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Features

Uganda is ready for change

Sokari Ekine

2011-05-12, Issue 529

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/73163

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As Ugandan citizens take to the streets in protest against rising food and energy prices, Museveni’s government has once again wheeled out its Anti-Homosexual Bill in an attempt to divert attention from the real source of the problems the people face.

Uprisings continue across the continent, with Uganda being the latest country where citizens have taken to the streets in protest against rising food and energy prices. The Ugandan protests have been organised by Action for Change in a ‘Walk to Work’ campaign, which the majority of media are reporting is led by long-time opposition leader, Kizza Besigye who has since fled the country. However a number of bloggers claim the protests are not led by Besigye.

Mad and Crazy writes:



‘The architects, the brains behind the walk to work demonstrations were Muwanga Kivumbi, Mathias Mpuuga and Mukono North MP, Betty Nambooze Bakireke. Far from spotless characters, they nevertheless believed that it is possible for Ugandans to come together and demand a change. This is probably why before the walk to work demonstrations, they had formed an Activists for Change group that transcended their political party groupings and sought to form an arena where concerned Ugandans can air their grievances and plot how to find redress. It is that last part that particularly appeals to this blogger. That A4C, as they have dubbed their Facebook page, do not just want to be a complaining platform, they actually are trying to come up with solutions.’

The protests have met with a violent response from the government of Yoweri Museveni, with police firing live bullets at crowds, beatings and mass arrests. lexis Okeowo Alexis Okeowo writing in The New Yorker provides some background to the uprisings:

‘Only about a fourth of the four hundred thousand new entrants to the Ugandan labor market find formal employment; the rest enter the informal economy, where wages are minimal and survival is a struggle. Roads, hospitals, and other public services have all withered from government neglect. Residents are amazed as the government prepares to spend almost $800 million on new fighter jets and over 1 million on a lavish swearing in ceremony for Musveni’s new Presidential term, while food prices jumped by thirty-one per cent from April of last year (a jump the government blames on drought) and year on year inflation stands at fourteen per cent, up from eleven per cent last month.’

Africa on the Blog reports on the massive riots following the second arrest of Besigye:

‘The arrest this time round stirred up massive riots with in Kampala city. Ugandans this time want change and are ready to use force. I recently read a statement from the minister of internal affairs who just Besigye form arrest and “the bullets invented by the British and Americans” for killing the protestors. I couldn’t believe this was from a university graduate. The president’s statement was much worse, he used Idi Amin as a benchmark for his leadership skills and claimed Uganda was one of the most democratic countries in the world.’

Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah in the Southern Africa FBP likens Museveni to Egypt’s Mubarak with the same mindset and the same relationship with the West:

‘Typical of a mindset of a dictator, President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years, does not see the connection between the uprisings and his governing style. Instead his delusional mentality makes him see how indispensable he is to Uganda. Narcissistic is what he is, just like all dictators and autocratic leaders, and he does not care about what the Ugandan citizens think or want.

‘The west still considers him as an ally, disregarding his repressive policies on ordinary Ugandans. In fact he is the Hosni Mubarak of sub-Saharan Africa, coddled by the West and other African leaders despite the reality that Museveni has caused several times more deaths of Ugandans as well as citizens of neighboring countries like Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo.’

In what appears to be a calculated move on the part of the Ugandan government, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill [AHB] has been brought back minus the death penalty for a third reading on Wednesday 11 May. Gay Uganda makes the connection between the Walk to Work anti-government protests and the almost certain passing of the AHB. Whether the ‘Walk to Work’ protesters will see it that is a different matter entirely:

‘Less than a week ago, the opposition parties started a 'walk-to-work' peaceful protest. The government responded with over whelming violence. Currently, as I write, the major opposition leader is in neighbouring Kenya, for medical attention for injuries he received during one of his 4 arrests. They sprayed tear gas and pepper direct into his face, after breaking down his car windows. And, this was in full view of the press. The next day, riots paralysed the country. It was after the video of that arrest was shown on TV. Ugandans, the citizens of the country were appalled. They came out on strike. And, the government responded with overwhelming violence again. So bad that the spectre of Idi Amin Dada, famous dictator and life president of Uganda was raised. So, the country is in a ferment. With the coronation to happen in just a few days time. So, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is beind discussed... and ready to be passed. So, it is a DIVERSION. The government needs a heady diversion for the country. For the outraged citizens of Uganda.............If you want to condemn the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, please CONDEMN in the strongest terms possible, the general state of Human rights in Uganda.............But, remember that this is time for the GAY MOVEMENT around the world to make COMMON CAUSE with the average citizen of Uganda to decry the abuse of human rights of ALL UGANDANS.’



There are two petitions circulating to try and prevent the AHB from being passed with the ghastly headline ‘Stop the Kill the Gays bill’. On a positive note there were over 700,000 signatories in less than 24 hours and the Twitter stream for #Uganda was moving so fast it was impossible to read. The last time I had seen such speed was during the resignation of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

In other news, Pan African News Wirereports that the International Criminal Court [ICC] and the International Contact Group have met to provide ‘economic and pseudo-legal assistance for regime change in North Africa’:

‘The proceeding of the so-called “International Contact Group” resulted in the announcement of the establishment of a fund to finance the counter-revolutionary rebel groups that are fighting at the behest of the western states to overthrow the Libyan government. Under the banner of the Transitional National Council (TNC), the rebels are slated to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the imperialist states...

‘Another controversial institution has weighed in once again as it relates to the situation in Libya and that is the International Criminal Court (ICC). Referred to by many as the “African Criminal Court,” the ICC has a reputation of only targeting and indicting states and individuals on the continent. In Sudan, the ICC has issued warrants against the President Omar al-Bashir and other leading figures within the oil-rich nation, Africa’s largest geographic nation-state.’

Mayibuye Africa - Migration Blog reports that NATO forces deliberately ignored the crises for help from a boat full of African migrants escaping Libya which resulted in the death of 61 people.

“The facts as they appear are clear: A French ship, member of a NATO force acknowledged being in the area close to where the boat was. A helicopter labeled “ARMY” approached the boat and roped down emergency supplies of water and biscuits telling the migrants to hold off, help was on the way. After that? Nothing. No attempt was made to rescue them, nor get additional supplies of food and water. They were left to starve and die of thirst, a harrowing death of anguish and suffering of the men, women and children.’

In Egypt, Egyptian Chronicles explains the reasons for the strike by doctors in the country:

‘Egyptian doctors are having the first strike in country since year 1961 today , thousands of doctors are on strike today across the country from north or south.It is initially a partial strike which means ER , ICU , critical surgeries , neonatal units and acute renal failure units will be operating.Not all the hospitals thought are participating in the strike despite in some governorates almost all the hospitals are participating. In some public hospitals the patients themselves participated in the strike and joined the stands outside the hospitals.’

Gambian blog, The North Bank Evening Standard, writes on the violence around recent elections on the continent, the latest taking place in Nigeria. He writes that the failure of African states to ratify the African Charter on Democracy has contributed to the violence:

‘It is disheartening to note that only 10 of 53 countries on the continent have ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, and with South Sudan ready to put on the number (54) in a few months time, soon it will be 44 countries defying their own undertaking. For a continent that have seen terrible suffering, it is common place for States to approve of Charters, Protocols and Conventions, however, domestication and implementation, which are a principal mandate of governments is as hard to take as trying to move a mountain.

‘When African leaders continue to perpetuate themselves in office, winning every election, the credibility of the electoral system may be questioned on whether the results are a fair representation of the will of the people.

‘In fact, at the recently concluded NGOs Forum, human rights defenders agreed that the lack of independence of electoral systems has made elections a growing source of conflict in Africa. Holding of credible elections, addressing electoral fraud has become a major problem on the continent as in many African countries most elections are believed to be rigged in favor of the incumbent president; leaving polls to be hardly free or fair even if they are regard as being so. Similar cases have been witnessed by Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Ivory Coast leading to political unrest in these countries, and the forging of marriages that never were. Ivory Coast knew how unworkable these marriages (Unity Government) are and the negotiators between Gbagbo and Ouattara noted clearly that a “marriage” was a non-starter.

‘In these countries, post election violence has destroyed the lives of many people, mostly the poor and vulnerable, taking away their wealth, health, livelihoods and in some cases their lives.

Black Looks reports on yet another two lesbians raped and murdered in South Africa. Since writing the above post, another sister was found raped and murdered, Nqobile Khumalo from Kwamashu township in Durban and a young transman was also raped in Pretoria. South Africa is now a warzone for the LGBTI community:

‘Today is the 17th anniversary of South Africa’s independence but for Black lesbians there is little to celebrate as today we learn of the rape and murder of yet another young sister. The Constitution debated and formed to protect all South Africans has failed the majority of South Africans. It has shamefully failed the most vulnerable people in the country and in particular young Black lesbians. The body of Noxola Nogwaza was found on Sunday morning. This is just 4 weeks after the body of 20 years old Nokuthula Radebe was discovered and which has not even been reported in the media. The pain of these brutal attacks grows and my heart goes out to their family and friends. May both Nogwaza and Nokuthula Rest in Peace’.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


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