Bobi Wine has a vital ingredient – Charisma

Bobi Wine has a vital ingredient – Charisma

“Will you vote for Bobi wine?” I asked her as she bent down washing clothes in a blue basin. She looked up, with beaming eyes, she replied, “bring the ballot now, I will my tick for my ghetto president.” You seem to like him very much. “Of course, I do,” she replied, “he is our hope, I have lived in this ghetto for 15 years now, I came from the village to live with my auntie but she has since passed on. I am here hustling; I wash people’s clothes for a living. We don’t have a government school in the Ghetto, we don’t have a hospital, we don’t have running water in our homes, no road, we line up with Jerrycans from a spring well that was built so many years ago” She suddenly stopped looked at me suspiciously, “Are you a spy? do you want to arrest me?” I laughed, “do spies look like me? No, I am a storyteller, I just want to hear your thoughts about your ghetto president. Eavesdropping our conversation was a cobbler with a stash of old shoes, punching his needle in a sole of a shoe one stitch at a time. He smiled revealing the wrinkles of his life’s burdens, “Madam, you see, we saw this young man grow up, he too lined up at the spring well to fetch water, we saw him go to school, start out his music career and become what he has become, I can assure you that a week doesn’t pass by without him coming to the ghetto to check on us.” There was a spark  in his eyes as he described Bobi wine.

This Wine has a vital ingredient for a revolution- Charisma and the cowardly government knows that but they sort of don’t know what to do with him; they have cancelled his concerts, they have sent social media bots and PR machinery to discredit him to  make him look like he doesn’t know anything about policy, claiming that he is working with colonialists, on Monday 29th April 2019, the 36-year-old musician turned politician was remanded to  Luzira maximum Prison- his crime? a 2018 case long forgotten for leading a demonstration to protest the social media and mobile money tax in July 2018 – a tax that researchers have found out is regressive and widening the digital divide. Even a toddler can see that these are trumped up charges to weaken his spirit – a bridle in the horse’s mouth by the whisperers.

Last year, Bobi Wine was tortured and his balls squeezed, he went quiet a little bit, healed, now he is back with more resolve and the regime is trembling in its 33-year- old patched pants. I guess he sparks  nostalgia and age-anxiety reminding them of their olden days, the zeal that took them to the bush in 1986 to fight against an oppressive regime. The tables have turned they are now the oppressive regime- rule of law is in the trash bin- resorting to laws like the Public Order Management Act as their tools of oppression- where one or two are gathered, there shall be police in their midst with teargas making sure that people don’t assemble and do anything that threatens the junta. I have learned this from dating, once someone is over you even if you moon-dance on a needle, you cannot make them love you again no matter what. On that note in my observation, I think this relationship ended a long time ago, we are sorry looks like we have found a new love that knows how to sing.

Bridging the Digital Divide for Universal Health Coverage innovation in Africa

Bridging the Digital Divide for Universal Health Coverage innovation in Africa

Can Africa achieve Universal Health Coverage? There are mountains to climb  when it comes to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Africa – poverty, inadequate infrastructure, lack of political will among others. Yet, technology has proved that Africa can leapfrog into the future. The mobile money innovation, has for instance, made it possible for the previously unbanked to receive and send money from their phones.

In this digital era, using digital technology to ensure access to quality healthcare is no longer an option; it is the way to go. In South Africa, the WatIF health portal was designed as a health work force multiplier that up-skills nurses to perform tasks previously reserved for doctors and specialists. Medtronics labs on the other hand, designs healthcare delivery models with and for communities using digital technologies across a range of healthcare services. It also collaborates with various partners to ensure sustainability and to amplify impact.

During the first multi-stakeholder meeting that took place in Kampala on March 20, convened by Novartis to discuss sustaining the momentum toward UHC in Africa, one of the key discussions was about leveraging digital technology. The stakeholders emphasised that technology is an enabler for the attainment of UHC. They also highlighted that any such technology towards UHC should be built on centralised systems and the innovation solutions scalable. However, low internet connectivity in Africa was pointed as a barrier for effective innovation for advancement of UHC on the continent.

While only about 35% of Africa’s population are connected to the internet, majority of the continent leaders look at digital technology as a threat to political power rather than an enabler for economic and social growth. So far, African governments that have interrupted the internet include Algeria, Burundi, the Central African Republic , Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of  Congo, Congo (Brazzaville), Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ethiopia, Libya, Niger, Togo, and Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mali, Morocco, the Gambia and Sierra Leone. In fact, within the first three months of 2019, internet disruptions were registered in five countries – Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

In Uganda, it is now 10 months since government introduced social media tax for Over the Top (OTT) services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Skype. Subscribers are charged a daily fee of Shs 200 to access OTT services while 0.5 percent is charged on every mobile money withdraw. General outcry and protests that characterised the tax introduction fell on deaf ears. A recent research by Pollicy in partnership with Access Now, shows that prior to the social media tax, 33% of respondents would access social media platforms more than 10 times a day. This number dropped to 6.6% after the tax was introduced and 86% of respondents feel that the social media tax should be abolished.

For Universal Health Coverage to be achieved, the efforts of leveraging digital technology have to be supported by deliberate efforts from African governments to create an enabling environment for innovations. The first step is to connect people to the Internet and to desist from deliberate disruptions or shutdowns.

As Dr. Githinji Gitahi, the CEO Amref Health Africa Group said at the first multi-stakeholder meeting in Kampala in March, no country prospers without investing in its people and health is central to development.

My attendance at the Dialogue  was sponsored by Novartis Social Business. 

Sexism Is Not Just Words, It Poisons Society

Sexism Is Not Just Words, It Poisons Society

Sexism |ˈsɛksɪz(ə)m| 

by dictionary definition is prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

The State Minister of tourism Kiwanda launching the ludicrous Miss Curvy Contest in Uganda  said, “We have naturally endowed nice looking women that are amazing to look at. Why don’t we use these people as a strategy to promote our tourism?”

Good lord! This kind of sexism is a bad stench that reminds us Ugandan women of the male chauvinism and patriarchy that our society has been fed on for generations through culture and religion. You know like smell that comes from a trash bin when it hangs around the house longer than it should?

Uganda’s source of tourism is animals, nature and to add to list Kiwanda suggests curvy women. Because in Kiwanda’s mind, women are no less than the list of things that have been attracting tourists.

I watch the twitter timeline and Facebook feed painfully as Ugandan men young and old chuckle and make jokes about this absurdity. Sadder, that some girls think that skinny girls are just being plainly jealous when they speak out against this sexism.

On the surface, sometimes sexist comments sound like compliments and that is why socially unconscious people like Kiwanda struggle to see what is wrong with their thinking.

But this is what you do to women and girls that read this stuff in headlines of major news papers-   that women are second class citizens, that all girls should aim at is being delicate flowery attractions, that they shouldn’t aim for the highest positions in society. It is subtly passing on a message to the males on how they should view the females around them- no less than cheap objects that attract tourists.

The media is not helping the situation, in their quest for relevance and sales though sensationalism, you can read the undertone of the news-reporter that they are not just reporting the news but rather eagerly passing on a toxic piece of information.

But to understand sexism, these men should look at it as racism, being in a place and the way people look at you, talk to you – even the most mediocre of the race that claims superiority makes you suddenly question your humanity.  The principles of the evils are basically the same.

The Kiwanda’s don’t know that the rape issues, defilement of girls, female genital mutilation, cat-calling on the streets, sexual harassment at work, in schools and at the universities is find root in this culture of thinking that women are less because they are women.

“Why do you think sexism persists?” I asked a friend I was hanging out with recently.  “it is like how you programme a computer.” she said, “you will programme a computer according to how you want the computer to function, tell women that they are objects and it will be inked in their subconscious minds and men will dominate in workplaces, in positions of power and their egos will be boosted in their homes, they will control their women, get women to slave for them in their homes.” She said and I couldn’t agree more.

No wonder Ugandan women continue to suffer because of bad policies and poor management of the country, there is no maternal health care, women are struggling to feed their kids because of a bad economy; no decent jobs, insurance is a dream for many, unpaid care work, they toil in the fields, they feed the nation while being ripped off by middle men, inheritance and property rights are still a huge challenge, there is no proper housing, no proper roads, the phenomenon of absentee fathers is here because men have abandoned their basic duties. There is one thing that these misogynistic people don’t know is that Patriarchy works against an entire system that takes both men and women down.

Look at countries that respect their women- Scandinavian countries dominated the 2019 list of the best countries for women, they are far ahead than countries that seek to subdue and make fun of the agency of the woman.

Did the Spanking in School Make Us better Ugandan Citizens?

Did the Spanking in School Make Us better Ugandan Citizens?

Screenshot from the Survey on Violence Against Children in Uganda 2018

I run a poll on Twitter, my question was, “were you beaten at school?” Only 92% of the 73 people that responded had been beaten at school for all sorts of reason, they shared their experiences;

Evelyn tweeted;

Shanine said;

Omara added;

Did the beating make us better people or did it birth angry people or were we subdued to a culture of silence that makes us crouch down in fear in the presence of those that hold authority.

A study from Michael Mackenzie of Columbia University indicated that spanking at age 5 was associated with greater aggression.

Studies show that the use of corporal punishment is associated with increased mental health problems in children including increased psychological distress, which may lead to anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use, and general psychological maladjustment in those to whom it is applied.

A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Gender Labour and social development indicates that,

94% of Ugandan children who were subjected to physical violence by an adult, their first experience was nearly
always committed by a teacher. The study further indicates that 1 in 2 boys who experience physical violence experienced greater mental distress than boys who were not exposed to violence.

Unfortunately, this vice has been normalised. There was a common saying when we were in school, that an African Child’s ears are in the buttocks. What is the origin of this saying? I wonder.

Evelyn Masaba breaks it down for me;

I agree with this assertion in many ways; the school system we are attending, was by colonialists so the relationship between the teachers and the learners was a master- subject relationship. 50 years on, most teachers don’t seem to know any other way to discipline kids.

My mind is connecting dots right now – currently, there are high cases of Violence against women in Uganda- is this violence a byproduct of the violence that Ugandan kids faced while growing up?

Could this be a case of displaced aggression? According to Bushman a Psychologist, displaced aggression can occur when someone cannot aggress towards the source of incitement or provocation, so instead takes it out on something else and behaves aggressively towards another individual that had nothing to do with the initial conflict. Most of the victims are those whom the aggressor considers weak- women, children or pets.

I guess the time to take action is now – The Ministry of Education after this survey has to roll up its sleeves to train teachers in better ways to discipline children- because what is called disciplining right now is partly to blame for creating angry and subdued citizens.

Social Media Taxes Vs. Corruption – Ugandans Choose VPNs

Social Media Taxes Vs. Corruption – Ugandans Choose VPNs

When the president mentioned that he and his government were planning to tax social media for too much gossip, we laughed, funny memes made rounds on social media because we thought that this move was simply ridiculous. Who taxes end users of social media in 2018? The Civil society met the finance committee of parliament to convince them to drop this unreasonable tax, the committee after listening to the submissions mentioned in their report that the tax was unfair to Ugandan taxpayers. But somehow, out of the 400 members of parliament, only 3 objected to the tax proposal. The tax proposal was passed.

Why? In my opinion, the Members of parliament are self-seeking leeches that suck the blood of Ugandan taxpayers. Members of parliament are most vibrant when fighting to remove taxes from their allowances, and tampering with the constitution. Lately, the MPs are asking for army bodyguards following the assassination of Hon: Abiriga a member of parliament a few weeks ago. The social media tax is here, there is a social media blackout, the only way in is if you pay a tax. This stuff hurts. Do these MPs know that the internet should be open, safe, accessible and affordable and that the internet is no longer a luxury but rather a basic human need?

The president of Uganda is desperate, the song that has been on his lips since being elected for his fifth or is it sixth term- I have lost count, is to usher Uganda into a middle-income status by 2020. Tick-tock the clock is ticking but there no signs of a middle-income status. But I sort of understand where the president is coming from especially that as human beings, we inherently desire to leave a lasting legacy. For 32 years, this damn middle-income status has been elusive, in fact, the economy gets worse every single day; the shilling is struggling, the unemployment rates have skyrocketed, fuel prices have gone gaga, crime rates have risen, poor housing, government schools and health facilities are dilapidated.

When the president and his men took over power in 1986, they found the country in shambles; total breakdown in the rule of law, poverty, disease, bloodstained streets – a reign of terror. They were the much-needed liberators – the country rejoiced, behold a new era of peace and tranquillity. Our dear president I think sometimes feels like a musician who takes centre stage, sings a song, the crowd goes wild chanting “encore encore”, later, the song becomes tasteless and a loud silence follows. The musician tries to make a comeback but no one is chanting for an encore. Some musicians take to drugs; presidents get high on power. And take Nicolo Machiavelli’s advice seriously; “it is better to be feared than to be loved.”

It is seven days now since social media was blacked out. Many Ugandans have refused to pay the tax; they have resolved to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Can you blame them? Experience proves that the taxes will end up in the pockets of a few government officials. These leeches will build large houses with high walls and big cars to push all of us out of traffic during rush hour. Since the year 2000, Uganda has lost over twenty-four trillion shillings to corruption scandals involving high profile Ugandans. Scandal after scandal; In 2007, 247 billion shillings meant for the Common Wealth Heads of States Government meeting disappeared into thin air. In 2008, 25 billion shillings went missing – the money was intended for malaria and tuberculosis drugs programmes. In 2010, the Ugandan government entered a deal illegally with Muhlbauer, a German firm to supply national IDs without the required open bidding – 25 billion shillings was lost in the process. In 2011, Amman industrial Tool and Equipment Ltd was contracted to supply bicycles, not even half a bicycle was delivered, 4 billion shilling was lost as a result. Still, in 2011, 60 billion shillings vanished from the Microfinance Support Centre in a period of three months. In 2012, Shilling 169 billion meant that outstanding claims of East African community workers disappeared. 2015, 18 billion Uganda shillings meant for the construction of the Kanoni-Sembabule road vanished, every year, the Auditor Generals report is full of squander and more squander.

Some sardines have been arrested whereas the whales are roaming free enjoying the proceeds of their corruption while Ugandans continue to wallow in poverty.

The Social Media Tax in Uganda will Widen the Gender Digital Divide    

The Social Media Tax in Uganda will Widen the Gender Digital Divide    

Undeniably, the newly introduced social media tax in Uganda will widen the digital gap.  But let me focus on women  because the barriers Ugandan women face in accessing and using the internet are still massive. 1 in 9 women in Africa have access to the internet. Only about 37 percent of women surveyed in ten selected cities in the world, Kampala inclusive were found to be using the internet compared to 59 percent males.

The sustainable Development goals demand  governments to achieve universal, affordable internet by 2020 but high costs are keeping majority women offline.

According to a score card by the Web Foundation, in Uganda, 1GB data priced at 22% of average monthly income. Countries that have expensive internet such as Uganda and Mozambique have the lowest numbers of women on the internet.

A research conducted by the Women of Uganda Network and the Web Foundation indicates that as a result of feminised poverty, many women who are dependent on subsistence Agriculture cannot afford to buy a smart phone and data bundles and those who can afford have problems of language barrier since most of them are illiterate and thus lack of knowledge and limited skills for expressing themselves using ICTs.

Considering that women’s general income status in Uganda is low, internet is expensive to purchase and maintain  The traditional setting of the Ugandan society  creates the negative thinking towards women’s participation and engagement in accessing public spaces like cafes and telecentres also affects women’s access and use of internet.Patterns of gender inequality, as reflected in political participation and representation in decision- making structures; differences in economic opportunities, access to resources, and division of labour within the economy; women’s over-representation among the poor; women’s higher levels of illiteracy. The persistence of stereotypical attitudes about women’s roles and of discriminatory laws and practices, are among the factors that also shape women’s capacity of access to and use of ICT.

The study further reveals that teacher educators hardly apply technology in their classroom practices; scanty institutional practices that facilitate or impede the use of digital resources as pedagogical tools. The greatest challenge reported by all the teacher educators was the problem of having limited access to ICT facilities, especially the Internet. The only Internet access point at the college that was readily available to both students and staff was the one at the computer lab. The Internet connection at the college had been cut off due to non-payment of the connection fee, which the college was expecting to receive from the Ministry of Education, but to no avail; and lack of Internet connection is very frustrating.

I am convinced that the newly introduced social media tax is frustrating all the efforts that have been put in place to bridge the digital divide but instead, the gap will grow wider and wider. Listening to President Museveni saying that social media is a luxury good, and that people have a choice  to use it or leave it if they don’t want to pay the tax, really hurts. This is 2018, the rest of the world has moved towards artificial intelligence, innovation around internet of things and free internet access in public places. Uganda has made a terrible mistake of switching off over-the-top services that can only accessed after paying a repetitive daily direct tax of 200 shillings and large number of women who live on less than a dollar per day will not afford this tax.

By the way, when talking to the women in Bwaise a slum in Kampala before the tax was passed, to them, the internet is WhatsApp, Facebook and for a few google. That means that they have been cut off.

The digital revolution gave Ugandan women a voice online to politically engage, to speak truth to power, to dismantle the patriarchy, to seek counsel from their friends, to access information, to connect with clients, to market their products,  to start charities, psychosocial support groups, coordinating savings groups, neighborhood watches for kids when they are away. It is clear that President Museveni is missing a point when he says that social media is for gossip. But even if it was, communication is a basic human need.

If only the Members of parliament, the president’s many advisers, the ministry of ICT stopped for just a second to listen to the outcry of the Ugandan people that we have seen on social media since 1st July when the tax came into effect then they would repeal the tax. If only the government of Uganda adhered to Article 19 of the UN Human Rights council on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, they would know that the internet should be open. Article 19  seeks to “bridge the gender digital divide and enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of all women and girls and to reaffirm the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

By switching off the internet which is a public good the state disregards Article19 that is “deeply concerned by measures that intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online and for the Internet to be open, affordable and accessible.”


The Trials of Thereza, an Urban Refugee in Uganda

The Trials of Thereza, an Urban Refugee in Uganda

In a slum in the heart of Nsambya, a suburb in Kampala, lives 53-year-old Thereza. On the day we visited her, we met her three grandchildren, one was carrying a small raggedy mattress, another a charcoal stove on his head, another child, a bundle of clothes on her head. We asked them where they were going to, the kids told us that they were shifting to a new house. It is when we began to talk to Theresa that she told us that she had just been evicted from the house that she had been staying in and that this was a temporary shelter.

“A good person has offered this house for us to occupy in the meantime. It is up for rent, if a tenant shows up, we will have to vacate immediately. We are waiting for InterAid to help us.”

“We fled to Uganda in 2012 our village was attacked by Ntaganda’s rebels. They were recruiting me and my children to join them. I refused to join. They gang-raped me. I was unconscious. They left me, thinking that I was dead. When I regained consciousness, I could not move.  I screamed. Someone heard me and came to rescue me. ” She says with tears running down her face.

Bosco Ntaganda also known as  “Terminator Tango” or “The Terminator” was a leader of NCDP, an armed militia group operating in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was  first indicted in 2006 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity  during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s bloody five-year war.

Victoria sends one of her grandkids to bring her medical forms for me to see. She was diagnosed with severe lower back pain, severe narrowing of the vertebral disc space and vertebrae soft tissues.

“Something is pulling my muscle.” She clenches her teeth.

“I used to sell fish in Katwe market but my health has deteriorated. I can hardly walk.”

This sickness can’t allow her to go and work yet she has ten mouths to feed, her grandkids, two kids of a neighbor that was killed back home, whom she carried along to help.

“My grandkids scavenge around the slum food stalls collecting scraps of food, My girls have started selling their bodies to bring food to the table, the boys that I came with have run away into the city leaving me with the kids. I don’t even know where they are.”

Thereza starts to cry loudly.

“I have told Maria from UNHCR to help me  she said that she would help me but I am still waiting. I am sick. I have no future here. The doctors wrote to them so that they can help me. One day, my daughters carried me to the office but the officers said that I should wait a little longer. What can I do?”

Thereza tells me that she is well aware that all people in the slum she is living in  are struggling.

“But them, when the worst comes to the worst, they go back to their villages,  as for me, I have nowhere to go. Everything I had was taken away from me. I don’t have a home.”

Thereza is an example that the Urban refugee programme in Uganda is stretched. It is clear that Uganda can no longer take care of all the refugees that they take in.

The ratio of refugees to nationals is 1:15 in Kampala and the majority of these refugees originate from  the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Uganda is currently hosting the highest number of refugees this year compared to the past years according to UNHCR the highest number of refugees in Uganda is from South Sudan (1,053,598), DRC (276,570), Burundi, (40,497), others, (37,015), Somalia, (37,193), total refugees in Kampala according to Uganda solidarity summit on refugees is 96,650.