L-R: President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Joseph Kabila of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at a press meeting in the Ugandan capital Kampala to discuss a solution to the M23 rebel group and the escalating conflict in eastern DRC Photo: Peter Busomoke/AFP/Getty Images
Last week the UN finally released a controversial report that accuses Uganda and Rwanda of supporting rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). When a leaked version of the report first appeared in October, Uganda’s Army spokesperson, Felix Kulayigye dismissed it: “It’s hogwash, it’s a mere rumor that’s being taken as a report,” he told Radio France Internationale. “It’s undermining the credibility of the mediator which is Uganda, and when you undermine the credibility of the mediator you are actually undermining the entire process.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Uganda has threatened to respond to the charges by withdrawing from its African peacekeeping missions in the DRC, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.
The paper quoted the Ugandan Foreign Ministry as follows: “Uganda’s withdrawal from regional peace efforts, including Somalia… would become inevitable unless the U.N. corrects the false accusations made against Uganda.” In addition, a delegation of Ugandan officials held talks with individual members of the UN Security Council in early November to protest the allegations in the UN report.
In May, Aljazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri visited a base of the M23 rebel movement in eastern DRC near the Rwandan border. The rebels told her that they were fighting because the Congolese government had failed to meet its obligations outlined in the peace accords.
The Daily Monitor managing editor and columnist, Daniel Kalinaki, deftly captures the state of Uganda’s corruption in a poignant opinion piece he’s just published in the paper. The title says it all: “Uganda used to have thieves, now the thieves have Uganda.” He writes about the sky-high level of official corruption and how it has become an institutionalized phenomenon. Kalinaki’s piece neatly expresses what a lot of Ugandans have been thinking, and it’s become a favorite in online discussions. As for me, I agree with Kalinaki that the thieves have Uganda by the balls.
The recent high-profile scandals involving mass embezzlement of funds in the Office of the Prime Minister scandal make one weep. The worst part is that money donated for disaster relief and post-conflict reconstruction was channeled into personal accounts — even while the Ugandan media reports everyday on destitute people in need of all forms of assistance.
I read with trepidation in the Ugandan newspaper The Observer that the police are looking to monitor conversations on social media, which they blame for causing the uprisings in North Africa last year.
According to the report, Inspector General of Police, Lieutenant General Kale Kayihura, claims that: “Social media is a good thing but can also be a bad thing because it is so quick in terms of dissemination of information… [It] is a tool that we as police forces must get interested in to make sure that it is not misused for crime, worse still for terrorism.”
General Kayihura is notorious for cracking down on the Walk-to-Work protests which took place in Uganda in the spring of 2011 against rising food and fuel prices, as well as his handling of other public demonstrations. He is also blamed for the violent manner in which his officers arrested protesters, in particular opposition leader Dr. Kiiza Besigye.
In a new report launched today, the liberal group Political Research Associates (PRA) documents the role of U.S. right-wing evangelicals and religious institutions in fostering homophobia in several countries in Africa. With data from seven countries (Uganda, Liberia, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Nigeria), the report exposes the impact of U.S. conservatives on policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as well as reproductive rights. This latest report builds on PRA’s earlier research on the issue.
The report argues that the culture wars between pro-life and pro-choice groups within the U.S. have been exported to Africa. Homophobia has connected different Christian denominations which are usually suspicious of one another, such as Evangelicals uniting with Catholics and Mormons who promote a “pro-family” agenda.
The image above shows an LRA victim in Lira responding to the screening. Photo credit: Al Jazeera
Since the Kony 2012 video went viral, the commentary hasn’t stopped. We have criticized the film, praised it, even satirized it. Invisible Children has the whole world talking. But one key question has gone unanswered: What do people in northern Uganda think about the video?
Last evening, there was a screening of the video in Lira, one of the areas most affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during the days of the war. It was a chance to hear from Ugandans who actually went through the LRA conflict, to hear what they think about the video and how their stories are being told to the world. So this film screening was important precisely because it gave the people who have actually borne the brunt of the conflict a chance to weigh in. Their voices needed to be heard.
First published in the Boston Globe on Saturday, 11 February, 2012
David Bahati reintroduced anti-gay legislation in the Uganda parliament, to a standing ovation. Photo image: Ronald Kabuubi/Associated Press
WHEN Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Geneva at the International Human Rights Day last year, she sent a strong warning to countries passing anti-homosexuality bills that US foreign aid would be tied to tolerance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The message was received with both anger and jubilation.
For the LGBT community, it was an outcome of months of lobbying. Within African countries that abhor the idea of gay rights, it was viewed as another imposition of the United States’ continued policing of sovereign countries. Homosexuality is banned in 37 African countries.
Mourners attend the funeral of murdered gay activist David Kato on January 28, 2011. Photo: MARC HOFER/AFP/Getty Images
Uganda is once again in the international spotlight, and not for the right reasons. The infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was dropped by the cabinet last year has resurfaced. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda. “It would introduce the death sentence for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for the second time, as well as for gay sex where one partner is a minor or has HIV,” as this report by AFP explains. It also prescribes the imprisonment of family members, employers, or landlords who do not report “offenders” to the police.
A girl at a Kenyan school enjoys reading from her e-reader. Photo image: Worldreader project
“Folks in Uganda love your story,” Elizabeth Wood, my publisher, wrote to me recently. She was referring to my children’s book The Blue Marble, which has just been imported back into the country in a novel way. She forwarded an email from Daria, one of her colleagues, who is currently on a trip to Uganda for the Worldreaderproject:
I’m so excited! When the teachers at Humble [a school in Uganda] saw that there were African books on their e-readers they actually seemed astounded. A quick look into Humble’s library and you know why: everything was American. This might be going too far but they looked like they were in a state of disbelief, almost as if they themselves had never really connected the idea of books and African authors. Actually, when Esther said The Blue Marble was by a Ugandan writer a few of them commented in disbelief. Seeing the Ugandan names actually made a few of them giggle with surprise and delight. Jackee Batanda is going to be the first Ugandan author most of them read.
Worldreader is a non-profit organization committed to delivering digital books to children and families in the developing world using e-reader technology. Already launched in Kenya and Ghana, the project seeks to promote reading through e-readers and works with underprivileged schools. Worldreader launched in Uganda last week, and, judging by the emails, Ugandan teachers are excited.
For the last 26 years Ugandans have celebrated Jan. 26 as NRM Liberation Day. The celebration marks the day that the National Resistance Movement (NRM) seized power from an ineffective and corrupt army-led government. The coup marked the end to the long period of domestic instability that followed the disputed 1980 presidential elections.
My first blog entry in Transitions. Transitions is a partnership between Foreign Policy magazine and the Legatum Institute, Democracy Lab is a unique journalistic effort to cover the political and economic challenges facing countries that are striving to make the transition from authoritarianism to democracy.