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.
    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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora