This photo of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, chatting on the phone while sitting on a chair on the side of a village road, has raised questions – such as whether the cowboy hat-wearing leader was pulling off a cheap publicity stunt or was dealing with urgent matters of national importance.
The photo was released by his press officer Don Wanyama who said on Facebook that his 71-year-old boss had stopped his motorcade to make the 30-minute call while returning from World Population Day celebrations in remote western Uganda on Monday.
He does not say why the call had to be made from a roadside chair – with an accompanying desk – but Ugandans have offered their own explanations on Twitter.
Five Reasons Why Netanyahu is Taking Israel Back to Africa
When he touched down in Uganda on Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit sub-Saharan Africa in almost 30 years. Netanyahu began a four-day tour that will encompass visits to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia, in what he has described as Israel’s attempt to “return to Africa in a big way.”
Here are five reasons why Netanyahu is coming to Africa.
1. To pay his respects
Jonathan Netanyahu, the elder brother of the Israeli leader, died in Entebbe in Central Uganda in 1976 during a hostage rescue operation. An Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by Palestinian and German militants, who ordered the pilot to divert to Benghazi in Libya and then Entebbe, where they were offered shelter by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The Israeli-led operation freed 102 of 106 hostages, who had been held for more than a week at the airport, but Netanyahu’s brother was shot dead during the raid. Four hostages, at least seven of the militants and 20 Ugandan troops were also killed.
Visiting the scene of the raid on Monday, Netanyahu said he had learned from his brother that “clarity and courage” are required to overcome extremism. “When terrorism succeeds in one place it spreads to other places, and when terrorism is defeated anywhere it is weakened everywhere. This is why Entebbe…was a victory for all humanity,” said the Israeli PM, according to the BBC.
2. To restore shaky foundations
The fact that no Israeli head of state has visited sub-Saharan Africa since Yitzhak Shamir in 1987 is testament to the rocky history between Israel and the continent. Following the 1973 war between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria, scores of African countries—many under Arab influence—cut ties with Israel. Indeed, the four countries Netanyahu is visiting all severed relations with Israel following the war, only to restore them in the 1990s. The country’s ties with black African countries have also suffered due to its historic support for the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Netanyahu admits that his visit is an attempt to restore these relations. “Israel was blacklisted in Africa, basically kicked out by political pressure from many, many countries in which we were involved in the 60s and 70s and it took a while to change,” said Netanyahu in an interview with Ugandan independent newspaper the Daily Monitor.
3. To do business and get some favors
Netanyahu will lead at least two business forums during his trip, one in Kenya and one in Ethiopia, while also meeting with each head of state individually. Israel is also expected to launch a $13 million development package for African states, which will including assistance in the sectors of agriculture, health and domestic security.
Israel has also reached a settlement with two undisclosed African countries to resettle around 40,000 migrants and refugees from Sudan and Eritrea, who entered the country through Egypt. The countries are reported to be Uganda and Rwanda, according to the Financial Times.
4. To gain some partners against the West
The continuing stalemate in the Israel-Palestine conflict has proved detrimental to the former’s relations with Western countries and institutions such as the United Nations, which have condemned Israel’s construction of settlements in the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip . One possible motivation of Netanyahu’s trip is to drum up support within the region for Israel’s stance on the issue. “In the U.N. there are many [resolutions] which target Israel and we want to change this with the help of the Africans,” Arye Oded, a former Israeli ambassador to Kenya and Uganda, told German broadcaster DW.
5. To share past grievances
One particularly poignant stop on Netanyahu’s agenda is a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the remains of more than 250,000 victims of the Rwandan genocide are interred. The 1994 genocide saw Hutu extremists kill more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a systematic attempt to exterminate an entire ethnic group. Since some 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazi Germany regime during World War II, Netanyahu will no doubt be able to empathize with those affected by the genocide. Rwanda’s ambassador to Israel, Joseph Rutabana, has previously said that the East African country holds up Israel as a template of how to recover from a tragedy on such a scale.
Israel’s Netanyahu in Uganda to Start 4-Nation Africa Tour
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country’s raid on Uganda’s Entebbe airport 40 years ago, in which his brother was killed, “changed the course” of his life and had a lasting influence on his country’s relations with Africa.
Speaking shortly after his arrival in Uganda, Netanyahu praised Israel’s commando raid on the airport which freed Israeli hostages from a hijacked plane. “International terrorism suffered a stinging defeat,” he said of the mission in July 1976.
The Entebbe rescue is a seminal event in Israeli history and is widely seen as one of the country’s greatest military successes. It also was a monumental event for Netanyahu, as the death of his brother, Yonatan, pushed him into the public eye and on a track that would take him to the country’s highest office.
An Israeli band played somber tunes at the airport on the shore of Lake Victoria to mark the anniversary of the Israeli rescue mission, during which three hostages were killed. A relative of one of the Israeli hostages lit a memorial flame as Netanyahu and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni stood in silence.
Netanyahu traveled to Uganda with soldiers and pilots who were members of the rescue team.
“This is a deeply moving day for me,” he said. “Forty years ago they landed in the dead of night in a country led by a brutal dictator who gave refuge to terrorists. Today we landed in broad daylight in a friendly country led by a president who fights terrorists.”
Netanyahu’s visit to Uganda starts his four-nation tour of Africa. He will also visit Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
“After many decades, I can say unequivocally Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel,” he said. “All of our peoples will benefit greatly from our growing partnership.”
Museveni said his government opposes the “indiscriminate use of violence” as well as bigotry. He said Uganda’s government supports a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“The two of you belong to that area,” Museveni said, urging both sides to live “side by side in two states … in peace and with recognized borders.”
Netanyahu later attended a summit meeting of regional leaders focusing on security and the fight against Islamic extremists. In addition to Netanyahu and Museveni, the meeting was attended by the leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. A communique at the end of the meeting said the leaders “emphasized the need for increased regional and international co-operation in all fields, including cyber security and information gathering to confront this scourge.”
Entebbe International Airport is where Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, was struck by a bullet as he led Israeli commandos in a daring rescue mission to rescue hijacked Israeli passengers. Israel’s success in the raid humiliated then-Ugandan President Idi Amin.
Four decades later, Uganda has good relations with Israel, which is courting allies to counter Palestine’s rising influence at the United Nations. While in Uganda Netanyahu will also attend a security-themed summit of regional leaders, including those from Kenya and Tanzania, said Don Wanyama, a spokesman for Uganda’s president.
Although the rescue mission breached Uganda’s territorial integrity, Amin, who had taken power by force and ruled as a dictator, had become an increasingly isolated figure and would soon be forced out of power with the help of Tanzanian forces. Museveni himself led one of several exile groups that waged a guerrilla war against Amin.
A lingering loathing of Amin, who was accused of many human rights atrocities and who died in Saudi Arabia in 2003, is one reason why many Ugandans today do not see the success of the Israeli raid – in which many Ugandan soldiers were killed and military equipment destroyed – as a disaster for Uganda. Yonatan Netanyahu was shot dead as he helped the Israeli hostages who had been held inside the airport terminal back onto the plane. His death made Yonatan an Israeli hero, and thrust Netanyahu toward public life.
Still, some Ugandans say Netanyahu’s historic visit should be a moment to mourn the Ugandan victims of the operation. Moses Ali, Uganda’s deputy prime minister who served as a government minister under Amin, told Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper that the rescue mission should not be celebrated by Ugandans.
“If you are siding with Israelis, then you can celebrate because it was their victory,” he said. “If you are not, then you should be mourning our dead ones.”
Israel wants African states to side with it at the U.N., where the General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as a nonmember observer state in 2012. The Palestinians have used their upgraded status to launch a diplomatic offensive against Israel and its occupation of lands where the Palestinians hope to establish a future state.
“Israel has been on a mission to repair its image globally and more specifically within the U.N. where the Africa group has for decades now supported the Palestinian cause, and vote in general toward that end,” said Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst who runs a think tank called Fana Kwawote.
As a key U.S. ally on regional security, especially in violence-prone Somalia, Uganda is an attractive ally for Israel as well, according to Izama.
“Washington views the Museveni administration as a regional hegemon, a key to the security of the wider region. Uganda’s involvement in counter-terrorism in Somalia … and its significant expenditure on security goods, including arms and technology, are another reason” for Netanyahu’s visit, he said.
Netanyahu’s African trip has generated some controversy at home, due to the large size of his delegation, as well as the personal nature of the visit.
In an editorial published Monday, the Haaretz daily praised Netanyahu for strengthening Israel’s ties with Africa, but suggested that he was largely driven by his own emotional involvement. “Despite the expected success of the diplomatic and economic contacts, it’s hard to shake off the impression that the entire trip would not be taking place were it not for Netanyahu’s desire to take advantage of his official position in order to conduct a ceremony in the old Entebbe airport,” it wrote.
Netanyahu will travel to Kenya later on Monday.
Uganda: 30 held over ‘coup plot’ against Museveni
At least 30 people, including serving soldiers and an opposition MP, have been arrested on suspicion of plotting to overthrow Uganda’s government, the country’s army has said.
Army spokesman Colonel Paddy Ankunda told the AFP news agency on Friday that the group was suspected of planning an armed uprising against President Yoweri Museveni, himself a former rebel who seized power 30 years ago.
“We and the police are investigating the matter,” Ankunda said.
The detainees were “linked to a rebel group”, Ankunda added, declining, however, to give any further details.
He said most of those arrested were soldiers, adding that at least one member of parliament and one opposition politician had also been arrested.
The only detainee named by the spokesman was Michael Kabaziguruka, an MP from the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, whose leader Kizza Besigye is in custody on treason charges.
In a separate development, Ankunda said Uganda plans to withdraw its troops from a mission in Central African Republic whose goal is to hunt down members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group.
Ankunda told AP news agency that the rebel group no longer poses a threat to Uganda
About 2,500 Ugandan soldiers are operating in the jungles of Central African Republic under the AU mission. They are supported by US special forces.
Joseph Kony, the LRA leader, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The group is infamous for recruiting boys to fight and taking girls as sex slaves.
World Uganda angered at claim of halt to N.Korea military ties
Kampala (AFP) – Uganda hit back Sunday at South Korea’s claim that Kampala had ordered a halt to military ties with North Korea in line with UN sanctions, denying it had made such an announcement.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s spokesman had earlier Sunday told reporters that Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni had ordered officials to honour the latest sanctions during a summit in Kampala.
Spokesman Jung Yeon-Guk quoted Museveni as saying: “We instructed officials to faithfully enforce the UN Security Council resolutions, including the halt of cooperation with North Korea in the security, military and police sectors.”
But Ugandan authorities responded swiftly, saying there had been no “public declaration” to this effect.
“That is not true. It is propaganda,” deputy government spokesman Shaban Bantariza told AFP.
“Even if (such an order) was to be made by the president, it cannot be public. It cannot be therefore true and it can’t happen. That is international politics at play,” he added.
Dozens of North Korean military and police officials are believed to be working in Uganda as military trainers under a cooperation programme.
Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, has visited North Korea three times and met Kim Il-Sung, the country’s late founding president and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-Un.
The UN Security Council in March imposed the toughest sanctions to date on Pyongyang following its fourth atomic test in January and a long-range rocket launch a month later.
The rocket launch — widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test — was staged in violation of existing UN resolutions that ban the country from any use of ballistic missile technology.
Kim Jong-Un however remained defiant in the face of growing international pressure, declaring his country a “responsible” nuclear weapons state at a recent meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party.
The young leader also defended North Korea’s widely-condemned nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against “hostile” US policy against his regime.
On her first state visit to Uganda, South Korea’s Park discussed ways to strengthen bilateral ties, including offering more aid to Kampala and the offer of running join development projects.
Uganda: Museveni Promotes Son to Major-General in Army
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has promoted his son to the rank of Major-General in the country’s military.
Muhoozi Kainerugaba, 42, is the first child of the Ugandan leader, who has been in power in the East African country since 1986. He heads up the Special Forces Command, which maintains the president’s security, and is considered to be one of the most powerful figures in the Ugandan military, which is one of the country’s most dominant institutions.
Muhoozi has been in the army since 1999 and trained at esteemed military centers including Sandhurst, the British Army’s primary military college, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was only made brigadier in 2012 and has enjoyed a rapid ascent through the military’s ranks.
A spokesperson for the Ugandan People’s Defense Force, Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Akunda, dismissed suggestions that Muhoozi had received favorable treatment due to the position of his father, who also fulfils the role of Commander-in-Chief of Uganda’s armed forces. “I do not see any problem with that. He has attended all the requisite courses, he has experience in command, and therefore there should be no qualms about his promotion,” Akunda told NTV Uganda.
Museveni won his fifth term in power after triumphing in controversial elections held in February and was inaugurated on Thursday. Museveni’s main opponent, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change, rejects the result and was arrested on Wednesday after taking part in an alternative presidential inauguration ceremony in the capital Kampala. Besigye has been charged with treason and is being held in Uganda’s only maximum security prison.
The Ugandan president has three daughters besides Muhoozi.
Why US diplomats walked out of Uganda president’s inauguration
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. delegation to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration walked out of Thursday’s ceremony in protest against his disparaging comments about an international war crimes tribunal and the presence of Sudan’s leader, whom the court has indicted, the State Department said.
Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac and a visiting Washington-based official, along with several European and Canadian diplomats, abruptly left the inauguration after Museveni made negative remarks about the International Criminal Court in his inaugural address. She added that the U.S. also objected to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s participation in the inauguration. Al-Bashir has been charged by the court for atrocities in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
Trudeau did not identify the European or Canadian diplomats involved. She said Museveni’s comments were “insulting” to both the court and to victims of war crimes and genocide.
“We believe that walking out in protest is an appropriate reaction to a head of state mocking efforts to ensure accountability for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly when his country has committed to accountability as a state party to the Rome Statute” that established the court, she said.
In his address, Museveni called the court “a bunch of useless people” and said he no longer supports it. Uganda is a member of The Hague-based International Criminal Court and as such is obligated to detain and turn over suspects wanted by the tribunal. The United States is not a member of the court, but supports it and has called on other countries to live up to their commitments under the treaty that created it.
The walkout was preceded by expressions of concern about al-Bashir’s presence from the U.S. delegation to Uganda’s prime minister and foreign minister, Trudeau said. She added that the delegation decided to attend the inauguration despite al-Bashir’s attendance out of respect for U.S.-Ugandan bilateral relations, but made the decision to leave after Museveni’s remarks.
Al-Bashir faces two ICC indictments for atrocities linked to the conflict in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have died and 2 million have been displaced since 2003, according to U.N. figures. He rejects the ICC’s authority and had been able to travel relatively freely in Africa and the Middle East — even to countries like Uganda and South Africa that are parties to the Rome Statute and are required to carry out ICC arrest warrants. Al-Bashir also recently attended the inauguration of Djibouti’s president, an event attended by U.S. officials.
Uganda bans media coverage of election result protests
Uganda has banned live media coverage of opposition protests against the re-election of President Yoweri Museveni.
The opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has called for a “defiance campaign” against the 71-year-old leader extending his 30-year rule.
Security forces have sealed off the home of its leader Kizza Besigye, who described February’s vote as a “sham”.
The government says media organisations could lose their licence if they cover the protest.
Those who cover the event on social media would also be punished, the head of Uganda’s Communications Commission said.
Last week, a court ruled that what the opposition is calling a “defiance campaign” against the election result was illegal, but the FDC has insisted on going ahead with its activities.
Mr Museveni’s victory was upheld by the Supreme Court in March.
Media organisations have been told not to carry out live interviews with opposition members or show their activities in real time during their protests.
Live television coverage has become a key part of the way political news is being reported in Uganda, says the BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in the capital, Kampala.
There is currently a heavy military and police deployment around the city in anticipation of opposition action, our reporter adds.
Mr Museveni is to be sworn for a fifth term on 12 May.
Missing Ugandan maid fuels fears of abuse in Saudi Arabia
By Yasin Kakande | Thomson Reuters Foundation
KAMPALA, April 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Jannat Mubiru has heard nothing from her daughter since the 27-year-old called to say she had arrived safely in Riyadh, where she was due to start work as a maid five months ago.
Mubiru has repeatedly phoned the Saudi number her daughter, Shamim Nakitende, used but her calls went unanswered at first, and then were blocked.
“There are so many stories of Ugandans being mistreated in Saudi Arabia. I am so worried,” Mubiru told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Shamim left behind a daughter and son and it’s difficult to answer their daily questions about their mother without knowing if she is still alive or not,” she added.
Since Nakitende left, the company which had offered her work in Saudi Arabia has closed its external recruitment department and severed links with the unit’s director over violations of recruitment guidelines, Mubiru said.
More than 10,000 Ugandans are estimated to be working in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait as security guards, domestic workers, drivers and cashiers in supermarkets and fast food restaurants.
In January, the Ugandan government announced a ban with immediate effect on the recruitment of Ugandans as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, after the local media reported cases of abuse and mistreatment.
Despite the ban, the recruitment of Ugandans to work in the oil-rich Gulf states is still flourishing as agents prey on jobless youths in the east African country eager for adventure, overseas travel and the promise of a good salary.
Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Welfare Muruli Mukasa said the government had received many complaints of exploitation from workers in the Gulf – including having their passports confiscated on arrival and being made to work 12 hours a day or more, sometimes without enough to eat.
Some also reported having their salaries withheld and being subjected to verbal abuse, physical assault, threats and intimidation by their employers.
Thomson Reuters Foundation asked Saudi embassy officials to respond but they declined to comment.
Some Ugandans said they were deceived as to the nature and income of their promised jobs by recruitment companies, though these were licensed and vetted by the authorities.
The same agencies sometimes took money from both the prospective employer and the migrant worker to cover recruitment fees, the cost of a visa and the air fare, workers said.
“An Arab employer who has paid these exorbitant fees, believes he or she just bought you. In other words you are his slave with no rights whatsoever,” said Ramla Nakazibwe, who returned from the UAE in January, her dream in tatters.
Nakazibwe used a licensed recruitment agency to find her a job in the UAE, spending 6 million shillings ($1,800) on fees.
Instead of working in a supermarket as she was promised, she was given a cleaner’s job which paid only 600 dirhams ($160) a month.
President Yoweri Museveni’s government is trying to raise awareness of the risks of being trafficked abroad, using a TV campaign urging Ugandans to be careful about overseas job offers, said Moses Binoga, national coordinator for the interior ministry’s anti-trafficking task force.
TOUGHER PENALTIES FOR UNLICENSED AGENTS
He said his task force was lobbying government for a review of 2005 guidelines on the export of labour, seeking tougher penalties for recruitment agents working without a licence.
“The government should also be urged to develop international agreements (extradition treaties) with the Middle East countries so that those who exploit Ugandans can face justice also,” Binoga told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Theopista Nabulya, a member of parliament representing exploited workers, said her group had asked the government to stop licensing recruitment companies unless a proper system was in place to protect migrant workers’ rights.
She said she had visited Ugandans in most of the Gulf Arab states between 2011 and 2015, and found that most of them had been duped at some point during the process.
Some of the worst exploitation involved women who had escaped from their employers and ended up as sex workers in Dubai, she said.”There’s an opportunity to arrive at the same results (of getting Ugandan jobs in the Gulf) by making the process cleaner and more ethical, without preventing Ugandans from migration,” Nabulya told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Uganda’s Supreme Court Thursday upheld the re-election of President Yoweri Museveni in the February 18 national poll. The court rejected a petition brought by former Prime Minister and presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi.
The electoral commission announced on February 20 that Museveni had won 60 percent of the vote to opposition challenger Kizza Besigye’s 30.5 percent.
Mbabazi had asked the court to nullify the results on the grounds the electoral commission did not adhere to the country’s electoral laws. But the court noted that while there were some irregularities, they did not affect the final results of the election to justify annulment.
Retired major general Jim Muhwezi, Uganda’s minister of information and national guidance, said the Supreme Court ruling confirms the choice of Ugandans when they re-elected President Museveni. “The government, of course, is very happy because it has confirmed what we knew very well, that the people of Uganda had expressed their choice and President Museveni won the election by over 50 percent. So the Supreme Court has confirmed what we believe,” Muhwezi said.
Muhwezi said it is up to Museveni and the opposition to heal and reunite the country now that the courts have spoken.
“That is true that the responsibility is with the president and the government as it was when he took up arms and liberated this country and has done everything to bring to what it is today. It still remains his responsibility to bring everybody together. But it’s also the responsibility of anybody who takes upon himself to lead the people. The leader of the biggest opposition group also has the responsibility to make sure that he contributes to that process of unifying the country,” Muhwezi said.
Uganda’s main opposition leader and former presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change, said no process can legitimize Museveni’s re-election. Besigye, who has been under house arrest for than more 40 days since the election, said the Ugandan judiciary could not have delivered an impartial ruling because its independence has been compromised.
“Pretty much what I had expected and that is because of a number of reasons. First and foremost, every petition, even in the best of circumstances is faced with very many obstacles against a petitioner because a petitioner in an election has only 10 days to prepare and present a petition in court. But these are not the best circumstances. We are talking about a situation where there is heavy intimidation of the citizenry, and anybody who purports to be a witness. But over and beyond that, we have the challenge of our institutions including the courts,” Besigye said.
Mbabazi, who brought the petition, told journalists after the court ruling that the struggle for democracy in Uganda will continue. The former prime minister said he will “continue to pursue the idea of reforming the law so that the petitioner is given enough time to gather and present enough evidence in court.”
Besigye said as a second runner up in the February 18 election, he would have been the right person to challenge the results. But he said he couldn’t because Ugandan police have held him under house arrest for more than 40 days since the election.
But information Minister Muhwezi denied Besigye is under house arrest. He said the police have been constructively engaging Besigye at his home in line with Uganda’s Public Order Management Act because Besigye has said he wants to defy the laws and march on Kampala city to cause violence.
“If you’ve been following the events both before and after the election, Dr. Besigye has been declaring and saying openly that he is going to defy the laws of the country. So all the police have been doing is just keeping under surveillance because of what the police know that when Dr. Besigye moves, he wants to create crowd and cause public disorder. That is all, but he’s not under house arrest. His movements are being monitored and regulated by the police,” Muhwezi said.