Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Make abortion legal

The above picture taken by Stephen Otage on Thursday November 19, 2009 shows residents of Kifumbira Zone in Kamwokya , a Kampala suburb look at an aborted foetus estimated to be about six weeks old.
According to the Police, this was the third such case in the last three weeks.
The impression this revelation gives is that there may be a single abortion a week, but that’s not true. In fact Ministry of Health statistics indicate that annually in Uganda, there are about 600,000 unwanted pregnancies. Of these, probably more than 50 per cent end up being expunged before the nine-month maturation.
But because our Penal Code makes it criminal to abort—unless to save a woman’s life—a lot of the abortions are practiced in hidden, unsafe conditions that many times expose the girls/women to even greater health risks—like uncontrolled hemorrhage.

Opponents of abortion either point to religious dogma or the question of life’s sanctity. They never care about circumstances of conception or its attendant realities.
In Uganda, in districts like Sironko, local research has shown that girls become sexually active by age 12. No amount of sex education is changing this—considering that some of these areas are nearly as traditional in setting as they can be. Tips on sex and sexuality are gotten from the village wells, peers and misinformed talk of adults.

But even their urban counterparts are in no better position. Internet influence, TV soaps, early exposure to notions of contraceptives—are all stimulating their curiosity for sex. Teenage and young youth sex is something we are going to have amidst us—and resultant pregnancies.
Question is: Should we make it illegal to abort yet we know that thousands of our young girls are going to conceive without really seeking to? That is the reality.
When we make abortion services criminal, we arrive at a situation like that in Kifumbira Zone. A foetus crudely removed and left next to a rubbish skip.
When we push our girls into aborting in the dark, we shall have many more bleed to death in silence—increasing not only infant mortality but maternal mortality too.

Let girls/women be given the free choice to carry or cut. And when they choose to cut, let’s make sure they can do it freely and hygienically to avoid other problems. A lot of pregnancies in our country are by chance—and to ask that people keep them against their will is to subject them to an eternity of misery.
I have not opted to talk about pregnancies from rape, defilement, incest, one-night-stands, orgies, because I suppose these are fairly straight-forward—and yet we know they saturate our societies.
Please—let’s decriminalize abortion!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mistaken identity

I watched life drown out of him. His hand was reaching out to me, begging for that last squeeze, that last embrace. He fell midway the sitting room, as he crawled towards me. I stood there in fright, my stool running freely down my legs, forming a small pool at my feet.

“Hamuka wewe,” the command in Swahili jolted me. It was the taller one. His mask on. He towered towards me. “Where is his passport?” he barked. “I don’tttt know,” I stammered back.

“Go get it,” he commanded.

I stepped into the small pool, splashing some on him—earning me a slap. I dashed upstairs. I knew where Moses kept his passport. It was always in the big case stacked in the upper shelf in the bedroom. As I struggled to stand on a stool and pluck down the case, I felt my body shiver. My hands were trembling—drops of sweat streaming from my head—midway mixing with leftovers of the stool.

As I fumbled, the thickset arms moved fast, pulling down the case—and bringing me along—sending me tumbling downwards, hitting my head on the nearby bed.

I could scarcely see as he opened the case—plucking out the passport that was lying atop of books. The rough fingers then made their way to my hair. Grabbing me and dragging me along downstairs—back to the sitting room, where Moses’ body now lay lifeless.

“Inaonesha nini,” asked the smaller, darker one who had remained down, the pistol still glued to his fingers.

“He last travelled two years ago,” the burly one replied, in perfect English. “To Nairobi.”

“What?” the other replied, surprise written on his face. “Nothing to do with Juba, Kinshasha?”

“No. And look. He is Masaba Moses.”

“Not Mabasa?”


“Holy shit! We got the wrong person,” the burly one spat. He quickly stole a glance at me.

“You,” he pointed at me. “How were you related to this guy?”

“He was my husband.”

“For how long were you married?”

“Three years.”

After what looked like an eternity, the smaller one turned to me.

“Madam, we are sorry. Looks like we got the wrong person. Is this 11th street?”

“No,” I stammered back, my tears gushing. “It is 10th.”

I could see the bigger one look at me with a grin. The magnitude of their error just seemed to dawn on him. He spoke to me.

“You may never really know who we are. But we were looking for someone who has in the past six months been moving out of this country, going to neighbouring states with what we believe are ill motives against our government.” He paused and after ages returned to the narration.

“The people we work for told us he has been going to Juba and visiting Zaire. He was mobilizing guns to uproot this regime. It is unfortunate that we got some of our facts mixed up. But that is how we operate. In our world, it is called collateral damage.”

The smaller one interjected.

“Consider yourself lucky. We could have taken down both of you. At least you can live to get another husband.”

I stood there rooted like a statue. How could these men who had brought my innocent husband’s life to a grinding halt speak to me thus? Who the hell did they think they were? I was now ready to put up a fight. With my fists slowly clenching and in a trance, I moved towards what I thought was the smaller man. I hurled myself at him—only to hit the chair hard. They were nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bukenya, Kazini deaths--why can't the conspiracies go away?

When news trickled in the newsroom Sunday morning that the Vice President’s son, Bryan, had died of injuries sustained after a motor accident 19 hours before, we all were heartbroken. It was not much so because he was the VP’s son—but well, it was a young life gone too early.
Twenty six years old, a Law graduate from a reputable UK university, promising cadet, a young woman and child left behind…
But just as we were going about doing the story—people began asking questions. So, how come he’s the only one who died in a car that had four occupants? And how did the driver manage to disappear—only to be traced later—at a brother’s house looking every inch unharmed?
And this was a boy in military academy—what was he doing out at 5am yet the rules are clear on cadet trainees? Was he getting preferential treatment being the VP’s son?
And the mother of them all came from the driver’s statement: Bryan kept telling me to drive fast but when the car crashed, he was fast asleep! Ok, would this guy break his sleep, issue instructions at the driver—and go back to slumberland?
I now understood why the conspiracies could not just fade away despite Police explanations saying the accident was just that—an accident. I understood when people began philosophising on Prof. Gilbert Bukenya’s political ambitions, his courting Baganda Generals etc and the possibility that by sending his son to the army—he was embarking on creating his own turf. Remember majority of PGB boys now were actually Muhoozi’s recruits. I understood why the conspirators could not just let the accident be an accident.
Then, in the same week comes Maj. Gen. James Kazini’s death. It is visible that he was killed by a lover at her house. Draru, the lover, says she did it in self defence as the General moved to strangle her—and was pointing his gun upwards. Again the tongues begin wagging. First, where did the woman derive the confidence to tell all folk and sundry that she was responsible?
Surely, which murderer rushes to admit culpability with no single strain of fright? She was either deeply in a trance—or again at the conspirators argue—was aware of a stronger backing.
But again—did she say the General was holding a gun—and detectives on the crime scene did not see any such gun—not until three hours later when Kazini’s official pistol was discovered wrapped nicely in a brown handbag in his car?
What about the claims of using a handle of a carpet cleaner to hit the General? The pictures from the crime scene show a white metal bar lying next to the soldier—obviously a frame but not of a carpet cleaner. And it is a bland instrument, how it effected a deep cut is strange.
So, in the bars and elsewhere—the theories went into full drive. Kazini was a troubled man. Accused of creating ghost soldiers, charged, convicted and abandoned.
But could it also be true that he was paying for sins where not only him was the sinner? Was there fear that with his appeal rejected he was on the path of full disclosure? What beans was he about to spill? Might Draru actually be an extra in a scene dominated by bigger actors?
What of talk that the General had some good millions on him—and there could have been people trailing him—for whatever reasons?
The Police have again asked people not to speculate. Draru has confessed before a magistrate that she killed Kazini. But citizens, of this increasingly cynical country, will not just keep quiet.
Question is: Has the government lost credibility so much that even when it explains away a straight event people can’t just take it. Reminds me of the tale in primary school. Of the boy who while herding cattle in the forest kept shouting that wolves were attacking and whenever villagers ran to his rescue discovered nothing. They got tired and when he shouted they ignored him. But one day, the real wolves struck. He screamed and screamed—but everyone knew it was a prank. The wolves devoured the cattle and the boy.

Food for thought.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Snub not an RDC

“Do you know me? Do you know what I do? I am unbwogable.” I will excuse you for thinking that these are lines from Gidi Gidi Maji Maji’s once-a-hit “Unbwogable”. But no, these are not lyrics—these are comments of an RDC slurred.
You see, in the northern town of Gulu is a man called Milton Odong. The short, stout, suspicious—looking man, known to break into delirious laughter even when circumstances dictate otherwise, serves the war-ravaged but now recovering district as its deputy Resident District Commissioner. Plainly put, he is one of the hundreds of President Museveni’s minions in districts.
This guy, with his bloated ego, believes he should be chief guest at whatever function he attends in Gulu. To invite him—and relegate him to a mere guest—is an act of sacrilege in his world. When the Police, who had organised a workshop on gender-based violence, missed this point, the reality hit them hard.
According to Daily Monitor, November 3, 2009 (page9), after the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) country representative, Ms Forster Jabbel, had given the closing remarks as the chief guest, the burly deputy RDC jumped onto the podium, grabbed the microphone, and wondered how some good-for-nothing diplomat could “close” a function where he was present.
“This is a conspiracy to deny me a chance to tell the Police very crucial messages. This must not be repeated,” he fumed, and I think—with foam forming in his mouth. From the newspaper report, he decreed that UNIFEM and the Police would never hold any other functions in the district, unless invitation cards to Mr Odong were addressed thus: “With pleasure, we would like you to grace this function as the chief guest, where you will dole out your immense knowledge blah blah!”
Ms Teresa Awelo, one of the organisers, looked on terrified and later told journalists: “I don’t know him and he’s not qualified to talk about sensitive topics.”
I could not help—but like Odong—laugh in derision when I read this story. Just how far will these Presidential protégés go in abusing the rest of us nobodys? Why do these characters—who have been offered a lifeline—especially after failing in mainstream politics—think we owe them the air we inhale?
The cliché about absolute power corrupting absolutely comes in mind here—but again is it not said that the cubs get their spot from mother leopard? Who remembers a President Museveni—looking into the camera—and wondering to this nation how the Kabaka for two solid years had refused to meet him. HIM, Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda????