Archive for May, 2011

When this decade started in 2001, Museveni had been in power for 15 years. As it ends, he is the only regional leader still in office who was in when it started. The events that ensured that climaxed at 3:10 p.m. on Tuesday July 12, 2005.

At that moment Uganda’s parliament was involved in what historians like to call a defining moment. It marked the end of an arduous process to amend Article 105 (2) of the constitution to remove presidential term limits.

On that day, Jacob Oulanya, the burly man with a penchant for wearing sharp suits complete with pocket handkerchief and bowtie and whose thick moustache appears to block out his nose whenever he speaks, broke his silence. The amendment, he said, had been coached not to dwell on the principle behind term limits. Rather the arguments had “zeroed down on those who like President Museveni and those who hate him.” Oulanya was at the time the MP of Moro County in Gulu district and chairman of the Legal Committee of parliament which scrutinised the amendment.

The removal of term limits on the presidency marked the maturation of political corruption. Efforts by prominent Museveni ministers against the third term campaign did not change Museveni’s determination to have article 105 of the 1995 constitution repealed. Instead, ministers Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, Eriya Kategaya and Miria Matembe were dropped from cabinet. In the end, Shs 5 million was paid to each of 222 MPs to let Museveni have his way. Only 37 MPs voted against the bill and two abstained. Did the MPs realise that his personalisation of a momentous question of principle marked the defining political moment of the last decade?

Sometimes to understand such an unfathomable question one needs an anchor in something less speculative.

In my case, it was an article by BBC Washington Correspondent Steve Kingstone on October 2, 2010 that spurred the thought. It was titled `How President Lula changed Brazil’ and it started with the paragraph: “I used to tell visitors to close their eyes as I drove them into Sao Paulo from the airport. That was seven years ago, when the first impression of South America’s biggest city was a pot-holed motorway running parallel to a stinking river…”

Does that sound familiar? Possibly yes.

At the heart of the debate was whether President Museveni could ever democratically relinquish power.

The events of July 12, 2005 have become even more poignant as the decade ends. They make 2005 the defining year of the decade. In that year, Uganda’s founding President Milton Obote died, and leading opposition politician, Rt. Col. Dr Kizza Besigye was arrested on a trumped-up rape case, Uganda ditched the Movement system for multiparty politics, and a military commando squad known as Black Mamba besieged the High Court in a flagrant re-arrest of treason suspects that had been granted bail.

Those events are comparable regionally, only to the fallout from the death in a mysterious helicopter crash of the legendary leader of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), Col. John Garanga, and the deployment of Ugandan army troops in Somalia.

They eclipse even Museveni’s election victories in 2001 and 2006, the government of Uganda peace talks with the LRA in Juba in 2006, the 2007 Kampala Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and its entrenching of corruption, the 2009 Buganda riots, and the 2010 signing of the East African Community Common Market Protocol.

Yet some of the events, like the rift between Buganda kingdom and the central government, corruption and conduct of the February 18, 2011 general elections are already impacting on the new decade.

The Brazil story has a happy ending. Kingstone was there to cover the election in which, in November 2010, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva passed on the baton to his anointed successor, Dilma Rousseff. In power for only eight years, Lula cleared the pot-holed motorways, pushed 29 million Brazilians into the middle class, created 2.5 million jobs in 2010 alone, eradicated hunger, improved education and health and transformed Brazil from a borrower from the IMF to a lender. On December 16, he proudly presented a review of his eight year in power to his cabinet in six volumes and is leaving office when over 80 percent of Brazilians approve of his work.

Walking along the Upper Kololo Terrace, just after the swanky Protea Hotel in the high end section of Kampala city, one easily notices a new row of bulletin billboards exhorting passersby to vote for Museveni in the Feb. 18 presidential elections.

They are professionally erected low at car windshield level to catch the driver’s eye and with just a few words. Next to them on the same road, in the section just above Kololo Airstrip, venue of national celebrations is another row of neat bulletin billboards. These ones are for MTN Uganda, a subsidiary of the South African telecom giant. The placement is possibly coincidental but very apt: Museveni’s brand colour, like MTN’s, is yellow. Going forward, it appears the fate of the most important engine of his success, big business, will become more intertwined with the fortunes of the most powerful person in Uganda, Museveni.

The decade started well enough for Museveni.

In March 2001, he trounced a pack of five to emerge with 69 percent of the vote in the presidential elections. Optimism was high. He had promised it was his last term and most voters looked forward to a peaceful transition with a new face at the top in 2006. It did not happen. Museveni clang on and as the decade ends, it makes more sense to assess what the future will be like under him than speculate on when he will quit.

Meanwhile, corruption has grown exponentially. When the decade began the biggest scandal was the Shs 11 billion purchase of four junk Mi-24 helicopters by the UPDF that was before the Justice Sebutinde Commission of Inquiry in 2001. This was followed closely by a similar probe in the Uganda Revenue Authority in 2002.

However, the money involved is laughable compared to what is being swindled today. As the decade ends, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament chaired by MP Nandala Mafabi has just completed a probe into the squandering of Shs 500 billion meant for hosting of CHOGM. Two years ago, there was the case of Amama Mbabazi allegedly influencing NSSF to buy his 400 acre land in Temangalo at Shs 11 billion.

And the impunity has burgeoned. Just as only Emma Katto, the fixer, was the fall guy in the Sebutinde junk helicopters inquiry and just as Sebutinde’s report on URA was quashed by court as her fellow commissioners, Fawn Cousens and James Kahooza, disowned it, PAC’s CHOGM report was defeated on a technicality in parliament and Mbabazi walked scot-free from the Temangalo scandal.

Many people close to Museveni are tainted. The British jailed and deported Museveni’s aide; Ananias Tumukunde for stealing Shs 117 million from the government of Uganda in inflated procurement bills. On December 9, 2009 the British handed a cheque for the amount to the IGG at a public function in Kampala. But Museveni kept Tumukunde.

As the decade ends, a WikiLeak of US diplomatic cables reveals that the US Ambassador in Kampala, Jerry Lanier wrote that two ministers, Hilary Onek and Amama Mbabazi took bribes from an oil company in what could mark the first cases of the so-called `oil curse’.

As the decade ends, oil might not be the only big business that Ugandans are to watch with trepidation.

Uganda’s biggest telecom company is losing market share in a volatile market. Its market share is down to an unconfirmed 60 percent due to competition from new entrants and its Average Revenue per User (ARPU) is the lowest in the region at US$ 5. As a result, the only good news at the MTN Towers is the 5 percent increase in subscribers to 6,215,000 by Q3 of 2010.

This gloom is in sharp contrast to the excitement at MTN at the start of the decade. The year 2001 was the second that MTN Uganda, which had been in operation for two years, made a profit. At the time, it had about 150,000 subscribers and controlled over 75 percent of the mobile phone market and 60 percent of the whole telecom market. Thomas Bragaw was the MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer at the start of the decade. Just three months before the New Year, he had a launched the first ever fibre optic cable in Africa. It linked Kampala City’s business district and industrial area.

But big business could suffer more as big money believed to be ill-gotten has been discovered in government official’s homes instead of banks. Damian Akankwasa, a National Forestry Authority managing director had Shs900 million in his house and another Shs500 million was found in the family of Museveni’s brother, Salim Saleh.

Regionally, on July 11, 2010 Kampala witnessed twin bomb attacks that left at least 76 people dead and scores injured. The Somali-based al-Shabaab claimed responsibility arguing that it was punishment for Uganda’s involvement in the affairs of their country Somalia. As the decade ends, the referendum in Southern Sudan promises self-determination for John Garang’s people. But there is apprehension that it could ignite another regional conflict.

The 20 year-long war of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is quiet but not quashed. The butcher of the north is somewhere in the jungles of Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Southern Sudan. Can he return to haunt the north? Some say, possibly not.

As reported By Mubatsi Asinja Habati – THE INDEPENDENT

By Refugees International
The referendum on southern Sudan’s secession from the north took place as scheduled in January of this year, with over 98% of southerners voting for an independent south Sudan. This is seen as a promise of change in the lives of southerners, who suffered through decades of war and the displacement that went with it for millions of them.

The transition to independence in July may not be entirely peaceful, however, as violent clashes continue not only in the transitional area of Abyei territory, coveted by both North and South, but also in several southern states.

Some of the clashes are indigenous disputes over land and cattle between neighboring ethnic groups, sub-groups and clans. In recent years the toll in terms of casualties and displaced is higher due to the exponential growth in the availability of automatic firearms.

Other violence appears at first glance to have nothing to do with Sudan: southern Sudanese in Western and Central Equatoria states suffer from destructive raids by the Lord’s Resistance Army, an armed opposition group from northern Uganda. The LRA now operates in a vast area straddling the borders between Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. Its attacks often involve kidnapping of children to be turned into soldiers and provoke displacement in all three countries. Seemingly an outside actor, the LRA in fact received support during the war from Khartoum, which is strongly suspected of continuing that covert support even today.

In contrast, the Khartoum government is very clear in its intentions concerning Abyei: to maintain control of this oil-rich territory by assisting the cattle-herding Misseriya tribe in their fight to keep Abyei part of Southern Kordofan. Northerners argue that the territory was never part of the south – in the administrative map upon Sudan’s independence in 1956, Abyei fell within the boundaries of Kordofan. Southerners insist that it should nonetheless be consider part of the south because the Ngok Dinka majority of the settled population of Abyei is southern, indeed part of the south’s largest ethnic group.

And then there is the series of rebellions in several southern states. Seemingly based on local grievances against the semi-autonomous government of southern Sudan, the rebellions are strongly suspected of receiving support from elements of the government in Khartoum who – according to the current speculation – want at the very least to ensure that the future Republic of South Sudan is weak and divided and thereby more easily manipulated by Khartoum.

One of the latest of rebellions to spark has been in oil-rich Unity State, the scene of massive displacement and human rights violations during the war. The leader of the supposedly local uprising is none other than Peter Gadet, notorious during the war years for his leadership of a Khartoum-backed militia group that cleared thousands of people out of vast swaths of land to make way for oil installations and the pipeline. Some of the rebel leaders in other states have similarly sordid histories. Hence the impression that despite the six-year-old Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the war is making a comeback in the lives of southern Sudanese.

The U.S. government needs to up the pressure on Khartoum and Juba to complete the CPA process and, more specifically, to make the political compromises necessary to stop the violence.

By Peter Orr, Senior advocate at Refugees International

Inside Story on Aljazeera. 23 May, 2011.

Inside Story, discusses with Rabie Abdul Atti, member of the NCP and advisor to Sudan’s information minister; Eddie Thomas, an author on Sudan; and Barnaba Benjamin, Southern Sudan’s minister of information.

Freeuganda’s Comments:
I watched this Inside Story last night and i must say i was extremely frustrated with the Rabie Abdul Attie and his “skirting the issue” each time he was asked a question. There is no doubt in my mind that the Northern Sudanese Army has forcibly occupied Abeyi with military action for their own gain. This is in breach the CPA signed in 2005. Mr Attie’s words “nobody can tell the Khartoum Govt what to do” just go to show the reality of the situation. They may take on board the international pressure, yet they do nothing in order to change what they are being pressured for. They MUST immediately leave Abeyi and allow the citizens to vote in a free, fair and peaceful election. The international community need to do more than just watch this time. Bashir is wanted by the ICC and the international community must start applying pressure to those countries to whom he visits (such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda) and they allow him to roam free and do not arrest him and have him sent to Hague to face trial. I call upon all people who care about humanity, to take action. Write, Call, Protest (Peacefully) and use your FREEDOM’s to help those who have suffered at the hands of Dictators and Tyrants for decades. I challenge YOU!

Sudan’s disputed border town of Abyei is ablaze, with gunmen looting properties days after troops from the government in Khartoum entered the area, UN peacekeepers say.

The peacekeepers belonging to UNMIS, the UN mission in Sudan, said on Monday that the burning and looting was perpetrated “by armed elements” but it was not clear whether they were from the north or the south.

Omar-al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, said a “peaceful resolution” for Abyei would be found.

“We are efforting to solve the remaining issues and remove tensions in Abyei,” he said in a speech.

The developments in Abyei drew strong reaction from the US, with its special envoy to the country saying Washington would rule out dropping Sudan from a terrorism list if it continued occupying the oil-rich district.

Princeton Lyman said the “occupation” of Abyei by northern troops is “an extremely disproportionate response by the government of Sudan” to an attack on a UN convoy escorting the troops last week.

Envoy ‘optimistic’

But Lyman added that there was still hope of the two sides resolving the crisis.

“I am optimistic in this sense: These two entities – Sudan and soon-to-be independent South Sudan – need each other,” he told Al Jazeera.

“They have to collaborate for their own good, and while we’re now facing a major crisis in Abyei, we’re hopeful that the leadership, particularly president al-Bashir [in the north] and vice-president Kiir [in the south] will re-establish the spirit that they talked about … ”

Sudanese government officials in the north say their troops moved into Abyei – inhabited by two tribes backed by the south and north respectively – to drive the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) out, who they said had been occupying Abyei since last December.

The SPLA is the armed force of South Sudan, which held a referendum for independence in January and is due to become an independent state in July.

UNMIS strongly condemned the burning and looting in Abyei and called upon the government of Sudan to “urgently ensure that the Sudan Armed Forces fulfil their responsibility and intervene to stop these criminal acts”.

Hua Jiang, the chief public information officer for UNMIS, said the burning of property and looting was continuing on Monday.

She said the Sudanese troops from the north had prevented peacekeepers from “conducting our daily, routine patrol”.

“So we’re not able to get out of the compound right now to carry out our duty,” she told Al Jazeera from Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

‘Humanitarian disaster’

Thousands of civilians are reported to have fled southwards after northern SAF troops and tanks took control of the town on Saturday.

South Sudan also claims Abyei district, which has special status under a 2005 peace deal that ended 22 years of south-north civil war, and has called the occupation “illegal”.

Barnaba Benjamin, the minister of information in South Sudan, told Al Jazeera that north Sudanese troops had “illegally and unconstitutionally invaded Abyei”.

“What the Sudanese forces are doing now [is] they are looting the place; they are burning the place,” he said.

“They have made thousands of people – children, women and the elderly – a humanitarian disaster. This is what they have been doing. They didn’t find any SPLA troops in Abyei.

“Their claim that there are SPLA troops in Abyei is not true … They entered the town without any confrontation … So why are they there?

“Why are they bombing the civilian targets; the villages around? They are airlifting Misseriya Arab tribes into the territory to occupy the areas of Dinka Ng’ok.”

The nomadic Arab Misseriya tribe, which is backed by the north, grazes its cattle in Abyei. The Dinka Ng’ok tribe, backed by the south, lives in Abyei year round.

A senior official from the ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum, the capital of the north, denied the reports of looting but called Abyei “a war zone”.

“They [troops] are not looting the place,” Didiry Mohammad Ahmed told Al Jazeera.

“We know that this place, right now, is a war zone. The army is struggling very hard to see to it that no looting happens, but nonetheless some isolated incidents had happened.

“We are doing our very best right now – working in tandem with the UN mission in the region – to ensure no looting takes place. Nothing can be traced back to our forces.”

Read the full report HERE  at – Al Jazeera English.

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