Archive for October 2010
Presidential campaigns: Day 1
By Hassan Isilow
It is a busy season here in Uganda. Today marked the official start of the presidential campaigns and I was very much interested in listening to UPC’S flag bearer Dr.Olara Otunnu. Like elsewhere in the world, opposition candidates never seem to run out of words. This time Ambassador Otunnu, asked questions about the transparency of Uganda’s Independent electoral commission. Mr. Otunnu claimed the current electoral commission cannot hold a free and fair election, because the commission reportedly “belongs” to President Yoweri Museveni who is seeking re-election after serving for 25 years. Now it has also emerged the Uganda People’s Congress party (UPC) has been travelling around the country soliciting for signatures seeking a vote of no confidence in the current electoral commission headed by Dr.Badru Kiggundu-who is viewed by many as being President Museveni’s friend/supporter.
Why Otunnu left IPC
He withdrew from the Interparty cooperation because; it was silent about serious issues. “The IPC avoided addressing serious issues like the Luwero genocide, massacre of Muslims in Mbarara, killing of civilians in Northern Uganda and Teso region” Ambassador Otunnu revealed. He also accused IPC members of refusing to boycott the elections unless the current electoral commission was reconstituted. He suggested Uganda institutes a truth and re-conciliation commission if national healing is to occur. The former UN Diplomat now turned politician pledged to turn Uganda into a free enterprise economy once elected. He described President Yoweri Museveni’s 25-year -rule as corrupt.
Inspiring the Voiceless( Click on this link to listen to an audio interview between Hassan Isilow and Warsan)
Warsan Shire is a young poet, who uses the power of spoken word to express views that effect change. I met the 22-year-old; London-based Somali-woman, as she visited cape Town to do a performance. I attended three of her performances in Cape Town.Shire motivated her audiences at Scalibrini Centre for Refugees, and at the poetry in dialogue center of the University of Western Cape. She touched many hearts through her conscious lyrics, incendiary and revolutionary poetry that puts her in her own class. Surely lots of people who attended her performance will remember her as a leading light. I later interviewed her on my weekend radio talk show. “I have written about what communities think is taboo, like female genital mutilation which happens in many communities,” she told me during the radio interview. The young woman, who began writing poetry at the tender age of 15, is making a name for herself on the artistic and activist scene. She has performed in the United Kingdom, North America and now has won more fans in Africa. Shire has moved audiences to tears from performing her poems such as “Bus Stop Genocide” and “Apocalypse Please”. Shire is also a strong campaigner for women’s rights and detests people who abuse women and children. Shire also writes about love and culture and has become a role model for many Somali youth. Her first book will be published soon. For more about Shire,: http://www.myspace.com/warsanshire.
Uganda’s Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni has been nominated to run for a fourth elective term in office. Mr. Museveni who has ruled Uganda since 1986 is credited for bringing peace and economic recovery to the country which was once economically crippled. Mr. Museveni will represent the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party in the 2011 presidential elections.
His main rival Rtd.Col.Dr.Kiiza Besigye was also cleared by the national electoral commission to run as a presidential candidate representing the Forum for Democratic change. This will be the third time Mr.Besigye contests against President Museveni in a national election that analysts believe might favor the incumbent. Others nominated to run for the presidency include, Mr.Nobert Mao,-leader of the Democratic Party, Mr.Jaberi Bidandi Ssali of the People’s Progressive Party and MS Betty Kamya the only female candidate in the race.
By Hassan Isilow
BUGIRI: Fatima Kaawa, 62, cannot stand up straight, due to pains caused by Jigger parasites which have infected her toe nails, knees, and elbows. Jiggers are tiny parasitic sand flies which thrive in poor hygiene and breed in the human body. The tiny blood sucking parasites have caused a lot of pain in Fatima’s life. The elderly woman tells Africawitness that she has been neglected by her neighbors and relatives because of her illness. “No one wants to look at me in the neighborhood. They treat me with disrespect.” She says with tears in her eyes. Fatima always sits alone next to the fire place because she feels cold due to heavy infestation of Jiggers in her body. Her toe nails have become dark, filled with Jiggers and puss. The toe nails could soon pill off. The stench from her feet is unbearable. “I feel weak all the time, with a lot of pain in my joints, that’s why I always sit by the fire” the uncared for elder tells Africa witness while cooking her porridge for lunch. Fatima used to make a living by cultivating food crops on her small piece of land, but due to jigger infestations, she has now been reduced to a beggar, who depends on handouts from well wishers. “My two children died a few years back. Today I have none to care for me. My relatives have also abandoned me” a teary looking Fatima reveals in her weak voice. She is not the only person suffering from Jigger infestation; there are thousands of other Ugandans infected by Jiggers that mostly enter the human body under toenails, finger nails and the knees. Uganda’s ministry of health has confirmed ten districts in Busoga sub-region have been infected by Jigger parasites. “All patients will be given free medical treatment and basic necessities such as soap and basins for hygiene in their homes,” Uganda’s State Minister in charge of Primary Health care, James Kakooza, told a press conference in Kampala. School going children are the most affected, because very few Ugandan children have shoes, their feet is always in contact with dusty roads and filthy play grounds. “Many children in our school have developed deformities; they walk with difficulty because their feet have been destroyed by Jiggers” a primary school teacher in Nabijjingo sub-county Bugiri district told Africa witness, on condition of anonymity, because he is not authorized to speak to the media. Government has not released the official number of people infected with Jiggers, but local residents estimate victims could be in their thousands. In early October two people died of jigger infestation in Bugiri district Eastern Uganda. The first victim was a three months old baby Nyaburu Miriam, a daughter to Augustine Okoth. “The child died as a result of jigger infestation” latiff Ongera a medical assistant at Nabijjingo Islamic health center confirmed to this publication in a telephone interview. He said the Islamic health center has helped a number of jigger victims in the sub county. “Many people have died as a result of jigger infestation because they do not come to us to seek immediate medical attention,” latif said. While, Bashiru Mudolla a trader in Nakoma trading center, says it will be difficult for Government to completely eradicate the Jigger crisis in Busoga sub-region because most people believe in superstition. “Whenever our people are infected with jiggers they consult traditional healers thinking they have been bewitched. So this prolongs the problem at times leading to death” Bashiru Mudolla told Africa witness in an interview. In spite of the fact that, Jiggers are primarily caused due to poor hygiene, some members of Uganda’s civil society are blaming government for neglecting its citizens. Those in favor of this argument, claim Government officials have been turning a deaf eye whenever citizens raised the issue of jiggers, until now that it has exploded. With barely three months left to the country’s general elections, many politicians are expected to use this crisis in gaining political capital.
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN- The Somali community in South Africa has been left in shock after 10 members of their community were killed by suspected robbers in a single month.
Two Somali’s were burnt to death inside a shop at solo informal settlement in Strand, some 45km from Cape Town.
A Somali businessman in the coastal Town of Boland called this publication on Wednesday night to relate that a 30 -year-old Somali shopkeeper, Hassan Gerdere, and a colleague had been burnt to death by suspected robbers.
“The deceased were fast asleep in the shop when unknown people climbed onto the roof, pulled out a few tiles, poured petrol and set the shop alight. They could not escape. They burnt to death inside the brick wall shop,” Mohammed Dair, a close friend of the deceased, told this Publication.
Most Somali shopkeepers reside inside their shops which have made them a soft target for both robbers and jealous local traders working in rural communities, some of whom have accused them of selling commodities at cheaper prices.
“We are so traumatized as a community. Last month one of our members was also burnt to death by suspected robbers inside his container shop. Barely a day passes before another Somali is killed,” said Mohammed Jama of the Western Cape Somali Community Board.
While Amir Sheikh, secretary general of the Somali Community Board (SCOB) said the number of Somali’s murdered from 2002 totals to 700.
In Mid-January another Somali shopkeeper was burnt to death when a gang of robbers attacked his shop in Samora Machel Township in the Western Cape. Mahd Omar Abdi, one of the leaders of the Somali community in the Western Cape, condemned the incident by calling it xenophobic.
In May 2008 South Africa was left reeling in shock after an eruption of violence on a national scale not seen since the end of Apartheid. The media describe the attack meted out by mainly blacks against African migrants as an unprecedented wave of xenophobia, while politicians were quick to site the possibility of a third force.
Over 62 lives were lost in the anti-foreign violence that first started in Northern Johannesburg Township of Alexandra. The killing spread throughout the country like wild-fire and many of the South African papers carried a shocking image of a man, from Mozambique who was burnt alive. Civil society organisations in South Africa have strongly condemned attacks on migrant traders especially Somali’s.