Uganda media to watch for 2010 presidential campaigns

Last week we saw headlines of of the arrest women beat the Police to stage a demonstration in from of the Electoral Commission, which officially should be called the Museveni electoral commission. That was one of the exciting news fro Ugandans as they head into a difficult season of hearing useless promises from politicians who know they dont even need the votes eto stay in power. And then came former Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi, who was President of Kenya for 24 years campaigns who came to the country invited by President Museveni on the eve his coronation as Eeast Africa’s longest ruling president. The invitation of Moi in itself shows that M7’s league is long and gone. And what advice does expect from a man who presided over a lootocracy and left his country bleeding?

We will be seeing how the media questions these politicians but for now the killer for the day is a cartoon below.

Onecaption is in Runyankole/ Rukiga (Museveni’s language) but it is not that clear whether President Museveni was telling his right-hand man and Security Minister Amama Mbabazi that his main opponent Dr. Kizza Besigye of FDC doesn’t know t know Mbabazi who is carrying the president.

Conversations from a School bus

It’s a Monday in Costa Rica and the new class on International Refugee Law is beginning. I am very excited. I run to get the school bus at 8:30 am which takes me about 15 minutes to get to school. The school bus is generally not a place you think very touchy discussions will take place, touchy to the point of forcing you to write about them. I am seated in the bus, not much to say apart from a few hellos and trying to figure out who is the new class. Then half way the journey I hear this good discussion on insurgents somewhere in Asia. I am so interested so I listen to two students exchange their views.

Then at one point comes the question of statistics. Are there Muslims in your country? Yes but a small number like about one percent and the rest is other religions.

And the next question is shot: so what’s the rest? Answer: Buddhists. And Christians? Also few like one percent. Then a sigh… “I am glad there are few Christians in your country.”  I turn around to observe the reactions and i hear  “I don’t like Christians” with an expression as if Christians were something filthy.

Watching this I felt my stomach tighten. I guess out of anger but not quite because I didn’t feel the thing around my neck that  sometimes makes it hard to breath. I think it was a mixture of anger, surprise and disappointment. Surprise because I have not heard someone insult me seated that close and someone I see every day. Disappointment , well I always expect a certain degree of respect.

From Uganda, I have heard people loudly say certain slurs about my tribe – not exclusive, every tribe its own punches but they make much more impact when you’re the target. But when such comes from a certain people off the street then you tend to overlook it many times. You hope at they will someday unlearn their hatred and the whole guilt by associations that has reigned in many societies.

So this bus conversation reminded me of those street and taxi insults. The difference in this case is that not only you’re insulted but that it comes from people you expect to keep respecting. I wanted to lean forward ask what this student’s story was. What bad experiences they had seen so maybe I could try to ‘justify’ their insensitive portrayal of their dislike but since that wasn’t my conversation in the first place that was out of bounds.

Karl Marx said that religion is the opium of the masses and he was never wrong. The conversation comes after a weekend of seeing gross stories and pictures from Jos, Nigeria where at least 265 people believed to have died in religious rioting hit headlines. Then I asked myself would such kind of dislike allow such a person to see that the 265 Nigerians were Muslim and Christians most of them just victims? Would such a person feel for Haitians of whom about 85 percent are catholic? I don’t know, I am only left to wonder about when the opium will run out or if it will ever.

I believe you don’t have to hate another religion to justify your own beliefs. I love Gandhi’s words, “I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

May be this student has seen so many unchrist-like people but to profess your hatred of a people in a bus where about 2 in five are Christians is not the modest way to disagree.

Well I was compelled to write this bus ride conversation because it’s not the only one I have found puzzling. I have for instance heard comments like, “I was in Africa for a few months and when I finish my studies here I will head back there to save some Africans. They really need help.” All this well audible for at least four Africans on the bus to hear.

Then there have been others like people in the southern hemisphere are lazy. Not said to me but in the midst of many people from that part of the world. I am sure more such conversations take place in many places and such constructed views of the world exist among people you least expect but trust me it always has a knocking down effect to those who are there to listen.

Uganda’s pledge to Haiti

The Ugandan government has offered US$ 100,000 [shillings 180 million] to aid humanitarian efforts in the earth-quake hit island of Haiti. The Trinidad and Tobago Commission put up  “The Haiti Disaster Appeal Fund” where the government promised this money.

I proud that Uganda can aid about the same money a health center’s annual budget to Haiti for its more meaningful when people give not out their surplus but what they need too.

In the course of last week, we (students at upeace) from a student that finished her last year. it was heartbreaking just like most stories out Haiti but the different for many is putting a ‘real face’ you know to the disaster. Here it is:

“Dear Everyone,
As some of you may know it, a tremendous earthquake hit Haiti. I first thank you all for informing about me and my family. My little brother, families and friends passed away during this catastrophe. My hope is that God on his way will fill out the blankness left behind. Your inquiry about me makes more that what you think: it comforts and makes me feel I’m not alone. The situation that is developing now is : The earthquake is repeating at each time and keep surprising people(survivors). The population mostly school children and students are homeless they are suffering  but no medical supplies available to
take care of, people are starved  and violence is likely escalating specially in the prone- violence areas. It happens the world is not responsible, we are at least responsible of what we do with it.”

The Ugandan aid doesnt include private donations, i know most people in Uganda who are well off still struggle to educate cousins, grand kids, nieghbours who are not privileged but if you can please donate to the Fund put up by the Trinidad and Tobago embassy.

What can Africa do for Haiti? Senegal offers land.


Senegal’s president has offered free land and “repatriation” to people affected by the earthquake in Haiti. President Abdoulaye Wade said Haitians were sons and daughters of Africa since Haiti was founded by slaves, including some thought to be from Senegal.

Since Tuesday’s earthquake that hit Haiti to the ground, aid efforts have been flowing into the country but not many have been helped yet due to communication and transportation difficulties.

Countries like the US, EU countries have moved swiftly to offer help. For the past two days I have been wondering what can African countries do for Haiti people. Most of them cannot have that available money and resources to extend a hand. But I was really moved to see an offer from Wade which no other country at the aid forefront would ever grant-resettlement.

Haiti before the earthquake  had also experienced floods which left the country not even limping. Most Haitians lived under poor conditions. While the current aid efforts are on the food, shelter and rebuilding, it will take years before the country can ever build risk –reduction structures.

So is the Wade’s offer worth looking at and even supporting?  Even when there are still questions regarding what the Senegalese people think of the offer and whether the Haitians could be accepted by the locals, I find it worth a discussion.

Watching those pictures of heartbreaking scenes of  Haiti people trying to pull others  out of the rubble made me think this could happen back home. The pictures of helplessness of this black nation reminded of so many other helpless people I have seen back home. This beats my own helplessness from time to time.

But am still interested in what you think of Senegal’s proposal and what can Africa do for Haiti.

Hips, bums don’t lie

Many of you in UG and even those who visit Kampala for the first time wonder why would some people come up with huge banners “ENLARGE YOUR BUMS.” Many ask, why are Ugandans obsessed with bums and hips?

Many look and laugh others follow the advice and as far as I know the trick has worked and in other cases backfired. If you’re interested in getting more information please call that number.

And this is why you might consider the call.

A team of scientists at Oxford in UK have found that carrying extra weight on your hips, bum and thighs is good for your health, protecting against heart and metabolic problems. Hip fat mops up harmful fatty acids and contains an anti-inflammatory agent that stops arteries clogging.

The researchers said having too little fat around the hips can lead to serious metabolic problems, as occurs in Cushing’s syndrome.

Now you know why the song Hips don’t lie was played at the World Cup in Germany and for those who were not yet convinced this is another piece of information.

Why do Women faking pregnancy in Uganda?

“I did unimaginable things, dancing around a graveyard at night, drinking all sorts of herbs but nothing helped, so maybe that’s what God wants me to be – without children. What hurts most is the people close to you; your immediate family talk about you like you’re not worth anything without children.”

Those were words of a woman I met late 2008. I was researching on a story that The Independent published about how the infertility burden in Uganda is carried by women. I went back to the find this story today after I read two news reports about women faking pregnancy and ending up in court. Two cases in less than a week. A woman from Mpigi district was arrested for faking pregnancy and taking a dead child to her husband while another identified as Namatovu survived being lynched by a mob after she claimed to have given birth to twins but returned home with a pair of dolls.

All the women claimed to have given birth at Mulago hospital but there have been no such records at the hospital and investigations found that in both accounts were just a falsification. Namatovu was fined sh300,000 (about 150 $) or 12 months imprisonment and as expected this woman from the village would not afford such a fine so she is in jail. In both cases women had failed to conceive after several years in marriage. While in the media we have these stories, police swinging into action and courts following, I didn’t find a proper context given to these women’s story. Why would a person in their proper mind take dolls for a funeral or in the latest case go probably dig up a grave to show that you delivered a child?

That’s why I went back to the infertility story. Some limited research has showed that over 14% of Uganda’s men are infertile, meaning they cannot impregnate their partners. And 70% of the infertility in Uganda is preventable. But in all these cases we can be sure it’s women being taken to witch doctors and being insulted that they cannot have children. The pressure to have a child is immense that women have been physically and sexually abused by all sorts of people in their hunt for a pregnancy. With Uganda having few numbers of gynaecologists few Ugandans can afford the private clinics whose prices can go above 200 $. Women and men with curable fertility problems are never brought to hospitals for there’s no one who has told them that there’s even such a chance.

Without a child for a few years the pressure from family to have a second wife mounts. Sometimes women are driven out of their homes and left with nothing. This is well deep rooted that most cultures would allow a man to be given back his bride price if a woman would not give him a child never mind that in most cases it was the men with the problem. It is poverty to think that the effects of this pressure will only be faced by these women alone. Now women are driven crazy to the extent of faking pregnancy and dead children for it seems society is more empathetic that u tried even when your child is dead. In the end we jump to cover their stories of fake pregnancies and their trials forgetting what brings us to these points.

This is not to the women didn’t do any wrong. But just like the mob, we (media) are shocked and outraged by their actions and we don’t ask what drove them to this. Reading the stories of these two women should tell you that there are so many who have done this before successfully and many will continue to look for a way to beat the societal system, unfortunately this is no solution. I think also the Ugandan justice system should rethink prosecution of such cases.

US Khartoum Embassy issued attack warning. Uganda authorities learnt from embassy website

The East African photo

The BCC says The US embassy in the Sudanese capital Khartoum has warned of a possible attack on Air Uganda planes.

The embassy said it had information that US travellers faced a potential threat between Juba in Sudan and the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

A spokesman for the Ugandan army, Lt Col Felix Kulayigye:

US warning was a surprise.

Intelligence had been known since early December.

Uganda foreign affairs office:

Allegations of attack not grounded.

US manner of the warning criticised.

Uganda authorities not informed.

“They did not inform us of this security threat, we learnt about it from the embassy’s website,” – Foreign Ministry spokesman Moawiya Osman Khalid

AFP said an Air Uganda flight was returned to Entebbe airport in Kampala when it was ordered to return.

well no suprise but there’s no information on Air Uganda website

Is US up again about going it alone? Is Uganda paying the price of ‘fighting US wars.’

Al-shabab threat: Uganda stops flights to East African countries

This is information i have yet to confirm but a friend has told me that Uganda has stopped flights of Air Uganda to many parts of east Africa because of a threat from Al-shabab.

I am yet to get details but Air Uganda is not a national carrier. It is not yet known how real the plans of Al-shabab were because there has always been a threat since Uganda deployed in Somalia a peace keeping force on the request of IGAD in 2007.

Uganda in flights have not experienced a threat since the famous Entebbe incident in Iddi Amin’s years when an Air France plane from Tel Aviv was hijacked and people were taken hostage by two Palestinian miltants and two Germans in June 1976.

Uganda has also not suffered a terror attack like its neighbours Kenya and Tanzania where in 1998 US embassies were blown leaving hundreds dead.

Since the deployment in Somalia, Uganda has lost not more than 20 soldiers but the deadliest attack came September last year in the AU force compound.

Somali insurgents detonated two suicide car bombs, at African Union (AU) peacekeeping headquarter in Mogadishu, killing nine soldiers including the deputy force Commander from Burundi Maj. Gen. Juvenile Niyoyunguriza.

Attack on Togolese football team: heigtened attack on the sport

At the beginning of the twentieth century only 10%-15% of those who died in war were civilians.  Research has shown that by the end of the century over 75% of those killed in war were civilians. Civilians became a target of many separatist and other armed rebel groups especially in Africa where civil wars have sprang up since the struggle for independence. But events of yesterday in Angola added to the growing phenomenon of targeting of games and sports by insurgents and rebels for political motives.

You can say it has been there for ages and one can point to from the religious sectarianism among clubs like in Scotland, acts of violence and Hooliganism in some parts of Europe.  Then there came the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munic when members of the Israel Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually murdered by Black September, a militant group  that was said to have ties to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization.

Then March last year there was an attack on the Srilanka cricket team in Pakistan by militants. Such incidents are many but I picked the ones I remember. And in all I wonder whether these attackers really think such acts help their causes.

Adebayor escaped unharmed. Dailymail photo

Yesterday’s shooting occurred in the Angolan oil-rich territory of Cabinda, where rebels have been fighting for independence. The Gunmen fired on a bus carrying the Togolese national  football team to the Africa Cup of Nations on the way from the Republic of Congo where they were practicing ahead of the tie.  An assistant coach, press officer and driver were killed. Two players were shot and injured

And the attack on the Togolese team produced two different reactions, whether it was due to the difference in information access or not we are yet to know. The Angolan government called the incident an “act of terrorism” but the Africa Cup of Nations officials described the attackers only as armed robbers.

May be these football officials wanted to stay clear  from the politics and away from the word that has been used to bring untold suffering to many innocent people (terrorism) but still there are questions to be asked. And the question is whehter the Angolan government  provided enough security knowing this is an area susceptible to FLEC rebel attacks.

I am concerned about the increasing attack on the most famous and beautiful game. A game that unites a people at least for 90 minutes. A game which will bring the world’s attention to Africa come June. These attacks as aimless and heartbreaking as they are seem endless. In October last year a Colombian guerrilla group kidnapped and killed ten football players.