Respect Our Bodies and Our Lives – Women #TellKayihura

Today, October 23rd, a group of women from political parties and women’s rights groups, went to see the Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura, to express their disappointment at and demand action against police brutality.

IMG_4370

Some of the women who showed up to meet the IGP

The meeting, which was requested by women, through Uganda Women’s Network, was supposed to take place at 11:00 a.m. at the Police Headquarters in Naguru. However on arrival, the women were told that the IGP was out of office, and yet his office had confirmed the meeting date and time. The women still demanded to get an official explanation as to why the IGP was not there to meet them. The women also demanded that their grievances be heard both today and at a later date at an in-person meeting with the IGP.

After some back and forth with police officials, the women were able to meet with one of the officers in the Legal and Human Rights Department of Police. The women put the following demands to police:

  1. That the police stop forthwith, their ill treatment of Ugandans who are peacefully protesting, and especially put an end to their manhandling of women.
  2. That all incidences of police brutality against women be investigated and any errant officers be dealt within the bounds of the law
  3. That police act in accordance with the law and treat all citizens humanely
  4. The the police make public the protocols/procedures they are supposed to follow when making arrests.
  5. That the police make a clear commitment against brutality and re-commit to adhering to their code of conduct.
  6. That the police respect women’s bodies and women’s lives.

After the presentation at police headquarters, the women then went to see the Minister of State for Internal Affairs, to put the same demands to him (The Ministry of Internal Affairs oversees the work of the police in Uganda).  The Minister met the women along with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, as well as 5 senior officials from Uganda Police Force.

One of the commitments the State Minister made was the institution of a commission of inquiry into police brutality and the women promised to follow up this commitment.

From Human Rights Watch – Dispatches: Police Brutality Spells Trouble for Uganda’s Elections

This is a dispatch by Ms Maria BurnettSenior Researcher, Africa Division, about what police brutality in Uganda portends for elections in Uganda next year. 

Last Saturday, Ugandan police attempted – yet again – to stop opposition activists and candidates from speaking to potential voters. Television cameras filmed as police arrested a female activist in Rukungiri, western Uganda, stripping her naked, before tossing her into a police truck.

Uganda elections protest
(People gathered at a rally for Uganda’s former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi run from coloured tear gas canister police used to disperse a gathering in Jinja town in eastern Uganda September 10, 2015. © 2015 Retuers)

This violent arrest sparked widespread condemnation. Twitter ignited, and the hashtag #SomeoneTellKayihura, a reference to the inspector general of police, trended across the region and as far as South Africa. The Uganda Law Society, religious leaders, and women’s rights groups all spoke out to demand an end to police brutality. Police argue that the gathering was unlawful and the arrests were warranted. They have alternately blamed the woman for “stripping herself” and blamed the media for doctoring the videos. There is no evidence to support either allegation.

Uganda will hold presidential and parliamentary elections in February 2016. By that time, President Yoweri Museveni will have been in power for exactly 30 years. Many believe Museveni is increasingly concerned about a loss of control since one of his closest allies who is also a former prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, broke away to run against him a few months ago.

Ugandan police’s handling of public order management has been a source of serious human rights violations over recent years. The opposition’s ability to communicate with voters, particularly outside the capital Kampala, is precarious. They risk beatings, arrest, or worse. In September, police teargassed those gathered to hear Mbabazi at a rally in Jinja. Canisters fell into a school yard, leaving children crying for help. Police have also used live ammunition to disperse people at several opposition gatherings as well as rallies and demonstrations against government actions in 2009 and 2011, leading to numerous fatalities of bystanders and protesters.

Ugandan police brutality has played out countless times, often before television cameras. While there has been plenty of condemnation, ultimately nothing changes. The sad truth is that this is not about a poorly trained police force. Uganda’s police are highly trained, including in public order management. After the 2009 killings, the United Kingdom and Ireland both poured money into ensuring police had the requisite skills.

Uganda’s police brutality consistently favors the incumbent. Calls for investigations go nowhere because the brutality is the objective. It ensures voters cannot easily attend opposition gatherings. Ultimately, until Ugandans can freely assemble, hear divergent views, and weigh how to use their vote without fear of teargas, bullets, and batons, the freedom and fairness of Uganda’s elections will be in question.

#SomeoneTellKayihura Part 2

Following on from the #SomeoneTellKayihura buzz on Sunday and most of Monday,  today some leading women’s rights organizations released the following statement

Press statement

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

JOINT PRESS STATEMENT ON THE DEHUMANIZING AND DEGRADING TREATMENT OF WOMEN IN ACTIVE POLITICS BY THE UGANDA POLICE FORCE

We the Citizens of Uganda gathered here as leaders and representatives of civic associations that represent Women, Youth, Persons with Disabilities, who constitute the largest percentage of the Ugandan population (51.9 percent women and 78 percent youth) would like to express OUR DISAPPOINTMENT AND GRAVE CONCERN with the degrading and dehumanizing acts of violence perpetrated by the Uganda Police Force against women.

The women’s movement, civic associations and women leagues of political parties and citizens who identify with adherence to the Constitution by all state institutions strongly condemn the use of degrading and dehumanizing acts by the Uganda Police Force which is mandated to provide law and order. These acts manifest as both a political tool to intimidate women’s leadership but also as a grave human rights abuse.

The Women of Uganda recognize that these brutal acts are continuously perpetrated by State Organs under the guise of procuring a lawful arrest. For instance the indecent assault occasioned on several female political leaders who include Ingrid Turinawe, whose breast was fondled and the more recent scenario at Parliamentary Avenue. These are few of the several inhuman injustices witnessed by citizens of Uganda. These unlawful acts and human rights violations contravene the Constitution of Uganda where our aspirations and values as Ugandans are embedded including:  Article 1 (3) of the Constitution states that: “All power and authority of Government and its organs derive from the Constitution, which in turn derives its authority from the people who consent to be governed in accordance with the Constitution”.

Article 2 (1) of the Constitution of Uganda states that the Constitution is the supreme law of Uganda and shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout Uganda.

Article 24 of the Constitution of Uganda states that: “No person shall be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Article 211 (3)  which states that Uganda Police Force  shall be nationalistic, patriotic, professional, disciplined, competent and productive and its members shall be citizens of Uganda of good character;

Article 212 of the Constitution of Uganda which spells out the functions of the police to  include: protect life and property; preserve law and order; prevent and detect crime and cooperate with civilian authority and other security organs under this Constitution and the population generally.

With these constitutional provisions in mind, on October 10, 2015, women, men and children watched with horror and disgust as various media outlets aired the degrading treatment of a woman from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) during her arrest by Uganda Police Force en-route to Rukungiri district for a party activity. WDG and the women of Uganda condemn these degrading acts meted on citizens by the Uganda Police Force.

The manner in which the woman was arrested shocked many Ugandans, men, women and children alike as she was dragged, undressed and brutalized during her arrest.

As women of Uganda, we strongly denounce these violent acts which seek to intimidate and limit women’s full participation in active politics and political leadership. These attacks in our opinion are deliberate and pre-planned against women interested in leadership.

As concerned citizens, we call upon the Inspector General of Police to take immediate action against errant officers who were witnessed undressing, indecently assaulting and violently procuring an arrest of the woman. This abuse of power by selective duty bearers must be put to a stop hence forth.

To deter further actions by errant police officers during arrests; the women’s movement, the women’s leagues of political parties and the Women’s Democracy Group (WDG) STRONGLY DEMAND that:

  1. E. Gen. Y. K. Museveni, the President of the Republic of Uganda, in exercising accountability to Ugandans and showing commitment to the inclusion of women in political leadership through the 1995 Constitution, re-affirm his support by calling upon all law enforcement and security organs to exercise their duties in line with the Constitution of Uganda.
  2. The Inspector General of Police assures the nation that such acts are not condoned by the Uganda Police Force;
  3. Fresh Guidelines be issued to all police officers to guide them as they make arrests;
  4. The police officers caught on camera undressing the woman be prosecuted in the courts of law;
  5. The Uganda Police Force informs Ugandans of the steps the police will take against the officers in question outside their prosecution;
  6. The Uganda Police Force offers an apology to the women of Uganda and Ugandans;
  7. The Uganda Police Force through its leadership assures citizens that such actions will not happen in the future;
  8. The Uganda Police Force provides a report on previously implicated officers who have abused their office in a similar manner; and
  9. The Uganda Police Force issues a warning to those officers who engage in criminality in the performance of their duties and take action where officers act outside their legal mandate.

For God and My country

#SomeoneTellKayihura

Kayihura. That’s our police chief. The Inspector General of Police. He presides over a largely partisan and rouge police. And they also treat women badly. Really badly.
IGP
The latest is their manhandling of Ms Fatima Zaina whom they undressed as they arrested her yesterday. Just like that. In full view of those around.

The image that hit our airwaves is grotesque to say the least. To see the woman bare-chested and helpless – surrounded by police that’s supposed to protect us, not undress us – that image does things to the mind. It chills the bones and boils the blood!

And so we started a tweet protest (that will spill over into the street) against the insolence of our police force. The hashtag is #SomeoneTellKayihura

Some of the tweets read:

  • The role of police is not to undress women, but to redress crime!
  • Every Ugandan should condemn police brutality. Violence against one is violence against all
  • Brutalizing women won’t save a dictatorship. Wait when they come 4 you.
  • Today the nation is hurting because of the brutality vested on women leaders. We shall not accept molestation of women.
  • When someone is sexually abused in society, you call the police. Who do we call when the police is doing the abusing?
  • Shame on your team Mr. Police boss. Shame. Shame. Shame. Even an apology can’t fix this
  • Police role is to protect and serve not to undress and observe! Stop undressing women!
  • Violence against one of us is violence against all of us! When you undress one of us, you have undressed all of us!
  • If Police could strip her in public i shudder to imagine what they do to the rest in the cells
  • How is stripping women an act of service to this nation???
  • To respect the rule of law and do your job in accordance with the Constitution of Uganda. Brutality is not part of it!

Check out the hash tag. Join us on twitter. Do something within your power to speak out against this shameful treatment of Ugandan women by the police. We stand for the dignity of all women and all people of Uganda.

Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us!

#SomeoneTellKayihura

Happy Independence Day Uganda!

imageI am thinking about and celebrating my country on this our Independece Day!

Oh Uganda, may God uphold Thee!

I love my country. There is no other country I’d rather be in. I celebrate Uganda. Despite all the hardships and perils we have experienced, we still arise from the ashes. We thrive. We are resilient. We are a beautiful people. Not perfect, but always pushing forward to be better than we are now.

I wish all my country folk a Happy Independece Day!

May we United. Free. For liberty. Together. Always stand!

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING DOES NOT UNDERMINE THE RELEVANCE OF YOUTH REPRESENTATION IN PARLIAMENT.

Maria Alesi

The  recent constitutional court ruling on the method of election of the  special interest groups of youth, workers, persons with disabilities  and the army in parliament has left many thinking representation of these groups is irrelevant. The ruling does label the method as unconstitutional but doesn’t water down the relevance of the representation.

Let us look at the Youth for example, who have always come under fire with many arguing there is no need for them to have special representation in parliament this however is not accurate. Ask any Member of the 9th Parliament except the 5 Youth MPs what they know about any youth specific government program in Uganda and I will bet 1 of every 20 will get it right. Ask that same question to Hon. Evelyn Anite or Hon. Peter Ogwang and they will articulate them while asleep. I have over the years heard and seen…

View original post 345 more words

Seasons

image

Sitting in my easy chair, coffee in one hand, Bible in another, I contemplate the meaning and reason for seasons. Seasons come and seasons go, but Jesus remains the same. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Always there. Always dependable. His love endures forever.

There are different seasons. Seasons of pain, seasons of pleasure. Seasons of being unsure. Seasons of being beyond certain about what I was created to be and do. There is no way around a season. There is no short cut. You have to go through. One day at a time. But yea though I walk through…. I will not fear, for Thou art with me. Though I walk through deep waters, God is with me. Though I walk through rivers of difficulty, I will not drown. Though I walk through fire, the flames will not set me ablaze. God is always with me. That’s His promise. And He knows what going through is like. He endured the pain of the cross. He crossed from the heavenlies into humanity. He knows what it is to walk through. And He walks through with me.

Not all seasons are predictable. Our seasons of life do not always follow the linear. I will not always know what is coming up ahead. I do not know the end from the beginning, but I know the One who is the end and the beginning, the Alpha and the Omega. Even though I do not know what the future holds, or what this present season holds, I know Who holds the future. I know He holds me.

And so I rest, safe and secure in His arms. He is my soul provider. My soul supporter. Especially through the worst days. I learn to lean on Him, to rejoice always, pray constantly and to give thanks in all circumstances, in all seasons, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for me.

I can enjoy seasons. I can embrace them, because though they come and go, my God remains the same. I remember the hymn of old and I am blessed:

Through all the changing scenes of life
In trouble and in joy
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ

Leadership Only for the Rich?

image

Yesterday we woke up to the news that our MPs had been paid 5 million shillings (approximately $1,800) as ‘disturbance allowance’ for being called from recess to discuss, debate and pass two electoral bills. These were the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill and the Parliamentary Elections Amendment Bill, both of 2015. Never mind that for the last three years or so, various sections of civil and political society have been demanding major reforms to our electoral laws. Parliament could have or should have pressed the Executive much more, to ensure that the laws were presented in good time.

In the recent laws passed, Parliament scraped the facilitation to presidential aspirants, given to them to part-finance their campaigns. They raised the nomination fees for presidential aspirants from 8 million to 20 million shillings and for parliamentary aspirants from 200,000 to 3 million shillings.

That the sitting MPs would raise the nomination fees to 3 million shillings despite the fact that they know, at least from a recent poll, that only 9% of Ugandans earn between 3 to 9 million shillings strikes me as an action in bad taste. The increase in the nomination fees means that the MPs have effectively cut off a large portion of Ugandans from ever aspiring to or accessing leadership at Parliament level. How do they do this, knowing that the majority of Ugandans earn between 100 to 500 thousand shillings? Is that to say that Parliamentary representation has become an elite business? How do MPs pass such a law knowing that Government has repeatedly refused to raise the wages of teachers and doctors in Uganda? How do they pass such a law knowing that Government has refused to pass a minimum wage? Is that to say we are locking out a certain section of Ugandans from accessing leadership? Are we saying that leadership is now only for the rich?

One could say that by raising nomination fees, MPs intend to ensure that only ‘serious’ people aspire to politics, or that they intend to ensure that people do not use political leadership to enrich themselves. At the same time though, we must watch that we do not pass discriminatory laws especially with regard to access to leadership.

To add insult to injury, right after passing the bill raising nomination fees the MPs received a facilitation of 5 million, meaning they can take off 3 million of that to secure their own nomination fees. It is the same way the last Parliament passed a law requiring civil servants who want to run for political office, to resign from office (not take leave) 90 days before they get nominated. By this action, the MPs effectively made the rules for running for office only advantageous for themselves.

I think somewhere in there lies a possible constitutional challenge to their action. I think the MPs are passing blatantly discriminatory laws by ring fencing certain elective positions for their benefit. The right to free and fair elections should also include a right to fair rules regarding nomination fees. I think the fees should be set in a fair way, taking into consideration the average wages earned by a majority of Ugandans. We cannot make leadership only accessible by the upper echelons of society because then we miss out on the right leaders when we only go for leaders that have the right money.

It’s Easier to Tear Down Than it is to Build Up

image

Imagine you have a young child who struggles in school. He tries his best but doesn’t do too well. Imagine that he has been in the same stream three times and each time, despite his best effort, he doesn’t make the pass mark. Imagine his crest fallen face as he makes his way home, report card in hand, feeling guilty that once again, he has let down his parents. He drags his feet as he heads home, not knowing what to tell his parents, dreading the conversation about his grades.

Imagine that when he gets home, he shows his parents the report card and they are livid! They then begin to shout at him, telling him how stupid he is, how useless he is, what a failure he is, how they knew all along he wouldn’t do well in school. Imagine them mocking him and taunting him repeatedly, assuring him that he is good for nothing and in fact, they wish they hadn’t even had him. They start comparing him to his siblings who do better than him, or to the neighbor’s child who always comes first in class. Imagine what the boy would feel, fighting back tears, trying not to show how much his parents words hurt.

It is easier to tear down than it is to build up.

That is the image that came to mind when once again, the opposition attempt at working together to field a joint presidential candidate failed. Oh how we attacked them and tore them apart – literally! We proclaimed how we knew all along, they would fail. We told them they were in fact, failures from the start. Non-starters. Not worth our effort or time or attention. With our words, we tore them to shreds. We compared their poor performance to the neighbor’s child (NRM), who always comes first in every contest. We laughed at them, mocked their attempt, told them in short, that they were good for nothing’s who were on the fast lane to no where.

Imagine how they feel. Imagine how those who put in their energy and time and money to make this work, feel.

It’s easier to tear down than it is to build up.

But what about if we tried another way? What about if we committed to building up and building on these attempts at coming together across political divides, across generations, across affiliations? What would Uganda look like now? What possibilities would we create? What energies would we release? What potential would we unleash?

It’s so easy to tear down. It’s a no brainer. Anyone can throw barbs. Any one can make fun of and denigrate those who fail. It takes courage and leadership to build up, to restore, to heal, to build bridges instead of walls.

We need to learn a new way if we want a new Uganda.

Remembering Hope

image

It is a year since we lost a galant fighter for the rights of women. Her name was Hope Turyasingura. She was a quintessential Mukiga – big heart and a big laugh and so full of energy! Hope was always smiling, always speaking out, always hoping for a better world for women.

One of a Hope’s main passions in life was working to reduce violence against women and she worked on this with all her might, both day and night. She was always animated about the issue of domestic violence. It was more than just statics, it was more than just a job to her. She felt from her heart and she gave from her heart. I remember, every once in a while, when we met, she would tell me about a new case she was working on, or a new community she was working with, to support them to find solutions against the vice. And she would speak with such urgency because she literally knew women’s lives depended on it. Every day we lost in fighting the battle against domestic violence meant a women harmed, meant a woman made homeless, and in the worst instances, meant death for a woman. And so she gave her life for this fight.

She traversed Uganda, spoke to and encouraged many women, taught many women and men to value women, to value themselves. She spoke on radio and TV, she used every platform she could to speak out against violence against women.

And in the midst of it, she got cancer and she battled as hard against it, as she battled for women. Every once in a while she would call me, tell me she was discouraged, tell me she was losing hope, and we would pray together, or I would just listen. And when we met I would hug her hard.

The last time I saw her was at a fundraiser that her friends had put together for her. She was seeking support to get treatment abroad. We gathered what we could. We made calls, we used social media to reach out, asking people to give what they could. We nearly collected enough, and then I heard the news that Hope had relapsed and was in hospital. She died before she could go abroad for treatment.

Her passing left a deep hole in our hearts and in the work against domestic violence. But her memory lives on and the work goes on.

Her last name – Turyasingura, means we will win, we shall overcome. And this is my prayer and hope – for cancer and for domestic violence – that we shall overcome both these vices that eat away at families and at our lives. We shall overcome. It’s only a matter of time. Let us give all we can and do all we can for those who have dedicated their lives to eradicating cancer and domestic violence.