I don't have the words to talk about what's happening in South Africa right now. These photos and these stories of the anti-immigrant violence are horrific.

I don't know what else to say.

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Uniting (belatedly) for GLBT human rights

I got an e-mail from the 27th Comrade today, berating me for taking this long to post my contribution to Bloggers Unite for Human Rights.

The truth is, in trying to find a single, compelling example of the violation of the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people on which to focus, I've been overwhelmed. I could revisit Martin Ssempa's anti-homosexuality rally or write about the lesbian football player who was murdered in South Africa earlier this month. I could talk about the discrimination British gay, lesbian and bisexual people feel they face or the parliamentarian in Israel who blamed gays for earthquakes. Today the president of Gambia "declared war" on the country's homosexuals, comparing them to "drug dealers, thieves and other criminals."

It's depressingly easy to find stories of discrimination against GLBT people. I don't — can't — understand how some find it acceptable to deny GLBT people the basic rights of humanity. I don't understand how some believe that being gay means that you are not longer human. It doesn't make sense to me, any more than rape or child abuse or decades of war.

So instead of focusing on the multitude of ways in which GLBT people have been denied their rights, which hasn't yet helped me to understand, I want to share several organizations that are fighting for them, including those of the estimated 500,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in Uganda. These organizations offer education, advocacy and support for the GLBT community worldwide:

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Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

Bloggers UniteBloggers Unite is urging bloggers worldwide to focus on human rights issues on May 15:
While the words might change from country to country and are sometimes taken for granted, human rights represent one of the universally agreed upon ideas — that all people are born with basic rights and freedoms that include life, liberty, and justice. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations.

Bloggers Unite For Human Rights challenges bloggers everywhere to help elevate human rights by drawing attention to the challenges and successes of human rights issues on May 15. What those topics may include — the wrongful imprisonment of journalists covering assemblies, governments that ignore the plight of citizens, and censorship of the Internet. What is important is that on one day, thousands of bloggers unite and share their unified support of human rights everywhere.

Amnesty International is co-sponsoring the event and has compiled a list of human rights priorities that can serve as starting points for a post. I'll be writing about gay and lesbian human rights. What about you?

Via John and Jasmine

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African short stories: Caine Prize shortlist

Earlier this week, the shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing was announced. The contenders:

If you're still looking for something to read for the 2008 Africa Reading Challenge, this might be a good place to start.


Journalist's "seer" gives him hot tips, protects him from arrest

Timothy Kalyegira, one of Uganda's most controversial journalists, has long set off my "crazy" radar. He's a vocal denier of the thousands of political murders perpetrated during Idi Amin's reign, for one. Even more strange: he's claimed for almost two years that he has access to a "seer" who predicts the future of African politics.

In today's Monitor he has an article titled Why I no longer fear President Museveni, in which he somehow manages to equate skepticism at the power of his fortune-telling friend to belief in Museveni's omnipotence and to declare that this "seer" has guaranteed him protection from censorship and arrest, all at once. Enjoy:

When I first wrote about the seer in July 2006, I was roundly criticised by my colleague Andrew Mwenda who recommended I check into a mental clinic, a view shared by Canadian journalist Murray Oliver of Canadian Television News and a fellow panellist on the then Andrew Mwenda Live show on Kfm.

The idea that there are greater powers than President Museveni in the universe over which he has no control is something most well educated people do not take seriously.

On December 16, 2007, a friend I had gone with to visit the seer asked what she thought was a troubled question. She asked the seer about me and how safe I was writing and on radio uttering all these sensitive things. Was I not in danger from the state, she asked?

Replied the seer, looking in my direction but avoiding eye contact: “That one? [me] They will not manage him!”
Which then leads me to a question once asked by Mwenda; how come we all write about Museveni, attack him and his policies, as you do, and you do it even more mercilessly, but you never get arrested, summoned to CID or police to record a statement, and in general seem to be immune to Museveni’s oppressive state machinery?

Good question. Over the slightest comment or news stories, news reporters, editors, and opposition politicians are whisked off to the police, many of them have been arrested and spent time in jail. But there is one person who somehow escapes all this. Why indeed?

The reasons are plain, as narrated above.

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Sort of news: govt. doesn't pay, Ugandans strike

Today's Monitor reported that medical workers and Makerere University professors are planning to strike, claiming the government has not paid them wages — a combined Ush40 billion for members of both groups. It would not be the first time either group has gone on strike:

  • Not another medics’ strike
    The medical workers are again threatening a strike because the government has delayed or failed to pay them their allowances.

    The chairman of Uganda Medical Workers Union Dr Sam Lyomoki told health workers at Mulago Hospital on Friday that the two-month ultimatum they had given to government was expiring and thereafter they will strike.

  • Lecturers to boycott Mak private students
    The non-payment of Shs10 billion in allowances to lecturers and anger over last year’s raid on a Shs5.7 billion staff pension fund have combined to fracture unity at Makerere University with about 1, 300 dons announcing they would abscond from teaching evening students effective next semester.

Bonus news: Ugandan People's Defense Force soldiers are withdrawing their savings from the UPDF-sponsored Wazelendo Savings and Credit Co-operative Society. The soldiers cite the institution's failure to send regular statements updating them on the status of their accounts as the reason for the withdrawal.