Tag Archives: Uganda

Don’t give a man a fish, hand out a mosquito net and watch him buzz

For several decades now, Ugandan intellectuals have been critical of foreign aid, arguing that it has a negative effect on the development of the country. This of course is not unique to Uganda and every African country has theorists who are bitterly opposed to foreign aid, which they blame for stunting economies and postponing their takeoff.

But the era of “presumptuous foreigners thinking for us” is fast coming to an end in Uganda, from what is happening these days.

Our people have started discovering ways of putting aid items to different uses of their choice.

One case in point are those mosquito nets that are being distributed all over the countryside in grand ceremonies where our dignitaries heap praises on the donors who are donating them.

While disgruntled intellectuals have been saying that the free nets encourage national laziness and their use is less sustainable than mobilising people to maintain clean surroundings without stagnant water that encourages mosquito breeding, the people have gone ahead and creatively put the nets to different uses.

Starting with the fishermen; the nets have drastically reduced their expenditure on fishing gear as they find the free mosquito nets efficacious in catching all sizes of fish. Only a fish that is smaller than a mosquito escapes through these nets, but such a small fish has no market anywhere anyway.

The nets have also been promoting holy matrimony. Many peasants who could not afford formal weddings have started taking marital vows because the prohibitive cost of bridal gowns has been taken care of by the free mosquito nets…

Some guy the other day also put the mosquito net to a violent use by strangling his wife with it.

I guess when free legal services become available and people learn of divorce as a civilised way of separating when a marriage becomes unhappy, this particular use will not become widespread.

In the agricultural sector, mosquito nets have become quite popular in protecting plants from pests, birds and the elements. This is a very positive application of the nets as plant nurseries have indeed become nicer with use of the freely available mosquito nets.

Poor people’s homes have also become more pleasant during the day because of the free window curtain liners that are made out of the mosquito nets. You can now be sure the stuffy tropical heat of the tropics is no longer the typical condition to find in a peasant’s house.

Besides all these applications, some people even use the free mosquito for fighting malaria by using them for covering their beds.

That way, we get to spend less on malaria treatment, and the healthy peasants can go and attend to their crops with nurseries well protected by free nets.

The fishermen also get to spend less of the money earned from using the free nets on treating malaria.

Continue reading on The East African

By Joachim Buwembo

Picture credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images.

How do we talk about rebel groups?

Talking about rebel groups is especially the conundrum for journalists and researchers who follow the fates of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – which has been operational for almost 30 years across northern Uganda, southern Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR) and Eastern Congo – and Boko Haram, which has been active in northeastern Nigeria and countries that surround Lake Chad since the early 2000s.

Both Boko Haram and the LRA have stirred religious fanaticism; tapped into a feeling among citizens of government neglect; carried out attacks and abductions on civilian populations causing large scale internal displacement; and have successfully avoided military defeat despite a substantial technological and logistical disadvantage.

Media reports and analyses of these rebel groups, and the government responses to them, are too often simplified “good vs evil” narratives, with little room for complexity and nuance. Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” video campaigned for a redoubling of international efforts to capture LRA leader Joseph Kony, but omitted any mention of abuses committed by members of Uganda People’s Defence Force. In response to the capture of 276 girls from Chibok in Nigeria, an open letter to the international community by prominent British political actors, accused Boko Haram of “waging an evil war.” But the proposed support for military action seemed oblivious to the propensity for violence and terror within Nigeria’s armed forces. These two examples highlight a general trend; a tendency to overlook the blurred lines of conflict.

These narratives hamper attempts to better understand why these groups continue to exist, how they operate and what messages they seek to convey. When the LRA is described, as it has been by a number of media outlets, as “a rag-tag force”, or when Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau is said to have more of the air of a psychopath than a militant” or is cast as being notorious for his wild YouTube rants,” an image is reinforced that is not wholly accurate.

The researcher and writer, Ledio Cakaj’s newly published book, When the Walking Defeats You: One Man’s Journey as Joseph Kony’s Bodyguard, which chronicles life in the LRA from the perspective of a foot soldier, George Omona (a pseudonym), breaks with this consensus.

Omona joined the LRA voluntarily in 2007, two decades after it began operating in northern Uganda. Under Kony’s leadership the group engaged in guerrilla warfare across northern Uganda, against Yoweri Museveni’s government. The conflict subsequently spread across borders into neighboring countries. Upwards of 1.5 million Ugandans were internally displaced. George grew up in this context, but does not give the impression that he was radicalized by it. He was well educated, but his uncle, who appears to have connections to the group, pushed him towards the LRA. George boarded a United Nations flight, under the pretext of being a herbalist who had been sent for by Kony, and made his way to the LRA camps in the bush. It became his home for the next three years.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Jamie Hitchen

Fidel Castro and Yoweri Museveni: Brothers in arms

Museveni and Castro both came to power through a revolution. Despite a crippling international blockade led by America, Cuba under Castro made huge strides in development while Uganda, a darling of the West, has remained backward – with all those millions of dollars in aid. It is a country where ordinary diarrhea is a life-threatening condition.

Among the similarities between Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, and Fidel Castro are their being born of at least one immigrant parent, growing up to participate in multiple anti-government insurgencies and succeeding after prolonged bush wars, made possible by the support of the local people, in putting an incumbent leader to flight. In his condolences to the Cuban people, Museveni refers to Castro as a friend and brother.

They were both avuncular in manner. Commentator after commentator has remarked about Fidel Castro’s ability, regardless of what you thought of his policies, to make you stop and take notice. It seems everyone now has a Castro story that throws his humanity in to high relief. President Museveni shares a similar charisma although it has diminished somewhat since the 1980s. I have seen a senior public servant, an army officer at that, close to tears when Mzee Museveni was criticized in his presence.

In addition to their biographical and personal similarities the two guerillas shared political sensibilities although President Museveni abandoned his position on the Left shortly after attaining power. While in the bush, Museveni is quoted as commenting that the people there had diseases for which there were no names. Castro was likewise horrified by the deprivation that was commonplace in Cuba in the 1950s. They had a heart.

They shared a healthy disdain for the Western hegemony which they saw, with reason, as exploitative. The solutions, they surmised, lay in radically improved service delivery in the health and education sectors and land reform.

Post coups d’état, Uganda’s in 1986 after Castro’s in 1959, the revolutionaries rode a wave of popularity enhanced by visible change. Deeper into their tenures, reports of repression became at least as frequent as the anecdotes proving their bona fides as bringers of progress.

Early attempts at governing were frustrated by external factors. Museveni’s foray into barter trade with neighboring countries failed when subsidized commodities were dumped on the region as aid. Castro’s overtures to the Eisenhower Administration in America in 1960, similar to those made by the 16 new leaders of the African countries whose statehood was officially recognized by the US in that year, were rebuffed: President Eisenhower would not receive him or listen to his proposals for cooperation. (Ostracism was to be the fate also of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba who was also punished for the crime of leaning to the Left.)

And there the trajectories of the two men diverge significantly.

The twins are separated

Billions of dollars in grants and loans were decanted into Uganda while allegations of graft escalated to the point where the country became an established kleptocracy and the leaders of its Revolution a liability. The AFRICOM, under the US Department of Defense has come to realize this and included Uganda in a series of studies of African countries to assess potential risks to their stability. [1] J.D. Barkan describes Uganda as having only a veneer of democracy fashioned out of unfair elections. He notes Museveni’s approach to governance as authoritarian, depending almost entirely on patronage which, as Barkan points out, means he needs a constant stream of resources or opportunities for corruption to maintain loyalty to him. This has been known for some time. Uganda ranked 139th out of 167 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Index in 2015.

Even after threatening to cut off aid and later reducing aid before reinstating it again, the US and other donors remain in collaboration, or more accurately collusion, with the Ugandan Revolution.

For his part Castro persevered, surviving hundreds of American assassination attempts (verified by the Church Commission) and an economic blockade for the five decades.  His land reform programme involved nationalizing corporate going concerns and what he termed ‘idle’ land.

American owners of the nationalized properties are hoping for reparations, justly so. Their claims should be appended to the Historically Oppressed Peoples Claims Register underneath Native Americans, African-Americans and Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, formerly known as Congo Kinshasa. Either that or all the above losses should be chalked up to development and the common good.

Continue reading on Pambazuka.org

By Mary Serumaga

Refugee crisis: Fresh fighting in South Sudan putting strain on resources

The flow of South Sudan refugees to neighbouring countries is increasing as insecurity worsens due to renewed fighting. The government forces have been engaging rebels in Central and Western Equatoria states increasing the refugee flow to Uganda, while Gambela, in southwestern Ethiopia, neighbouring the Upper Nile State, has been receiving those fleeing in fear after the fresh hostility.

On October 3, the rebel forces are said to have fought with government troops in Central Equatoriaseeking to take over Morobo County. However, Juba denied the claims saying there was no fight butmere skirmishes among local youth who fought over social issues.

Over 185,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, since return of fighting in the capital Juba in July.

Dr Riek Machar, the rebel leader, two weeks ago in Khartoum called for armed resistance against President Salva Kiir’s administration saying that he would mobilise his Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) forces to engage the government troops. Dr Machar accuses President Kiir of abrogating the August 2015 peace agreement.

In its latest report, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said a political solution is urgently needed to mitigate the rising suffering of civilians in South Sudan in the light of daily news of violence and worsening tensions.

“To address the growing needs of those forced to flee their homes and the host communities that receive them, the regional humanitarian response requires long-term planning, improved access to civilians caught up in the conflict, and sustained efforts to secure freedom of movement for those forced to flee across borders,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, the IOM East Africa regional director.

Continue reading on The East African

By Fred Oluoch

Credit picture: Kule Refugee camp  near the Pagak Border entry point in the Gambella Region, Ethiopia. Unicef

Decolonising Makerere: On Mamdani’s failed experiment

At the “Harvard of Africa” in Uganda, power remains in imperial structures and bodies, while excellence is still defined on Western terms.

In 1922, within a few decades of British colonial control of the protectorate called Uganda, a technical school was founded. According to folklore, the hill on which the school was built was famed for its many noises. Kelele is the Kiswahili word for noise, the plural: Makelele. The folk tale concludes that the hill and the technical school took on the name, but with the ls replaced with rs. The Makerere Technical College, as it was known at the time, taught carpentry, building and mechanics.

In 1949, the school became affiliated to the University of London. Alongside the likes of Ibadan, Legon and Gordon – as well as Dar es Salaam and Nairobi later on – it became one of the so-called ‘Asquith colleges’ offering courses with degrees awarded by its Britain-based mother. As Carol Sicherman notes in Becoming an African University: Makerere 1922–2000, this arrangement was “presented as a means of guaranteeing world-class quality, [but it] ensured continued British influence once the colonies ceased to exist as such”.

On 9 October, 1962, Uganda attained independence. Eight months later, Makerere’s relationship with the University of London came to an end, at least formally. Conversations about the ‘Africanisation’ (or decolonisation, one could say) of everything in the newly-independent countries was the order of the day. And the establishment of the University of East Africa – comprising of Makerere, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as constituent colleges – marked a new chapter in the life of each. Introducing a bill to establish this University, a politician reasoned: “To become African in a meaningful way, a university has to transform itself from ‘a pale reflection of alien universities’ into ‘a living concrete symbol of all that is African’.”

Uganda’s independence also had a big personal impact on many citizens, among them a young man who had just completed his O Levels at Old Kampala Secondary School. Born in 1946 in Mumbai and raised in Kampala, Mahmood Mamdani was the recipient of one of 24 scholarships the US government awarded as a gift to the newly-independent nation.

Continue reading on African Arguments

by Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire

Photo Credits: Ian Beatty

Netanyahu’s East Africa tour and Israel’s secret aid-for-asylum-seekers scheme

Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel face an impossible choice: stay and risk detention or leave “voluntarily” for Rwanda or Uganda.

Earlier this month, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded a visit to East Africa, the first of his premiership. On the trip, he visited Ethiopia from which many Jews have immigrated to Israel, primarily in the 1980s and early 1990s. He spent time in Kenya, where there was talk of Israel helping the government build a wall along its border with Somalia. And he also stopped over in Rwanda and Uganda.

Uganda is doubly symbolic in collective Jewish-Israeli memory. In 1903, the ‘Uganda proposal’ put the territory forward as a supposedly alternative site for Jewish self-determination; the Zionist Congress rejected it. And Uganda was also the site of the Entebbe raid on 3-4 July 1976, when an Israeli commando squad rescued 103 civilians being held hostage after a plane was hijacked en route from Israel to France. Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, was among those killed, and the PM attended the 40-year commemoration of the event in which Uganda’s President Museveni awkwardly referred to Israel as “Palestine”.

However, beyond the symbolism of Netanyahu’s visit to Uganda, his striking of economic partnerships elsewhere, and the strengthening of diplomatic links in the region, there was also another item on his agenda. As Netanyahu visited Uganda and Rwanda, it is likely that one of his priorities was to discuss secret agreements regarding the transfer of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers from Israel.

Israeli law defines Eritreans and Sudanese residing in Israel as “infiltrators”, and Netanyahu’s government has allegedly struck confidential agreements with certain third countries to accept those who have agreed to leave “voluntarily”. The government has not officially named Uganda and Rwanda as those countries, but their identity has been widely reported and is essentially now an open secret.

“Voluntary” departure

According to official government figures, there are currently over 30,000 Eritreans and over 8,000 Sudanese residing in Israel, having fled from their countries of origin. In a UN Commission of Inquiry this June, Eritrea was described as an authoritarian state where crimes against humanity are committed with impunity. Meanwhile, most Sudanese nationals in Israel originate from Darfur, where at least 300,000 people have been killed and over two million displaced since 2003.

Given the situation in these countries, Israel recognises that forcibly deporting Eritreans and Sudanese to their states of origin would violate the international law principle of ‘non-refoulement’. Yet the state is also clearly determined to prevent them settling in Israel and has denied virtually all of them refugee status or a subsidiary form of protection. For example, while European Union countries recognise around 90% of Eritrean asylum seekers and a high proportion of Sudanese as beneficiaries of international protection, figures in 2015 suggest that Israel granted refugee status to just 0.07% from the two countries.

Instead, Israel gives Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers a choice: to leave “voluntarily” to a third state, or be deemed non-cooperative and therefore liable to indefinite detention. In the first three months of 2016, 955 Eritreans and 152 Sudanese chose the former option. In 2015, the figures were 2,480 and 600, respectively.

It is perhaps not surprising that relatively few Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel have opted to relocate. According to a 2015 report compiled by the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), those that have chosen this route have typically found themselves in Rwanda or Uganda without legal status and vulnerable to exploitation or trafficking.

Interviewees described how they were left without any legal documents or legal status on arrival, forcing them to live below the radar or leave the state. Indeed, many depart from Rwanda and Uganda shortly after arriving, often trying to make their way to Europe. Another report from December 2015 by the Israeli NGO Hotline for Refugees and Migrants revealed similar findings.

Furthermore, despite claims that these departures are “voluntary”, all the interviewees in the IRRI report said that they had left as a result of detention or the threat thereof, and because they felt they would not be able to acquire the legal status that would allow them to lead stable lives in Israel.

Keeping secrets

Citing a confidentiality document signed by Netanyahu and the third party states in March 2014, the Israeli government refuses to officially disclose the partner countries or specifics of the agreements, claiming that “revealing the identity of the States, their willingness to assist, and the details of the agreement may harm Israel’s foreign relations”.

This means any public scrutiny of the agreements is impossible. But it is speculated that in return for taking in Israel’s unwanted asylum-seekers, Uganda and Rwanda enjoy Israeli assistance in terms of the provision of weapons, military training, agricultural aid, and/or financial assistance.

In 2015, two Eritrean asylum seekers alongside six Israeli NGOs petitioned the Beer Sheva District court in Israel, challenging the legality of the secret agreements. Their petition was rejected in November and although the judgment did not name the countries, it referred to them as “state U” and “state R”.

This ruling was appealed, however, and is now pending before the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), with a hearing set for early October. Meanwhile, a temporary injunction prevents the state from detaining Eritrean and Sudanese nationals who refuse to leave “voluntarily”.

When Netanyahu was asked about asylum seekers in Israel on his recent East African trip, he was keen to dismiss them as economic migrants and “young, healthy” job-seekers. But notably, neither the Israeli PM nor his Ugandan and Rwandan counterparts denied the existence of the transfer arrangements, and behind the scenes, the deal may well have been further discussed and cemented.

This means that the main hope for those who oppose the agreements rests with the High Court of Justice, which in October will consider whether the transfer agreements should be made public and face proper scrutiny – as in the case of Australia’s transfer agreement with Cambodia and the EU-Turkey ‘statement’ – and, fundamentally, whether they breach Israel’s domestic and international law obligations.

In previous judgements, the HCJ has thrice quashed legislation authorising the lengthy detention of “infiltrators”. But these rulings led to significant backlash against the court and calls to curb its constitutional review powers. Politically therefore, it may be risky for the court to block the transfer agreements and it is quite possible that rather than deciding the case, it will leave it pending, keeping the injunction preventing the state from detaining uncooperative Eritrean and Sudanese in place. If this were the case, the questionable transfers could continue.

Continue reading on African Arguments

by Ruvi Ziegler

Photo Credits: African Arguments

Burundi team pulls out of Kigali AU meet, cites security concerns

A Burundi delegation suddenly pulled out of the African Union Summit in Kigali accusing Rwanda of failing to accord it security guarantees and hit out at the AU for failing to address the countries problems.

A delegation of Burundian officials had arrived in Kigali Rwanda to attend the summit but left on July 13, two days after the meetings preceding the Heads of State Summit had begun. There were no reasons given and the matter was not discussed during the summit.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Burundi’s Foreign Minister Alain Aime Nyamitwe said that Burundi’s delegation withdrew after it was not accorded ‘security guarantees’ and also due to the AU’s failure to address Burundi’s complaints on Rwanda.

Burundi and Rwanda remain at loggerheads over Bujumbura’s accusations that Kigali is backing rebels fighting President Nkurunziza, accusations Rwanda vehemently denies.

Burundi’s withdrawal was marred by the assassination of former Burundian minister and member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Hafsa Mossi who was gunned down by unknown people in Bujumbura.

Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo said on Tuesday that Burundi’s withdrawal was regrettable but said the Bujumbura is better positioned to explain why they left.

Very unfortunate

“It is very unfortunate that Burundi missed this very important summit. We are aware that a delegation from Burundi was there during the initial stages of the meeting but they went back. Up to now we don’t know the reasons behind that decision,”

President Pierre Nkurunziza was not among the 35 African leaders who attended the summit in Rwanda despite the Burundi crisis emerging among the topics discussed during the continental meet.

“We regret the fact that the African Union has kept silent on the complaints of the Burundian Government about Rwanda destabilising Burundi,” Mr Nyamitwe said.

AU chairperson Dlamini-Zuma further commended the efforts deployed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, East African Community Mediator, with the support of former President Mkapa Benjamin, to facilitate the ongoing Inter-Burundian Dialogue.

Continue reading on The East African

by Edmund Kagire

Photo credits: Cyril Ndegeya

No deal with EU as Tanzania, Uganda refuse to sign up

Members of the East African Community are split down the middle again after Uganda joined Tanzania in pulling out of signing a trade pact that is key to continued access to the European Union market without paying duty.

Although Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi are ready to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU, World Trade Organisation rules do not allow countries aligned to a trade bloc to sign up individually.

Uganda indicated last week that it was not going to sign until the bloc had reached a common position on all issues.

“Everyone, including the EU is now agreed that we don’t sign,”  said Julius Onen, the Permanent Secretary in Uganda’s Ministry of Trade.

“We must have a common position on all the issues. As EAC, we maintain solidarity and want to move together as a common market. It’s now the agreed position, even for the EU, that we have to sign together,” he added.

A week ago, Aziz Mlima, Permanent Secretary in Tanzania’s Ministry of East Africa, said the country would not sign the agreement following the vote by Britons to leave the EU.

“Our experts have analysed the pact and established that it will not be to our local industry’s benefit. Signing this pact at the moment would expose young EAC countries to harsh economic conditions in post-Brexit Europe,” Dr Mlima said.

On Thursday, Tanzania’s Minister for Trade, Industries and Investment Charles Mwijage said Britain was Tanzania’s key trade partner in Europe.

“Internationally, we trade with Britain, China, India and South Africa. When you don’t have Britain in a deal with Europe, what do you have? We have to think it over and this can take any duration to decide,” he said.

Tanzania officials have variously raised concerns over the lack of export duties in the EPA and import duties for intermediate and finished goods, saying the joint impact would be revenue loss from swamping of the Tanzania market with EU goods while allowing export of raw materials critical to industrialisation.

Continue reading on The East African 

by Allan Olingo

Photo Credits: Tea Graphic

Uganda Rolls Out Compulsory Immunization to Dispel Anti-Vaccine Myths

KAMPALA – Patience*, a Ugandan maid, planned on taking her three-year-old son for polio immunization during the country’s mass campaigns a year ago, until her landlord’s wife told her a shocking myth.

“The medicine they are injecting them with means the boy when he’s an adult won’t be able to reproduce,” Patience, 32, recalled to IPS what she’d been informed. “She said: ‘Don’t even think about immunization’.”

Patience said that in her neighborhood, the Kyebando slum in Kampala, many families “lied to medical personnel” because they were “terrified” about what this woman had told them.

Earlier this year, the country’s president signed the Immunization Act 2016, prescribing fines, a jail term of six months or both, for parents who don’t vaccinate their children in the age bracket of five days to one year old.

“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals.” — MP Huda Oleru

The Act also requires the production of an immunization card before admission to day care centres, pre-primary or primary education. It also aims to provide for compulsory immunization of women of reproductive age and other target groups against immunisable diseases.

According to the legislation, passed by Parliament last year, diseases for which immunization is compulsory include tuberculosis, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, polio and measles.

One in five African children still do not receive all of the most basic vaccines they need, including ones for three critical diseases—measles, rubella and neonatal tetanus – a report issued by WHO at the first ministerial on Immunization in Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February.

Uganda was ranked lowest in east Africa for immunization coverage, with one example being the country’s 2014 diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) coverage which was at 78 percent compared to DRC (80 percent) Kenya (81 percent), Tanzania (97 percent) and Rwanda (99 percent).

According to outgoing female MP Huda Oleru, who tabled the private member’s bill in 2011, the biggest obstacle to vaccination in Uganda was the 666 cult made up of more 500 members but “growing” across the country, who refuse to immunize their children.

“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals,” Oleru told IPS.

Oleru is continuing talks with the groups in eastern Uganda, and said she hoped “in the long-term” they would come around.

But for now the law was the “easiest way” of getting them to immunize their children.

Continue reading on IPS News

by Amy Fallon

Photo Credits: Amy Fallon/IPS News