national security starts with you and I

Uganda Police LogoABOUT five years ago, in the thick of the night, I was on my verandah thinking things through with the help of a well-formulated tonic and generally being alert when I spotted some movement on the road outside.

Focusing my sights through the wall railings, I watched as someone lithe and quick slithered over my neighbour’s wall and went over silently using the method of an athletic high jumper.

I was only alarmed for a few seconds, during which I worked through my options and then whipped out my phone to call the Police. I had the number of our local police station and the direct line of the Officer in Charge (OC) there, as I normally walk over to collect such details when I move into a new neighbourhood.

The station number went through and I quickly reported that I had probably witnessed a possible burglary or robbery either starting or in progress, and gave them directions to the location. Jittery about the likely response time, I tried another number to escalate the issue then walked up to my night guard to work out a plan – just in case we needed to be heroic in some way.

We were still whispering about it a few minutes later when there was a light tap at the gate. Our astonishment at opening to find the police right there only increased when we found that they had not only arrived stealthily but had spread out along our road in some formation I cannot describe.

The commander of the operation explained that they had sneaked up in order not to alert anyone to their presence, and had parked their vehicle a distance away. He asked for more details all in very hushed tones. I explained myself and insisted on going over to the house with them – in the unlikely event that my eyesight had played night-time tricks on me.

When we got to my neighbour’s gate I started to recall that I had heard a little hooting there at the time I was walking to where my askari normally ‘takes cover’. I also recalled seeing the lights of a car driving down in that direction.

It took a while for the gate to open up but eventually the askari opened up and reluctantly went off to call his employer, my bemused neighbour, who did not appreciate being woken at that hour. I explained myself to him and insisted that he allow a search of the premises just in case the person I had seen was hiding somewhere waiting to strike.

The reluctant askari seemed to be against the idea but we prevailed and the police gained access and conducted a search. They found nothing amiss and no-one of interest. My neighbour was quite perturbed but humoured us enough to allow a second search rousing everyone in the household.

That was when his wife expressed surprise since she had just returned home a short while before that, hence the hooting I had heard.

During that time I realised that this particular neighbour was the only one of the houses around me whose phone number I did not have. I had the contact numbers of all the others, and have had to call them on occasion for things other than to borrow sugar and salt.

Eventually, we worked out that the person I had spotted going over the wall was my neighbour’s askari. It turned out that he had a habit of going for drinks at a nearby kafunda after his employers had retired to bed. This night, his employer (the wife) had stayed out uncharacteristically late but the askari spotted her vehicle from his kafunda and sprinted back to the house.

He arrived a little too late, finding her already hooting at the gate, and took the athletic route over the wall. He deservedly joined the unemployed shortly thereafter, and I added my neighbour’s contact details to my database.

We discussed how badly things could have gone if indeed the person I had spotted had been a burglar or worse, and how my not having my neighbour’s contact details would have caused me great regret forever after.

Right there, at that late hour of the night, we also discussed how impressed we were with the police, as I neither had to invoke any big names nor provide fuel for whatever vehicle they were using. Some of them had even trotted over on foot from their night patrol, I later realised. I applaud those men and women in uniform whenever I get the chance because it can’t be easy to spend nights doing this day in, day out.

Our neighbourhood or community watch has since developed into an institution working closely with the police and local council structures. The recent incidents of highly visible insecurity have triggered off an increase in community policing efforts that we should all take seriously.

In our neighbourhood, we’ve resolved to step up our community policing or neighbourhood watch efforts, starting with information sharing and keeping in touch with each other as neighbours.

We know that crime will not be stopped entirely, but it can be decreased significantly. If we are more alert as citizens and neighbours.

We are the first line of our own security.

Pierre Nkurunziza: the man of ironies could learn something from Yoweri Museveni

Nkurunziza from

BURUNDI’S Pierre Nkurunziza is a man of ironies.
His political party is called the National Council for the Defense of Democracy, but he is right now caught in the headlights of accusations that his election to a third term of office is most undemocratic – even though Burundi’s Constitutional Court ruled that he was within his legal rights to stand for another term.
Before being appointed President he was even Minister for Good Governance in the transitional government there, but today his adherence to governance principles is being held questionable.
For a sports enthusiast who normally shows up on public kitted out in colourful track suits and who’s a common figure on public soccer pitches playing footie, it was weird last year to hear that Nkurunziza had banned jogging because of security risks associated to the exercise.
Indeed, after the announcement, opposition members from the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) were jailed for jogging, as their run had reportedly turned into a political demonstration.
And the chatter in Kampala when it was announced that the mediation over Nkurunziza’s third term deadlock would be run by Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, was that it most most ironic because of the number of terms Museveni himself has served as President.
For Museveni, though, Burundi presents more nostalgia than irony, and as he arrived in Bujumbura for the talks, he might have either felt a small twinge of it or triggered some in Burundians.
The nostalgia of the Barundi must lie in the number of Presidents they’ve received at Bujumbura airport since the mid-90s to mediate in political conflict there. Counting from the top, they’ve hosted Presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (all more than once).
Museveni’s own nostalgia, on the other hand, is not over the political battle he faced when he stood for the Presidency in 2006 and in 2011, as all indications are that he will be on the ballot paper again in Uganda come 2016.
Instead, it must be linked to the number of times he has been at the helm of mediations for peace in Burundi – which goes back about twenty years when, at the behest of Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Museveni got Burundi’s Sylvestre Ntibantunganya to reach a settlement with his opposition that settled tensions for a few weeks before it fell apart again.
In the years following that, Museveni featured starkly in the negotiations, pushing a hard line that eventually swept away the more radical players accused of genodical tendencies, and those labelled coup plotters.
Back then the Tanzanians took lead in managing the peace process mostly because they found themselves hosting heavy flows of refugees that had crossed the border, as well as funding a large deployment of Tanzanian military personnel to secure said borders so the violence didn’t follow the refugees.
Museveni, though, always at Nyerere’s side in the mediation continuously spoke of the need for Burundi to be settled in order for regional cooperation to become a reality, since Rwanda had been sorted out – cutting his teeth further as a regional leader.
The opportunity was the first in which African leaders took full charge of resolving a conflict on the continent, which also gave Museveni a further boost to his anti-imperial ideologies.
Since then, he has been central in conflict resolution in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Somalia and now, again, in Burundi.
This time round, though, the concerns Museveni faces are much greater in number and scope.
To start with, the reasons for the conflict in Burundi are too close to home – just months to national elections in Uganda, political upheaval over a tussle for the presidency is the last thing Museveni and many other Ugandans  would want to see, after all these years of relative calm.
The closest to civil upheaval Uganda has seen in the capital city came in 2011 after the national elections, when opposition politicians launched a volley of demonstrations veiled as attempts to “walk to work” because, they argued, economic conditions were so bad they couldn’t afford fuel. Ironically, like Nkurunziza, the protests threatened to make the economy worse by paralysing business in the city centre.
The government clamped down hard on the “walks”, deploying squads of anti-riot police with water cannons and tear gas canisters, while frequently jailing demonstration leaders. The message was clear – the sight of demonstrators on the streets was unwelcome, especially so soon after North Africa had hosted so many to the detriment of the countries themselves.
When Nkurunziza left Burundi in May for crisis talks in Tanzania demonstrations broke out on Bujumbura’s streets leading to the attempted coup or coup announcement.
The glee with which the opposition in Uganda received the news of his toppling was worrying enough for any sitting President to be concerned.
Allowing any opposition leaders or groups of youths to casually exhibit a sustained defiance to leadership would be highly problematic for Uganda, where the population of the youth is a sometimes scary 70%.
If Nkurunziza needed to be removed, it had to be through peaceful, regularised means otherwise there was a chance that the ghosts of the Arab Spring would return to wreak havoc.
Luckily, Nkurunziza returned and restored himself into the seat but shortly thereafter noises were made about Rwanda possibly being involved in the attempt to remove him.
Museveni was keen to put a stop to those noises as a priority, otherwise East African Cooperation would suffer.
Besides the political worries, Museveni is also keenly aware of the dominoes of instability caused by the combination of conflict and refugees from Burundi through Rwanda and Tanzania into Uganda, which even now probably hosts the largest number of refugees in East and Central Africa – close to 500,000 of them from every other country.
And, most importantly, Burundi is a good opportunity for Museveni to emphasize the importance of his philosophy that African countries must first settle security issues before tackling democracy and their economies – quite distinct from some views that democracy should always come first.
As he quipped about Somalia a few weeks ago: “If you say defence is not connected to agriculture, then I invite you to start a coffee farm in Somalia.”
Whereas Museveni’s mediation in Burundi was focussed on a political solution, the defence and security angle was so central that when he left Bujumbura his assigned placeholder was Uganda’s Defence Minister, Crispus Kiyonga.
Nkurunziza did not need a veiled message from Uganda about what would happen if war broke out afresh today. He knows first hand how adept Uganda is at deploying troops and holding ground more than two borders away from their own, as Burundi has run peacekeeping operations side by side with Uganda under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The disputed election has taken place and the expected result has been achieved.
But what Nkurunziza now needs to learn from Museveni is how to hold his Presidential seat and his country together two terms away from the peace accord that first brought him into power, as the old man has managed quite comfortably these many years hence.
– a version of this article ran in the Sunday Independent of South Africa on July 26.

travel advisory: avoid visiting the United States

Initially, I refused to get interested in the shooting of the black (or African-American) youngster by a policeman in the United States last week or the resulting riots because we had enough going on over here to keep me occupied.

But as the days wore on I noticed hell break loose and saw scenes breaking out that were quite reminiscent of protests and riots in other parts of the world. And I just knew that there would be NO travel advisories warning against travel to the United States of America in light of civil unrest and fears of public safety having broken down.

There were going to be no calls for the United States government or State forces from acting with restraint, or threats of the government facing any action for attacking its own people…

Meanwhile, stories of the Ku Klux Klan getting involved in supporting the white police officer who shot the unarmed black boy, are getting limited air play yet it should be confusing to some of us that this group is even allowed to exist officially like this in the very same United States where some people are so vehemently vocal about Ugandans and the laws and morals that we choose for ourselves.

So as we were saying earlier, which country will be the first to issue a travel advisory against visiting the United States (US) following the civil unrest over there? Will it be an African country?

The official US site that deals with such matters,, is quite honest about how they issue their advisories, saying:

“We issue a Travel Warning when we want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Warning might include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. We want you to know the risks of traveling to these places and to strongly consider not going to them at all. Travel Warnings remain in place until the situation changes; some have been in effect for years.”

That does not, we should be clear, include sanctions against countries, but many of the travel warnings and advisories are issued against entire countries even when the incidents that trigger them are isolated to remote parts of the country in question.

Uganda is not listed for any advisory right now (yaaaaay!) so we should not be angry or upset.

But after reading the advisories that ARE listed there, no wonder Americans feel so entitled! Their government is actively monitoring the entire world and giving them tips to keep them from dying sooner than necessary or getting involved in a crime outside of their own borders; perhaps our governments should start doing the same forthwith, along the same vein.

As of today, there were thirty-nine countries on the list of US Travel warnings and advisories and the US was NOT one of them in spite of the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Next door Kenya is on the list: “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya. U.S. citizens in Kenya, and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime Kenya Flagin some areas. Due to the terrorist attack on June 15 in Mpeketoni, in Lamu County…”

So no going to Nairobi or even Kisumu, because of the bombs that went off in Mombasa…


But in order of date of warning, let’s go through the rest, whether you are a US citizen or not:

Lebanon: because of “ongoing safety and security concerns” and “the potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists in particular because of the frequency of terrorist bombing attacks…”Lebanon Flag

”Although there is no evidence these attacks were directed specifically at U.S. citizens…there is a real possibility of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ harm to U.S. citizens…”

Mexico is luckier: “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of travelling to certain places in Mexico…” followed by a state-by-state assessment of security conditions in each state of Mexico.

Of course, Mexico is next door to the U.S., so perhaps it’s easier for the State Department to do this assessment; or because there are so many Mexicans in the U.S. it makes more sense for them to be specific rather than warn Americans off the entire country.

Sierra Leone: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against non-essential travel…after review of health conditions and limited availability of medical evacuation options…”

This is because of Ebola and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t go there even as a Ugandan citizen.

Algeria: “The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Algeria…continuing threat posed by terrorism…and kidnappings.”

Unbelievably, Iraq has a travel warning against it issued in August 10, but then understandably this one replaces the last one that was issued on August 8, 2014…and they probably get one issued every other day: “Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation…U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence…”

Surprising? I think not.

Saudi Arabia: What? Yeah, “The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travelling to Saudi Arabia” apparently because of “an attack by members of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula on a border checkpoint along the Saudi-Yemeni border on July 4…”

You want to know how far the border point is from the capital of Saudi Arabia or how many other attacks have happened in Saudi Arabia to occasion this?

Don’t bother, as the very next paragraph states that, “The last major terrorist attack against foreign nationals occurred in 2007…”

Pakistan: Of course, “defer all non-essential travel”, followed by narratives that go back to early 2011 (I kid you not).

Nigeria somehow gets a serious warning only about some states: “The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states because of the May 14, 2013 state of emergency proclamation for those three states by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…”

The next statement makes me laugh: “The security situation in the country remains fluid and unpredictable…”

This is true of everything in Nigeria!

Boko Haram also gets a mention, as one would imagine, as well as “Violent crimes occur throughout the country. U.S. citizen visitors and residents have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglaries, armed robberies, car-jackings, rapes, kidnappings, and extortion. Home invasions also remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls, accessing waterfront compounds by boat, following residents or visitors, or subduing guards to gain entry to homes or apartments. Law enforcement authorities usually respond slowly or not at all and provide little or no investigative support to victims…”

It goes on right up to Ebola and I am a little surprised that there is no warning re: “Avoid responding to email messages from Nigerian princes or relatives of deceased senior officials of the Nigerian governments…”

Liberia: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against non-essential travel to Liberia…” over Ebola, of course.

Cameroon’s warning is worded in dodgy english: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high risk of travel to Cameroon…”, in short if they are not careful U.S. citizens might find themselves travelling to Cameroon…

The rest of it is kind to the West African country: “…U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Far North region of the country because of “the continuing threat of kidnappings and other armed attacks” since Boko Haram is in operation there. (This is serious, since 21 expatriates have been kidnapped there since 2013 – most recently in May 16, 2014).

Ukraine: Yeah. If you’re not a Russian soldier, what more do you need to know?

Libya: Again – Really? This is unnecessary – it could have been replaced with, “Watch TV.” Yeah. “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Libya and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Libya depart immediately…” (sounds like the withdrawal of forces, but of course there are none in the North African country, right?)

“The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution…” <—— see, it’s their fault, that Libyan government!

The other reason to stay away from Libya is in the statement “The newly elected Council of Representatives is scheduled to convene by August 4…” which reads so on August 21, showing how seriously the State Department is taking this Libyan issue…

Russian Federation: This warning does not say that you shouldn’t (you if you are a U.S. citizen) go to the Russian Federation, but is just an alert about tensions along the border with the Ukraine, in case you have not been paying attention these few months past.

Israel, The West Bank and Gaza: Again, let’s not dwell on the obvious. In Luganda, this entire warning would read, “Beera Mu Kilaasi.”

Yemen: “…high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest…”

Chad: “warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Chad and recommends citizens avoid travel to eastern Chad and all border regions.”

Then, leaving other foreigners to suffer, the State Department says, “The Embassy advises U.S. citizens to avoid public gathering spaces and locations frequented by expatriates, including markets, restaurants, bars, and places of worship…”

kwegamba (i.e.) leave those other expatriates to their risky business of shopping, drinking, eating and praying but if you’re from the U.S. stay safe…

Honduras: “…the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.” since the country has the highest homicide rate in the world of 75.6 per 100,000 people. War doesn’t count, see?

Thailand: “The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens to be alert…” Thailand Flag

South Sudan: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Republic of South Sudan” because of the armed conflict there, as well as health care being limited and poor, the risk of violent crime, and so on and so forth.

This one is even boring to read – especially if you recall that the U.S. Department of State as recently as June was suggesting, through its African Bureau acting spokesperson Erin Rattazzi, that countries like Uganda should withdraw its troops from conflict resolution activities in South Sudan.

Djibouti is on the list for potential terrorist attacks; Venezuela for violent crimes and demonstrations even though, the advisory states, “Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Venezuela each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work…”; Iran, of course, is on the list but for the risk of one being detained on charges of espionage rather than the statement: “These guys really just hate us.”

North Korea also gets listed, surprisingly, rather than just have sanctions slapped against it, because of “arbitrary arrest and long-term detention”:

“North Korean authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally crossed into DPRK territory…” 

As if the North Koreans don’t watch all those American movies with spy heroes crossing into other countries. Msssschewwww!

And, the advisory goes on to say, “The Government of North Korea has detained, arrested, and imposed heavy fines on persons who violated DPRK laws…” as opposed to just letting them be in peace.

Read on to laugh a little at this one: “If DPRK authorities permit you to keep your cell phone upon entry into the country, please keep in mind that you have no right to privacy in North Korea…” LOL

After recovering from rolling about laughing your ass off, and finished checking to see whether you have Edward Snowden’s number or twitter handle so you can share this tidbit, continue with, “…and should assume your communications are monitored.” 

Syria also gets proper mention and “No part of Syria should be considered safe…” from a long list of things; while Afghanistan presents a security threat of a “critical” level: “No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and banditry, and the strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts…”

The list goes on to cover the Philippines, Central African Republic, El Salvador, the DRC, Colombia, Sudan, Burundi, Niger, Mali, Somalia, Haiti and Eritrea.

It’s enough to make you want to stay at home, if you’re a U.S. citizen, unless you’re African-American and facing a policeman.

The point, though, is easily summarised as: “If you’re American, avoid death at the hands of foreigners in their own countries…you have enough going on at home…especially if you’re black or African-American.”

seriously, what’s a coup d’etat

This is the track I was going along in a previous post when I digressed into the land of definitions and uncovered a massive scam surrounding… forget that.

What’s a coup d’etat?

A few weeks ago I found myself in yet another discussion over the woes of “Africa” with world citizens of non-African origin or residence. Why the wars, poverty, pestilence and general stupidity (not to be confused with General Mugabe), the fellows I had locked cerebral horns with asked.

For example, why has your President been in power for more than twenty years? WTF? Why are the roads not done up properly in Africa? Eh? Okay, in Uganda? Who is this Kony we hear about and why doesn’t your army just finish him? Why is the opposition not being allowed to operate? But first wait, your President has been in power twenty years?!!!

I was cornered.

“After the coup d’etat of 1985,” I began explaining…

“What’s a coup d’etat?” one chap interjected, face all afrown.

So I promptly kicked him out of the discussion, but as it was taking place in a public place that serves those who pay, I was as good as an international observer at Zimbabwe elections.

But the discussion ended anyway (as elections do in Zim, and the President goes on).

I simply refused to continue talking about serious issues in Uganda with fellows whose knowledge about our issues is overpowered and kicked into the corner of the room by their general ignorance of world affairs going back hundreds of years.

A coup d’etat, before we go further, is defined generally as “a sudden, violent and illegal seizure of power from a government.”

But even now you are not yet qualified to discuss governance in countries like Uganda, and whereas I am not going to advocate here the right of the stupid and inane to defend the indefensible, I still think it important for serious matters such as the present and future of an entire nation to be discussed only by those who have an understanding of its past.

The ignorant non-African residents of the public house in which I made the discovery that coup d’etats were not a global phenomenon in the 1970’s and 1980’s are not the only exemptees (not a real word, but feel free to add it) on my list from intelligent discussion of our issues. There are also a good number of Ugandans prominently placed on this list. Morons, mostly, who didn’t understand what the history teachers were talking about.

The point was not, ladies and gentlemen, to cram the entire list of factors that caused the collapse of the Zulu empire and be able to write down a narration of the process by which it happened within a three hour period in a poorly lit room guarded by an invigilator. The point was being able to study cause and effect, practice extrapolation and the composition of all the resulting thoughts into a decipherable format that in school was called an essay, in newspapers is called an article and in government is spread out and called a policy paper.

For example, Shaka Zulu rose through the ranks to become a great commander in Africa’s biggest empire of the time and spread the Zulu kingdom as far north as Tanzania. He developed devastating war tactics and even the most sophisticated weapons of the time, such as the Assegai and the Ikhlwa. His reign was fierce and encompassed the mfecane (the time of troubles), and he took battle and strife to lands far and wide. But his brutality and warring led to the many small groups he had alienated grouping up and his brothers joining up to rid the world of his manic self by stabbing him repeatedly to the death. (

Taking the above brief, one can create similarities between the greatness of Shaka Zulu’s empire and that of the United States, showing links between their sophisticated weapons of the time, and the mfecane in Iraq, Afghanistan and … well, anywhere there is war, and juxtaposing the final collapse of Shaka Zulu the man to the collapse of the United States economy to claim they were both results of the same factor – warring too much and spreading one’s influence far and wide will lead to collapse.

Don’t waste time punching holes in the above, this is just a blog being written because I am in a meeting.

One wouldn’t be too far off looking at Shaka Zulu to find a way of rationalising the United States of America right now. That’s what knowing history does for you.

So if you have no idea of what a coup d’etat is but want to express concern over the governance of a country that underwent about six of them in a span of 15 years, then give the history books a quick browse.

Or at least Google.