Rape and the culture of victim blaming in Uganda

This blog post is part of the Blog Action Day and this year’s theme is human rights.



At the end of September, a Youth Minister in Uganda Kibuule went on record to say a woman who is indecently dressed and is raped should face charges and the perpetrator should be set free. Journalists recorded his voice at a function in the western district of Ntungamo and the next day newspapers carried the story.

Kibuule ran to radio stations claiming he was misquoted, he even opened a twitter account to dig into the debate where I and many Ugandans had contributed condemning this rape apologist.

More than 20 girls are raped everyday in Uganda but the silence continues. Most of these rapes are committed by close friends and relatives. But for people like Kibuule, the obsession with women’s bodies blind them from the reality.

They blame clothes not perpetrators. Like many other instances in Uganda, a minister like Kibuule can abuse women and spread hate speech and incite violence and get away with it.

Not much time has passed and we are hearing a harrowing account of 23 year old girl who was gang-raped by Pakistani men.

There’s a public outcry and like in many other sexual violence cases it has emerged the file initially at Kira road police was mismanaged. This girl is living in fear because those who gang-raped have threatened to hurt her more or even kill her. But this is not new, many rape cases are never prosecuted to the end.

It was only last year the Police Form 3 was amended for law enforcement agencies to record medical practitioner’s evidence in cases of sexual violence including rape and defilement.

Before then only Police surgeons could use this form and be acceptable before the courts of law. You would find long lines at the surgeon’s office and there was no privacy. I visited two surgeons while doing a story back in 2008 and it was clear to any one who entered which cases the victims were there to report. A man with her daughter in tears would easily tell you how she’s been raped and many women seated in silence as they waiting for this one man to examine them.

More than the justice system we have a culture of silence and victim blaming. If a woman or girl is raped we have first find out if she didn’t ‘deserve’ it. We need a society that can support rape victims to be able to speak out with out rape apologists like Kibuule threatening them. If we have ministers who are on the side of rapists and actually advocating for rapist’s rights to rape we are far from the morality that we all like to go preaching about.

Like Norbert Mao said, we need to go beyond public outcries whenever cases like these come out.

First, parliament should pass the Sexual Offences Bill. This law should have provisions that protects rape victims from traumatic court sessions, creates a well facilitated sexual assault police unit, creates sexual assault response centres in our health centres to deal with the risk of HIV infection and provide post exposure prophylaxis, and which emphasises protection of child victims of rape. Second, there should be a public education campaign targeting men to sensitize them about the difference between consensual sex and rape. That’s the only way men will understand that women have a right to say no to sex. Is is also the only way we can build a society that can groom men who respect women. Third, we need more men especially those in government and parliament to take a courageous stand to end sexual violence.

Kibuule had some backing and it was heart wrenching to see young men posting on twitter in support of him. They seemed ignorant of the fact that what is decent to them can be indecent to another.
That we have laws and that under no circumstance can one excuse rape.

Those horrified by the Pakistanis who gang-raped this young woman who was only out to look for better employment, must know the link between statements like Kibuule’s and the perpetuation of rape and the silence that follows this crime.
Without structures to cater for such victims even in the face of persistent threats we can’t hide from the fact that our leaders would rather obsess about women’s bodies than put measures to ensure women are protected. If they weren’t obsessed we would see more laws that enhance women’s equality and protection passed. We wouldnt spent time speaking about the length of a skirt when more horror is delivered to our door steps every day!

Uganda Police to embark on killing spree?


I woke to this headline and I am yet to understand why Uganda Police heads thought Ugandans will buy into this Bull****. You neglect the country for months to surround Besigye and opposition and make sure they don’t set foot where the powers that be don’t want the, crime increases and now you come to tell us don’t worry we will kill all these thieves!!

You have turned the police into an army. You are supporting mob justice and you think it is worth it announcing your planned killings! This is lazy ass policing where you make killing civilians a priority!

Continue reading “Uganda Police to embark on killing spree?”

Let’s go barter: Museveni govt cited in African migrants for Arms deal with Israel

For some time, secrecy had surrounded a racist deal made by an openly racist Israeli government towards African immigrants and some leaders of African countries.
When I first saw this report I thought, what an all-new low we are hitting in assisting trade in humans and promoting racism! I hoped that my president still had some moral bit left especially on an issue that concerned discrimination and dehumanization of Africans. But i was wrong!

A gag order on a secret agreement between governments of Israel and Uganda to deport African immigrants to Uganda was lifted.
Most immigrants in Israel are from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan.

sudan ref

This deal between President Museveni, and Israel will see Uganda take in tens of thousands of African migrants or in some cases serve as a transit station.
Israeli Interior Minister said that they had obtained consent from Museveni government which a foreign ministry official was quick to refute . I say it is Museveni because there’s almost no respect for other aspects of government by Museveni.

Gideon Sa’ar doesn’t even conceal his racist language!

“In the first stage we will focus on raising awareness within the population of infiltrators while helping them with the logistics of their departure including their airfare and dealing with possession they accumulated.”

Continue reading “Let’s go barter: Museveni govt cited in African migrants for Arms deal with Israel”

UN renews efforts to tackle sexual violence in conflict

Yesterday, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2106 on sexual violence in conflict unanimously in renewed efforts to prevent and tackle the scourge that has come to characterize many conflicts on the globe.

Over the last four decades, the nature and actors in armed conflicts have changed a lot. Today’s wars kill more civilians than combatants and sexual violence particularly against women has become the norm. Also the use of child soldiers increased even if these acts were in violation of the 1949 Geneva conventions.

In 1999, UN Security Council passed Resolution 1261 that condemned the use of child soldiers. The following year Resolution 1325 was passed addressing issues of women in conflict. The Resolution looked at the gender perspective that included the special needs of women and girls in repatriation, resettlement and post-conflict reconstruction.

A woman attends a prayer session at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu DRC where hundreds of sexual violence victims are treated every month. Rosebell's photo.
A woman attends a prayer session at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu DRC where hundreds of sexual violence victims are treated every month. Rosebell’s photo.

Noticing that resolutions over the decade had not done much to deter increased and systematic use of sexual violence as a war tactic, UN Security Council passed Resolution 1820 (2008) that demanded “immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians.” And years to follow more resolutions like 1960 were passed to get parties in conflicts to prevent and/or end sexual violence.

Continue reading “UN renews efforts to tackle sexual violence in conflict”

“No such a thing as a rape culture” – Bangura.

While in Addis Ababa,  I met an amazing women and leader from Sierra Leon. She is also the UN Special Representative of Secretary General on Sexual Violence. Zainab Hawa Bangura opened my eyes on what I usually read in both studies and media reports – they call it culture of rape. I suspect i could have regurgitated such words before.

Listening to Bangura, her zeal, passion and dedication caught me. I am finishing this post coincidentally in Goma, Eastern DR Congo a place which one the high UN ranking officials dared to call the “rape capital of the world.”

And the words of the Bangura were directed at the continued description of African regions where there’s sexual violence in conflict as having “rape culture.” Often a description slapped on Eastern Congo where more than 5 million lives have been lost in wars since 1990s.

Continue reading ““No such a thing as a rape culture” – Bangura.”

#I6Days: No justice as Uganda female journalist commits suicide after gangrape

It is that time of the year when we dedicate 16 days to remind the world of the endless need to eliminate violence against women.
November 25 is the International Day for the elimination of violence against women. In Uganda various organisations have done a good job using different media to pass the message that ought to be the everyday message to the population.

Tweetups, SMS campaigns, radio talkshows are all on to get Ugandans to understand that violence against a woman is violence against humanity too! That you can judge a society by the way it treats its women.

A week before November 25th, I read a thread on Facebook group that I am part of. It was about a female journalist from Bukedde who had died during childbirth.

We didn’t discuss much. It was just condolence messages although I felt this was time for us to reflect how close issues we cover are to our own lives. In Uganda everyday 16 mothers die due to childbirth. This is due to complications that could be prevented. In many ways maternal health is a social justice issue.

Just as this news was sinking in, another disturbing post came up. A female journalist had committed suicide. Moreen Ndagire, whom I didn’t know personally, was a Sub-editor at a Red Pepper, a leading tabloid in Uganda. At the age of 24, she had achieved quite a lot that not many youth can do in this country with a high unemployment rate.

Moreen Ndagire at her graduation in last year. Photo from Observer.

Continue reading “#I6Days: No justice as Uganda female journalist commits suicide after gangrape”

Uganda women protest topless against Police public groping of female politician

On Friday, Ugandans witnessed another episode of police brutality. It wasn’t just the brutality we are used to seeing.  In this video ran by NTVUganda  a police officer was, publicly before the cameras, groping an opposition politician Ingrid Turinawe.

Ingrid has been at the forefront of various pressure groups in Uganda for the last 5 years. She was one of the leaders of the Activists for Change (A4C), a pressure group that led the famous Walk to Work protests that took place in many parts of Uganda for the greater part of 2011 as the Arab spring was going on.

The group has been banned because in our country where we still use very colonial laws to the advantage of a dictatorial regime, the attorney general has powers to declare a group illegal even without evidence of  the need to ban them. This law threatens even a blogger or writers who mention A4C as government could claim that they are  promoting an illegal group  with intention to ‘incite violence’. Already two journalists have been summoned by the police over an interview had with the head of the group. Human rights groups have warned on the dangers of the government-increased crackdown on freedom of speech, expression and assembly in Uganda.

Once the group A4C was banned, some of its leaders rebranded it into For God and my Country (4GC), taking after the country motto. It was after the launch of the new group that Uganda police brutality came back to our living rooms.

This time a male police offer publically groping Ingrid as another pulls her leg out of the car. The police officer didn’t grope her once, he did it repeatedly and in the video we hear Ingrid asking why the police officer was doing that. One other police officer warns his colleague but does nothing to stop this.

Continue reading “Uganda women protest topless against Police public groping of female politician”

Slavery Memorial Day, We can’t forget

Today August 23rd is a a Slavery Memorial Day, many set this day aside to remember the horrendous inhumane acts that saw Africa and Africans robbed of their dignity for centuries. Even though slavery was abolished, its consequences are still faced by many today. Like someone said at UPEACE, if history is not remembered it may happen again. I also think on such a day, we should support people that are working hard to eliminate modern day slavery. Slavery is still practiced in many parts of the world and it goes on with little attention. In many African countries like Niger, Chad, Mali the estimates of enslaved people go beyond 20 million. In many African settings many practice child labour. In Uganda, some people shameless employ 12 year olds to watch over and cook for their children who are almost their age.  In Uganda, slavery-like acts may not necessarily be brought upon these children forcefully but poverty and economic inequality force many to be victims.

I looked up for discussions on this subject today being the day for remembrance and didn’t find much. I found this blog post on slavery commemorations discussion in the UK.

Below are pictures from Goree Island off the Senegalese coast where most slaves were kept and shipped off. I visited the island March this year and everything on the island has a moving slavery related story behind it.

A view of the Island of Goree is 2 kilometres from Dakar main harbour. Rosebell Kagumire photo
A view of the Island of Goree 2 kilometres from Dakar main harbour. Rosebell Kagumire photo
A writting on a wall in one of the slave cells. A slave had to be 60 kg. Rosebell Kagumire photo
A writting on a wall in one of the slave cells. A slave had to be more than 60 kg. Rosebell Kagumire photo
A cell for children
A cell for children
My guide standing at the door of no-return facing the Atlantic. Rosebell Kagumire photo
My guide standing at the door of no-return facing the Atlantic. Rosebell Kagumire photo
From the museum on the island. some shackles, guns and other things used by slave traders
From the museum on the island. some shackles, guns and other things used by slave traders
Rosebell Kagumire
The statute of freedom signifying the end of slavery. Rosebell Kagumire photo.
The statute of freedom signifying the end of slavery. Rosebell Kagumire photo.

Uganda’s miltary injustice system

In the last two years, courts in Uganda have delivered two major judgments that have brought to the light the illegal prosecutions carried out under the military justice system in the country. On 9th July 2008 the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that the trial of civilians by the General Court Martial (GCM)is unconstitutional and GCM is an inferior court to the high Court and other courts of record.

This was a long awaited ruling that came out in light of a case where twenty five men suspected

Brig. Bernard Rwehururu new chairman of the General Court Martial and Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta
Brig. Bernard Rwehururu new chairman of the General Court Martial and Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta. A New Vision photo

to members of Peoples Redemption Army (PRA) – wispy rebel group allegedly operating in DRC- were arrested in March 2003 by the army and charged before the GCM on 16 April 2003 with the offense of treason and later remanded on 15 May 2003 to Makindye military prison.

For more than two years, the military kept these men under detention and refused to honour High court orders for the suspects to be given access to lawyers and their relatives and to be granted bail.

Their treason trial together with FDC leader Dr. Kiiza Besigye is one of the cases that have tainted President Museveni’s regime when the regime sent the infamous black Mambas, a paramilitary group, to storm the High Court and re-arrested the suspects after being granted bail later in November 2005.

By detaining and trying PRA suspects with charges ranging from treason to terrorism, the military attracted some “unwanted attention” from the public.

The PRA case generated public disapproval; it was the first time that Ugandans and specifically the legal fraternity took a hard look at the workings of the military justice system especially the General Court Martial.

At the time of the Supreme Court ruling last year, most of the men who had been incarcerated for more than three years had chosen the easier way out, to confess that they were indeed rebels and get amnesty instead of putting up with the prolonged trial that seemed to have no end.

But this ruling meant that no other civilian would ever be subjected to the whims of the miltary court if the court order is respected–the military has in the past ignored court rulings.  Although the military never really reacted to the ruling with Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta as the GCM chairman, I believe it is time for Ugandans to demand that the military pledges to respect such court decisions.

Nevertheless the Supreme Court ruling was a big step but it wasn’t and shouldn’t be the last effort to check illegalities within the military justice system.

Ugandan soldiers. Some have suffered under an unjust miltary justice system
Ugandan soldiers. Some have suffered under an unjust miltary justice system

Early this year, in February, the Constitutional Court gave another stinging ruling for the Ugandan military justice system this time related to the prosecution of cases against soldiers. It ruled that the march 2002 execution of two UPDF soldiers in Kotido district by the Field Court Martial was illegal because they were denied right to appeal.

Pt. Abdallah Mohammed and Corp. James Omedio were executed after a trial for the murder of an Irish Catholic priest, the Rev. Fr. Declan O’Toole and two other civilians.

They were convicted, sentenced to death and immediately executed by firing squad. The Uganda Law Society and Jackson Karugaba filed a petition to the Constitutional Court and in his ruling Justice Amos Twinomujuni said: “I would hold that the accused persons in the Kotido trial were entitled, as a right, to appeal through the military court systems up to the Supreme Court.”

Then he said that even if the Supreme Court had repealed their appeal, the accused soldiers had a right to hear if the president could grant a prerogative of mercy.

While I was still in Kampala I spoke to lawyers that are familiar with the military system and have represented some people there.They said most soldiers are detained for long without trial, and there is unfair trials while some soldiers are framed. Because most cases if not all are tried in Camera, the public never gets to know how things go in that court. Most of them are not well off to get lawyers, they serve sentences in jails and are dismissed from the army with no one ever coming to their rescue. They say a few things have improved since Gen. Elly Tumwine was replaced but the system leaves a lot to be desired. There’re still many complaints that there is a lot of influence-peddling from army top ranks.

It’s reported that the army has executed 26 people over the past three years. There are currently many UPDF soldiers in the condemned sections of Luzira Upper Prison and Jinja Main Prison

A report by Foundation for Human Rights Initiative says “the greatest problem currently facing these inmates is a failure to receive an appeal against their convictions and sentences, a clear breach of their constitutional rights. They appear to have been left in legal limbo, with neither the military nor the civilian courts taking responsibility”

The report said there are over 30 military personnel in the condemned section of Luzira Upper Prison who have not yet received an appeal, despite claims that their appeals have been noted in the GCM. All of these soldiers were convicted by these lower military courts and sentenced to death.

In their 2005 report on Uganda, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) highlighted what they believed to be a ‘scapegoat policy’, where low ranking soldiers are imprisoned and executed to show observers that the army deals swiftly and effectively with personnel who commit crimes. It is this effort on the side of the government to show that they have security issues under control and that their military is incomparable to past regimes that has made many blind to the injustices against UPDF soldiers.

I was working on this story and I thought I had got a headway when someone tried to get me in touch with a soldiers that served a sentence for years after failed attempts to appeal and he was now dismissed from the army but he withdraw from giving the interview at last minute fearing for his security.

Miltary justice system is hardly reported on in Uganda nad the media seems to follow only high profile officer cases, the likes the Henry Tumukunde, and the famous ghost soldier cases. With new leadership at the GCM, I think these stories need to come out not just reporting about the change of the chair.

Some lawyers were calling for changes in the military justice system. One called for a UK kind of system where prosecution of military officers is controlled not by the military, but by an independent body, the Service Prosecuting Authority which insulates the military justice system from abuse from within.

Below is how Uganda military justice works.

Unit Disciplinary Committee

Field Court Martial

Division Court Martial

General Court Martial and Court Martial Appeal Court.

The latter two sit as appellate courts, with the Court Martial Appeal Court acting as the highest appellate court in the army judicial system.