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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What Uganda can do to end the crisis in Congo

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.

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Ugandans are not amused

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.

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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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