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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Another case of high-level corruption in Uganda

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.

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Cutting aid to Africa won’t help gay rights

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.

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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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