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Uganda – where security forces may be more deadly than coronavirus



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Eric Mutasiga’s mother, Joyce Namugalu Mutasiga, has to support his family after he was killed by police

In Uganda, at least 12 people have allegedly been killed by security officers enforcing measures to restrict the spread of coronavirus, while the country has only just confirmed its first death from Covid-19. Patience Atuhaire has been meeting some of those affected by the violence.

Joyce Namugalu Mutasiga speaks to me as she fries small pancakes, known as kabalagala, over a woodfire, her words coming out in short, crisp sentences punctuated with long silences.

“Somebody is moving away from you and then you shoot him? At least they would have said sorry, because his life will never be back, and now I am going to struggle with the children,” she says, straining to bottle up her emotions.

The 65-year-old is now the main bread-winner for a family of eight.

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Mrs Mutasiga wants the police to apologise over the death of her son

Two of her grandchildren, aged three and five, too young to grasp the full scale of what has befallen them, run across the yard pointing to a car in the yard: “Take a photo of daddy’s car!”

In June, nearly three weeks after he was reportedly shot in the leg by a Ugandan policeman, Eric Mutasiga died from his wounds. His last moments were in an operating theatre in the country’s Mulago Hospital, according to his mother.

The 30-year-old headteacher was one of those allegedly killed by security forces enforcing a coronavirus lockdown.

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Getty Images

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Members of the security forces have been enforcing the lockdown measures

The killings are believed to have been at the hands of policemen, soldiers and members of an armed civilian force called the Local Defence Unit (LDU).

Since March, they have been jointly manning roadblocks to ensure that people stick to the control measures, including a ban on motorcycle taxis (known locally as boda bodas) and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Many Ugandans are wary as they approach these roadblocks not knowing what might happen, but on 13 May trouble came to Mr Mutasiga’s home.

As well as running the Merrytime Primary school, the father of three had a small shop next to his home on the edge of Mukono, about an hour’s drive east of the capital, Kampala.

On that Wednesday, policemen and members of the LDU were arresting people found breaking the lockdown rules by working after 19:00.

‘You didn’t train me’

Mr Mutasiga’s employee, a young man working at the chapati stall outside the shop, had just been detained.

“I begged [the policemen] to forgive him. The two officers debated amongst themselves whether to let him go,” the headteacher later explained to local journalists.

Then, as people gathered round, things got heated.

“One of the policemen started to say I wasn’t the one who trained him. He said he could even shoot me.

“As I turned to leave, [one policeman] shot in the air. I turned to see what happened, and saw him aim directly at me.

“The bullet went right into my left leg and I fell. They got on their motorcycle really quickly and rode away.”

He made those comments as he was being wheeled into hospital – the police have not verified his account.


Some family members have suggested we go to court. But the police have not revealed the shooter’s identify, so who would I sue?”

His family had hoped that he would make a full recovery.

“We stayed in hospital awaiting surgery, but every time we asked, the health workers told us that the wound was bad, they couldn’t operate,” his mother says.

Mr Mutasiga was eventually taken to the operating theatre on 8 June where he died, she adds.

The death certificate shows that he died directly from gunshot wounds.

Mrs Mutasiga stares at the ground, taking a moment to compose herself.

She feels let down by the entire government system, saying: “Some family members have suggested we go to court. But the police have not revealed the shooter’s identify, so who would I sue?”

Farida Nanyonjo is angry.

Her brother, Robert Senyonga, died after being beaten.

Around midday on 7 July, she received a call from his employer. She was told that she had to get to the eastern city of Jinja fast, as Mr Senyonga had been repeatedly struck by the butt of a gun wielded by someone believed to be from the LDU for riding a motorcycle.

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The beating left the 20-year-old, who worked as a farm manager with multiple fractures to the skull.

Ms Nanyonjo got to him late at night and then returned with him to the capital, where he was referred to hospital.

“We made it to Mulago at about 2am, and spent the rest of the night on the ward floor. I approached a medical worker for help, but was asked for money. He was finally given a bed in the morning,” she says.

It took a lot of haggling, and a couple of days, before Mr Senyonga could be scheduled for surgery. And by then, it was too late.

‘Died in my arms’

“I am extremely angry. They beat him, but even the top hospital in the country could not give him proper medical care,” Ms Nanyonjo says.

“My brother died in my arms.”

For this family, the void left by their departed will be impossible to fill.

The LDU earned notoriety in the early 2000s when it was first created. Its personnel were accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings or of turning into gunmen for hire.

In the end it was demobilised. Ugandans were therefore apprehensive when it was revived in 2018.

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Allan Atulinda

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Recruitment for the Local Defence Unit attracted huge interest in 2018

Critics say the force puts guns in the hands of young, poorly trained people who are unable to reduce the tension in a confrontation.

The army has now withdrawn all LDU personnel from deployment, for retraining.

President Yoweri Museveni and other senior officials have condemned the reported attacks but when the BBC contacted the various security agencies implicated, none of them wished to give us a statement in response to the allegations.

Rights groups argue that the problem is systemic.

“We’ve found that security forces have been using Covid-19 and the measures put in place to prevent its spread as an excuse to violate human rights,” says Oryem Nyeko, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

But these problems have been known for many years, he says, and “we need to explore reforming a system that emboldens people to commit abuses”.

Families say the judicial process is often too convoluted to navigate, but there have been successful prosecutions in two cases in the last five months. One involving a soldier and the other a member of the LDU.

The soldier who killed Allen Musiimenta’s husband was jailed by a military court for 35 years after being found guilty of murder four days after the incident.

But she is not satisfied.

“The soldier got his punishment, but I won’t get my husband back,” Ms Musiimenta says.

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Benon Nsimenta, who was due to be ordained as a reverend in November, was gunned down on a highway in the western town of Kasese on 24 June.

He and his wife had set off for their village home on a motorbike. They had a document from a local councillor indicating that the vehicle was theirs and not a motorcycle taxi.

“The soldiers who stopped us didn’t even take a minute to ask questions. One of them crossed the road, raised his gun and shot my husband in the neck,” Ms Musiimenta says.

“We did our family projects together, talked through everything. We made plans for our children’s future. How I am supposed to pay for their education by working our small farm?” she trails off, overcome with emotion.

Football coach Nelly Julius Kalema survived his alleged brush with the security forces – but only just.

On 8 July he was rushing a friend’s sick girlfriend, Esther, to a clinic on a motorcycle. It was already curfew time.

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Media caption‘The police are killing us, not coronavirus’

They were allowed through a roadblock, but then some people on a motorcycle, who he says were policemen, waved them down.

Mr Kalema says he asked if he could find a safer place to stop just ahead. He says one man took out a baton and hit Esther hard on the neck. She screamed, and fell.

“I lost balance and rammed into a concrete slab, on which I hit my head,” he says, lying in a hospital bed.

The accident left him with a deep cut on the head, the scalp hanging by a few inches, that had to be stitched back. Esther survived with a broken leg and had to undergo surgery.

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Nelly Julius Kalema’s wound on his skull can be clearly seen

The police declined to comment on his allegations.

When we met, Mr Kalema had been in hospital for nearly a week, his head constantly throbbing.

“I have been lying here thinking I shouldn’t have to feel lucky, because I had no fault in the accident. How many of us must die or be maimed before the security forces change their methods?” he wonders.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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