Bertram Schmitt, judge at the International Criminal Court, has expressed "the hope that sooner or later - sooner rather than later", the victims of Dominic Ongwen's crimes will receive their compensation, but who can find the 52 million euros awarded by the ICC? © ICC-CPI

By the time I made my way over to the courtroom entrance at 14:45 on February 28, the queue for courtroom security was longer than many of those I have stood in at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. It seemed to be mainly composed, however, of a university class visit and staff from the International Criminal Court (ICC), rather than NGOs and other external parties. A few members of the press made their way past to take the elevator to the media room, as we all trooped into Courtroom I. Loud and excited chatter quickly gave way to hushed silence as a security guard gave two loud claps, called for quiet, and reminded us to stand “in respect for the judges” once the curtains opened.…  Seguir leyendo »

How to live and love under oppressive laws

In May, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023’ into law – a particularly brutal twist on decades’ worth of legislation tightening the screws on sexual minorities.

Uganda’s criminal code already penalizes same-sex conduct with life imprisonment, but the new law adds provisions including up to 20 years in prison for  ‘promoting homosexuality’ and the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’.

In addition to the law’s direct effects – LGBTQ+ individuals arrested, abused or in exile and the closure of NGOs providing support and advocacy – the vaguely worded legislation gives licence to community violence and has profound implications for Uganda’s once-vaunted HIV response.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters speak out against Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill at the Ugandan High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa.

How do we get Uganda to change its draconian new anti-LGBTQ statute? The bill, passed by the country’s legislature and signed by President Yoweri Museveni, doles out the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, which includes sex with a minor, incest and having sex while HIV positive. The law makes it illegal not to report the so-called perpetrators to the police, outlaws sex education for the gay community and calls for 20-year sentences for those engaged in “promoting” homosexuality (same-sex relations were already prohibited).

Many here in the United States have called on the Biden administration to quickly isolate and impose stiff sanctions on the government in Kampala and cut off aid to send a strong message of intolerance for these kinds of brutal moves, something US officials are threatening to do.…  Seguir leyendo »

La homofobia patrocinada por el estado de Uganda

A fines de mayo, el presidente de Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, firmó la Ley Antihomosexualidad, una nueva legislación que institucionaliza la persecución de las lesbianas, los homosexuales, los bisexuales, los transgénero, los queer y los intersexuales (LGBTQI+) y que, en términos más generales, promueve una cultura del odio.

La Ley es una de las leyes anti-LGBTQI+ más duras del mundo. Criminaliza las relaciones consensuadas entre personas del mismo sexo e impone sanciones severas, entre ellas la prisión de por vida para cualquier persona que tenga relaciones sexuales homosexuales y la pena de muerte por “homosexualidad agravada”, definida como los actos homosexuales que involucran a individuos infectados con VIH, niños o personas discapacitadas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Uganda's queer activist Papa De raises her fist outside the Uganda High Commission in Pretoria during a picket against the country's anti-homosexuality bill on April 4. (Phill Magakoe / AFP)

In February 2014, Jim Yong Kim, then-president of the World Bank, received a call from Rep. Barney Frank, the influential former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, as well as other prominent congressional leaders. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had just approved a slightly weaker version of the brutal anti-homosexuality bill that he signed into law this past Monday.

Frank reportedly told Kim that support from the United States and other donors could be in jeopardy if “the bank goes ahead and gives all this money to Uganda right after signing that terrible law”.

Soon thereafter, Kim published a Post op-ed announcing that the World Bank would undertake a review of how it might enshrine opposition to discrimination more explicitly into its decision-making.…  Seguir leyendo »

Jane Apunyo, head nurse at an Ebola treatment center in Mubende, Uganda, last week. Badru Katumba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The first major Ebola outbreak in Uganda happened when I was a medical student at Makerere University in Kampala. A professor of virology explained to us the dangers of filoviruses, the virus family Ebola belongs to, and why they should be avoided at all costs.

Seven years later, in 2007, I was a newly minted military officer, detailed to respond to a new Ebola outbreak near the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I saw this danger firsthand.

It’s one thing to learn about the virus in medical school, but it’s another to travel deep into a remote area to face a deadly scourge.…  Seguir leyendo »

The first plane of Ugandan Asian evacuees arrive at Stansted Airport on September 18, 1972.

The plane carrying 193 passengers circled down over London Stansted Airport, where a cluster of journalists were waiting to document its arrival. Stepping onto the tarmac under typically gray English skies, the families clutched their scant possessions in briefcases and boxes, saris flowing in the wind.

Five decades after the first evacuation flight of Ugandan Asians touched down in the United Kingdom on September 18, 1972, their story has been held up as a triumph of British generosity and migratory success.

But the back story is less heroic, as the British government first tried to send them anywhere else.

In early August 1972, Uganda's brutal military dictator Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of the country's entire Asian population -- including my grandparents.…  Seguir leyendo »

Estudiante de robótica de la academia Digital Citizen Fund. Fuente: Facebook de Digital Citizen Fund.

El quinto objetivo de la Agenda 2030 resalta en uno de sus epígrafes la importancia de la tecnología como herramienta de empoderamiento femenino. No es una demanda nueva, pues en la Cuarta Conferencia Mundial sobre las Mujeres (Beijing, 1995) se defendía en el punto 35 “el acceso de las mujeres en condiciones de igualdad a los recursos económicos, incluidos la tierra, el crédito, la ciencia y la tecnología…”.

Pasados los años, y como se constata en diferentes informes internacionales, la situación ha mejorado, pero siguen existiendo enormes carencias en este ámbito. De esta manera, por ejemplo, en el continente africano se indica que el uso de internet entre los hombres supera en 250 millones al del género femenino y que las mujeres están infrarrepresentadas en los puestos de trabajo derivados de las tecnologías, en la alta dirección y en las carreras académicas.…  Seguir leyendo »

People extinguish fire on cars caused by a bomb explosion near Parliament building in Kampala, Uganda, on November 16, 2021. - Two explosions hit Uganda's capital Kampala on November 16, 2021, injuring a number of people in what police termed an attack on Ivan Kabuye / AFP

What happened and who is allegedly involved?

On 16 November, a trio of suicide bombers targeted Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, one detonating his vest outside police headquarters and two more blowing themselves up near parliament. The attacks killed at least four other people, according to official reports, and wounded 37 more, 27 of whom were police officers. As the city reeled from the blasts, security forces hunted down a fourth bomber in north-western Kampala, shooting him before recovering his suicide vest. The police said they had recovered more explosive materials from a safe house the fourth attacker was using in a nearby suburb and were continuing to track other possible members of the “terror groups”.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Uganda ran out of vaccines shortly after the first doses arrived in March, it was another blow for girls and young women who have made extraordinary sacrifices as our country struggles to keep Covid-19 at bay.

Schools and universities were again shuttered, leaving 15 million students at home or on the streets. Workers went unpaid and fear spread through the communities. The impacts were felt first and hardest by women, especially if they were young.

Months later, the lockdown has not been fully lifted. People wait for hours in the street for the few vaccines that have crossed our borders.…  Seguir leyendo »

People queueing outside a health centre to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in Kampala, Uganda, in August 2021. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

My gardener, Emmanuel, returned a few days ago after a five-month hiatus. One of the conditions for his return was that he needed to be vaccinated. He comes from Karamoja in the north-eastern part of Uganda, where the vaccine uptake was low, so he was able to get vaccinated.

I first thought that he was fibbing, as many Ugandans are prone to do when they get fake documents in order to get a pass. I checked his card and confirmed he had a genuine vaccination card. He told me that his whole family had been vaccinated.

On the other hand, Annet, my live-in housekeeper, has resisted getting the vaccine – always weaving new stories of why she cannot get it.…  Seguir leyendo »

My Country Did Everything Right on Covid. And the Worst Is Still Here

Early in the pandemic, Uganda bought itself precious time at great economic cost to protect its people from Covid-19.

There were lockdowns, international travel was restricted, and border screenings were introduced to prevent entry of the coronavirus. Cases of Covid-19 identified at borders or in communities were isolated, and people who had been in contact with those infected were quarantined and checked on by public health authorities.

These measures were meant to minimize the impact of the pandemic until drugs and vaccines could be found and distributed. However, as of July 6, only about 2 percent of Ugandans are vaccinated. There were more deaths reported in the month of June than total deaths reported since the start of the pandemic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bobi Wine is detained by riot police during an anti-government demonstration in Kampala on 15 March 2021. Photograph: Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters

Uganda is experiencing its worst wave of political oppression in decades. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of supporters of opposition parties to President General Yoweri Museveni have been abducted, detained and tortured in recent months. Like many, I bear the scars of the baton, have felt the sting of teargas and endured unlawful detention. But I know that this is not personal. It isn’t about me.

Many others, whose only offence is to exercise constitutionally entrenched rights and freedoms, have been clobbered, abducted, tortured and put on show trial. The atrocities are numerous: the unresolved carnage of the Kayunga shootings in 2009 that saw 40 left dead, the massacres in Rwenzururu where police and military killed more than 150, or the November 2020 killings in which more than 50 protesters lost their lives.…  Seguir leyendo »

Security forces gather on election day in Kampala, Uganda, on Jan. 14. Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine on Monday released a list of 243 people who have allegedly been abducted by the security forces, piling pressure on the government to find those missing amid continuing political tensions after last month’s elections. (Jerome Delay/AP)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni won a sixth term with 58.6 percent of the vote last month, in an election marred by unprecedented violence and repression. Measures supposedly aimed at enforcing covid-19 regulations de facto criminalized political competition, preventing or banning the opposition from electoral campaigns. Security forces targeted opposition candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, known popularly as Bobi Wine, and his supporters, in particular.

Kyagulanyi and his National Unity Platform party firmly rejected the election results as fraudulent. The United States and European Union noted concerns over the credibility of the Jan. 14 election, and the United States called for an audit of the returns.…  Seguir leyendo »

An example of the ballot for the upcoming elections is displayed on a wall at the electoral commission headquarters in Kampala, Uganda. (Sumy Sadurni/AFP/Getty Images)

In Uganda, the military deployed to opposition strongholds in Kampala and the government blocked all social media going into Thursday’s elections. On Jan. 14, millions of Ugandans will vote in the country’s presidential elections. To many, the day may seem like politics as usual as incumbent President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) again seeks to extend his rule.

Museveni has been in power since 1986, and this week’s election won’t be free or fair. Here’s why Ugandan politics now seem to be diverging from the typical script, and how the political landscape has changed.

The opposition has changed even as the regime’s repressive tactics remain the same

This is the first time in the past two decades that Kizza Besigye of the leading opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), is not challenging Museveni.…  Seguir leyendo »

Badru Katumba/AFP via Getty Images) Opposition leader Bobi Wine saluting as he walked into a court building following his arrest at an election rally, Inganga, Uganda, November 19, 2020

When the popular Ugandan singer and opposition politician Bobi Wine was arrested last week, his nation erupted. A huge crowd had gathered in Luuka, just east of the capital Kampala, to hear him speak, when security forces suddenly began firing not only tear gas canisters but also live bullets into the crowd and beating away Wine’s bodyguards with batons and pepper spray.

Wine was driven off in a police van and detained for two days without access to his family, doctors, or lawyers. The charge? Holding a rally of more than two hundred people, in violation of Covid-19 social-distancing regulations—something that ruling party politicians, including Uganda’s strongman leader Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, have been doing with impunity.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »