Uganda to censor HIV/AIDS information in effort to reverse prevalence rates.

Uganda is instituting a communications committee to streamline all HIV/AIDS information before dissemination to the public, a top official of the Uganda Aids Commission has revealed.

Vinand Nantulya, the commission’s chairman says uncoordinated and distorted behavioral change messages have been found to have hindered Uganda’s chances of maintaining a successful campaign against HIV/AIDS attained in the 90s.

Interacting with Journalists at a forum organized by Uganda Media HIV/AIDS Info, a local NGO that works to foster dissemination of HIV/AIDS information, Nantulya also appeared to fault international partners for the distorted behavioral messages.

“Our messages were simple and encouraging people to be faithful to their partners but the international community complicated it with ABC”

ABC is the internationally acclaimed model that combines abstinence, being faithful among partners or using Condoms.

The communications committee will coordinate stakeholders and ensure a uniform message is disseminated.

Uganda, previously held as a model in the fight against HIV/AIDS saw prevalence levels increase again since 2002 peaking at 7.3%. Policy makers point to uncoordinated messages as a key factor responsible for the rise. According to the commission, the country registered a 0.1% decrease last year.

At the same event, the new Director General of the commission, Dr. Christine Ondoa herself a former Health Minister noted that research had shown that high poverty levels are also undermining efforts against HIV/AIDS.

“Many youths indulge in unprotected sex with rich benefactors as a way out of poverty” she said, adding that continued economic empowerment and enlightenment of the youths is important.

Youth unemployment in Uganda stands at 80% and the economy posted less than 5% growth this year, according to most estimates.
But the availability of ARVs is also widely viewed as another factor contributing to increasing prevalence rates as people grow complacent.

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Uganda sets thanks giving day for anti-gay law.

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A thanks giving prayer ceremony is being organized in Uganda’s Capital, Kampala to commemorate the enactment of the Anti-Homosexual Law, which establishes tougher sentences for acts of homosexuality.

 Dr. James Nsaba Buturo, a former minister of Ethics and Integrity and a vocal anti-gay crusader is coordinating the event with the Chief Guest expected to be President Yoweri Museveni.

 “I am writing this letter on behalf of a coalition of all the leading religious and faith-based civil society organizations that seek to promote strong marriages, families and to protect future generations of Ugandans,” says Buturo in an invitation letter to “servants of the Lord.”

 “The purpose of the service is to thank God preserving our sovereignty as a nation on this matter”

 “We also wish to thank God for giving the President and the Parliament the courage and foresight to enact the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 which is compatible with our national motto, “For God and My Country”

 “We also wish to thank God for the high degree of unity that religious leaders and Ugandans have shown ever since the AHB was tabled in Parliament and later enacted into law”

 The prayers are slated for March 31, 2014 at the symbolic Kololo Independence Grounds where British colonial governors handed over power to the nation’s founding father, Dr. Apollo Milton Obote slightly half a century ago.

 The Anti-Homosexuality Act has attracted criticism since its signing in February with US President Barack Obama ordering aid cuts to Ugandan entities that are viewed as proponents of the anti-gay legislation. Other countries including Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway as well as the multilateral lender, World Bank have revised funding to Uganda.

 However, President Museveni’s government is defiant, insisting the legislation is important to protect Ugandans against gay promoters and recruiters.

 A group of human rights activists petitioned court this month seeking a repeal of the law saying it undermines the constitutional rights of individuals.

 LGBT activists have since the enactment of the law cited threats of violence against them including denial of amenities like house rentals on grounds of their sexuality.

 Uganda is a highly conservative country and the law has massive support among the population.

 

Kenya, Uganda and US plan Guantanamo-style prison on Migingo.

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A military prison may be built on the “contested” Migingo Island full with Court Martial akin to the infamous Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The plan, this writer has established, dates as far back as 2004 and involves Kenya, Uganda and the US.

Even as it seemed to the wider public that the spat over Migingo was a genuine boarder disagreement between Kenya and Uganda, the controversy surrounding Migingo is part of a meticulous plan by the three countries to transform the strategic Island into a prison to be used in the so-called fight against terror.

Apparently the countries have an interest in keeping the true location of Migingo ambiguous, giving them room to manouvre the anticipated legal challenges regarding detention and Jurisdiction.

According to the plan, building blocks habouring 1000 solitary confinement cells, 5 by 8 feet in measure are to be set up with an unnamed Halliburton (Halliburton has oil contracts in Western Uganda) subsidiary being the lead contractor. The works would involve reclaiming more land from the lake to cater for various security installations while advanced water security systems would be deployed.

American power at stake.

As the George W. Bush presidency eyed a second term, US officials were keen on ending the worldwide backlash caused by Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre and the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They sought to establish another facility – preferably in Africa where human rights issues receive less scrutiny.

Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni long the Pentagon’s man in the region seems to have agreed to the plan following consultations with his Kenyan counterpart, Mwai Kibaki who was in Kampala to attend the ninth COMESA Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government in June 2004.

But the calculus did not go their way.

Kibaki eying re-election for a second term had to delay the plans at least until after the elections to avoid a backlash. But plans were even delayed further as Kibaki emerged weakened by the 2007 post election violence. He also failed to follow through with his pledge largely because the then Prime Minister, Raila Odinga with whom he shared power was reluctant. Understandably, Migingo (if in Kenya) is in Nyanza Province – his political heartland. Indeed, Odinga instead drummed up Luo nationalism demanding that Uganda withdraws its officials from Migingo, effectively rendering the Migingo plan impossible.

It is Odinga’s perceived sabotage of the planned facility that prompted President Museveni to implicitly refer to him and his “Jaluo” tribesmen as mad, in an address at the University of Dar-es-salaam while on a visit to Tanzania in May 2009.

Terrorism and the Security Dilemma

But the need for the Migingo Prison regained relevance when in 2010, Somali Islamist group Al Shabab attacked Uganda killing 70 people. Suddenly, increased US presence in Eastern Africa was inevitable. The heightened security cooperation among countries saw Kenya arbitrarily extraditing several radicals and suspected Al-Shabab members to Uganda to face terrorism charges.

Yet both countries faced a key security dilemma on how and where to detain the radicals. Luzira Prison, currently Uganda’s most secure is too close to the Kampala Commercial District to house terrorists. Apart from fears that mobs seeking revenge might attack the suspects while on the way to the High Court (which is located in the Kampala CBD), there was a possibility that other terrorists could likely target suspects’ convoys in a bid to silence those in custody. This put security in a tricky position that the trials more or less stalled, not necessarily because the cases lack merit but transporting terrorists through the CBD proved a security nightmare.

In fact, security gurus in Kampala consider Luzira Prison untenable that government is contemplating a swap deal in which a private investor would take over Luzira land in exchange for constructing better, modern, spacious and conveniently located detention facilities. The Commissioner General of Prisons, Johnson Byabashaija told parliament last year that he had forwarded the plan to Cabinet.
Nairobi’s Kamiti and Industrial Prisons also presented the same dilemma.

Besides, cramping terrorists with regular criminals is a recipe for disaster. The terrorists often use Prisons as recruitment grounds.
All this justified the urgent need for the Migingo facility.

Another Kenya Spoiler

However, events in Kenya yet again took a different turn from what the US had expected. Following a long break of political uncertainty and US having counted on a Raila Odinga win, Uhuru Kenyatta emerged President resulting in the limited cooperation with the West due to ICC charges, hence compounding the delay by the US to move on the Migingo plan.

This writer understands that President Obama who used the “close Guantanamo” card to his electoral advantage knew about the Migingo plan, which is why he spoke with such confidence in 2008 – hoping that it would be salvaged with him at the White House and Raila Odinga at State House Nairobi.

But as things stand, the US seems to have resorted to other alternatives like releasing some prisoners that were planned for transfer to the “new Migingo Prison” most of them without being charged. Others are transferred to face charges in their home countries. An estimated 158 prisoners down from a high of nearly 800 when the plan was conceived are currently held at Guantanamo.

It is unclear if the project is still on the books but Ugandan Special Forces and police officers still administer Migingo Island and the Kenyan government has not raised any protests in recent years. Meanwhile, the work of the joint re-demarcation team instituted to mark the boarder in 2009 has since stalled although the two countries set up a Joint Permanent Commission this year, which among other things will streamline their borders. A separate Kenyan commission established in 2010 concluded that the Island belonged to Kenya. However, no move has been made since to reclaim the Island from Ugandan authority.

Uganda and Kenya are some of the top US military allies in Sub Saharan Africa along with Ethiopia and Djibouti. According to this 2012 report by the Washington Post http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-06-14/world/35462335_1_contractors-missions-central-african-republic, Uganda alone hosts a US airbase with a large fleet of PC-12 aircrafts used in surveillance operations in Central and Eastern Africa. The country’s Entebbe airport also has a fueling partnership with the Pentagon while several sites in the country are used as Strategic Bases, Forward Operating Sites and Contingency Security Locations as well as many other shared facilities. The US army also routinely trains Ugandan troops and conducts joint operations like those against the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Kenya, apart from hosting a US Naval base in Mombasa has over 100 US Commandos stationed at a Military Base in Manda Bay. The country, like Uganda also hosts Forward Operating Sites and all its Airports have fueling agreements with the US Military, according to a report by Tom Dispatch http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/09/us-military-bases-africa in 2013.

But relations between Kampala and Washington are not at their best since the signing in February of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Law by President Museveni despite fierce opposition by President Obama.

The posturing over the Anti-gay laws however seems to have no bearing on the long standing military relations as it emerged this week that Washington is sending more combat aircrafts and US special forces to join the UPDF hunt for Ugandan rebel leader, Joseph Kony.

Museveni’s legacy

On the domestic front, some sources this writer spoke to allude to the idea that President Museveni will not rest until the Migingo Prison is in place because it fits in his retirement plan. His government perpetually tainted by corruption and allegations of officials committing war crimes, President Museveni who has ruled for 28 years and is eying another five-year term in 2016 is gradually constructing his legacy around the fight against corruption and intends to leave a “clean” government in place.

“One pointer is his move to scrap bail for those he calls economic saboteurs”

“The hardcore corrupt officials will be banished and isolated in the maximum security Migingo Prison, if it comes into existence,” a source says, noting that he will not want them to destabilize his new kids on the block.

Apparently, Museveni hopes to hand over power to a new professional and well-educated class which he has been personally grooming using the magnanimous State House coffers for the last 20 years.

If true, President Museveni is likely to have revisited the Migingo Plan when he held talks with US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel and other Pentagon officials on his last visit to US in September last year.

In Secretary Hegel’s meeting room, President Museveni was quickly followed by Defence ministers – Denmark’s Nicolai Wammen, Italy’s Roberta Pinotti and Spain’s Dr. Pedro Morenes, all countries that can easily buy into the Migingo Plan given their history with Islamist radicals.

False hope as Makerere touts Research on Electric Cars.

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By Burite Joseph

Makerere University’s College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology has announced that it is procuring components for the “Kayoola Bus,” its highly taunted solution for Uganda’s public transport challenges to be launched in later this year, according to a report in the Daily Monitor.

This would be the University’s second project after they launched the Kiira EV 2 years ago, an Electric Car that has achieved little or no success in attracting commercial investment since.

Dons at the College of Engineering, Design, Arts and Technology believe their drive towards Electric cars will help avail alternatives for Gasoline engines.

But as the Dons touted their efforts, Coda Holdings Inc, parent of the electric-car maker, Coda which is backed by billionaire, Philip Falcone today filed for bankruptcy protection and sought to sell its assets in the US.

Coda’s bankruptcy is at least the third by an electric vehicle-related company in just over a year. A123 Systems Inc, a battery supplier to Fisker Automotive Inc., another California-based maker of electric cars, filed for bankruptcy in October. Ener1 Inc., also a maker of batteries for electric cars, entered bankruptcy in January 2012. The latter two received the US government cash-stimulus in 2010 but still failed in under two years.

Since beginning production in 2011, Coda reported sales of a miserable 78 units of its Coda Sedan in the US, a market of over 15mn units a year and estimated growth of 5.5%.

According to Bloomberg, the company’s Chief Restructuring Officer John P. Madden has said Coda was forced to seek bankruptcy protection because of production delays, insufficient capital to market and sell its sedan, and slow growth for the electric-vehicle market, which it blames on the scarcity of charging stations.

The latter element of Coda’s challenge should draw the attention of planners at Makerere, who are investing millions of Shillings into the research. Coda was not only among leading Hybrid Car makers, it also enjoyed access to a lucrative and developed markets like US and Europe.

Another industry leader, Fisker Automotive, maker of the Karma, a hundred-thousand-dollar electric-gas hybrid sports car, is itself reported in deep trouble. It’s laid off seventy-five per cent of its workforce, hasn’t produced a single car in nine months, and may well declare bankruptcy in the next couple of weeks.

Even though the College’s Principal Investigator, Prof Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa is keen on addressing the charging station challenge by adding an internal combustion engine to extend the range of drive, Uganda’s persistent power cuts and expensive alternatives make Electric Cars faintly suitable to the local market. The costs involved in production also make consumer prices of Electric cars prohibitive.

The world’s top-selling highway-capable all-electric cars is the Nissan Leaf, with global sales of more than 49,000 units through December 2012 since its launch in 2010.

But Nissan’s high-profile Chief Executive, Carlos Ghosn, perhaps the industry’s most outspoken proponent of battery cars recently announced a major strategic shift toward more mainstream gasoline-electric hybrids, which overcome many of the shortcomings of pure EVs.

Instead, Nissan plans to follow rival Toyota Motor Co, the world’s largest purveyor of hybrids, which now is poised to leapfrog pure EVs altogether to pursue what might be the next big green-tech breakthrough: pollution- and petroleum-free fuel-cell cars that convert hydrogen to electricity.

Overall, Worldwide sales of Electric cars stood at 120,000 unit sales, though analysts forecast sales could raise to 3.8 million to the year 2020. Compared to Gasoline Engine car sales of over 65 million cars a year.

Hence, the Electric Car, after more than 100 years of development and several brief revivals, still is not ready for prime time – and may never be. Makerere University would do this nation good if they diverted the millions of Shillings from Electric Cars, to perhaps researching on alternative fuels.

@BuriteJoseph

Uganda, Tullow Oil face charges over tax collusion.

Tullow Oil colluded with Uganda to extract tax from its former exploration partner Heritage Oil in pursuit of its own commercial gain, Heritage plans to prove in London’s High Court this week.

The case centres on over $400 million of capital gains tax demands made by the east African country’s government for a 2010 deal where Heritage sold its oil licences there to Tullow for $1.45 billion.

Tullow says it had no choice but to pay the tax on Heritage’s behalf, and brought the case against the smaller company to recover its money. Heritage says Tullow helped Uganda formulate the tax claim, which it disputes, in order to keep the government sweet, and claims it is owed payment instead.

The legal battle shines a light on the highly politicised and risky nature of doing business at new resource frontiers. It also tests the tightrope governments walk between securing a fair share of the bounty and scaring off investment.

The money involved is enough to buy almost half of loss-making Heritage, and would fund several months of exploration drilling for Tullow. It is equivalent to over three years of economic growth for Uganda at the current rate of 0.7 percent on annual gross domestic product of about $17 billion.

“From early in 2010, Tullow was engaged in discussions of a questionable nature with Ugandan government officials,” Heritage’s lawyer Khawar Qureshi told the court of Mr Justice Burton in his opening statement on Tuesday.

“The collusion took several forms. It was continuous and extensive”, he said, “…and all behind the back of Heritage”.

Tullow’s lawyer David Wolfson on Tuesday called the Heritage position alleging collusion “creative, but incorrect” and said his case would hinge on showing that advice on Ugandan law that Tullow should pay up was “honestly held”.

Heritage, whose chief executive Tony Buckingham once provided mercenary fighters in Africa when he was a partner in the military contracting firm Executive Outcomes, is pursuing a separate legal dispute with the Ugandan government.

Heritage argues that no tax is due on the transaction, which brought an end to its operations there.

Tullow, which has grown rapidly in recent years and carved a niche as an African oil exploration specialist, has big ambitions in Uganda and has opened it up to some of the top players of the international oil industry.

When the original $1.45 billion asset sale was concluded, and with Heritage’s agreement in the aftermath of the $405 million tax demand, Tullow paid the Ugandan Revenue Authority (URA) $121.5 million, in compliance with Ugandan tax rules which require a one-third payment before any challenge can be mounted. It put the outstanding $283.5 million of the tax demand into an escrow account pending the outcome of Heritage’s challenge, and paid what was left, $1.045 billion, to Heritage.

Then, in 2011, Tullow complied with another URA demand for a further $313.5 million payment, an amount which included the balance of the original tax demand, plus an extra $30 million which the URA had added to the bill.

The second payment was made a fortnight before the signing of a deal that brought top international oil company Total and Chinese national oil group CNOOC into partnership with Tullow in Uganda.

The Total-CNOOC transaction netted Tullow $2.9 billion in a farm-down arrangement sanctioned by the government. Heritage claims Tullow was motivated to pay the $313 million by its ambitions in the country, and by the desire to help this deal go through.

Tullow says it had no choice but to pay the second tax demand sum, and having now paid out a total of $1.718 billion for an asset that was initially priced at $1.45 billion, it is suing Heritage for breach of contract for not paying back the difference.

Wolfson noted that the second tax demand, made on March 15 2011, was due by early April, and attached to a monthly interest rate of 2 percent until it was paid.

Wolfson plans to bring a number of witnesses including Graham Martin, Tullow’s general counsel and an executive director of the company, Richard Inch, Tullow’s head of tax, and Peter Kabatsi, managing partner of Tullow’s Ugandan lawyers, Kampala Associated Advocates.

Kabatsi is also the former solicitor general of Uganda and serves as a panel member of the International Criminal Court.

Heritage’s main witness in the trial, which the judge said could run for the next two weeks, will be Paul Atherton, Heritage’s finance director.

Source: Reuters.

The Five Questions Museveni did not answer in his Daily Monitor rebuttal.

1. What did he actually say at Kyankwanzi that people misinterpreted for coup-talk?

2. What did he actually mean by what he said and why did Aronda and several other Generals jump on to it like it was genuine?

3. Father and son talk, can he confirm Muhoozi is not interested in succeeding him?

4. In spite of Saleh’s drinking problem,  what does he think of his Presidential ambitions?

5. Why can’t he be direct and tell Ugandans that we need a very strong army to survive in a region as insane as the Great Lakes Region?