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The pop star vs the president: Uganda’s generational fight

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By AFP
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“We used to be scared,” said Josephine Katumba, a 30-year-old hairdresser in Kamwokya, a poor suburb of Uganda’s capital Kampala. “We don’t have fear anymore.”

President Yoweri Museveni has long had police beat the defiance out of his opponents, but a 36-year-old slumboy singer turned MP has energised and emboldened Uganda’s youth, worrying the government.

Black scorch marks on the potholed road outside Katumba’s tiny salon mark where residents have routinely burnt tyres to protest the arrest of Bobi Wine, a local boy done good, charismatic pop star and unlikely opposition firebrand.

There is “Free Bobi Wine” graffiti everywhere.

“People have wanted change for a long time,” said Katumba, nimbly braiding a customer’s hair. “The difference now is that Bobi is young and he speaks for the youth.”

As a pop star Bobi Wine blended lyrics on social justice and poverty with catchy Afrobeat rhythms, earning him committed fans among Uganda’s often poor urban youth.

He took on the nickname of “His Excellency the Ghetto President”.

Under his real name Robert Kyagulanyi he won a by-election in 2017 and entered parliament, where his popularity and outspoken opposition to Uganda’s long-time leader shook up the country’s “Groundhog Day” politics.

In power since 1986, the 74-year-old Museveni is the only president most Ugandans have known: the country’s median age is less than 16.

Museveni has had the constitution amended twice, to remove term and then age limits, clearing him to run for a sixth term in 2021.

The opposition has for two decades been similarly dominated by 62-year-old Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s former friend and personal physician, who has lost four successive elections.

Besigye “has become part of an entrenched political system in which change feels impossible without fresh leadership,” said Kampala-based independent analyst Anna Reuss.

Kyagulanyi has swiped the opposition mantel from Besigye and provided a voice for a youthful population fed up with old men telling them what to do.

“Besigye is there to help, but he’s not from the ghetto. Bobi can come and talk to us on the streets,” said Katumba.

The combination of “his age, his background and his story” make Kyagulanyi a challenge unlike any Museveni has faced during his 32-year rule, said Ugandan writer and political analyst Rosebell Kagumire.

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She described him as “an outsider who is trying to shake things up”.

But in Uganda, shaking things up is risky.

Kyagulanyi rode into parliament on a wave of urban, youthful support. He quickly spearheaded resistance to the ruling party initiative removing age limits that cleared the way for Museveni to rule for life, and led protests earlier this year against a new social media tax.

The image of Kyagulanyi, in his signature red beret, leading a crowd of supporters through the streets became ubiquitous.

And as candidates he backed won a string of by-elections, Kyagulanyi was even harder to ignore.

He and Museveni went head-to-head in August. Both men travelled to the northwestern town of Arua to canvass for rival candidates on the eve of a by-election and a proxy confrontation ensued.

An opposition crowd allegedly stoned Museveni’s motorcade, breaking a car window. Police responded with bullets and Kyagulanyi’s driver was shot dead.

The MP himself was arrested — he claims he was tortured and badly beaten while in custody — and charged with treason, as were dozens of others.

Kyagulanyi’s candidate, Kassiano Wadri, won the election.

The torture allegations resonated, riling up Kyagulanyi’s supporters.

“We were angry and wanted to see that Bobi was fine,” Katumba said, recalling the eruption of street protests that followed.

Granted bail, Kyagulanyi has travelled to the US to seek medical treatment and has ramped up his criticism of Museveni’s regime from afar.

For his part, the president seems unable to adapt to the shifting challenge.

The arbitrary arrest and beating of opposition leaders is an old tactic that was deployed against Besigye for years, but young Ugandans are less cowed by such brutal displays of state strength.

Even Museveni’s trademark rhetoric, a form of didactic bonhomie mixed with folksy metaphor, is increasingly tone-deaf: in a recent speech on the state of the nation he patronised much of his audience by addressing them as “bazukulu”, meaning grandchildren.

Kyagulanyi’s expected return to Uganda will test Museveni further.

Reuss said that while he is “unlikely to unseat Museveni”, the continual use of force “further delegitimises Museveni and opposition grows further”.

Back in Kamwokya, the slum Kyagulanyi still calls home, one of Katumba’s employees looks south for a solution to his country’s tenacious old leader: “We want Museveni to be like Robert Mugabe: accept and go,” he said.

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Better living conditions for incarcerated children and women

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A day care center officially unveiled by Winnie Guchu, the CAS Ministry of interior and coordination. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

The prisons’ service, in partnership with Faraja Foundation, has rolled out a rehabilitation programme for inmates.
The programme targets enhancing structures at the correctional facilities and making them friendlier to prison staff and inmates.
Jane Kuria, the CEO of Faraja Foundation, says the non-governmental organisation aims for successful reintegration of inmates to the community upon release from prison.
“Faraja Foundation wants to be remembered for supporting former convicts to reintegrate back to the community,” Kuria noted.
She added that many ex-convicts had to start lives afresh after jail terms, hence the need to help them fill the gap in reintegrating with society.
Donating beds and other items was a way of helping inmates survive and get rehabilitated in preparation for their return to society, she added.
The foundation aims to distribute 2,160 beds to the 43 women prisons that hold about 2,615 inmates and 210 children accompanying them.

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Daris Kangi the Officer in charge Embu women’s prison (L) chats with Winnie Guchu, the CAS Ministry of interior and coordination at the newly unveiled daycare at the Prison. Through a partnership with Faraja Foundation, the Prisons service will also distribute 2160 beds to all Women Prisons across the country. May 13, 2021. [Muriithi Mugo,Standard]

Speaking during the unveiling of day-care built by Faraja at Embu Women’s prison, Kuria said children jailed with their mothers did not deserve to undergo hardship.

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David Bett, chair of Faraja Foundation, challenged stakeholders to consider a review of the open-door policy that will also see prison staff benefit more.
Winnie Guchu, the Ministry of Interior and Coordination CAS, said the government had targeted to have day-care centres in all women’s prisons.
“Women convicted with children lacked caretakers of their children at home and this forced them to carry the babies along for the duration of their sentences,” said Ms Guchu.
She said the children were innocent and that they had the right to a conducive environment for growth through the day-care centres.
“These children should have places for entertainment, playing as well as good sleeping areas,” said Guchu.
She unveiled the day-care center and received 160 of 2,160 beds from the Faraja Foundation, destined for distribution in all the 43 women’s prisons countrywide.
Also present was Commissioner of Prisons Wycliffe Ogallo. 

 

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What you need to know about the Juja by-election

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The late Juja MP Francis Waititu aka Wakapee.

The Juja parliamentary seat became vacant after MP Francis Waititu succumbed to brain cancer on February 22, 2021 at MP Shah Hospital.
Waititu was elected on a Jubilee ticket during the 2017 General Election. He garnered 66,190 votes.
According to IEBC, Juja constituency has 114,761 registered voters.
The 2017 General Election had an 80 per cent voter turn-out which saw 91,801 Kenyans casting their votes in the region.  
The by-election
On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, voters in the Juja constituency will head to the polls to elect their next member of parliament.
A total of eleven candidates will square it out in the mini poll.

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Jubilee Party By-election Juja MP Nominee Susan Njeri Waititu during certificate issuance at the Party’s Headquarters in Nairobi on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Main contenders

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1. Waititu Susan Njeri – Jubilee Party
2. Ndung’u George Koimburi – Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP)
Others:
3. Mwangi Kariuki Chege – Independent
4. Kagera Eunice Wanjiru – The New Democrats (TND)
5. Kariuki Joseph Gichui –  Independent
6. Kariuki Rashid Iregi –  Independent
7. Marungo James Kariuki – Independent
8. Mburu John Njoroge – People’s Party of Kenya (PPK)
9. Ndung’u Antony Kirori – Maendeleo Chap Chap Party (MCCP)
10. Ndung’u Kennedy Gachuma – National Liberal Party (NLP)
11. Zulu Julius Thiong’o – Independent

 

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19-year-old boy charged with defiling girl three years younger

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[Courtesy]

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A 19-year-old teenager is in trouble with authorities for allegedly defiling a 16-year-old girl.
Tyson Ongaki has been charged before a Kisumu Chief Magistrate’s court and accused of intentionally defiling the minor on various dates. The crime was allegedly committed in Bomet.
The teenager who appeared before Chief Magistrate Peter Gesora however denied the offence and has been released on a Sh100,000 bond.
The court heard that after committing the offense on diverse dates between March 26, 2021 and May 14, 2021, the teenager moved to Kisumu.
He has also been charged with committing an indecent act with a minor.
An investigating officer handling the matter told the court that the suspect was arrested in Kisumu.
The magistrate directed that the matter be heard on June 15, 2021.

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