Now that 2012 has come to a close, I can say that it has been an interesting year for Uganda, with the country experiencing some of the greatest highs and lows in its history. The country just buried a young woman member of parliament from the ruling party, Hon. Cerinah Nebandah from the Butaleja District in Eastern Uganda, who died under mysterious circumstances. Her suspected poisoning has strongly divided the nation. The official government autopsy report claims she died from a drug and alcohol overdose, but her family and legislators have rejected the findings. The debate, however, does bring to the fore the alcohol and drug problem in Uganda, which society has failed to acknowledge as a deeply entrenched problem among young people. What I see, above all, is the loss of one of Uganda’s most vibrant young politicians. For many young people, the 24-year-old Nebanda represented a new political force that could potentially cleanse the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party from within.
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.
Uganda’s Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, whose office is affected by the corruption scandal Photo credit: MICHELE SIBILONI/AFP/Getty Images
Recently Ugandans had one small cause to celebrate. The World Bank announced that their country had moved up in the rankings in its annual ease of doing business survey. And not only did Uganda move up — it also overtook regional rival Kenya, which had long enjoyed a much better rating in this area. The ratings are important, of course, because foreign investors quite understandably prefer to put their money into places where there are fewer obstacles to business.
But that little bit of good news was quickly supplanted by a more ominous story. Ugandan social media have been avidly following this week’s revelation that Ireland has suspended aid to the Ugandan government after an audit showed that over 4 million Euros ($5.2 million) had ended up in the unauthorized account of the prime minister.
According to the Irish Independent newspaper, 16 million Euros ($21 million) given directly to the Uganda government for aid purposes has been suspended. The paper adds that aid given to non-governmental organizations will continue.
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.
It was in a piece for The East African newspaper by the distinguished Ugandan journalist Joachim Buwembo that first brought to my attention the details of an unfortunate incident that occurred three weeks ago in Kampala. The story goes like this: A U.S. Embassy car rammed into the car of Major General Pecos Kuteesa, a respected Ugandan army general. In real Hollywood gangster style, two U.S. security personnel emerged from their vehicle, beat up the general’s driver, and slashed the car’s tires.
The general’s driver, also an army man, was armed, and could have used his gun in defense, but refrained. A group of onlookers quickly gathered at the scene. You see, the thing about Uganda is that mobs form quickly, especially when there’s an accident. They come together like a sudden dust devil and whirl around. So it was only the driver’s restraint that prevented the situation from deteriorating into something bloody.
A scene from the play, Silent Voices, currently on show at the National Theatre in Kampala. Photo Image: Alfajiri Productions
Silent Voices, a new play at the National Theatre in Kampala, questions the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation in Northern Uganda. The rhetoric in the last couple of years about Northern Uganda has focused on the forgiving nature of the people — and thus on how reconciliation will successfully remove the stench of the long and terrible war against the Lord’s Resistance Army.
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.
My good friend, David Tumusiime, interviews me and other writers on the state of writing in Uganda.
In Uganda, yes. Most Ugandan writers have “graduated” from journalism to the state they aspired to in the beginning.
So the question remains; is it possible to earn a decent living as a writer in Uganda? By decent, money enough to afford two meals a day for themselves and their dependents, rent or live in a neighborhood that does not just escape the tag of slumming suburbia. And also, be able to go for the necessary medical checkups and afford competent medical care. Furthermore, if they wish, drive a car or ride a bike or even use the public means of transport without too great a strain on their resources.
The rains that swept across Uganda Monday afternoon left devastating effects. While the press showed images of the flooded capital, Kampala, more chilling pictures emerged of the mudslides in Bududa, a region in eastern Uganda.
Located on the slopes of Mount Elgon along the Uganda-Kenya border, Bududa is a fertile area, but vulnerable to disaster. Extensive pressure on the environment from human encroachment is manifesting negative results: Mudslides occur whenever there are heavy rains. The area first made news with the landslides of 2010, when over 350 people died and many others were injured and displaced.