Musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, at a news conference in Kampala, Uganda, on June 15, about the government handling of the coronavirus pandemic. (Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters)

Last week, Zimbabwean security agents raided Hopewell Chin’ono’s home, arresting the journalist for allegedly “inciting public violence.” Chin’ono’s reporting uncovered corruption in the government’s pandemic response and led to the ousting of the health minister over allegations of contract fraud. Security forces also arrested opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume and more than 100,000 others, charging them with violating coronavirus-related regulations.

While the scale of the repression in Zimbabwe captured the attention of advocacy groups such as Amnesty International and the U.S. Embassy, it’s not the only country undertaking politically motivated crackdowns in the name of public health. For autocrats, the coronavirus has lowered the cost of repression by allowing them to justify actions as necessary responses to the crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ugandan police detaining the academic Stella Nyanzi for protesting against the way that government distributes the relief food and the lockdown situation to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kampala, Uganda, in May. Credit Reuters

Brutal policing is a global crisis, but America’s favorite African strongman, Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s president since 1986, has deployed his own security forces to a particularly malign end: assaulting opposition parliamentary lawmakers to crush the democratic challenge he is facing.

I speak from experience. I am a member of Uganda’s Parliament and also a musician, activist and founder of the opposition People Power movement. For the past three years, we have been seeking social, economic and political change with the support of Uganda’s youth — 80 percent of the population — who face dire poverty.

On April 19, my colleague Francis Zaake, a 29-year-old member of Parliament, was arrested and tortured.…  Seguir leyendo »

From 10 to 12 March, about two dozen prosecutors, victim’s lawyers and defence counsels gathered in The Hague to present their closing arguments to three judges on how they ought to perceive Dominic Ongwen, a former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) child soldier who became one of its commanders, and whether or not to convict and punish him for a litany of atrocities he perpetrated after his eighteenth birthday. On one hand, Ongwen was portrayed as a monstrous, brutal and cruel serial-paedophile, a mass murderer and a fearless terrorist, who was powerful, proud and happily “gratifying his own desires” in the bush.…  Seguir leyendo »

Anthony Kalulu is a farmer in eastern Uganda, and founder of non-profit Uganda Community Farm (UCF) Photograph: Handout

Where I live, people are organised in clans. I belong to a clan where even 100 people, gathered together, can’t raise $100 (£75) to organise a funeral.

I come from a family that couldn’t afford to pay tuition of $10 a term when I was a student two decades ago. Many of my young relatives are out of school now, because their parents can’t afford a full academic term of $15.

Others are even worse off. There are families I have spoken with who say they are unable to earn $2 a month as a family.

There is no question that the UN global goals have stalled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Joseph Kony with his “wives” and child, taken around 2003. (Charles Tabuley)

The French news magazine Jeune Afrique noted on Nov. 20 that despite decades of international attempts to capture warlord Joseph Kony, he remains free. Kony’s movement, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), began in the mid-1980s with the goal of protecting Northern Ugandans from the newly installed regime of President Yoweri Museveni. But the insurgency turned against civilians, becoming notorious for mutilations and large-scale abductions. By 2006, the LRA had abducted up to 38,000 children and 37,000 adults, researchers estimated. Those abducted were forced to become fighters or fighters’ “wives” — a euphemism for sex slaves — and household servants. Today, the movement has only about 100 to 150 fighters left, but they are still abducting and causing insecurity in the borderlands between Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.…  Seguir leyendo »

En enero, el parlamento de Etiopía ratificó una legislación que les da a los refugiados derechos sin precedentes, incluido el derecho a buscar empleo y educación, y a moverse libremente fuera de los confines de los asentamientos de refugiados. El Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR) elogió a Etiopía por tener “una de las políticas más progresistas para refugiados en África” –una política que podría servir de modelo para otros.

Los países que reciben refugiados en todo el mundo deberían seguir el ejemplo que marcan países como Etiopía y Uganda, en particular dándoles a los refugiados un mejor acceso a empleos formales y escolaridad, e intentando alojarlos en comunidades más que en campos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli: policing women’s bodies. Photograph: Emmanuel Herman/Reuters

In Tanzania, teenage girls who become pregnant are not allowed back in school; female MPs are forbidden from wearing fake eyelashes and nails; now, a senior government official has called on the public to report gay people so that they can be punished.

This infantilisation of women and homophobia is all part of President John Magufuli’s “morality crusade”. When he was elected in 2015, he was seen as a decisive figure determined to run a frugal government, stamp out corruption and deliver better services in the east African country.

However, in a flash, he turned from cracking down on corrupt government officials to evoking redundant colonial laws in order to police women’s bodies, reinforce discrimination against girls and now, in this latest move, to hunt down homosexuals.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of pop star turned lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, hold a poster of him as they gather in the Kisekka market area of Kampala, Uganda, on Aug. 23. (AP)

On Wednesday, Uganda issued a ban on rallies, anticipating the return of musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, who reportedly has been in the United States seeking urgent medical treatment after being detained by Ugandan security forces.

The government edict is in response to large protests that rocked Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Young people demonstrated in June against the government’s new tax on social media, which they see as regressive. They also turned out in August to protest the arrest of Kyagulanyi, a.k.a. Bobi Wine, a 36-year-old parliamentarian elected in 2017. After Wine’s release, the government initially prohibited him from leaving the country for further medical attention, sparking more protests.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man in a control center of the NTV channel, which was shut down by the Kenyan government because of coverage of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s symbolic presidential inauguration, at the Nation group media building in Nairobi on Feb. 1. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Imagine paying over $900 to a government agency just to be allowed to blog.

This is what the government of Tanzania wants to require of its citizens. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority has given all online content providers until May 5 to submit massive amounts of documentation to earn state approval for what the Internet has always given for free. If you can’t pony up details of shareholders, share capital, citizenship of owners, staff qualifications, training programs and a tax clearance certificate, you risk a fine of at least $2,200 and/or a year-long prison sentence. While the rest of the progressive world is considering blockchain technology or investing in robots, Tanzania’s big idea this year is licensing bloggers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dessin d’un enfant-soldat de la LRA âgé de 12 ans ©Enough Project

Le parlement de l’Ouganda est saisi depuis 2015 d’une nouvelle loi d’amnistie pour les combattants de l’Armée de résistance du Seigneur (LRA). Elle mettrait fin à l’ambiguïté qui existe entre la loi d’amnistie générale de 2000, aujourd’hui en vigueur, et d’autre part, la Chambre des crimes internationaux d’Ouganda.

Le débat n’est cependant pas encore tranché : faut-il mieux amnistier les auteurs de terribles exactions au nom de la recherche de la paix, ou les poursuivre pénalement en espérant hâter la réconciliation ?

Un profond dilemme. Depuis 1986, l’armée de résistance du Seigneur a kidnappé des dizaines de milliers de garçons et de filles.…  Seguir leyendo »

A photo taken as a Certificate of Appreciation is presented for services rendered by the Arrow Boys during the LRA campaign at a ceremony in December 2004. CRISIS GROUP/Magnus Taylor

Musa Ecweru’s office is on the top floor in the Office of the Prime Minister in central Kampala. He is a Member of Parliament for Amuria, a constituency in eastern Uganda, and since 2006 has been State Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees.

Ecweru’s career might have turned out quite differently if, more than a decade ago, Joseph Kony, head of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), had not directed part of his force into then peaceful eastern Uganda. The LRA was already notorious for killing and maiming civilians and abducting women and children as part of its insurgency in Uganda’s northern Acholi region since the late 1980s.…  Seguir leyendo »

Uganda has a crucial role and interest in supporting South Sudan’s efforts to forge a more inclusive transitional government

Reducing South Sudan’s internal strife would not just benefit the South Sudanese but is also critical for Ugandan interests, including the security of its citizens and border, reducing refugee flows and the protection of its economic investments and trade.

President Museveni and other Ugandan leaders should encourage their South Sudanese counterparts to prioritise political rather than military solutions to ongoing conflicts; support national dialogue to increase the transitional government’s inclusivity; and encourage better relations between Juba and Khartoum over key bilateral issues.…  Seguir leyendo »

A police officer takes a picture of a royal guard to Charles Wesley Mumbere, king of the Rwenzururu kingdom, during the November crackdown. Reuters/James Akena

The state security assault on palace guards in which more than 100 were killed at the end of November exemplifies present day Uganda in many ways. Press accounts said bloody clashes erupted when a patrol by police and troops was attacked by royal guards in the western Ugandan town of Kasese.

There were reports that President Yoweri Museveni had pleaded with King Charles Wesley Mumbere of the Rwenzururu kingdom to disband the royal guards prior to the assault.

The king has since been arrested and remains in custody facing serious charges. His kingdom is in disarray. The crisis fits within a history that has antagonistically set the nation in a delicate situation, exacerbated by a state that feeds on ethnic manipulation for patronage.…  Seguir leyendo »

Strange fruit: campaign posters for NRM primaries for local elections adorn a tree, Kampala. CRISIS GROUP/Magnus Taylor

When I last wrote about Ugandan domestic politics, the February 2016 presidential election was still six months away. The big news was that Amama Mbabazi – the former prime minister – was running. Mbabazi had been sacked by President Museveni the year before and was seeking to forge an opposition ticket from an ambiguous position, not quite in and not quite out of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).

Mbabazi told me that his candidacy was “the biggest ever threat to Museveni’s leadership”. This seemed fanciful, and it was unclear whether a third figure on the normally polarised political scene would break open the competition.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police chasing a supporter of Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye, Kampala, Uganda, February 19, 2016. Goran Tomasevic/Reuters.

It’s become fashionable lately to disparage democracy. From the failure of “nation building” attempts in Iraq and Afghanistan to Islamist violence in Egypt, Libya, and other Arab Spring countries, to the rise of Donald Trump, some now see government of the people as a liability in a violent and polarized world. In a recent New York magazine essay on the subject, Andrew Sullivan endorses Plato’s claim that tyranny all too often results from the anarchic nature of democracy itself, rather than from its perversion by anti-democratic forces.

Readers who find such arguments appealing might want to consider moving to impoverished, corruption-ridden Uganda, ruled by President Yoweri Museveni for thirty years through a combination of bribery, blackmail, and brute force.…  Seguir leyendo »

Crowds queued patiently in Jinja, a sleepy town on the shores of Lake Victoria, to vote in Uganda’s third multi-party elections. Prospective voters remained at polling stations, which were often little more than open grassy spaces with a tree providing shade for election staff underneath trees Like many places in the country, voting materials were delivered late several hours late. But that didn’t affect the determination of millions of Ugandans to register their vote, underlining an established belief in electoral democracy as the only method to decide the political future of the country.

On 18 February Yoweri Museveni’s was re-elected as president with almost 61% of the vote, ending a dramatic few weeks that at times threatened the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) with a serious crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Uganda’s election results are in, and Yoweri Museveni is the winner. Of course, the opposition has cried foul, alleging repression, vote rigging, a politically-biased electoral commission and wildly different levels of financing. Many of these complaints are likely well-founded, though it is very difficult to judge the extent to which they impacted the result. Observer missions have yet to release their assessments, but they are likely to repeat the verdict on previous elections; that there were irregularities, most glaringly over intimidation of the opposition and the misuse of state funds, but that the result broadly represents the will of the Ugandan people.…  Seguir leyendo »

As an attorney and Uganda human rights activist, America’s elections thrill me. It is breathtaking to witness democracy in full roar, as candidates vie for the nation’s highest office.

In Uganda, we hold elections on Feb. 18, and our eight candidates for the presidency are fiercely vying, too. But their ferocity is different; it may put at risk the lives of many Ugandans — our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transgender-intersex people.

As the election fervor mounts, so have vitriol and physical attacks against these people — despite our success in August 2014 at overturning Uganda’s most draconian anti-homosexuality law in our Constitutional Court.…  Seguir leyendo »

Riot police dispersing a gathering of opposition supporters in Jinja, eastern Uganda, September 10, 2015. James Akena/Reuters/Corbis.

In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt told Americans that, by arming Britain against the Nazis, we’d serve as an “arsenal for democracy.” But during the cold war, the opposite was often true, and apparently still is. According to two recent studies, the United States provides aid and sells weapons far more often to autocratic regimes than to democracies; even China partners with democracies more than America does. This pattern is particularly clear in sub-Saharan Africa. For a brief period after the cold war, America used foreign aid and other measures to pressure many countries to democratize; some, like Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia, now hold more or less credible elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

Existe una comprensible consternación ante el plan de Uganda de enviar a casi trescientos trabajadores sanitarios a Trinidad y Tobago. Al parecer, entre ellos figuran cuatro de los once psiquiatras diplomados de Uganda, veinte de sus veintiocho radiólogos y quince de sus noventa y dos pediatras. A cambio, ese país caribeño (que tiene una proporción entre pacientes y médicos doce veces mayor que la de Uganda) ayudará a este país a explotar sus recién descubiertos pozos de petróleo.

El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Uganda dice que el acuerdo forma parte del mandato en pro del fomento de los intereses del país en el extranjero mediante la transferencia de conocimientos técnicos y tecnología, además de una oportunidad de obtener divisas extranjeras brindando empleo a sus ciudadanos en el extranjero, pero los donantes internacionales de Uganda no están convencidos de ello; los Estados Unidos han expresado su gran preocupación al respecto y Bélgica ha suspendido la ayuda para el desarrollo al sector de la atención de salud de Uganda.…  Seguir leyendo »