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NUP summons counsellors as bribery allegations hit party



Kampala Mayor Erias Lukwago with the newly elected speaker Zahrah Luyirika Maala and deputy speaker Masaba Nasuru. NUP counsellors have been accused of taking bribes during the election process

Kampala Mayor Erias Lukwago with the newly elected speaker Zahrah Luyirika Maala and deputy speaker Masaba Nasuru. NUP counsellors have been accused of taking bribes during the election process

The National Unity Platform (NUP) has summoned its counsellors who have been accused of stocking up bribes to vote against the party candidates in this week’s local government elections. 

Despite having super-majorities, NUP lost a couple of speakership and deputy speaker seats to independent candidates or those of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) in polls held this week.

In Lubaga Division,  the NUP candidate Rehema Fugge was defeated by the NRM candidate Musah Mbaziira in a council where NUP has 64 councillors elected on its ticket against the 11 members of the NRM. The story was the same in other areas like Makindye and Kampala Central, forcing enraged NUP supporters to take to social media to show their displeasure, accusing their leaders of “betraying the struggle.”

But this outcome was not surprising. While the party carried out primaries to get local government speakers last week, chaos broke out at the party headquarters after the results of the vote were declared. Supporters accused councillors of accepting bribes to influence their voting decisions.

Led by renowned NUP activist Sauda Madada, supporters said it was unacceptable to elect leaders who are NUP in name only. They said such positions should be taken over by party zealots who have been in the trenches with their party president, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine as he crisscrossed the country looking for votes and in the process braving the brunt of state brutality.

“How can you give the card to known NRM supporters and leave the foot soldiers. These are the people we have been with, in the struggle and it should be them to be given leadership positions,” a teary Madada shouted to the election management committee led by the former Bugweri Woman MP contestant, Mercy Walukamba.

The issue of bribery was also hinted at by Kyagulanyi during his unscheduled address to the councillors before they cast their vote. One of his handlers said Kyagulanyi thought his address would change the counsellors’ minds.

‘He wasn’t supposed to speak but he thought if the councillors heard from him, they would do the right thing. But he was disappointed that they elected people because they had paid them,’ the handler said.

But away from the internal squabbles, money was also cited in the final elections that took place this week. Two councillors who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity confirmed that indeed they had been influenced to vote the way they did.

“It’s very hard to win an electoral college vote if you don’t have money. You really should forgive councillors because there are a few people who can turn down money when it’s offered,” one councillor from Kawempe said.

Another councillor from Makindye added that even the lack of transparency during the identification of candidates for the party in the general election also has an influence on how people behave now.

“Many of those people blaming us have nothing to tell us because they are part of the problem. They extorted money from people before they gave them cards. If they are turning out to be corrupt, they shouldn’t blame them,” the councillor who asked not to be named said.

But Walukamba challenged anyone who gave her money to come out publicly and say it. She however said it’s hard to vouch for other members of her commission if they too are as clean as herself. On why they lost seats yet they have commanding majorities is councils, Walukamba attributed it to infighting within the party. She added that they have also heard of allegations of money exchanging hands.

“What I think is, maybe they were bought or some people were biased, I can’t know. You can really never know what happened in Lubaga. Some people got annoyed because they didn’t get the cut that is why they wanted to support the other guy of NRM. In politics, you can’t know what is in someone’s heart. We came up with the party in one month and gave out cards so it was to say that we studied people for some good time. No. All people were new. We didn’t know about those people or even their background. But we tried maybe next time we shall be careful,” Walukamba said. 

Davis Lewis Rubongoya, the secretary general of NUP said it wouldn’t be surprising if money played a big role in their defeat. Rubongoya said that although their party aims at having a cleanup of the corruption mess that they say has characterized the NRM government, they can’t do so overnight.

“We cannot detach ourselves from the Ugandan society, this society has been raped and corrupted for the past 35 years. It is not very easy to just stamp out that corruption in one day. These counsellors that we’re talking about are part and parcel of the Ugandan society of the monetised politics and all that. We do have a duty as a party to tell them about the values, we caution them on things like corruption and all that and we’re going to take very serious action if we find that anyone has indeed taken a bribe. But this is not the position of the party and as you know we condemn corruption in all its forms,” Rubongoya said. 

He however said they have started carrying out investigations to establish the facts and if anybody is caught on the wrong side, severe disciplinary actions are going to be taken against them.

“First of all these are isolated incidences, we won in most of the areas where we have a majority. I think they were two places where we did not and we’re finding the reasons why. Many people are pointing to corruption that these people were bought off and we’re trying to investigate and interrogate that and in fact in some cases we have already invited the councillors in those particular areas,” said Rubongoya. 

This is not the first time that NUP leaders are accused of taking money to vote in a certain direction. During the election of the speaker and deputy speaker of parliament, it was said that some MPs belonging to the nascent party were given between Shs 1 million and Shs 3 million to vote for particular candidates. But notwithstanding all this, Rubongoya says their party remains the most viable option to replace NRM.

“Certainly the National Unity Platform does not condone corruption and you know when councillors in a particular place can do something that can’t be imputed on the party. You know we have millions and millions of supporters across the country. So if a member of NUP in a certain village decides to take a bribe you do not impute that on the leadership of the party. But like I said we take this seriously, these are leaders at the level of counsellor and we’re going to investigate and take serious action,” added Rubongoya.  

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New Zealand’s Hubbard selected as first transgender Olympian | LGBTQ News




Laurel Hubbard, 43, will compete in the super-heavyweight women’s event in Tokyo.

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics after being selected by New Zealand for the women’s event at the Tokyo Games, a decision set to test the ideal of fair competition in sport.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith said 43-year-old Hubbard – who was assigned male at birth but transitioned to female in 2013 – had met all the qualification criteria for transgender athletes.

“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” Smith said in a statement.

Hubbard will compete in the super-heavyweight 87-kg category after showing testosterone levels below the threshold required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The 43-year-old had competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before transitioning.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard, an intensely private person who rarely speaks to the media, said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) on Monday.

Hubbard has been eligible to compete at Olympics since 2015, when the IOC issued guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

Some scientists have said the guidelines do little to mitigate the biological advantages of people who have gone through puberty as males, including bone and muscle density.

Advocates for transgender inclusion argue the process of transition decreases that advantage considerably and that physical differences between athletes mean there is never a truly level playing field.

Save Women’s Sport Australasia, an advocacy group for women athletes, criticised Hubbard’s selection.

“It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category,” the group said in a statement.

Weightlifting has been at the centre of the debate about the fairness of transgender athletes competing against women, and Hubbard’s presence in Tokyo could prove divisive.

Her gold medal wins at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa’s Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers, triggered outrage in the host nation.

Samoa’s weightlifting boss said Hubbard’s selection for Tokyo would be like letting athletes “dope” and feared it could cost the small Pacific nation a medal.

Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen said last month allowing Hubbard to compete at Tokyo was unfair for women and “like a bad joke”.

Australia’s weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but organisers rejected the move.

Hubbard was forced to withdraw after injuring herself during competition, and thought her career was over.

“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end,” Hubbard said on Monday, thanking New Zealanders.

“But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha (love) carried me through the darkness.”

Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson said Hubbard had worked hard to come back from the potentially career-ending injury.

“Laurel has shown grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform,” he said.

Hubbard is currently ranked 16th in the world in the super heavyweight category.

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Apple Daily could shut ‘in days’ after Hong Kong asset freeze | Freedom of the Press News




Company adviser says action under security law means it cannot access some $50 million in funds to pay staff and vendors.

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities used the national security law imposed by China to freeze the company’s assets as it arrested the paper’s editor and four other directors, an adviser to jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

Mark Simon, speaking by phone from the United States, said the company was no longer able to access its funds and would be holding a board meeting on Monday to discuss how to move forward.

“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month,” Simon told the news agency. “It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”

His comments signal closure is imminent even after Apple Daily said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left the newspaper with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations.”

The news comes two days after editor Ryan Law, 47, and chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail after being charged under the security law with collusion with foreign forces.

Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law arrives back at the detention centre after he was remanded in custody on Saturday [Lam Yik/Reuters]

Three other senior executives were also arrested last Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices in a case that has drawn condemnation from Western nations, human rights groups and the chief United Nations spokesperson for human rights.

The three have been released on bail.

Simon told Reuters it had become impossible to conduct banking operations.

“Vendors tried to put money into our accounts and were rejected. We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour. We just wanted to find out and it was rejected,” he said.

Speaking earlier to US news channel CNN, Simon said the company had about $50 million available, but was unable to access the funds.

The publisher has come under increasing pressure since its owner Jimmy Lai was arrested under the national security law last August, which marked the first time the company’s headquarters was raided. Lai, 73, is now jailed and facing trial under the national security law. In May, the authorities also froze some assets belonging to the longtime critic of Beijing has also had some of his assets frozen.

Three companies related to Apple Daily are also being prosecuted for collusion with a foreign country and authorities have frozen HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.

China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong last June saying it was necessary to restore “stability” to a territory that had been rocked by mass protests in 2019, some of which turned violent.

The broadly-worded law criminalises acts such as subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life imprisonment, but critics have said it is being used to suppress legitimate political debate with dozens of pro-democracy politicians and activists among the more than 100 arrested since it was brought into force.

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Birmingham Classic: Ons Jabeur beats Daria Kasatkina to win first title




Tunisian second seed Ons Jabeur defeated Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in straight sets to win her first singles title at the Birmingham Classic.

World number 24 Jabeur triumphed 7-5 6-4 against the fourth seed to become the first Arab woman to win a WTA title.

In Berlin, Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova stunned Swiss fifth seed Belinda Bencic to win her first title.

The 22-year-old world number 106 battled back from a set down to win 1-6 6-1 6-3 in her first final.

Victories for Jabeur and Samsonova mean there have now been 10 first-time singles winners on the women’s Tour this year.

Jabeur broke Kasatkina’s serve three times to prevail in the first set, before successive breaks at the start of the second put the 26-year-old in control at 4-0.

Two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Kasatkina recovered to 4-3, but Jabeur held on to win a singles final at the third attempt.

It was a breakthrough week for Samsonova in Germany, during which she also defeated seventh seed Victoria Azarenka of Belaurus in the semi-final.

World number 12 Bencic won the first five games as she dominated the opening set, but Samsonova matched that feat in the second before completing her comeback with breaks in the first and ninth games in the deciding set.

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