News / Africa

Ugandan Activists Put Their Politics on the Printed Page

A Ugandan policeman holds up a newspaper, just before police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstration in downtown Kampala, Uganda, May 28, 2013. Some local activists are writing and distributing books that they hope can be as effective as placards.
A Ugandan policeman holds up a newspaper, just before police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstration in downtown Kampala, Uganda, May 28, 2013. Some local activists are writing and distributing books that they hope can be as effective as placards.
TEXT SIZE - +
— A Ugandan activist who criticized President Yoweri Museveni's regime in writing was arrested and had his home searched as a result, even though his work had not been printed or distributed. But he is now going ahead and has released a book he had written about the president. Several Ugandan activists have taken their struggle to the printed page in recent years, although many are harassed by police and find their books refused by bookstores or impounded by the government.

When 27-year-old Norman Tumuhimbise was arrested by Ugandan police last June, it was because of a suspicious object they had found in his backpack. But it was not a bomb. It was a book, one the young activist had written himself, and it had not yet been published.

The book, Behind the Devil’s Line, criticizes the regime of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 27 years. Museveni has ruled for so long, said Tumuhimbise, that many Ugandans are too young to remember what he promised in his early years. That, he says, is why he had to write.

“When he was promising what he promised, I was four months old. I just found some of these things on record and tried to compile now what he promised, and ask my age-mates, ‘Is it this that he promised then that he is doing now?’ That’s what my book is all about,” said Tumuhimbise.

In recent years, many Ugandan authors who criticized the government in print have been harassed by the authorities here, or wound up under arrest.

Tumuhimbise was held and interrogated by police for 24 hours, and his home was searched. He was charged with publication of inflammatory matter and released on bail. A government spokesman says the book is “propaganda” that does not deserve to be read, but Tumuhimbise insists he did nothing wrong.

“There’s no law that bars anyone from writing a book in Uganda, as far as I know. My book does not incite people to come and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to the recruitment center and begin a rebellion.’ It talks about what this man was promising and what he has done wrong,” explained Tumuhimbise.

Earlier this week, the Ugandan parliament passed a tough new Public Order Management Bill, making it illegal for three or more people to discuss politics in public without informing police. Olive Kobusingye, sister of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, said this could well change the nature of political debate.

“I think and hope that people will maybe write more, read more, be less complacent about how things are done, and less accepting of their rights being taken away by a regime that is bent on doing that,” said Kobusingye.

Kobusingye’s own book, The Correct Line?, published three years ago in Britain, was impounded by Ugandan police when she tried to ship it into the country. She was forbidden to launch the book, and major bookstores turned it away.

But, she added, even before the new bill passed, writing was still a relatively safe way to criticize the government.

“You haven’t put your life at risk going on the street. All you’ve done is write ideas, and they are accessible to any and everybody that will pick up a book. And try as they might, the government is not going to find it very easy to push away these ideas. I can vanish today, and my ideas will be there,” he said.

Alternate forms of protest are nothing new in Uganda, Kobusingye points out. Singers have been working politics into their lyrics for years. But in light of the government’s recent crackdown on public demonstrations, she says, activism may well take a more literary turn.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid