By The Independent Team
September 10, 2009 marked the beginning of three dark days of riots in Kampala city and other parts of Buganda and brought back memories of the Buganda Crisis of 1966. Friction which had been simmering between the Kabaka of Buganda Ronald Mutebi, the central government and the leader of the Banyala in Kayunga who was trying to ‘secede’ from Buganda, exploded into bloody violence when Buganda’s Prime Minister John Baptist Walusimbi was blocked by armed police and the army from going to Kayunga.
Walusimbi was heading to Kayunga to prepare for the Kabaka’s scheduled visit to mark the kingdom’s annual youth day.
The government shut-down the kingdom’s radio station CBS and three others in a major clamp-down. Riots spread to Kampala, Mukono, Mpigi, Kayunga and Masaka.
When it appeared that the Kabaka was determined to visit Kayunga no matter the odds, the army surrounded his palace in Kireka on the night of September 12.
Over 500 people were arrested in various parts of Buganda, a police station was burnt to ashes, and a police officer was shot and injured in the leg while a female officer was sexually assaulted.
A journalist Kalungi Serumaga was abducted by state agents as he left a WBS TV a talk show where he had discussed the riots. His host Peter Kibaazo was consequently suspended from the station. Kyaddondo South MP Issa Kikungwe was arrested on suspicion he was a ring leader of the riots. On September 30, President Museveni held talks with the Kabaka at State House Entebbe. The relations between the two parties remain fragile.
But the year was not all that gloomy for monarchists. The people of Rwenzori celebrated when the government allowed their king, Wesley Mumbere, to be crowned a traditional ruler of the Rwenzururu on October 19 after more than four decades of waiting.
Fires burn up markets
The year began with a fire razing the biggest part of Nakivubo Park Yard market that is adjacent to Owino or St Balikuddembe market in downtown Kampala. The actual cause of the fire todate has never been known despite the police assuring the general public about launching a thorough inquiry into the cause of the fire. Over 6,000 vendors lost their property worth millions and efforts to help them recover from the shock were thwarted when their market chairman is alleged to have swindled the biggest chunk of the money that was meant to erect permanent sheds. The next market to be affected was Kalerwe market off Gayaza Road. The fire was suspected to have started from a smouldering charcoal stove that was left behind by one of the vendors. Other markets in Jinja and Mbale suffered the same fate.
Who is a Mufuruki?
Bafuruki, a word that has come to mean migrant settlers in Bunyoro, became a controversial issue after a copy of the President’s letter on the fate of Bafuruki leaked to the press in July. In the letter written on July 15 to the Minister for the Presidency Beatrice Wabudeya, the President proposed solutions to the Bunyoro-Bafuruki political question. He said political positions from sub-county to national level in Bunyoro should be reserved for the indigenous Banyoro for 20 years when the situation could be reviewed. This sparked further friction and a national controversy arose on whether the migrants should be deprived of their rights to vie for political leadership in areas they resettle in. In brief, tribe and ancestry should form the core of issues during elections.
Museveni’s position on the Bafuruki appeared to contradict his party’s 10-point programme, which includes consolidation of national unity and elimination of all forms of sectarianism. The Bafuruki issues remains on the table in 2010.
The Gaddafi fix: real or imagined?
In August 2008, the government blocked a meeting of African kings organised by Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi that would take place in Kampala. Then two months later in October this year, the king of Toro, Oyo Nyimba Kaboyo hosted a meeting of kings, chiefs, and sultans from Africa. Why?
Sponsored by Gaddafi the 17 African traditional leaders were in Kampala on a four-day visit. A similar meeting of African kings will take place in Libya.
The Uganda government cancelled the earlier meeting claiming it would contradict the constitution which bars cultural institutions from politics. But analysts argued this was an excuse because President Yoweri Museveni had disagreed with Gaddafi’s idea of a United States of Africa. The disagreement in the Addis Ababa AU summit prompted Gaddafi and the African chiefs to walk out of the meeting.
Gaddafi’s love for foreign kingdoms raises doubts on his sincerity since he abolished kingdoms in Libya after seizing power 40 years ago. He has never restored them.
Anti-gays Bill elicits public controversy
It has become one of the most passionately debated bills, drawing vociferous condemnation and support from activists, civil society groups, diplomats, and heads of state and religious officials. Referred commonly to as the Bahati Bill, after the MP who privately tabled it, the bill seeks to build on the Penal Code’s legislation against ‘unnatural offences’ and further criminalise same-sex relations by offering stiff penalties for new offences like ‘aggravated homosexuality’ and the failure to report known homosexuals to the authorities.
The proposed legislation has garnered massive support from many Ugandans despite stiff warnings from donor countries like Canada, England and Sweden. Some have said they would freeze aid to Uganda should the bill be passed. Pressure continues to mount but no side seems ready to concede. Serious critiques have been levelled against the bill alternately calling it illegal, unethical and even fascistic.
Pastor Martin Ssempa, a prominent religious figure and key consultant of the bill, described its purpose as both protecting the family against the homosexual threat and keeping Africa free of the undue influence of ‘Western’ liberalism and immorality. For Makerere law professor, Dr Sylvia Tamale, one of the most eloquent and vocal critics of the bill, there are indeed many problems threatening the family in Uganda, including high rape and child abuse statistics; homosexuality, however, is simply not one of them.
Will CHOGM swindlers be caught?
The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) ended the year investigating how 10 ministries spent Shs 400 billion in preparation of the five-day Commonwealth heads of government meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala in November 2007. Revelations by the accounting officers of ministries show some individuals aimed at profiteering from CHOGM. J&M Airport Road Hotel in Bwebajja received Shs2.7 billion to complete 200 rooms just 48 hours before CHOGM day. The President is said to have ordered the release of the money on October 26, 2007.
The Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Industry paid a firm, UNISIS, which purportedly spent a colossal Shs1.4 billion on training hotel staff to lay beds, welcome and serve guests instead of the approved Shs 614 million. Another Shs121 million was spent on classifying the hotels in Kampala, Shs 20 billion was advanced to hotels. PAC says government made losses as the hotels have not repaid the money. The government audit report indicates that Munyonyo Commonwealth and Speke Resort was advanced Shs 8 billion, Serena Shs1.8 billion, Imperial Royale Shs 7 billion, Imperial Botanical Entebbe Shs 1.2 billion and Hotel Africana Shs 2 billion. Shs 9.5billion was used to hire communication gadgets from Globecast, a South African company for broadcasting the four-day event. The original arrangement was that the gadgets were to be bought and owned by the government. Government would have spent Shs 4.7 billion for the same services.
At last, corruption doesn’t pay
2009 will be remembered as the year when the government appeared to crack its whip hardest of on corruption. After the creation of the Anti-Corruption court in July 2008, several government officials and holders of public officers were committed to the court in 2009.
In April 2009, Fred Kavuma, a former television producer became the first person to be convicted of misuse of fund. He was sentenced to five years in prison for obtaining US$19,000 under false pretences and ordered to refund the money. He had obtained the money for a HIV sensitization projects but put it to personal use and submitted forged receipts to the health ministry.
The former director of Economic Monitoring at the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) Teddy Ssezi Cheeye was also convicted on 26 counts, including eight of forgery, nine of making a false entry, eight of uttering a false document, and one of embezzlement and sentenced to 10 years. As the director of the ironically named Uganda Centre for Accountability (UCA), Cheeye is said to have stolen Shs120 million worth of Global Fund money in 2005. Its was discovered that Cheeye’s company, UCA, made a contract with the Ministry of Health on February 10, 2005 when the company was actually not in existence.
In late 2005, Principal Judge James Ogoola led an inquiry into mismanagement of Global Fund grants to Uganda. The inquiry unearthed cases ranging from abuse of office to diversion of funds. The then Health minister Jim Muhwezi and his deputies, Mike Mukula and Alex Kamugisha refused to take political responsibility for alleged mismanagement of the grants. They are being investigated over allegations that they lied under oath during the Ogoola inquiry. Both men denied any wrongdoing, saying the charges were politically motivated.
In July 2009 the court convicted Analiza Mondon and Elizabeth Ngororano, directors of the NGO, Value Health Limited, for misappropriating Shs 54m meant for HIV/Aids awareness training of health personnel. Each was sentenced to five years in prison for mismanaging the GAVI fund money, making false entries and false documents between March and December 2005. Court recently granted bail to Cheeye, Analiza Mondon and Elizabeth Ngororano, who had been convicted. The three were granted bail because they are appealing against their conviction.
In November, a magistrate from Mbarara Moses Ndifuna was sentenced to two years in jail after the court found him guilty of receiving a Shs 200,000 bribe. It is said that Ndifuna received the bribe in June from a businessman.
In December three senior police officers were arrested and interrogated over allegations of receiving bribes. By the end of 2009, it is said that over 300 cases of corruption are under investigation by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution.
Akankwasa’s dirty billion
The Executive Director of National Forestry Authority (NFA) Damian Akankwasa shocked the nation in October when he accused his wife, Juliet Katusiime, of stealing Shs 900 million from their bedroom in Naguru. Ms Akankwasa was charged with theft on October 19. She attributed the accusations to a domestic wrangle.