Water Board

They say the torture technique called water boarding is so inhumane; it should never be used on even your worst enemies. The Americans, in the wake of being attacked in 2001, went mad hitting out at any one and anything perceived as the enemy. Their leader famously told the world: “You are either with us, or you are against us!”

In the process, a person, victim, really, is placed face up and held firmly. A smooth surface, like a piece of fabric is placed on their face as a blind fold and something is used to cover their mouth. Water is then poured on this cloth. Psychologically, the victim has the same sensation as that of a drowning person.

The Americans used this method over and over again because they realized it was getting them the information they wanted to go out and hit back against their enemies.

But this method got out into the wider world. Even when the justice system cried out and tried to assure the world that this process would not be used again, it is in fact alive in homes around the world. People are water boarding others even when they are supposed to be their friends. It probably has a strong hypnotic effect because they don’t seem to have the power to stop.

A man is drowning because everything he believed in a decade ago has been wind-blown. A new dispensation rules and the word out is ‘either shape up, or ship out.’ But he has nowhere to go; there’s no shipping out on this.

There’s no shipping out when you have made a promise to yourself that you will stand for as long as it takes. You could make promises to many people; to the government, to the clan elders and to the friends you grew up with. But the promises to yourself are the most sacred.

So when you are already over the bridge and all those bridges have been burnt down, there’s no going back. There’s no easy way back when the lines are showing in brows once smooth as silk. There’s no repentance from starting a whole new life and cutting off the old.

It does get hard. It becomes painful when you have no one to talk to. When no one will understand the language you use nowadays, it could become as inconvenient as waterboarding.

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Fueling the hate

Something landed in my mailbox; something that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The Robert Kennedy Foundation (RFK) has been working behind the scenes of the infamous fight to force Uganda’s parliament to change its mind about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009.

The fight is almost done, it seems. The president resisted calls for him to assent to the bill that would have confirmed allt he bad things that have been written about Uganda in the years since this piece of legislation was tabled. He has, at least for the tine being, refuse to be cowed into supporting it.

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In recent times, Museveni has been taking the heat for being undemocratic. Now the West will say he’s the best there is

All that is good; no one will be killed or persecuted for his sexual preference. The donors will lay off and stop harassing Uganda, threatening to pull the aid, like they did two years ago.

What I take exception to is this bullying.

This attitude of Americans and other peoples spread across the globe to think they can dictate what should be said inside our parliament is enough to turn a good man into the most hateful homophobe.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,  the document starts with an air of importance. It goes on and on about how a delegation from RFK has been meeting with the president to discuss the bill.

 But it is stuff like this that makes you want to puke:

“The RFK Center reiterated that the government should focus on enforcing the Ugandan Penal Code provisions that already outlaw both opposite-sex and same-sex sexual abuse of minors. Should new legislation be introduced along the lines of the President’s suggestion, the RFK Center strongly advised that any bill should only focus on strengthening current child protection measures, may not discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and must fully respect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.”

“The government SHOULD focus on…?” Seriously? In this day and age? “the RFK Centre STRONGLY ADVISED? Strongly advise this, you punks.

There are many people in my country who just don’t get it. They spew hate speech without even realising that they are polluting the world around them. These people make me feel the whole shame of being Ugandan. They are the ones who will go on social media and say things like kill the homos, even hen they have never met a homosexual person in their lives.

But I find myself fighting two demons because of statements like those above. I find that I am fighting against people like Richard Branson, keep quiet all their lives even when young children are being abducted and conscripted in rebel ranks, thereby destroying their futures but when something like this comes up, they are crying louder than the bereaved.

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                                                                        Some rights activist!

This bullying is not doing a lot of good for the gay, lesbian and transgender course. Uganda is not the only country that has bigots running around.

When crazy people in the USA (yes, the States have homophobes in their thousands too) go out calling for legislation against gays, you don’t see Ugandans going out to demonise all things American.

 

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The ties of my tribe

In recent times, an old debate about culture and identity has been resurrected among a clique of readers and internet people that I know. It was reignited by a colleague, who was angered, a tired anger, about the tags that society keeps on giving her. Apparently, the second thing that many people ask her when they discover her name is where she is from, followed by a disbelieving, O-mouthed “No!” when she tells them where she comes from.

Of course, in a country like Uganda where many people want to be heard, there are many opinions about this. It made for lively debate with some posting heavy words that showed how smart people have become.

I took exception though to one commenter who said another blogger was “shallow” in her arguments when she insisted she did not feel like she belonged to her tribe. This is the great Tumwijuke‘s post from 2008.

I believe if an argument is against your beliefs, it does not necessarily mean it should be thrown out the window. The blogger expressed her frustration with society’s insistence on forcing people into small boxes. This is something that many Ugandans are feeling increasingly, I can imagine. If you have been in the Ugandan school system and have been raised by modern parents who were not afraid to cross chasms dividing ethic groupings, chances are that you have felt the frustration of Tumwijuke.

Before I got married, I realised that what had been a slight irritant on the part of a number of people telling me to change my name to reflect where I come from, had become an avalanche. According a number of people, the name I use, which has been my name for as long as I can remember, does not show the world that I come from my family and it does not even reflect my people’s heritage.

Well, needless to say, I brushed these arguments aside, even when my Best Man tried to convince me that if I took up the family name, it would help open doors for me in future.

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We used to run around this beautiful country house eating Nkenene. PHOTO BY MARK BUKUMUNHE

I identify with those who say they do not feel like they belong to their tribe. I have lived in Kampala all my life, only leaving to go to school in Mityana, Mpigi (now Wakiso) and Jinja.

Every time I speak my mother tongue, I get strange looks from many Basoga, who then ask if I really am a Musoga. Needless to say, the experience of going to the village does not hold the same magic for me as it does for many others. In addition to the fact that I do not have any living grand parents in the village, I have no real friends there.

I love my home and I have nostalgic memories of my cousins and I running around the country house in tiny coloured gum boots. But beyond that, I have nothing.

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                          Jajja’s House. PHOTO BY MARK BUKUMUNHE

So just because someone’s expression of anguish is not in line with the beliefs and values of one Mukiga, it does not make what she says any less frustrating for her.

Some years ago, my boss, who was an old boy from my secondary school was invited for one of those home coming dos. He was not impressed, so I asked him why he was not excited about going back to the old school. He told me he is a Republican. To him, the ties to the old school are designed to exclude everyone else who did not go to that school.

It is the same thing as tribe. it excludes everyone else who does not understand how it works. If you do not know your parents’ language and customs, you are an outsider.

 

 

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Out of 2013 into a shaky 2014

After a hectic year in human rights, one would be well placed to hope for a better 2014. The different news stories that dominated the previous year had a strong relationship with abuse. Cries of activists were heard and in some cases, they caused the much-needed change.

It is however obvious that more needs to be done in sensitization of the public in matters to do with human rights. 2013 was dominated by stories about murder in places like Kayunga, a usual suspect when it comes to such morbidity. Security forces were apparently deployed but this did not stop the gruesomeness. The murder in Mbarara of a UN worker brought the crisis full circle and led to the Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura to camp in the district.

Already, Ugandans have had a taste of what is to come, although many were surprised when the army was sent to South Sudan to evacuate nationals doing business in that country. It was a gesture Uganda’s government is not known for. Nevertheless, South Sudan is still very much on the agenda, seeing as there are many businesses owned by Ugandans there. Human rights have not been observed there in the past and this should be a top priority. The recent stories surrounding the hounding of Rwandan dissidents and refugees have only brought back the feeling that there is a clear and present danger.

To many, it means that no matter how far they go, as long as they are in the bad books of the government, they are not safe. In 2012, there were attempts on the lives of different people with differing views to those of the president of the country. Perhaps to confirm these fears, a journalist was murdered in Kigali. Critical journalists continued to fear for their lives. 2013 brought the forceful repatriation of refugees who had refused to go back to Rwanda citing insecurity. The Ugandan government was complicit in this blatant breaking of the law, as hundreds were put on trucks and sent back to their unknown fate.

Two weeks ago, another dissident, Col. Patrick Karegeya, was murdered in a Johannesburg hotel. As the West lionises president Kagame, there are many voices that seem to point to a different personality – one that does not respect human rights. Ugandans should be worried because their government seems to wish to work closely with Kigali. This year, already the police chief in Uganda has said he will “not allow any more demonstrations in Kampala,” according to media reports.

This is a sign of the times. It says a lot about how far the country has dropped on the human rights index, if a police chief can out rightly tell the world that he is going to break the law. Instead of providing security for citizens, many in the establishment are bent on perverting the course of justice. It should be on plan now that no more women shall be raped by fake investors; that no children will be defiled by their presumed protectors; that alternative voices will be heard and that the media will be respected as an important part of a democratic society.

All this does not seem to be registering. This year will be crucial, especially on the political scene. There are two years left before the next general elections and going by history, this is when the politicians go into overdrive. Activists must be vigilant; voices must be raised this year because there will be obvious efforts to stifle them. As the government and its agents move into place to stifle the opposition, it is expected that tempers will flare and that many acts of lawlessness will be done. This does not mean Ugandans should keep quiet. It only takes the silence and inactivity of good people for evil to flourish

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The Word

Happy New Year, all you people of the world. Here’s to new beginnings for the year. Yeah, I know. I also keep asking myself why I keep on coming back here.

A friend once told me if I want to write truly powerful stuff, I need to be ready to sacrifice myself. Because when you write from the heart, you open up yourself for the world to see through you.

So, fearfully, I am looking down that alley wondering if I want to walk into it.

This year, something’s gotta give. Last year, many things happened and I could barely stop to catch my breath.

We grow and we live. Even though every new year takes us closer to our extinction level event (thank you Busta), it also means we have learned so many things in the year.

Close shaves and career changes; life is about maneuvering through these tackles. I read yesterday in this Paulo Coelho I am immensely enjoying that there is power in the word. But this has been said for thousands of years. The Bible says there is power in the Word.

So, 2014, here I come.

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Ship your radiator to Norway, they need it

Been reading about the spoof staged by the  Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) and I have had a good laugh. It represents a brave new world where Africa is increasingly looking away from its belly button, feeling like the world owes us jack. The world does not owe us jack.

Because the world is not beholden to Africa, the sooner Africa realises this the better because that would mean we will stop expecting Europe and the rest of the “development partners” to give us handouts if we keep on our best behaviour. This syndrome has made Africa docile, always jumping when Europe and America snapped their fingers.

By making the spoof Africa For Norway – New charity single, the group spoke out loud about many young Africans have been feeling inside them for years. The patronising spirit with which Bob Geldorf and his friends made the Band Aid videos has had many on the continent smarting for decades. The video on YouTube has got more than 1 million views and that should be a pointer to the views of many, especially seeing the number of ‘likes.’

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It is true some would argue that Africa still needs the intervention of the West in areas like food aid and the like. But it is also true that Africa needs empowerment first before it can take the aid.

There are problems in the West too. That is something donors need to keep in mind as they answer questions thrown at them by a media bent on creating a certain impression in the countries where the aid comes from.

We would not be very negative about the West coming out and saying this is business; they give us something and we give them something back. Unfortunately, the impression created by people like Geldorf is that aid comes to Africa and all Africa dose is consume.

This is as far from the truth as it can ever be. If the relationship between Africa and the West is that of giver and receiver with not reciprocation, why is it that many countries in Europe and the Americas are getting hot under the collar about China’s involvement in Africa?

China is a dirty customer. They do not understand anything to do with human rights. But they come out and say so. They also come out and say they want our resources but in return they will build roads and schools and hospitals and power stations for us. We know we are important to China because we are trade partners.

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Tentative returns

Been all over the world, figuratively, of course. While I have been away, I have learnt more about how the world has become a tiny prison.  There is no way out. it is like that world portrayed in Total Recall; the good air is out there but the Big Brother system has told us from childhood that we cannot live outside of this box.

Is it possible that the new dispensation is all a lie? The new wisdom is that the internet is everything. We cannot do anything without the internet.

A few months ago, I left Facebook. Everyone said that is impossible and that I would not be able to stay away. So in a way, I did it just to disprove the status quo. I left.

Facebook is designed for entrapment. If you ever decide to leave, they will suddenly start bombing your mailbox with these enticements. They will tell you about all the things you will be missing if you make this dreadful mistake.

It is all about, “can you really afford to cut off your connection to all these potential business contacts? Can you just up and walk away from the largest social network in the world?”

But then, if you go ahead and pull out, they’ll not just slink away and die. Any time you make a mistake and type in your details, it will be like you never left. Then, you will have to start the detachment all over again.

They keep your account active for  good number of weeks, just in case.

But I withstood all this and left. I felt vindicated that a modern man/person can live without Facebook. I felt free and off the grid. I knew I had moved to a position of power.

Then I went for this workshop on Crowdsourcing and that’s everything came undone. I realised that the internet does not give a damn if you are on or not. It does not have to cajole you to stay on this social network or not.

It is really about knowing how you want to use the internet. There are those who will entrapped. There are the zombies who have been turned into retards because all they do is come around and Facebook the whole day. Twitter is the new inane mall rats’ haunt.

But I also realised that far from banning it from my life, I need the internet. In an era where Uganda is catching up on pushing the social agenda through the internet, everyone needs to know how to use this tool with dexterity. Everyone should know what #BeMyGuest means.

So I am fully back on the networks. I am building up my forces. I am gaining lost ground but this time it must add value .

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