A leak in high places puts Ugandans on edge

Photo: Ronald Kabuubi/AFP/GettyImages

KAMPALA, Uganda — Kampala is in an uproar. The Ugandan government has just shut down four private media outlets — a move that follows a crackdown on journalists from the Daily Monitor newspaper a few days earlier. The government’s anger was prompted by a story in the paper said to reveal details of a plan by senior officials to assassinate rivals opposed to a scheme by President Yoweri Museveni to arrange for his son to succeed him in office. By exposing deep rifts within the ruling establishment, the paper has shaken Uganda’s political establishment to the core.

The Monitor quoted extensively from a letter by a senior intelligence officer, General David Sejusa, calling for an investigation into claims that the government is planning to target opponents of the so-called “Muhoozi Project,” an alleged plan to pave the way for 39-year-old Brigadier Kainerugaba Muhoozi (pictured left), commander of an elite army unit, to take over the presidency. The state-owned Uganda Communications Commission (which controls licensing) warned radio stations that they would be shut down for airing the story of Gen. Sejusa’s letter.

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Uganda celebrates its tech entrepreneurs

 

Photo credit: Teamcipher256

Three students from the Makerere University College of Computing and Information Sciences have won the Microsoft Imagine Cup Grant worth $50,000 for their project WinSenga, a smartphone app that performs ultrasounds on pregnant women and can detect problems like ectopic pregnancies and abnormal heartbeats. The winning, Team Cipher256, consists of Aaron Tushabe, Joshua Okello, and Josiah Kavuma. The Daily Monitor reports:

Apart from the cash prize, the three will receive software, computing services, solution provider support, access to local resources, among others. Microsoft will also connect grant recipients with its network of investors, NGO partners and business partners and will work with the grant recipients to tailor individual support as needed depending on the progress each team has made so far with its project. The program is expected to reduce the maternal mortality rate, which currently stand[s] at 16 mothers a day in Uganda…

The purpose of the Imagine Cup is to bring together and support student innovators from all over the world. These days many Ugandans are choosing to focus their endeavors on mobile technology. Mobile technology is one of the fastest-growing industries in Africa, and young Ugandan techies are tapping into this potential. Telecommunications companies like Orange Uganda have held competitions to encourage the creation of mobile phone applications. Every year, Orange Uganda organizes the “Community Innovations Awards”, a competition which recognizes the most impressive ideas in mobile app developments. These awards allow young developers in Uganda to create new technologies that can be used in agriculture, health, or education.

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Are Ugandans reaching the breaking point on corruption?

Photo by Kasamani Isaac/AFP/GettyImages

Photo by Kasamani Isaac/AFP/GettyImages

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.

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Will Ugandan lawmakers move ahead with death penalty for gays?

 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.

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E-readers in Uganda

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.

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Mixed feelings on a Ugandan anniversary

Photo Image: Peter Busomoke AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Dear Ugandan leaders: Please talk | Transitions

Dear Ugandan leaders: Please talk | Transitions.

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.