Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

It’s hotting up in Kampala, and none of us are quite sure where it’s headed. My first notification on Friday came from an American friend working near Nakasero market, who heard gunshots nearby. The security notifications came thick and fast after that. I was sitting on the balcony at work in a leafy suburb of Kampala, thinking, “trouble never comes here“, when I heard fireworks/firecrackers/gunshots. I opted for the latter, given the context, and observed vans, boda bodas (motorbikes) and large military vehicles with even larger guns rushing towards my neighbourhood. I carried on typing until my colleague Gilbert popped his head out after a new volley of gunshots and said tactfully,

“You don’t think you should, well, come inside? Seems a bit of a risky place to be sitting.”

Good point. I shuffled inside. I tried to stream the Royal Wedding online, but the gunshots were distracting and all that rioting interrupted my concentration – priorities, people!

The walk to work starts again tomorrow. Apparently, those people planning on walking can do so as long as they notify their local police.

Weather forecast: overcast with teargas and rubber bullets.


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 Some of you may have noticed that, in Uganda, walking is sort of, well, there’s no other way to put it than…it seems to be illegal. I think.

“But walking to work”, I hear you say, “how commendable”. (If you’re not saying it, just humour me and pretend that you were).   It’s not that thousands of Ugandans are on a health kick. Nor is it brought on by the state of the roads here (which are perilously potholed). No, people are walking because they’re pissed off.

A calculation I saw recently based on Danida stats and my organisation’s office logistics costs shows that fuel has increased by 19% since last November. Food has increased by 44%. In the meantime, President Yoweri Museveni is looking at spending 3bn Ugandan shillings (about £1m) on his inauguration ceremony where he hands over power to…erm…himself. Which was predicted way before the February election, and we didn’t even need a psychic Octopus to do it.

Although things were relatively calm during elections, the issue of whether or not people can put food on the table has elicited a stong response. And because Museveni warned opposition leaders and others that he would crush all protests during election times (this included peaceful gatherings), Ugandan opposition leaders had the idea of walking to work to protest against, well, pretty much anything that bothers you about the current government, but specifically, about skyrocketing prices, 11% inflation rates, and why the government was allegedly stealing money for elections and fighter jets from the public purse when Ugandans were going hungrier than usual. After all, individuals walking is not a gathering. And people are walking. Not only that; taxi drivers and boda boda (motorbike) drivers have, in some towns, stopped providing public transport in solidarity with the walkers.

The government insists that these macro-economic issues are not their fault and is cracking down on the walkers. I agree to a point that some of the issues go well beyond Uganda’s borders, but this situation has brought a number of ongoing issues around governance and corruption which have been simmering for some time to the boil.

So far, opposition leaders and Kizza Besigye and Norbert Mao have both been arrested, along with scores of other Ugandans. Protests have occurred every 2 days.

Keep walking.

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