Tag Archive | "Uganda"

The Art Of Trash


From South African Corespondent Hassan Isilow…

Many people consider old newspapers and magazines as trash, but this is gold for a young migrant artist. Benon Lutaaya, 26, from Uganda is making a name for himself in the South African art circles by using recycled papers to paint. “I specialize mostly in collage, where I recycle papers to paint,” the young award winning artist related.
Most of his paintings convey an emotional story, illustrating the fragility of life from his own personal experiences. “My subjects are mostly young people living on the fringes of the mainstream society,” he explained. This is clearly visible in Lutaaya’s paintings, which reflects faces of young children both trapped in war, abused, uncertain of the future, or those orphaned by Aids and currently live in child-headed households.

The migrant artist paints with a depth and intensity that few artists employ, tackling issues that most people would choose to avoid. The abstract imagery in his works represents the act of survival while the text, often obscure, stresses questions of identity. From this mixture comes a release of energy, imbued with life and raw simplicity.
“I enjoy coming up with something new and unique. I love to surprise myself. When people see my work, I would like them to enjoy each piece for its colour harmony, pleasing visual appeal and the ability to connect and communicate,” he said with a huge smile on his face. Lutaaya holds a Bachelors degree in Fine Art and Education, from Uganda’s Makerere University.
His currently a full time artist based at the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios in Newtown, Johannesburg. Last September he won the Ithuba Arts Fund grant, he was selected for a residency in Vermont, USA, and he is also a feature artist of the MultiChoice Africa Calender for 2012. He was part of the Thupelo International artist’s workshop 2012 in Johannesburg.
Lutaaya is involved in a variety of young artists’ initiative in the City of Johannesburg. He has also worked with vulnerable children both in Uganda and Alexandra Township in South Africa. Although he is primarily a paper collage artist, he recently started experimenting with acrylic painting. The artist said his major exhibition at Ithuba Arts fund grantee in November 2011 was a total sell-out on the opening night. “My paintings are present in a variety of private collections both in South Africa, Europe and North America,” he related.


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The Umushyikirano Factor


From Uganda Corespondent Arinaitwe Rugyendo…

I spent the last three days of the passing week in Rwanda at the invitation of the Office of the President of Rwanda, H.E Paul Kagame.

The purpose of the invitation was that the president wanted me to see for myself how Rwandans run their affairs and report objectively.

The Red Pepper has had very serious technical and moral issues with Rwanda for the last ten years. It is the only newspaper in the region that faces a ten year old ban on the streets of Kigali and other towns. The ban still stands to this date. Only about five copies are allowed in Rwanda and sent directly to the President’s office and other functionary bodies for ‘monitoring.’  Our paper was banned on account of what the Rwandan establishment felt is around 2001 was our negative editorial policy towards them. The thinking has since then been that we never take time to take stock of what Rwanda has achieved alongside our ‘negativity.’ In fact, everywhere I visited, I met people who were both uncomfortable but elated by my presence. But this is for another day.

Back to Umushyikirano. During a press conference that President Kagame addressed at the Commonwealth Resort- Munyonyo on Monday last week, he asked me to attend what has since become Rwanda’s most popular and annual participatory conversation about its targets and progress. This conversation is called ‘Umushyikirano’ a kind of national dialogue involving representatives from every nook and corner of Rwanda. It takes place every year at the country’s parliamentary buildings. The one I was invited to was dubbed ‘The 9th National Dialogue’ which drew together leaders from the presidency to the lower levels-the equivalent of Uganda’s LC3. The other participants were drawn from the diplomatic corps, the private sector, civil society, the media and Rwandans in the Diaspora. The two-day dialogue was a cocktail of frank discussion about Rwanda’s progress but most importantly, leaders at all levels were put to task to explain what they have done throughout the year and account to the population on the extent they delivered on their target. If for instance a Roads and Works Minister promised at the previous dialogue that he would build road x, this is the time he must come before the population and explain his progress. The two day event that is held every end of year is streamed live on the internet, on social media platforms such as twitter and facebook, SMS and a toll free line. It is also featured live on National TV.

So, what do I find this dialogue uniquely special? I discovered that this dialogue is a very unique ‘parliament’ in which Rwandan leaders debate their targets and performances with their subjects. It is that time of the year when the concept of parliamentary democracy is shifted beyond mere representation to direct accountability to the population. Thus, peasants and the elite debate freely in an open atmosphere anchored by their president.

The dialogue struck me further from a Pan Africanist point of view. It seems to be modeled on the African traditions of open democratic participation in which the community and its elders met to discuss how to progress their village and also hold their leaders to account. In Buganda, this is what was referred to as ‘Ekimeeza.’ In Nkore, it was known as ‘Eishaazi.’ In Swahili, I think it was known as ‘Baraza.’ This is the truest African Parliament. The western mode of parliamentary democracy is not representative at all. Once a Member of Parliament is elected, the people bequeath their interests and rights to him or her and that’s where it stops. It is very difficult to hold them to account till the next election. But the philosophy behind ‘Umushyikirano,’ ‘Ekimeeza,’ ‘Eishaazi,’ and ‘Baraza’ is a truly popular and participatory democracy.

That is why at this time of the year, Rwandan ministers, mayors and local leaders go into panic mode, trying every bit of their energy to prove they have delivered and they have something to show to the public when the dialogue kicks off. If you have nothing to show, the population exposes you there and then, leaving you at the mercy of the appointing authority.

This is what used to happen in Traditional Africa and probably, African countries need to blend this tradition with modernity to forge the best form of democracy that fits our situation as a unique continent that has unique problems which require unique solutions. Rwanda seems to have mustered this already. Their leaders have embraced technology and deliver their reports by IT means to the population who in turn question them in an open and frank manner. Representatives to parliament once elected, become national representatives. Thus, when Minister X is negotiating a budget allocation, they don’t think about their constituencies first. It is embedded within their political and service delivery psyche that ‘nation’ comes first before ‘constituency.’ As such, it was established at this dialogue that 98% of the resolutions made at the previous dialogue had been achieved. This is because in traditional Africa, work was communal. Service delivery was communal. It was never for family, tribe or religion. Because the community in Rwanda participates in service delivery and holding leaders to account, they had to register this figure on last year’s targets.

During the cocktail in the evening, I asked President Kagame about this. He said: “I think the Western brand of democracy is not only bad for Africa. It is bad for the West. It gives a sense of representation where it doesn’t exist. In it, you find that the elite have captured all platforms of democracy which they use to control the minds if the people. The African brand of democracy is an improvement of the western one. It brings the two (leaders and subjects) in one open forum such as ours,” he says.

And I agree. Because unlike the West, the African conversation is inherently an open forum. Democracy is about openness. It is for this reason that African states such as Rwanda are busy modeling their political platforms based on African values. Africa needs to start from where it belongs- remodeling its beautiful systems of democratic participation.

In Rwanda, they have stuff like ‘Gacaca’ a traditional restorative justice that has achieved what the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha has failed to do in 17 years- RECONCILIATION. The people of Acholi in Uganda have popularized ‘Mato Put’ which looks like ‘Gacaca.’ In Rwanda, a communal entrepreneurial scheme known as ‘Obudehe,’ is about how people in the village come together to craft communal ways of generating income. They also have modernized a communal cleaning system known as ‘Omuganda,’ which has placed Kigali in the top clean cities in the world. We will return to this in the coming weeks!!


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Britain’s Double Standard


From Ugandan Corespondent Arinaitwe Rugyendo…

Why is the African Union silent on the pro-democracy demonstrators in London who are being referred to as hoodlums? The AU should call on the United Kingdom to respect the rights of the British people to exercise their right to demonstrate and freely express themselves. Those arrested should be subject to a just and due process of the law. The Met Police should stop using teargas and rubber bullets and or violently stopping the peaceful demonstrators. The UK is quick to preach democracy to African nations. It is now their turn to preach to the west some tenets of democracy and respect for human rights.

And On this one, I want to quote  the news agencies-verbatim on the reactions from across the globe.

The riots in London have sparked shock around the world, with some countries issuing travel advisories for Britain and China blaming the UK’s “human rights violations”. Here is a round up of international reaction:

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe: “Britain I understand is on fire, London especially and we hope they can extinguish their fire, pay attention to their internal problems and to that fire which is now blazing all over, and leave us alone


Riot-swept Britain is tasting the “bitter fruit” of its failure to introduce Chinese-style controls on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, Chinese state media crowed on Tuesday, while raising questions over whether London could be trusted to stage a safe 2012 Olympic Games.

“The West have been talking about supporting internet freedom, and oppose other countries’ government to control this kind of websites, now we can say they are tasting the bitter fruit [of their complacency] and they can’t complain about it,” wrote one commentator in official Communist Party mouthpiece, People’s Daily.


The conservative Resalat newspaper, in a commentary headlined “unrest spreads from Tottenham to Brixton”, called the protests the “worst possible news for David Cameron’s coalition government” and blamed “human rights abuses”.

“The violence and continued chaos in the UK are the result of factors like human rights violations in the country, prejudice against immigrants and coloured people, incidents like the Murdoch scandals and the country’s critical economic conditions,” the newspaper concluded.

The hardline Iranian newspaper claimed that the violence was carried out by students who were forced to drop out of university because of the rise in university tuition fees.


Germany issued a travel advisory for Britain, posting on the foreign ministry’s website: “Travelers are advised to be especially careful and to pull out at the first signs of riots, and follow instructions of security forces.”


Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe: “Britain I understand is on fire, London especially and we hope they can extinguish their fire, pay attention to their internal problems and to that fire which is now blazing all over, and leave us alone.

“We do not have any fire here and we do not want them to continue to create unnecessary problems in our country. We want peace, and the people of Zimbabwe want peace.”

United States

The (obviously measured)US reacted with shock to Monday’s late-night scenes in London, which due to the time difference took place just in time for prime time television and early evening news bulletins. On Tuesday, the country’s biggest newspapers carried prominent coverage of the riots for a third consecutive day.

In a front-page story headlined “London unrest escalates, spreads”, the Washington Post wrote: “In the worst bout of urban violence to hit Britain in more than two decades, parts of London morphed into lawless no man’s lands. Most of a block in the Croydon neighbourhood erupted Monday night into an inferno that incinerated the 140-year-old Reeves furniture store, a south London landmark. After midnight Tuesday, an even larger fire tore through a Sony distribution centre on the other side of the city, in Enfield.

On its own front page, under the headline “Rioting widens in London on 3rd night of unrest”, The New York Times told its readers: “For Mr Cameron’s government – indeed for Britain – the rapidly worsening situation presented a profound challenge on several fronts. For a society already under severe economic strain, the rioting raised new questions about the political sustainability of the Cameron government’s spending cuts, particularly the deep cutbacks in social programs. These have hit the country’s poor especially hard, including large numbers of the minority youths who have been at the forefront of the unrest.”


Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister: “I, like many other Australians, have been very, very disturbed to see the images coming out of London,” she said.

“There’s no excuse for the kind of violence we’re seeing on our TV screens.”


The troubles in London make the frontages of many of Spain’s national newspapers again on Tuesday. El Pais shows a photo taken in Hackney of riot police facing rioters as cars burn with the headline “The battle for London”. It states that “no part of London is safe from the violence” sparked by killing of Mark Duggen by police and recalls other cases such as Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson. In an editorial the newspaper said the coalition government had been “slow to react to the social and racial violence” spreading across London and that David Cameron’s credibility has faced a setback because of it.


In Portugal the London riots are also front page news. Jornal de Noticias carries a scene of riot police and burning vehicles in Hackney with the headline: “Violence spreads in London”.


A report on Afghan state TV said: “Massive demonstrations in London, the capital of Britain, and spread to three other cities. The biggest demonstrations were last night and the police have arrested more than 200 people. Thirty five police have been injured. It began when a young man was killed by the police. People have started burning cars and buildings and stealing from supermarkets. David Cameron has returned to London halfway through his summer holiday to solve this problem.”


The riots in London yesterday knocked violence in Karachi, where seven people were killed overnight, from the top slot on television bulletins in Pakistan, where suicide bombings, gang violence and political turfwars are a mainstay of the 24-hour news channels.

An editorial in the Express Tribune newspaper wondered how a killing could erupt into riots, when previous examples of police brutality have not. “The answer may be found in the austerity measures taken by the Cameron government,” it said.



In Russia, which has close business, financial and educational ties to London, the riots are rapidly moving up the news agenda. Most Russian commentators chose to see the trouble through the prism of what they said was Britain’s failed immigration policy. The state-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper published a picture on its front page of a policeman walking past two burned out cars with the headline “Gangs have surrounded London”. It said that the worst affected areas were home to immigrants from the poorest countries in Africa and the Caribbean. The trouble was a repeat of rioting in Paris in 2006 and 2007, it added.

Tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda ran a comment piece from Sergei Markov, a prominent Russian MP from Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia Party. Mr Markov suggested that the riots were emblematic of Britain’s failed immigration policy. He wrote: “As well as maximum police strength, Britain needs consolidated political will. The authorities need to say clearly: if you want to live in England – get a job and become English. Otherwise go away.

South Africa

The South African owner of a looted London restaurant yesterday described Britain’s capital as a war zone.

In an interview with the country’s City Press newspaper Odile Ham told how hooded thugs raided her Wimpy franchise during riots in Clapham on Monday night.

“It’s like a war,” she told the newspaper, adding: “When we drove to the restaurant to see what is going on we were faced people on the rampage in the street.”

Headlines in other newspapers and websites were also heavily dominated by Britain’s crisis. A report on Johannesburg’s 702 radio station described the Metropolitan police as ‘powerless’ to halt the civil disobedience. “Shock and disbelief are the order of the day in the capital, with rising anger about what has happened in the city since Saturday,” the station reported.


Zambia’s Post newspaper featured a report about the latest disorder illustrated by an image of a blazing London shop and headlined ‘PM to hold crisis talks on riots, clean up starts’.


Even newspapers on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius reported extensively on the riots. The country’s French-language Le Mauritian newspaper ran a striking image of a Metropolitan riot squad officer standing helpless by a burning car.

Reporting on how the unrest had spread outside the capital, its headline read: ‘Great Britain: After London, violence spreads to Liverpool and Birmingham’.

Abu Dhabi

The National in Abu Dhabi reports that British politicians have condemned the riots in London, but notes that they are not as violent as recent protests in Athens.


Dubai’s Gulf News carries a brief comment piece which condemns the violence in London but concludes that it is the fault of the British authorities for marginalizing immigrant communities and calls for improved economic development and social integration policies in poorer areas.


Most Israeli newspapers do not cover the protests -of course they wouldn’t-(emphasis mine), but the Hebrew-language Maariv carries a story on its front page headlined “London in Flames” and notes that 450 people have been arrested.


Libyan state-run Al-Jamahiriyah TV showed a programme called “Homeland’s Desire”. The presenter, Yusuf Shakir, midway into the programme, began to address the British people in English, urging them to “defeat this British regime” which “killed their brothers”.

He said the Libyan people and their leader supported “black power in America and Britain” and always defended blacks who “suffered racial discrimination” in the UK.

He said blacks and the poor took to the streets in London to demonstrate against the British “fascist” government. He added that Libyans would hold demonstrations holding up pictures of Mark Duggan, the man shot by police in Tottenham. Source: BBC Monitoring

Social networking in Middle East

The London riots were followed in great detail by many Arab users of Twitter, the social network that played a very important role in the Arab Spring.

Many note the difference between the dignified and largely peaceful protesters who protected banks and shops from looters during the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere, contrasting them with the behaviour of those on the rampage in London.

“Protesters in these countries actually protected property of others & prevented looting despite huge numbers,” wrote one Twitter user going by the name of LibyaNewMedia.

Hisham Almiraat, a Moroccan doctor, had a different take, writing: “London rioters despicable, if only because they are stealing media attention away from where it really matters

My Postscript:

The silent African Union should denounce the violence in Britain and call on authorities to respect the rights of PEACEFUL demonstrators!


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Two Kinds Of Tears


From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

My friend Dr. Lemwel Makando was busy doing the rounds in his hospital, the St Thomas in down town Arusha when suddenly he heard unusual sounds of shots and explosions in the street below. He peaked through the window and God forbid, what he saw was a typical war zone scene.

There was total chaos as well armed policemen were shooting and tear gassing multitudes of Arushans on that street who in return were shouting and throwing all types of missiles. And then there were live bullets ricocheting around the streets as tear drenching smoke billowed from the alleys. This was no doubt becoming the saddest day for Arusha.

In no time his hospital was in utter chaos. Some patients jumped from their beds with their drips hanging from their bodies and rushed down and out running in all directions. One man whose wife was about to give birth under Dr Makando’s watch shouted ‘I want my wife! I want my wife!’ Dr Makando was perplexed asking him it was not possible for she was sedated and just about
to give birth. The man insisted on carrying his wife as where she was.

Luckily he did not have enough strength to lift the very pregnant spouse.

It was then that Dr. Makando noticed the neighbouring six storey glass-walled shopping mall structure on fire. It seems some of the lobbed teargas bombs had broken through the windows and torched some of the furniture on sale in there.

This mortified Dr. Makando for if the fire would rage in that structure it was likely that his hospital full of admitted patients would catch fire. And that would be a disaster to behold. His efforts to call the fire station and police were futile.

Without thinking much he found himself rushing out and walking with his hands up towards the police squad who were shooting his direction and onwards to the armoured car, named by its victims as ‘ngunguri’ where he told them of the impending disaster. They should call the fire brigade immediately, he urged them.

The response was immediate. Makando was told to move off the huge boulders laid on the road for the ‘ngunguri’ to drive out. They were too heavy and could only be lifted off with the held of the soldiers.

It was then that he rushed back to his hospital and tried, very much in vain to calm his very hysterical patients. A few minutes later a patient with fresh bullet wounds was brought in for his attention. He did the necessary to control the situation but could not rush the patient to the
regional hospital for further treatment. There were no ambulances and after all, all roads were closed as street fighting was raging.

It was only later that the patient was rushed to the regional hospital using a fire tender which had come to subdue the fire. Dr Makando, now sweating and his eyes welling with the nasty tear gas then entered his surgical theatre and performed a caesarean to that very pregnant lady. A few minutes later there cries of a newly born baby boy were heard.

The new father, who all this time, was pacing up and down the corridor, was invited into the theatre and on seeing his newly born baby, he literally collapsed on the settee with tears profusely rolling down his cheeks. These were teargas tears and tears of joy.


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The Risk of An African Armageddon


From Uganda Corespondent Arinaitwe Rugyendo…

Late last week, I held a brief phone chat with Col. Felix Kulayige, the Spokesman of the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) over reports that our forces have deployed along the Congo and Sudan borders with Uganda.

This followed the confusion occasioned by the denials from the government of Uganda that nothing of the sort was happening at the border.  But Col. Kulayige said that what is happening is not ‘deployment’ but ‘monitoring’ of the border by our forces just in case something from across affected our own security.

Constitutionally of course, the UPDF is certainly doing its noble duty of protecting our borders. But what is that ‘something’ from across the border that the army is wary of? On Sunday, January 9, 2011, the African continent will witness a historic moment. A new nation, called South Sudan, is likely to be born as Sudanese head for the polls in a plebiscite to decide whether their country should remain united or break up into two nations as per the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005.  But what is making everyone uncomfortable, including regional countries, is not the near fact that the country will split. It is rather the consequences of this split. Will the north accept the south to secede? If the South secedes, what will be the implications for regional countries such as Uganda?

Regional intelligence reports say, there are 70% chances of a likelihood of war or similar stalemate breaking out in Sudan between the North and South after the referendum which might affect the regional countries as well. This is the very reason why the Ugandan army has sought it wise to ‘monitor’ its border. But what are the facts to back this up?

In November last year, William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary told the United Nations Security Council members that it was necessary for the UN to concern itself with the referendum in Sudan  because it will seal the fate of southern Sudan with huge implications for the rest of Africa, and there are dangerous signs that the peace process is unraveling. Around the same period, several incidents involving planes from the North of the country attacking SPLA positions in the South were extensively reported. The incidents took place in the disputed border region of Abyei, where most of the country’s oil revenues are generated from. The North fears for a huge revenue loss if the region falls to the South. Thus, the chances that the two bombings have since shown that lines were being drawn in the sand by two great armies of the North and the South are high.

In the potentially explosive North-South Sudan referendum, the issue of the common border at Abyei, pitting the National Congress Party of President Bashir against First Vice President Salva Kir’s Sudanese Liberation Movement, is one to be watched closely. It is not lost to the South Sudan that the North has been gerrymandering the borders since 78% of the Sudan’s Oil is in Southern Sudan, yet all oil must be exported through the Northern Pipelines up to Port Sudan. Even though there has been a silent arms race between the two regions, this means that since the referendum is going ahead without resolving the issue of Abyei, then as both armies draw the line on this oil-rich region, regional countries will be sucked in as well.

This brings me to one concluding question! Should Uganda be concerned then? Yes. The North (Khartoum) used Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels to fight SPLA in return for arms to Kony to fight Uganda. Kony’s forces have been sighted in Darfur fighting along the Janjaweed against the Fur people. So, if the North decides to get beefy with the South, the return of Kony to Northern Uganda is not impossible. If Sudan goes to war, surely Kony as a must will return.

According to John Andruga, the spokesman of the Southern Sudan government, the Sunday referendum is a matter of life and death. The African Union and United Nations are supposed to be the guarantors of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement but Southern Sudan feels that the AU peace and security team do not have the teeth to compel the implementation of this CPA and in fact, on the agitation of Northern Sudan, there was talk in AU circles to push forward the referendum, but South Sudan was ready to fight for it with a ferocity of a wounded lion.

The South knows that if the vote went for the unity of Sudan, the Southern Sudanese will remain second class citizens, yet according to the Northern Sudanese pundits, the breakaway of Sothern Sudan to form its independent state will cause a perestroika-like copycat secessionist movements and separatism in all parts of Sudan. Yet again, if the referendum were to be pushed ahead, that would mean the CPA has collapsed and with the collapse of CPA, nothing binds the North and South and the only outcome will be War.

A war between the North and South means that Arab countries like Egypt will support Arab Sudan to safeguard the waters of River Nile, since most of the Nile River tributaries are in the South. Northern Sudan will revive their war hit-men like Kony and Uganda will be behind Southern Sudan to fight off Kony. The situation might be saved only if the leaders of the AU member states put aside their ‘Vuvuzela’ rhetoric and concentrate on the Sudan issue, or else risk an African Armageddon.


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They Eat Da Poo-Poo


When we here at RELATIVITY Online first watched what has come to be known as the “eat da poo poo” video on Youtube, we broke down in tears from laughter. Even before anything is said, the anti-gay posters can be seen as the video clip begins. And then comes Pastor Ssempa. “My name is pastor Martin Ssempa and I am the chairman of the National task force against homosexuality in Uganda. I am here to see that homosexuality does not see life of legality in this part of Africa,” he says to get things rolling. What follows is so off the wall ridiculous, it’s hard to believe.

Pastor Sseempa, you see, is a supporter of the 2009 Uganda  anti-homosexuality bill. Submitted to parliament by MP David Bahati, the bill seeks the death penalty for those who engage in homosexual sex or for those who were HIV positive while in a relationship. At one point he calls out Obama, seemingly upset at the American president for condemning the bill.

Tragic, sad and humorous – watch and see for yourself. As a side note, be sure to check out the “Eat Da Poo-Poo” remix now on Youtube as well.  You may just about die from laughing so hard.


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The Peaceful Warriors


Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his wife Janet among supporters as he kickstarts his campaign for re-election back in October.

From Uganda Corespondent Arinaitwe Rugyendo…

Perhaps the biggest surprise so far about the 2011 presidential elections campaigns, is the ‘peacefulness’ in which the candidates and their supporters are conducting themselves.

We have not heard of beatings and related violent scenes to the levels that we have witnessed in the past three elections since Uganda returned to electoral democracy in 1996. The last three presidential elections have probably been the most violent ever in Uganda’s electoral history. In fact, a committee of parliament had to be constituted after the 2001 presidential elections to investigate and document all the electoral violence incidents that marred that election. No action has ever been taken on that report.

In 1996, the oppostion’s main candidate, Dr. Paul Ssemogerere, was stonned in Western Uganda even when it was clear that the main candidate in that election, Yoweri Museveni, was clearly in the lead. He won with a landslide.

In 2000, an army officer, Brig. Henry Tumukunde, took time to warn the Reform Agenda presidential candidate, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, that the guns ‘they’ had were more superior than his (Besigye’s) antics. This was ofcourse followed by very many cases of violence that at one point, an overzealous army officer drove through a crowd of Besigye’s supporters in Mukono, killing and miming some.

In 2006, some suspected overzealous agents of the state eighter were documented shooting at opposition crowds or outrightly and violently disrupting candidates and their supporters. So, what has changed this time? Why is the current campaign comparatively peaceful?

The last 25 years have produced one unique poltical situation in Uganda and this is the umblical sisterhood between President Yoweri Museveni and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Party. If Museveni were to leave the stage at this point, and seeing how the chaotic situation that has come about as a result of a horde of NRM independents, the NRM would probably go with him. But to keep it together, the ruling party, having achieved significant progress in such areas as security and the economy, must leave one legacy in place- a completely peaceful country from which it will need the incentive to survive another two decades in power without question.

In fact some sources tell your columnist that this election is being viewed in some quarters as Museveni’s best opportunity to set a stage for his legacy. He needs to win peacefully and clearly. He appears to be terribly working to leave a legacy as the only Ugandan president who united the nation and left it intact in much the same way as his mentor former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere did for his nation. For a man who spent most of his youth fighting to transform a nation, leaving it in shambles is one serious dent he will not wish to leave behind for the history books.

In ensuring that violence is not orchestrated by the ruling party like how it was suspected of in the previous elections, the NRM is in a unique process of righting the wrongs. In fact sources close to the presidency have revealed that the president has secretly ordered the Electoral Commission to be very diligent and ensure that they do not do any stupid thing that will raise any questions. He has also, incredibly, told all the Army Generals to back off and desist from making any controversial statements. Once this is done, and with the very possibility of winning the polls, he will then start to purge all those who have been soiling the name of the government. Some of his lieutenants who have been implicated in high level corruption will be the first causalities. Those who went against his word and stood as independents, even if they win, will be the most losers as those who took heed will mostly be the ones he will deploy. In very many strange ways, the government of 2011 will resemble the broad-based government of 1986 with very many new faces from across the political, religious and ethnic divide taking centre stage. Therefore, running a very peaceful campaign is one way of writing the NRM legacy as a party that not only revived the economy and brought peace but also as one that did not leave a fractured society behind.

With this firmly in sight, the NRM could bring one good surprise package by reviving the presidential term limits before the next election in 2016 with Museveni passing on the baton to a younger generation of leaders to take the country forward. It happened in Botswana, which is, like Uganda, considered one of Africa’s success stories. A year to President Ketumile Masire’s last term in 1997, he surprised everyone including his own party and stepped down for Festus Mogae. The same situation happened when Mogae was one year to go, he left the seat for the Airforce General and Senior Bachelor, Ian Khama, the son of the first president, Sir Seretse Khama.

A violent election is usually a symptom of a desperate government’s efforts to retain power at all costs. The fact that this is not happening in the current election, the confidence of the NRM campaigners notwithstanding, seems to imply to me that the nation might be in for a big surprise from Museveni. If he does not do a ‘Ketumile Masire’ in 2016, then we might have to prepare for a real good surprise in which he might be righting his legacy and slowly following in the footsteps of his mentor, the former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere.


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Terror in Uganda


From Ugandan Corespondent Arinaitwe Rugyendo…

July 11, 2010 was indeed a gruesome day in Uganda. Gruesome in the sense that in the aftermath of the devastating twin bomb blasts that left nearly 80 people dead and scores injured, the question now on everyone’s mind is whether Uganda should retaliate. Others have been asking when, not if, Uganda will strike back?

Indeed, this mood is everywhere as seen in the many angry posts on ‘twitter’ and ‘face book’ which have been pushing the Ugandan army to do everything within its arsenal to avenge the death of the innocent Ugandans. Anybody who has been touched by this deadly attack( I myself lost two friends) expects a decisive response from Uganda. “How then should we respond to this attack?” a reader asked for my opinion.

At the height of the cold war, two mighty forces from different faces of the world-the Soviet Union and the United States- had divided Germany into two. Their forces were two kilometers apart in Berlin. The question of the day was which country would nuke the other first. Each country had manufactured nuclear bombs and the whole world knew that if these two protagonists went to war, nuclear bombs would be used. There was always a joke in Germany that all the frontier soldiers were told that in the event of a nuclear attack, the best way to avoid it was to take cover under their makeshift beds.

This is the same situation between Uganda and the terrorists. They have attacked Uganda first and ordinarily people have become pundits about the best way how to avoid the attack in the future. Some people are talking of chasing away all the Somalis from Uganda. Others have sent mails to your columnist saying most of them are very arrogant people and should be chased. Others are talking of introducing of identity cards. The opposition leaders are saying the best way to avoid such attacks is for the Minister of Security, Amama Mbabazi and the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura to resign.

First of all, what is most important here is that Ugandans should know that the xenophobic sentiments against Somalis will never be a solution to deter terrorism. Somalis in Uganda fled their country because of terror at home. They never came to Uganda to export tourism. 95% of Somalis, both at home and in the Diaspora abhor terrorism, and looking at the Somali community in Uganda, they are the most law abiding and most cautious people.

The Somalis would never hide terrorists who are on a mission to wreck havoc in their adopted land. Instead, it is easier for indigenous Ugandans to harbor evil doers than these vulnerable people. I think Ugandans should not be a people who mistreat asylum seekers because since independence, we have benefited from the charity of neighboring countries to get safe haven when terror at home was the order of the day.

Secondly, the introduction of identity cards seems to be an easier way of controlling bad people from making Uganda a hiding place. But in real sense, it gives a false sense of security. An ID can never save anyone from a bomb attack. In fact, it will mandate the police powers to stop at will any person for identification and if one will have lost one or otherwise, people will be severely harassed severely. Besides, the easiest thing for a terrorist to make is an Identity Card. In Uganda, you do not need an Identity Card for people to tell whether you are a Ugandan or not. All along, Ugandans have distinguished themselves from foreigners without asking them identity cards.

Thirdly, there have been suggestions especially by the opposition that the best way to fight terrorism, is to make security chiefs who got wind of this attack to resign. To me, this is a fallacy! There is no country on earth that is safe from terrorists. Even in heaven, when Satan waged war before he was dumped on earth where he continues to wreck havoc keeping heaven always alert and constantly monitoring his recruits. Uganda can minimize attacks but it can never wipe out all forms of terrorism. We shouldn’t presume that all terrorism is manufactured from abroad. We can have home grown terrorism. The best way to defeat terrorism is to let Ugandan enemies know that Ugandans are standing together on this fight. Ugandans should never succumb to the whims of the enemy and stop partying. The Ugandan security should know that when someone is giving an edict in Somalia that Uganda would be hit at the same time when rebel groups are causing havoc across the country’s borders, there is a link; a link to divert the attention of the Ugandan security. When Al-Shabaab is linked to ADF, Uganda should try to know who funds ADF, which countries continue to give safe haven to its leadership etc.

The Ugandan security should ensure that all liberties of the Wanainchi are protected. They should know that physical checkups are more effective than metal detection. Searching humans using hands is more effective and should be emphasized at all times. Outdoors venues that hold large crowds should never have one entrance. More than four entrances and exits should be emphasized on such venues to minimize the size of the crowd that usually engulfs the entrances when there are many people crowding one entrance which could be a target for a potential terrorist.

The other most effective way is community vigilance. The corrupt LC system should be cleaned up and the historically nosy Resistance Committee system( the Rwangisiriza) revived to be keeping noses on which ever people come to their areas and what do they do and registering them. This had effectively worked for Uganda for a very long time.

But can Uganda take the war to the bedrooms of these terrorists?


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Uganda’s TIme Bomb


From Uganda Corespondent Arinaitwe Rugyendo…

Recently,  I was invited by Makerere University Business School (MUBS) to speak to their completing students.

It is a requirement for MUBS’ mentorship programme to invite business practitioners from town to speak and inspire its business students.

The venue was House 4 where I found about 1000 students waiting and others listening-in from the outside through the windows.

I had been instructed to speak to them about the possibility of starting their own businesses after school and what it takes to create their own jobs.

Using my own experience at Red Pepper, I told them the long story of a newspaper we started with just less than One million shillings some nine years ago but has since grown strong.

The students were eager to listen to one of their own speak because they had been briefed that at the time we founded this newspaper in 2001, I was pretty the same age as most of them. The authorities therefore felt it was important for me to speak about how we did it as a way of inspiring their students who are leaving school in three weeks time with no possibility of immediate employment.

Drawing from both local and international examples, I concluded that the problem of unemployment in Uganda is not because the jobs are not available. It is largely a question of attitude and the failure on the part of our mentors and political leaders to focus the young people’s minds on looking for opportunities and identifying every problem as an opportunity for offering a business solution and therefore a chance at job creation.

I observed that it is for instance a question of attitude realignment if you have many graduate doctors crying for jobs. It should take a deliberate mentorship programme by patriotic political leaders to sensitize them on the fact that as doctors, they are ‘mobile clinics’ whose services patients are waiting to pay for from anywhere. This would be one way of creating their own jobs.

The story of vivid examples from which the students picked business ideas was very long and by close of the session, most of them had been converted to my gospel of entrepreneurship not because they didn’t have the ideas. It was because, like several unemployed young people elsewhere in Uganda, there is nobody to talk to them. There is virtually no one to show them the way which I did!

But the most intriguing part of the session was question time. Students asked a number of questions raging from how to start a business to start-up capital. The frustration on their faces told volumes of how the crisis of unemployment in Uganda has reached almost immeasurable proportions. The young people clearly lack people who should be showing them where opportunities for cheap credit are and which business ideas can make sense.

And no wonder then that current statistics show that for about 390,000 students who finish tertiary education each year, there are only about 8,000 jobs to them to fight for.

During my address, a friend, Mr. Kakembo, who works in the Tax Investigations department at Uganda Revenue Authority, told students of a harrowing experience at the tax body where for every job advertised requiring about four people to fill, there are nearly 2,500 applications to it. The situation has even gotten worse to the extent that across the city, employers are bombarded with job requests from young people requesting to be allowed to ‘just do anything.’ They no longer value their qualifications.

Uganda is certainly sitting on a time bomb because unemployment is no longer an individual case problem. It is a massively public issue because the structure of opportunities has collapsed and the politicians do not seem to have a clue.

Instead, they go on sloganeering, telling the hapless students to go and create jobs. They never tell them anything significant about how to raise start up capital. The cheeky ones blame the degree programmes offered in some universities which they say have little relevance to the employment situation in the country, yet, the very system they serve runs a National Council for Higher Education which is charged with licensing universities and their programmes whose relevance surely cannot be blamed on the graduates.

Apart from the patriotism seminars, civic education programmes and the political education courses at Kyankwanzi and other areas, there are no job creation think tanks in the country and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has never gathered job seekers anywhere in Uganda and showed them where opportunities for investment and start-up capital acquisition are located.

Instead, the unemployed young people are being asked to go, register and vote, which is why I am not surprised that the Electoral Commission has complained of a frustratingly low turn up at the various voter verification centres across the country.

What then can be the possible way forward?

I strongly feel that all political parties competing for power in the next election should, as a first step, focus on removing obstacles to job creation and accessibility.

Reducing the retirement age at the moment is something that would send well accomplished Ugandans into self employment, giving way to a size able number of jobs in the public sector to the young people.

A person who retires at the age 50 now, will utilize his gratuity more responsibly than a young graduate who is given money to start up a shop. In other words, a retiree has more meaningful start-up capital in the form of his hard-earned gratuity than a fresh graduate.

This is where any political party that wants my vote, can instantly create about 50,000 jobs every year as it goes about scratching for more robust solutions.


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Kampala: A Day in the Life


The lottery of birth delivers us to our destinies, long before we can even know what life has in store for us. Born on December, 15th, 1989 in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala, Kenneth Mwanja is a young man who wakes up each day and does his best with what he’s been given. An aspiring journalist and university student, he is the eldest of four children who, at nineteen, has already been charged with the responsibilities of an adult. Doing his best to care for his family, while striving for more in a society where finding more can often be difficult, Kenneth sat down with RELATIVITY OnLine to talk about life in Kampala.

What is a typical day for you?

The first things I usually do when I wake up are grumble and complain, because I hate leaving my bed. Its extra comfort makes me lazy and I’ve also always loved dream-land. I wake up at 7 am, take a shower, have breakfast and then leave for work at 8:45. I work all day and leave around 4 pm to attend lectures at university. Classes run from 5 to 9 pm and I leave campus for home around 9:30. I usually arrive before 11pm. Once I’m home, I take a cup of coffee, have supper, shower and go to bed

On weekends, I spend most of my time visiting friends and watching football and movies. I like Manchester United and Nigerian films.

What are some of the difficulties you face on a regular basis?

I find a lot of difficulties in doing my work as both an aspiring writer and a student, because of a lack of essential goods such as a digital camera, access to the Internet and personal computers, along with other educational material.

Paying my tuition fees at university is also a constant battle. The cost is expensive ($388 per semester). We’re going to begin our end of 2nd semester examinations, but I’ve so far paid only a quarter of the tuition fees. The school policy is that I cannot take my examinations without completing all the university dues. I’m not sure what I will do. I know I can only keep trying the get things paid

I also struggle to take care of my family as best I can. I pay the house rent ($56 per month) as well as help with food and bills. Our mother divorced and left our dad with three children; my sister is twelve and I also have two teenage brothers. Our dad’s income is not enough and on top of that, he is too old…old people are the ones that should be taken care of and I do my best.

What kind of problems does the average citizen of Kampala face?

First and foremost, they face the problem of pests and sickness. Kampala citizens are very much prone to various diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, sleeping sickness, typhoid, and AIDS. To make matters worse, the government, most especially the health ministers, have mismanaged the funds meant for the control of the above diseases.

People in Kampala are also facing a lack of accommodation. Many, young and old, spend their nights on the streets of Kampala. Poverty levels are extremely high and rising. High prices and scarcity of essential goods is also hurting people. Items as simple as sugar, salt and soap are sometimes hard to come by.

Lastly, citizens of Kampala face the problem of minimal amount of land to build on. To worsen matters, people in Kampala are commonly evicted from their land by government and army officials, when the land is wanted by those in power.

What is the state of education?

Up to around 1990, education at university level was free to all. Nowadays, due to the extortion-like influence of international bodies such as the IMF, the EU and the World Bank that push the Ugandan government to foster cost-sharing, university education is provided at a charge that is very expensive to most Ugandans. This has, to a lesser extent, increased illiteracy, unemployment and homelessness. One can study from primary through secondary and then fail to progress to university, due to lack of fees.

Has the lack of education and essential goods affected hope and faith?

I’m not sure how connected it is, but false pastors have emerged as a late. In 2008, a Ghanaian born pastor used an electronic gadget to make followers tremble and fall on the ground. He did this to show he had special power. Afterwards he said that he had bought the gadget as a birth day present for his daughter. A year later, he was arrested for using the same gadget, this time in South Africa.

It has become a habit of some pastors to struggle for recognition from their followers, by any means necessary. For instance, one pastor paid a lady some money, bought for her a wheel chair, and told her to pretend she was lame. She did so and the pastor told her to come to his church for prayers. She came and then worked a miracle making her walk again. However, after two weeks, the lady confessed that she had been bribed to fake her lameness!

Pastors are also engaging in immoral acts such as child sacrifice, theft and raping young girls. Not all pastors are bad of course; it’s just that these acts have become a growing trend.

What is the biggest misconception about your country?

The outside world thinks that Ugandans and Africans in general are thieves. We are not.

Do you ever think of leaving Uganda?

Some young Ugandans always think of how they can go abroad for greener pastures, others think of how we can make our country a better place to live in, whereas a few even think of how they can do away with the current government. Government officials play a large role in escalating poverty, and the alarming rates of illiteracy and unemployment, yet they earn huge sums of money. Even worse, they embezzle tax payers’ money, which is meant for addressing the problems I’ve mentioned.

I want to stay. It’s my duty to help make Uganda a better place…

Kenneth Mwanja


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