Friday 26 August 2011

A4C Stands in Solidarity with North Africans

At Kampala, 26th August 2011;
Today we would like to dedicate this press conference to the people of North Africa for standing up for their rights and reclaiming their power from the fallen dictators of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.  A few months ago it was unthinkable that Ben Ali would be living in exile, that Hosni Mubarak would be appearing in an Egyptian court locked in a cage; on charges of corruption and crimes against humanity.  It was even more unimaginable that Muammar Gaddafi of Libya would be hiding from the same people he called rats last week.  Their experiences have taught us that when the people of any nation are determined to stand up against oppressive rulers, they win.
Many comparisons can be made between what we are currently experiencing in Uganda and what was happening in pre-revolution Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.  The rulers of these countries are from that generation of rulers that have overstayed in power.  Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia came into power in 1987, one year after President Museveni’s NRA shot its way to power; while Hosni Mubarak took power in 1981 and Muammar Gaddafi in 1969. The majority of Ugandans were not born when these leaders first took office.

Each of the ousted rulers claimed great success in transforming their economies and catering for their populations through heralded welfare projects.  Yet these leaders were abhorred by their people for creating lopsided economies that strained relations between the wealthy and the poor due to wide gaps in incomes and lifestyles.  The North African dictators built vast financial empires run shamelessly by wives, sons, daughters, sons and daughters in law, relatives and tribes mates; in a manner reminiscent of Sicily’s mafia families.  In 2010 the estimated wealth of these dictators stood at US Dollars128 billion for Gaddafi, 70 billion for Mubarak, and 5 billion for Ben Ali. |It has been reported that Uganda’s President is 13th wealthiest African. We are also aware of the hundreds of billions of shillings that are consumed by State House every year.  A former Vice President revealed that our government was indeed being run by a mafia gang, and each day Parliament and the media expose multi millions dollar deals involving close relatives and friends of the First Family. 

This wealth which is difficult for the ordinary man to imagine was juxtaposed against profound poverty which in Tunisia led a young unemployed man to self-immolation; triggering a revolution that ousted Ben Ali.  At the time of revolution Tunisia’s unemployment rate stood at 13%, Egypt at 11.08% and Libya at 30%.  In Uganda thousands of graduates pour onto the streets every year looking for jobs. A 2007 report from our labor department showed that the 390,000 students who finish tertiary education each year have only 8,000 jobs to fight for. This means that for every one job that is available there are about 50 people to fill it. Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), reported that of more than 400,000 Ugandans who enter the labour market each year, only about 113,000 are absorbed in formal employment, leaving the rest to join the informal sector. Uganda’s unemployment rate stands at 80% and underemployment, which is mainly prevalent in rural areas, is at 17%. Statistics from the Labour Department show that the labour force in 2007 was estimated at 9.8 million, of which 53% are females and 75% of the labour force are aged below 40.
In Uganda, the First Family is well represented in Cabinet, Parliament and in the military.  They are well placed to influence and implement government policy.  In fact they like to take credit for introducing UPE and during presidential campaigns they promise us prosperity for all, yet the poverty levels and economic indicators are worse than those that existed in North Africa before the revolutions.  In July Uganda’s inflation rate stood at 18.7% while in February the Egyptian government put its inflation at 12%.  In Tunisia, where food prices were among root causes of revolution, inflation was only at a modest 5% in 2010. 

Another pre-revolution commonality among North African countries and Uganda is State repression.  This commonality was well described by Tunisian opposition politician Mohammed Abbou while describing the state of his country after 20 years with Ben Ali in power.  I will quote him to save us from repetition because his words could have been said of Egypt and Libya a few months ago and of Uganda today:
‘A State that does not respect the rule of law, a people paralyzed by fear, and a weak opposition, (are) the result of 20 years in power of the second President of the Republic of Tunisia.’  He added that the state ‘…deliberately places above the laws the powerful who are not accountable to anyone. Nobody is allowed to criticize the powerful, nor to denounce or to evoke the corruption they are involved in. If you do, you will be thrown in jail. No attention is ever given to the cries for help coming from inside, nor to the declarations of our Western partners which sometimes conflict with the secret positions of those who rule Tunisia.

These very institutions (of the state) are sometimes used to persecute the opponents to the current regime who dare criticize it. Their resources are cut short, they are starved and humiliated in such a way they will never forget. They are attacked on the street. Their children are harassed. All this is aimed at ensuring the continued existence of the regime and at guaranteeing its absolute power, a power whose legitimacy rests upon elections which take place in a climate of fear.’

If one were to pick a state in Africa that is ripe for revolution after Tunisia, Egypt and Libya; one would pick Uganda.  We congratulate the people of North Africa for leading the way in mobilizing their populations to bring an end to dictatorship.  As A4C we subscribe to nonviolent action for change and reject the use of arms or violent means to bring about change.  We call on Ugandans of all political shade to join us as we celebrate with the people of North Africa.  We will be hosting a solidarity event at Clock Tower on Friday 2nd September 2011.  Our ‘Light A Candle’ campaign continues and the next location for the event will be in Gulu next week.

We too shall overcome!

For God and My Country

Hon. Mathias Mpuuga (MP)
National Coordinator

Thursday 18 August 2011

'Light A Candle Campaign' Fundraising Appeal

Dear Friends,

Let me start by thanking each and everyone of you for supporting Activists for Change through dedication to our activities.  A special thanks to those who have gone a step further  to contribute time, ideas, material, financial and moral support to the foot soldiers of our campaigns.  There is no doubt that we are setting the agenda for change for our beloved nation and that is because you have empowered us with your trust, confidence and support.

As you know our current project, 'Light A Candle' campaign is taking us to different regions of the country to remember those who were brutally killed during the Walk to Work campaign of April and May 2011.  Our peaceful activities continue to be met with arrogance, violence and brutality on the part of security forces but we remain focused on implementing our program peacefully nationwide.  With each confrontation we improve our methods of carrying out our peaceful activities.

I am writing to ask for your support for the upcoming regional activities.  We do not pay activists allowances to participate in any of our activities but we do have expenses for organizing each event like hiring Pulic Address Systems (and now we know we may need more than one on standby), travel costs for organizers to event locations, dozens of candles for each event, drinking water and we usually end up with emergency medical and legal expenses as well.  Our activities are 100% supported by individuals at home and abroad.  We have been surprised by people who walk up to us and hand us UGX20,000/= and those who email us and ask to send anywhere from USD$20 to $500 dollars.  Each of these donations is received with humility and gratitude.  The nature of our work is such that even human rights NGOs are afraid to be identified with a group that is increasingly defined as 'terrorists' by the state.  They would risk losing their license if they cooperated with us in anyway.  Those who have given us funding have trusted us after seeing our impact on the ground.  We are nonetheless developing reporting and accounting systems so that people who contribute know exactly how their money is spent.

A4C is making a real difference and their activities are creating waves internationally.  We need funding to continue with our regional activities as scheduled and I would like to invite you to consider making a donation to A4C.  For more information please contact us through our email or through the Facebook inboxes of any of the A4C Group Administrators. 

Yous faithfully

Anne Mugisha
A4C Promoter

Tuesday 16 August 2011

PRESS STATEMENT - Next Remembrance Event at Kireka, Tomorrow.

At Kampala, Uganda August 16th 2011

We have heard with shock and contempt the disparaging and desperate attempts to associate A4C with plans to carry out violent activities around country.  We are surprised that while we have not made our identity a secret, the State continues to shroud our activities in secrecy and disrepute whereas all our engagements are public, legal and peaceful.  It is a sign of the times that the government chooses to disguise its fear in a web of deceit in order to camouflage its failures and criminal acts against the public.
Our methods are well known to the public by now.  We always engage openly and invite people to peacefully participate in a public show of their discontent without causing any harm to any person.  We despise violence and the use of arms.  We are confident that the people of Uganda can express their displeasure at the status quo without harming anyone. Our activities are deliberately and violently sabotaged by security forces; who have testified in open court that they act on “orders from above.”  We are aware that if such orders were not handed to them, the security forces would be the first to support our demands for sanity in the management of the country and restoring a crumbling economy.
Activists for Change is an open group for all Ugandans who are willing to stand up for what they believe in.  We refuse to witness an economic meltdown without standing up for ordinary Ugandans. We appeal to all conscientious Ugandans to engage the government without fear or favor and to embrace the struggle for change.
We will continue to highlight the failure of government to address the problems of the ordinary person and we shall continue to stand by the man on the street who is suffering as a result of government’s intransigence and failure to implement meaningful and pragmatic solutions.
A4C has a well thought out program of how to call Government to account during the current crisis.  We know that the economic crisis cannot be halted by destroying Mabira Forest to lower sugar prices.  Selling off a natural resource like Mabira will not solve the impending melt down of the economy.  It just serves to distract our attention from the 19% inflation rate, the plummeting shilling and the skyrocketing prices of fuel and food prices which we have lived with since the last general elections.
We call on Ugandans to remain focused on the broader picture.  We can barely afford one meal a day.  We cannot afford transport fares.  We barely afford school fees or the most basic health care.  We are a country under siege by our own security forces.  Our people who rose up to speak on these issues and those who came to witness our campaigns against the crisis were killed in a brutal manner in April and May of this year.  We cannot forget them.
A4C made a deliberate decision to recognize the lives of those innocent lives through the ‘Light A Candle’ Campaign which we launched last week in Masaka.  We shall not be deterred by state inspired shenanigans to lose focus of our set program.  Our remembrance events continue tomorrow Wednesday 17th August, in Kireka.  The Honourable Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda will host us in his constituency to remember all those who were killed or buried in Kyandondo East Constituency. 
We invite all of you to come and honor the lives of innocent Ugandans who paid the dearest price during the Walk to Work Campaign.  Our activities are peaceful and legal and we do not associate with anyone who wants to break the peace in any manner.  We are aware that the Police is mobilizing thugs to create a situation that aims to taint our good name.  We denounce all violence and any attempt to discredit our activities with violence.  We call on the Inspector General of Police and his cohorts to respect our right to mourn the dead.
We shall also use the occasion to celebrate the acquittal of all our colleagues who were maliciously prosecuted during the Walk to Work campaign.  We ask those in charge of security to ensure that our events are peaceful and protected from unlawful activity.

Mathais Mpuuga (MP)
National Coordinator, A4C