All over the web, here's one place, MSNBC....
Congolese refugee's arrive on the back of a truck, Monday, Oct 29, 2007 at the Nyakabanda transit camp near Kisoro, a reception centre in Uganda, (10 miles - 15 kms) from the Congo border set up by the United Nations Refugee Agency. Violence in eastern Congo has reached new levels. The remote, vast and lawless land has become a playground for roaming militias and armed groups who terrorize civilians.(AP Photo/Glenna Gordon)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
All over the web, here's one place, MSNBC....
PHOTO: Glenna Gordon
Cutting Edge: Latif prepares for Africa design competition
Sunday Monitory, October 27
Latif Madoi got his scissors from an old lady who couldn’t pay for her daughter’s sewing and design lessons. The German Solingen size ten scissors are at least 50-years-old, a heavy steel with a dark patina – two thick shanks held together by a sturdy bolt.
They’re probably the only such pair in Kawempe, maybe in Uganda, probably an artifact of a colonial tailor left town.
|AT WORK: Latif working on the outfits he is going to showcase in the Niger competition.|
“You sew what you’ve cut, so if you cut a wrong thing you stitch a wrong thing,” says Latif. “So to have a good design it has to come from the cutting itself.”
Latif has cut designs for all of Uganda’s top musicians and celebrities: Miss Uganda, Blu*3, Chameleone, Bebe Cool, Bobi Wine, and others from all over Africa, including the recently departed Lucky Dube.
These days his scissors rarely hang on the sturdy nail jutting out of the wall, their resting spot. Latif is busy cutting 10 outfits – five male and five female – for the FIMA, International Fashion Show in Africa, awards and competition next month in Niger.
Latif says the competition is about “recognition.” He’s already busy in Uganda: running a fashion and design school that churns out caps and jumpsuits aplenty, dressing every celebrity in town when they need something that suits his style, all the while promoting himself and refining his art.
FIMA, meanwhile, is “a framework to express beauty, as well as assert the leading cultural values in Africa and the world,” according to the chairman Seidnaly Sidhamed alias Alphadi. Latif is ready to cut through the competition and show off his goods.
“These scissors here, they cut any kind of fabric, any kind of material,” says Latif. The scissors, he says, are a godsend, since he isn’t just using cotton. His palette includes denim, canvas, suede, leather, bark cloth, and everything from velvet to goat hide. His urban hip-hop meets African cool look was exactly what they wanted in Niger, since this year’s theme is street fashion. Latif’s entries range from urban haute couture to sexy camouflage vixen to plush thug street wear.
In his studio in Kawempe, two small rooms covered in photos of his work, posters of musicians he has dressed, a goat head, a pink and gold metallic clock, and lots of tagging, he pulls out one of the fully finished outfits. It’s a green suit gone sexy rogue: short shorts in army green rimmed with brown camouflage and metallic studs, a matching fitted coat in green with huge flared cuffs in camo. A centrepiece belt shows Latif’s careful handiwork. It sits just below the chest, with two carefully stitched and symmetrical pockets, reverse embellish, and nifty hooks end in a cute corset.
“I used my perfect scissors to cut all this. They’re the strongest,” he says. “I’ve finished the females outfits,” which means he has a week left to finish the men’s outfits before he has to drop them off at the French Embassy in Kampala to be shipped to Niger ahead of the competition.
If he wins, he’ll get to take a three month fashion course in Paris, but regardless of how he places, all the competitors get to go to Paris for three days before the contest for a bit of instruction and the first press conference.
He’ll be eager to get back his small Kawempe studio though, filled with dozens of machines, his friends and students, and the market he most wants to wear his products.
More than anything, he wants to see Ugandans wearing his designs. He cringes at cheap Chinese imports and the high prices of American clothes. “We want to show people that Ugandans can make good things, he says.” Latif says he won’t carry his nice scissors to Niger. “You could easily lose it,” he says. But he hopes he won’t lose FIMA.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
I had very mixed feelings about both the community and writing the article, but here it is, on the Jerusalem Post.
Banana trees interrupted by occasional villages passed by as the matatu, a mini-van-like bus, meant to seat 10 and carrying 16, jostled over the potholed road for four hours, apples and honey in my backpack.
My shoulder was wedged in my neighbor's armpit, yet I felt isolated and alone. I'd been living in Uganda for almost a year, but this was the first time I'd spend the High Holy Days in Africa where I've been working as a journalist, some 15,000 kilometers away from my family in California.
But I was only 400 km. away from a Ugandan Jewish community, the Abayudaya. I didn't know much about them other than what I had read on the Web, and I hadn't participated in many Jewish activities in years, but I always had a dinner with family and friends on the holidays. I missed this community. This sounded like it might offer a sense of spirituality that I thought I might be looking for on Rosh Hashana.
So I went east, towards Mbale, a small town close to Kenya's western border, and then to the village of Naboguye.
Inside the local chairman's home, the TV's static tuned to Ugandan Broadcast Network and the children's stirring high-pitched voices in the Luganda language were as expected. The knitted kippa, the Jewish calendar and other Judaica scattered about the living room were not.
The combination was jarring. The Luganda language didn't make sense among these icons etched into my psyche. The power went out, making it feel more like Uganda, but I couldn't forget I was talking to Africans with names like Israel, Samson and Hadassah.
An American couple in their mid to late 50s arrived, volunteers in Uganda. The wife, Judy, explained that they had stumbled upon the Abayudaya's music at the Smithsonian Museum some years ago.
"It's amazing to hear these African voices signing L'cha Dodi," she said, just as another American arrived, a Peace Corps volunteer named Rivka.
"Wow, look how many people are here!" said Judy, who didn't seem to count the villagers already living there.
Isaac, a young Abayudaya wearing a red-and-black knit kippa, gave us a tour of the village and told us a bit about the history of the Abayudaya. He pointed toward a distant hill rimmed with thin trees with wide umbrella-like tops, the site of founder Semei Kakungulu's grave. Kakungulu worked under the British as a soldier, helping them to pacify eastern Uganda. A diligent biblical scholar, he read the Bible and questioned why the laws of the Old Testament were not followed. Around 1918, he decided to found his own community, circumcising his sons and keeping kosher. A chance encounter with some Yemenite Jews in the 1920s, who endowed him with some Hebrew texts and taught him Jewish traditions, lead Kakungulu to excise mentions of Jesus from his religious ideology and to more closely follow the laws of Judaism.
The Abayudaya lived in isolation, fluctuating from 300 to 800 people through years of persecution, especially suffering under the infamous Idi Amin. Then, in 1992, they were "discovered" by an American Jew living and working in Kenya who connected them with the American Jewish NGO Kulanu, whose mission it is to support isolated and remote Jewish communities. Eventually, some American rabbis came and did some formal conversions. Israel does not officially recognize the Abayudaya as Jews since the conversions were Conservative rather than Orthodox.
As we toured the upper part of Nabugoye village, we visited the posh new guest house being built by the Kulanu sponsors. In a country where most people live on less than a dollar a day in homes with mud walls and floors and pit latrines, this place was all tile and porcelain toilets - just waiting for all the tourists coming to make an attraction of the Abayudaya.
The next stop on the tour was the school headmaster's office, walls covered with Israel posters, desk crowded with an inflatable globe and an older model printer-scanner duo.
"We have benefited so much from our partnership with America," he told us, displaying a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Rivka, the Peace Corps volunteer, interrupted the tour to ask about buying some Abayudaya kippot. They were very unusual, after all.
Some Israelis joined our entourage as Rivka sifted through a bag of brightly colored knitted kippot in front of Shalom Shopping and Internet Center.
"Most secular Israelis wouldn't past the beit din test," said one of the Israelis, a 19-year-old girl volunteering in the village for a few months, in defense of the Abayudaya.
But I still felt suspicious. Who were these people claiming to be Jews? The kids in the village walked around crying out, "Shabbat shalom." And I wanted to tell them, it isn't Shabbat. But they knew it was a special day, somehow, and they knew that was what they were supposed to say on special days. They ran around in nice dresses and patent leather Mary Jane shoes, and I thought of all of the villages I'd visited where the kids didn't have shoes, let alone holiday shoes.
Two American East Coast Conservative Jews in their early 20s arrived, Adam and Maital. Adam had an I-want-to-be-a-rabbi-when-I-grow-up attitude, and he was there to lead services. We entered the small synagogue, complete with hand-me-down siddurim from Kulanu and other donors.
Adam belted out Conservative tunes in his just-hit-puberty earnest voice, so strange to hear in a village just outside Mbale, standing underneath an Abayudaya flag that incorporated their symbolism with the blue-and-white stripes of the Israeli flag, near a rudimentary ark.
Later, when they brought out the Torah, I wondered if I was being so judgmental of their connection to Judaism because I could not muster my own. I thought of what the Israeli girl said about the beit din and the earnest American leading services. Was this community only Jewish to benefit from the aid dollars flowing steadily into the village? But, they had really only begun to benefit from aid in the past 10 years, and they'd been Jewish for nearly a century.
'd never wanted to call my family more. I wanted to write, to take pictures, to jump up and down, to do anything other than stand there and watch two East Coast white kids trying diligently to roll the Torah to the right place. This didn't feel like the spiritual connection I was looking for.
Then they called Isaac to the Torah for an aliya. He was still wearing his black-and-red kippa, and he sang the bracha carefully and intently. That was nice, watching one of the members of the community participate in the services. Then they called a 13-year-old girl to the Torah. She wore a bright green head scarf with modest pride.
When they finished, Samson, the chairman, carried the Torah around the room. I pulled out a siddur from the slot underneath one of the paint-chipped metal chairs, and held it waiting for the Torah to pass by.
Samson stopped right in front of me for what felt like a long time, but maybe he stopped in front of everyone in the sparsely filled room for that long. I put the prayer book to the Torah and then to my lips and kissed it with a smack, finally feeling connected to something.
Monday, October 22, 2007
While it appears that Uganda has improved in Press Freedom Rankings from 116 to 96 (a big jump), things are without problems in the Ugandan media.
For example, just last week sometime, some of the editors and a reporter at my paper were detained for an article they wrote that was critical of the police, saying soldiers were training to take their jobs.
The grip is tight, regardless of rankings.
Lots of headlines about the LRA this weekend. It's hard to make sense of what's going on, but basically, the top commanders got in a shoot-out over the $600k allocated for peace talk consultations, and then, some of the commanders surrendered in Sudan, and finally, as of now, that is, Sudan has denied that happened, and Uganda wants them extradited.
Hmmm.... what's next?
That's a lot of news, in a very short amount of time. It will be some time before these things sort themselves out and the future is clear.
In the LA Times, Afrigo Band takes its audience back home to Africa
By the time Afrigo Band took the stage at Temple Bar in Santa Monica on Friday night, the room already felt a long way from Southern California. A good African club show is not just a concert but also a visit to another continent, and to many of the people crowding around the stage, it was clearly a chance to spend a few hours back home.And these are some of my photos from Obligato, that I've been meaning to post forever...
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
NEW YORK - Meet Paris Hilton, grown-up. The 26-year-old socialite has vowed to change her party-girl image after serving a 23-day jail sentence in June for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.
"There are a lot of bad people in L.A. Before, my life was about having fun, going to parties it was a fantasy," she tells Newsweek magazine in its Oct. 22 issue, now on newsstands. "But when I had time to reflect, I felt empty inside. I want to leave a mark on the world."
Hilton says she is now committed to using her celebrity status for the greater good. Next month, she plans to pack her bags for Rwanda to bring attention to the African country.
"I'm scared, yeah. I've heard it's really dangerous," she says. "I've never been on a trip like this before."
Hilton, accompanied by a children's charity called Playing for Good, will visit schools and health-care clinics as part of a five-day charity mission. The trip will be filmed not surprising, given Hilton's love of the camera.
"I love having everything documented," says Hilton, who hopes to turn the footage into a film. "It shows people what everyday life is like for me, how hard I work. There are a lot of misconceptions about me."
Hilton says her dating life isn't as wild as the tabloids make it out to be.
"I've been linked to so many guys, but there's nothing romantic going on at all," she says. "I get along better with guys than girls. I trust them more. They don't get all girly and mean. Girls have drama."
Monday, October 15, 2007
I've just finished and just started two great books, worthing of posting about.
Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, just won the Orange Prize for fiction this year, and it deserves it. The book (AVAILABLE AT ARISTOC!!!) traces several characters as they make their way through the sixties and the Nigerian civil war, poetically managing to capture brutality and hope, often in the same space. Adichie's first novel, "Purple Hibiscus," was a lovely coming of age story, though it conformed too closely to the conventions. This book, however, manages to work within the conventions of literary fiction and tell such a powerful story that the reader forgets any story has ever been told this way before. Can't recommend it highly enough.
Won't write too much about King Leopold's Ghost, because I haven't finished it yet, but it makes me realize how ahistorical all the news about Congo is today. Perhaps the incredible prevalence of sexual violence that's oft quoted in today's news is somehow related to the plundering of the region was just as brutal as the horrified news reports of today's papers? It seems to me like there's such a clear connection between establishing a violent colonial regime, whose precedent is passed down through each subsequent leader and permeates each remote region, and what's happening now. But not a single news brief mentions anything about Congo's storied past. I know there's not much room on a news wire, but maybe that points to something wrong with the news. Okay, enough of this rant, maybe more posting on this great and very readable book later (ALSO AVAILABLE AT ARISTOC!!!)
Two publishes so far...
Uganda: Heavy Rains Mean Less Conflict in Karamoja
The more they travel with their cattle for water, the more likely they are to enter their neighbours' territories
Disarming Karamoja; the pitfalls
Some parts of Karamoja have changed in the very recent past, and no one calls the conflict there a war. Yet, the armed Karimojong men are referred to as warriors: they carry guns, open fire at each other and the UPDF, and UPDF responds
Friday, October 12, 2007
According to Human Rights Watch,
Addtionally, according to International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission,
Previously, Pastor Martin Ssempa, a prominent campaigner against both condom
usage and homosexuality, had listed Ugandan LGBT rights activists by name on
posting pictures and contact information and calling them “homosexual
promoters.” Ssempa was the key organizer of an August 21 rally in Kampala,
which hundreds of demonstrators demanded government actions to punish
people, calling homosexual conduct “a criminal act against the laws of
According to the US State Department, Ssempa’s Makerere Community
Church received US funding as a 2004 sub-partner of the President’s
Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This $15 billion program, heavily
promoted by the
Bush administration, earmarks one-third of spending on
prevention of sexual
transmission of HIV for “abstinence and fidelity
programs,” some of which are
based on so-called abstinence-only curricula
developed in the United States. In
a March 2005 report, Human Rights Watch
documented how abstinence-only programs in Uganda suppress lifesaving
information about condoms and safer sex, and convey that LGBT people’s
sexualities are immoral and that there is no “safer”
way for them to have
The US Congress Committee on International Relations, chaired at the time
by Congressman Henry
J. Hyde, brought Ssempa to testify in 2005 as an expert
in the fight against
HIV/AIDS in Africa, and as a Special Representative to
the First Lady of
Uganda's Task Force on AIDS. Ssempa has also acted as
representative and adviser
of the office of First Lady Janet Museveni,
another PEPFAR grantee.
“US politicians and pocketbooks underwrite hatred in Uganda,” Long
said. “The US has no business lending an aura of respectability to policies that
rights and public health."
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has uncovered evidence that the U.S. government has funded groups in Uganda that actively promote discrimination against lesbians and gay men. In a letter to U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul, IGLHRC has criticized funding the groups and has asked for assurances that U.S. government funds are not being used to support homophobic organizations anywhere in the world.IGLHRC’s investigation followed a series of distressing events in Uganda. At an August 16 press conference, Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of LGBT groups, launched Let us Live in Peace Campaign, calling for understanding and respect of sexual minorities. SMUG’s campaign was met with an increase in hate speech by religious groups. The primary instigator of the backlash was Pastor Martin Ssempa, leader of the Makerere University Community Church and spokesman for the Interfaith Family Culture Coalition Against Homosexuality in Uganda. Ssempa organized an August 21 rally in Kampala, the country’s largest city, at which more than one hundred demonstrators, including several government officials, demanded official action against LGBT people. Ssempa has called homosexual conduct, “a criminal act against the laws of nature,” and has said that, “there should be no rights granted to homosexuals in this country.” According to the U.S. Embassy in Uganda’s website, Makerere University Community Church received a grant under a program designed to provide funds for AIDS prevention, treatment and care programs in Africa. Mr. Ssempa and his coalition, which includes Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Evangelicals, have threatened the safety of Ugandan LGBT rights activists by posting their names, photos and addresses on a website (http://kobsrugby.com/demo/). With support from conservative organizations such as Family Watch International in the United States, Ssempa has launched attacks not only on homosexuals but on Uganda’s women’s rights and HIV activists as well. “The U.S. government’s funding is meant to alleviate suffering and support effective AIDS initiatives in Africa, not to further blame and stigmatize already marginalized groups,” said IGLHRC Executive Director Paula Ettelbrick. IGLHRC provided Ambassador Dybul with evidence of grants made by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the Makerere University Community Church.Furthermore, IGLHRC found that the Uganda Muslim Tabliqh Women’s Desk has also received a grant under the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to implement HIV programs in Masaka District. Recently, Muslim Tabliqh youth announced a plan to form an 'Anti-Gay Squad' to fight homosexuality in Uganda. On 28 August 2007, Sheikh Multah Bukenya, a senior cleric in the Tabliqh Organization, was quoted during prayers at Noor Mosque in Kampala as saying that his followers are “ready to act swiftly and form this squad that will wipe out all abnormal practices like homosexuality in our society.” PEPFAR is a $15 billion Bush administration fund to fight AIDS in Africa. According to IGLHRC’s 2007 report, “Off the Map: How HIV/AIDS Programming is Failing Same-Sex Practicing People in Africa,” less than U.S. $1 million targets HIV programs for men who have sex with men in Africa, despite strong evidence that HIV has a disproportionate impact on LGBT communities throughout the continent. According to IGLHRC, the complicated PEPFAR sub-granting process lacks transparency and makes it difficult to track the funding. “What we do know, is that few PEPFAR dollars are being used to fight HIV among gay men in Africa,” said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC Senior Specialist for Africa. “Not only have African men who have sex with men been largely ignored with regard to HIV prevention services, but avowedly homophobic organizations are receiving funding for programs that will only further stigmatize homosexuality. This has to stop.”IGLHRC has called for increased transparency in the distribution of U.S. government HIV/AIDS funding internationally and a commitment by U.S. administrators that organizations espousing hate speech will not be fundedHomosexuality is illegal in Uganda and is punishable by between 14 years and life imprisonment. Last year, the Ugandan Parliament passed a constitutional amendment making same-sex marriages illegal.
(sorry for the spacing on this post... I'm at a internet cafe)
Uganda: Of Cons, Cars And Losing a Job Because Of a Blog
This week, Ugandan Insomniac poses an always pressing question that sets the tone for much discourse:
Why are millions of Ugandans still living in abject poverty when an increasing
number of people in the country can afford a brand new set of wheels and
personalized number plates every year?
Meanwhile, Daniel Kalinaki has a different opinion: that everyone’s trying to con everyone else, and especially him:
Why is it next-to-impossible to find honest contractors in Uganda? Of course
we know that government wastes a lot of our taxes on all sorts of schemes,
school children are thrown out of their schools, buildings are razed and the
ground is let to fallow, awaiting some hotelier to make up his mind. We know
that people displaced by war are given rotten seeds when they finally get to
return to their homes, complete with flexi-pangas to help them till the land and
start new lives. We know all that, and more.What irks me the most are the
smaller things; the micro-corruption, the cutting corners that we are subjected
And Ivan is tired of other things Ugandan:
I’ve gotten tired of saying we are not ready for CHOGM. I can only go on and
about a topic for so long. What do you take me for? The Red Pepper? Harry
Sagara? I will say this, the visitors are obliged to say they are crazy about
our country no matter what. Sure we have people on the job, guys who started
planting trees last week. Not to worry, the Ugandan variety of tree is the quick
growing kind. We should see some sort of progress some time next year. While the
visitors are here, we shall be encouraged to refer to them as “baby trees”. It
will be politically incorrect to refer to them as “little”.
But the person who really has a right to complain is GayUgandan, who lost his job (almost) because of his blog:
As a good suspicious employee, I will suspect that something is happening.
I have worked too long for my dear employer to be summarily dismissed. But, that
can be done in increments. And I may decide to resign to prevent further
embarassment. Not being needed, but you hang on desperately.
Pathetic?Maybe, and maybe not. Ok, I was outed by the
Red rug. That was last month. I thought that I had done something to create
a soft landing for myself. I talked to my immediate boss. I talked to my
ultimate boss. And things seemed to be cool.A few days to the end of the month,
I get the ‘bad' news. Lots of apologies, lots of sorries, but it all adds up to
me losing part of my income. And being left with this suspicious feeling that it
is because of my damned sexuality. Or the sudden suspicion of it that my
colleagues at work
Thursday, October 11, 2007
According to this article by Reuters,
Wars stripped about $284 billion from Africa's economies between 1990 and 2005, roughly equal to the amount of aid money given to the world's poorest continent, according to a report on Thursday by Oxfam International.That's a lot of money.
In the study "Africa's Missing Billions," the British aid group said the 23 conflicts engulfing Africa in the period had shrunk economies by an average 15 percent per year at a cost of almost $18 billion a year.
But here are some of my favorite parts of the article:
I'm glad the good old U. S. of A. is still supporting conflict...
The report, which was backed by the International Action Network on Small Arms and Saferworld, two non-governmental organisations, cited the global arms trade as a major contributor to the violence that had killed millions of Africans and impeded economic growth on the continent.
It estimated 95 percent of Kalashnikov rifles -- the most popular weapon used in the African conflicts -- came from outside the continent, highlighting what was described as a need to better regulate the arms trade.
The United Nations is considering the passage of an Arms Trade Treaty designed to restrict the flow of illegal weapons and arms, especially to vulnerable parts of the world, such as Africa.
Oxfam and other NGOs are campaigning for an agreement that would prohibit arms transfers if they were likely to be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, or undermine sustainable development.
Some 153 countries voted last year in the U.N. General Assembly to start work on a treaty, which would make provisions for legal arms sales for defence, peacekeeping and other legitimate purposes.
The United States cast the only vote against.
China and Russia, which also have significant arms industries, have expressed reservations about a treaty.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
"It is very embarrassing and annoying that there are some saboteurs who were opposed to this project. They prefer to import. We cannot keep importing drugs."
Without naming them, the President said there were people in the system who did not see the "wisdom" of such a factory in Uganda. "They dragged their feet to sabotage it," Museveni said....
"You see in the government side we also have opposition that sabotages programmes. But they have no choice but to do what is expected of them because ours is an elected government," Museveni said.
He denounced leaders whom he described as "blind, ignorant and defiant" and praised Vice-President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya for following the plant project to the end.
He assured the company that the Government would fulfill its obligations. "We are going to buy the drugs you will manufacture. But I must stress that the drugs should be of comparable quality, price and time-bound. There is no way I can refuse to drink my own mubisi (banana juice)."
On allegations that he had given away Uganda Prisons land, Museveni triggered laughter when he said: "These 15 acres that I gave for this ultra-modern plant will earn an estimated $36m per year. Could we earn that amount of money from the potatoes, cassava and maize that were here?"
Sunday, October 7, 2007
International Federation of Journalists (Brussels)
5 October 2007
Posted to the web 5 October 2007
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Ugandan government to withdraw sedition charges against three journalists working for the Monitor private newspaper, in relation to a story alleging soldiers were secretly trained as policemen in order to have the police force under military control.
"We are very surprised by these charges, which are totally baseless," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. "In the story the journalist gave the view of heads of the army and the police. It was a balanced and professional piece of work. Thus, we call on the Ugandan government to drop all the charges against the journalists and to make sure they can continue to work freely."
In the edition published last Sunday, the Monitor ran a story with the title, "Soldiers train to take police jobs." The paper reported that "at least 40 serving soldiers were quietly drafted into the training programme as part of a move to have the force firmly under military control." The story also expressed the comments of Army Chief of Staff, Brigadier Robert Rusoke, Army's Chief of Personal and Administration, Colonel Phinehas Katirima and the acting commissioner of police in charge of human resource development and training, Felix Ndyomugenyi. They denied the information or said they were not aware of it.
On Monday the Monitor's Managing Editor of the Weekend Edition, Bernard Tabaire, Sunday Editor Henry Ochieng and author of the article Chris Obore were summoned to the police and released on bail after they were charged with sedition.
The court hearing is due to resume on Monday.
The journalists' lawyer, James Nangwala, quoted by the Monitor in a story on Monday, said that the "police feared the story was likely to create a collision between the police and the army."
Sources say that in Uganda the army is considered loyal to President Yoweri Museveni while the police force was seen as supporting the political opposition.
The IFJ believes the charges are an attempt to intimidate journalists in Uganda and stifle independent reporting.
"Charging journalists with sedition simply for writing an investigative piece that includes the government's point of view is a harsh and disproportionate response," Baglo said. "If the charges are not dropped, it will send a chilling message to media that critical reporting can land them in jail."
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.
'Media enemy is not state but losing staff'
ANDREW MWENDA is an outspoken Ugandan journalist who recently resigned from Daily Monitor. He spoke to SSEMUJJU IBRAHIM NGANDA about his new plans:
You recently resigned from Daily Monitor. Is that the end of your journalism career?
Far from that, my career in journalism is still on track. I am planning with other friends in the media to launch a newspaper called The Independent. Its aim is to provide a platform through which people of this country can freely debate public issues.
Your articles were suspended because you were allegedly getting personal with President Museveni instead of criticising policies.
If that is the reason, Mr. Karim Al Hussaini (commonly known as Aga Khan) should have made it known to me or the public. He did not because he knows his reasons were dubious. It is not me who is saying that Daily Monitor’s independence has been greatly compromised. The Daily Monitor journalists are telling everyone about it. A board member, Mr. Wafula Oguttu, confirmed this to you when you interviewed him about my resignation.
Secondly, I do not have any personal differences with President Museveni. On the contrary, I like the person of Museveni and I used to have good relations with him. Remember that I am a product of a lot of President Museveni’s teachings.
In his early speeches, he castigated African rulers for flying in executive jets when their populations walked on bare feet. Now he flies his daughters to Germany in executive jets to deliver babies when 98 percent of Ugandans depend on firewood for energy. My job as a journalist is to remind him of his first address to the nation, and hold him to account for his actions.
I disagree with Museveni’s politics, with the way he runs the country. I believe that he has increasingly come to treat the nation’s Treasury as his personal bank account and its physical assets as his family estate. The evidence is overwhelming: he personally has been giving preferred businessmen public funds and other assets without going through the formal institutions of state.
I have discussed this with President Museveni personally and extensively. I remember one Sunday in mid-2005, I spent four and a half hours with him at State House discussing this issue. At the time, he was trying to give Dairy Corporation to a Thai Investor.
I told him that while I shared his strategic objective to attract investments into the country, I found his approach wrong and detrimental to the national interest. As an individual, the President lacks the core competences to assess every investment and ensure value for whatever Uganda can give an investor in form of cash, land or forest. That should be done by institutions of state and in tune with the laws of the land.
But you focus on writing about the First Family as opposed to covering departments of government?
But this is spurious. I used to write articles on the front page of Daily Monitor, and two columns a week. 100 percent of them focused on public policy and on national politics. If President Museveni featured in any of them, it was because of how he affected public policy and national politics.
I never discussed the President’s personal lifestyle or his private life because it is of no interest to me. The only time I wrote about the First Family was in my last Sunday column before I left for Stanford.
I argued against the increasing personalisation of decision making and that State House is allocated too much money relative to other and more productive ministries of government. I showed how this money is used or misused to sustain a lavish lifestyle of the President’s family contrary to our Constitution. That is not a personal issue; it is in our budget and therefore a matter of public policy.
It is claimed you wanted to marry one of Mr. Museveni’s daughters and you took it personal when he refused.
That is nonsense.
Maj. Muhoozi Kainerugaba remains your friend and he actually visited you when you were detained for maligning his father. How do you maintain this friendship?
Muhoozi is a very intelligent and analytical person. So we share a common love of ideas and knowledge. He is also a nationalist and Pan-Africanist. So we share common political aspirations.
He is a very liberal guy. That is why he can afford to keep in touch with me although my political views are divergent from his. He is a politically very mature person. That is why he can still engage me in intellectual discussions even though he may disagree with many of my ideas. I love and respect him a lot because he has demonstrated that he has breadth of perspective, depth of understanding and amplitude of comprehension – very rare qualities to find in one person. I have not been meeting him as regularly as I used to. But I still consider him a friend.
But you forget that I am friends with the President’s brother – Salim Saleh. I disagree with his politics but at a personal level I find him an interesting and nice guy. I grew up in a family with divergent political persuasions. But at no time did our political differences affect our relations as a family. I still carry that tradition of separating my political views from the people I choose to be personal friends with.
What sort of newspaper will yours be? When are you launching it, and how different will it be from existing ones?
The newspaper is already registered. It is called The Independent. It is going to live up to its name – to be a platform through which Ugandans and other interested parties of all persuasions can freely discuss public issues. It will also be a forum through which national issues can be covered without fear or favour of any person or authority.
The aim of the paper will be to support the democratic process in the country, defend human rights, freedom, liberty and accountability.
The maiden issue of the paper is supposed to come out on October 19. It is going to be unique in that it will lift the level and quality of public debate a lot higher. A lot in its opinion pages will discuss the fundamental problems and solutions for Africa.
I will have as guest contributors some of the world’s leading experts on Africa – people like professors; Paul Collier, William Easterly, Mahmood Mamdani, Larry Diamond, etc – all of whom have promised to contribute to the maiden issue.
It is claimed that Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi and Hakeem Lukenge are your main financial backers, in other words your partners in the new newspaper?
Again that is nonsense. I have been working for more than 10 years, consulted for international organisations, etc. Don’t you think I have made enough money to begin a small newspaper?
It is true I have been approached by many politicians and businessmen in Uganda who want shares.
I have flatly refused because I do not want The Independent to suffer the crisis Monitor is in now – of a major shareholder who is willing to sacrifice liberty in exchange for business deals with the state. I find that cheap.
Secondly, I have a lot of international exposure and have made many international friends who value freedom, liberty and democracy in Africa. They include a number of venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley who have promised to contribute share equity and some foundations with the West which would want to give grants.
Because I am very critical of foreign aid, I have put foundations on hold. I am negotiating with venture capitalists. I will withhold their names for a while; but I can tell you that they are some of the richest people in the world.
Your views on the state of the media in Uganda today?
Over the last 10 years, the media in Uganda has grown impressively well. Although the legal regime is Stalinist, political practice has allowed more space of free expression.
That space is under threat from the state, and we need to defend it. Journalists today earn much more than when we joined and enjoy great respect from the public. Media institutions command enormous resources and influence in the country.
The liberalisation of the economy and the privatisation of state enterprises have led to sustained growth of the economy over the last 20 years. This has led to the growth of a sizeable private sector that has allowed media to make a lot of money out of advertisement.
The biggest threat to press freedom in Uganda is not the state, although that is an important factor. It is a dearth of professional journalists. The largest media houses in Uganda –Monitor and New Vision – have been losing their best reporters every year. That is why their combined circulation has not grown by more than 5 percent over the last 10 years. Ugandans have given them a vote of little confidence.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Johannesburg, South Africa - When the Bush administration announced the creation of a new Africa Command within its military forces last February, many African diplomats were horrified. Some expressed fears that the US military would follow in the colonial footsteps of Europe in establishing a military presence on the continent with an eye toward controlling Africa's vast resources.
But a few African leaders said, "It's about time."
This week, Africom – as it is known – becomes officially operational, and the man expected to be confirmed as its first commander, Gen. William Ward, will have his work cut out for him in explaining just what the US military intends to do in Africa.
"We can't be the fire department always," says Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for African affairs. "We don't have the capacity to constantly run around and solve this disaster and that disaster. Other people have to develop their own fire departments, but we can help them develop their own capacity."
Africa's ambivalence, and in some cases outright antipathy, to a stepped-up US military presence on the continent is born of a long and bitter history of past foreign interventions by British, French, Italian, German, Belgian, Portuguese, and Arab armies. But as Washington begins to understand the strategic importance of Africa – from keeping Al Qaeda from gaining new footholds to the fact that the US now imports nearly 22 percent of its oil from African countries – the arrival of an Africa Command was just a matter of time.
US now relies more on Africa for oil
"It's not just Nigeria; Ghana is also exporting, and it's sweet, light crude, so West Africa has become more important," says Richard Cornwell, senior analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Tshwane, as the capital of South Africa (Pretoria) is now called. "This must exercise their [American] minds quite considerably."
The test of Washington's commitment to Africa, Mr. Cornwell adds, is whether it is willing to "put boots on the ground. If America sends its troops to Congo to show its commitment, or to Liberia or Sierra Leone, then we're talking something different" from its usual short-term operations, such as its humanitarian deployment in Somalia in 1992.
American military planners have been quick to point out that this is merely a "reorganization," not an expansion of military might into Africa. Until this year, US military operations in Africa, such as humanitarian airlifts or evacuation of US citizens, were coordinated by three separate commands: European Command in Stuttgart, Germany; Central Command in Tampa Bay, Florida; and Pacific Command in Hawaii. For now, the new Africa Command will remain in Stuttgart, but will have its own chain of command, and its own priorities for building military ties with friendly African countries.
While the US once saw Africa as a "good jumping off point for operations in the Middle East," Whelan says, "now we find ourselves in the post-9/11 world, and African is becoming strategically relevant to the US on its own merits."
Yet while a handful of African countries have welcomed the new Africom – Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has offered her country as a base for Africom – others have seen it as a threat. The 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) recently voted to reject it. "Africa has to avoid the presence of foreign forces on its soil, particularly if any influx of soldiers might affect relations between sister African countries," South Africa's Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said in August, after the SADC meeting.
Libya's ambassador to South Africa, Abdullahi Alzubedi, echoed the alarm. "How can the US divide the world up into its own military commands? Wasn't that for the UN to do? What would happen if China also decided to create its Africa command? Would this not lead to conflict on the continent?"
A single HQ, but no new bases?
There are no current plans to build new military bases, beyond the current contingent of 1,500 US troops stationed at France's Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, says Whelan. "This is a reorganization of ourselves; we're looking at how we do business so we have a single headquarters looking at Africa, rather than three."
Whelan says that the US hopes to "build local capacity" through joint training exercises and through the ongoing Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership, which trains the militaries of a number of sub-Saharan African countries, from Mauritania to Nigeria to Chad, in counterinsurgency methods.
"We began to think: 'Why not do some work at the front end?' " says Whelan. "Why can't the Department of Defense contribute more to build up local national capacity before small problems become crises, and before crises become catastrophes."