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International community has let Ugandans down, says Besigye

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has accused the international community of turning a blind eye to rampant human rights violations in his country.

Although it is the responsibility of Ugandans to hold their government accountable, he argues, the West has decided to ignore what is going on in Uganda.

“Ugandans have first and primary responsibility to cause their government to account to them,” Dr Besigye told NTVKenya on Wednesday evening.

“We know that we have [a] duty. The first duty is to demand that we are treated in accordance with the law, with the constitution and international covenants. We have been doing pretty much … that.”

Human rights universal

He added: “However, human rights are universal and any abuse of human rights anywhere is abuse of human rights everywhere because if you don’t address it, you will fall [victim to] it sooner or later.

“Therefore, we expect [that] indeed the international community has an obligation that it should discharge in ensuring that the kinds of human rights abuses that have been taking place in Uganda are checked. Unfortunately, that has not taken place.”

The veteran opposition politician said Western countries are not bothered about human rights violations in Uganda because they need the help of President Yoweri Museveni in combating terrorism in and outside the East African region.

He said “Western countries are very much concerned about terrorism that has gripped the world, and because our forces are available or conscripted into that fight in Somalia, Sudan, in other places,” they pretend not to see what is happening in Uganda.

“This is shameful and I think it should stop because you cannot say you’re fighting terrorism while [turning] a blind eye [to] abuse of human rights,” he said.


The number of people disappearing because of criticising Mr Museveni’s style of leadership, he claimed, has gone a notch higher compared with Idi Amin’s era.

“Day in, day out people are disappearing. The list of [disappeared] people has been given to [the] government, including Parliament … [This is the list] of people who have disappeared and taken in broad daylight by people who are from security [agencies],” he said.

He added, “Some have been released with horrible torture marks on them and displayed in courts. [These kinds] of abuses cannot be debated.”

Vowing that he was not ready to give up on the struggle for a better Uganda, Dr Besigye said the problem is not about getting a new leader but removing power from the people who carry guns and giving it to the unarmed people of Uganda. Uganda’s independent institutions, he said, need to be freed from state capture.

State capture

“In 2011, I personally came to the conclusion that elections cannot solve the problem we have at hand. There is complete state capture of the institutions of the state,” he said.

“What is needed in our country now is not political contestation at elections – it is a liberation struggle to free our state institutions, free the country from capture by force that has gone on.

Once that is done, he added, Ugandans can then “organise a transition to a democratic space pretty much in the same way that Kenya did”.

He also dismissed claims that the liberation struggle in Uganda has failed because the opposition has failed to unite in order to bring change. He argued that every election cycle, Ugandans remain united and their efforts to elect someone other than President Museveni are frustrated by state capture of institutions.

Ugandans want change

“The people of Uganda who want change have been uniting behind a candidate they think offers the best opportunity for change and that is why every election has been a two-horse race. You have not found an election where votes are distributed among 10 candidates,” he said.

“It has always been a two-horse race because people who want change just look for what will give them the best chance to have that change.”

Dr Besigye noted that power in Uganda is mediated between the military and the family of President Museveni.

He added that the reason it is “always difficult for one candidate to challenge the kind of government that we have is [that] the people who control power sometimes control wealth”.

“Controlling institutions and capturing the state also leads to capture of state resources. Once you have unlimited control over resources, it is easier to sponsor a candidate and encourage all kinds of candidates to come up. Sometimes it is not easy to stop [a] multiplicity of candidates,” he said.


Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has accused the international community of turning a blind eye to rampant human rights violations in his country. Although it is the responsibility of Ugandans […]

Continue reading "International community has let Ugandans down, says Besigye"

Uganda seeks Kenya partnership in deal to boost tourist numbers

Uganda’s tourism players are reaching out to Kenya in a controversial bid to help bridge market access challenges for Kampala’s hospitality offers.

The players in Kampala see Kenya’s coastal exposure to the world as a starting point where tourists arriving in Kenya can go on to visit Uganda on the same visa while using Uganda Airlines as a connecting carrier.

But that could bring new threats to Kenya’s own local sites, as well as affect market share for Kenya Airways, which has for years dominated the Kenya-Uganda route.

Mutual benefit

But if this plan works, the proponents argue, Kenya and Uganda will mutually benefit, with Uganda profiting from Kenya’s networks to attract visitors. Kenya in the meanwhile will have its tourists visit Ugandan sites at a discounted price, which stakeholders say could break monotony for repeat clients who have explored Kenya.

Alex Tunoi, the regional manager in charge of domestic and Africa tourism at the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), said they are aware of the proposed deal, but downplayed its potential to eat Kenya’s lunch.

“East Africa market has great tourism potential for Kenya; with a population of over 200 million, a growing middle class, improved infrastructure and relaxation of travel restrictions. KTB is focused on growing arrivals from the region,” he told The EastAfrican.

“Investment in these markets is bearing fruit with both Uganda and Tanzania emerging among top 10 key sources markets for the destination.”

Lucrative packages

According to the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) Kampala will offer lucrative packages to tourists arriving at Kenya’s coastal sites to explore its natural, adventure, leisure, business and cultural attractions.

Uganda intends to balance trade with Kenya by working with coastal tourism stakeholders to tap into Kenya’s booming beach tourism.

The first package is set to go online later this year after deliberations from a conference between Uganda and Kenyan on November 17.

“The partnership will ensure thousands of tourists visiting either Kenya or Uganda move freely between the two countries. The tourists can have breakfast at the beach and lunch in a safari in Uganda,” said Paul Mukumbya, Uganda’s Consul-General in Mombasa.

“The November conference in Mombasa will explore Uganda, ‘the Pearl of Africa,’ to give overview of the tourism attractions as well as specifying the investment opportunities in the tourism sector in Uganda and Kenya,” he said.

Eased travel requirements

The two countries are banking on eased regional travel requirements for EAC citizens to improve the balance of trade by jointly promoting beaches and parks in the region.

Citizens of the two countries can use their national identity cards to cross borders while international tourists will use the East Africa single visa to tour the two destinations.

Besides, both countries belong to the one-tourism visa programme that also includes Rwanda. Tourists arriving in one country can use the same tourist visa to cross to the other.

The challenge in the past has been the transportation connectivity.

The plan now is to use Uganda Airlines to connect tourists from Mombasa to Entebbe but once Kenya Airways starts direct flights from the coastal city, Kenya Coast Tourist Association chairman Victor Shitakha says people will have more options.

Packages for bus trips

Uganda Airlines flies between Mombasa and Entebbe three times a week. However, officials say other airlines will not be locked out and they will go as far as selling packages for bus trips.

“The move will create networks and synergies and we are not in competition but we complement each other, where we shall come up with packages marketed together [and] sell both safari and beaches as one package. We are working with Kenya Tourism Board to make it happen,” said Mr Shitakha.

Kenya remains Uganda’s biggest source market for tourists in the region, accounting for 29 per cent of total arrivals in 2018, the highest figure reported before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to figures by the Tourism Research Institute.

Rising numbers

At least 95,000 Kenyans visit Uganda every three months, according to the Ugandan Consulate in Mombasa. It expects this figure to rise.

Last year, Kenya received 870,465 tourists compared to 567,848 in 2020, with the US leading as the major tourist source with 136,981 arrivals, followed by Uganda (80,067), Tanzania (74,051), the UK (53,264) and India with 42,159 visitors.

Before the pandemic, Uganda received over 1.5 million tourists in 2019 and registered over 512,000 travellers in 2020. However, the country’s tourism industry is poised for recovery with renewed emphasis on intra-African travel market as a key marketing strategy.

In 2019, the Tourism sector contributed 7.7 per cent of Uganda’s gross domestic product and created over 667,000 jobs.

Tourism data from 2019 shows that its top three Africa source markets include Rwanda (32 per cent), Kenya (24 per cent) and Tanzania at six per cent.


Uganda’s tourism players are reaching out to Kenya in a controversial bid to help bridge market access challenges for Kampala’s hospitality offers. The players in Kampala see Kenya’s coastal exposure […]

Continue reading "Uganda seeks Kenya partnership in deal to boost tourist numbers"

How Myanmar became destination for trafficked East Africans

On a Facebook page routinely appearing in the East African region, ‘models’, saleswomen and teachers of English are invited to apply for jobs ranging from marketing, language classes and translation.

And the promised pay is hefty, by East African standards. One offer for a ‘sales specialist’ promises one to earn Thai Baht (TBH) 7,5000 (about KSh256,000 or $2,098) per month. A bilingual translator could earn up to $3,000, mostly to work at a call centre where clients are foreign speakers of English or some other language. It is an added advantage if you can speak Chinese and are white, but good looks generally will do you fine.

The qualification, the advert shows is simple. You must be a university graduate, good at communication skills and have a “cheerful” personality. What is more, a human relations manager whose salary is Ksh150,000 ($1,229) can more than double their take-home if they recruit more workers. One offer says they will get $139 times the number of employees under their watch.

Flight ticket guaranteed

The jobs also require one to have fast typing skills and that one must be able to relocate to Thailand with a promise to have their visas sorted and a flight ticket guaranteed.

This type of recruitment, it turns out, has gotten more East Africans travelling in droves to Thailand, but ending up enslaved in Myanmar, according to a bulletin by the Kenyan Foreign and Diaspora Affairs ministry.

One survivor, recently rescued from Myanmar, told The EastAfrican they were duped into the jobs but were moved to an unknown location as soon as they landed in Thailand, initially on a tourism visa. That place turned out to be a remote location inside Myanmar, a country under a state of emergency since last year when the military junta deposed a democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“They said they wanted their employees to be taught English so they can speak fluently to their clients,” Martha* said.

“After we arrived, they took our passports and we were moved mostly through remote locations. They said they were avoiding dangerous security points. But they had not told us we would end up in Myanmar,” she explained.


Martha, a Kenyan, was among 24 East Africans rescued in September from Myanmar in a concerted effort by the Kenyan and Laos government with HAART Kenya and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The group also included a Burundian and a Ugandan. Earlier, a group of 13 had also been rescued after the Thai military responded to distress calls.

The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs said on Wednesday that the Laos security forces had rescued another group of six, collaborating with the UN agencies. But the response has been to only those who manage to sneak out their call for help.

“Already, one young Kenyan has died as a result of a botched operation by quack doctors operating in the so-called special economic zones in rebel controlled areas in Myanmar,” the Kenyan ministry said, suggesting organ harvesting is fuelling the trafficking. Officials did not reveal the identity or gender of the dead Kenyan. But most of those rescued recently have been all women.

“Others who have been rescued have returned home in crutches and with broken limbs after being beaten severely by up to 20 gang members operating in the factories.”

Coordinated gangs

The gangs are coordinated, given that travelling between Nairobi and Myanmar is treacherous. With no direct flights and no diplomatic missions between any east African country and Myanmar, travellers are lured as though they are going to Bangkok, a popular destination for tourists, and famous for its blind masseuses. Others are advertised as jobs in Mae Sot, a town in Thailand near the border with Myanmar.

“The jobs that are purported to be in Mae Sot town in Thailand are fake. The cartels use Mae Sot as a bait. As soon as one lands in Mae Sot, they are whisked across the river to the factories in Myanmar,” the Kenyan government warned on Wednesday.

“Kenyans continue to fall prey to online job scammers, who are unrelenting in their search for innocent Kenyans to sell to Chinese cartels. Many of the agents, wanted by the police, are still advertising sales and customer care jobs purported to be in Thailand with impunity, well aware that there are no such jobs.”

Since August, Nairobi says 75 victims of trafficking have been brought back home. They include ten Ugandans and a Burundian, rescued in cooperation with the governments of Thailand, Laos, IOM and HAART Kenya. Authorities estimated there could be more still trapped, as there at least 30 distress calls pending rescue.

Those rescued say they had to work long hours and the pay was not forthcoming. Those trafficked were mostly women under 35. They also said they were working in an area controlled by rebels opposed to the junta in Myanmar. Nairobi says “the rebels provide protection to the Chinese criminal cartels” who sometimes threaten Thai and Laos government officials planning rescue operations.

Kenya now says it will raise supervision on any East African travelling to Thailand through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to purge anyone travelling after getting an ‘online job’ there. In addition, those travelling to Thailand on ‘tourist’ visas will have to show exact address and return tickets even though the government said it invites any Kenyans “to Thailand and other countries in the region who come for legit work and leisure but not as victims of trafficking”.

At least 2,5O0 Kenyans work and study in Thailand, according to official government records.

“Some are teachers, doctors, IT professionals, international civil servants working with UN agencies and others doing business. We have Kenyans who have lived in Thailand for over 30 years and married Thai citizens.”


On a Facebook page routinely appearing in the East African region, ‘models’, saleswomen and teachers of English are invited to apply for jobs ranging from marketing, language classes and translation. […]

Continue reading "How Myanmar became destination for trafficked East Africans"

Uganda blocks contacts of Ebola patients from foreign travel

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has said contacts and suspected contacts of Ebola patients will not be allowed to leave the country in order to prevent the disease from spreading to other countries.

He said a list of confirmed contacts has been given to the immigration authorities who will prevent them from international travel.

The country has also started screening people at airports and land border points of entry for temperature, symptoms and history of contact.

during his fourth televised address to the country since the outbreak of Ebola in September, President Museveni said that his Uganda’s efforts to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola disease are starting to pay off as few new cases are currently being recorded as compared to how the situation was a few weeks ago.

Confirmed cases

As of Wednesday, there are 141 confirmed cases. Fifty five of these have died while 73 have recovered and 13 are admitted to the Ebola treatment units.

Two districts of Kassandra and Mubende, which are the epicentres of the outbreak, are currently under lockdown, with public transport restricted to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the country.

“In the past 21 days, the number of new cases has reduced to an average of three per day. This was because of intensifying control interventions which included door-to-door sensitisation of the communities by the village health teams, training of the health workers on infection prevention control in both public and private health facilities, safe dignified burials of all deceased in the communities and hospitals, and early treatment of cases at the Ebola treatment units,” Mr Museveni said.

Since these interventions were instituted, Mubende district, which recorded the first case and is regarded as a high-risk area, has not recorded a new Ebola case for the past 18 days.

Flouting rules

However, even with the efforts in place, many people, especially from high-risk areas, continue to flout the rules, which has seen the disease reach six districts across the country currently. A case was recently reported in Jinja, 80km east of Kampala, on Saturday. Two more people have succumbed to the disease in the area.

According to President Museveni, progress in containing the disease is being hindered by, among other things, a passenger relay system by boda bodas that allows contacts to escape areas under lockdown and subsequently spread the disease, frequent visits to traditional healers, myths, misconceptions, and misinformation, and escape by Ebola contacts under quarantine.

In his Tuesday address, the president ordered the Ministry of Health and local government leaders to intensify sensitisation of the boda boda riders on the dangers of aiding contacts to leave places under lockdown.

Traditional healers barred

He added that all traditional healers and witchdoctors have been prohibited from carrying out their activities and that trucks carrying logs, which have been discreetly transporting people, are prohibited from moving into and out of Mubende and Kassandra districts with immediate effect for the next 21 days.

The president noted that reports from the tourism sector players indicate that tourists have been cancelling their trips to Uganda and that some have even postponed their bookings in hotels and lodges due to the Ebola outbreak. In addition, several international conferences and meetings have been postponed and some moved to other countries due to the outbreak.

“I would like to reassure the international community, tourists and conference organisers and the entire Ugandan population that the government has put in place measures to control the outbreak. The Ebola outbreak is localised to only six out of the 146 districts. Uganda remains safe and we welcome international guests,” Mr Museveni said.


Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has said contacts and suspected contacts of Ebola patients will not be allowed to leave the country in order to prevent the disease from spreading to […]

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Hopes for big finance at Cop27 fade in climate of war, high energy prices

Big business more than ever is under pressure to channel money into curbing climate change – and yet the chances of UN talks providing the necessary spur have slimmed as the Ukraine war, high energy prices and geopolitical tensions take precedence.

In interviews, more than a dozen US and European finance leaders were pessimistic the climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt starting November 6 can make clear progress.

What they want are signals on the pace of regulation that would allow company boards to plan their climate policy.

But as governments have lately been distracted by world events, they fear countries will fail to provide any major new commitments.

“Geopolitical relations going into COP27 are at one of the worst levels in recent history,” said Luke Sussams, head of ESG and Sustainable Finance, EMEA at Jefferies.

“The age-old dilemma of climate finance, facilitated between the developed and the developing world, will of course be critical. We, I don’t think, are too optimistic that many resolutions will be met in that regard.”

Emissions must drop

A UN report published in October underlined the urgency of the climate problem and that emissions must drop 43 percent by the end of the decade to prevent the worst impacts of a hotter planet.

The best hope could be to prevent the progress so far being undone.

“Avoiding a rollback of existing pledges and commitments… could probably be considered a success,” Benedict Buckley, research analyst at ClearBridge Investments, said.

Many companies made pledges to cut emissions last year, but like many governments, they have yet to work out how those will be implemented.

More than 550 financial firms are members of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, aiming to cut their emissions and push companies in the real economy that rely on their financing to do the same, but the pace of action has been slow.

Not enough done

“The reality is that not enough has been done in the last 12 months – some would argue we have moved backwards,” said Hortense Bioy, Global Director of Sustainability Research at Morningstar.

The biggest disruption since last year’s Glasgow climate talks has been the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a major oil and gas exporter.

Europe in particular has been forced to rethink its previous reliance on Russian gas and to seek alternatives. In the short term that includes coal, undermining a deal the UN summit in Glasgow to phase out its use. However, as this year’s high oil and gas prices have rewarded those producing fossil fuels.


Big business more than ever is under pressure to channel money into curbing climate change – and yet the chances of UN talks providing the necessary spur have slimmed as […]

Continue reading "Hopes for big finance at Cop27 fade in climate of war, high energy prices"

Kenya joins calls for Russia to pay Ukraine war reparations

Kenya on Monday joined 93 other countries in supporting a UN resolution calling for Russia to compensate Ukraine after invading it in February this year.

The non-binding resolution A/ES-11/L.6: ‘Furtherance of remedy and reparation for aggression against Ukraine’ by the UN General Assembly reflected the enduring indifference to African countries in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But it did show significant support for Ukraine in seeking compensation and depicting Moscow as an aggressor in the war.

Ninety-four countries including Kenya, Ghana, Somalia and Djibouti voted to have Russia “bear the legal consequences” of its invasion of Ukraine, including recompensing for lost limbs, deaths or destroyed property.

“We had serious reservations on aspects of the resolution which were reflected in the outcome of the vote in the high number of abstentions and ‘no’ votes,” said Dr Martin Kimani, in a note explaining Kenya vote on Monday.
“Despite this, we voted yes because it is the right thing to do. Ukraine has a sovereign right to make claims for damages and loses incurred by virtue of conflict.”

No legal weight

It was the latest political symbol of opposition against Russia as voted by the UN General Assembly. Usually, such decisions reached by the Assembly do not carry legal weight, but can fuel political pressure on the affected party.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, there have been several UN General Assembly decisions, all reached under the rare Assembly’s emergency special sessions.

Weeks after the war, 141 member states denounced the invasion and when Russia annexed three regions of Ukraine in October under a shady referendum, 143 others voted to reject it.

Distant war

In Africa, however, the war continues to be seen as distant. Gabon, the other non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from Africa (besides Kenya and Ghana) abstained and so did Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi.

Fourteen countries including South Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Mali and Central African Republic voted no, while others like the Democratic Republic of Congo were not even present during the voting.

“This is the right of Ukraine but also for all the peoples and countries that are seeking reparations for colonial violence and dispossession, slavery, and other acts of aggression by powerful states, including members of the Security Council,” Dr Kimani added.

Since 1950, the UN General Assembly has often taken up matters regarding international peace and security if the UN Security Council, the most powerful organ of the UN, fails to gain a unanimous decision among its five permanent members. They are Russia, China, UK, US and France.

This session is the 11th since 1950 and it came after Moscow vetoed a resolution tabled before the Security Council condemning an assault on Ukraine.

“Seventy-seven years ago, the Soviet Union demanded and received reparations, calling it a moral right of a country that has suffered war and occupation,” Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the Assembly before voting.

“Today, Russia, who claims to be the successor of the 20th century’s tyranny, is doing everything it can to avoid paying the price for its own war and occupation, trying to escape accountability for the crimes it is committing.”

The Ukrainian diplomat wants the world to follow an example set earlier when it created the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) in 1991 to force Iraq to pay for illegally invading Kuwait. The Commission had overseen payments of over $52 billion in reparations to victims by the time it closed this year.

Nearly 50 nations co-sponsored the resolution on establishing an international mechanism for compensation for damage, loss and injury, as well as a register to document evidence and claims.

Pay for destruction

Ukraine wants Russia to pay for destruction including buildings, bridges and roads, demolition of power supply lines, displacement of civilians and killings, besides rape and torture.

His Russian counterpart, Vasily Nebenzya, argued that the Assembly had no powers to rule on legal cases and punish parties.

“These countries boast about how committed they are to the rule of law, but at the same time, they are flouting its very semblance,” he said.

“The UN will play no role in this process because the proposed mechanism is suggested to be created outside of the UN, and no one has any plans to account to the General Assembly for its activity.”


Kenya on Monday joined 93 other countries in supporting a UN resolution calling for Russia to compensate Ukraine after invading it in February this year. The non-binding resolution A/ES-11/L.6: ‘Furtherance of […]

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