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Uganda gets its first female speaker of parliament; is it worth a celebration?

Ms Rebbeca Alitwala Kadaga was today sworn in as the Speaker for the 9th parliament in Uganda. Most of the parliamentarians are familiar faces and the National Resistance Movement (NRM), President Museveni’s party, has enough members to pass any laws they want.

In a world that cherishes women’s rights and empowerment (or pretends to), this should be seen as a historic moment and many will see it as that. However I don’t see much to celebrate about Kadaga’s election. Kadaga is not a fresh face in this parliament, she has been there, served as Deputy Speaker. She has seen it all.

She holds a Masters in Women’s Law from the University of Zimbabwe but this specialization in women’s rights law has not seen the NRM filled parliament show concern to issues affecting women.

Uganda’s health system is ailing, maternal mortality is high yet we have seen the NRM government which Kagada has served exonerate ministers who swindle health care monies.  I was discussing Kadaga’s election with some people in the women movement and one lady told me, “I am not interested in pushing to have a female speaker just because she wears a dress.” Then she told me it’s almost impossible for her to see Kadaga above the NRM male dominated politics of intrigue. Many questioned what exactly Kadaga had done to advance the women’s rights in the country.

And these questions could be answered once the Marriage and Divorce Bill comes to her parliament in a few days. The bill among others recognizes marital rape and also provides that women are entitled to a share of property upon divorce.

Kadaga participated in the infamous amendment of Uganda’s constitution to allow the lifting of presidential term limits and thanks to that move we have a possible life presidency. She comes at a time when the chair of her party President Museveni is calling the media ‘enemies of the state’.  The very day she became speaker, somewhere on the outskirts of Kampala, the leader of opposition Dr. Kizza Besigye was under house arrest. Kadaga will most likely preside over the NRM parliament that will pass laws to deny Ugandans bail for 6 months for being suspected protesters.

Kadaga  is one of the MPs that took the Shs. 20 million shillings bribe from the government shortly before the February 2011 elections. When asked by some women she said she had used the money to construct some boreholes in her constituency but has refused to go on record and in the media to declare that. The campaign by civil society organizations is still on to try and get back that money.

The region she comes from -Busoga is one of the poorest regions in Uganda. It has suffered most because of the death of industries that once flourished in Jinja before the current government took over. Of course wealth distribution is not her role but she has held different ministerial positions in this government before and therefore she could answer some of the questions.

To me Kadaga will be just another speaker doing anything at the whims of President Museveni. I wait for her to shock me, to stand up to that small group of corrupt men that are draining this country’s resources.  I see her becoming another statistic of how African countries are doing well with women political empowerment. She will be the talk in those various governance and women’s conferences. Am sure she will have millions of invites at her table to tell the story of how she made it.

But I will wait for you Madam Speaker to prove me wrong! That you will not only be known as the first female Speaker but as a woman who put her country above her party. I say this knowing that the party you serve has become too intolerant to anyone that questions their mismanagement of this country.

Time is on your side. You have got five years to do that.

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Uganda women hold vigil for justice and peace over recent shootings

Today about 150 women marched in Kampala to protest police brutality that has characterised th Walk to Work  demonstrations which has taken five lives including a two year old girl in the last month.

Ugandan youth march along in Vigil for Justice and Peace in Kampala. May 9 2011.

The Walk to Work campaign to raise issues of high fuel and food prices currently facing most Ugandan households had been organised by Activists for Change, a group of Ugandans from different opposition parties. The campaign which started on April 11 was met with bullets which left many on hospital beds with serious bullet wounds and the top opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye was hospitalised in Nairobi.

Today women from different civil society organisations marched to add their voice to many Ugandans who have said brutality wont the country anywhere.

In attempting to fulfill its obligations in the last few weeks, the State has instead used excessive force resulting in the infringement of some of the fundamental rights enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution including the right to life, the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of movement, right to access prompt, fair and timely justice and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment….We also wish to express our profound disappointment with government’s indifference, exhibited by the lack of urgent action to curb the situation and apparent disregard of pressing priorities in allocation of government expenditure.

We as Women in Civil Society are hereby convening to register ourdeep concern and condemnation on the use of excessive force by the Police and other security agencies and subsequent escalating violence and to call upon the State to take critical measures to address the key issues/ concernsraised by the publicso as to avert a national crisis. In particular, we wish to register our deep concern of:

The use of excessive force and especially the use of live ammunition to quell demonstrations,indiscriminate physical assaults on civilians, spraying of vast amounts of tear gas in closed spaces including cars, schools, dispensaries and homes occasioning loss of life and property, severe injuries and pain among innocent children, by standers, those at work and urban dwellers.We are greatly concerned that rather than enjoy state protection, citizens are preoccupied with defending themselves against its wrath;

Thelma Awori,a womens rights activist during the walk.

The brutality of officers of the Uganda Police Force and other security operatives in handling the “Walk to Work”      campaign which amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for those that were arrested.

The intimidation of human rights defenders who have spoken out on various issues of concern including the declining space for engagement;

Censorship of the media and a curtailing of press freedom and freedom of expression, including intimidation and security threats to journalists and media houses carrying out their duty as a watchdog of the state and provider of information to the public

The increased erosion of the independence of the three arms of government  and lack of .The actions and decisions of some judicial officers which cast doubt in the minds of the public on whether justice is being done. We are equally concerned that contrary to the public appeal for the perpetrators of violence to be brought to justice, the Minister for Internal Affairs has instead defended the use of brutal force. Such responses from government risk promoting impunity.

The increased militarization of the State and use of armed forces to enforce law and order and quell peaceful protests which heightens risks of violent conflict and will affect the entire population of Uganda including men, women and children.

We are calling upon Government to take proactive measures to address broader social justice issues, and ensure that key concerns voiced by various sections of the public are addressed. We demand for strong policy measures to address issues food security, unemployment, health and education.

The march through Kampala was granted by police on condition that women wouldn’t utter political statements. And it happened!

The women handed over a statement calling for proper investigations into the incidents to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights defenders Margaret Sekagya.

Although the police gave the women’s march a location far away from the city center, there was enough coverage of their issues. One Ugandan told me:

“Such good images of white clad ladies with their pans could do wonders at getting the reluctant middle class off their backsides. White clad Mothers, on the other hand, emphasize peaceful nature of the campaign and also are re-assuring to those who are still hiding.”

The march was well placed on Mothers Day to point out specifically horrifying images we saw in the last weeks of a pregnant woman Ms.Nalwendo shot right in her stomach leaving her intestines hanging out in Kampala during the demos and another incident where a two year old Juliana Nalwanga was shot dead in Masaka. In all deaths we are yet to see any arrest of the perpetrators in the security forces.

Stella Mukasa, a lawyer and women's rights activist reads the statement as the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Margaret Sekagya (c) and the Head of Uganda office- UN Human Rights listen.

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Uganda

With fresh memory of Tahrir Square , government keeps Walk to Work away from Constitution Square

On Thursday April 21, the fourth time that Uganda’s opposition leader Kiiza Besigye-Kifefe was blocked from walking,  Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, the director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research gave an important analysis of the events at a Rotary International District Conference at Munyonyo.

Besigye has today spent his 55th birthday in jail. Together with Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao are being held at a prison outside Kampala for participating in the walk to work campaign that protests current high fuel prices. Five people including two year old Juliana Nulwanga have been shot dead in the protests in different parts of the country in the last two weeks while dozens are nursing bullet wounds.

In reaction to these events Mamdani said

“Both the opposition that has taken to walking and government that is determined to get them to stop walking are driven by the memory of a single event.  The memory of Tahrir Square feeds opposition hopes and fuels government fears. For many in the opposition, Egypt has come to signify the promised land around the proverbial corner.  For many in government, Egypt spells a fundamental challenge to power, one that must be resisted, whatever the cost.

It’s the memory of the Tahrir that has driven President Museveni’s regime to allege that that the protests are aimed at removing a legitimate government. President Museveni told journalists that those using protests were committing treason but we have not yet seen this charge slapped on the opposition.

I have wondered why the government wouldn’t let people walk peacefully and then try to work against the campaign by addressing the issues that these people were raising. From what I gathered, the paranoia has been high that Besigye and the walkers might camp at the Constitution Square right in the middle of central business district thereby attracting more participants and international attention.

That’s why the government moved to put a walking ban on politicians who were taking part in the campaign . Kampala had seen unprecedented heavy deployments of forces even before the planned protest. Government has deployed security forces  at almost every corner in every neighbourhood in the city like never before and the reason we had earlier  been given was that of the frequent terrorism threats the country receives from the Somali militants.

However Prof. Mamdani says :

Matters have reached a point where even the hint of protest evokes maximum reaction from government.  So much so that a government which only a few weeks ago came to power with an overwhelming majority today appears to lack not only flexibility but also an exit strategy.  For civilians, supporters and skeptics alike, the sight of military resources deployed to maintain civil order in the streets, has come to blur the line between civil police and military forces as those in power insist on treating even the simplest of civil protest as if it were an armed rebellion.

President Museveni has gone to the extent swearing to eat his opponents like samosas. This paranoia about Tahrir possibilities in the country has made the regime put restrictions on media like never before. The Uganda Communications Commission and Uganda broadcasting council have come out to warn the media against messages that might be seen to promote “ethnic prejudice, civil violence and public insecurity”. The terms are broad enough to catch anyone that the regime wants.

Journalists have been threatened with phone calls, SMS while others have been trailed by security agents in the last two weeks. The steps that Uganda had made in the last ten years in press freedom and freedom of expression are slowly being washed away as we live the fear of Tahrir.

Today I went to Mulago to pay a visit to Brenda Nalwendo, a 19 year old pregnant woman who was shot in this week’s protests. I was ther upon a request by a Ugandan living abroad who wanted to help after seeing the horrifying photos of her shooting. At ward I identified myself as a journalist and the ladies on duty looked at me suspicious, exchanged glances before telling me they had to first inquire from some people.  They had even suggested I leave the money with them but I insisted on seeing Brenda’s mother who had no problem taking me to her daughter. By God’s grace Brenda has survived and now she can sit and her unborn baby is ok.  It is gruesome images of her intestines that hang out of her belly on April 18 that clearly showed what kind of brutality Ugandans have faced.

And it is such pictures and such peoples stories that the government is eager not to see them be told. But with some young Ugandans now using internet to give first-hand accounts of events as they happen, the coverage of these demonstrations has been very effective on facebook and twitter. That’s why the government was keen on shutting these channels down. These channels are the most uncontrollable unlike TVs and Radios which may worry about closure and hence give in to government directives. It’s because of the great role being played by youth in Uganda on these networks that internet freedom is slowly being threatened even before we have achieved much access. As of July 2010, only ten percent of the population in Uganda used internet. The numbers have changed I believe with more telecoms offering free facebook access and more affordable phones on the market with internet access option. As long as the social media is not blocked, the story of those protesting in a country where protests have become almost illegal, will continue to be told.

With opposition leaders jailed, we don’t know yet what the brains behind this walk to work campaign have in plan. It’s important for any non-violent campaign to deny those in power a target. In walk to work campaign, the regime was given targets in form of top opposition leaders and it will remain to be seen whether the campaign can continue without them. Museveni remains firm in refusing to put fuel tax cuts like Kenya did because this would show that the protests worked.

Like Prof.Mamdai said:

Whatever its outcome, ‘Walk to work’ must make us rethink the practice of democracy in Uganda…No matter how small the numbers involved in the developments we know as ‘Walk to Work’, there is no denying its sheer intellectual brilliance. That brilliance lies in its simplicity, in its ability to confer on the simplest of human activities, walking, a major political significance: the capacity to say no.

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Uganda, Uncategorized, Women

Delivering with barely anything; a story of Ugandan mother

On Wednesday March 30, I visited Buyinja Health Center IV in the newly created district of Namayingo which lies on the shores of Lake Victoria in eastern Uganda (somehow we rarely say south east). I was there to interview  Jessica Were, a woman nominated for the upcoming Women of Courage Awards hosted by Isis-WICCE and the US Embassy in Kampala. Were is a mother mentor working to bring mothers to get more involved in Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMCT) of HIV. She also works to defend the rights of women living with HIV and orphans who are always denied land.

In a new district, Buyinja is supposed to be elevated to a hospital but for now it has a few blocks with a male and female wards and a maternity wing. Jenifer Friday arrived on a boda boda (‘motorcycle taxi’). When I saw her I thought she had come for checkup but she didn’t go to the separate block where Were educates these women.  Fifteen minutes later I enter the maternity ward to catch a few shots to show Were’s working environment. I find Jenifer with a child who is barely two years crying out loud. Jenifer was also shouting as her labour pains increased.

Jessica Were tries to calm down Jenifer and also holds her one and half year old minutes before the second baby was delivered at Buyinja.

Jenifer arrived at this health center with nothing but her child on way to deliver another child. She had no clothes, no relative accompanying her. In fact her husband sent her to mother’s place at eight months.  Nurses looked around for any cloth; they work with barely anything. Sometimes they have to give their own clothes to cover babies and mothers like Jenifer. The nurse in charge tells me that there are many like Jenifer who arrive at the center with nothing. Health centers  rarely has gloves, razors and cloth, most stuff essential during delivery. I wondered how health workers keep their balance in such conditions.

Jenifer is 19 years old and she was having her second child. She delivered her first child at a traditional birth attendant’s place and after hearing Were’s message she made it here.  Were had to call relatives and they appeared after about an hour with a few clothes. Were had to tell that Jennifer needed sanitary towels or cotton and underwear.

Jenifer’s first child is from another man so she is basically lucky that her current husband would marry her and take care of both. In that position Jenifer couldn’t bargain to wait for the old child to grow before having this man’s child. She does home cores and the husband cleans boda boda for a living. I asked her what she would want to do in her life if given an opportunity; she was quiet for a while. Later she told me she wants to be a tailor.

Jenifer with minutes old baby Scovia.

Jenifer was about 17 when she got her first child and at the time she was in primary seven. Talking to her minutes after she delivered a baby girl called Scovia, I reflected on what difference education could have brought to Jenifer’s life. At 18 I was headed to university. For girls like Jenifer, their education is interrupted by so many things including poverty and general attitudes towards educating a girl child. By the time she’s 18 and in primary school, the chances of pregnancy and dropping out of school are high.

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The African solution that hasn’t worked for Ivory Coast will not work for Libya

President Museveni’s 3000+worded article on the situation in Libya, analyzing Gaddafi’s regime his successes and failures has been hitting headlines around the world. He joined the critics of the current bombardments against Gaddafi that were sanctioned by the UN Security Council.

To a Ugandan, the article was catchy right from the start.  My president who just bought an election at such an exorbitant price to stretch his time in power into a 3rd decade was at university when Col. Muammar Gaddafi took over Libya. I posed a bit and figured out that my mother was just a teenager when Gaddafi took over power.

The article started like a reading from the Old Testament about kings. The longevity of the regimes of both Museveni and Gaddafi hits you right at the start. Thereafter I found the President Museveni’s arguments most contradictory on the whole. But I guess it is not surprising when one spends more than two decades in power.

While he criticizes Gaddafi and others for meddling in internal conflicts of African countries pointing to Gaddafi’s backing of Idi Amin in particular, he praises Gaddafi for supplying his rebel movement with arms against what he calls “criminal regimes” in Uganda.  So he draws a line between Gaddafi’s support for Idi Amin and Gaddafi’s support for Museveni.

“At the time we were fighting the criminal dictatorships here in Uganda, we had a problem arising of a complication caused by our failure to capture enough guns at Kabamba on the 6th of February, 1981.  Gaddafi gave us a small consignment of 96 rifles, 100 anti-tank mines, etc., that was very useful.  He did not consult Washington or Moscow before he did this.”

To Museveni, Gaddafi going sole and supporting his rebellion is great achievement we should recognize. But I am seeing the same feelings in Benghazi towards the current intervention that Museveni sets out to criticize.

President Museveni might sound close to right to many when he says “External meddling and the acquiescence by Africans into that meddling have been responsible for the stagnation in Africa.  The wrong definition of priorities in many of the African countries is, in many cases, imposed by external groups.” But this is the same man who has played the meddling in Rwanda, DR Congo and Somalia.  In Uganda we say a kettle cannot accuse a pot of being black.

In this article he puts out areas where he strategically has an advantage. He mentions south Sudan where America sees him as critical to the stability having engaged with SPLM for decades. Then UN refusal to put a no-fly zone over Somalia which Uganda pushed hard for last year when it was at the UN Security Council. He goes ahead to ask , are no human beings in Somalia similar to the ones in Benghazi?

But he has been part and parcel of the failed interventions in Somalia for the last eight years. Anyone who has followed the war in Somalia knows the route of the weapons is not by air and therefore a no-fly zone would never upset the power of opposition groups like Al Shabaab.

President Museveni who criticizes foreign intervention stood by as Ethiopia went into Somalia with the support of George Bush. He later jumped into the boat to make Uganda the first country to deploy troops in Somalia even before the Ethiopians left. Four years down the road the AMISOM is there backing a weak, non- representative government in Somalia.

While many in Uganda and Africa will jump to agree with the president, I see him as part of the meddling he talking about. He’s therefore in no good position to judge. The article brings in the question of oil in Somalia not being in the hands of the western companies as being the reason behind the inaction on the Somali conflict.  The worry about western interests in the wars around the globe in genuine given the history but for Museveni to say “if the Libyan opposition groups are patriots, they should fight their war by themselves and conduct their affairs by themselves” can only show that there’s little his involvement and that of AU would have done to stop Gaddafi butchering his own people.

In Museveni’s article I read feelings of a man, a big man, who together with the toothless AU have been blocked from entering Libya. The west may be wrong in the way they conduct the intervention in Libya but President Museveni together with his group of mostly African dictators cannot be trusted to bring a solution fast enough.

When Gaddafi was declaring genocide on his own people saying he would “cleanse Libya house by house”, no one stood up to him. When we heard stories about Gaddafi ferrying young Africans into Libya to work as mercenaries which escalated racist attacks on African immigrants, no African president came out to call for investigations. So many Africans stuck in Libya including Ugandans have been at the mercy of aid groups and some few government rescue missions.

Let’s not forget for the last four months this group of men who rule the continent have failed to resolve the situation in Ivory Coast which we may as well say has slipped back into a civil war. So far more than 400 people have died in Ivory Coast and all they do is hop onto planes meet in Addis Ababa.

No wonder we have heard no calls on the AU from Libya’s opposition. But these African leaders were so anxious to enter Libya to bargain with Gaddafi who has bought his way around the continent over years.  Gaddafi has personally supported rebellions that brought some of these leaders to power and provided them money to buy subsequent elections to appear democratically elected.  I don’t understand the African solution neither do  leaders like Museveni explain that solution that they peddle around to make Africans believe we are all on the same page.

President Museveni briefly looked at the socio-economic conditions within Libya and says they have nice roads and there’s no unemployment.

“In Tunisia and Egypt, some youths immolated (burnt) themselves because they had failed to get jobs.  Are the Libyans without jobs also?  ”

He also says that governments have a right to deal with protesters emphasizing that those who don’t seek police permission to demonstrate. This is a rule he has put in Uganda so we basically have no right to stage a protest against him peacefully. It’s his police, headed by his military men, that is in charge of sanctioning such a peaceful protest.

In the Libyan situation President Museveni sort of asks, what more did these protesters want? He seems to imply that those whose material needs have been met shouldn’t pursue freedom from dictators. I am not surprised this coming from a leader who has decentralized corruption in his own country to satisfy the would-be challengers.

Of course he went on to point out Gaddafi’s weakness but mostly those which contravened with his own standing like the cultural leaders project. A man who has banned cultural leaders and church from engaging in politics –for whatever meaning of politics is- Museveni has been at loggerheads with Gaddafi over the cultural leaders issue. This is not to say Gaddafi was right.

He talks of South Sudan which many Arabs didn’t pay much attention and he’s right but when he calls on Gaddafi to accept opposition and talks I say you should have given that advise 20 years ago. But wait! he had just got money and weapons from Gaddafi so forget the advice.

Africans want an African solution but current leaders like President Museveni who stifle freedoms in their own borders will not deliver us the much needed African solution. And that’s what North Africa has realized and therefore moved to rid their countries of these leaders.  Like Desmond Tutu has said Libya wouldn’t be seeing these strikes if African leaders were answerable to their peers and the  populace. But which Gaddafi’s peers would have kept him in check?   Museveni, Biya or Mugabe?

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Uncategorized

Battle for Mogadishu; Ugandan family learns of son’s death from Internet

Mogadishu Skyline 2006

Image via Wikipedia

For the last two days, I have been trying to figure out the fate of one Ugandan peacekeeper in Somalia. Today is the sixth day of intense fighting in Mogadishu where the many soldiers from Burundi and Uganda have been killed and others captured by Al Shabaab.

This was after Somali government forces backed by African Union troops where Uganda has the bulk of the 8000 troops, launched a fresh offensive against Hard-line Al-Shabaab and seized some key bases in the capital Mogadishu.

In the Ugandan media, with all the election scandals going on, not much attention has been paid to the Mogadishu battle. Daily Monitor yesterday carried a story saying only two soldiers have so far been killed from the army side however Somali media claims at least 40 people, mainly soldiers were killed and 70 others wounded in fresh clashes of capturing positions in different parts of the Horn of African nation. Al Shabaab claim to be holding bodies of 20 AMISOM troops and number of others alive.

The lack of sources and reporters on the ground has made the Ugandan media deprive the Ugandan public  a clear picture of what’s going and many here don’t know the real human cost of this war.

I know the family of the killed peacekeeper and the relatives of the young man first got a phone call from Mogadishu from one of the peacekeepers saying he had been captured. So I tried to get the details of names of those killed, hoping he wasn’t among, in vain.

The  soldier at the end in Mogadishu said the 25 year-old soldier was with a group of 15 ,  11 of them were killed and four  others captured. It’s difficult to know the truth when you are in Kampala so I couldn’t get more details. The Ugandan military has so far said only two soldiers died in the battle. There’s belief among journalists here interested in the conflict that we can never  really know the actual number of those killed.­

After 48 hrs of searching for the truth, the relatives, whom I have talked to, later confirmed the death of their son through pictures on websites which are largely not visited by Ugandans. They  are holding a funeral without the body and no one from the military has contacted them.  Some bodies are still with Al Shabaab so it could be a long wait.

His immediate relatives saw gruesome images of the peacekeeper that Al Shabaab has availed to the media. Some of them show soldiers half naked, others with bodies being stepped on and there have been reports that many Ugandan and Burundian troops bodies have been dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.

If you have followed the history of international interventions in Somalia you will remember that similar images of US soldiers being dragged in the streets during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu evoked outrage in USA and led to the withdraw of troops from the Horn.

So looking at these images of Ugandan soldiers I wonder why we are not riled or even interested in what’s going on. I wonder why the war in Somalia is not so much a talked about here. When will Ugandan leaders say enough! We have done our part in Somalia.

Reading one blogger’s report from Mogadishu makes my guts stiffen. “Ugandan peacekeepers were kicked, dragged, stoned and spat on” and he talks of another Ugandan soldier whose body was left to rot in Mogadishu’s notorious Baar Ubax junction.

There have been pictures of Burundian soldiers (PoW) captured by Al Shabaab and others of dead soldiers. Some captured soldiers have been asked to give recorded messages to Somali media.

AMISOM spokesman, Maj. Barigye Ba-hoku was quoted talking to a Somali radio that “No one swims in the sea without getting wet. We are ready to face the consequences of Somalia battle – whatever the cost!”  Whatever cost?  May be this is what military propaganda requires but I believe Uganda should be rethinking about the Somalia mission. Somalia has an ineffective government and army. In fact many Somali soldiers have been trained here in Uganda but this is yet to bring about a difference. Other African countries have shunned the mission and the two east African countries could be stuck there for long.

According to a new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) titled “Somalia: The Transitional Government on Life Support”, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which Ugandan an Burundian forces are trying to help,  is too inept, increasingly corrupt and hobbled by President Sharif’s weak leadership.

The report released this week also did not get much media attention in Uganda.

The ICG report says the TFG has squandered the goodwill and support it received and achieved little of significance in the two years it has been in office. This explains why their area of influence in Mogadishu has been dwindling. The government is expected to deliver a permanent constitution before August 2011, when the TFG’s official mandate ends but ICG says is unlikely to be met.

ICG criticized the international community for pushing for the re-establishment of a European-style centralized state based in Mogadishu which they say will not work. And Uganda is stuck in this skewed international thinking of what a Somali state should look like.

“Since independence, one clan, or group of clans, has always used its control of the centre to take most of the resources and deny them to rival clans. Thus, whenever a new transitional government is created, Somalis are naturally wary and give it limited, or no, support, fearing it will only be used to dominate and marginalise them.”

The report indicated the current TFG is even less willing to share power than previous transitional administrations, which explains the recurrent tensions between it and self-governing enclaves like Puntland, Galmudug, Ximan and Xeeb and local grassroots movements like Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ).

The report suggested that recruitment of more AMISOM troops is not the answer to Somalia’s governance problems. President Museveni in the aftermath of the July 11 Kampala bombings was even writing opinions in regional press to drum up support for increase in troops. So far many African countries are unwilling to sacrifice their sons and daughters for a mission whose achievements are not very clear.

ICG called for more recruitment and coordination of the security forces of allied local administrations rather than looking on the outside.

And then the report had a warning “do not attempt a major offensive unless an appropriate accompanying political strategy has been develop.” Sorry, the offensive is already underway. It’s been called the deadliest batter in Mogadishu in the last months.

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Uncategorized

Museveni gets another five year lease in most expensive election deal

Last Friday,Ugandans went through their every five year ritual. But this time it didn’t come cheap. It was the most expensive presidential election in the country’s history which saw President Yoweri Museveni earn another  five year term to further climb the ladder of  the longest African serving presidents.

Ugandan voter displays a thumb marked after voting. 18/02/2011.Rosebell's photo.

Museveni won by 68 percent and his main challenger Dr.Kizza Besigye got 26 percent of the votes. Of the 13 million Ugandan voters, only 7 million came out to vote for their leader. Museveni had predicted an 84 percent win claiming his party had carried out a house hold poll. That is a figure he never even garnered when his popularity was its highest in the 1990.

As several election observer reports have indicated, Museveni used “the power of incumbency” to win the February 18 presidential vote. To understand well how and why Museveni won this vote, you must look at words of Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan journalist on the election. “NRM (Museveni’s party ) learnt that voter bribery is more efficient than violence,” said Mwenda.

And that’s what exactly happened. The votes were not just bought only a few hours to election but President Museveni , one can say,  broke into the national treasury to ensure he wins this vote.

There was the 20 million shillings given to Members of Parliament to supervise some inefficient agricultural plan in their constituencies, which is completely out of the mandate of a law maker anywhere in the world. We saw 13 political activists working with the ‘NGO Forum’ arrested for starting a campaign against this Ush 20 million that the government gave to MPs.

But the ultimate robbery from the national coffers came in form of a UGX 600 billion supplementary budget passed by a Museveni supporter -filled parliament 14 days to the election date. Of the 600 billion, UGX 79 billion went to State House. These funds and others acquired from different budgets enabled Museveni to distribute money to very tiny villages in Uganda.

In my home village of Kibona, Bushenyi district , a vote was going for about 30,000 shillings (13 USD). A relative told me, “Rosebell, for people whose monthly income is not even a dollar, they cannot  fail to reward someone who has given them 13 dollars.”

A friend who attended Museveni’s rally at Makerere University, one of the last rallies told me they were given 100,000 Shillings   (45 USD) for wearing Museveni’s yellow T-shirts and climbing on the trucks promoting the rally. In some parts people were paid as low as 500 Ushs (less than a quarter a dollar) to vote for the president. No opposition figure could ever match this kind of massive voter bribery.

The vote came at time when many had seen the news of events in North Africa and President Museveni had recruited and trained enough security to deploy even the most remote areas. For many Ugandans, this was the first time they had seen this massive deployment of troops. Although there were few incidents of clashes, the mere presence of security men brought fear among voters.

In Bugisu, confrontations between the security forces and civilians left a citizen dead and several others injured, including a journalist who was shot. Julius Odeke, a freelance photographer for the “Red Pepper” daily and “Razor” publication was admitted in hospital where reports show soldiers followed him and threaten his life!

One woman from Amuria told me that they were told “if you vote Besigye we will bury you with him. We will let the Karimojong ran your villages amuck.” This is in one of the areas that have suffered different wars and people have just started resettling for the first time in over 20 years. This woman told me such threats of war made many voters to cast their vote for Museveni or stay at home. The fear of what Museveni’s government would be capable of in case they didn’t win was high among many Ugandans.

There’s an African saying that goes “whoever argues with the King, stays longer on his knees.” This would be a perfect description of why President Museveni snatched some votes, more than he has ever got from Northern Uganda. People of northern Uganda are not foolish to just agree with Museveni’s regime arguments that they have brought them peace and that development is on the way. I do a lot of work in northern Uganda and one can’t say they have forgotten two decades of human rights violations from Museveni’s army or the highly politicized post conflict development plans that haven’t delivered much to a common man. One should not confuse their voting to mean they started a new page with NRM just like Andrew Mwenda claimed that we could see a Northern –Western partnership on the political map.

Northern Ugandans realised that Museveni would stay here by any means and they are better off not arguing with him. If they are good to Museveni, they too can snatch what they can from the national cake. So in the end Museveni got some decent support from an area that had two of their sons –Nobert Mao and Olara Otunnu – in the rae.

Opposition divided

Mwenda said, “the election was like a referendum, people came out to either vote Museveni or against him.”  And this is so true because having a fragmented opposition also helped Museveni win in many parts.  People were not totally sure of opposition plans but many went ahead to say no NRM. We also saw opposition making inroads in western Uganda which is seen as Museveni’s stronghold.

There were reports of ballot stuffing and Besigye presented ballot papers he claimed had been ticked before the polls opened, a claim that the police now want him to explain further. This claim was not paid attention to by many Ugandans until yesterday when we saw chaos during the Kampala mayor elections where thousands of ballot boxes with pre-ticked ballots were discovered by opposition groups. All the papers were ticked in favor of Museveni’s party candidate Peter Sematimba. Chances are high that the same method was used in presidential elections but Ugandans are no longer shocked by Museveni’s party stealing any election after all these are people who rig their own primaries. In fact in social forums Ugandans refer to the National Resistance Movement as the National Rigging Movement.

Five of the seven opposition presidential candidates, among them Inter-party Cooperation’s Kizza Besigye, Olara Otunnu of Uganda People’s Congress and Democratic Party’s Norbert Mao, have rejected the outcome of the ballot and vowed not to recognise “ Museveni’s illegitimate regime”.

The Inter Party Cooperation has called for countrywide protests in Uganda as Americans who have already congratulated their man call for calm. The UK has been more cautious given the different reports on different techniques used to buy this election.

Ugandans might not come to the streets to put up North Africa-like protest but they are deeply worried especially given Museveni’s pre-election statements. Museveni said if the East African Federation will not have been achieved by 2016 and if Uganda is not a Second World country by then, he will seek a ‘fifth term.’

Many are watching events in Libya and wondering whether that’s the path Uganda will take. Worries of Ugandans have been exacerbated by reports that the state broadcaster UBC TV has been stopped from coverage of Libya protests and firing of news editors.

We will wait to see how many will come out for the opposition protests and whether Museveni will “bang them into jails” as he promised last week.  Whatever happens Museveni has managed to buy himself time, many illiterate Ugandans decided to sell him the lease and I am sure he thinks he can renew that lease the same way after the five years.

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