Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
That old Africa oil chestnut is being discussed again: is it a blessing or a curse?
When it comes to Uganda, nobody really knows which way to bet yet and its people often shrug their shoulders when asked what impact it will have.
One reason for that, and a cause of concern for some, is the secrecy surrounding the deals the government has struck with the foreign firms in the country and a lack of transparency around much of the planning ahead of production next year.
The Pearl of Africa discovered oil reserves, now estimated by some to be 2.5 million barrel’s worth, in its Albertine rift basin near Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006.
Ugandans love to talk. And, unlike in some other African countries, few people are afraid to be heard talking politics. Cafes and bars in Kampala and elsewhere hum to the sound of politicians being loudly verbally skewered.
The politicos themselves are not much different. Rhetoric is being ratcheted up ahead of elections on February 18. And the opposition are not holding back.
“Look at him!” the emcee at celebrations to mark 25 years in power for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni shouts into a mic. “Look at him! He is very fit!”
The former rebel decked out in his usual – and fairly unique – floppy hat and suit combo ambles down a grass slope and waves cheerily to his supporters.
The track starts with a soulful “well, well” as a hip-hop beat rises in intensity. “Do you want another rap?” the same deep voice then says in perfect time. “You want another rap?”
But this is no ordinary rapper. This is, believe it or not, 66-year-old Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, previously better known for rebellion than for rhyming.
The latest twist in Uganda’s hang the ‘homos’ saga was played out last week when the High Court in Kampala ordering Rolling Stone newspaper to stop publishing the names, photographs and addresses of people it says are gay. Alongside the photos, the paper urged the government: “Hang them.”
The court order came too late for the 26 already featured in two issues of the young newspaper that most people in the East African country have never heard of.
If the potential success of an election could be judged by the excitement generated by its first day of campaigning, then Uganda is set for an excellent poll.
It can’t, of course, but it was heartening to see both ruling party and opposition supporters whooping it around capital Kampala yesterday ahead of a February 18th voting day that most think will be nothing but a foregone conclusion.
The giggles started when the seventh journalist in a row said that his question was for Egypt’s water and irrigation minister, Mohamed Nasreddin Allam.
Being gay or lesbian in Uganda is illegal and those who are risk being locked away for up to 14 years. Now, a new parliamentary bill wants gay people to face even stiffer penalties and is proposing life imprisonment and even death sentences in some cases.
Pepe Julia Onziema and her partner, who asked that her identity be hidden, spend most of their time together — indoors. They are a lesbian couple living in Uganda where homosexuality is against the law. Pepe is also a gay rights activist in Kampala and is openly vocal about her sexuality and because of that she is often victim to discrimination and harassment.
For telecoms-tycoon-turned-philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, it’s one step forward, two steps back. For Benno Ndullu, governor of the central Bank of Tanzania, the whole thing is bound to stall unless problems are ironed out first.
For many Tanzanians, it’s a threat to their jobs, language and prospects.
But for the leaders of the five-member East African Community (EAC), signing the common market protocol on Friday represents the future fortunes of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda combined.
African countries often complain about getting a bad press. They say there’s much more to the continent than war and poverty and starvation. Then there’s the huge coverage given to the International Criminal Court and the fact that all four cases the body is now considering come from Africa.
But what’s strange about the complaints is that the world’s poorest continent is the most heavily represented in the ICC, with 30 member countries. In the March 2009 elections for ICC judges, 12 out of the 19 candidates were Africans nominated by African governments. And Fatou Bensouda, the court’s Deputy Prosecutor, is from Gambia.