By Mubatsi Asinja Habati , Joyce Mirembe Nakayima & Rukiya Makuma
The year 2010 will probably be remembered most for the terror attacks on Kampala. On July 11, Ugandans came to a painful reality with the gruesome twin terror attacks at Ethiopian Restaurant in Kabalagala and Kyadondo Rugby Club in Lugogo that claimed over 76 innocent lives and left hundreds of others injured. The hurting irony is that the tragedy struck at the very time when excitement among soccer fans watching the World Cup finals at Kyadondo was hitting the peak- towards the end of the match. The wails of the injured and the bereaved rang across all parts of the city and a cloud of death hang over the country. The victims groaned and the country mourned. Over 30 suspects were arrested in connection with the July bomb blasts and still waiting trial in the High Court on 89 counts of terrorism, 76 of murder and 10 for attempted murder.
The Al-Shabaab had issued advance warnings of attacks if Uganda did not withdraw her troops from the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
The government directed security checks in all public places including places of worship.
The country is not yet safe from more attacks. The militants have made repeated threats of similar attacks. On December 20, suspected Al-Shabaab let off an explosion at a stop of a Uganda-bound bus in Nairobi. At least three people died and many were injured.
However the Al-Shabaab terror attacks and their repeated threats have not broken Uganda’s resolve to contribute to peace building in Somalia.
The UN Security Council visited the country after the attacks and discussed with President Museveni the Somalia security situation. Fighting terrorism here and regionally will be among the top issues on the security agenda in 2011.
“Districtisation” of Uganda
Away from terror, all the major political parties in the country elected new leadership. President Museveni created more districts and parliamentary to the chagrin of the donors who support the country’s budget by 30%. This will push Uganda’s expenditure on public administration outrageously high, which will ironically further hurt, rather than improve, the delivery of social services.
At the start of the 2010/2011 in July, Uganda had already 112 districts, up from 56 ten years ago.
Critical voices say the ‘districtisation’ aims more at consolidating Museveni’s patronage than improving social services in the country.
Prof. Edward Kakonge, former head of Uganda Debt Network, says more districts overstretch the fledgling opposition who cannot reach all of them for political mobilisation. Indeed a survey about the 2011 local government leaders shows that the opposition does not have candidates for elective posts in all the 112 districts.
By 2006 the districts were 80. They rose to 97 in 2009 and 112 by July 2010. Municipal governments too increased from 13 in 2009 to 22 this year. Nine municipalities were created in July 2010.
Each municipality is a parliamentary constituency and this translates into nine more MPs in the national assembly.
The President is promising more districts on his campaign trail and the country will see more of them in 2011 if he wins the elections.
The king of Rwenzuru has objected to this “districtisation” when a proposal was mooted to split Kasese into three more districts. He said: “The creation of more districts means extending corruption not services nearer the people.”
The year ended in a high election fever with the opposition parties crying foul of continued media blackout as the 2011 election campaigns reach half way.
Blackout imposed on Besigye
To send their election message to voters, the Interparty Cooperation headed by Kizza Besigye launched radio and television adverts. But nine of the selected FM radio stations refused to air Besigye’s adverts citing political reasons. Nearly all these FM radio stations are owned by NRM politicians or close associates.
In some cases the Resident District Commissioners under the President’s Office have directly threatened the radio owners from hosting prominent opposition politicians on the airwaves.
Sometimes opposition leaders like Olara Otunnu and Besigye would be blocked from speaking on radio even after paying for the airtime.
As the election period drew nearer and the political environment became hostile in Buganda over the closed kingdom’s CBS radio, President Museveni reopened the station in October, after a year off air. The radio was closed during the Buganda riots in September 2009 after government blocked the Kabaka of Buganda from visiting Kayunga, a part of his kingdom.
Sale of Heritage Oil stake in the oil exploration and its refusal to remit the attendant taxes to the Uganda government attracted Museveni’s wrath who threatened to cancel the Heritage-Tullow Oil deal Heritage left the country without paying over Shs400 billion capital gains tax after selling its stake to Tullow Oil at $ 1.5 billion.
Museveni turned the heat on Tullow to pay the tax or get out. The matter is still outstanding.
Potholes take over
The holding of a Potholes Exhibition early December was probably the most hilarious satire of Kampala’s collapsed road network during the year. The central government announced it had taken over manag ement of the city roads and promised better services upon passing the Kampala Capital City Authority Bill.
Corruption in oil
WikiLeaks spilled classified diplomatic cables attributed to US Ambassador Jerry Lanier, claiming that Ugandan ministers Hillary Onek and Amama Mbabazi attempted to influence Heritage Oil to sell its stake to Italian oil firm ENI. Corruption in Uganda’s oil finds is likely to become a prominent issue in 2011. Snippets about corruption began to come up late last month when the UK-based anticorruption body Global Witness published a report claiming that Uganda’s Special Forces commanded by Museveni’s son Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba and guards of Saracen, a private security company owned by the president’s brother Salim Saleh, were guarding the oil rich areas.
The 8th parliament cleared ministers Amama Mbabazi and Fred Omach of the allegations of abuse of CHOGM money contained in the report by the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
A government investigation revealed 100 non-existing health centres in the country. Drugs and money had been allocated to ghost health centres when real hospitals lack medicines to treat the sick. Another investigation into alleged corruption in UPE was set up in July 2010 but by close of the year, the probe team had not finished its report. It was instead seeking Shs3 billion more to enable it complete its work. Initial findings of the inquiry unearthed ghost schools, teachers and pupils in every district the team had visited.
Skeptics argue that inquiries into alleged corruption have become a ritual to calm public rage since the culprits are never brought to book.
Child sacrifice left parents in tears
In the public court, the ‘wicked’ tycoon had already been convicted of murder. In the packed courtroom the presiding judge delivered his ruling to the disappointment of many. It was the 24th day of April this year. Justice Moses Mukiibi of the High Court acquitted Masaka tycoon Kato Kajubi of murder, citing police’s interference with the evidence.
It all began on the night of 28th October 2008 when 12-year Joseph Kasirye’s body was found in a swamp in Masaka. It had been mutilated with some body parts missing. He had been killed a day before. Police arrested Umar Kateregga, a witchdoctor and his wife Mariam Nabukeera, both residents of Masaka to help in the investigations. The two were later turned into witnesses and implicated Kajubi for masterminding the boy’s murder in an apparent ritual sacrifice.
However after the trial, the judge ruled that police had interfered with the evidence and it could no lo9nger be relied on to convict Kajubi. The state appealed the acquittal and the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial on November 23. But by close of the year Kajubi was till at large.
Kasirye’s case reflected a bigger problem of ritual murders that have deprived many Ugandan parents of their loved children at the hands primitive minds that believe success comes from natural powers.
Sedition law scrapped
Journalist and publisher Andrew Mwenda’s petition against the sedition law was a landmark case. It set free all journalists in Uganda already or not yet charged with sedition. Many Ugandan journalists and editors had been arrested and spent years trekking to court for trial. The Constitutional Court ruled that the sedition was an outdated law entrenched by the state to suffocate freedom of speech and expression.
“The sections on sedition are inconsistent with the Constitution. They are therefore null and void,” ruled the five justices of the court on August 25.
The ruling stemmed from Mwenda’s petition in 2005 when he was Political Editor of the Daily Monitor and host of the Andrew Mwenda Live talk show on the paper’s radio, K FM. He was charged with sedition for having suggested during his show that Uganda had a hand in the death of the then Sudan People’s Liberation Movement leader John Garang who died in a plane crash as he left Kampala for South Sudan.
Mwenda’s lawyer James Nangwala described the court’s judgement as “a milestone in so far as enforcing fundamental rights to freedom of expression and of the press and other media is concerned”.
However the court dismissed the petition against the law on sectarianism raised by Mwenda and the East African Media Institute.
Like an undisciplined visitor who comes without invitation by the host, the jiggers and plagues paid an unsolicited visit to some parts of the country, wreaking havoc and leaving some people dead and others permanently disabled in the wake of the epidemic. The jiggers ravaged Busoga and the plagues invaded northern Uganda, popping out their ugly heads as if to remind people to make a wise choice in February 2011. Unlike the landslides, the plagues waited to strike when the country was in an election frenzy. President Museveni has had always boosted of eradicating such epidemics which he said were trademarks of his predecessors. The recent outbreak of plagues resulting from people’s poor living conditions dented the credibility of the president’s long time claims of “Mr Fix All.”
The plague in northern Uganda killed over 38 people and over 96 others were reported to have been infected in the districts of Lamwo, Pader, Abim, Agago, Gulu and Kitgum. The Ministry of Health said the cause of the mysterious disease had not been established by Christmas day.
In October jiggers struck Busoga, that kingdom without a king. It appears the jiggers took advantage of the leadership vacuum in Busoga to attack the vulnerable subjects with impunity. The jiggers devoured people’s feet uninterrupted until the wailings reached the central government which dispatched a team of experts to fight off the invading parasite. By close of the year, the jiggers had somewhat retreated but had left their permanent marks on many people’s feet, hands and other parts of the body. But the jiggers did not just retreat without a cost to the taxpayer. The government had to lose Shs400 million to the jiggers before the epidemic was tamed.
Besigye treason case
It was a relief to the FDC leader Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye and his co-accused when on October 12, the Constitutional Court dismissed the treason and terrorism charges against him. The court said the charges were unconstitutional and ordered that his trial be stopped forthwith. Besigye and two of his co-accused had petitioned the court challenging the constitutionality of their trial.
He had been on trial with 22 others since November 2005. His brother died while in prison on similar charges.
The High Court ruled that Prof. George William Kakoma, the composer of Uganda’s national anthem, be paid Sh50m in compensation for his work. He had sought Shs.5.2bn. He had petitioned court saying the government had infringed on his copyright freedom in the national anthem.
On July 30 the presiding judge Yorokamu Bamwine that left Kakoma Shs50m rich but still grumbling about the under-compensation.
Kakoma was seeking damages, compensation and royalties from government for using his song for 46 years without recognizing his musical rights. He co-authored the song with Peter Paul Wyngard, an Anglo-French musician.
Copyright is exclusive permission granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adopt he work.
The courts shed off the aging learned brains who had hit the retirement ceiling, effectively converting from public servants into permanent pensioners. Principal Judge James Ogoola, Deputy Chief Justice, Laetitia Mukasa Kikonyogo, Court of Appeal justice George Steven Engwau, Supreme Court justice Galdino Okello , Justice Anna Magezi of the Land Division and Deputy Head of the Family Division Justice Caroline Atima Okello left the judiciary to join the country’s pensioners. In the pensioners’ club, they will find senior pensioner and former Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba who left the bench a year before.
The retirement of no-nonsense Justice Bosco Katutsi, the head of the Anticorruption Court, was also knocking on the door by December 18.
When Bududa mountain came down
In 2010, one top thing was on everyone’s lips- general elections. As interested politicians revealed their intentions and new candidates came up with a promise of taking people in a new direction in the next decade, the earth was not left out, it was also preparing to wipe off its old face, and enter the new decade with a new look. The Bududa mudslides gave way too soon just three months into the year.
On March 2010, the mountain in Bududa came tumbling down and buried over 300 people under it, and about 712 families were left homeless. Some families were relocated to Bulucheke camp in Bududa for four months before they were finally resettled in Kiryandongo in Masindi in October.
On June 8, 2010 the country woke up to the sad news of the kidnap of Khan Kakama a one-and-half year old boy and child of Sven and Naome Karekaho. The child was kidnapped from their home in Bugolobi and was later murdered by the kidnappers.
The kidnappers asked for a ransom of Shs 30 million from the parents. However the ransom did not save his life as the kidnappers went ahead with their heinous intention. Kakama was found dead in Kifumbira zone, a slum in Kamwokya a suburb in Kampala. The long arm of the law later caught up with the suspects. They are now in safe custody awaiting justice. The suspects are still on trial. Last year 18 cases of child sacrifice were reported to the police. May God rest Kakama’s soul in eternal peace.