Friday, 16 June 2017

Most harvest-money calculations in Uganda's media are Confusing

The Uganda mainstream media reports on agriculture should do the farming money (profits) calculations carefully. Refer to this…/689860-2289088-qknjo5z/index.html 

That story alleges that in an acre one can plant 1000 Robusta coffee trees and that's the base for the profit calculations in the story. This is not true. 

According to Uganda Coffee Development Authority the recommended spacing for Robusta coffee is 3metres by 3metres therefore an acre will have 450 plants if a farmer follows the recommended plant spacing. 

For Arabica coffee recommended spacing is 2.5metres x2.5metres giving 680 plants per acre. So inaccurate acreage information passed to the public was that an "acre of 1000 robusta coffee trees can yield 8000kg per year"; something so exaggerated. 

Coffee in Uganda is largely grown by small scale farmers who are not employing better agricultural practices; this in turn affects the yield. On average these farmers harvest 2kg per tree.

The habit of newspaper throwing out "harvest money calculations" should be triple-checked. Otherwise most of the amounts of money presented is usually out of touch and outrageous.

In the end, this creates false hope in minds of people who look at agriculture as a business venture, and eventually, disillusionment when they fail to get anywhere near the amount of money they read in the newspaper agriculture columns.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Understanding the fall armyworm attacking Uganda farmers

Farmers in over 60 districts of Uganda are struggling to contain the (American) fall armyworm pest which has inflicted considerable destruction on one of the most grown crops, maize. But it appears this is just one part of the story if the fall armyworm is not eradicated soon, the loss will go beyond maize. There are two types of armyworms, the African and the American.

Here is a simple description of one researcher: "The African armyworm, Spodoptera exempta is endemic in most of Africa including Uganda. The (American) fall armyworm is scientifically named Spodoptera frugiperda. This is the armyworm affecting a number of countries in Africa including various districts in Uganda. The African armyworm has been reported to affect sorghum, sugarcane, millet, rice, maize, barley, oats, wheat and ginger. However, the fall armyworm has even a wider host range. In addition to those, affected by the African armyworm, it also feeds on cotton, millet, groundnut, soybean, tobacco, orange, pawpaw and a number of flowers."

Some scientists say the fall armyworm can have 10 to 12 cycles and one can lay between 50 and 300 eggs under a host plant leaf. In warm temperature the fall armyworm takes only 30 days to develop from egg to adult. 

It is said the fall armyworm is a migratory pest therefore one may not do much to prevent its entry into any area. The only solution is to eradicate it. How we are performing on this front is another story.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Uganda government should double its efforts to fight the maize army worm

The fall army worm is a threat to food security in Uganda and the East African region at large. The army worm, which was first reported in Southern African countries, has spread to Rwanda and Kenya. 
This worm does not just attack and destroy maize alone it also attacks millet, sorghum and sugarcane. To make the already bleak food situation in the country worse the army worm is proving resistant to available pesticides. 

According to Uganda's Ministry of Agriculture our farmers in their largely subsistence efforts have been producing 4 million tonnes of maize annually. But because of the army worm destruction which is reported in over 60 districts, there will be reduced production of maize in the country. 

By end of April 2017, according to the commissioner of crop production in the Ministry of Agriculture, the farmers have already lost 15% of this year's maize production to the fall army worm. This 15% loss does not include the losses maize farmers in some parts of the country have incurred due to crop failure resulting from drought. 

This means the price of maize flour which is a staple food for many Ugandans and schools will double as supply will reduce. The efforts to fight the army worm should be doubled otherwise we are headed for a serious food insecurity crisis. The hallmarks of this crisis are already manifested in areas like Katakwi and Isingiro districts which are receiving food handouts. The time to walk the talk is now .

Friday, 17 February 2017

Rwenzori conflict: Break the silence about the Bwesumbu beatings and arrests

As the people of Rwenzori are trying to heal from the the November 27, 2016 Rwenzururu palace attack, fear is griping the communities. The fear and tension emanate from search and cordon operations conducted by Uganda security personnel.

On Tuesday 14 February 2017, residents of Bwesumbu subcounty (Kasese district) were left in shock as security operatives stormed the villages in the area hunting for suspected members of the Rwenzururu royal guards who are said to have failed to heed the ultimatum to surrender to government of Uganda.

It's reported that in the process, there was massive beatings and arrests of people in Bwesumbu, Kabatunda and surrounding areas by security operatives who were allegedly searching for guns lost during the November 26, 2016 attack on a police post in this area.

According to eye witnesses, a team of army and police personnel mobbed up the areas in the mountainous Bwesumbu sucounty, Kasese district, beating up whoever they suspected and arrested a good number of locals.

The security operatives were reportedly being guided by a  resident only identified as "Kibido". The Bwesumbu LC3 chairman, Samson Bagenda, said he has already talked to the area UPDF commander to work with local leaders to "solve" the challenge.

"These operations usually happen when I'm away; I wonder why," says Bagenda who is on a study leave.

This indiscriminate operation which involves cordon and search can be likened to a fishing method known as "kayora" which means no discrimination against mature and immature fish.

While security operatives should do their constitutionally enshrined mandate of protecting the country, they should be mindful of the rights of those they seek to arrest and interrogate.

This kayora sort of operation is creating fear in the population. This may further increase the feeling among the mountain people that they are being persecuted.

Among the innocent people caught up this operation beatings was a university student who was on a holiday break. Another victim was woman only identified as Sylvia who was also reported to have been badly beaten.

This method of arresting where the suspects are tortured in presence of their loved ones is dehumanizing and demeaning to say the very least. Even in absence of their loved ones, no one should be beaten or tortured with the aim of extracting information from them. This behaviour is creating fear in the community.

Two, the security operatives should be aware of local and petty rivalries within communities where some elements will always want to take advantage of the fragile situation to frame innocent people just to settle scores.
This is not to say wrong elements in society should be left to roam around and cause havoc.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Rwenzururu king freed on bail as loyalists remain jailed

Rwenzururu cultural leader, Charles W. Mumbere Iremangoma was granted bail on February 6 by Uganda's High Court sitting in the eastern town of Jinja.

Mumbere had been arrested on November 27, 2016 after the Uganda security forces stormed his palace and killed over 100 suspected loyalists. This was after the king had allegedly defied an order by President Yoweri Museveni to disband hundreds of royal guards who had been in the palace. Mumbere was arrested with over 140 loyalists who include his prime minister, cooks, juveniles, drivers, etc.

Photo by Chimp Reports
Uganda security forces' attack on the Rwenzururu palace was condemned as having been excessive force.

Mumbere was released on a non-cash bail of Shs100 million (about $27,400).

 In mid January, Mumbere had been granted bail by the same court only to be re-arrested within the court precincts by the Uganda security officers on fresh charges of alleged robbery, terrorism and attempted murder.

The February 6 bail therefore was a sigh of relief for hundreds of thousands of Mumbere's subjects in the Rwenzori mountains, in Western Uganda.

But, the excitement about Mumbere's release on bail was short-lived as his subjects understood his bail conditions. The bail conditions seemed to state that Mumbere was changing from a government prison to "house arrest" of sorts.

He cannot travel to Rwenzori sub region, where his kingdom is based, unless courts of law allow him. He will only freely travel within Kampala, Wakiso and Jinja districts under the watchful eye of Uganda security personnel.

Only close family members, lawyers and doctors of Mumbere can visit him at his house. Others who wish to visit the traditional leader have to seek permission of the Uganda police.

Some people have been asking about the fate of the loyalists arrested together with Mumbere. The officials of Rwenzururu cultural institution say their first target was to secure the release of the king and later the arrested loyalists.

Behind the scenes meetings and negations are taking place to have the loyalists released out of Kirinya Prison.

We can hope that people of Rwenzori can intensify the healing and reconciliation process to guarantee lasting peace in the region.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Inside Museveni's first meeting with Rwenzururu delegation after palace attack

Was Omusinga misled by some of his officials? His brother, Christopher Kibanzanga, thinks so.

Rwenzururu kingdom minister, Thembo Kitsumbire, has been arrested. This comes after a week Kitsumbire told the press that Obusinga (kingdom) officials had met with President Museveni. 

Days after the deadly November 27 attack on Omusing [king] a Charles W. Mumbere Iremangoma's Kasese palace, President Yoweri Museveni met a group of 23 elders from Rwenzururu kingdom. After the palace raid, Mumbere was arrested and he has since been charged with treason, terrorism, murder, attempted murder and aggravated robbery together with 150 kingdom subjects.

So, this Rwenzururu delegation was meeting the president as a dejected people. The delegation included 10 Rwenzururu veterans (elderly; the guys who fought for Bakonzo freedom from Toro kingdom), 10 "insiders" of Rwenzururu kingdom, Christopher Taban Kibanzanga, Christine Mukirania (Nyamukama, mother of Iremangoma) and J. Thembo Kitsumbire, until then the acting premier of the cultural institution.

Note that Kibanzanga is a minister of state for agriculture in Museveni's government. He is also a chief prince (whatever that means) in Rwenzururu kingdom.

One of the men paraded to the media by Uganda security as they combed Rwenzori mountains for suspected criminals after the raid on Obusinga palace in Kasese

The 23 people of Rwenzururu met President Museveni at State House, Entebbe. They arrived at a time when Museveni was having a series of meetings with other groups, so they had to wait for their turn. Anyone who has ever been at Uganda's state house to meet President Museveni knows what it means to wait to meet him. Museveni is always a busy man, so waiting for your turn to see him face to face can take several hours of waiting. 

As the Rwenzururu group waited, a meal was served. According to sources majority of these people refused the presidential meal save for Kibanzanga and his mother, Christine. This was around lunch time. 

The presidential meeting came on the heels of a horrible raid on Rwenzururu palace in which over 100 people died and 16 police officers. So the mood was charged. The Rwenzururu delegation could be said to have been in the mood of fear and anger after the killings at the palace by Uganda security forces. 

Official reasons the Museveni government has given for the attack on the palace is failure for Mumbere Iremangoma to disband traditional royal guards and surrender the guards suspected of having committed crimes. The Uganda government had advised the king that it was illegal to rise hundreds of guards as these were being viewed at as a militia by some government officials. 

However, Rwenzururu officials say the time for palace raid coincided with the time when the king had just agreed to surrender the guards. And the king was reportedly waiting for safe passage of guards to government representatives.

Back at State House, Entebbe president Museveni was still holed up in meetings. The Rwenzururu delegation kept waiting. Dinner was served. The Rwenzururu group was again skeptical eating the state house meal except Kibanzanga and his mother. 

As a way of trying to diffuse the embarrassment, Kibanzanga advised the Rwenzururu delegation to go eat from the table that had been organized for the a group from Gulu that had also come to meet the President.

Later, the Rwenzururu delegation was led into the meeting room. After exchanging pleasantries, Museveni asked Kibanzanga to be the language interpreter. The meeting started with Museveni ordering Kitsumbire to explain what he had agreed upon with him and the Rwenzururu delegation in the February 2016 meeting. 

Apparently in that February meeting, it had been agreed that Iremangoma gets land and develops it for self sustenance of his family. Shs250 million was provided for the purchase of this land. In the same meeting it had also been agreed that Omusinga keeps only 45 royal guards where 9 would be stationed in the palace to assist in cooking and doing the traditional rituals that the UPDF royal guards would not perform.The other guards would be at cultural sites and subcounties performing cultural duties.To execute this plan, Museveni had offered to have the 45 guards trained by the UPDF and they would be paid a salary by government, sources say.

This was not enough, the remaining royal guards would be disbanded and given a package of Shs2.5 million each by government to begin their reintegration back into the community. The Rwenzururu veterans would be incorporated into the existing national veteran schemes.

So, Museveni asked whether any of this was done? Kitsumbire replied in the negative and claimed part of the Shs250 million was used to buy boots for the traditional royal guards.
Some members of the (23-elders) Rwenzururu delegation were shocked because they were hearing this February meeting resolutions for the first time. 

Museveni was not done yet. He reportedly asked how many delegations he had sent to Obusinga to remind the leaders of the cultural institution of the urgent need to disband the royal guards that had become a security concern and the response they got. One particular response that Kitsumbire gave to one of the State House emissaries to Obusinga was: "tell the president that cultural matters are handled slowly" so no need to pressure us. Kitsumbire attempted to deny this allegation but was subdued when a soldier whom he reportedly told this was brought in the meeting room to quote Kitsumbire's retort verbatim.

The president read out Article 208(4) from the constitution which gives power to rise an army to the government of Uganda alone not any other person.
 [ No person shall raise an armed force except in accordance with this Constitution.]

Those who wish to rise private security, have to get a license from government authorities. Obusinga had not registered the royal guards as a private security (company) as required by Uganda's laws. 

According sources, during the meeting, Museveni said he was aware the delegation would wish to ask him to release the king but he said the matter of the king was being handled by the judiciary which is an independent organ of state. He reportedly said it is the court to determine whether Mumbere should be released or not. Remember, there has been a section of the public that has been calling for unconditional release of the king.

In all, the president asked the elders to go back to the community and preach peace. The Rwenzururu delegation left state house Entebbe, with an allowance of Shs750,000 each. Sources say some members of the delegation rejected the allowance.

From this meeting some Rwenzururu officials said to have been kept in the dark of the February offer the president had promised if the guards were disbanded. They were angry. 

After that presidential meeting, there was an announcement that Kitsumbire was not the prime minister of Rwenzururu instead the deputy prime minister Yeremia Mutoro was announced as the acting prime minister and would steer the kingdom affairs until the king returns to the palace.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Rwenzori Attacks: Mumbere remanded, Bwesumbu killings

Rwenzururu king (Omusinga) Charles Mumbere Iremangoma has been remanded to Luzira Prison until December 28, 2016. Mumbere was arrested on November 27, 2016 following a raid on his palace in Kasese by Uganda security forces. This was after Mumbere allegedly defied a presidential order to disband traditional royal guards.

The story most people are hearing and talking about is that of November 27 when the palace of Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu was raided and tens of suspected traditional guards killed by gun bullets and others by grenades. Yet a mountainous area of Bwesumbu too felt the pain of these senseless killings on November 26.

Was/is it a crime to be a royal guard? Were all royal guards criminals as it is being alleged? By the way, who are royal guards? Is there an element of indiscriminate killing? Should royal guards be killed without trial? How about the innocent civilians caught up in this? Why would locals armed with sticks, knives, machetes attack police posts? Is everyone arrested a royal guard? When will they be in court?

The build up to Omusinga Mumbere’s arrest had been epitomized in the killing of eight royal guards at the kingdom’s administrative offices in Kasese town on November 26. The news of the shooting dead of eight guards spread across the Rwenzori region and the rest of Uganda. Soon there were attacks on police posts in Maliba, Bwesumbu and other parts of Kasese district.

Administrative building of Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu where eight guards were killed.
Kyatoka trading centre in Kasese district is home to Bwesumbu subcounty head office and a police post. At 2pm on November 26, 2016 the police post was attacked by machete wielding men. The gun fire from police officers who defended themselves against the attackers caused panic in the area. A motorcycle taxi operator (boda-boda rider) and a shop keeper in this trading centre were hit by bullets. The boda rider died later in hospital and the shopkeeper is nursing gunshot wounds.

Kyatoka has a primary school and an SDA church in the vicinity. That Saturday the fight between Uganda police officers and a group of machete armed attackers found some church members praying and conducting a fundraising drive. These church goers, according to the Bwesumbu subcounty LC3 chairman, Bagenda Samson, ran away from the shootout to the next trading centre named Kamwani, which acted a refuge. 

By the time the guns and mechetes went silent at least 26 people (what the LC3 chairman calls attackers) had been killed and four police officers killed in mountainous Bwesumbu subcounty alone. The officer in charge of this police post was cut in the head and is hospitalized, says Bagenda. 

There have been reports that some church goers were killed during this shootout but Bagenda denies this. “Most of the people killed were attacking the police post. We identified them. They were residents of this subcounty. The bodies of these attackers were not taken to Kasese town morgue. Their relatives picked the bodies and buried them.”

Buhikira royal palace attacked Nov. 27
In Katebwa 1 Village a young woman who was working in the palace was killed and was quietly buried. She was not a royal guard. In the neighbouring village of Butyoka another girl who was a maid in the palace also lost her life during this attack. In the village of Kinyampanika another young man was buried and he too just like tens of others was killed during the Rwenzururu palace attack. He was a royal guard. All these three villages are in the mountainous areas of Kabarole district. 

Note that; the Bakonzo live on the slopes of Mt Rwenzori which runs through Kasese, Kabarole, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo districts. This partly explains why a security operation that began in Karangura Subcounty in Kabarole district on November 24, 2016 to flash out the suspected “Kilhumira Mutima” gang (which Uganda security forces link to Obusinga royal guards) ended up in Kasese district. 

Therefore, this violence should not be looked at as a Kasese conflict; it's a Rwenzori region issue. Secondly, there seems to be a deliberate effort to portray the picture that all people killed in recent Kasese attacks were royal guards and that the public should believe that each royal guard was a criminal. This is absurd.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, so they say.

Writing in the New Vision newspaper of December 13, 2016 (under the title: Why no one should dare attack security forces), Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said “…attacking the state is treasonable because then you are attacking the sanctity of the people and legitimate leaders of that state…There can never be a state within a state –meaning that you cannot have two armies or two police forces…what we were beginning to see in Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu was emergence of such and it had to be stopped.”

The signs of this confrontation were already visible in Rwenzori region since 2012. A community development officer in Kasese district summed up this tension as: Rivalry between Obusinga royal guards and Uganda security forces could explain the crisis in Rwenzori. The guards were recruited and somehow there was a break down in their chain of command. “At one point the guards felt they had more powers than the Uganda Police officers and they would sometimes interfere in the work of police. The elements in police could not take that. Soon clashes began.”

Moving forward, there is need to spell out what cultural institutions need to do and what they cannot do. Keep politics out the violence in Rwenzori. Guns, spears, machetes, knives, clubs, will not yield a lasting solution to violence recently witnessed in Rwenzori. Dialogue, preaching peace, mindset change among people of Rwenzori are the best options to deal with the crisis unfolding the region. Why mind set change? People are being told lots of lies about Obusinga and the central government. For instance, educate the masses about the role of cultural institutions and government, encourage people should be law abiding. Preaching peace and reconciliation begins in our families, clan meetings then community. Those in leadership positions should approach this crisis with an open mind. Respect human rights. Respect life.