Uncategorized

Uganda’s independence Jubilee and why all can’t jubilate.

Today Ugandans marked 50 years since colonial rule ended. On October 9th 1962, Uganda joined a list of African countries that were set to govern their own affairs after decades, in some cases centuries, of colonization.

I left Kampala a few hours to the Independence Day but even if I were home, I wouldn’t have joined the national event at Kololo to celebrate. I think we have a lot more to reflect on than an all out celebration.

It is important that every person should take part in deciding the affairs of their family, community and nation. So the end of colonialism didn’t mean the end of the quest for Ugandans to have a say on how they want to be governed.

Uganda like many African countries was a nation formed by colonialists through breaking nations (others call them kingdoms) and forcing them under one boundary as they saw fit- for their administrative and colonial interests. So to convince these nations to come to recognize and really be part of the new nation Uganda was a tall order!

Continue reading

Standard
Politics, Uganda, Uncategorized

“Is it outrageous to want to live in peace?”

On Sunday 22nd, Uganda watched in horror as a city enforcement officer , who later turned out to be a police officer,  brandished his AK47 shooting indiscriminately at a group of unarmed civilians who had gathered at a demolition site carried out by  Kampala city authorities. NTV Uganda brought the news in and people I was with said you could have mistken the scene to be Mogadishu. In this video, at 5:30 you see the animal that Uganda’s security forces have become. A man using a stick, a gun and a pistol to violate citizens.

Continue reading

Standard
Conflict, Uganda, Women

Child marriages in Uganda

This week I was in Kasese taking part in validation of a study soon to be released by Isis-WICCE on child marriages in Uganda. I met Sarah Biira, 19 year old who had her first child at 13 years. Kasese is a post conflict area but has largely been ignored in terms of development. It has been under conflict since 1940s and the education of a girl child is a challenge because of poverty, cultural beliefs and loss of livelihoods to war.

Here is Sarah’s story.

 

Standard
Africa, Uganda, Uncategorized, Women

You are my child I shouldn’t be telling you this

This week I was in Lira in northern Uganda at a medical camp for women with reproductive health complications most of them sustained during the 23 year LRA war. Organisers had no idea 400 women would turn just on the the first day.

I was taking interviews from these women most of whom it was the first time they were going to see a gynecologist since the various sexual violations happened. It is always a tough position to be in. Women as old as 60 years narrating how they were raped, how no one wants to hear their story, how the community calls them all sorts of names it is beyond what i can describe.

One of the very first interviews, I was speaking to Akello (not real name) a woman who was abducted together with her co-wife. They reached the bush and were forcibly ‘married’ to one man. They both endured years of sexual violations including gang rapes. They returned 6 years ago, they didn’t know they both had HIV. Akello tells me they passed it on to their husband they had left behind and he died 3 years ago. She hasn’t really dealt with her own trauma and she blames herself for ‘killing’ her husband.

One of the women at the medical camp in Ogur Lira.

Just like in all interviews, we always take time out when the woman needs sometime pull herself together. At the end she calls me back and says “You are my child, I shouldn’t be telling you this.” I had no words to add, I just sat down for some minutes. I felt she wanted to spare me from listening, listening to horrors that many others preferred untold. We had been through it all, her life in the bush, her life after and how she hardly owns anything. How she struggles to feed and educate her 2 grand children. Of the 8 children she had, only one survived. It’s tougher to listen to a woman your mother’s or grandmother’s age talk about how she was raped. You can’t easily cry because you don’t want to derail her further. You can’t help see your mother in the faces of all these women left with almost nothing of their dignity. Yet they tell you these stories that mothers can never tell their children because they think you can help in a way.

I met Ester Abeja, she insisted that I put her face out. She was afraid that covering her face was more like what the community and government have done-ignore their plight. Like most of the women that turned up for the screening, she had complications. She is suffering from what doctors called uterine prolapse (the descent of the uterus into the vagina or beyond). In her case her uterus is hanging out. She was abducted and violated by the LRA rebels for many years.  Ester needs a surgery that would cost about 200 USD. She has had this condition for years and she is raising 5 children whom the husband abandoned. Before I spoke to her she was visibly traumatised and she told me many times she has thought of killing her husband who now has two other wives. We talked about it and she agrees that wouldn’t solve her problems, we have to concentrate on getting her the operation to remove her uterus.

Most of the women i spoke to had been abandoned by their families once they came back from the LRA. They face a high level of stigma. For those who had children with the rebels and came back with them it’s even much more difficult. Their children are called ‘Kony’s children.’

Ester Abeja.

Ester had one child with one of the rebels, she’s now about 6 years. “Do they think I wanted to be raped by these rebels? Do they think i wanted to kill my own child?” Ester wonders. She tells me another chilling story of how rebels forced her to kill her one year old baby gal by smashing her skull on a tree. Another young son was captured with her and she has no idea if he’s still alive.  She tells me she rarely sleeps and you can see it in her eyes.

I left Ester in Ogur. I am hopeful that Isis-WICCE, the organisation i worked with on this medical camp, can get money to get Ester and others the much needed surgery. There’s such lack of attention for survivors of sexual violence who are mostly women all over the LRA affected areas. And if she gets the surgery she will need support and most of these women need a lot of economic empowerment but few reach government programs.

One doctor from Lira told me, “When war ends, there’s a silent war that has to be fought.”

He said the challenge so far has been that “politicians think they will just put structures which they can use to say this is what i did during my time and ignore peoples needs.” And i don’t expect my government to get Ester the much needed help because even the health center we were at didn’t have any drugs to give to those with the simplest of the reproductive health problems.

Standard
Uncategorized

One man protest over walk to work killings in Uganda

It’s one of my last days in Washington DC before i head home. I took a walk with friends by the White House today. From a distance I could see the flag waving. It had black, yellow red. Few flags can be confused with the Ugandan flag, i took a few steps and i saw one man holding out a placard. As i walked closer to him, one image caught my eye. The image of Brenda Nalwendo, the photo that send chills down the spines of even those i knew to love President Museveni’s regime.  It was in April she was shot right in her belly as she tried to cross the streets as the police and military fired on protesters. She was pregnant and by the hand of God she survived and her baby was unharmed. I later visited her in hospital and haven’t heard from her much. But right here in DC i saw her picture and also the picture of parents of a 2 year old Juliana Nalwanga who was killed in Masaka. About 10 people died in the protests.

Bukenya at the White House holds out a placard with images of those who died in the protests in Uganda in April.

This week civil society organisations called for an independent inquiry into the April killings. I am not optimistic this will happen as we have seen many inquiries in Uganda tend to be a waste. Charles Bukenya was the man holding the placard with these images. He’ on hunger strike a colleague tells me. Its part of the vigil that former presidential candidate and opposition figure  Nortbert Mao has called for,according to Bukenya. Bukenya is a Uganda Young Democrats (USA) head. He says he will not end the strike until President Obama talks to him or about the human rights violations by the current regime. He says its time U.S stopped being blind to the ‘impunity’ that rules in Uganda.

Charles Bukenya head of Uganda Young Democrats in USA on a one man demonstration + hunger strike over April walk to work killings. Rosebell's photo

Standard
Uncategorized

I featured on AlJazeera The Stream program this week

I discussed with Digital Producer Ahmed Shihab, host Derrick Ashong and Azita Ardakani of Love Social the political situation in Uganda, Hoot4change and Walk to Work campaigns and what they mean for the country.

Follow the link if you missed it on Monday 23 May. http://stream.aljazeera.com/episode/4569

Below is the discussion i had with The Stream before it went live. http://www.youtube.com/user/AJstream?blend=13&ob=5#p/u/0/kZakyvIHA-s

Standard