You shared Luzinda’s nude photos? STOP FORWARDING VIOLENCE!

5 11 2014

Desire Luzinda’s nude photos are making a wave on the internet – thanks to Ugandans who have made it their business to not only share the photos widely but also to ‘play Luzinda’ in the photos. What is rather appalling is the fact that many parents (or people) have made their children mimic these poses.

Desire is a really good singer. However, I had never imagined writing a blog about her. Her life, (turbulent as it is) is her personal business. Yet, seeing people go gaga over nude photos makes it my business to say a few things:

What have we learned about Ugandans who have gone gaga over those nude photos?

  1. They are immoral people. We claim to be a country of high morality and yet our actions do not depict that so much. Seeing how much people are talking about Luzinda’s nude pictures in the past few days is proof that many Ugandans are always looking for an excuse to publicly share pornography.
  2. They are violent people. Nude pictures leak all the time. But, the Nigerian man who leaked those photos wanted to humiliate Luzinda. When you make it your personal business to share those pictures publicly, you strip her of the (little) dignity (left).
  3. They do not know the difference between what is cool and what is stupid. I have seen a bunch of men doing the so-called “luzfie” pose and shared photos on Facebook and Whatsapp – that is NOT cool, it is stupid.
  4. They are shallow minded people with lots of time to kill. Someone has printed t-shirts with stick figures mimicking a pose in the nude pictures. While this is a business idea, its not appropriate. Use something more culturally appropriate, something that does not offend a woman!

What is rather more disappointing is the Minister, Lokodo who wants Desire Luzinda (who by the way is the victim) arrested over violation of the Anti-Pornography Act. This Minister who probably knows nothing about Facebook said “you can imagine how she exposed pictures on Facebook, she should be locked up and isolated” – Daily Monitor. Lokodo is not any different from those hooligans who blame a victim instead of helping them to solve the problem at hand (which to me is thousands of Ugandans: (a) exposing children to pornography,  (b) stripping a woman of her dignity).

I was against the Anti-Pornography Bill before it was enacted because some of the clauses are aimed at censoring the media and freedom of expression. However, now that it is a law, perhaps it should be used to punish the people who are sharing these nude pictures – starting with the man who leaked them. Hopefully the parents or adults who got children to mimic the nude poses will get a life sentence.

Apparently the Nigerian man who leaked the nude photos holds a Ugandan passport. I am not surprised that many Ugandans ignored the fact that many Ugandans struggle to get a Ugandan passport and yet many foreigners hold Ugandan passports.

I can only relate this hooliganism to sadists who undress women claiming that they are wearing “mini-skirts”. Just like those sadists, you don’t care about dignity of women, you just want to strip them naked and laugh about it.

Perhaps you are wondering why Desire agreed to take those photos if she did not want them shared publicly? Well, even someone who has never taken a nude picture would know that you don’t want it on Facebook and the only person who has the moral right to share it is you – no one else.

When you forward/ share a picture of a naked woman (or man) on the internet, you are forwarding violence. Violence against women is not cool, it is a crime! Stop forwarding the violence.

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We have a homosexuality situation – the law should solve that; and HIV? That too!

13 05 2014

The HIV Prevention and Management Law is a double-edged sword that threatens to impair Uganda’s positive progress in reducing HIV (over the decades) and to play into the hands of those who seek to stigmatize people living with HIV.

I have never been more disappointed in the parliament of Uganda. Some people say that being an MP is the lowest job – NOT in terms of pay, in terms of work done and results.

Parliament has become a house where political interests are fronted and these parliamentarians forget that they represent the people, and that they legislate for the people.

When the anti-homosexuality bill was presented before parliament, politicians said that it as a foreign-induced problem or a habit influenced by the western culture. Once this had been established, the solution to homosexuality became very simple – crimininalize it and that will be the last we hear of homosexuality.

As far as I know, homosexuality has been around (Uganda) for decades, perhaps centuries. In Uganda, homosexuality has been highly pronounced in prisons, single sex schools and very recently in churches. Of course the prison wardens, teachers and religious leaders have always disregarded these allegations – claiming that they are unfounded rumors aimed at tarnishing their reputation.

In fact, we have even seen more bizarre occurrences in different parts of Uganda – men having sex with cows, donkeys, and goats – thanks to the restless media!

Last year, a very prominent priest, Fr. Musaala wrote an open letter to the Catholic church. In his letter, he noted that homosexuality (or call it men having sex with men/ boys) was on the rise among priests and that perhaps its time to consider allowing Reverend Fathers to lawfully get married. He also noted that many Catholic priests were indulging in fornication.

I must say that I was very disappointed in the Catholic Church’s reaction to this letter – they threatened, harassed, censored and even dismissed Fr. Musaala. Why? Catholics are Christians. Christians listen, forgive and try to solve problems – they do NOT run away from problems. At least that’s what the Bible says.

Now, I am literally a Catholic because my father is a member of that Church. So, spare me your Reverend Fathers are NOT allowed to marry and they know it, they took oath, extra – because I already know it.

What I don’t know is why Christians choose to be so heartless.

But, that is NOT the real story. The real story is, many Ugandans have failed to understand the difference between culture and conservativeness.

When we claim that homosexuality is induced by the west and we hurriedly introduce a law to criminalize it, we are being conservative.

We should be mature enough to understand that criminalizing behaviour does NOT solve the problem but drives behaviour underground. We can NOT look at the law as a silver/ even gold bullet to solve even the smallest of our challenges or “problems”.

This afternoon, Parliament of Uganda passed the contentious HIV Prevention and Management Bill. This law criminalizes attempted (clause 39) and intentional transmission (clause 41) of HIV among other things.

The HIV Prevention and Management Law is a double-edged sword that threatens to impair Uganda’s positive progress in reducing HIV (over the decades) and to play into the hands of those who seek to stigmatize people living with HIV.

I totally understand that the HIV challenge has been a round for decades and that HIV is one of the leading killer diseases in Uganda and the African continent at large. Question remains, given what we (Ugandans) know about HIV, why is the prevalence still very high in Uganda?

HIV prevalence (estimated at 7.3%) remains very high in fishing villages, among the youth and interesting among married couples in Uganda. This is a behaviour issue. I probably dont have to iterate that majority of the people who transmit HIV are not aware of their own status and the same applies to those who get infected.

May I remind you that only 35% of Ugandans know their HIV status! With the HIV law in place, we are likely to see reduction in number of people who voluntarily take the HIV test.

Technical experts rejected the contentious clauses in the HIV Bill since 2010 and warned the Members of Parliament that if this bill is passed, it will have dire consequences on the HIV struggle. Experts from Uganda AIDS Commission, Ministry of Health and other prominent Ugandan scientists/researchers proved their arguments to the members of parliament.

A public health expert speaking to MPs during a dialogue meeting on HIV Bill

A public health expert speaking to MPs and key stakeholders during a dialogue meeting on HIV Bill

I attended a bunch of meetings where MPs interfaced with these experts and dozens of members of parliament understood consequences of such a law. In fact, some of these MPs were against this legislation. This afternoon the MPs decided to ignore the evidence and guidance from public health experts and key stakeholders.

Passing of this law proves the notion that – the lowest job in Uganda is being a Member of Parliament. What are we (Ugandans) going to do about this? Are we going to allow  these “no-brainers” to determine the fate of our country?

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Uganda: HIV specific laws will make us losers NOT winners.

23 04 2014

I have lived with HIV for the last 29 years. My wife is HIV negative. We have 4 children. When I married her, she was aware of my HIV status, Major Rubaramira Rulanga a member of parliament gave his testimony at during a civil society lobby meeting with MPs.

Statistics show that only 35% of Uganda’s general population have tested and received their HIV results. Majority of the people who know their HIV status are women.

In November 2013, President Museveni publicly tested for HIV in a symbolic exercise to encourage Ugandans to know their HIV status.

Meanwhile the members of parliament have some sort of alternative to the president’s initiative. They want to make HIV testing mandatory and at the same time criminalize the transmission of HIV from one person to another.

These legislators are who serve on the Committee on Health believe that enacting the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill 2010 into law could help address the current HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda.

In the 80s and 90s many African countries did not want to talk about HIV because they feared that their tourism industry would be affected. President Museveni and Minister Ruhakana Rugunda were among the first Africans to say, look, we have a problem (of HIV) and we need to address it.

Since then, Uganda has pioneered numerous interventions such as “if you are going to do it, go with a condom.” This is the ABC approach, which was made here in Uganda and it has been a backbone to the HIV fight since the 80s. Through these kinds of interventions, Uganda managed to reverse HIV/AIDS prevalence from a staggering 18.5% in the early 90s to 6.7% in 2002/03. Uganda became internationally recognized as one of the global leaders on HIV prevention and management.

However, a 2011 survey by the Ministry of Health shows that HIV prevalence has increased – from 6.4% in 2005 to 7.3% in 2011. This places Uganda in the same league as Angola and Mozambique, the only three African countries where HIV prevalence is increasing. HIV is one of the leading causes of death in Uganda.

Now I understand that the members of the Committee on Health are probably frustrated but after reading the content of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill, I am certain that they are backsliding. Instead of looking for ways to manage the epidemic, the legislators are seeking to criminalize HIV and this bill has a bunch of contentious clauses.

Clause 41 of the bill criminalizes the “intentional transmission” of HIV to another person.

Human rights activists highly criticize Clause 41. They say that it would be difficult if not impossible to establish to court, who was infected first between two partners for the purpose of prosecution.

In Uganda we don’t have the technology to show/ prove that this particular person infected you. According to the Chairman of the Uganda AIDS Commission, technology will not show this because the virus is continuously changing. Members of parliament are aware of this but they still want to pass the bill in anticipation that technology is changing – maybe one day we will have the technology to prove.

A regulation requiring that a pregnant mother and her spouse be tested for HIV to reduce or prevent mother to child transmission is on the verge of failing, Men started dodging antenatal visits many years ago because of fear of being tested for HIV. We have seen overwhelming reports from Eastern Uganda where men hire boda boda drivers to escort their pregnant wives to health centers for fear of being tested. In fact, we have also heard stories where men steal their wives’ ARVs!

“If I know that knowing my HIV status can be used against me in a court of law, why would I test voluntarily?” Dora Kiconco the Director of UGANET said at a meeting with legislators. If this bill is passed into law, people will shun services such as voluntary (HIV) testing because as long as you don’t know your HIV status, you cannot be convicted under this law.

I can talk about the contentious clauses in the bill until the cows come home. If you asked me, the legislators missed the key aspects. They forgot that they legislate for the people and that to effectively manage the HIV epidemic, we need resources. Government of Uganda contributes only 19% to HIV/AIDS programs, the rest of the funds come from donors. This means that HIV is among the least of our government’s priorities.

Members of parliament must know that many their constituencies find themselves in an under privileged position. People need information. At some point, people thought that if you shared a plate, basin or fork with a person who is HIV positive, you could get infected. This was all wrong information. But the government of Uganda intervened very quickly and raised awareness to an extent that even a child understands how HIV is transmitted.

There is complacency among the people but also among the duty bearers. Treat people, educate people – this could help reduce new infections. It has worked very well in the past. Government has stopped doing some of the things it used to do. Over the years we have seen HIV awareness fade away in thin air especially among the young people.

What if HIV Prevention and Control Bill became HIV Prevention and Management Bill? This could help us prevent new infections and manage the patients by extending treatment and support.

“At one point we had reached the point where the whole world knew that we were taking the lead in fighting HIV. In countries where criminalization has not been done, the progress is very visible.” Noerine Kaleeba founder TASO Uganda

It is proven beyond doubt that if we use the right strategies, Uganda can come reclaim its reputation as one of the world leaders in HIV prevention and management.

In 2011 25,000 babies were born with HIV, last year this number reduced to 8,000 thanks to the PMTCT (prevention of mother to child transmission) intervention. Increased numbers of people going on treatment – about 60% of HIV patients are on treatment. We are making progress.

A recent BBC news story by Catherine Byaruhanga shows “Ugandans selling bogus HIV certificates”. This news story shows a young lady buying HIV negative results after confessing that she is HIV positive. She is buying these results so she can get a job. She is looking for means of survival. What would she rather do?

Now, I totally agree that people who carelessly or even intentionally transmit HIV should be prosecuted. We just have to figure out the right way to do it. Legal experts say thatSection 171 of the Penal Code Act criminalizes intentional transmission of disease (including HIV) and that if there is need, the penal code act can be amended to specifically include HIV.

My opinion is, we should NOT focus on controlling HIV but rather how to manage it. HIV is a challenge but, lets NOT criminalize and stigmatize people when we don’t have a proper framework to manage the process.

Even though the HIV Prevention and Control Bill is relevant, its enforcement remains very questionable. This law will have many loopholes – like many other laws in Uganda. Some people will trickle through the net and the problem will remain.

Did you know that we have the “enguli act” in Uganda? The act criminalizes local brew. What happens today is instead of convicting these people (drunkards); police ends up drinking the exhibit at some point.

Through some of the meetings I have attended between the members of parliament and human rights activists, I have learned that even though some of the MPs use their emotion to defend some of these contentious issues, they are also human, willing to learn and make people friendly legislations.

Only an HIV positive person would know how hard it is to go for a test, to disclose their status and to go for the services.” Lillian Mworeko, Director ICWEA

According to public health experts, the entry point of HIV care is through testing. Lets encourage people to continue test without giving them the impression that knowing their HIV status could be used against them. Lets make sure that HIV services and programs are available, accessible and of acceptable quality for all.

If we are going to criminalize HIV, are we going to improve on the conditions in the retention centers? We are definitely going to have to expand those jails. This is money we could invest in treatment, raising awareness of the epidemic and providing support to the health workers.





Did President Museveni sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill for “mercenary reasons”?

26 02 2014

Over the past few weeks President Museveni has made headlines in both local and international news to the extent that he attracted the attention of President Obama, which ended into a mini-cold-war of a sort.

Even though Museveni agrees that he knows (so) little about (the cause of) homosexuality, he puts it very bluntly that homosexuals are NOT normal, that homosexuality is a product of the western culture and that it has no place in Africa. Well, this is an opinion that many Ugandans (or should I say Africans) share.

After a long contentious debate, President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law yesterday. The President made it clear that he wanted the whole world to witness this; most of the world’s popular media houses witnessed the occasion.

The international community has expressed its disappointment in Museveni and Uganda in general. In fact a number of countries have threatened to cut aid to the Uganda government.

“The United States is deeply disappointed in the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “This is a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights. Ultimately, the only answer is repeal of this law. Via Aljazeera

Some people say that Museveni only signed the bill because “Obama dared him”. Obama warns Uganda over anti-gay law – Reuters.

Museveni responded to Obama with no kind words. “Countries and Societies should relate with each other on the basis of mutual respect and independence in decision making,” Museveni said in a statement. – New Vision

Apparently, Museveni wanted to put the leaders of the west in their place, to show them that they don’t have power or control over sovereign African states.

But what would have happened if Obama had NOT “dared” Museveni? Maybe things would have turn out differently? I don’t think so. I am sure that Museveni has been looking for an opportune moment to hit the west where it hurts most – to show them that he is the ONLY person who has power and control over Uganda.  This is why he wanted the signing of the bill to be covered widely.

And this is where I suspect that there is more to the signing of the Anti-Gay Bill than meets the eyes. It’s not just about “our culture” or homosexuality, it is about power, control and ego.

A friend of mine wrote on Facebook “Obama was only 24 years when Museveni came to power. How can he caution him?”

Why are African Presidents feeling threatened?

Over the past few months we have seen African leaders ganging up against their counterparts in the west – saying that the west is remotely controlling Africa. That African Presidents are being still overlooked and treated unfairly. A key example is the recent trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta at International Criminal Court (ICC).

African leaders reached a compromise – to boycott the ICC. The leaders agreed that African problems should be solved by Africans. Since then, African Presidents have upped their hostility towards the ICC and leaders from the west.

President Museveni is one of the political “giants” on the African continent – not because he has been in power for almost 3 decades – no! Because, over those years he has proven to be an asset to other leaders (or rulers like some people prefer to call him) of his caliber. Hence he is deeply respected in those circles.

Personally, I have this feeling that African Presidents are secretly executing a project – the “Anti-West Influence/ Control” project. And they are always looking for an opportunity to rub it in the faces of leaders like President Obama.

Therefore wonder whether Museveni might have signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill for “mercenary” reasons.

  1. Did President Museveni sign the bill to “mark his territory”? There has been increasing speculation in Uganda that if anyone is to save Ugandans from Museveni’s regime, it will come at the might of Obama (administration). Today, Museveni is trying to demystify such speculations.
  2. Museveni has also made it clear that he is going to contest in the 2016 Presidential elections and he knew that by enacting this law, he would win the hearts of many Ugandans who share his opinions on issues of homosexuality. He is basically hitting two birds with the same stone.

After all has been said and done, many LGBTI rights activists still have hope that this law can still be nullified through the court. But the question remains, what’s Museveni’s agenda (if he has any)?





“The nurse who injected a child with HIV blood”: Media propaganda in Uganda

10 02 2014

You have probably seen or heard the story of “the nurse who injected a child with blood”. Yes? Well the nurse’s name is Namubiru. I saw this story on NTV Akawungeezi – the Luganda version at seven in the evening. See the video clip below.

My first reaction was irritation and deep inside I was wondering, how could a nurse who is over 50 (judging from her looks) be so heartless? At the same time I was reflecting on a post I wrote on the recent World AIDS Day – Are we “Getting to Zero”?: The HIV/AIDS blame game in Uganda.

This story really bothered me, the thought that a nurse could do such (to a child), made me sick in the stomach. Since then, I have followed the developments on this story. Once in a while I could catch a news byte to update myself on the case.

As I continued to follow the story I learned that there were actually two different narratives and both of them were victimizing the nurse. One said that “the nurse used the same syringe she had used on her self to give a child a shot yet she was aware that she is HIV positive” while the other said that “the nurse had injected the child with HIV positive blood”.

Mid last week I was listening to Sanyu FM’s news and the nurse’s case was mentioned again “the trial of the HIV positive nurse who injected a child with blood is set for Friday this week….. After the incident, the child was tested and found HIV positive yet the parents of the child are both HIV negative..”

The other day I met some people who are following this nurse’s case. They mentioned that they were from court and that the nurse had been denied bail. They asked whether I knew anything about that case.

I told them what I knew – basically the narrative that the media was spreading wildly; that the nurse injected a child with blood and infected her with HIV. Little did I know that this was far from the truth.

This is how I learned the other story, one that is not known to many. According to the people who have interacted with the nurse and the parents of the child, the nurse did not actually inject the child with blood.

What happened is that the child was on treatment and this nurse was supposed to administer a shot. Of course the nurse had a syringe in her hand. But we all know how much children fear pricking. So the child tried to resist and in the process the nurse pricked her (index) finger.

The mistake the nurse did is going ahead to use the syringe that had pricked her on the child – why she didn’t do this, you and I will probably never know but she (the nurse) insists that she didn’t have any ill intentions against the child.

The other thing I learned is, even though the nurse is HIV positive, apparently the child has been tested for HIV at least twice since the incident and she has tested negative on both occasions. If this is true, why does the Urban TV report – “Baby infected with HIV“?

What does this kind of reporting mean for the child in question. If the child is HIV negative, how will the narrative be reversed? Of course normally the media will rush into reporting without thinking about the damage this could cause to this child, her family or even the nurse who now seems to be a public enemy.

The media has succeeded in telling us just what we want to hear. Human nature is characterized with complaining, victimizing and well, hypocrisy; the media uses those same characteristics to tell us a story that we can identify with, a story that will win our hearts. The New Vision picture below shows a picture of the nurse, Namubiru looking terrified.terrified-Namubiru

Once the media has set the ground with all their propaganda, the nurse story becomes of no relevance, even if she tells her story, how many people will be interested in listening to it? And this is where the danger of a single story comes in.

In the end, media houses have nothing to lose. People enjoy reading these unbalance because they are easier to understand and easy for the journalists to compile in a short time.

Here are some of the headlines from some of the most popular media houses in Uganda.

Nurse Who Injected Child With HIV Blood Denied Bail – Red Pepper

Woman arrested for injecting baby with HIV infected blood – New Vision

How a nurse injected baby with HIV blood – The Observer

Baby infected with HIV – Urban TV

Lack of professionalism  or Ignorance?

When I see stories like this in the media only one thing comes to my mind – that after many decades of reporting on HIV/AIDS, journalists and editors have learned nothing, nothing at all. Many journalists have failed to understand that they have a role to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS and that their role is not to spread the gospel of discrimination but to educate people through telling true and balanced stories.

“Our health reporting is really lacking, we need training to help us understand those scientific terms and jargon language….” I have seen journalists front this excuse on several occasions. Well, I am NOT buying that no more! We are talking about the basics here, if you cant tell a simple story as it is, without fabricating the facts, am afraid even training on health reporting won’t benefit you much.

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When I look at how the media has portrayed this nurse’s story, I feel hopeless. I learned that this nurse has a daughter. With this kind of reporting, the nurse becomes a public enemy even before the public knows verdict.

However, I still have faith that when the media and journalism is dies (if its not dead already), there are still people who are willing to tell and hear the balanced story, not to victimize or discriminate but to seek justice and make the world a better place.





Are we “Getting to Zero”?: The HIV/AIDS blame game in Uganda

30 11 2013

I was 7 years old when I lost my aunt. Prior to her death there was a rumor going around in the family that she was HIV positive. Most of these rumors were stigmatizing because everyone looked at an HIV victim as if they were dying tomorrow.  In the mid 90s the term HIV/AIDS was not popular. People preferred to use the local word “siliimu” which means slim. The term siliimu was used because of the way HIV turned victims into walking skeletons – literally.

But I guess the stigmatization was not as humiliating as the pain the patients went through in their final days of life. Many would be bed ridden for days/ months. Some (un)lucky ones would even stay ill on their death beds for years.

Before my aunt died she was ill for very many weeks. At the time all HIV patients received counseling services and a very specific kind of yellow corn flour from TASO. Apparently the yellow corn flour was rich in nutrients to help victims live longer.  Patients also got some medications such as Septrine and painkillers. At the time the ARVs were not accessible/ available.

In the beginning people welcomed TASO and the HIV patients were willing to go for services because TASO promised all patients confidentiality. This did not last long, people started spreading rumors “did you know, I found this person at TASO, they must be HIV positive”.

Like many other patients my aunt lived in denial. She never agreed to an HIV test even though my mom persuaded her to test saying that this is the only way she would get medication.

There was little knowledge and information about HIV, people knew that HIV had no cure and they knew that a patient would develop diarrhea, grow slim and eventually die. Not much was known about how its spreads, how to take care of patients extra. So mere suspecting that one is HIV positive meant that they would be stigmatized for the rest of their life.

The Baganda have an interesting culture where some one would public declare the cause of death at your funeral. When an HIV patient died normally small talks would go around during the funeral – “he/she died of siliimu”.

When I was 10 years old I lost my most favorite teacher ever. Her death was rather unusual, she was ill for only 2 or 3 days. She died of a headache but rumor had it that she had AIDS.

Eventually there were dozens of death recorded and all were attributed to HIV. Some of these deaths were very painful to my family and I because the people were very close to us.

Fast forward:

Today, HIV/AIDS continues to spread and kill thousands in Uganda. The stigma has significantly reduced. I think the stigma has reduced because access to ARVs has improved in the country, which means that people living with HIV/AIDS can live longer.

On November 3rd the Prime Minister of Uganda Amama Mbabazi cited increased access to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs as one of the causes for disheartening complacency that has seen a spike in new HIV infections countrywide.

When the Prime Minister makes such remarks I wonder whether the government’s commitment to “Get to Zero” (zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related death) still stands. Mbabazi might have a point but his statement is rather demeaning to the many HIV/AIDS patients and stakeholders who are making sure that patients get access to the much needed ARVs.

One the major weaknesses in the fight against HIV/AIDS is government failure to integrate sexual and reproductive health education into the national syllabi right from primary to advanced levels of education. There is a lot of secrecy when it comes to sex. Many young boys and girls who are sexually active resort to local tabloids. Newspapers, television and Internet for those who have access to educate themselves about sex and reproductive health.

But what does this mean for many rural youth who drop out of school, don’t have access to this information? Well, of course this means that they are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. For me this feels like we are taking 1-step forward and 2 steps backward in the fight against HIV.

Uganda was once a champion on the African continent in the fight against HIV. Today, statistics show that many African countries are dealing with the epidemic much better than us. What happened? Perhaps our leaders got so excited because their initial efforts registered a lot of success and since they became complacent?

Is this a time to play the blame game? Perhaps NOT! That’s why I am not going to talk about the woes in the maternal health sector and government’s failure to prioritize health in the national budget.

Tomorrow is the International World AIDS Day. For me this day brings back a lot of painful memories but most importantly it reminds me that “Getting to Zero” is a shared responsibility. It is going to require (renewed) commitment, less blaming and more doing. And I hope that our government will actually champion this struggle and make it a priority.





“The Baganda should test war”: Prayer of a private guard

28 11 2013

“Good morning sir, sir I was listening to the radio. These Baganda are saying that if Lukwago is impeached they are going to start a war against the government. I want a war to come to Buganda. These Baganda should test it. They think they can fight. They have never seen a war “ the guard continued.

Yesterday, the guard at my house engaged me in a 20 minutes conversation or should I say story since he did all the talking. I made a few comments here and there but mostly listening to him as he calmly poured out his anger and frustration.

This guard is the most respectful guard I have ever seen. Actually one of the most respectful Ugandans I have ever met. Until yesterday morning I couldn’t believe that this man (guard) could hold a grudge against anyone. He works for a private security company.

“Sir, I tested the war in Teso. A group of 20 plus rebels could rape your sister, wife or even mother right in front of you. And you could do nothing or you would die. Most of the women would die. I watched as relatives were slaughtered like goats. My father was a chief so he asked government to give us support and we got a lot of support. Now these Baganda are here saying they want to start a war. Let them start it. I will be on the side of the government and I will show them” the guard lamented.

I could feel the pain in his voice so to this I said, well, war is terrible. I was already thinking I am running late. I don’t know why I am listening to this conversation but I am still interested in knowing why he hates the Baganda so much.

“These Baganda are bad people. My landlady is a Muganda. A few months ago she took me to jail. I have two room at her house. One is my shop the other is my bedroom. One day she came to my shop and said, you are just a guard, how can you own a shop? Where do you get all this money? She tried to force her way in to my shop but I couldn’t let her because she was making all these allegations calling me a thief. So I pushed her out and then she tried to fight me. I didn’t know that was tricking me to beat her. I beat her seriously. That’s how I ended up in jail….” he said.

“But sir, can you imagine that this same woman also tried to trick me into marrying her daughter. She wanted me to kick my wife out so I could marry her daughter. Her daughter was even pregnant for another man. I refused! These Baganda are just thieves. They love money too much. I hate them! ” he continued.

At this point I was wondering whether he actually knows that I am a Muganda. My guess is no because he was speaking without holding back.

“Sir, these Baganda should just test war, I pray. Once they test like this, they will never open their mouth again. They are here celebrating Namugongo. That is nothing. Let me leave you so you can go to work sir. ” this time his eyes looked watery.

On my way to work I reflected on his story. I kept asking myself, how did we get to this point? Everything seems to rotate around our tribes now.

Assuming that he didn’t know that I am a Muganda, I chose not to reveal. I wasn’t sure whether this was necessary or even helpful in this situation.

I think the Baganda have “tested” some wars – Obote exiled Sir Edward Mutesa in 1966. Whether they have fought a war is a question for another day. My mom has told me some stories of the 1985 violence and the regimes before that.

Whether this guard was aware of this history, I dont know.

Even though I totally respect this guard’s opinions and was deeply touched by his story, I don’t think he is right to declare a war against the Baganda. Call me selfish but a war based on tribal segregation can get really filthy. I know so because I saw traumatizing pictures of the Rwanda genocide and the post-election violence in Kenya.








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