Museveni will NOT leave power, even if he loses.

18 02 2016

Ugandans went to polls this morning to decide who takes the country’s top job. There are 8 candidates in the race but the two dominant contenders are; Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (who is trying to extend his 30 year old regime) and Forum for Democratic Change’s, Dr. Kizza Besigye (who is contending for the forth time).

Yahoo Photo. A Ugandan casting a ballot earlier today.

Yahoo Photo. A Ugandan casting a ballot earlier today.

In Kampala, the capital, voting started between 2 to 7 hours late at most of the polling stations. Voters who turned up at 6am to queue up, anticipating of start casting their votes at 7am were disappointed when they learned that the Electoral Commission (EC) had NOT delivered the ballots and other supplies on time. The voters braved the hot sun for hours waiting for the commission to deliver ballot papers and boxes. Some of the polling stations received the ballot papers 45 minutes before the 4pm, when the voting exercise was set to end. Kampala and neighboring Wakiso are believed to be opposition strongholds and the delay to deliver voting material has been viewed as a deliberate act to deny the opposition the much-anticipated victory.

Live television coverage and social media updates from various parts of the country reveal that the process was mostly peaceful but with many inexcusable glitches caused by the EC. Cases of people found in possession of pre-ticked ballot papers have been reported around Kampala and Ntungamo. In fact, one polling officer allegedly issued two pre-ticked ballots in favour of Museveni to one of the voters – this caused some tension at the polling station.

This morning, the Uganda Communications Commission issued a directive to internet and mobile money service providers to block access to Twitter, Facebook and the mobile money transfer services. The ingenious citizens were one step a head of the technologically inept commission. They resorted to VPNs and Proxies to stay connected. Some of the incidents that happened at the polling stations were exposed on social media – with video and photo evidence.

The incidents Ugandans witnessed today show the problem with “Uganda’s democracy”, it is hooked to Museveni’s influence on the entire electoral process. These incidents assert fears expressed by Museveni’s contender that the vote was rigged long before the election day.

Museveni’s regime has mastered the art of not only keeping the opposition in check but also tightened its grip on the media making it impossible for journalists to report freely and openly about issues of service delivery, let alone election irregularities. The ruling NRM party has used the loopholes in the government’s institutionalized corruption to continue tightening its grip on power. The police and the army have on several occasions made controversial stands and remarks siding with the regime.

During the campaign period, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development have shown their support to Museveni through using public funds to sponsor TV commercials that are partisan. The adverts show how the government has focused on building and equipping hospitals, and creating opportunities for the youth in the past 30 years.

Museveni’s has used national television to openly intimidate people using the rhetoric that quite frankly suggests that if Ugandans vote him out of office, there will be no peace. Infact, the Secretary General of NRM, Justine Kasule Lumumba warned “the state will kill your children” if they try to disorganize stability and she added that “the government of NRM is NOT going anywhere”.

But Uganda’s problem is far beyond voting one man, Museveni, out of power. The problem is more about getting rid of a regime that has infested every public office, media house, corporate company with its own ideals and priorities at the expense of the needs and freedom of Ugandans.

Uganda has a very painful past and many quite frankly agree that let Museveni rule until he is tired. Ugandans just want peace and a peaceful transfer of power. This does not mean that many or even majority of Ugandans do not want change, but every time this discussion comes up the big question remains:

“At what cost?”





Uganda Electoral Commission under pressure over 20K “ghost voters”

12 02 2016

A recent data analysis that found discrepancies in the Uganda Electoral Commission voter count has put some voters on high alert, and consequently increased the anxiety about the upcoming presidential elections.

The data on Electoral Commission (EC) had indicated that there are 15,297,197 registered voters in Uganda. On the contrary, an independent data analysis found a 20,000 voter error margin. Here is another blog showing how we exposed the discrepancies and TMS Ruge’s breakdown of the data.

The Electoral Commission was notified about the discrepancies immediately. Instead of giving a detailed account of what happened, the commission made demeaning remarks – arguing that the analysis was baseless.

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But this was not good enough for the Ugandans who were eager to know what was going on.  They continued to pressure the EC through its official Twitter account, demanding that the issue should be taken seriously. In the meantime, media houses started reporting on this issue – pressure was mounting on the commission.

The Spokes person of the commission, Jotham Taremwa finally agreed – that this was a “statistical error”.

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WHAT THE DATA ANALYSIS REVEALED:

Analysis of voter data per polling station revealed that some polling stations had way more (some over 400) voters than they should have while others had way less.

At Nkokonjeru Primary School, a polling station in Ruharo Parish, Mbarara District; the Electoral Commission data shows that there are 436 Female Voters and 359 Male Voters – the total voter count (Female + Male) =387. Once we analyzed the data, we found that 408 voters were not accounted for.

At Nyamitanga Muslim Pri Sch, in Katete Parish, Mbarara District; the data indicated that there are 247 Female Voters and 202 Male Voters – the total voter count according to the commission = 900. Our analysis found that this was NOT correct.

Ghost Voter-Mbarara

Overall I personally came to the conclusion that there are probably not just 20,000 ghost voters but many more. If the Electoral Commission indicates that there are 387 voters at a given polling station and yet when I add number of Female (436) + (359) Male voters at the same polling station I get 795 I cannot help but wonder where the commission put the missing 408.

This morning (11, February), the commission quietly took down its website and removed the document we analyzed and replaced it with a new document with changes that seem to address the concerns we had. Well, some tweeps noticed that the website was down, which forced the EC to make this lame excuse.

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FAST FORWARD

With just 5 days to the polls I am not convinced that the commission is prepared to handle emerging issues especially when they involve discrepancies.

If the commission failed to compute the sum of a couple of hundreds (as indicated above), how can they convince Ugandans that they are ready to tally millions of votes from over 28,010 polling stations country wide?

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EC went into a coma after we published a simple analysis of data they should have crosschecked and rechecked many months and weeks ago. If anything, this shows how unprepared the commission is.

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Even though the commission has finally realized that our analysis was NOT baseless (as it originally claimed) – seeing that EC has updated its data to match our figures, the manner in which they did it is unacceptable. With no explanation to the public. What is even worse, in the latest version of data, EC has eliminated the columns showing the number of Male and Female voters per polling station leaving just the total voter count per polling station.

Taking away the demographics makes it impossible for us or anyone else to do further analysis – and that is probably what the EC wants. But, this does not mean that there are no more loopholes in the voter registers.

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“Luckily”, the EC has procured handheld Biometric Voter Verification Systems and they are expected to catch any anomalies the commission might have missed. But, I have a feeling that at many of the polling stations, especially the rural ones (which are the majority in number), they will have to rely on the paper based register – because (sometimes) technology fails.

For now, I will keep crunching the voter register data as I anxiously await for the EC to deliver its promise of a “free and fair election”!





Is NTV Uganda the new Lokodo: Staff fired over nude leaks

27 05 2015

Nude photos of Fabiola Kyalimpa leaked in February 2015: thanks to a local tabloid, the photos made rounds on social media. This afternoon NTV Uganda announced (internally) that Fabiola who was a TV show host at this station was asked to resign her duties effective immediately. An email NTV management sent to the staff reads:

Dear Enablers,
This is to notify you that Anita Kyarimpa a.k.a. Fabiola has been asked to resign her position as Presenter (Be My Date). This, she has done and it takes immediate effect. The reason emanates from her nude pictures that have been doing the rounds on the social media circuit.
Those in the habit of engaging or those contemplating in doing the same are strongly advised to think thrice of its repercussions. This tarnishes our brand image and values; a foundation on which we are built and respected….

Now, I understand that NTV feels very highly about its brand/ image. However this totally took me by surprise. Is NTV implying that this TV host wanted her nude photos to leak?

Nude photo leaks are becoming a common occurrence in Uganda and the media (especially tabloids) are making a good cut off the leaks. We can blame social media and the lunatics who make it their business to share leaked nude photos wide but the real problem lies with the responsibility and role of the media. As it is, our local tabloids do not have the etiquette to refrain from publishing the photos but what are other media houses doing about it – especially when one of their own is a victim?

The answer lies in the email NTV sent to the staff, a precise warning. Once your nude photos leak, show yourself the door and never come back! Clearly NTV’s response to Fabiola’s incident is rather appalling. Absolutely zero pity, instead, she is being punished for a “crime” she did not commit. This reminds me of Lokodo, who often thinks that women go around leaking their nude photos and that victims of revenge porn “should be locked up and isolated”. Yes, I do not see a difference between Lokodo and NTV.

In the email above NTV claims that its protecting the “brand/ image” which is rather absurd because NTV seems to be mixing two things – private and professional life of the TV host. Who is the real victim here: the station’s brand or Fabiola (who is dealing with nude leaks and involuntary loss of a job)? I see NTV’s problem, the management probably thinks that the employees do not have a private life or if they do, they should be very careful what they do with it.

When corporate companies respond to these kinds of situations like this, I wonder whether they think about the implications of such decisions.

  • For example, we now know how easy it is to end the career of any of NTV’s employees – leak their nude photos. How convenient or rather, absurd.
  • November 2014, NTV invited one of the victims of nude leaks to a morning show to talk about her experience and how she was handling the public humiliation. You invited one victim to share her experience on TV and yet you are dismissing your own?  This makes me question NTV’s (social) responsibility claim.

The fact that NTV is willing to tell the story of one woman whose nude photos have leaked tells me one thing – that NTV does not mind talking about nude leaks victims on TV for selfish reasons (to make money for the station). Yet, when nude pictures of a station employee leak, that is the end of her story and job!

Bravo NTV Uganda, that is as selfish as you can get.

Meanwhile, some folks are demanding NTV to #BringBackFabioula on Twitter.  Photo by Muhereza Kyamutetera ‏(@MKyamutetera)

Meanwhile, some folks are demanding NTV to #BringBackFabiola on Twitter. Photo by Muhereza Kyamutetera ‏(@MKyamutetera)





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)?