All Uganda news


Obituary | Celebrating the Life of The Late Deborah Kiguli-Birigwa Born Oct 25th 1959 – Died May 30th 2016

Uganda Diaspora - Sun, 06/05/2016 - 22:29

The life of the late Deborah Kiguli-Birigwa was celebrated in a memorial service held at Saint Peter’s Church of Uganda in Waltham on Saturday June 4th. The service was led by Rev. Christine Nakyeyune-Busuulwa assisted by other leaders from the St. Peters Church of Uganda Waltham.

Born on October 25th 1959 in Uganda, she was the daughter of the late Aloni Kiguli Mikisa Sekadde and Mary Nambalirwa Kagwa. She attended Gayaza High School and later joined Makerere University were she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree.

She later began her career as a researcher at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe. From here she was nominated to continue her microbiology training at Yale University in the city New Haven, Connecticut. She also undertook further studies obtaining a degree in Computer Networking at Clark University in 1999.

In 2002, Deborah married her long time best friend David ‘Enoka’ Birigwa. Deborah was also a mother to Sarah and May and also a grandma to Rayhan and Xavier. Whether in good or bad times she genuinely invested in people in her world.  To her family members she was a remarkable sister, daughter and friend.

Deborah breathed her last surrounded by her family members on May 30th 2016 in Stoneham, Massachusetts after losing her battle cancer. Following the funeral service held at St. Peters Church of Uganda in Waltham. The Late Deborah Kiguli-Birigwa will begin her final journal to Uganda were she will be laid to rest at her ancestral home in Bukuya, Nabuttiti in Mityana. Body will depart on Tuesday aboard Emirates Airlines arriving on Thursday at Entebbe International Airport.  More details to follow as we get them.

A special thank-you to all those who led the order of service and to the entire Boston community for their show of support. To the family members we pray that the good lord will continue to strengthen you during this difficult time. Fare Thee Well Deborah!

Below are some of the images of the church service held at St. Peters Church of Uganda in Waltham, Massachusetts – USA. A Ugandan Diaspora News Report. Courtesy photos by Patrick Nsubuga and Ronnie Mayanja.

[See image gallery at]

BNONews | Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dead at 74

Uganda Diaspora - Sat, 06/04/2016 - 07:40

Muhammad Ali, who is widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight boxer in the history of the sport and one of the most recognized people in the world, has died at a Phoenix-area hospital, his spokesman says. He was 74 years old. (more)

Family spokesman Bob Gunnell said in a brief statement that Ali died late Friday. It came just days after he was hospitalized near Phoenix for treatment of a respiratory issue that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease, prompting speculation about his deteriorating health.

“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” Gunnell said in the statement. His funeral will take place in his hometown of Louisville in Kentucky.

Ali had been hospitalized several times over the past few years and looked increasingly frail in public appearances. He was admitted for a mild case of pneumonia in December 2014 and returned for treatment of a urinary tract infection in January 2015 after he was found unresponsive at a guest house in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A three-time World Heavyweight Boxing champion known for his “rope-a-dope” technique and clever rhymes, he is arguably the most famous boxers in the world. He won his first world championship in 1964 from Sonny Liston in what some called a stunning upset, and he later went on to win an Olympic gold medal for boxing during the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

His success in boxing, which was seen around the world, made him one of the most recognized sports figures on Earth. Unsurprisingly, in 1999 he was named “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.

Ali retired from professional boxing in 1981 and revealed several years later that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which is commonly the result of head trauma caused by boxing. Despite the diagnosis, he appeared at WrestleMania I as a special guest referee just months later.

Source —

State of the Nation 2016 | I cannot have a country which is a supermarket of foreign products- Museveni

Uganda Diaspora - Wed, 06/01/2016 - 08:18

Daily Monitor — It is a shame for a minister to ask for a bribe from foreigners, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has said. Mr Museveni said he gets reports of some of his ministers asking for bribes from foreign investors to facilitate their investments in the country.
“How do you tell a foreigner that you have failed to complete your house or pay school fees for your child? If you fail, talk to your [National Resistance Movement] party, not a foreigner,” he said. Mr Museveni equated such government officials to rats that damage the stored crops.

“Struggle to live within your means, corruption is disgusting and will be stamped out. In this five year-term of office, corrupt officials are going to be dealt with accordingly. In this term the corrupt officials are going to see how a Muyekera (resistance fighter) looks like,” he added.

President Museveni soon after delivering the State of the Nation Address 2016 at Kampala Serena Conference Center.

Mr Museveni said former president Idi Amin’s regime was blamed for corruption because most of the officials who served in his government were illiterate. “When we were fighting Amin, we would say there was corruption because they were illiterate. But for educated people to be corrupt, it’s disgusting,” he noted further. According to him, the Shs4 trillion that was lost in Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) – in which a number of ministers were implicated- could have constructed a 5000kms of road.

Mr Museveni made the remarks in his State of the Nation Address on Tuesday during the second sitting of the first session of the 10th parliament at Serena Hotel in Uganda’s capital Kampala.

Mr Museveni also talked about industrializing the country which he said is dominated with foreign products. “I cannot have a country which is a supermarket of foreign products. I’m told there are some young people who make a living by importing second hand clothes. This is good but also suicidal to our economy,” he said. In order to address some of the economic challenges that Uganda is currently faced with, there should be no more delays in investment decisions if the country is to achieve middle income status by 2020. “Because our travel industry is very profitable we shall fast track the resuscitation of Uganda Airline’s. We shall work with partners abroad to increase number of tourists to at least 4 million per annum from the current 1.3m per annum.”

Source — Daily Monitor Report and NBS Television video.

Observer Editorial | Democracy needs political parties engaged – (FDC’s Minority Leader)

Uganda Diaspora - Tue, 05/31/2016 - 20:09

The leadership of the Forum for Democratic Change, Uganda’s largest opposition political party, last week named its chiefs in parliament; among others, Kasese Woman MP Winfred Kiiza is leader of opposition, while Kira municipality’s Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda is the chief whip. Former opposition whip Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo Woman) will now sit on the Parliamentary Commission.

As an organization with an interest in the democratic health of our country, we commend FDC leaders for this decision, given the controversy that preceded it. Some vocal party members and leaders had argued that the party should not take up these positions in parliament because that would mean legitimizing the Museveni government yet they believe FDC’s flag bearer won February’s elections.

They also said the party would be seen as having betrayed its founding president, Kizza Besigye, who is now languishing in Luzira prison.

It is easy for any neutral political observer to sympathise with these arguments.  While perfect elections do not exist anywhere in the world, blatantly flawed ones are an antithesis to democratic culture.

But the reality is that there is a government and parliament in place, never mind the imperfect election that brought them. Now, the dilemma for opposition parties is whether to use the platform of parliament to expose what is wrong and push for what is right, or to cede that space to someone else.

If democracy is supposed to be a fair contest over a country’s political soul, then even in the most desperate of times, it needs all sides to engage rather than disengage.

For the most part, political power cedes little or nothing without pressure. That is why opposition pressure is part of true democratic culture. And parliament, where FDC has three dozen legislators, can be one of the more important pressure points in our democracy. The last 30 years have seen intense contestation over the political space, but engagement has seen the opposition make some modest gains.

President Museveni, for instance, openly admitted that the freeing of political parties was because of pressure. But FDC can also look at the gains Besigye made on his 2011 vote tally, by engaging the people of Uganda in 2016 elections.

Source — The Weekly Observer Editorial

Death Announcement | Mrs. Deborah Kiguli Birigwa of Stoneham, Massachusetts Passes on.

Uganda Diaspora - Tue, 05/31/2016 - 18:53

Mr. Enoka Birigwa of Stoneham, Massachusetts announces the death of his wife Mrs. Deborah Kiguli Birigwa who passed away last night at their home. A vigil and family gathering will be held at 45 North Street, Apt 58 Stoneham, MA 02180 — Enoka can be reached at +1508.488.0765. Our condolences go out to the entire Birigwa family. Kitalo nyo.

Animation | The Adventures of Nkoza & Nankya, Help Vote for us to Win a Mocap Suit

Uganda Diaspora - Tue, 05/31/2016 - 02:59

Please help VOTE for the Adventures of Nkoza and Nankya TV Series to Win a Perception Neuron Motion Capture Suit and $5000 Dollars, this will go a long way to help us complete the promotional episode and create even more stories featuring Ugandan Folklore tales, Languages and songs.

To Vote, visit the link below and click on the heart at the top, it will turn red to indicate you have voted, you can vote each day for the next 49 days when the contest ends ~ ~ see the reference screen capture

Daily Monitor Editorial | Shrine visits – Officials must act responsibly

Uganda Diaspora - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 07:13

The Parliament Speaker, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, is in the news for visiting a shrine ostensibly to thank ancestral spirits for her re-election as Speaker and Member of Parliament. Ms Kadaga is a self-confessing Christian. The dissimilarity of her action is telling and explains the public furor and, in some cases, ridicule following her supplication to traditional mysticism.

The Speaker’s split personality manifests the duality of our society and its leadership: an unending battle of allegiance to indigenous cultures and customs as well as a simultaneous embrace of Western religion. In his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed, President Museveni writes that he was, while in the bush as a guerilla leader, persuaded to jump over a decapitated chicken to guarantee success of the National Resistance Army rebellion.

Gilbert Bukenya, a professor of medicine, while still Uganda’s vice president and on official duty, strayed to and prayed at a traditional shrine for his and President Museveni’s political feats. And Koboko Municipality MP Evelyn Anite paid homage to spirits at a native ancestral sanctuary. What we question is why all these high-profile political leaders, if they choose to follow traditional religion, visit shrines in official vehicles and accompanied by media?

It is both unfathomable and unjustifiable that fuel bought, and official guards and a coterie of subordinates paid, by tax payers’ money were engaged to chauffer Uganda’s third most important citizen deep into a thicket where she hunkered in an under-rocks grotto littered with fetishes in search for benediction.

Maj Eria Nantamu, the prime minister of Kadaga’s Baise Igaga Clan, said each clansman and woman is required to visit the traditional sacred site at least once a year in fulfilment of a long-standing cultural norm. Such defence does not go far in explaining why public resources were expended on a trip structured for a presumed individual gain.

We hold the view that these highly publicised shrine visits by national leaders, even if for cultural purposes, have the unintended potential to romanticise witchcraft or sorcery as acceptable as long as it brings blessings.

This should worry in a country where child sacrifices by fortune hunters are, according to police crime reports, on the rise. If presumably sophisticated leaders believe that visiting shrines and making offering bring personal and professional prosperity, it hamstrings them to tell the under-class in their constituencies that, for example, sorcery is debauched. National leaders must act with the responsibility that their high offices bestow upon them.

Source — Daily Monitor and NBS Television News video.

The Observer | First son Muhoozi denies harboring Presidential ambitions

Uganda Diaspora - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 06:24

Major General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, son to President Yoweri Museveni dismisses as baseless, reports that he is being groomed to succeed his father as president of Uganda.  Muhoozi, who is among 727 promoted on May 12, also describes as “non-existent” a succession plan hitherto referred to as the ‘Muhoozi Project’.

The reported project was the basis of a 2013 dossier by the former coordinator of intelligence services Gen David Sejusa. In the dossier, Sejusa hinted on a grand plan to have Muhoozi, the commanding officer of the Special Forces Command replace his father as president and that anyone who stood in the way risked assassination.

In his dossier, Sejusa suggested that then those opposed to the ‘Muhoozi Project’ were Gen Aronda Nyakairima (RIP), former prime minister Amama Mbabazi, Inspector general of police (IGP) Kale Kayihura among others.

CDF Katumba Wamala in pictures with newly promoted/Rtd UPDF officers and spouses after pipping ceremony at Ministry of Defence, Mbuya – Photo credit Sarah Kagingo

But Muhoozi who was addressing journalists at the Ministry of Defence headquarters in Mbuya, Kampala this afternoon said he was happy in the military and has no ambitions to assume the presidency. He added that he would go through the right procedure if he ever wanted to be president.

“I am very happy in the military and in case I wanted to join politics, I know the procedures to go through,” he said.

“As you heard, I don’t have the ambition to be president. I am very happy being in the military and that is where I intend to stay for some time. It [Muhoozi Project] doesn’t exist, non-existent – that is a red herring. You have never heard of a message where I promote myself, it is always from the promotions board. That is the process in the military”

Muhoozi also expressed excitement with his latest promotion to the rank of Major General and downplays concerns that his promotions were fast-tracked.

“I am sure the promotion was done on merit by the promotions board,” Muhoozi said.  He adds that he will concentrate on developing his career in the army as a dedicated officer.

Source — The Observer and NTV News report.

The Observer | Amicus Curiae | ‘Why the hell are you befriending the court?’ By Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango

Uganda Diaspora - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 02:39

In March, a group of law academics secured an amicus curiae (friends of court) status before the Supreme court rejected the petition in which Amama Mbabazi sought nullification of the President Museveni’s recent reelection. One of the amicus curiae, PROF JOE OLOKA-ONYANGO, now discusses their experience and the implication of court’s final decision.


On March 12, 2016, I joined eight other Makerere Law School dons in filing an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) application in the presidential election petition brought by John Patrick Amama Mbabazi (JPAM). Mbabazi was the third-place finisher in the poll, garnering 1.4 percent of the final tally after incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (60.6%) and runner-up Kizza Besigye (35.6%).

When the news of the amicus application was announced, I received a call from a long-time colleague and friend: “What the hell are you doing befriending the court: Don’t you have enough enemies already?,” she asked me.

Makerere University law dons at the Supreme court after the court granted their application of amicus curiae

My friend’s reaction may have been extreme, but it was by no means exceptional. When the Supreme court accepted our amicus application, the reaction of Ugandans from all walks of life ranged from hope, to confusion, to disdain, to delusion.

Among the many views proffered about our action were the following: + Now that we had become “friends of the court,” our views would favourably (and conclusively) determine the outcome of the petition (as in… we hope you are “friends of Amama”);

+ By filing the petition we had “legitimized” the 2016 sham election and provided a veneer of legal authority and expertise to a fundamentally flawed political process (as in… we were really “friends of M7”); + My Political Science colleagues cryptically reminded me: Politics always trumps Law!

Engaging with the Supreme court was thus a waste of time because the result was a foregone conclusion (which would make us “friends-of-nobody”).


Finally, some opined that even if the courts agreed with our submission, how would that affect the outcome of the main petition? In other words, we were diverting the court from the more fundamental and important issue at hand, which was: who really won the election?

Given how much interest and popular comment the application raised in the print, broadcast and social media—jua kali businesses and restaurants were renamed “Amicus”— I thought it was important to answer my friend’s question: why indeed did we go to court?

Secondly, what did the JPAM petition in general tell us about the state of governance in post-2016 Uganda? To answer these questions, this article is divided into three parts.

It begins with some very brief remarks about the state of judicial politics in Uganda. Secondly, it outlines what the Mbabazi election petition was all about and its significance for the law and for politics in NRM’s Uganda.

Finally, I address the reasons why we filed the amicus curiae application, highlighting its implications for the place of the Judiciary within the framework of the NRM scheme of governance as we head off towards 2021.


Courts in post-colonial Uganda have always provided an interesting and contentious framework within which political issues have been engaged, going back to the most famous 1966 case of ex parte Matovu which dealt with the “pigeon-hole” Constitution or the case of Uganda v. Rajat Neogy & Abu Mayanja (1968) which precipitated the banning of the magazine Transition.

During the Amin period, courts were dispensed with as possible terrain on which political action could be pursued, ultimately culminating in the murder of a Chief Justice. The Obote II era largely treated the judiciary as an inconvenience.

Under the NRM, and especially since 1995 courts of law have been extensively used as an arena for political battles, e.g. David Tinyefuza (on his right to resign from the UPDF), Paulo Ssemogerere (on the Referendum of 1999/2000) and most recently on whether the President had the power to re-appoint a Chief Justice (Benjamin Odoki) who was above the stipulated age of retirement (in the case of Gerald Karuhanga).

Supreme court election petition

Although there have been several victories for democratic governance and enhanced constitutionalism via the  judiciary, there have also been many setbacks where the courts have been reluctant (even hostile) to transformation, finding recourse in legal technicalities, unearthing obscure and outdated colonial-era laws or taking refuge in the infamous Political Question Doctrine (PQD) which basically states that certain matters are beyond the purview of judicial scrutiny.

In short, the context of judicial struggle in Uganda has been one where progress is very often circumscribed by reversal, lack of enforcement or sheer impunity. Needless to say, the judiciary remains an important arena within which to gain a more complete understanding of the nature of the NRM regime of governance.


As you may be aware, the courts in Uganda have twice before provided the arena for presidential election petitions, the first of which was in 2001 and the second following the 2006 election. Both petitions were brought by runner-up Kizza Besigye who scored 27.7 percent in the former, and 37.4 percent in the latter.

Both were lost, and after the 2006 failure, Besigye swore that he would never again seek recourse in the courts of law because they were in no position to deliver genuine justice. Indeed, in 2011, when he ran for the third time, Besigye refused to go to court, arguing that there was no way in which he could secure a fair result from the judiciary.

Instead, he resorted to the streets with the “walk-to-work” protests. In certain respects Besigye was right—both on the broader context in which the election was held, and more specifically with regard to the preconditions for a successful petition.

The broader conditions have been well laid out in numerous books and articles, but most importantly in the 2001 and 2006 decisions of the Supreme court when addressing the matter. These included:

A. Extensive bribery and the misuse of state resources and incumbency;
B. Serious interference by the security apparatus of the state, ranging from the police, to the armed forces to the intelligence services;
C. The partisan and partial (some would say near-criminal) incompetence on the part of the Electoral Commission, whether in terms of pre-election arrangements for the poll or in the delivery of the results;

D. Massive disenfranchisement of voters through the deletion of names from the voters register, and
E. A generic atmosphere of intimidation, manipulation and coercion (and one in which courts of law were extensively abused in order to subvert the

Besigye candidacy, e.g. through the trumped-up charges of rape and treason).

In other words, in the unanimous opinion of the Supreme court neither the 2001 nor the 2006 elections were “free and fair.”

Ironically, neither court overturned the election, with a 3-2 verdict in 20011 and a 4-32 ruling in 2006. The ostensible legal reasoning behind both decisions was rooted in two issues:

1. The question of whether the Supreme court should conduct an “inquiry” or a “hearing,” given that Article 104(3) requires the Supreme court to “inquire into” the grounds of the petition; and

2. The burden of proof, or the main test which is applied to the allegations being made in the petition, i.e. whether the alleged irregularities affected the results in a “substantial manner” (a.k.a. The Substantiality Test).

Both issues are also directly affected by the unreasonably-short periods applied in presidential election petitions. A petition must be filed within 10 days after the declaration of results and court must deliver its decision within 30 days of filing the petition.

When combined, these limitations place the party with fewer resources—usually the losing petitioner—at a disadvantage especially when up against an incumbent president. Secondly, it limits the amount of evidence which can be gathered in the form of affidavits.

Neither factor would be a problem if the courts were to adopt a more qualitative approach to the substantiality test and also if they were to conduct an inquiry and not a hearing. An inquiry, would allow the court to expand the horizons and the material on which it relied to make a finding.

Adopting a qualitative approach would mean moving away from a mathematical approach to the issue to an approach which assesses, in the words of Justice George Kanyeihamba, “… the extent to which, deliberately or otherwise, the Constitution and laws of Uganda were substantially violated.”

Because of those limitations, going in to the JPAM petition, it was quite obvious that the odds of success were about as good as those of the Leicester soccer club at the beginning of this year’s English Premier League.

Indeed, we can even debate the larger question of whether a court of law—anywhere in the world—would overturn an election, especially one in which the effect would be to remove a sitting president.

There was simply no way that the Supreme court would have nullified the election, because in many respects 2016 was similar to the previous two instances in which matters ended up in court. But 2016 had several important differences both pre-petition and in relation to bringing the petition itself which warranted some third-party intervention.

Regarding events that took place in the period before the 2016 election, the most important were the protracted efforts at reforming the electoral laws and the Electoral Commission. Those efforts were executed mainly through the campaign for free and fair elections spearheaded by a group of civil society organizations.

Although the campaign gained widespread support, it eventually failed because of government reluctance to make changes to the electoral playing field. Secondly, there was also the question of the composition of the Supreme court.

For the first time in the history of the Judiciary in Uganda, all members of the bench were appointees of the same president, with Chief Justice Bart Katureebe having been President Museveni’s attorney general from 1996 to 2001.

Amam Mbabazi lawyers at the Supreme court

Five of the judges (Mwangusya, Nshimye, Opio Aweri, Mwondha and Ekirikubinza) had only five months earlier (September 2015) been moved up from the Court of Appeal. In sum, the context was ideal for testing the mettle of the new-look highest bench in the Judiciary. Regarding the immediate conditions preceding the petition, the following are important:

1. Even though Besigye had stated that he wouldn’t go to court, every effort was taken to stop him from doing so in the event he changed his mind.

Thus, not only was Besigye physically prevented from leaving home to file a petition but the authorities variously harassed, intimidated and even detained potential witnesses who would provide the evidentiary support to a petition. The culmination of this action was the invasion of FDC headquarters and the confiscation of all election-related material;

2. When the ball shifted to Mbabazi, likewise, the government engaged in a process of intimidation, coercion and even bribery of lawyers and witnesses.

The culmination of these actions was a raid on the offices of Mbabazi’s lawyers;

Why then did we file the amicus application? First of all, we believed that this was an opportunity—even if the petition failed—for us to draw attention to the structural problems affecting the election, underscoring the point that an election is a process, not an event.

Secondly, we viewed the petition as the opportunity for the court to reassert its authority in a context dogged by institutional collapse and growing Executive impunity. Thirdly, it was to test the judicial waters for future governance struggles which will invariably end up in the Supreme court in what is a fairly new bench.


And finally, it was an opportunity to entrench the mechanism of amicus curiae which was standing on shaky jurisprudential ground in Uganda. Given that under the law an amicus is confined to making only submissions which the parties to the petition have not made, we decided to focus on the structural conditions in which the petition was being heard.

What were those conditions? (1) That in both previous Supreme court petitions, observations were made about the context in which the election was held, i.e. the proverbial “playing field”;

(2) In both previous petitions, the Supreme court had pointed out that conditions in the playing field had in effect rendered the election unfree and unfair;

(3) The main culprits responsible for such conditions were: (a) the law; and (b) the institutions, especially the Electoral Commission, the police and the army; and (4) The government had persistently failed to take appropriate action on all the above, and especially with respect to the process of electoral reform. The amicus brief we filed, therefore, basically made three points:

1. That the conditions observed by the Supreme court in 2001 and 2006 still persisted and had affected the 2016 election in the same way, rendering it unfree and unfair;

2. That the failure on the part of those responsible (especially the Attorney General) to take the necessary measures amounted to contempt of court at best, or blatant impunity at worst; and

3. That the Supreme court should adopt a new method of enforcement of its broader observations about the conduct of the election forcing the government to take supervised measures that would ultimately result in electoral reform.

In other words, we argued that the Supreme court should use the mechanism of the STRUCTURAL INTERDICT which is an order to a government body—in this case the Attorney General—to take certain steps within a specified period of time and to report back to the court, failing which would amount to contempt of court, with attendant sanctions, including the detention of the offending state officials.

In sum, our argument was that the two earlier judgments of the Supreme court had, in their obiter dictum commentaries, simply condemned the operations of the EC and other state actors but failed to make the logical connection to the nature of the election that resulted from its incompetence and partiality.

The net effect of the two decisions was to give legal sanction to executive impunity and to bring us exactly back to yet another election petition. Given developments since the decision of the court, the judgment still did not provide the necessary closure to the issue.

In other words, it is the structural questions affecting the election and which have dogged the electoral landscape in Uganda since the reintroduction of multi-party politics which are the problem.

In the absence of reform in this area, the country can forget ever having a free and fair election. The Supreme court was thus being implored to take a bold step in transforming Uganda’s political landscape.


Ultimately, the amicus petition was only partially successful; over the objections of all three respondents, the court allowed us to file a comprehensive brief which reiterated our view that there was a need for a more structured approach to the issue of electoral reform in Uganda.

Moreover, the court’s judgment accepting our application for the status of amicus curiae consolidated the mechanism as a well-established and uncontested element in the jurisprudence of Uganda.

In delivering its interim ruling on March 31, the court took note of our suggestions and alluded to making a more comprehensive response to the issues we raised in the final judgment of the court expected to be delivered two months later. Of course there is still the larger question of the place of the judiciary within the governance struggle in Uganda as we move on from 2016.

Ugandans do not place a great deal of confidence in the courts of law and the Amama petition in certain respects dealt the judiciary an even more significant blow to its standing in the eyes of most citizens.

However, both a review of the jurisprudence over the last 20 years (since the enactment of the 1995 Constitution) as well as consideration of some of the major governance issues which are certain to arise as we head on to 2021 suggest that the Judiciary is going to be an extremely important arena in which many of the future governance battles are going to be played out.

Aside from the question of rights and freedoms, the nature and extent of presidential power is certain to be an area of increased focus, including the question of term and age limits.

Even if this particular battle was lost, the petition brought significant attention to bear on what is actually going to be a long drawn-out war—legal and otherwise in the run-up to 2021.

In other words, ignoring the courts in Uganda is obviously a serious folly. One would do well to recall that old African proverb: he or she who believes that small things cannot cause significant change or damage has never spent a night with a mosquito.

Source — The Weekly Observer

Opinion | Rebuttal to Whitaker | Uganda’s Foreign Sanitizer – The Whi-Takers and the Losers

Uganda Diaspora - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 03:59

By Dr. Daniel Kawuma — Following a grueling season of bad press and missteps by the Ugandan government, it was inevitable that they would recruit the Washington DC based Whitaker Group to sing hymns of praises and great fortune for the Pearl of Africa. Rosa Whitaker Africa’s networking business guru and at times PR machine has in the past offered the NRM regime a letter to US congress for a clean bill of health that cost tax payers $75,000 that we know of.

Whitaker’s assault on US diplomats in Uganda was an act of sanitizing the bloody mess left behind by the Uganda government through the lens of foreign actors. Her rationale stems from classical realism where morality and justice for all Ugandan people is irrelevant but survival of the State and preservation of foreign interests paramount. This reductionist approach grants priority to the political regime at the expense of the citizenry with the rationale that universal moral principles are in-existent.

Uganda in the eyes of the Whitaker Group is a cash cow milked for its reliable economic ties and talk of morality and rights of citizens is background noise to the primary objective of foreign stake holders. Whitaker argues that diplomats have no moral or legal grounds to hold the Uganda government in contempt of the ICC treaty for which the US is not a signatory. They should instead bow to the regime and be grateful for regional stability and the joint antiterrorism front in Somalia. Whitaker insinuates that foreign diplomats and Ugandans have no right to complain about their predicament as long as the cotton is picked and the plantation runs efficiently.

United States diplomats Bruce Wharton and Ambassador to Kampala, Deborah Malac are accused of activism and failure to abide by the foreign relations script that includes holding the nose while executing your mission to the country. Whitaker’s goal was not winning the hearts and minds of the Ugandan populace but rather serenading and massaging the egos of policy makers on Capitol Hill as a lobbyist. The mission was to remove any doubt for the benefit of her clients that Ugandans had a fair election, the people voted for peace and that the true President of Uganda is not the man behind bars in Luzira prison.

Whitaker was strategically pressuring diplomats in Uganda by reminding them of their responsibility to represent America’s business and strategic interests and not trivial issues such as the suffering of African people. Whitaker in fact singles out law makers in the United States including International Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce and Congress members Charlie Rangel, Karen Bass and Senators Chris Koons, Johnny Isakson and Jeff Flake for not walking off the reservation.

Whitaker is a textbook case of the revolving door between government and the private sector. As Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa under the Administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Whitaker took advantage of her position and acquired access to regimes across the continent for a seat at Africa’s tax-payer buffet while laying the foundation for lobbying in the private sector. It’s no mystery that Whitaker has been in bed with the Uganda government and the pillow talk got her business ventures on Karuma and Isimba dam projects, African Growth and Opportunity Act dealings, Standard Gauge Railway project, and sugar coating Uganda’s image in US congress among others.

Whitaker is a symbol of the marriage between African regimes and influential foreign actors where citizens are not invited to the feast. In spite of her accomplishments that include awards as one of the top 100 Global political thinkers in 2010, it’s irresponsible to legitimize regimes that are sowing the seeds of unrest around Africa after a period of relative stability. America has certainly made mistakes from interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria among others. However, the power vacuum created by post- bigmanism and neopatrimonialism in African states is our own making. Consolidation of power through annihilation of opposition parties, manipulation of constitutional term limit safeguards and failure to accommodate peaceful and predictable transfer of power will inevitably lead to chaos with or without the intervention of foreign actors. The failure for Whitaker to acknowledge the underlying abuse of power by the NRM government beyond the will of the voters in her critic of the actions of Bruce Wharton, and Ambassador Deborah Malac is intellectual dishonesty.

When Rosa Whitaker looks Museveni in the eyes who has ruled Uganda since 1986 and his inauguration invitation list that includes Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe ruler since 1980; Paul Biya Cameroon ruler since 1982; Omar Bashir Sudan ruler since 1989; Iddris Debby Chad ruler since 1990; Jose Eduardo do Santos Angola ruler since 1979 and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Equatorial Guinea ruler since 1979; does she see the hopelessness of the populace, the poverty, the suppression of free speech, the corruption, erosion of individual liberties, the spilled blood and mass graves across the continent or does she only see investment opportunities for her clients? We see the suffering of Ugandans not Whitakers!

Dr. Daniel Kawuma

Maryland, U.S.A

Opinion| Museveni Inauguration | Amateur theatrics; An insult to Africa By Rosa Whitaker

Uganda Diaspora - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 15:39

Last week, I watched with dismay as two American diplomats walked out on the inaugural address of a respected African leader who continues to make a major contribution to our shared objectives in the region and who has been a steadfast ally in the battle against global jihadism. Other African leaders attending the ceremony were visibly angered. To see two decades of goodwill built up under Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush so carelessly forfeited was deeply saddening. Having worked for years in both administrations and the Congress to build a strong American partnership with Africa this unprecedented walk-out was personal.

The behavior of our officials reeked of arrogance. It served no US interest and advanced no conceivable strategic goal. America pays for such gratuitous grandstanding with loss of influence in Africa and in multilateral institutions where we need African support.

The target of our diplomats’ abuse was Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. He was being sworn in following his reelection. Although his defeated rivals have challenged the result, his share of the vote as officially tallied — 61 per cent — was entirely in line with what independent polls indicated. This was not a stolen election.
The chairman of the African Union and 14 other African heads of state were present at the swearing-in. Representing the US were deputy assistant secretary of state, Bruce Wharton, and our recently installed ambassador to Kampala, Deborah Malac. Their theatrics, leaders told me, were an insult not just to President Museveni but to all of Africa. The Russian and Chinese delegations were gleeful.

Wharton and Malac gave two reasons for their walk-out: the presence of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and President Museveni’s reference to the International Criminal Court as “a bunch of useless people”. Why did the US follow the EU in this embarrassing walk-out? We followed the EU into Libya, the result — an expanded ISIL.

America’s attitude to the Court is hypocritical. We refused to sign the treaty that established it out of a legitimate concern it would be used against our own people. When I was in government, I had explicit instructions to lobby African countries not to sign. Since when did homage to this Court, whose jurisdiction we reject, become American policy?

In the case of Bashir, we should remember lessons learned in Iraq, Syria and Libya, ousting incumbent leaders, however unlovely, doesn’t inevitably mean change for the better. The unintended consequences have been dire.

Ugandans largely voted for peace and stability, which their government under Museveni has delivered. Predictably, the State Department was peeved by the home arrest of the opposition’s flagbearer. However, his verbal threats to overthrow an elected government through violence would also not be tolerated in the US or any country. A joke about arms at US airports warrants arrest as does a false claim of fire in a movie theater.

What makes the churlishness of our diplomats especially disgraceful is the contempt it shows for the support President Museveni is giving us — and the rest of the international community — to see that Somalia does not become another province of ISIL. Ugandan troops are fighting and dying to stop our enemies from achieving yet another haven from which to attack us.

As saddened as I am by the poor judgement exhibited by the two diplomats, I take comfort knowing that wisdom still prevails elsewhere in Washington, not least on Capitol Hill where the leadership on African issues is particularly strong at the moment on a bipartisan basis. There is not space to mention everyone, but on the House side, I would single out International Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce and Congressmembers Charlie Rangel and Karen Bass; in the other chamber, Senators Chris Koons, Johnny Isakson and Jeff Flake.

America needs internationalists like these who know how to disagree respectfully and secure change through engagement and persuasive argument, as opposed to amateur theatrics.

Rosa Whitaker served as Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa in the Administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and was also a career diplomat with the State Department.

Source — The Hill, Congress Blog

Deputy Speaker’s Race  | Nsereko warns Museveni on interfering with parliament

Uganda Diaspora - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 06:11

The Observer Report — Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko has advised President Museveni not to interfere in the management of issues in parliament.

Speaking to NBS television on Monday, Nsereko urged Museveni to respect the principle of separation of powers, and leave issues of parliament to MPs.

“Do as you say, don’t interfere into the management of issues in the Parliament of Uganda. Believe yourself first in the principle of separation of powers. You cannot dictate a deputy speaker to the Parliament of Uganda,” Nsereko said.

Nsereko says he is determined to replace Omoro MP Jacob Oulanyah as deputy speaker.  This has reportedly angered Museveni who had earlier persuaded both the NRM Central Executive Committee and party MPs to retain Oulanyah as deputy to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.

But MP Nsereko wondered why a president who detests foreigners interfering in Ugandan affairs would wants to dictate what should be done in parliament.

“You want independence but the same independence you cannot give to the legislative arm. You don’t want others to interfere in your rights; so, why do you interfere in the rights of others?” Nsereko said on NBS.

Last week, after swearing-in for his fifth term, Museveni railed against Western donor nations for what he sees as meddling in Uganda’s affairs. The president also attacked the International Criminal Court (ICC) which he described as “a bunch of useless people.”

In protest, Western diplomats walked out on the president.

“The most important thing is tolerance; whereas you can share your views and even say them in the most disrespectful way, other people can tolerate you, but for those who even respectfully disagree with you, you may not be able to tolerate,” the MP said of Museveni.

Reports indicate that Muhammad Nsereko was kicked out of a State House meeting on Museveni’s orders, after he refused to step aside for Omoro MP Jacob Oulanyah for the post of deputy speaker. Nsereko maintains that no one has influence over him and he will contest against Oulanyah.

“I’m perfectly independent from anyone. Whereas I’m dependant on their support, my views are independent of anyone’s opinions,” he said.

He denied reports that he was endorsed by Speaker Kadaga.

“She [Kadaga] has never called me to say that, but if she supports me, that is a plus; she’s a voter.”

Source — The Weekly Observer Report and NBS news video.

New Movie | Queen of Katwe in theaters September 23rd – Based on a True Story

Uganda Diaspora - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 05:35

Queen of Katwe is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.

Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) from a screenplay by William Wheeler (The Hoax) based on the book by Tim Crothers, Queen of Katwe is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher (The Darjeeling Limited) and John Carls (Where the Wild Things Are) with Will Weiske and Troy Buder serving as executive producers. The film stars Golden Globe® nominee David Oyelowo (Selma), Oscar® winner and Tony Award® nominee Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.

Lupita Nyong’o looks on as Phiona Mutesi the star of the new movie – The Queen of Katwe makes her point.

For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga) and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated.

Chess requires a good deal of concentration, strategic thinking and risk taking, all skills which are applicable in everyday life, and Katende hopes to empower youth with the game. Phiona is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential. Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed.

As Phiona begins to succeed in local chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments, but breaks away from her family to focus on her own life. Her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family. Disney’s Queen of Katwe will open in U.S. theaters on September 23, 2016.

Like Queen of Katwe on Facebook:

Follow Queen of Katwe on Twitter:

BBC World News | Uganda’s President Museveni Speaks Out after Election Results – Interview aired Feb 22nd 2016

Uganda Diaspora - Sun, 05/15/2016 - 06:03
BBC’s Zuhura Yunus speaks to Mr Museveni soon after winning the 2016 General Elections on matters regarding the House arrest of Dr. Kizza Besigye, European Union Observer’s reaction to the polls and much more.

This interview was published on Feb 22, 2016.

Source — BBC World News archives.

The Sunday Monitor | Besigye Charged In Moroto | When does one commit treason?

Uganda Diaspora - Sun, 05/15/2016 - 04:59

Former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye was charged last friday with treason and remanded to Moroto Government prison. Dr. Besigye was charged at about 6.30pm in Moroto Chief Magistrates Court. He was remanded until 25th May when he will re-appear in court for further mention of the case.

 But what is this charge all about?

What law says about treason
Section 23 of the Penal Code Act (PCA) states that a person commits treason when he/she levies war against Uganda; unlawfully causes or attempts to cause the death of the President or maim or disfigure him/her or aims at the person of the President any gun or offensive weapon whether it contains any explosive or destructive substance or not; (c) contrives any plot or act and expresses or declares such plot, act by any utterance or by any overt act in order, by force of arms, to overturn the government….The same Act provides that once convicted of treason, one is liable to suffer death by hanging.

Particulars of Besigye’s treason charge
The charge could have stemmed from a mysterious video clip on Wednesday which went viral on social media showing Dr Besigye being sworn in as the president of Uganda at an unknown location.  In 2005, ahead of 2006 elections, the former FDC leader and 22 others were also arrested for treason and tried in the court martial. Dr Besigye petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging his trial in the court martial saying he was not subject to military law having retired from the army. The Constitutional Court quashed his trial before the military court and later acquitted him.

What State needs to prove treason against Besigye
Human rights lawyer Laudislaus Rwakafuuzi says proving a charge of treason, the prosecution must present evidence that Dr Besigye was waging war against government or that he aimed a gun or any deadly weapon against the President or staged a coup. Mr Rwakafuuzi believes that Dr Besigye was just demonstrating against the government which demonstration is provided for in the constitution.
He also said the defiance campaign message that Dr Besigye was promoting does not amount to treason.

Past treason suspects under NRM government

2009: Mr Patrick Otim, a journalist with Mega FM in Gulu, was charged with treason. He was jointly charged with Alex Okot Langwen, Patrick Komakech, Patrick Okello, Jimmy Oceng Opoka alias Billy, and Alfred Lubel Olanya.  Others were; Lt. Phillip Okello, Michael Obol, Sgt.Deovelente Menya, Francis Akena, John Otim, and Frank Abonga Menya, Francis Akena and Frank Abonga. They were acquitted by court.

2007: Ismail Kajubi, Muzamiru Bogere, aka Philip, Fred Baguma, aka Mudathir, and Abdulsalam Sekayanja were accused of belonging to ADF rebel group. They were later released.

2013: Former Bubulo West MP, Tony Nsubuga Kipoi and Sgt Albino Okeng, Lance Cpl Rogers Mwelu, Clp Yusuf Kiisa, Sgt Yunus Lameringa, Pte Saidi Ijosingo Dodola, Lance Cpl Cassim Adam Mawa and Cpl James Samali were charged. Trial is still pending.

2011: FDC officials Ingrid Turinawe (then head of women’s league), Sam Mugumya, (political aide to Besigye and Francis Mwijukye, head of FDC youth wing. They were arrested for participating in the Walk to Work protests. Status of the trial not known.

See below Besigye’s mock swearing in video —

Source — The Sunday Monitor and NTV news video

NTV video | Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni Took His Sixth Oath As President In Ceremony Attended By 14 Heads of State

Uganda Diaspora - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 06:23

President Yoweri Museveni has embarked on a five-year journey at the end of which he would have been Uganda’s leader for 35 years. The President Museveni who took his sixth oath of office at the Kololo ceremonial grounds in Kampala, vowed that Uganda will remain peaceful since his government will ensure that no one destabilizes the country .

Museveni, 71, won February’s election though the result has been challenged by opposition leaders, one of whom has been held under house arrest for most of the weeks since.

“I, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni swear in the name of the Almighty God that I shall faithfully exercise the functions of the President of the Republic of Uganda,” Museveni said to cheers from the large bussed-in crowd gathered at a parade ground-cum-airstrip on a Kampala hillside.

He added he would, “uphold, preserve, protect and defend the constitution, and observe the laws of Uganda, and I shall promote the welfare of the people of Uganda, so help me God.”

Wearing his trademark khaki bush hat with chin strap and a dark business suit, Museveni spoke into a clutch of microphones with canary yellow muffs the colour of his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.

More than a dozen heads of state, including Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, attended the swearing-in ceremony, the fifth since Museveni took power in 1986 at the head of a rebel army.

NTV News video and Daily Nation News Report.

BBC News Report | Western envoys in Uganda walk out of Museveni swearing-in

Uganda Diaspora - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 05:34

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, center, arrives for the inauguration ceremony of President Museveni May 12th 2016

US, European and Canadian diplomats left abruptly when Mr Museveni made disparaging comments about the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The US state department said they had also objected to the presence of Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir at the ceremony.  Mr Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide.

Thursday’s inauguration – the fifth since Mr Museveni took power in 1986 – was attended by leaders from Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

In his address, Mr Museveni described the ICC as “a bunch of useless people” and said he no longer supported it.

State department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said: “In response to President Bashir’s presence and President Museveni’s remarks, the US delegation, along with representatives of the EU countries and Canada, departed the inauguration ceremonies to demonstrate our objections.”

“We believe that walking out in protest is an appropriate reaction to a head of state mocking efforts to ensure accountability for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Ms Trudeau said that was especially the case as Uganda was committed to accountability as a party to the Rome statute, which established the ICC.

The Hague-based court has issued international warrants in 2009 and 2010 for Mr Bashir’s arrest on charges of genocide for atrocities in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

Correspondents say that states in theory have a legal duty to arrest ICC suspects on their territory, but African leaders are increasingly doubtful of its authority.

Source — BBC News

Columbia Journalism Review | Is social media the newest front in Uganda’s war with the press?

Uganda Diaspora - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 06:38

KAMPALA, UGANDA—The night before Uganda’s February 18 presidential vote, David Tumusiime went to bed with a firm plan in place for the next day’s coverage. The website editor for Uganda Radio Network (URN), a syndicate of more than 20 correspondents spread across the East African country, Tumusiime had set up a WhatsApp group to collect video clips and audio reports from his team. Then he would use URN’s Facebook page and Twitter feed to share that information with the news organization’s thousands of followers.

But there was a hitch. When he woke up on Election Day, someone had turned off the country’s social media.

At first Tumusiime didn’t realize anything was wrong. “We have unreliable networks in Uganda,” he says. “So I thought it was an individual problem. I didn’t think it was an organized clampdown until I called a few colleagues and they told me they couldn’t communicate with our WhatsApp group.”

The government acknowledged in the days after the election it had ordered the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to shut down all access to social media sites for three days, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, over alleged security threats. Officials worried that the opposition planned to use social media to disrupt the balloting process and possibly spur violence when results were announced within 48 hours of the vote.

The move threw the media into disarray, at least initially. In a country where social networks are becoming increasingly intrinsic—not just to disseminating news, but also to gathering it—the blackout substantively reduced early coverage as Ugandans went to the polls.

At URN, Tumusiime said the morning quickly devolved into “trial and error” as members of the team tried to figure out how to stay in touch with each other. By the end of the day, most URN reporters, like much of the rest of Uganda’s media fraternity and tens of thousands of ordinary citizens across the country, had managed to download virtual private networks (VPNs) for their phones and computers, allowing them to set up secure internet connections and access social media sites.

Still, the disruption left people across the country confused and wary about what they might have missed in the hours they’d spent offline.

“We couldn’t see what was happening,” says Kelly Daniel Mukwano, the executive director of iFreedom Uganda Network, a digital rights watchdog. “We couldn’t interact with people from other areas. We couldn’t read news.”

More worryingly, journalists are interpreting the move as a signal that social media has become a new front in the longstanding battle between Uganda’s government and its newsrooms. The state under President Yoweri Museveni, now 30 years in office, has long been quick to shutter media houses and revoke radio licenses when reporting threatens the perceived stability of his regime. There are regular allegations of police officers and even ministers attacking reporters. And the government routinely co-opts its chief media critics with plum positions inside the administration. Disrupting social media, journalists say, is the government’s latest tactic to control the national narrative, and potentially one of its most effective.

Social media sites are having an outsized impact on the country’s news agenda, according to Robert Sempala, the national coordinator for the Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda (HRNJ Uganda). WhatsApp and Facebook messaging are much cheaper than standard text messages or pay-per-use internet packages for computers, especially for roving reporters trying to stay in touch with editors and transmit photos and short audio and video files. The sites have also become hotlines for sharing news tips and leaking documents, Sempala says. Twitter and Facebook are critical for news organizations looking to quickly share breaking news.

“Social media, of late, has been playing a very pivotal role in shaping the news agenda in Uganda,” he says. “Shutting it down has a very big drawback to the flow of information.”

ELECTION DAY IN UGANDA was already set to be tense. The incumbent, Museveni, attempting to add another five-year term to his rule, was running against his former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and a longtime opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, among others.

Besigye had actually been arrested and then released the day before the poll, and rumors were swirling on private WhatsApp groups of possible Election Day violence. A day before the vote, Kale Kayihura, the inspector general of police, showed up at an Electoral Commission press conference to warn journalists about repeating these rumors.

“Social media has become so pervasive,” he said at the press conference. “A lot of negativity, lies, are being beamed down. It creates unnecessary tension. Controlling social media is not easy.” His comments assumed greater significance after the UCC executive director issued a sworn affidavit saying that it was Kayihura who directed him to turn off the country’s social media.

Shutting down social media is nothing new. Governments from China to Turkey have attempted to black out such sites, with varying degrees of success. But given Uganda’s still-limited internet access and other Election Day concerns, the government’s worries about social media were unexpected. The UCC estimates about 13 million people used the internet during the last fiscal year, primarily in Kampala and other major towns—a 37 percent penetration rate.

Those users’ online behavior, though, may justify the government’s worries. Research on internet usage in East Africa is limited, but a 2015 study among 60 Ugandan policymakers and media professionals found 78 percent use WhatsApp daily. Sixty-nine percent used Facebook every day, and 49 percent Twitter.

In recognition of social media’s growing significance, telecommunications companies like India-based Airtel are now offering users in Uganda unlimited access to WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook for the equivalent of 15 cents per day.

“The majority of our population are youth and they’re using social media,” says iFreedom’s Mukwano. “I think social media is the No. 1 arm people are using to access information.” So it was no surprise to him, at least, when the networks went down in the hours before voting started. But he still worries about the implications: “This could mean worse for the future of the free media in this country.”

THOUGH UGANDA’S JOURNALISTS enjoy relative freedom compared to colleagues in neighboring countries like Rwanda and Ethiopia, Museveni’s government has been quick to crack down on the media during times of political tension. In late 2009, for instance, following two days of riots in a Kampala neighborhood, the government suspended the licenses of three radio stations and withdrew that of a fourth.

The government’s efforts to restrict the press up to and even after the February vote, Sempala says, were unprecedented. His organization has recorded more than 100 media violations since October of last year, including the near-daily arrests of journalists attempting to cover Besigye, who was under house arrest for more than a month after Museveni was officially declared the winner of the ballot. (He was finally released in early April, only to be re-arrested several times since.) The incidents in the five months running up to the vote, Sempala says, outnumbered those that occurred during the first nine months of 2015 combined. And while not as blunt as arresting a reporter or seizing equipment, he says the social media blackout was in keeping with this recent string of events.

In media circles, there is still some debate over how effective it was. Frank Kisakye is the Web editor for The Observer, one of the country’s leading independent papers. He describes himself as a “one-man team online,” posting breaking news to the paper’s Twitter account, more conversational posts on its Facebook page, and stories to the website.

In the hours after the social media blackout began, he noticed something unusual: a spike in traffic to The Observer’s Twitter account. Not only were people figuring out how to circumvent the blackout, they were eager to talk about it.

“Hide information from people and they will start looking for it more,” he says. In the three days that social media platforms remained down, “there was a lot of interactivity” from people looking for updates on any problems at the polls or in the vote counting.

The blackout also offered both journalists and their audiences an unexpected lesson in cybersecurity, which Kisakye says would make it difficult for the government to attempt a similar shutdown in the future. “Now people know, ‘Okay, if I need to mask my identity, my location, this is how I do it,’” he says. “I think they blundered.”

Abby Mukiibi, the programs manager for CBS FM radio in Kampala, is not so sure.

“It did cripple a lot of what we were supposed to do,” he says. “Not every correspondent, not every journalist you could talk to had access to VPN.” It also heightened fears of rigging and possible riots—fears the media was unable to confirm or tamp down.

The shutdown didn’t just make it difficult for journalists to transmit information, it also left some reporters vulnerable. Scribes who could not access VPNs and innocuously send information over Facebook or WhatsApp were wary of using their cellphones to call in any problems they saw at polling stations out of fear that Museveni supporters might attack them, Sempala says. As a result, he suspects many voting-day irregularities went unreported.

Meanwhile, the 40 observers HRNJ Uganda had deployed throughout the country to monitor reporter safety and access were unable to do their jobs. Their monitoring activities—ensuring reporters were allowed into polling stations and that they weren’t harassed by electoral officials—were supposed to be reported over WhatsApp.

Whatever their perception of the impact on the election, which Museveni officially won with 60 percent of the vote, the media fraternity is convinced the shutdown was only the government’s opening effort to control social media.

In mid-March the regime tried to amend the 2013 Communications Act. The suggested changes would remove parliamentary oversight of the administration’s attempts to regulate social media and the people who use it. The government is defending the move on the same security grounds as the Election Day blackout. iFreedom’s Mukwano sees something more insidious.

“They are trying to build a fence around the entire internet and social media.”

Source — The Columbia Journalism Review – The article was first published on April 22nd 2016

CCEDU Statement | Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda Makes urgent Call for national dialogue

Uganda Diaspora - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 06:11

Whereas Uganda is currently undergoing a serious political crisis triggered by the continued consternation of the February 18th 2016 presidential election results by a section of the political actors who participated in that election;

Noting that the results of the last presidential election as announced by the Electoral Commission and the decision of the Supreme Court have not brought an end to these contestations nor conferred legitimacy on the outcome of the election in the mind of a significant section of the Ugandan society;

Cognisant of the fact that historically, Ugandans have consistently faced the same political and electoral challenges after each election;

Regretting that over the years, similar political and electoral crisis has been glossed over only for the same crises to re-occur on higher scales;

Concerned that events taking place in the country in recent times including the reported arrest of key opposition figures, incidents of police brutality on ordinary citizens, the ban on the media live coverage of opposition activities and the restrictions imposed on social media, are a precursor to further deterioration of the political and security situation of the country;

Considering that the current crisis, though, electoral in nature, is deeply rooted in broader political and governance challenges;

Aware that this political and electoral crisis if not comprehensively addressed, could further lead to a severe fracture in the social fabric of the Ugandan state, and thus exacerbate the polarization and possible paralysis of the political and socio-economic system in Uganda;

Recognising that the current crisis presents Uganda with an opportunity not only to address the historical and political causes of this crisis, but also with a historical chance to discuss and; through a national dialogue and consensus pave a new political and electoral path for Uganda;

Acknowledging that a number of stakeholders have recognized the need for, and are calling for a people-to-people national conversation as a platform to tackle the escalating tension in the country;

We therefore call on:

 All the political actors to ensure that every effort to address these challenges should be only through peaceful means;

 All the stakeholders in the electoral process and the citizenry to urgently activate the national peace architecture including the Elders Forum (TEFU), Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), the Women Situation Room (WSR) and the National Consultative Forum (NCF) to lead a process of national dialogue to address the root causes of the current political and electoral crisis;

 The international community and regional structures to provide support for this national dialogue process.

Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)
Democracy House
Plot 1111 Lulume Road Nsambya
P.O. Box 11027 Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256 794 444 410
Fax: +256-414-510498
E-mail:; or
Web site:

The East African | Besigye sworn-in as President in a mock ceremony in Kampala

Uganda Diaspora - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 05:13

In a day of dramatic events in Kampala, on the eve of President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration, opposition leader Kizza Besigye was ‘sworn in’ as the president of Uganda.

Dr Besigye running on the Forum for Democratic Change party ticket received 35.61 per cent to Museveni’s 60.62 per cent of the vote, which he rejected, claiming to have won with about 52 per cent during the February 18 General Election.

As presidents and other dignitaries landed at the Entebbe International Airport to pomp and ceremony and were escorted to Kampala sirens blaring, Besigye, who has been under surveillance by police over threat to public order, made a surprise appearance in the capital attracting crowds.

The security forces fired teargas to disperse the throngs and in the ensuing chaos, Besigye was arrested.

In a video posted on YouTube later, Dr Besigye is seen on a podium accompanied by FDC officials taking oath of office with a banner proclaiming him as the elected president of the people’s government of Uganda in the background.

Looking dapper in a fitting black suit and a blue tie, Besigye, 60, then gave a brief speech saying the extraordinary ‘swearing-in’ “was occasioned by Mr Museveni and his regime trying to use force, once again, to overthrow the will of the people of Uganda.”

He said calls for an independent audit of the election to establish conclusively who won the election had been regrettably neglected or ignored by Museveni who he claimed had not won the election and therefore his inauguration Thursday was unlawful.

President Museveni is being sworn in for a sixth time since he took power in 1986. Among heads of state to witness the inauguration at the Kololo grounds are Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Edgar Lungu of Zambia, John Magufuli of Tanzania and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.

Source — The East African — Video courtesy of Moses Atocon and image by Newsweek.


Subscribe to UGANDA NEWS aggregator - Diaspora