Elitism of Agriculture mechanisation in Uganda

For work, I often travel to the rural parts of Uganda. One common spectacle, especially for typically rural areas, is women tilling the land in the morning with children sound asleep on their backs and their very young children clinging to their skirts as if they are seeking refuge from their predicament.

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Bobi Wine – 2021 beckons

The countdown to 2021 in Uganda is on. That is when we will hold our next elections. Amendments to Laws have been made and campaigns are already in full gear. NRM the rolling party has already announced it’s candidate.
Bobi Wine aka Robert Kyagulanyi has also said he intends to run.
On Thursday last week, the well known musician turned politician appeared on a local TV’s prime time Politics Talk Show. Bobi Wine, was interviewed on NTV by Patrick Kamara. I did not watch the interview. I haven’t had the courage to sit and watch TV in a long time. Because I suffer from mild anxiety, and this country + the world these days will send one into a such a state. Seriously though : Gone are the days when watching TV news was the highlight of my evening.I woke up to the banter the next morning. WhatsApp statuses had things like : Glad I watched OnTheSpot last evening. Then the clips followed.

Bobi Wine was asked about fiscal policy to curb inflation. He replied with scrapping of the OTT tax. When asked if this would help grow the GDP , he answered : with quoting a Guardian Report that talks about 2 million people being kicked off the internet because of the OTT tax and because Uganda has a huge un employed youth, they are self employed by use of the internet.

Rookie answers that have the online /social media elite shredding him online – how can you say you are running for president when you cannot answer a question about the economy.
And so there have been warring sides about whether he should be taken serious or not.

These recent events have brought me to a couple of issues.

 

Populism

Bobi Wine  doesn’t belong to a party. But he is building a movement which has become very popular amongst young people – People Power. He has become so popular after winning a seat in Parliament and he wants to run for President in 2021. For by elections, FDC (leading Opposition Party) isn’t that popular is some areas anymore – but the people identify with People Power. So they vote anyone endorsed by Bobi Wine. This is what happened in Arua, with Kassiano Wadri winning the by election while in prison with Bobi Wine.

But every time I think about Populism, I remember my last two visits to Tunisia. I see the empty streets, run down infrastructure and young people trodden down. The young leaders that were part of the Arab Spring are mostly still in Prison. The very young people then who are now speaking on behalf of youth say the uprising didn’t achieve much but rather brought more issues with it. I think about that and wonder if we know what a revolution means. James Omen sums up this sentiment for me, pretty well.

Building Alliances

So far Bobi Wine has managed to do one thing – identify as part of the opposition. But has failed to join hands with other older folks in the struggle.. Uganda‘s opposition is so fragmented that it makes me wonder if it’s just not a group of careerists. I know a few people that were depressed for awhile after the 2016 fail of TDA , the would be alliance of the opposition. I would like to see more wholesome alliances built towards 2021. It would be great to see all of the opposition work together. But first they need to first agree. I wonder if Bobi Wine thinks about this.

The truth is that we all want new leadership. We want to be excited about the State of the Nation address, New Year’s address and listen to speeches starting with something else other than, “when we were in the bush”. But we also need to be very smart about how we go from here.

My friend and mentor Brian Kagoro always reminds us of a Martin Luther King Jr saying :  “Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” We cannot be selfish about the liberation of this country, it has got to be a collective effort. What Bobi Wine showed us on that TV show was that he wasn’t surrounding himself with the right people. It is okay that he understands the struggle and strife of the omuntu wa wansi (everyday person) but we also need to hear of the all inclusive fiscal policy tools to get the economy back on track. Yes, Museveni must go but,  when there’s a need to plan for the after.

Some have even gone ahead to say that it doesn’t matter. Others have said this is just the beginning , so we should cut him some slack.

Does it really not matter that a presidential candidate who has a few months to start campaigning,  isn’t sure of where he wants to take the country economically – going forward?  Not even a rough idea?

For God and my country.

Internet Usage in Uganda is political as it is economic

 

An online report released the other  week by the government telecom regulator, Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), indicated that people who paid over the top tax commonly known by its acronym, OTT reduced from 8.04 million in July 2018 to 6.84 million at the end of September 2018, revenue from OTT reduced from UGX 5.6 billion in July to UGX 3.9 billion and internet subscribers reduced from 16 million to 13.5 million.

The analysis which has dealt a devastating blow to the government’s logic on the essence of the tax – revenue enhancement only reinforced the already existing evidence that the tax was bad for business, both on the government and citizens’ side.

It’s with no doubt that the tax should be repealed because no good has come from it so far according to the report. Previously, the government seemed certain of its revenue, State Minister of Finance, Planning, Hon. Bahati at a press conference revealed that the government had gained UGX 7 billion, (UGX 2 billion from OTT) and the “idea of removing it would not be entertained.

However, in just one quarter (July to September 2018) after the Act commenced, a 29% decline in OTT revenue was declared, in addition to reduced internet usage and increased VPN users. The tax simply does not meet the basic conditions of a good tax in regard to fairness, adequacy, simplicity, transparency, and administrative ease and thus needs to be done away with. Now given the damning evidence against the OTT, which may worsen as small victories tend to embolden the victors, in our case the users who evade the tax using VPN, will government backtrack its previous stance?

 

Do we sometimes wonder why the tax on mobile money was hastily reversed and not the OTT? One explanation from a political economy perspective is the government which doubles as the NRM ruling party had a lot to lose by disgruntling a sizable chunk of its voter capital with the mobile money tax. Arguments against the tax were levelled mainly for the muntu wa wansi with little or no regard for any other demographic. The OTT, on the other hand, was a win for the government in a way that it would curtail a rising pseudo-intellectual class while reaping from it, UGX 200 at a time.

Furthermore, reduced internet usage has far-reaching political ramifications, especially given the government’s sentiments on the “misuse of social media.”

 

The ability to transmit information in real time, mobilize populations and encourage uncensored speech has created fear among governments and the powerful so much so that there is a general increase in restrictions on the use of the internet. Governments have adopted sophisticated technologies to block content, monitor and identify activists or critics, as well as criminalize legitimate forms of expression. In Uganda legislations like in the Excise Duty Act, 2018 under which OTT was legitimized is a true representation of the extent government will go to censor the internet. Other instances include the shutdown of social media during the 2016 general election, the selective use of the Computer Misuse Act etc.

The internet has become a crucial instrument to facilitate human rights and citizen participation and is therefore fundamental for building and strengthening democracies. Despite the onslaught from the government like with the OTT Ugandans continue to find means to maneuver but at an even greater cost. The question to ask now that the existing OTT measure has not gained as much success as anticipated, especially in the tax arena, will economics or politics take the day?

Women’s Bodies are Not for Tourism

 

Uganda’s leaders are at it again. Tourism minister, Hon Godfrey Kawanda beginning this week decided that he would be launching a beauty pageant to celebrate “curvy women”.  The competition will be called: ” Miss Curvy  Uganda”.It is unbelievable that in 2019, a Ugandan minister believes that parading curvaceous women’s will boost Uganda’s tourism. Uganda is a very beautiful country and currently, tourism is Uganda’s top foreign exchange earner with the country earning $1.4 billion in 2018, according to government statistics.

Most tourists visit national parks for diverse wildlife species such as gorillas, birds and other animals. The source of Nile River is also a prime attraction, including crater lakes and mountains.

Young women in Uganda  have joined hands to rally against the pageant.   Some of the leaders of they young women’s movement are voicing concerns saying this is not proper at all, especially that women have not been involved in the decision-making. Ssanyu Penelope points out that women have not consented to be part of the pageant. So the women movement has arranged a couple of meetings with the ministry to get down to the bottom of the issue.

“We are condemning the objectification of women’s bodies. People are claiming that the women involved consented, however there are sources that they actually didn’t – so we are meeting them to understand what really happened before we claim to understand this as their source of income.” Said Ssanyu Penelope

Ssanyu adds:

“We are saying the minister’s statement is a violation of Art 33(6). We are saying it’s shameful to want to parade women as objects for tourism whether they understand what they are doing or not. Of all the ways to boost tourism, how can women’s bodies be the main focus?”

Objectification of women’s bodies can be traced back to as far back as the slave trade era,  where we have read about Sarah Baartman.  I have seen quite a number of people refer to that incident in history when talking about the current issue in Uganda.

Musa Mugoya a policy analyst took to his Facebook page and argued:

“When I read about the Miss Curvy Project,  I thought it was a joke.  This project reminds me of my Research Ethics Course Unit taught by Dr Jimmy Spire Ssentongo at Makerere University specifically the story of Sarah Baartman one of the two South African Khoi Khoi women who were exhibited because of the king size of their bums in Europe in the 19th century. What is happening is that, this is being done now by our own.”

There are also some schools of thought that are saying that elite women in Uganda are over reacting to the issue. Obviously, because this is an ongoing debate, there are still many conversations being held.

One of the persons who think this said  that the elite women that are fighting this may not really representing the  women involved. How do we say that we are speaking for all the women?

The debate is far from over and the minister does look like he is about to budge. For those of us not directly involved and do not have a full understand of the debacle must think beyond the present and think about the future and what this will mean in the coming years.

And as Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan woman activist says :

“It’s the same struggle different voices. The very women can speak for themselves and even if they would consent to their bodies being paraded there’s still room to tackle basis of exploitation they will encounter and the nature of their exploitation. It’s not Olympics really.”

I sit here hoping that this madness will end; that the minister will find it in himself to listen to all the counsel around him; that we, the society; will be firm in our resolve to not let the government speak on behalf of our women; that we shall make decisions right for ourselves and for our children in future. Women’s bodies cannot be paraded for tourism.

The Nalubaale Tale

When we rolled out to start this blog site, we were inspired by the very natural passion that runs thick in our blood. A country whose shortcomings should never overshadow the limitless beauty it possesses, the beauty that roots deep into not just the identity,  I personally flaunt ever so proudly but also the very DNA that we have inherited from our ancestors. The very DNA that inspired our founding fathers who set a uniform precedence that we have over numerous decades of our existence willingly embraced, “For God and my Country”. A country that’s without a doubt the Pearl of Mighty Africa.

Over the years, we have politicized every achievement that this beautiful country has realized henceforth drawing out of logical perspective. We have made arguments about this landlocked country that sometimes do not reflect the journey we take or give this republic the credit it fully deserves. While many of us have lost our selves all forms of distillates and brews that are to a large percentage produced from the very country we call home, I ventured out into the night bliss of the new bridge; the Nalubaale Bridge. Now, I have been in many parts of this resplendent flower we call Uganda but nothing in my 23 years of life beats this marvelous of architectural marvel that moves you across the longest river in Africa.

I honestly haven’t comprehended if it’s the fine architectural masterpiece or the fascinatingly blinding display of overwhelming lighting that has me drawn to this indescribable amusement, or both. Anyway, what I have to say is that the Nalubaale Bridge is a work of sheer commitment, endless effort, an,  determination not just to ease transportation but to ease it in sheer style.

If I was Zari Hassan, the tourism ambassador who hails from Busoga, my pivot of attraction would move away from my delicious bodily curves and eye-opening glimmer that has become a popular song and I would redirect it to the newly commisioned Nile Bridge. Gosh! It’s not just a work of art but a historical step to a future we should have realized yesterday.
As I walked gently across the new bridge, with a bottle of my favorite distillate clutched hard in my right hand, I couldn’t fail to appreciate the transportation advancement that was displayed right in front of my naked eyes. The lights that shone like the envision of the very Shangri-la that fairy tales sing about and the night view of the pitch-black surfaced the Nile that blew an unwinding breeze which swept off the journey’s fatigue off of me. I grew fondest of the vast endless land that I have called home. Uganda has limitless potential, to grow, to flourish, and to put a mark on the world buffet that we are worthy enough an international cuisine that every human living across the huge planet should dine into and experience.
For a few minutes, I looked past the many challenges that burden this nation that sits on the Eastern plane of Africa. I focused on the potential we have to thrive, away from being the most accommodating country in regard to refugees, or the compassionate heart to foster peace around the African continent. My potential for my motherland to thrive lies in the very geographical, environmental and climatic gifts that shoot us up to the epitome of natural endowment we so desperately need to take advantage of.
The driver of the vehicle I wastravelingling called me to jump back on board, I was quite honestly dazzled by what was striking brightly right on the face of my eyes. I was lost to the dream; a vision of not just where I see Uganda in a few years but the minimum best of what we should have achieved by now.

Uganda is a wealthy country, with the capacity of being a face of everything Africa needs to be identified by. An economic power, a number one tourist destination, a home for the global village and a light beaming with jaw-dropping rays that spread out to the rest of the universe. Uganda is a gem, and all we need is to explore that uniqueness, and while Nalubaale Tales is looking into this direction, it needs everyone to embrace this vision. Uganda is the Pearl of Africa.

Reproductive health rights in Uganda; Conventional versus modern approaches

September 26, 2018 was observed as World Contraception Day and the motto of this year was to create awareness about several methods of contraception available around the world.

The mission for the year was to improve awareness of all contraceptive methods available and enable young people to make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive health. For Uganda, the significance of this drive cannot be understated considering the high burden of teenage pregnancies, exposure to HIV/AIDs and other such risks that come with adolescents and teenagers being exposed to unsafe sex.

According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS) 2016 report, 25 % of adolescents aged 15-19 in Uganda have began giving birth. That is 1 out of every 4 girls. The Uganda Population Based HIV Impact Assessment (2016-2017) on the other hand, states that as of 2016, the estimated HIV prevalence among adults (aged 15 to 49) stood at 6.5%. Women are disproportionately affected, with 7.6% of adult women living with HIV compared to 4.7% of men.

There have been international and national efforts both by the Government and civil society actors, to address this issue. The ministry of Health recently launched a drive dubbed “Live your Dream” aimed at fighting teenage pregnancy and enabling Ugandans to live life to the fullest. Organisations such as Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU) are championing this cause, much to their credit, using young voices and champions. Part of this work has been around policy advocacy within government and Parliament for among others youth friendly policies that provide and guarantee.

 

On 26th September a group of remarkable young and passionate youth champions under their umbrella African Youth and Adolescents Network (AFriYAN), held an interactive engagement with the Parliamentary committee on Health. It was an insightful interaction that provided both clarity and controversy, around modalities of addressing the pressing reproductive health rights affecting young people.

What made this interaction really fascinating was the contrast of ideas on reproductive health rights for young people. On one hand the AfriYAN champions made for a plea the provision of reproductive health services including contraceptives for young people (teenagers). This was coming in part from their lived experience as young people, and what they see around them. On the other hand the MPs on the health committee and more specifically the female MPs were opposed to the idea of providing contraceptives to under age(below 18) girls. It was a debate between choosing convention or adopting the modern options made available by technology and science in dealing with reproductive health concerns. Times have changed and the environment in which children are raised and live predisposes them to all manner risks. Girls as young as 14 are dropping out of school to raise fatherless children and yet the modern contraceptives if properly utilized can contribute in reducing this risk. And yet, this is not an option that many policy makers are comfortable with.

“Morality” whatever it means, has been used as the standard argument by MPs for regulating and addressing the reproductive health needs of young people. It underpinned the motion to ban comprehensive sexuality education in 2016 by Parliament. “Why don’t you leave the age for contraception to those old enough to legally have sex?” asked on MP. “Why don’t we work on changing the mindset instead of advocating for contraception?” another female MP asked.

However, young people are exposed to sex at such a tender age and the safe spaces for them to openly discuss these with parents, teachers and leaders is shrinking. Sharon a youth champion remarked thus, “Parents are not listening. The environment is toxic for discussing these issues especially anything to do with sex is taboo. We’ve been taught webs of silence when it comes to issues like sexual and reproductive health. So what then should we do?”

The youth champion made a compelling case that we must think about solutions that resonate with the current context and environment young people are raised and not to hide our heads in the sand and stick to traditional approaches, which for all intents and purposes have not yielded fruit.

However, what became apparent in the conversation was the divergence in approach on sexual reproductive health rights. The Female MPs took on a motherly tone to the conversation, sharing their experience of being raised and how they raise their children. They emphasized the utility of traditional and cultural values towards sex as way of raising teenagers and adolescents, encouraging abstinence as a preferred course of action.

Even though they disagreed on the approach, they converged on the need for action, by everyone concerned to stem the HIV/AIDs scourge, and the teenage pregnancies bedeviling young people today, where 1 in four girls in engaged in unprotected sex by the age of 18.

In much of the developed world, access to family planning options for young people is convention. In our context, the idea teenage sex is seen as taboo, with the age of consent being 18 and so family planning options are not even given due considerations, especially by the Government.. Much of the injunction, as expressed by the MPs on the health committee, is underpinned by concerns on health risks of exposing young girls to contraceptives, and the moral culture and taboo about sex, which prohibits open and candid discussion about sex.

For those championing the cause for contraceptives, there is need for more research and evidence, if traditional biases and prejudices on sex are to be addressed but also the controversy surrounding contraceptives for adolescents.
At the heart of this debate, however, the salient question is on who should wield the power over women’s bodies and how they deal with them.

Listening to these young people advocating for the reproductive health needs of their fellow young people, and the injunctions from older men and women who wield the power to enact polices, I realize this is going to be a long battle. In the end I hope we pragmatism supersedes our personal biases.

What does it matter if your President gives a misguided speech?

 

The recent spate of killings in Uganda has caused an uproar in the public arena and thrown the government in sitting into panic over what to do or say. It is particularly an indictment on President Yoweri Museveni who is revered as the epitome of security in the country and the Greatlakes region at large, by both regional and international actors. The woes of the regime begun particularly with the brutal murder of the high-ranking AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi. This claim, is not oblivious of the insecurity that continues to bedevile the country, but draws attention to the incident that ignited the wrath of the President and led to some of the current security policies in place – the reemergence of the SIM-card registration policy directive in 2017, the banning of hoodies and airtime scratch cards, the installation of cameras and the police registration of sports bikes to mention a few. Other prominent cases include the gruesome murder of State Atmtorney, Joan Kagezi, murder of several sheikhs, Honorable Abiriga, former Buyende District Police Commander Muhamed Kirumira and the 47 (and still counting) women.

The President’s speech on 9th September 2018, most of it reminiscing the good old days (in comparison to other regimes) with little or no regard to the contemporary problems young people are facing has been overly criticized. To the dismay of many Ugandans, the past was overtly regurgitated. The scapegoating of the media, the opposition and the international community as fans in the insecurity flame fronted in the speech bore the characteristics of a tired tactic in the governance book

 

The lack of empathy to the plight of many Ugandans who are faced with daily unemployment and uncertainty of the future riddled the televised debacle. President Museveni said everything and yet there is nothing to write home about the current situation in Uganda, security or otherwise. Given the polarized situation following the assassination of the outspoken police critic, ASP Kirumira, it was only appropriate for President Museveni to reassure Ugandans of his government’s commitment to peace and security.

The President ought to have commiserated with the general public, spoken on the measures being deployed to avert such security threats now and, in the future, and less on economic trajectory the country has been on since he ascended to power in 1986. Not only would this have calmed an irate populace but also demonstrated initiative by the head of state. To summarize the speech in a few words, the ghost of 1986 reared its ugly head at every opportune moment.

Unfortunately, no concrete security policy measure was communicated in the speech of September 9th, instead the role of the country’s security was transferred to civilians under the methods of “shattering terrorist concealment” of intelligence gathering, detecting crime (drones and cameras) and the role of eye witnesses. No doubt every citizen must play a role in their own security and that of their neighbors, however, the government cannot rely on inexperienced civilians. First because civilians cannot discern a threat from what is not until the danger has passed and second, a civilian’s first instinct is flight (not fight) under threatening circumstances. Incidentally all these options make sense when apprehending suspected criminals in the aftermath of a crime.

The plan to recruit 24,000 Local Defense Unit personnel to beef up security in the greater Kampala area is a stop-gap measure with sustainability implications. The need to strengthen the security apparatus as the key player in ensuring inland peace and security cannot be overstated in these Presidential speeches. Areas for security improvement must include; improved transparency, enhanced capacity, improved welfare, and modern equipment beyond crowd control equipment to create an efficient police force. The relationship and roles between different security groups like the Special Forces Command, Internal Security Organisation, External Security Organisation, flying squad etc. and other para-military groups and how they fit into the overall security agenda should also be interrogated. Given the increase in gun related crime throughout the country, it is important, for accountability purposes to conduct a census of guns in the country and note in whose jurisdiction each type of ammunition falls so that the onus, in case of is crime is on the responsible party to account. More importantly, a deep reflection on what kind of force Uganda needs – one that transcends a sitting government’s agenda or one that acts in the interests of a small ruling class.

Crime of all nature has increased at an alarming rate, yet responsible parties, including President Museveni are leaving citizens to speculate on the matter. No concrete evidence of practical solutions is being communicated to stakeholders which is riling more fear. A speech filled with grand plans of infrastructure and energy development is appreciated, but of what importance are paved roads and efficient energy sources if a population does not feel safe? In his own words, President Museveni once said that, to know the importance of security in a country, try starting a coffee farm in Somalia – I fathom that we will one day stop wondering and experience firsthand the full wrath of this pervasive insecurity if nothing is done.