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Crush the ‘pigs’ but don’t lose your head

The egregiousness of the thuggish behaviour now appears to have been extensive, covering areas that were not visible to the public eye. Whereas we saw the pepper-spraying of Dr Kizza Besigye and the use of water cannons

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The arrest of scores of police officers over the last several months, culminating in this week’s confinement of the Force’s immediate former chief Kale Kayihura, suggests something has gone terribly wrong in the Uganda Police.

For those who care about civil and political liberties, it was horrifying to see police officers brutally break up Opposition rallies year after year. Many times journalists covering the gun butting and humiliation of Opposition politicians and their supporters got roughed up as well. They were beaten, their equipment broken or confiscated. It became routine. The chill was in the normalisation of inhumaneness by a State entity whose role is to enforce law and order.

The egregiousness of the thuggish behaviour now appears to have been extensive, covering areas that were not visible to the public eye. Whereas we saw the pepper-spraying of Dr Kizza Besigye and the use of water cannons and tear gas to break up rallies and meetings of opponents of the NRM government, we never saw Rwandan refugees handed over at the witching hour, off to an uncertain future.

It is possible that in scoring good points with President Museveni by suppressing the Opposition, the police leadership took ample liberties to engage in other unseemly activities betting that they could get away with it. Someone went classically rogue, endangering the good done while leaving the bad to shine a long time.

These things happen when you turn a key State institution into an instrument almost solely judged on how well it works to keep the sitting government in power.

To build on the Sebutinde Commission, which first systematically exposed criminality in the Uganda Police Force nearly two decades ago, the present moment offers another clean-up chance.

The new chiefs — IGP Okoth Ochola and his deputy Sabiiti Muzeyi — have already made some adjustments a couple of months on the job (at least so far they are not transferring officers monthly). It is said an office is as good (or as bad) as the holder. The two men are now in charge. They have to deliver a wholesale reform of the police. That is if they can sell and the boss — Commander in Chief Museveni — can buy their plan. Try they must.

When the law and order people lose their footing, deliberately or otherwise, part of the result is killings of wananchi where everyone is left none the wiser. The gunning down of MP Ibrahim Abiriga — a jolly good fellow despite some of his political positions — nine days ago typifies the pervading lawlessness that allows for contract killings.

The government’s proposed response is worrying. In his speech after the presentation of the national Budget on Thursday, President Museveni doubled down on problematic suggestions he has outlined before.

He said he did not want to hear of police bond or court bail for killers. (But how can one definitively know a suspect is a killer without due process, which may involve bond and bail?) He pointed at Chief Justice Bart Katureebe for emphasis. The Chief Justice betrayed no emotion, while his neighbour and deputy, Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, smirked a little as he swivelled in his chair. In previous days, Mr Museveni said boda bodas and all cars should have tracking devices.

The President asked to be allowed to address Parliament on the security situation in Uganda, a matter he said was of national importance. We will wait to hear his full articulation of how he intends to calm the people, whom he said were sad and angry just as he, only that he was also confident of crushing the small killer “pigs”.

Mr Museveni also added a line that was disconcerting. He declared that he was standing before Parliament not only as President but also as leader of the resistance. He said those words while essentially telling the Judiciary to do his bidding on bail.

I see potential for overreach.

Culled from Daily Monitor, June 17, 2018

Strictly Personal

As African leaders give excuses, peers reach for the skies, By Tee Ngugi

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Many Africans might have missed an event that should have been at the centre of the news. On August 23, 2023, India landed a spacecraft on the moon, making history as the fourth country to do so.

India is in exalted company. The other countries in that rarefied club are Russia, the US and China. India did not just land a spacecraft on the moon, it landed the craft near the south pole of the moon — the only country to achieve such a feat.

The reporting on this in the African press missed the significance of India’s achievement. Most media reported it as if it was another routine space mission by another power. First, any landing on the moon or any missions into space by any country are not routine.

They demonstrate the most advanced science and technology and their economic might. They showcase meticulous organisation, steely political will to achieve national ambitions, and an extraordinary sense of patriotism among citizens to make their country great.

Read: India becomes first nation to land spacecraft near Moon’s south pole

There is another reason why this news should have dominated our airwaves and discourse. India was colonised for more years than most African countries. India, like African countries, is multiethnic and multireligious. India, like Africa, has suffered from social strife. India, like many African countries, has gone to war with neighbouring countries. India, just like us, has to deal with disabling outdated traditional customs and beliefs.

And yet it did not use any of these characteristics as an excuse not to reach, quite literally, for the skies.

Further, India suffers from Monsoons and volcanic activity from which, for the most part, we are spared. It has a huge population, which many African countries do not. Yet it did not use these as excuses not to compete with, and sometimes beat, the best.

Perhaps we let this event pass without much commentary because we felt ashamed. Ghana became independent in 1957, 10 years after India.

Decades later, India had expanded its railway network to become the largest in the world. Ghana just expanded the railway left by the British the other day. As Ghana’s economy collapsed, India’s rose steadily. As Ghana’s education system stagnated, India advanced in science and technology, enabling it to explode a nuclear device in 1974, 27 years after Independence.

As Ghana’s heath system collapsed, India advanced theirs. Today, India has very advanced medical science and health system. Our leaders, after collapsing our health systems, seek treatment in India. India has expanded its GDP to become the fifth largest in the world. Ghana’s GDP is $80 billion, below that of Luxembourg, a tiny country of less than a million people.

Ghana is, of course, representative of the African post-independence experience of mismanagement, thievery and collapse. Will India’s example wean us from our “Pathological Excuse Syndrome” (PES)? Unlikely.

The Kenya Kwanza regime has churned out more excuses in one year than all previous regimes combined.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator.

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Strictly Personal

What a beautiful summit! Now to vague promises by rich North, Joachim Buwembo

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In an average lifetime, an African is expected to get involved in and attend many weddings (and funerals). First, you attend those of your elders, which leaves you hoping that yours too will not only come one day but that it will also be more glamorous.

Then there were those weddings (and funerals) of your contemporaries for which you have to pay the ‘African tax’, partly out of fear and hope that when your turn comes, people will contribute generously since you will have been known to be a generous contributor yourself.

Finally, you have to attend weddings of the younger generations, including virtual ones like the ones that were held during the Covid-19 lockdown, or those being staged in different countries where the wedding couples live.

In my idealistic opinion, one shortcoming of many wedding formats and texts is the vague and often immeasurable nature of the promises made.

Fine, the specifics and details could darken the joyful, colourful ceremony and even bog it down, but in a separate, written and signed agreement, things should be spelt out. This would probably even make divorce proceedings less messy.

How for instance is love measured? What does providing for and protecting include? And comfort? At least “until death do us part” is fair for it specifies an event and so no one can compel a surviving spouse to be buried with a dead partner (and you know how many relatives would love to do that and then take over the house and other valuables). But one can argue their way out of the other wedding promises.

The climax of wedding injustices comes from the preachers who urge the partners to always forgive the other party for whatever crimes they commit. If courts operated in the same spirit, all murderers and robbers would walk free to continue murdering and robbing more victims while counting on systemic forgiveness.

The text of the declaration at the end of the big Nairobi climate summit for Africa brought to mind a glittering wedding, whose success is measured first on its having been held at all, the number of guests, the size of the cake and the courses of the meal. Africans should hope that future climate summits are not measured the way a bride measures a wedding (including how less beautiful her lady friends looked), but in tangible, countable outcomes.

At the Nairobi climate summit, we Africans demanded specifics from the rich countries with which we are justifiably angry. We were accurate on what they owe and should pay in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Then we also made our ‘commitments’ but were careful enough to remain non-committal. We promised policy formulations, the right investments and job creation.

Somehow, we did not say how many jobs and by when. This was a climate summit, for God’s sake, and the heads of state who have armies of researchers at their disposal should have specified, or at least estimated, the number of jobs to be created in the provision and application of clean energy.

Was there any commitment to investing in the conversion of the continent’s ‘abundant rare’ earth minerals into mobility batteries that reduce pollution rather than “exporting jobs” to already rich countries for a pittance? Was there a commitment to how many megawatts of hydroelectric power will be committed to the electrification of railways by which year?

We remained silent on acres or square kilometres in reforestation. We mentioned the carbon sinks of the Congo and the savannah but did not specify how we shall protect them. In short, we did not put any figures or timelines on our ‘commitments’.

The Africa Climate Summit was thus like a wedding which the bride sees as an achievement in itself, that she has been taken down the aisle (even if the guy turns out to be a wife beater and drunkard).

For Kenya, again staging the inaugural summit in itself was a success, for beating the other potential brides on the continent – Morocco, South Africa, Egypt and lately Rwanda – from a tourism promotion point of view.

All the same, we rejoice for the very good effort by Kenya and do hope that subsequent such summits will have explicit deliverables and timelines on which the Africans can hold their leaders to account.

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