Legislator denies assaulting a Karimojoang woman

New Vision reports the Member of Parliament Winfred  Kiiza  who was pictured slapping a suspect in police custody denied doing so in a police statement.

A Ugandan female legislator slaps a suspect in police custody. A New Vision photo

And who will take up that case? A woman beggar is assaulted by a politician and with no idea of the justice system such a case will be left to collect dust in the police station. I hope somehow this MP would be taught about consequences of taking the law in your hands.

And there goes a news report detached from the context of the incident and any sort of deviation from the statement of denial.

Ugandan legislator assaults a woman in police custody: who will check mob justice?

Today’s New Vision front page story; Legislator slaps beggar over child abuse raises many questions. The woman legislator from Kasese  Winifred Kiiza had been to the Police station for a totally different case of attempted conning if i may call it that.

A Ugandan female legislator slaps a suspect in police custody. A New Vision photo

Then a long the way she took time to take the law into her own hands at a place where suspects are supposed to be in safe custody, to slap one Lukiyo Agino, a 23-year-old Karimojong girl, who was had been arrested over child abuse.

The story goes Lukiyo was fronting a malnourished child from her friend to people on the streets trying to get money. Lukiyo’s child abuse story is not too intriguing. The problem of Karamoja is a well documented one. It’s one place with a harsh climate that relies on food aid throughout the year. Government has almost kept alive the long held notion of we shall not wait for Karamoja to develop by not helping it to develop even when the First lady is the minister in charge of that region. Most of what we see about Karamoja is about guns and disarmament.

It’s women who suffer most in that part of the country where one has to walk miles to access water.  This is a place with about one hospital for about 10,000 people and many have run away to the streets of kampala with their children. While Lukiyo’s alleged act of child abuse is inexcusable, the source of such cases is not these poor women on the streets. And you would expect a legislator to be fully cautious before putting her judgment on such  women.

Kiiza’s behavior is only a glimpse into the mob justice culture in Uganda. A person elected to represent a district is the same person to commit crimes right at police station.

The story goes on to say the woman had smiled when the MP asked her if she new the pains of childbirth. What a question to a  woman from who probably has never stepped in a school. And even if the question was in Luganda i doubt she has good understanding language BUT above all who’s Kiiza at the Police station?

The most unethical of all acts in this story is journalists geering and asking the MP to give more beating to the woman saying “Mwongere”

This is shameful but it shows how much Ugandans are into mob justice. Even those who are supposed to watch it are involved in it. The story ends with a no comment from a Police officer declining to state if the legislator would face any charges. Of course people like Kiiza understand the workings of our police force. They too practice such violence on suspects so how can they rescue one from a politician who has a district they represent.

This harassment of a suspect by a legislator right before the eyes of the police tells a much bigger story about justice in Uganda.  Kiiza must be brought to book for use of violence and if our parliament is worth its name should take such a case seriously. Torture and harrasment are not part of a job of a legislator and If Kayihura still insists that the force doesn’t brutalise civilians he must answer why a suspect would be beaten up at a police station and no action taken.

Uganda’s HIV Bill more complex than it appears

I read a bit of Human Rights Watch report on Uganda’s bill on HIV.

There’s are many issues but for now I will focus on the part of the Bill concerning mandatory HIV testing for expecting parents.

I was  looking through the AFP report that had an interview with the executive director of The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) Robert Ochai and here is what he said.

If you make testing compulsory, the individual doesn’t buy into the result. For them to take action, like getting treatment for example, they have to accept to outcome of the test.

What are we going to do with all these people we forcibly test? We don’t have the resources to support them. People could run away from their doctors, or their homes. You could have suicides.

For many years now, mothers in Uganda have had to be tested because of the need to reduce the high rates of Mother-to -child HIV transmission. I have seen friends who had never thought of taking an HIV test until they were expecting and when faced with that they go ahead and lay thier fears aside and test. They indeed have not seen the mandatory testing as violation but as measure to prevent this deadly disease from getting to their precious children. So the Bill is not introducing something new. The practice has been going on and though there haven’t been any study or attention to it, I more inclined on the fact that it has helped people come to terms with their status and brought them the joy of knowing even if they are positive their child can be negative.

Uganda’s most new infections are high among married couples and about 80 percent of those with the virus don’t know they have it. And if any Ugandan tried to sample among their married friends they have had to take the test for the sake of their children.  The Bill says something important for those interested who have an eye for women’s rights and equal treatment. It also calls for mandatory  testing for men with expecting wives.

It’s been almost only women who undergo HIV testing during pregnancy which can be  unproductive if men are not tested. I pay attention to this becuase we live in a country where about 50 percent of married women who are infected with HIV have had one sexual partner. I have read stories of men forcing only their wives to take the test and sometimes if the woman takes the test on her own is abused and  accused of being the one who brought the HIV.

These stories of women suffering for their children to be HIV free cannot be missed in our newspapers. A journalist from West Nile once told of a story of how many were ashamed to take tests and when women get tested and confirm their status to positive men force them to share their prescribed ARVs.

Sometimes you hear husbands relieved after their wives have taken HIV tests which in itself is not a relief for there’s something called discordant couples. The practice of mandatory testing of parents has been going on and we must carry the burden of protecting our children from the scourge.

Uganda now has thousands of young people below 25 years who contracted the disease from their parents. Has anyone talked to them to see what their thoughts are? I am sure many Ugandans know how traumatizing it is to reveal to a 6 or 8 old child that he/she has HIV and the hopelessness that comes with this revelation. How can we talk about intentional transmission if parents can be free to decide whether to infect their children at birth or not. And in the end the resources that people like Ochai are worried about will not be available for all these young infected people.

Such a law is complex and indeed some people can opt to stay away but suggesting mass suicides is a bit exaggeration. Have we wieghed the otherside .  Organisations like HRW must be challenged that sometimes issues are not a matter of individual rights .There must be a balance between anyone’s rights and responsibilities. I will not comment much on Uganda’s own AIDS organisations for now because they are a business venture for most part.

The presentation of our country’s issues as black and white will not help. There’s also an obsession with criticisms rather than critical analysis in regard to this mandatory testing in the bill.  I may not support the people in power in my country but I am always worried about oversimplification of problems we face and interventions that are needed.

The issue of prevention of Mother-to-child transmission doesn’t stop at parents and their child but the poor Ugandan health workers in our poorly equiped hospitals are at risk of catching the disease while delivering babies. No body ever seems to think about them. So if we are to talk about rights what should such health worker do.

To approach this issue as matter of violating confidentiality and  individual rights  of parents is not enough.  We have lives at stake and few analysis have really gone indepth.  I will be picking on another aspect of the bill soon.

Once upon a time there were special reports in our newspapers

And then i used to write more often on my blog and comment about those reports. Last weekend my attention was drawn to this not-so-special Daily Monitor “special report” .

Some Muzungu writing about leaving Uganda, like she had spent decades working on a special job in our country making her depature necessitating publication of a special report. And the headline went: I will miss everything  but the potholes of Kampala roads. And the special report from an independent daily went about this volunteer working with an NGO and living with “adorable” people (of course we are adorable.). Then there’s a comparison of UK transport and Kampala’s which I bet John Speke did when he went back to Englad after ‘discovering’ source of the Nile. And the rest is about a visit to the nile which i think thousands of tourist do every year.

So am wondering why DM would give such crap as special report. I am sure many journalists in this newspaper have been to a sort of exchange program abroad and i  bet they would never find any space at serious paper to publish a speech from a little unknown Ugandan who visited the country. Which leaves me wondering when did newspapers get space to waste when we live ina country with a million and one problems?

As my friend Wendy put it the special report “was more like a beautyqueen speech.”

If this is the norm I may be tempted to write in my terrible Spanish to a Costa Rican newspaper what I will not  miss about their country- the use of women’s bodies to advertise anything. From perfumes to a car tyres, playing cards, calendars and surprising of all was the half naked picture of a woman on the flour i found at one of the supermarkets.

I will give it a try afterall I have been in their country for ten months, seven more than the author of the special report in the Daily Monitor.