Uganda Oil Sharing Agreements put before Parliament

Yesterday the government of Uganda finally succumbed to pressure and released the Production Sharing Agreements (PSA) for the country’s oil program in the Albertine region.

The agreements were tabled to the Ugandan Parliament but what was of concern the minister of energy ask the MPs not to disclose some parts of the agreement saying they could harm business for companies involved.

Most MPs outrightly said they would not leave anything unreported tot their constituents who have waited for years since exploration begun to know much about the new found country’s resource. This disclosure is not the victory, we have to consistently analyse all issues covered in the agreements and the hard job begins now.

As one journalist Charles Mwangushya of Daily Monitor said “this is a partial victory.” Mwangushya together with Angelo Izama , three years ago, in May of 2007 started the process of trying to force the government to make the agreements public. They are continuing to their efforts to ensure courts grant full disclosure of the petroleum program under the Access to Information law after losing the first petition

As the MPs scrutinise the agreements, I hope we the Ugandan media take part in this scrutiny.

A glimpse at Congo lives 50 years after the Belgian rule

The BBC carried a pictorial of Congolese from all walks of life. There are some comments that caught my eye. Look out for the 15 year-old market trader and see how longlasting effects of  imperialism can be, the Housewife’s story is similar to that of many jobless ugandan women, the Taxi driver’s story sounds like he’ s lives in  Kampala and then the 26 year-old Office Worker, her story is what I have heard from some Ugandans before. We can’t stop hoping though that one day Congo will find its other Patrice Lumumba.

TIME Photo essay and dignity

I wont say much because this got me to. A few months ago an Italian photographer published pictures of a body of a Ugandan girl he helped exhume in order to tell a story of human sacrifice in Uganda. A story caused much backlash from the online world and Pultzer Center took down the pictures. Now  I found myself looking on in disbelief how TIME could run some of their pictures in the essay about maternal mortalityin Seirra Leone. Pictures of one woman road from pregnancy to death and pictures show her during labour and the funeral.

As a journalist I understand the desire to tell a comprehensive story and the use of pictures but why do western media persistently publish pictures of Africans that in their own countries would simply be out of question?  I don’t ask this because our own media is any better but I am puzzled because these are leading media houses in the world.

I have learnt one thing that while telling the African story, there’s always a different yardstick used. In Africa, show victims in anyway you want for the line between dignity and the abuse of it  and all those tenents that the media claims look to be almost permanently blurry. Where else would you take pictures of naked women in labour with blood all over them en identify them and expect that be an act of goodwill except in Africa?  I would expect TIME not to publish picture no 3.

No doubt Maternal mortality in Africa is still a huge challenge becuase of a myraid reasons but how do we tell the entire story without overriding peoples dignity?  In Uganda the mortality rate is above 400 per 100,000 births and some countries are worse than that but how do we tell the story of limited progress in reducing these deaths significantly but maintaining the cap on dignity for those thousands of families accross Africa that go through such horrors everyday?

New Enough Project report on LRA killings in Central African Republic

For more than two years, the Lord’s Resistance Army has been waging a ruthless campaign of terror – largely ignored by the outside world – against civilians in the Central African Republic, or CAR. In a new report, “On the Heels of Kony: The Untold Tragedy Unfolding in the Central African Republic,” Enough Project Field Researcher Ledio Cakaj describes the LRA’s deadly but under-reported track record in a largely forgotten corner of Africa. 

Based upon extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, the Enough Project report details 57 LRA attacks that resulted in hundreds of killings and abductions since February 2008. Enough has documented 134 deaths caused by the LRA and over 500 abductions in CAR. Of those abducted, 273 people, many of whom are under 18 years old, remain with the LRA.  

LRA violence is creating a growing humanitarian crisis. Nearly 15,000 people have been internally displaced and more than 5,000 Congolese live in refugee camps in CAR. The lack of humanitarian aid and inability to cultivate crops due to fear of LRA attacks have caused drastic food shortages. 

“The LRA continues to brutalize and kidnap defenseless civilians across the Central African Republic,” states Cakaj. “There is a distinct risk that this widely dispersed rebel organization will regroup. The regional security threat posed by the LRA remains acute due to the lack of international attention to the ongoing violence in CAR.” 

The report also reveals how LRA leader Joseph Kony, an internationally wanted war criminal, nearly fell into the grasp of the Ugandan army during the past year.  

“The fact that the Ugandan army almost apprehended Kony by stumbling upon him demonstrates that the apprehension of the LRA’s leadership is an achievable task,” states Enough Project Executive Director John Norris. “However, the operations of the Ugandan army – the only military force pursuing the LRA in CAR – risk morphing into a war of attrition that will further endanger civilians.

So it is incumbent upon the United States to lead a renewed international effort to protect civilians and apprehend the LRA’s leaders. Absent a new level of effort, the international community continues to do too little, too late to end the scourge of the LRA.” 

I am yet to read the entire report to get to understand what they mean by new level of international support. Kony has escaped from all past attempts to capture him and so stating the last year’s attempt shows that his capture is achievable is not the best reason the project can give us.

I don’t know if this comes from the fact the project is  American but in their last reports they seemed to overemphasise the importance of US intervention and i don’t know what they suggest should be done if  the US said it’s hands were full.

Otherwise the project has so far managed to keep track of LRA activities in the region and has become the major source of statistics about LRA brutality in last year.

More of this report can be found at Enough Project

What’s in a name at the 2010 World Cup?

A Daily Mail photo of Cameroon's Achilles Emana

Last night many Africans watched painfully as Cameroon’s chances of advancing to group stages waned in a match lost to Denmark as the continent’s pack of six fell to five. The Indomitable Lions were not impressive from the start of the World Cup but watching Et0’0, one of Africa’s most decorated players move off the world stage  at such an early level was sorrowful. The World Cup is such a painful place but it is much easier if you are in Kampala where hilarity from Uganda’s unlimited comical people rules.

Last night through many  tense moment when Cameroon was wasting loads of chances in the box  at one of Kampala’s many football fans filled bars, I couldn’t help but laugh as one man with all hope gone said, “Bano babasasuddeda,” meaning that the  Cameroonians played like they had been bought off before the game. Coming from a country that is well used to disapointments in football, Ugandans know better what it is like to watch your team fire blanks.

Yet as the Indomitable Lions look like they are headed back to Yaounde at end of the first round what Ugandans will miss is Cameroon Shirt 10 won by Real Betis’ Achille Emana. The man with that jersey has a name that is very much a taboo to speak about loud in public in Uganda and some east African countries.  The name Emana in many Bantu languages in Uganda means Vagina. It’s only during the Africa Nations Cup and the World Cup that many Ugandans get to yell that name out loud in public with a lot chuckles following nomatter where you are. But not all will easily say the man’s name that brings grins to many faces. The guy seated next to me last night chose to shorten the name and kept shouting Ema, Ema as the Cameroonian shone a few times bringing laughter to the entire bar. Whether fans of Cameroon or not, many have been drawn to watch the Indomitable Lions to enjoy the humour the follows the one Midfielder on the pitch.

Cameroon's Shirt No. 10 with a fan's name on.

Another arena has been facebook where an application gives users a chance to pick your favourite World Cup team and a player and put your name to it and many Ugandans have gone ahead to choose Cameroon’s shirt 10.

So the World Cup doesn’t only bring the football action to many football loving Ugandans but it makes exceptional moments to overide Uganda’s traditional cultures that put an unwritten never-say -that -out-loud tag on the word Vagina. As the Indomitable Lions get out of  South Africa many Ugandan football fans will surely miss this one man Emana.

Minister Kivejinja’s laughable promises on Kiboko squad

Th Internal affairs minister Kirunda Kivejinja had told Parliament that the stick-wielding  goons that have become the face of violence at any demonstration in Uganda will be prosecuted.

This group is unknown to the Police. The Police want to find out who they are. Once identified, criminal charges will be brought against them.

These men first appeared on the scene on April 17, 2007 during a political demonstration against the give-away of part of Mabira forest for sugarcane growing. They again appeared last week at an opposition demonstration. Here is the Youtube link to the recent saga.

The Minister is now telling Ugandans that these men are unknown to the government that runs a country.

Why don’t they appear when other groups are matching through town? Why are they synomous with political opposition demonstrations? A responsible government that is concerned about the safety of citizens whether they are dissenting or not must be in position to know any author of violence. If it can take three years for government to figure out who these goons are what does this tell us about out safety?

Well that’s assuming that what the minister’s word is true but i am inclined to to think that these kiboko squad men are part of state terror that seems to take any form whenever members of the opposition come up. In an earlier post i quoted an investigation by the New Vision newspaper that gave details of where  these men are from and who’s behind them.

The major question should be why would a government with enough forces to handle a political demonstration in Kampala resort to the ugliest tactics of all at times that are not necessarily of highest resistance?

Just like many inquiries that we have seen in the past we will see what Kivejinja tells Ugandans when these men turn up again. Such illegitimate actors that government has allowed to freely commit crimes might make demonstrations in Uganda more violent as demonstrators in future might look for ways to defend themselves. God knows what would happen with the excessive use of force that the both these goons and our uniformed police resort in times of demonstrations.

Vuvuzelaring all the way

EastCoast Radio photo

The World Cup is already underway and I decided to run back to the continent in time. The African teams have not had a great start save for the Black Stars but I do believe Ivory Coast and Nigeria have good chances to bounce back. I am hoping by the time i head south for the semis and final which will find me in Johannesburg, an African team will be still present.

I will be part of the Ugandan youth delegation to the Man Up campaign summit on violence against women which hopes to use music and sport to raise awareness among physical and structural violence against women. I hope the haters of the Vuvuzela will not suceed to stop it. I will be with many distinguished activists to vuvuzela away violence against women as the curtains come down in Jo’burg.

More on ther campaign is here