Archive for April 2011
By Hassan Isilow
KAMPALA- Violent protests have spread throughout major towns in Uganda; as protesters demand to know why the police brutally arrested Dr. Kizza Besigye the country’s main opposition leader.
On Thursday security operatives shattered the window screen of Dr. Besigye’s car, and used pepper spray on him, before beating him thoroughly.
Latest’s reports indicate that the pepper spray used on the politician has made him temporarily blind, which has annoyed many Ugandans.
On Friday morning violent protests were reported throughout major Towns in Uganda.
“Today’s protests are similar to those that we saw in Egypt and Tunisia’’ Ibrahim Mahad, a student at Makerere University in Kampala, told Africa witness in a telephone interview
He said the growing unrest was sparked off by high commodity prices, but got worse when security personnel arrested the country’s main opposition leader Dr. Besigye in a cruel manner.
Another source in Mbale Town, about 300 Kilometres east of the Capital Kampala, told Africa witness that nearly 100,000 soldiers’ had been deployed on the streets to calm down protesters.
According to the source, police are reported to have used live ammunition, water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters, who stood their ground and fought back the police using stones.
“Several residents have run to the neighbouring Islamic University in Uganda-main campus to seek safety, because the military is not allowed to enter the university compound’’ a source related to Africa witness in an interview
A press release issued by the Ugandan government, on Friday afternoon, confirmed that two people had been killed in Friday’s protests; while over 80 others were seriously injured.
‘‘We want President Yoweri Museveni to resign, because one man cannot rule us for over 25 years. Museveni has turned Uganda into his own family business, we shall not allow that to continue’’ A source who preferred to remain anonymous told Africa witness in an interview on Friday.
President Museveni has been Uganda’s president since 1986. He ascended to power after waging a guerrilla war that dislodged the 1985 military government of General Tito Okello.
Uganda has had a terrible history of tyrannical rulers; most notably among them was the Late Idi Amin Dada, who expelled thousands of Asians from Uganda and confiscated their property.
However, when president Museveni came to power, he welcomed back all the deposed Asians and tried to stabilize the country’s economy, but his overstay in power has infuriated many Ugandans.
By Hassan Isilow
AFGANSTAN- Monday’s dramatic prison break executed by Taliban insurgents at Sarposa prison in Kandahar has been described by political analysts as a great humiliation to President Hamid Karzai’s regime.
According to Rahim Lah Yusuf Zahi, a political analyst in Afghanistan, the prison break was an indication that the Taliban could be having sympathisers working within Karazai’s own government.
“Kandahar is a stronghold for the Taliban and surely, they could have some supporters or sympathisers working with the government security agencies who could have helped them escape,” he told Africawitness in an exclusive telephone interview on Monday.
Over 450 inmates escaped from the Sarposa prison hours earlier, using a lengthy tunnel that had been dug by Taliban insurgents who had rented a mud house a quarter a mile from the prison.
“It took several hours for the nearly 500 prisoners to flee. The Taliban are reported to have started the escape mission on Sunday night, ending it early on Monday morning. Those inmates who were asleep where woken up as cars waited for them outside the tunnel.” Rahim said.
The analyst said this was the second major prison break to take place in Afghanistan in the last three years.
“They will definitely regroup and join the Taliban’s fight against the Karzai regime, as well as the foreign forces,” he speculated, adding that the incident is likely to boost their resolve.
When asked if the prison break might casue a delay in the departure of Nato forces, the analyst said: “The Karzai government is too fragile to deal with Taliban, while Nato forces are not a solution to the Afghan problem.” This implied that the Afghan problem requires serious dialogue, rather than using more military force.
Canadian troops are reported to have been stationed at the Saraposa prison in the past, while US troops had been building living quarters and judicial offices at the prison for the past four months, even as the tunnel took shape beneath them.
Afghan authorities and foreign troops launched a manhunt for the escapees, but had only captured 65 as of late Tuesday, according to Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar province.
The Taliban, consider the escape a major victory and have claimed that 541 inmates fled through the tunnel and were later driven to safe houses. The Taliban are expected to name some of their prominent commanders who escaped out of the Saroposa prisons.
By Hassan Isilow
CAIRO- While ordinary Arabs in various countries joined forces in unprecedented pro-democracy protests, their leaders remain disunited in defending Palestine against Israeli occupation. According to Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, author of the book Sharing the land of Canan, and lecturer at the University of Beit Sahur in Palestine, Israeli’s continued occupation of Palestine should be blamed on Arab disunity and hypocrisy among Arab leaders.
“Most Arab leaders have been good friends of the United States of America and Israel. Thus, they could not unite in championing Israeli’s brutal occupation of Palestine,” the academic told Africa-witness on Monday. However, he believed that the current pro-democracy protests in the Middle East will usher in a new breed of Arab leaders, who are likely to unite and defend Palestine against the Israeli occupation.
Dr Assad Abu Sharif, an independent political analyst based in Gaza, said it was sad to see Arab nations disunited whenever it comes to the issue of defending Palestine. For her part Leila Odeh, a Palestinian journalist concurred with Qumsiyeh.
“I’m optimistic that the new breed of Arab leaders will certainly create unity among Arabs, which means that we shall have a stronger Arab League which will defend Palestinian human rights,” she told Africa-witness on Monday.
Odeh also claimed that Israel has the White House’s seal of approval, for its present actions against Palestine. “When you talk about Israel, then you should know that you’re talking about the United States of America. Israeli has become an almost untouchable state, because it is an ally of the United States, which is the world’s superpower.”
According to Odeh, former US president, George W Bush had steadfastly praised Israel for attacking Gaza. At that time, an Israeli soldier had been captured and Bush justified the Israeli attack on Gaza by saying the Zionist state was entitled to defend itself. Regardless of Israel’s strong ties with the United States, the journalist was optimistic that Palestine would succeed in freeing itself from the Israeli occupation.
By Hassan Isilow
KAMPALA- . The Ugandan Police has arrested the country’s main opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye, for the fourth time while on his way to work.
The Police are reported to have fired tire gas and live ammunition, during the politician’s arrest on Thursday morning (April 21).
Ugandan Opposition leaders have been staging twice-weekly protests in which they walk to work in protest of rising fuel and commodity prices in the land locked East African nation.
Uganda’s Independent, Daily Monitor News Paper reported Thursday, that Dr. Besigye had been remanded by a magistrate’s court in Nabweru Town to unknown prison.
However, an independent source in Kampala told the Africa Witness that Dr.Besigye had been transferred to Nakasongola Prisons located about 200 Kilometres north of the Capital Kampala.
Dr. Besigye joins Democratic Party leader Advocate Nobert Mao, who has been in detention for three days over the walk-to-work protests, which started on April 11.
Below is 25 year-old Ahmed Abu-Bakr a Somali Refugee who was attacked by robbers in Delf near Cape Town.
By Hassan Isilow
CAPE TOWN- When 25 year-old Ahmed Abu-Bakr left his home country of Somalia four years ago to seek asylum in South Africa, he expected to find peace. But this was not to be. The Refugee has been attacked more than six times ever since he arrived in the country. On Thursday night, three thugs broke into his shop in Delft near cape Town, and stabbed him four times in the back before fleeing with cash, airtime and cigarettes.
“Allah is great. I thought I would not survive. Those thugs wanted to finish me off,” the wounded refugee said.
Abu-Bakr had just closed his shop at 8pm when the three thugs struck. He said they ordered him to open the shop, but when he refused, they used a machine to cut through the strong metallic doors.
“I called the police immediately, when the thugs started breaking down my door, but sadly, they arrived 20 minutes late. I was lying in a pool of blood and they took me to hospital.” Asked about his condition, the Somali said he was in a lot of pain in the back and cannot move his shoulders.
“I feel so angry and my blood boils whenever I remember what happened to me on Thursday. Those thugs were very ruthless. They should have taken the money and not stabbed me,” he said, tears filling his eyes.
A police spokesperson in Delft confirmed the incident. “We are aware of Abu-Bakr’s case and are looking for the criminals who attacked him,” a spokesperson told Africa Witness on Phone.
Attacks like these are not unusual on migrants. Despite the high crime rate and xenophobia in South Africa, most refugees opt to take the risk of being robbed in their businesses here than returning to their home countries. This is also evident by the fact that large numbers of African migrants continue to flock to this country to be part of the rainbow nation.
South Africa is a haven for most migrants, because they believe that nothing that is happening to them here could be worse than life in their own country.
Nkuruzinza Micheal, a Congolese national working as a security guard at a Cape Town hotel, told Africa Witness he fled his home in Goma, DRC, after government forces there accused him of spying for rebels. “I’m lucky to be alive today. My parents were killed by government forces when they came searching for me at our Goma house,” he recalled.
Micheal is of Tutsi origin and was accused by the government forces of spying for General Laurent Nkunda, leader of the strongest rebel group in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He related how he had trekked on foot for six days with friends until they reached the Ugandan border Town of Bunagana.
“We walked through the bushes fearing that at one point we could be captured by the ruthless Congolese military who hate us, the Banyamulenge people – a tribe of Congolese Tutsi, which the rebel leader Gen Nkunda belongs to.” They were lucky. When they reached the Ugandan boarder the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was there to receive them. They were offered food, medicine and temporary accommodation. But at the refugee camp life was difficult, so he decided to venture on a journey of hope to South Africa.
Abdullahi Tifo, a Somali refugee told Africa Witness he fled from Mogadishu in January 2010, after militants attacked his home. “The militants wanted me to join them. But I was not interested in killing people, so I decided to leave the country because they would kill me for refusing to join them.”
Tifo knew that South Africa was dangerous, but he still choose to come here “We know xenophobic elements don’t welcome us in South Africa. But we have no option, but to come and seek refuge,” said the entrepreneurial refugee who operates several small businesses in Cape Town.
But for Zimbabwean born Martin Mazibuko, it wasn’t war that brought him here. Wide scale poverty in Zimbabwe caused him to flee the former British colony governed by Dictator Robert Mugabe. “Life in South Africa is good,” he said.
By Hassan Isilow
KAMPALA-Several Ugandan opposition leaders were arrested on Thursday for leading peaceful demonstrations code named, ‘‘walk to work demonstrations’’, which were against high commodity prices.
The country’s main opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye, was shot on the arm by military police during the protests.
A Journalist in Kampala told Africawitness, that a female protestor had been shot dead by police during the skirmishes.
‘‘The situation in Uganda is unusually tense. As I speak to you, there are protests going on in six major Towns, while, several demonstrators have also been arrested by the police’’ the Journalist revealed.
This is the second day of clashes between Ugandan security forces and protestors. On Monday, opposition leaders instructed citizens to walk to work in protest of increasing fuel and food prices, but Government warned that it would arrest whoever participates in such demonstrations.
On Monday, opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye and his Democratic Party (DP) counterpart, Norbert Mao, were arrested and taken to court for leading the ‘walk to work demonstrations’, but were latter realised on bail. Several other opposition members of parliament were also arrested and later bailed.
However, on Thursday, the same opposition leaders mobilised thousands of Ugandans into a nationwide demonstration, which paralysed business in the landlocked East African nation.
Protestors are demanding that Government intervenes in controlling prices of commodities. ‘‘We want Government to control commodity prices from hiking all the time. We can not afford to even buy food, because prices are skyrocketing all the time. I no longer drive my car to work, becouse fuel prices have increased beyond expectation’’ Julius Ogwang, a Ugandan lawyer told Africawitness in a telephone interview.
He wonders if walking to work has become a crime in Uganda. ‘‘Walking to work is not a crime. If you can not afford bus fare, or fuel for your car, the only option is to walk, so I don’t know why is the ugandan police arresting people for walking to work’’ the lawyer wonders.
‘‘ I protested today because I was irked by Minister Kabakumba Masiko’s statement that Government won’t control food prices, because Uganda is not a welfare state’’ Muhammad Mangeni, a youth activist in Uganda told Africawitness, in a face book interview.
Other protestors are demanding that the Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni resigns because he has been in power for more than 25 years. They also claim that the February elections which saw Museveni win by a 68% were not free and fair.
‘‘The past general elections were fraudulent and basing on several evidence we want president Museveni to resign or else we shall use other means to get him out of office’’ a Ugandan source told Africawitness on condition of anonymity.
President Museveni has been Uganda’s leader since 1986. He descended to power after waging a guerrilla war that dislodged the 1985 military government of General Tito Okello. Uganda has had a terrible history of tyrannical rulers; most notably among them was the Late Idi Amin Dada, who expelled thousands of Asians from Uganda and confiscated their property.
However, when president Museveni came to power in 1986, he welcomed back all the deposed Asians and tried to stabilise the country’s economy, but his overstay in power still remains a subject of debate.
By Hassan Isilow
Omar Fiqi left his well paying academic job in Canada and traveled back to Somalia to front the initiative to create a semi-autonomous state within the war torn mainland of Somalia. He has been travelling around the world, seeking support to break away from the mainland, which is currently under the leadership of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Last week the middle aged politician visited the Somali community in Cape Town to drum up support for his idea of creating the Waxa iyo Waaadi state, which would consist of four regions, along with a few districts located in the neighborhood of Mogadishu, Somalia’s troubled capital city.
Somalia currently has six break away, semi autonomous states, the most popular among them being Somaliland, which broke away from the Somalia Republic over a decade ago. Somaliland, like the other break away states, has experienced total peace and economic stability, compared to the mainland Somalia under the TFG.
Tracking down Omar Fiqi, was a kind of marathon for me. I called one of his hosts and requested that he sets up an interview for me with the visiting politician. But the host replied that the “president in waiting” had a tight schedule, so he could not speak to me. That was on Wednesday. After turning down two appointments, Fiqi himself gives me a call and agreed to the interview. He even sent someone to pick me up in Bellville and I’m driven to a place where he is addressing a large number of his supporters.
According to Fiqi, the main motivation for the creation of Waxa iyo Waaadi state is the need to fight the militant group, Al-Shabab. “We are breaking away from the mainland Somalia republic, because the TFG has failed to secure any stability since its creation by the United Nations,” he told the crowd of about 250 Somali’s who mainly hailed from his region.
The former Canadian academic, now turned politician, said the only cure to the Somali crisis is to create many federal states within the main Somali republic. He insisted that this will ensure security, stability and economic transformation of the regional inhabitants. “After 20 years of war, we can not continue to be part of mainland Somalia’s failed state. We are breaking away in order to have our people empowered, protected from the ruthless Al-Shabab and the warlords,” he told me.
Fiqi revealed that at the end of this month they intend to set up a technical committee that will organize presidential and ministerial elections for the Waxa iyo Waaadi state, which is expected to break away completely from mainland Somalia in May. “After successfully completing the election process, we will have legitimately elected leaders to runn state affairs. I believe everything will be successful,” he said confidently, adding that the Waxa iyo Waaadi state has supporters and funders all over the world.
This month another semi-autonomous region, called Azania or Jubaland, was created out of mainland Somalia, which already lost Puntland and Somaliland. Former Somalia Defence Minister, Professor Mohamed Abdi Gandhi, was elected as president of Jubaland. He said his main goal is also to defeat Al Shabab.
Elections for office bearers, including the president, were held in neighboring Kenya. A spokesperson of the Kenyan government said the idea to create an autonomous region near the Kenyan border was because it would prevent the movement of Al-Shabab extremists within the region.
This statement would be interpreted to mean that the Kenyan government was behind the creation of Jubaland, by providing funding and helping to strategise on the creation of the new state. This serves to confirm recent reports on the whistle blower website, WikiLeaks, that Kenya supported the creation of an autonomous region near its border with Somalia to prevent the flow of illegal arms.