Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Uganda's arrest of writer Nzaramba exposes a frightened regime

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

The arrest of political activist cum blogger, Vincent Nzaramba on September 17 over a book became the first classic social media victim in Uganda's history.

Vincent Nzaramba a hitherto an unknown Ugandan blogger is a young man of a humble background. At the age of 28, he had not completed his ordinary level of education which average Ugandan children finish at 17.  On his blog, Nzaramba says his hope for acquiring education almost came to a halt in 1993 when he was  a year away to finish his Ordinary level of education. By then his parents (his father is a cleric perhaps with little means of finance) had financial challenges and because of this Nzaramba could not continue his education. But luck was on Nzaramba's side when he made it to Makerere University, Uganda’s oldest and most prestigious higher institution of learning, in 2006 from where he graduated with a B.A in Education. However, before he could do his “first exams” at the university something strange happened. Makerere University was closed. Nzaramba was pained.

“I was so annoyed and wondered why student leaders failed to harmonize the situation. I made a decision never to keep quiet in the face of conflict and on the day of the University closure or the next day I made a call on K-FM a local radio station which had hosted the University management and gave my view of how I think the situation must have been handled and how it should be handle,” he says in his blog profile. These thoughts changed Nzaramba’s outlook on the management of his country.

Nzaramba grew up in the slums of Mulago, dropped out of school in 1993 and bounced back 2002 and in 2006 made it to Makerere University. 

Nzaramba professes to be opposed to oppression, dictatorships, and genocide. It is perhaps this that moved him to join student politics while at school. Even after school he did not relent. Nzaramba has written a book, People Power: Battle the Mighty General. The book seemed to have annoyed many in the ruling National Resistance Movement regime so that he was arrested.

According to a statement from Nzaramba’s family on September 17 Uganda’s security operatives arrested Nzaramba. His crime, according to the police, is inciting the public through the contents of his book. Nzaramba is said to be a political blog activist unhappy with the way his country is being managed and he chose to pen down his thoughts which unfortunately the regime thinks are unfit for public consumption. Last year a book by Dr Olive Kobusingye (The Corrent Line? Uganda under Museveni) was seized by Ugandan authorities for it was deemed to be too critical of the regime. Kobusingye is a sister to President Museveni's main political opponent Dr Kizza Besigye. But an online copy of Nzaramba's 68 page book doesn't compare to Dr Kobungye's book. It seems the regime never learns from its mistakes. Government spokeswoman Mary Karoro Okurut says it was a mistake by police to arrest Nzaramba because this will earn free publicity to the book.

The book, People Power, hints on the events in the Arab countries where citizens there have used their power to overthrow their governments accusing them of dictatorial tendencies. Uganda fears the same. In April there were food prices protests dabbed Walk to Work that exposed the government brutality toward opposition. Nzaramba had posted his book online highlighting the use of non-violent means of struggle on dictatorships.

Although remotely linked, Nzaramba’s case is the first social media arrest in Uganda’s history of blogging. During the Walk to Work protests the government attempted to block social media sites like facebook, twitter, etc for fear spreading hate speech against the regime. Following Nzaramba’s arrest local social media users fear a severe clamp down. “If a book can get blogger activist Vicent Nzaramba in military detention, can we expect agents to start detaining twitter users?” a friend wondered.

1 comment:

  1. Rosebell Idaltu Kagumire via facebook21 September 2011 at 00:44

    i think it's not just social media but the book was seen more as a threat than his postings. #justguessing