots

Aramanzan N. Madanda is a lecturer at the Department of Gender and Women studies at Makerere University. This is how he responded to my article on Violence against women manifested in Kampala riots.

I have read your blog  and what I can say is that what happened in the Kampala streets regarding attacking women is a manifestation of the broader problem of violence against women (VAW). Almost any study of VAW in Uganda reports about 60%  prevalence. What this translates to is that out of every 10 women 6 have experienced VAW is some form. This violence comes from mostly intimate partners like husband or boyfriend, but it can be from security agencies or the general public.

The justifications for VAW are usually embedded in the whole conceptualisation of women’s sexuality where in many cases females are objectified as instruments of sexual pleasure or even sexual humiliation. So the comment like “she was undressed because she is beautiful” – as if beauty is concealed somewhere in the under garments are some of the manifestations. When a woman is raped, some people begin by asking if she was “properly” dressed as if it is in order to rape anyone even if she was naked!! When a woman is beaten it is taken as disciplining and a show of love!! So whenever there is any chaos (riot, war, skirmish, etc), some people take advantage and vent their sexual and other egos on women in many forms.

Peace to Uganda: Excerpts from I am an African speech by Thabo Mbeki

My mind and my knowledge of myself is formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopians and as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the desert…. All this I know and know to be true because I am an African!

Because of that, I am also able to state this fundamental truth that I am born of a people who are heroes and heroines… The great masses who are our mother and father will not permit that the behaviour of the few results in the description of our country and people as barbaric. Patient because history is on their side, these masses do not despair because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn triumphalist when, tomorrow, the sun shines.

I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa. The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also bear. The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share… Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!

African women to watch: Rama Yade France’s junior minister for youth

Rama Yade, France's junior Minister for youth and sports. linternaute photo
Rama Yade, France's junior Minister for youth and sports. linternaute photo

I have read a few stories in the past about this inspirational woman, France’s junior minister for youth and sports. At only 32 she has already penetrated the French politics. She was born in Senegal before her mother moved to France where she grew in  an immigrant neighbourhood. Yade is a brilliant  black muslim woman.

She has a book which I am yet to read titled “Blacks of France,” which according to the Washington Post “analyzed the place in French society occupied by African immigrants’ children and other French blacks.”   The paper says the book reminded people that, despite her own swift rise in a conservative movement, Yade carried the heritage of a black woman in a predominantly white society.

A friend of mine Shaazka has also brought to my attention that  Yada  boycotted official functions for Muammar Gaddafi last year in Paris. She said Gaddafi should be made to understand “our country is not a doormat on which a leader, terrorist or not, can come wipe the blood of his deeds off his feet.”

Go gal.

Violence against women manifested in Kampala riots

“And that was not all. I also saw, for the first time in my life, women being undressed in public by rioters. Whether these women were being looked at as bad omens no one knows.” Paul Musangi. This was extracted from a Daily Monitor story which entailed ordeals of those who are held up and shot in Kampala riots just over a week ago.

Another notable comment: “Hooligans tried to pull our mainly female students out of the tour jeep, tried to smash the windows of our car, and damaged the first of our three tour vehicles.”

The riots in Kampala were sparked off by government’s refusal of the Kabaka to visit Kayunga because the Banyala wanted him to seek permission from their leader. But in the end 21 people were killed and hundreds were injured in battle that saw the police  resort to live ammunitions.

People trying to find safe haven during the riots. Daily Monitor photo.
People trying to find safe haven during the riots. Daily Monitor photo.

I picked Musangi’s words because up to now no one has explained or paid attention to the abuse of women during the riot. This reminded of an incident when the police publicly humiliated Kampala woman MP, Nabillah Sempala by trying to undress her during her arrest at a political rally in the city. Nabillah’s incident was captured by TVs and it was in the pictures but few put attention on the increasing humiliation of women in political battles in Uganda. I watched this video in disbelief and wondered what could have prompted police officers to resort to this.

This was so difficult for the female lawmaker to narrate to journalists that she sobbed in the middle of interview. But her sobbing was not enough to make women in parliament to make a big statement. Even the Old Kampala Police Commander, Moses Mwanga went ahead to justify the undressing of the Member of Parliament within parliament.

And we never saw any action from female MPs of whom majority were voted because they are women (read Affirmative action). Not a walk out or no nothing to show their positions and part of the problem is because for most of them belong to the ruling party where they are more less home mamas who have no role in political decision making or influencing it. The only reaction that made headlines was Kahinda Otafiire’s who instead blamed the police actions on Nabillah’s beauty.

“If it were me they wouldn’t have undressed me, it’s because she beautiful.”

And where were our so called women activists who have for the greater part turned the field into donor-money getting one. Or was it because this story was not juicy enough to sell to the donors?

Well this one of the women in the riots for sure is a good one to talk about. So far I haven’t seen any woman interviewed who went through these humiliating experiences. I am no femmist but it’s only natural that when a person is wronged most that we pay more attention to them. We all know that violence against women is like a culture that some women have accepted and actually go ahead to say if your man doesn’t beat you then he doesn’t love you. But for those abused in the riots to tell a story as being one of those ‘who were undressed in the riot’ is a difficult one.

We can’t be silent about this public display of violence against women. What did women have to do with the decisions of the government and Kabaka? It’s not clear how many women died in this riot but you can be sure many faced the most abuse just because they are women. If we can’t hear stories of those who were undressed, God knows if we will ever know those of some who might have faced greater abuse like raped in these riots.

Some women I understand were being attacked for wearing trousers but this is just a lame excuse because Uganda is no Sudan. Women wearing trousers in most of Uganda is not seen as bad enough to evoke hostility. In places like Bosnia, we saw many women humiliated as men in the conflict resorted to rape as a weapon of war and most of their stories are yet to be heard. I fear that if Kampala or Uganda faces a much bigger riot or turmoil, the women will not survive this abuse. You can say those who were undressed in the riot were in the wrong place at the wrong time but who are the ‘wrong people’ who carried out these acts? They are there among us and if Kampala succumbs to another bigger battle – God forbid- they will come out and will be ready to humiliate women again and this time it will be at a larger scale. And if Museveni is to compensate those that lost their properties, how can we ‘compensate’ for these women’s lost dignity?

Bunyoro political battles: new proposal too patriarchal

Today I read in disbelief about a proposal entailed in working paper presented to President Museveni calling for government to “bar any person whose paternal grandparent was not living in Bunyoro by 1926 from contesting any political office from parish level to Member of Parliament.”

I find this proposal unfortunate and I even wonder if there was any women in this delegation. We may be living in patriarchal society but the constitution calls for giving women equal access to power. And that’s why there’s affirmative action. If this is implemented it means anybody who happened to be brought up on their mother’s side will be indeed sidelined. It’s important not to take the little strides the country has made in giving women a platform back to the ancient view of ancestry. That’s why our constitution for instance doesn’t say for one to be president their partenal parents must be Ugandan.

It is even more difficult to trace these roots for the record and political purposes. While the proponents of this proposal say they are angainst the first position of ‘ring-fencing’ of offices for only one tribe, their new position is even more radical and would exclude almost all immigrants.

Al Shabab’s deadliest attack on AU troops; Isn’t this mission impossible?

Al Shabab has successfully attacked the AU troops in Somalia and has left a top Burundian force commander dead.

Uganda and Burundi are the only African countries that allowed to deploy in volatile Somalia to support a weak Transitional government.

Press reports indicate about 16 people are dead after suicide bombers arrived in stolen UN vehicles.

Maj.Gen.Mugisha, the injured force commander in Somalia. Daily Monitor photo.
Maj.Gen.Mugisha, the injured force commander in Somalia. Daily Monitor photo.

The dead include the deputy commander Maj Gen Juvenal Niyonguruza from Burundi.

Force commander Gen Nathan Mugisha, from Uganda, was lightly wounded. The Ugandan military has not yet indicated how many Ugandans died in the blast. But this is the first major attack on the base since Uganda entered Somalia under the AMISON.

I have always wondered what Uganda has to gain or to stand up for in Somalia that we must risk our troops’ lives in a mission impossible. Uganda cannot simply continue to ignore the rising influence of the militants and the conflicting interests from the west and neighbouring countries like Ethiopia and Eritrea that have partly played in the mess in this country. Ugandan troops a few months were reported to have passed on arms from USA to the TFG which controls a small part of the country.

Why should Ugandans be in Somalia as peacekeepers in the face of violence where they are targets? How many lives do we have to lose to see that a peacekeeping mission at this stage cannot work in Somalia? What is the AU thinking or is this asking too much? I think Ugandans especially those whose relatives are deployed in Somalia should start asking government questions that should have been answered before deployment.

It wasn’t me, President Museveni

The president has denied responsibility whether direct or indirect in last weeks riots that killed over 20 people in Kampala.

Without remorse or sympathy over the loss of lives, the president blamed the opposition for the riot.  The president must think Ugandans have eyes but no vision. This is total disrespect especially to those who lost their loved ones. He said the government will compensate those who lost property and if they are to pay relatives for the lives lost, this utter insensitivity from a head of state should cannot be tolerated.

Happy Independence, Costa Rica!

Pura Vida!

I was in Tortuguero on the day before independence and the performances are so great and so different from Uganda’s where the occassion is about the military marching. Here, ordinary people took time to make constumes and children really look up to the day as they are involved in the day’s performances.People show love for their country. Most Independence days in Uganda, people go about their business and it is almost a government/NRM show which gives one a real reflection of feelings of Ugandans towards this day

Independence day eve performances in Tortuguero. Rosebell Kagumire photo
Independence day eve performances in Tortuguero. Rosebell Kagumire photo
A Costa Rican girl lights a candle inside a house with her country's flag.
A Costa Rican girl lights a candle inside a house with her country's flag.

My tribe is my pain

uganda-ethnic-diversityIf you live in Uganda you must come across these sentiments. My last name begins with Kag-Kagumire. My blog is not under that name for many reasons but this is one of them. When I say my last name to people sometimes they will say: Kaguta, so you’re from the west, Museveni’s relative etc. Even if it’s a slight joke it evokes a feeling that I can’t describe. To associate me with someone that is increasingly becoming negative makes me mad and in my tribe most times it’s okay to be mad and show it. I take time to explain to friends, sometimes gently other times with some emotion that I am from Bushenyi and I have never been to Rwakitura and that my father doesn’t own a single head of cattle. I am a private person but for the sake of clarity I am forced to talk about all these things and now i am writing about them.

The conversation  is only possible when the person saying this is civil enough to listen. Other times I am shopping in down town Owino and I believe a buyer should be free to check the garments and see if they like it. If they don’t they should be free to leave. For many times because I speak Luganda with a heavy Kinyankole accent, my tribe shows up in reactions from the trader.

Abanyankole nwatutama, Mulowooza mujja ku fira kuntebbe?” loosely translated as we are tired and you Banyankole, do you think you will die in power? Of course being in Owino I keep my cool and gently shake my head and I walk away. It happens many times and I look around to see whether others disagree with the sentiment but most keep mum and a few support this.

One in particular said that ‘we’ actually don’t come to buy but to check their suffering.

I like  bodas and I get to discuss with the riders that take me around Kampala. they will at times talk ill about my tribe with no idea that am one of the ‘evil people’ simply because sometimes it’s difficult for some to tell where am from. All this attacks  hurt more than any other abuse I have experienced in life.

But this kind of view is not limited to the ‘uneducated’ Ugandans. A friend once told me that his Ugandan female friend hates ‘westerners’ so much that at her work place when job applications are brought in, she sorts out the west first.  This personal level of disdain for a group of people  is unfathomable. Others point out how rich you’re and how many opportunities you get. Many times I tell the people about my life which is not the most difficult one but is not any better than that of an educated person from the east, north or central.

I am forced to tell them that I am not just a product of Museveni’s love for power that my story goes a few generations ago. That am what I am because my grandfather, late Paskali Bwantamu happened to be a teacher (who by the way died without getting his pension despite many attempts, he served  government for over 30 years). And that he rose above society attitudes about educating a woman to give my mother an education. That my father’s side, my grandfather made several trips to Buganda to till gardens for most of the year to buy himself and his family chunks of land and that these trips enlightened him and that he valued education too and sent my father to school. That my mother was not educated because of Museveni or Banyankole in power, but she went to school during Idi Amin’s era when education was not a hassle. She still values her picture from her graduation day where Amin was holding her hand. That she simply went to school on merit and became a Vet doctor on merit. Without having a relative in the Bushenyi district administration she got a job there.

I am still forced to say that I am what I am because my mother struggled to get loans and all sorts of help to see me and my five siblings through school. I can’t easily convince these people who say tribalistic words to me that I spent most of early years tilling land to get food and money with family. That I have learnt from my mother that  hard work pays and that I don’t need to know anyone to be somebody. I have learnt also from many people’s experience that you can’t keep a good man down. That from this motivation I have literally taken on any chances that have come my way including working in three newsrooms in four years.

All I am, I have learnt from friends many of whom are not even from the ‘west’. My friends are a mixed bag of all tribes and races. It’s hard to convince some people that my generation is unfortunate because Uganda has become no man’s land with many not caring about the effects of their actions. That to get a job you must know someone who will get a bribe from you, sometimes your first salary goes to this person. We are facing high levels of unemployment that at 25 years sometimes 30, many of us still live on handouts from relatives and our old parents.

I try to tell people that I worked for over 4 years but I still have no savings that If I lost a job I would probably go back to Kibona or look for a relative in Kampala who cannot easily allow me to stay under their roof. I try to say that we face the same challenges but these people disagree. That because Makerere increased fees I don’t get much sleep here in Costa Rica where I am studying because I worry much about my little brother who’s just enrolled.

And when I say study, they will ask, was that state scholarship? I get mad and  ask why would a state sponsor someone that disagrees with them. And because I know why the question came up I already know the answer, my tribe is the ‘fortunate one’. They don’t believe that I am at UPEACE because I dared to apply many times.

In the wake of these riots in Kampala, I fear that tribalism is consuming us bit by bit. I also fear that because sometimes I can’t say the L without calling it R, it may translate the earlier stated sentiments into an attack.

Because these people wont listen to my cries or my confession that my father is no cattle herder and  that my siblings don’t have jobs despite having a good education, that I have to work not only for myself but also for my little cousins who are less fortunate. They will not see me as facing the same predicament as they are. They will not believe that everyday I long for the day Museveni will decide to leave that seat peacefully. They don’t get it that I dream of a Uganda where my gains and progress are not tied to my long nose (which is not even long by Ankole standards). They will not listen that I have traversed Uganda and have seen people in inhumane conditions in northern Uganda. That many times I think about children that I once interviewed who had been forced to kill their parents by LRA. That I feel hopeless and helpless and wonder what their lives will be with no proper rehabilitation in the area.

They don’t see my story and lots of other people’s stories that I carry with me everyday especially that child soldier at a rehab centre in Gulu that I played football with and when I tried to wash my hands at a tap he was abit agressive and  told me that I was washing my hands in blood. Yes blood, thats what he sees when most of us see water. They won’t believe me that this brings tears to my eyes because my tribe is supposed to only look for power. They will not see me in this way because my tribe blurs their vision. I am not denying that some people in my tribe have enriched themselves on state money but why should I pay for their deeds? I don’t fear judgement for sometimes it avails a chance for self assesment but judge me by character as Dr.King said.  Why should my tribe be my pain?