Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Uganda: Women take brunt of human rights abuse: Amnesty

Last year; on Womens Day, Bishop Desmond Tutu said women should rule the world.

Media baron Ted Turner has been quoted as saying men have made such a mess of things, women should rule for 100 years.

In no way do I see myself as a feminist but I do feel strongly that women should be in charge of African countries for a change. To nurture peace and help heal. Africa needs mothering. By great women such as:

Wangari Maathai in Kenya
Gertrude Mongella in Tanzania
Winnie Byanyima in Uganda

Note AFPs report on the latest from London-based Amnesty International. Here is a copy:

Women and girls faced "horrific" levels of abuse in 2004 worldwide, Amnesty International said in its annual human rights review, blaming widespread rape and violence on a mix of "indifference, apathy and impunity".

From honour killings carried out by the victims' families to sexual violence used as a weapon of war, abuse frequently went unpunished and survivors were often abandoned by their own communities, the London-based group said.

Amnesty said it had sought in the past year to argue that violence against women in conflict situations was "an extreme manifestation of the discrimination and abuse they face in peacetime", notably domestic violence and sexual abuse.

"When political tensions degenerate into outright conflict, all forms of violence increase, including rape and other forms of sexual violence against women."

The annual report, covering 131 countries, noted abuse across the world but highlighted several grave examples: in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), both armed groups and UN forces are guilty of rape; in Turkey, family abuse of women is widespread; in Darfur, Sudan, gang rape is systemic; and in eastern Europe, economic need fuels the trafficking of women.

In Darfur, where a local rebellion sparked a brutal government backlash, Khartoum-backed militias have staged mass rapes, including of schoolgirls, and "frequently abducted" local women into sexual slavery, Amnesty said.

Tens of thousands of women and girls were also subject to rape and sexual slavery in the DRC, and as in Darfur, victims were often then abandoned by their husbands and families, "condemning them and their children to extreme poverty".

All parties in the ongoing conflicts in the eastern DRC have committed the abuses against women, including military and police officers, and United Nations peacekeepers charged with the protection of civilians.

The two African cases were "not exceptional", Amnesty warned.

Latin America had the highest risk of all types of sexual victimisation, according to UN report findings cited by Amnesty.

In Colombia, the group said, security forces, left-wing rebels and paramilitaries targeted women and girls to "sow terror, wreak revenge on adversaries and accumulate 'trophies of war'."

In Turkey, between one-third and one-half of all women are estimated to be victims of physical violence by their families - raped, beaten, murdered or forced to commit suicide - while the country sorely lacked shelters and legal protection for victims.

Amnesty noted some progress in Ankara, with legal reforms that recognised marital rape as a crime and did away with the possibility that a rapist's prison sentence could be reduced or annulled if he agreed to marry his victim. Still, authorities largely failed to investigate most women's complaints of abuse.

Serbia and Montenegro "remained a source, transit and destination country" for women and girls who were trafficked to the West into forced prostitution, while the problem existed throughout the poorer countries of Eastern Europe.

"With clients including international police and troops, the women and girls are too afraid to escape," Amnesty said. -AFP
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Quotation

"When our resources become scarce, we fight over them. In managing our resources and in sustainable development, we plant the seeds of peace."

WANGARI MAATHAI, of Kenya, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

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Give peace a chance: Make Winnie Byanyima President of Uganda

Of Winnie Byanyima, the author of nehanda dreams blog writes:

"The overawing combination of beauty, charm and simplicity belies the person that she is: a politician who has been a thorn in the side of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni's government for the past 10 years. She grew up with the President, fought side by side with him and married his doctor-turned-enemy. Now, she wants the President's job ..."

Winnie Byanyima

Photo: Winnie Byanyima via report by Lillian Aluanga May 7, 2005. Excerpt:

Winnie Byanyima is a politician who has been a thorn in the side of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni's government for the past 10 years.

She and Museveni go back a long way. They started out as friends growing up in their native Mbarara District, fought side by side in the National Resistance Army - which she joined in 1982 - and elected leaders under the National Resistance Movement.

Posted to London as high commissioner and to Paris as ambassador, Winnie returned to Uganda apparently cured of her fondness for Museveni, and married his doctor and comrade in arms, Colonel Kizza Besigye in 1999. Besigye fought a close race with Museveni in Uganda's 2001 presidential election and lost, though many said he had won. Winnie would have been the real President.

Besigye fled into exile, fearing for his life, but his wife stayed to rally the troops that had campaigned with them.

An aeronautical engineer with a masters degree in mechanical engineering, Winnie stepped down from her position as Member of Parliament for Mbarara Municipality in February, after 10 years.

The election, last week, of her successor seemed to close - if only temporarily - the chapter of her 10 years at the forefront of national politics - and to open another to a career at the continental level as director for Women, Gender and Development at the African Union in Addis Ababa.

But Winnie will not be gone from the Uganda political scene for long.

"I took time off national politics to work for African women, but I have been receiving a lot of requests from people back home who want me to contest for the Presidency in the next election.

She stops and pensively stares into the distance.

"I am reflecting on going for the presidency. If my husband is unable to return for the next election I may go for the seat since I feel the need to respond to the expectations of the people who supported us in the last election," she says.

Her voice mellows as she talks about her husband, who was forced into exile soon after he lost the 2001 election to Museveni, an election characterised by character jibes.

Seen by many as Museveni's first credible challenger to his then 15-year hold on power, Besigye once served as Museveni's physician during his stint in the bush during the armed struggle, and retired as a colonel. He later fell out with Museveni in the 1990s after accusing the National Resistance Movement of being undemocratic and corrupt.

Winnie admits that life has not been easy for her and her five-and-a-half-year-old son, Anselm Kizza Besigye, ever since her husband fled -- first to the United States then to South Africa -- owing to concerns over his safety.

"Sometimes I get to visit and spend time with him, but it has been difficult," she says. Is she afraid that her life too is in danger considering her political ambitions?

"God is my protector and so long as I live according to the laws of the land, then I have nothing to fear," she says.

Her delicate features belie the character hardened by the upheaval of fighting in a guerilla movement that ousted the remnants of former Ugandan president Milton Obote in 1986, making history as the first force on the continent to overthrow a government that had a conventional army.

A keen listener, Winnie remains protective of her family and politely declines to discuss details of her social life. She won't talk about her experiences in the NRM at the height of the struggle either, and seems a tad irritated by the 'intrusive question'.

"No. I'm sorry I cannot get into that. I'd much rather we talk about what I do and the issues I am addressing now," she says.

She defends her position on these issues as a deliberate move to 'demystify' women in leadership positions and break the 'mental blockage' that people have had about women holding high-level positions. "There is really nothing strange or special about us. I'd rather people, especially the media, focus on what we do and the issues we address in society," she says.

Winnie's resilience has helped her to not only make a mark on Uganda's political scene, but also propelled her into the limelight for her role in gender advocacy with non governmental organisations and forceful campaign against corruption.

Winnie has many firsts, among them being the first African woman to win Zonta International's Amelia Earhart Fellowship, which would have seen her working on a project that was a precursor of president Reagan's Star Wars programme. But she went into political activism instead.

She has trained politicians, civil society activists and government officials in more than 20 African and Asian countries and served on several expert and advisory panels of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Fund for Women among others. And she has sat on numerous task forces of the Millennium Project on Gender Equality besides acting as advisor to the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development and the Washington-based National Center on Research for Women.

Winnie has managed to emerge from her husband's shadow to wage her own political battles and is now eyeing the highest office in Uganda, come the next election.

Recalling the last election as 'tough', Winnie says she largely relied on educating and sensitising the public on their rights, factors that helped her win the election in Mbarara, Museveni's home turf, despite facing stiff opposition from a candidate who was largely favoured by the government.

Financial constraints

While admitting that many women political aspirants face financial constraints, she opines that governments should address the issue of political financing by enacting laws against bribery of voters.

"Women in Africa are yet to play their rightful role in politics because they remain excluded even though they have an important role to play in political decision making," she says.

"It's important to recognise that many African women come into politics without sufficient apprenticeship."

Women, she adds, face various obstacles in the political arena, depending on their starting levels.

"They (women) should be eager to learn and acquire skills for the job instead of simply imitating the way men have constructed and handled politics over the years."

Women, she says, should critically look at the process of political decision-making and challenge those processes that are unresponsive, exclude the poor and vulnerable, lack transparency, and favour the elite.

Kenyan women

Her face lights up as she fondly speaks of her Kenyan counterparts, whom she says defied all odds to make it in politics - despite having an unfavourable political climate compared to Uganda and Tanzania.

"I have great admiration for Kenyan women in politics and it makes me proud to see some of them who are now important players in their political parties. For many years, I worked together with my sisters in Kenya and have a lot of respect for the struggles they have waged especially in the constitution making process, gender equality legislation and advancing of African women's issues on international agenda," she says.

Those that immediately come to mind include Cabinet ministers Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua and assistant minister Beth Mugo, as well as Ms Phoebe Asiyo and former Kibwezi MP Agnes Ndetei. The list, she hastens to add, is not conclusive.

"Women plough the fields and feed their families and as such have an intimate knowledge of the production processes and challenges involved," she says.

"African nations continue to lag behind since women who would otherwise be out in the fields producing cash crops, crucial for economic growth, are doing work that remains unrecognised by the national budgets and at the same time denying them the right to work and earn a living," she says.

"Women are now able to persuade their governments to make important commitments to them on protocols concerning women's rights," she says, adding that she is happy to be working at the African Union at a time when African women have raised momentum towards gender equality.

Her work continues to give her a platform, which allows her to meet women from all over the world, whom she says face almost similar challenges in their struggle for equality.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

UGANDA: More children sleeping on the streets in the north - UNICEF

Good news. Yendor emailed me back. I have replied. Copy is in the comments at this post. Unfortunately, I forgot to answer his question as to what news I'd like to receive and see pictures of. I have some ideas, but if readers here have any suggestions please feel free to comment here or email. Thanks.

See Yendor's photos at Flickr that he took between 28 and 29 April of this year in Gulu, northern Uganda. Here is one of some nice new looking trucks (wonder who paid for them, where the money is coming from - not that it is any of my business, just curious is all). Yendor wrote the caption:

Gulu in Northern Uganda

Photo: Visiting IDP camps and NGO's operating in Gulu, Uganda. Military escort needed as area is still under rebel threat. (Courtesy Yendor in N Uganda)
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UNICEF says more children sleeping on the streets in the north of Uganda

Sadly, this report from IRIN Kampala May 24, 2005 describes how children are caught in the crossfire between the LRA and the Ugandan army:

Renewed fighting, killings and abductions by rebels in northern Uganda has forced 10,000 more children to spend their nights on the streets of major towns in the region, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a report.

The agency said the new "night commuters" - the name for the children who trek nightly to the relative safety of urban centres because of the threat of attacks and abductions by rebelf of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) - joined another 30,000 who already had been sleeping on the streets, under shop verandas and in bus parks.

"Figures for late April stand at approximately 40,000 night commuters in total, up from about 30,000 in the previous month, owing to renewed LRA attacks, killings and abductions in the region," the report, issued on 18 May, stated.

According to UNICEF estimates, more than 20,000 children were abducted between 1986 and December 2004, and half of them had been taken captive since June 2002. Many of the children were forced into combat and sexual slavery.

Last year, some 3,500 former abductees passed through civilian reception centres in the affected districts. The number of children killed, conceived or born in LRA captivity, however, remains unknown.

"A political deadlock and intensified LRA attacks in recent weeks following the expiry of a ceasefire have contributed significantly to the high numbers of internally displaced persons," the report explained.

In December, the mediators attempted to bring together Ugandan officials and the LRA to seek a peaceful end to the war, which has displaced over 1.4 million people and forced them to live in more than 200 camps scattered across eight conflict-affected districts, namely Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira, Apac, Soroti, Katakwi and Kaberamaido.

Last-minute hitches prevented the signing of a draft ceasefire, and the government instead resumed military operations against the insurgents.

On Friday, the army claimed it had killed a senior LRA commander who was a member of the rebel team that met government representatives in a bid to start peace talks.

UNICEF decried the fact that children and women in northern Uganda had continued to endure the harsh consequences of a 19-year conflict that has pitted LRA rebels against the Uganda People's Defence Forces, the government army.

"The child-centric conflict has wrought unprecedented violence, uncertainty and poverty to a region once famed as Uganda's 'food basket', wrecking havoc and depriving the local population, mostly children and women, of their rights to access basic healthcare, safe water, education, protection and shelter," the agency said.

The report said nearly a quarter (23 percent) of primary-school age children were out of school, while half (50 percent to 60 percent) of the student body at primary schools in Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira and Apac districts were still displaced.

In recent months, UNICEF added, some 77 cases of cholera were recorded in the huge internally displaced persons (IDP) camp of Pabbo and the neighbouring Gengari and Parabongo camps. Despite the progress that has been made to provide access to safe water, about one-half of the IDPs in the affected districts have access to less than five litres per person per day.

The shadowy LRA began fighting ostensibly to replace the government of President Yoweri Museveni with an administration based on the Biblical Ten Commandments, but not much else is known about the insurgency, as it rarely makes public statements.

The group has been widely accused of abducting thousands of young boys and girls for recruitment into its ranks or to be turned into "wives" for LRA commanders. LRA fighters have often carried out attacks in several eastern districts as well.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Sudanese govt still supporting Ugandan rebels

This news report, posted at Sudan Watch blog, is copied here for future reference:

May 20 report from Uganda says accusations have emerged that the Sudanese government still supports the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The new claims emerged at meeting of civil society groups in Juba by the head of the Anglican Church in Lomega, Rev. Paul Jugusuku.

"The Sudan government is still supporting the LRA," Rev. Jugusuku told the BBC's Network Africa adding, "Every night I have been in Juba the antonov comes and drops food and ammunition to the LRA."

The accusations come two days after the Sudan government renewed the protocol allowing Ugandan forces to operate in south Sudan to fight the LRA rebels. Full Report courtesy The Monitor via Sudan Tribune.

Joseph Kony LRA
Photo courtesy Sudan Tribune: Joseph Kony, leader of theLords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

Read more on the LRA at Wikipedia, Uganda Watch and Sudan Watch.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

UK-based Hill and Knowlton (H & K) PR to sell Uganda

BBC news today says the Ugandan government is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote its image abroad after growing criticism. Excerpt:
Details of the move emerged a day after President Yoweri Museveni released a statement asking foreign donors to respect his country's sovereignty.

The UK recently cancelled 5m GBP ($10m) of aid, saying not enough had been done to establish fair multi-party politics.

A growing number of critical reports have appeared in the western media.

The foreign minister said on Wednesday that the government would be spending about $675,000 to improve their image.

The London-based company, Hill and Knowlton (H & K), will also be working with the government to try and improve relationships with human rights groups like Human Rights Watch.

The PR company itself been criticised in the past for aiding countries like Indonesia and Turkey, whose human rights records have also come under fire.

Since President Museveni came to power 19 years ago, Uganda has operated a unique political system which severely restricted political parties.

The political landscape will soon change, with multi-party elections expected next year.

Critics accuse President Museveni of using these changes to push through other constitutional changes to allow him to run for president again.

Rock star and Aid campaigner Sir Bob Geldof recently accused Mr Museveni of wanting to be president for life.
Companies like Hill and Knowlton UK being paid to create and spin propaganda in the Western media for the Ugandan government does not seem ethical. Doubt if they see it that way though.

Having spent a solid year tracking news on the Sudan, I have noticed a large degree of propaganda in mainstream media. I wrote a post remarking on when Sudanese officials began to sound different in the media. They appeared westernised overnight. Early last year, some Sudanese officials that were quoted in the press came across as sounding bizarre. Soon after, to counteract various accusations, press releases were fired out making Sudanese officials sound media savvy and Western.

Who knows how many PR firms like Hill and Knowlton Europe, Middle East, Africa are behind information we read in mainstream media. One needs to be wary of most news reports [major newswires included] as things are not always what they seem. Most of us bloggers do not write as well as journalists but we are good at sifting, sorting, dissecting, chewing over things and getting to the truth of matters. As independent voices with personal weblogs, we have no paymasters and can say what we feel. Journalists and PR firms can't.

Companies such as Hill and Knowlton aiding (and profiting from) countries abusing human rights, say they are working for the Ugandan Government to improve relations with human rights groups like Human Rights Watch. Some of us blog for human rights. Maybe one day, there will be a concerted effort [no doubt it is happening already at some political sites] to connect with bloggers and plant propaganda within blogs and comments.

As an aside, but not unrelated, here is an excerpt from a Blog Roundup today at Global Voices:

Two Uzbekistan-based Peace Corps volunteers with blogs have reacted differently to a Peace Corps directive telling them not to talk about the political situation. Working Definition has decided to keep blogging but avoid giving any more analysis on the Andijon situation. Wanderlustress has decided to stop blogging.

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Media fast for Mojtaba

Excerpt from a post at Committee to Protect Bloggers Thursday, May 19, 2005:

The CPB is asking bloggers and other concerned people to observe next Thursday, May 26 as a Media Fast for Mojtaba.

Mojtaba Saminejad, a blogger from Iran, has declared a hunger strike. He is being held at Tehran's Gohar Dashat prison, which has a reputation for mistreatment of detainees. He is being held in the general population, the overwhelming majority of which are common criminals.

Mojtaba was arrested for reporting the earlier arrest of three of his fellow Iranian bloggers. (Iran has arrested over 20 bloggers over the last year.) Iranian bloggers who have been released have reported being the victims of torture.

Read full story at Committee to Protect Bloggers: Media fast for Mojtaba.

[via Curt with thanks] Tags:

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Menya's blog provides analysis of news from Uganda

Menya Kilat at NGOMROM blog in the USA describes the blog as providing an "analysis of news from Uganda and what it means to democracy, peace and development in the country. It should give the trend of events and most likely scenarios going to occur in the country. Also featuring other countries with similar issues."

Just below Menya's profile section is this line:
"Promote peace and prosperity, equality under the law, accountability without victimization, education and health programs and communication between communities to enable commercial and cultural activities to flourish."
Here are three examples of Menya's thinking and writing:

Firstly, Menya's post dated March 18, 2005 entitled "Peace Related Work":

An excerpt from Online Journal of Peace whose web address is given below may shed light in why peace talks have been failing in Uganda. There is a general underlying effort to 'finish them off' that makes government to aim at capturing rebel leaders during peace talks instead of conducting sincere talks.

1. First of all there is no desire on part of the government to restore peace in northern Uganda.
2. Secondly, there is no clear assessment of the reason for the war.
3. And lastly, the venue for peace talk is not conducive to peace talk.

Below is the excerpt. Read full post
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Secondly, an excerpt from Menya's March 20, 2005 post entitled "The Die Is Cast":

The die has been cast. Museveni is surely running for election. But, more than that, it means that Museveni's plan to become president for life is now being implemented. Think of it: Why would Museveni change a whole constitution in order to benefit another president? The truth is that Museveni and his henchmen are not willing to leave power to another party. They would not change a constitution merely to allow Museveni to run. That would be risky because he could lose the election thereby installing an opponent to a life presidency. And that is not the aim of the demand for a change in the constitution.

This is a serious crisis. Museveni has been ruling Uganda for the last twenty years under dubious code names for democracy and each time Ugandans watch without as much as a simple raising of a hand. Museveni eluded detection by hoodwinking the majority to think in terms of northerners versus him leading Uganda. They say Animal Farm is a classic but that is an understatement. It is actually the bible of achieving power and keeping it.

As we approach the month of April 2005, here are the probable scenarios that will unfold in Uganda:

1. Harassment and intimidation of opponents and non NRM supporters as has already happened to Peggy Ntegyereize of Kampala, will become widespread.

2. People will lose their livelihood, then their homes as has happened in Acholi.

3. Then, there will come a spate of arrests and confinements in various ungazetted locations.

4. Next will come extra judicial killings then a state of emergency will be declared, elections will be postponed and all political parties banned forever.

5. As a result, many people will go underground, form factions and armed units fighting initially independent and uncoordinated guerilla wars.

6. And, finally, when NRM/NRA is sufficiently weakened, the various factions from all corners of Uganda shall unite to form the new Supreme Uganda Army, ushering in a new era of independence, equality and dignity and development for all.

Museveni will be known as the last tyrant Uganda has known.

All these may occur simultaneously or one after the other, but the fourth stage is the point of no return with a complete ban on all political activities except those supporting NRM. So, Ugandans can prepare to live with this increasing tyranny or oppose it with all the force in their power now and avoid traveling through all these six stages. The fate of the country is in your hands. Read full post.
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And finally, an excerpt from Menya's post March 27, 2005 entitled "Prelude to Disintegration":

Everything that is happening in Uganda indicates that the corrupt regime of Museveni is gaining momentum for final disintegration. There is going to be no guns fired. This is simply the peoples power at work. There will be some unscrupulous people who will attempt to hijack it but they will be crushed because the people have had enough suffering in the hands of various opportunists. So, if you are an opportunist, my advice to you at this time is to wait on the side until sanity has returned.

The Museveni empire/rule was built on chaos and misguided tribal sentiments and a horde of dissonant ideas:

- That the north versus south was the issue

- War in Acholi was keeping peace in Buganda and so on.

- That Acholis and Lugbaras were banyanyas and biological substances

- That only the NRA/NRM/Museveni could assure Ugandans of peace

It was divide and rule pure and simple.

The constitution was manipulated and doctored to suit the NRM but even then, it was pure brute force that kept Museveni in power all these years. And Ugandans, in their ways, have been tolerant of Museveni for various reasons, one of which is that they simply wish to get on with their lives. This is always mistaken for support for the existing regime.

Museveni missed many chances of becoming a truly great Ugandan leader in spite of the utter use of the military for his political purposes. People begged him and showed him the way, but he refused. Read full post.

[Source of material with thanks to Menya of NGOMROM blog]
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Update: See May 4,2005 post by Peter Quaranto in Kampala, Uganda: Footnotes from the Underground: Museveni's Third Term: A Test for the Bush Administration?
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Full text of the Queen's Speech

FT.com publishes the full text of the Queen's speech at the state opening of parliament on May 17.

Note, it includes the line: "My Government will use its Presidency of the G8 to secure progress in tackling poverty in Africa and climate change."
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New Links

Just found Peter's blog in Kampala Uganda [see above post re Museveni's Third Term].

Also for sidebar here, Interactive Map of Africa and
afrol news Interactive Map of Africa.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The future of public radio in the age of podcasting: Anybody can create their own public radio online

Note Rebecca MacKinnon's post linking to a live webcast from Harvard's Berkman Center today, May 17, 2005.

Jake Shapiro of the Public Radio Exchange will talk about the future of public radio in the age of podcasting, which enables anybody to create their own public radio online.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Open Source. It'll be a radio show. May 30, 2005

Here is a don't miss, must-do: listen to Open Source's pilot on podcasting and bloggers without borders. Hear phone interviews and discussions with Rebecca and Ethan of Global Voices, and several other bloggers, hosted by smooth (and thankfully not-so-fast) talking American Christopher Lydon at Harvad's Berkman.

See Ethan's follow-up post "On hold with Chris Lydon".

Note also GlobalCoordinate.com Geo-Community. Click on the map to zoom in. You can add your own comments, stories, or photos at any location.

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World Vision Camp in Uganda


World Vision Camp
Originally uploaded by Yendor.
Yendor took this photo in Uganda and posted it to flickr with the following caption:

"This is the World Vision camp for abducted children.

The stories are real and they are heartbreaking.

I heard the story of a 13 year old boy that had been abducted for 2 years by the rebels.

He was too traumatized to tell us the whole story so the translator told the rest of his story.

There were many tears in the room from the boy, the tranlator and from us as well.

Check out the World Vision website for more on the programs and some stories."

Thanks Yendor and good luck on your travels.

Note World Vision UK where you can sponsor a child.

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Yendor posts photos at flickr from Uganda


God Bless
Originally uploaded by Yendor.
Right now, I am visiting Yendor's Ugandan photos at flickr where I am composing and emailing this blog entry direct to Uganda Watch.

This neat photo entitled "God Bless" was taken by Yendor in Uganda and uploaded at flickr 30 April 2005.

Yendor's caption says: "Even here there is great faith."

Sorry I cannot find if Yendor has a blog. I have left a message at his flickr contact page.

This post seems like putting a message into a bottle and throwing it out into the English Channel. Who knows how far it will go or who it will reach. Hopefully, it will reach people in Uganda. Maybe even Yendor.


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Sudan affirms keenness to boost relations with Uganda

President of the Republic Omer Al-Bashir has affirmed Sudan keenness to consolidate its relations and cooperation with Uganda.

This came when he received at the Guest House here Sunday the visiting Ugandan Minister of Defence, in the presence of the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bakri Hassan Salih.

President Al-Bashir has appreciated the efforts being exerted by the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, toward prevalence of stability at the region.

In a press statement to SUNA, the Ugandan minister said that he discussed with President Al-Bashir the arrangements to prevent any activity of the Ugandan rebel Lord Resistance Army in south Sudan, means to implement the action plan of the IGAD for boosting peace and stability in Somalia and sending African forces to it.

He stressed the importance of coordination between Khartoum and Kampala to support implementation of the peace agreement which was signed between Sudan government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

The Ugandan Minister of Defence said that he conveyed a verbal message from President Yoweri Museveni to President Al-Bashir dealing with issues of mutual concern and ways to bolster the relations and coordination between Sudan and Uganda on the issues of mutual concern. - Khartoum, May 15, 2005 (SUNA) via SudanTribune.


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SUDAN: Thousands flee food shortages and Ugandan rebel attacks in the south

IRIN report Kampala, May 16, 2004:

At least 5,000 people in southern Sudan have fled food shortages and attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and sought refuge in northwestern Uganda since January, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

"[Some] said they were running away from LRA attacks, while the majority have fled their camp of Nimule in southern Sudan to Arua in Uganda due to food shortages, as relief supplies to the camp stopped some time back," UNHCR spokeswoman Roberta Russo, told IRIN on Saturday.

The refugees, she added, were from Torit, Nimule and Yei. They were being registered at the Ugandan border districts of Adjumani, Arua and Moyo, where UNHCR was feeding them.

Ugandan government officials said most of the new arrivals crossed the border in mid-March after the LRA stepped up attacks against civilians. The government and UNHCR were trying to find land on which they could set up homes and begin farming to supplement relief supplies, one official said.

"The rebels attacked [some of them] with machetes and clubs, looted and set grass-thatched huts ablaze and in one such attack, 12 people were killed," an official from the Ugandan prime minister’s office in the capital, Kampala, told IRIN.

According to the official, who had been to Palorinya, a makeshift reception centre in Arua, some of the recent arrivals had wounds sustained during such attacks. Many had walked for 10 to 15 days to reach the Ugandan border and were in poor health. A number of children had died on the way.

In one recent attack, the LRA ambushed Sudanese civilians in Mangala, 60 km northeast of the southern town of Juba. The rebels were later engaged by Sudanese government forces, the official said.

Before the new influx, there were already 160,000 Sudanese refugees living in various settlements in Uganda.

Government officials said they had hoped that with the 9 January signing of a peace agreement between Khartoum and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, many of the refugees would prepare to go back home.

The agreement ended more than two decades of war in the south.

UNHCR said a few had actually made voluntary visits to southern Sudan to check on the situation and determine whether it was feasible to return home, but had not yet decided when to go home.

The LRA has fought the Uganda government since 1988, waging a brutal campaign that has displaced more than 1.4 million people. The rebels have particularly targeted children, abducting thousands of young boys and girls for recruitment into their ranks or to be turned into "wives" for LRA commanders.

The LRA, which has bases in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, claims it wants to topple the government in Kampala and replace it with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

On 10 May, the UN Security Council condemned the LRA atrocities and called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The Council president for May, Danish Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Løj, told reporters following a briefing by UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland that Council members hoped for a peaceful end to the conflict.

She encouraged the government of Uganda to seek and facilitate such a solution. Members of the Council, she added, condemned atrocities committed by the LRA and called on the rebels to cease all acts of violence and enter into peace negotiations.

The Ugandan army, which is engaged in fighting the LRA inside Sudan, had claimed in recent months that the LRA rebellion had been weakened and that the latest attacks were just a desperate attempt by the group to remain in the limelight. Other sources disagree, saying the rebels are still a force to reckon with.

Religious and local leaders in the region insist the government should hold peace talks with the LRA, but the Ugandan authorities say the military option is the most effective way to defeat the rebels.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Looking for bloggers interested in Uganda

The bloggers I know of who visit this blog arrive here through my blogs Sudan Watch and Congo Watch. I started the blogs eight months ago to file news on the humanitarian crises in DRC, northern Uganda and to log reports on the Ugandan rebel group LRA.

Up until recently, the blogs contained no original commentary. They have been used simply as filing cabinets. Blogger has no facility for categories, so instead of posting at Sudan Watch all the news I find on the LRA, I log the extra reports here to search more easily for LRA news and see at a glance how nothing seems to be improving in northern Uganda.

Now that Darfur has the world's attention and help is on its way, it pains me to visit this blog and see - along with what is happening at Congo Watch - that the situations in both countries are still classed as the world's worst/most neglected humanitarian crises. Millions of people are desperately in need of help in northern Uganda and DRC (and the Congo itself - thanks to Louis for pointing out in a comment at a recent Congo Watch post that there are two Congoes).

Thankfully, through Congo Watch, I have met some super nice bloggers who are concerned with what is happening in DRC. Some are Congolese. I am hoping to find some more dedicated bloggers who feel the same way about Uganda. If I recall correctly, over the past several months, I have yet to come into contact with any blogger concerned about northern Uganda. Which is why I am making a concerted effort in this post to find as many as possible.

Please do not be shy in saying hi. If you are interested in what is happening in Uganda, particularly northern Uganda, please make contact in the comments here or at my other blogs or via email. I am always here, happy to hear from anyone. If there is a delay in getting back to you, please do not read anything at all into it, other than I am unable to reply right away due to other pressures. I do my best to reply to all comments as soon as possible.

Last week, I spent some time searching for bloggers in, or specialising in, Uganda. The ones I've found so far, are in the sidebar here but I have not yet had a chance to read them. Once I have gathered a good selection of links, I aim to visit them, read them and publish regular reviews/news round-ups of posts and/or photos/profiles within each blog.

If anyone reading this, comes across news re the crisis or any links that would suit this blog - or puts together a review and/or round-up of one or more blogs out of/specialising in Uganda - please let me know here in the comments or via email and I will publish a copy here unedited with full credit. Thank you.

The aim is for us all to get some regular dialogue going and learn about life and politics in a country where the world's most neglected humanitarian crisis is happening. Who knows, we might even learn ways how we as bloggers can be of help. From what I have gathered re Sudan over past year, there is much to learn about neighbouring countries and the different cultures.

Meantime, here's saying a warm hello to Will who I found via the Uganda tags page at Technorati. Will is currently in Kampala, Uganda. Please do visit. I left a comment at one of his posts to say hi.

Also, a warm hello and welcome to any other new visitors here. More later. Until then, I look forward to adding updates and links to share here as and when I come across them.
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New links - for future posts here

Ojo al Texto: Una letan a de horrores: la guerra civil en el norte de Uganda
Peter, Kampala
Menya, USA
Cenicienta, Las chicas del quinto, Spain
Periodistas 21: Las guerras olvidadas: Uganda
Juan Varela, Periodistas 21, Spain - translated by Google
nehanda dreams

Africa
Maps courtesy Will's first post March, 24 2005.

Uganda map


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Friday, May 13, 2005

"Corruption Kills" - Photos from Uganda

Thanks to Bill at Jewels in the Jungle blog for his post on German photographer and friends in Uganda and link to US State Department's background notes on Uganda.

See Jewels in the Jungle's beautiful photos of schoolchildren in southeastern Uganda here and here and my favourite here [you can sense their keen concentration] where I left this comment May 12 for Bill, the Jewel's friendly author aka Black River Eagle:

Dear Bill, This is my favourite photo so far. Interesting to see your posts on Uganda but disappointing to see at first glance that you made no mention (as far as I can tell, I need to re-read) of the world's most neglected humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda where horrific things are happening. I have kept a log of reports over the past eight months at Uganda Watch http://ugandawatch.blogspot.com

Why is northern Uganda so forgotten and neglected, Do you know? I've spent some time searching for blogs from Uganda. The ones I have found so far are in the sidebar at Uganda Watch. More to follow. I'd like to find out why it is such a neglected region - is it maybe because of its reputation for corruption?

The LRA are carrying out horrific violence both within Uganda and over the border in southern Sudan. In the Congo the rebels believe they can gain strength from their victims by cooking and eating them. It seems to me there is too much belief in hocus pocus and magic charms and stuff in Africa.

Libyan leader Col Gaddafi recently labelled the violence by rebels in Sudan as primitive and senseless which I agree with. It will all end in a political solution anyway so why not work on the solution now instead of fighting, maiming and killing and creating so much suffering and trouble.

Hope you get a chance to visit some of the blogs in Uganda and do a blog round up so I can post it at Uganda Watch with links to you. Bye for now. Kind regards from Ingrid at http://sudanwatch.blogspot.com
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"Corruption Kills" sign along the road marking crossing of the equator

Signs along the road

Photo: "Sign along the road" photo taken by Holly Ladd 2004-05-11 using Olympus Camedia C5050.

Photographer's note: This sign was at a marked crossing of the equator that we passed on the way to Rakai.

Courtesy Trekearth.


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Oxfam slams U.N. for failing to act on Uganda war

Note links within post at two and two makes five blog May 11 entitled "LRA continues to haunt Uganda, UN does nothing" -
NPR has some great reporting from northern Uganda;
Joseph has some great recent posts about the war, the IDPs, and the relationship with Sudan;
Also on Joseph's site are some pictures of ServLife's work in the region.
Also, Reuters' report by Daniel Wallis, copied here for future reference:

Oxfam slams U.N. for failing to act on Uganda war

KAMPALA, May 11 (Reuters) - The United Nations has failed again to act decisively to end war in northern Uganda, despite being briefed on "intolerable" humanitarian conditions in the troubled region, British aid agency Oxfam said on Wednesday.

Violence has increased in the north since government negotiations with rebels stalled in February. Aid agencies working in Uganda have long called on the Security Council to put pressure on both sides to restart the talks.

On Tuesday, U.N. aid chief Jan Egeland briefed council members on the conflict, which pits government troops against rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and has forced 1.6 million people from their homes.

Emma Naylor, Oxfam's country manager in Uganda, said she was disappointed that after the meeting the Security Council -- which has never issued a resolution on the north -- agreed only to encourage both sides "informally" to return to talks.

"Nearly two decades of horrific human suffering have passed, and the security situation is getting worse, not better. Atrocities against civilians are increasing, as well as abductions of children in Uganda and Southern Sudan," she said in a statement.

"Yet the Security Council have once again failed to take any concrete steps in support of a peace process. We would have at least expected a presidential statement urging both sides to restart peace talks and setting out what future measures the council will take."

Oxfam has called on the U.N. to ensure the protection of civilians and to urge Uganda's government and rebels to call a new ceasefire and recommit to fresh peace talks.

Fighting intensified after landmark talks -- including the first face-to-face meeting between government and rebels for a decade -- stalled in February with the surrender of the LRA's top negotiator.

Uganda's military says it killed 84 LRA fighters last month alone, and the rebels have stepped up attacks on refugee camps, shooting and hacking their victims to death.

Ugandan commentators say the government would prefer a military victory over the rebels, but its helicopter gunships have been unable to stamp out small groups of fighters moving swiftly on foot through thick forests and rolling grasslands.

Joseph Kony, the LRA's self-styled prophet leader, is believed to be hiding in lawless southern Sudan with some of the thousands of children kidnapped by his cult-like group to serve as fighters and "wives".

His movement, which Egeland said was possibly the world's most brutal, has never spelled out a clear list of demands.
"Week by week the security situation is getting worse and hundreds of thousands of people cannot even sleep safely in their own homes," Naylor said.

"But the Security Council has never done more than offering a few words of sympathy. We are wondering just how bad it has to get before they will actually take action."

[Via two and two makes five - with thanks]


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Thursday, May 12, 2005

U.S. Insists Joseph Kony's Rebels Terrorists?

Note, because I have not been able to cross check the facts in this post, I have put a question mark over the title of a report, copied here below, from New Vision AllAfrica April 29, 2005 by Alfred Wasike in Kampala [via Winds of Change with thanks]. Here is the report:

THE Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has again been blacklisted by the US Department of State as one of the most dangerous international terrorist organisations.

This year's congressionally mandated report called "Country Reports on Terrorism 2004" replaces the former "patterns of Global Terrorism" report. It warns that the battle against international terrorism remains formidable despite improved domestic security measures, military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and deepening international counter terrorism cooperation.

The report says the new National Counter terrorism Centre (NCTC) prepared the terrorist statistics.

The 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act created the NCTC and designated it the primary authoritative organisation for global terrorism analysis, including regular reporting.

As in previous years, the State Department's terrorism report contains country reports and regional information, lists and descriptions of foreign terrorist organisations and other terrorist groups.

It also contains accounts of state sponsors of terrorism and global terrorist networks and counter terrorism training and interdiction programmes.

http://allafrica.com/stories/200504290662.html

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Uganda: 'It's a very, very major crisis'

Knock, knock. Hello, is anybody there? For the past eight months, I feel as though I am the only blogger in the world posting on the Uganda crisis. The situation in Uganda is far worse than than of Darfur and yet nobody in blogland seems at all concerned (I'm not even African - where are all the Africans in blogland - why don't they seem to care enough to speak out?)

Here is a copy of a report entitled "Uganda: It's a very, very major crisis" by Marc Carnegie, UN, 11 May 2005:

The United Nations's top emergency relief official on Tuesday pressed the Security Council to take on the crisis in northern Uganda, where a brutal rebellion against the government has been raging since 1988.

About 1.4-million people have been displaced as a result of the uprising by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), said Jan Egeland, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"We've had atrocious massacres and mutilations of civilians in the past few weeks again," Egeland told reporters before a closed-door briefing to the council that he said would call for international focus on crises in Africa.

He called the LRA "possibly the world's most brutal insurgency group" and said that, unlike Sudan's Darfur region, the issue of northern Uganda is not getting enough international attention.

"I'm inviting the council, as I'm inviting all who have influence on the parties, to clearly say that there is no alternative to a peaceful resolution of the crisis," Egeland said. "It is a very, very major crisis."

The LRA rebel movement is notorious for adding to its ranks by raiding camps for displaced people and kidnapping children, forcing the boys into combat and the girls into sexual slavery.

Egeland said there are now about 42 000 "night commuters" in the region -- children who flee their villages or camps every evening in order to find a safer place to sleep, usually in the streets of larger towns and cities.

The LRA, which operates from bases in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, has been fighting President Yoweri Museveni's secular government since 1988, ostensibly to replace it with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

Several attempts to sign a truce and launch formal peace talks have failed amid growing mistrust between the warring sides, and the International Crisis Group last month said the peace process is in critical condition.

Egeland's appeal came as part of a broader campaign, he said, to turn world attention to Africa.

"Of the world's greatest humanitarian challenges at the moment, I would say all are in Africa -- and they merit more of our attention and our political and financial resources.

"Africa is the challenge of our generation and we're not responding adequately," Egeland said. "More can be done to put things right."

Egeland, a familiar face on television screens across the world since heading the UN's disaster relief effort after the Asian tsunami in December, said his message is that money put toward Africa is money well spent.

"There are as many success stories as failures in Africa," he said, citing the largely successful efforts to start rebuilding Angola and Sierra Leone after years of fighting.

"There is no place where we get more out of every dollar," Egeland said. "And if we invest, there is no continent that will give as much return on the investment."

He warned in a particular about the "triple threat" in Southern Africa -- a combination of drought, bad governance and the HIV/Aids pandemic.

"I also want the Security Council to understand that in the Southern Africa region, it's actually a question of survival for many communities," he said. -- Sapa-AFP

Moonlight

TrekEarthMoonlight Photo by Mimi Samuel: "After a long day of viewing animals, sitting on the patio at the Mweya Safari Lodge, drinking a cold beer, and watching the moon come up over the Kazinga Channel. Doesn't get much better than this :-)"

This photo is in the title bar of this blog but it is too small to do the photo justice. I am posting it here again to show how much water is in Uganda. More photos later. Uganda is extremely lush, with lots of dense jungle and great wildlife.

It is easy to hide from rebels in Uganda - not like in the Sudan where vast swathes of flat dirt baked by hot sun provides no sanctuary. What is the attraction of living in Sudan's deserts where everyone fights over drinking water? You'd think they'd relocate to Uganda and make a go of it there with their children. Areas of Chad and Sudan seems too harsh to be habitable.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Instapundit's review of BlogNashville Conference - Is big media on the run?

In his post at MSNBC titled "Big media on the run?" Prof Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.com writes:
"Do blogs and other alternative media have traditional media organizations running scared? Some people are saying so, but I think there's more going on than fear. Still it's clear that the blogosphere is having an impact.

This past weekend I attended the BlogNashville conference at Belmont University, billed as the largest blogging conference to date. There were some representatives of Big Media organizations there, one of whom said straighforwardly "I'm here out of fear," but others of whom were looking for ways to incorporate blogs, and bloggers, into their operations."
Read full story.

Looks interesting. I'm keeping it aside to read later on. Just wanted to share it here right away. I think professional journalists have lots of reasons to fear blogland. Chewing over and pointing out rubbish in mainstream media, along with the spin, truths, half-truths, downright lies, political propaganda and character assassinations is what we bloggers, around the world, are placed to do well.
- - -

Also today, Instapundit points out Adam Cohen's unimpressive ruminations on blog ethics in today's New York Times - and Virginia Postrel who writes in Forbes, "There's something about blogs that makes a lot of respectable journalists hyperventilate."

Heh.

P.S. Foundations can expect more scrutiny in an age of weblogs, according to this article.

Make Poverty History - Tony Blair chairs G8 summit July 6, 2005

Email just received from Patrick Kielty (pictured below):

Make Poverty History

Hello,

Over the past few months more than a quarter of a million people have sent a message to Tony Blair and asked him to make poverty history.

It's an achievable aim that has risen up the political and news agendas like never before - thanks to the actions of people like you.

But we are rapidly approaching the critical moment of this campaign - and it really is time to turn up the heat.

After last week's election result we now know for sure that it will be Mr. Blair who sits at that all-important G8 summit table in Scotland on July 6th. Last month, he said he would work "night and day" on this issue until the summit. Now he has the chance to prove it, and the responsibility to deliver.

30,000 children will continue to die needlessly every day unless he succeeds.

So please, if you are in the UK click here [outside the UK click here] and urge Tony Blair to make this his number one post-election priority.

Even if you have emailed him before, now is the time to do so again.

The countdown has begun to the biggest day ever in the fight to end poverty and we need to make sure that our message is getting through loud and clear.

Thank you,

Patrick Kielty

Oxfam urges Security Council to act on Uganda war

Crested crane
Crested Crane - The national symbol of Uganda. Photo by Adam Katz

May 10, 2005 by Daniel Wallis KAMPALA (Reuters):

Violence in northern Uganda has increased since government negotiations with rebels stalled in February and the U.N. Security Council must pressure Uganda to restart the talks, the British aid agency Oxfam said on Tuesday.

Security Council members are due to discuss the conflict in Uganda at a session in New York on Tuesday, but its members have yet to pass a resolution on a 19-year civil war that has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

"In the last few months we have seen a significant rise in violence," Oxfam country chief Emma Naylor said in a statement released in the Ugandan capital Kampala before the meeting.

Uganda's military says it killed 84 fighters from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) last month, while rebels have stepped up attacks on refugee camps, hacking some people to death and shooting others who run away.

"The U.N. must take a lead on ensuring the protection of civilians, including urging the government of Uganda and LRA to renew the ceasefire and recommit to negotiations towards peace," Naylor said.

She said the army had failed to stop rebels carrying out atrocities, and that new peace talks were the only way to end the bloodshed in northern Uganda, where more than 1.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

The fighting intensified after landmark talks, including the first face-to-face meeting between government and rebels for a decade, stalled in February with the surrender of the LRA's top negotiator.

Ugandan commentators say the government would prefer a military victory over the rebels, but its helicopter gunships have been unable to stamp out small groups of fighters moving swiftly on foot through thick forests and rolling grasslands.

At least 20 people were killed in two rebel raids on Thursday, and Oxfam said the deteriorating security situation was hindering access by aid workers.

It said there were also increasing reports of LRA attacks across the border in southern Sudan, where LRA leader and self-styled prophet Joseph Kony is believed to be hiding.

With him are some of the thousands of children kidnapped by his cult-like group to serve as fighters and "wives". His movement has not spelled out a clear list of demands.

Despite frequent statements by President Yoweri Museveni that Kony's rebels are on the verge of defeat, analysts say one of Africa's longest-running civil wars is likely to grind on unless there is more outside pressure on both sides to talk.

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