Archive for the ‘Dictatorship’ Category

Uganda decides

Presidential Candidates hols hands before the beginning of a live Presidential Debate held at Kampala’s Serena Hotel on Saturday. PHOTO:

In under a week from today (Monday) Uganda goes to the polls to decide whether incumbent president Yoweri Kagutta Museveni who has been in power for over three decades will continue ruling the “pearl of Africa” for another five years or that he will hand over power in a new dawn that will see the country’s leadership shift to the opposition.

No doubt that this is a defining moment for Uganda whichever way ‘the dice rolls.’

These elections are however not just significant for Ugandans, across the border in Kenya people are closely following the developments. Kenyan media outlets have sent correspondents to Uganda who give live updates during news bulletins.

Kenyans are also regularly commenting about developments in Uganda on social media.

Why is this election important to Kenyans?

Uganda is a key partner in the East African Community with very strong ties to Kenya. A lot of Kenyans are working in Uganda and likewise there are so many Ugandans working in Kenya due to several agreements between the two countries.

John Okello sells car spare parts at Kisumu’s industrial area, he regularly travels to Uganda to source second hand car parts and he explains why Kenyan’s care so much about Uganda.

“Unlike Tanzania, Uganda has been very welcoming to Kenyans and a lot of us do business there or go there to get supplies. Look at Kisumu streets today, how many vehicles do you see bearing Ugandan registration?”

Esther Waliaula works with an NGO in Jinja providing bicycles to volunteer health workers and students in remote areas of Uganda to improve access to healthcare and basic education. She is from Western Kenya and is currently back in the country because of the uncertainties that could come with the hotly contested elections.

“I have only been in Uganda for a month and I largely hope that the elections will be peaceful so that we can soon go back to work. I however came back because I know how African elections sometimes go and you do not want to be caught up when violence erupts in a foreign country.”

Dr. Cyprine Oduogo an International Relations lecturer and dean at the School of Development and Strategic studies at Maseno University agrees that a stable Uganda is very key for Kenyans’ economic interests.

“Uganda being a landlocked country relies a lot on Kenya for the movement of its goods and a lot of Kenyans do business in Uganda or with Ugandans. A stable Uganda is most definitely in the entire region’s best interest.”

The Connection between Kenyan and Ugandan politics

These elections are not only significant to people who work in Uganda or travel there for business. There are domestic political reasons as well.

Kenya will be going to elections too in about a year from now. Kenya’s opposition politicians and their supporters have had very frosty relationships with Museveni’s regime. At the height of the violence that occurred in Kenya after the disputed 2007 elections, Museveni is alleged to have provided police officers that backed up the Kenyan forces in Kisumu and other opposition strongholds and helped Kibaki hold on to power. To many Kenyans he helped rob them of their victory.

“Museveni was party to our stolen victory in 2007. He was a close confidant of President Kibaki and now it’s time for him to go home too,” adds Dick Okech, a resident of Kisumu and supporter of opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Dr. Odugo (quoted earlier) thinks that Museveni has immersed himself into Kenya’s ethnic divisions and sections of Kenyans would welcome a politically neutral leader of their western neighbor.

“Kenyans would most definitely want to see a more neutral leader in Uganda who does not align themselves to the various tribal factions of Kenya.”

Even though President Kenyatta has remained silent on his stand regarding the elections across the border, his deputy who is a close ally openly campaigned for Museveni in Eastern Uganda where a huge population from his Kalenjin tribe reside. That was probably the biggest indication of President Kenyatta’s support for a Museveni win and more reason why Kenyan’s allied to the opposition are against a Museveni win.

While it’s impossible to ascertain whether Kenyans in support of Kenyatta’s administration also support a Museveni win, a lot of Kenyans think he has led the East African nation for too long and it’s now time to change guard.

Museveni is attempting to hold on to power like his counterparts from Rwanda and Burundi, a move Kenyans on social media openly showed their displeasure with.

As far as over staying in power is concerned, your guess on where Kenyans stand is as good as mine.

The politics around the disputed Migingo island in Lake Victoria have also not helped the relationship between Museveni and opposition supporters who mostly hail from Western Kenya. In 2008, Museveni’s claim to the small island led residents of Kibera in Nairobi to uproot sections of the railway connecting the Kenyan coast to Uganda thereby disrupting delivery of goods to the landlocked nation.

“Museveni is widely seen to exhibit irresponsible leadership when it comes to his frequent claims to Kenyan territory. These are things that the average Kenyan does not take lightly even if the disputed land is just a small island,” says Dr. Oduogo.

To others though a win for opposition candidate Dr. Kiza Besigye is symbolic of things to come in the greater East Africa region including Kenya. In Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete peacefully handed over power to John Pombe Magufuli (a close confidant of Raila Odinga) and an opposition win in Uganda would be a much needed morale boost in the Kenyan opposition rings.

Linda Okado ia a member of the ODM Women’s league and supports a Besigye win in the Thursday elections. To her an opposition win in Uganda  will be an affirmation that it’s possible to defeat an incumbent in Africa.

“The challenges the opposition is facing in Uganda are similar to ours. A win there would mean that it is possible for transition in free and fair elections.”

A view shared by Dr. Oduogo who thinks that the opposition in Uganda is facing an impossible challenge and ” a miraculous win” for the opposition in Uganda where “democracy is in a bad state” coming hot on the heels of a change of guard in Tanzania will be a sign of hope for the opposition politicians in Kenya and their supporters.

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We must all fight for internet freedoms

When I created my first ever blog somewhere in 2008, all I wanted to do was tell stories that I thought might never make it for publication on the media house I worked for and to share my personal opinion on a wide ray of issues in a manner I was not able to do in the traditional media. Never had it ever occurred to me that Seven years down the line I would be one day worried about landing in jail for sharing my thoughts with the rest of the world – albeit within the confines of the law or for talking about the injustice meted against innocent citizens.

Today that is the world we live in as bloggers who are passionate about good governance, justice, human rights and politics. As I am putting out these words to commemorate Internet Freedom Day, one of our comrades is behind bars for speaking loudly about impunity.

His name is Abraham Mutai, I did not know him personally, I did not have his phone number but I followed him on twitter and read his blogs and like the rest of other bloggers and Kenyans on twitter it felt like we are family because we wanted to tell stories that otherwise go unnoticed or ignored by the mainstream media when they go to bed with the same people looting our country of its natural resources and stealing from its future generation – that becomes even more literal when politicians grab school playgrounds to build hotels.

We are in this war because we are fighting against very powerful and influential people and we are fighting this war today so that our children could be free tomorrow. This is why we must all fight for a free online space where we can tell the small stories that will ordinarily go unnoticed by the Standard, Nation Media and Royal Media Services of this country.

Even though bloggers can and have at times been compromised by these people who rob us of our future, their sheer number and the fact that indeed anyone with a story to tell can create a blog and tell their story to the world or simply tweet it makes internet the most reliable platform for fighting against injustice in our society.

Today these freedoms are becoming seriously threatened by the Kenyatta administration. Apart from attempting to pass laws that curtail on internet and media freedoms this government has clearly shown us that it sees the blogging community as a threat.

Robert Alai is always in court for one or another tramped up charge, blogger Allan Wadi was arrested and sentenced to two years in jail in a record 24 hours, Dikembe Disembe has faced the same threats as Alai and yesterday they came for Mutai tomorrow it might be me or you…yes you and that is why you need to care about standing up for our rights. I did not mention Bongoko Bosire – we don’t know what happened to him two years later.

It doesn’t matter that one of our own is in charge of Digital Communications and Social Media at Statehouse, he can’t fight for us. He cannot stand up for his own people, he has turned his back and bit the hand that once fed him.

A free online space is not a privilege, it is a right

We can’t trust the digital government either because they see us as terrorists because we have dared to speak about the selfies and harassment of our colleagues. We have spoken loudly about digital corruption and land grabbing. We have unmasked the kingpins of ivory trade, we have become more dangerous than the Al-Shabaab because we have become a direct threat to the their very existence and now impunity is fighting back.

They know where we live and where we work, they have made it their number one goal to silence our voices. That is why when one voice goes out a thousand more voices have to come out and speak, they might have deleted Mutai’s twitter accounts and blogs but a new Mutai must rise up – not one, not two, not three. There has to be a Mutai in all of us. I am Mutai, You are Mutai, We are all Mutai.

Speak out for internet freedom because these stories have to be told.


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