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600 Rebels Left Stranded as CMI Detains Leader

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In a secure residence located within Ntinda, a suburb of Kampala, a one-star general paces anxiously, torn between uncertainty—whether he is confined as a prisoner or awaiting a meeting with President Museveni to discuss peace and seek amnesty.

This one-star general is none other than Brigadier General Ayiga Rajabu Ayile, formerly affiliated with the now-defunct Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) II rebels, whose former leader, the late Maj Gen Ali Bamuze, renounced rebellion and pursued amnesty.

Initially, Gen Ayiga was relocated to Yumbe District, where he was detained alongside more than 600 rebel fighters. Subsequently, operatives from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) transferred him to Entebbe and eventually placed him in the Ntinda safe house, where he has remained detained for 11 long months. He still awaits the promised meeting with President Museveni and the amnesty he desperately seeks.

Expressing his frustration in the Aringa dialect of the Lugbara language, Ayiga stated, “My colleagues and I are weary of this situation. I need to understand whether I am considered a prisoner, as it baffles me why I’ve been held here for so long when I was initially informed about a meeting with the President.”

While Brig Gen Ayiga and five of his associates are held in confinement in Ntinda, over 600 more rebels await word in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, unsure whether to surrender and seek amnesty or persist in their armed rebellion against the government.

Gen Ayiga attests that he and his comrades are enduring harsh conditions, characterized by inadequate nutrition and limited access to medical care. He recounted a distressing incident where one of his fellow fighters, who has diabetes, suffered a fall and head injury. “We contacted CMI, but they never responded,” the rebel leader stated. “They assured us a doctor would come, but even the doctor failed to show up. Our comrade had to be taken to Mulago hospital and underwent a costly operation of Shs7 million. To this day, CMI has not addressed our pleas, and our colleague remains without assistance.”

As of now, there has been no response from the Chief of Military Intelligence, Maj Gen James Birungi. Brig Gen Felix Kulaigye, the UPDF spokesperson, claimed to be unaware of the detention of the rebel leader and some of his associates. “Were they arrested? I am not aware of this and I need to first consult, and I will get back to you,” he remarked, but provided no further information by press time. Additionally, officials from the Amnesty Commission, responsible for managing the reintegration and reform of former rebel combatants, were unavailable for comment.

Anticipating Peace

The bulk of the Uganda National Rescue Front II rebel group had laid down their arms following a peace agreement signed by their leader, Maj Gen Bamuze, and the government in 2002. However, Brig Gen Ayiga and 52 other rebel fighters were excluded from the settlement due to a dispute with Maj Gen Bamuze.

Brig Gen Ayiga alleges that Maj Gen Bamuze was incensed upon learning of separate negotiations between government peace envoys and himself. Consequently, when the final peace accord was sealed, Brig Gen Ayiga and his loyalists were left out, leaving them in an armed state.

Akasa Kelili, the chief coordinator of the Aringa Obungi Peace Initiative Committee, accuses CMI of obstructing Brig Gen Ayiga and his associates’ attempts to renounce rebellion. He reveals that when contact was initially established between UPDF and remnants of the UNRF II, over 400 fighters renounced their rebellion and surrendered. However, many were either sent home empty-handed or detained. “Around 120 were taken to army barracks to cook for recruits,” Mr. Kelili stated.

According to Mr. Kelili, when the fighters led by Brig Gen Ayiga were contacted again, they were informed that President Museveni wanted them to renounce rebellion and promised a meeting. Nonetheless, this meeting is yet to occur. Besides those detained in Ntinda, four other fighters were arrested and confined in Moyo.

“Four officers from the team, along with 11 of us, were brought here and told that we would meet the President. But until now, we’ve been abandoned under the custody of a private individual who mistreats us. Some of us suffer from ulcers, yet we are only provided with basic meals of posho and beans. We demand an explanation for our unjustified detention here,” one of the detainees declared.

“We can’t endure these conditions any longer. We lack water for toilets and bathing, and the situation is spiraling out of control. The water service providers visited us twice, but these individuals refused to pay the bills, resulting in water disconnection. During rainfall, we resort to using empty mineral bottles to collect rainwater for drinking and bathing. Why are we subjected to this?” he questioned.

“We are confined and not allowed to leave. I want to inquire from the government whether we are indeed prisoners because our treatment mirrors that of prisoners. If we are prisoners, CMI should clarify because I remember being the one who spoke to former rebels, together with my comrades, and welcomed them back home. So why are we detained now?” he added.

Andruga Daniel Bata, a member of the peace coordination team, revealed that rebel fighters in South Sudan and DR Congo are awaiting reassurance before relinquishing their arms. He stated, “All of them desire to return home, but they insist on their commander addressing them and facilitating their return. They are now under the impression that their commander, Brig Gen Ayiga, has been apprehended and imprisoned.”

Although the rebel group has remained inactive in Uganda for over a decade, concerns linger that some of their fighters might be susceptible to recruitment by rebel factions within the Great Lakes region if they are not repatriated and reintegrated into society.

The Path to Redemption

Until 1993, UNRF II was a faction of UNRF I, led by Gen Moses Ali. However, in 1993, the group, primarily operating in Aringa county, Arua District, under the late Maj Gen Ali Bamuze, separated and signed a peace agreement with the Ugandan government in Yumbe on December 24, 2002.

A comprehensive amnesty was extended to the rebel group, with Sh4.2 billion distributed to assist fighters in their reintegration into society. Brig Gen Ayiga had previously been arrested and subjected to torture at Yumbe Army barracks on allegations of involvement in the murder of an American couple in Acholi Parish around March 2004. He was later exonerated by the Uganda Human Rights Commission and awarded Sh6.5 million in compensation for the torture he endured.

In 2013, following failed peace endeavors, Brig Gen Ayiga ventured to South Sudan, where he joined forces with the SPLA-IO and other disaffected rebels from the West Nile Region to form a larger rebel group comprising over 600 rebels. On September 13, 2022, the Civilian Peace Movement, based in Yumbe, held discussions regarding the return of the rebel leader and his group, establishing contact in the process. Records indicate that 121 rebel fighters were taken to Nakasongola Army barracks, while 442 were relocated to Yumbe Camp, surrendering 34 firearms.

A briefing prepared for President Muse

veni and obtained by this newspaper highlights, “There is also another group of rebels who are in Uganda and want to hand over their guns but only to Ayiga. There is another group of over 300 rebels under Ayiga in South Sudan, which is waiting for his command on whether to continue with the rebellious activities or surrender to the government of Uganda.”

Who is Brig Gen Ayiga?

Brig Gen Ayiga, a father of seven, was born in 1970 in Kozinga Village, Acholi Parish, Aria Sub county, Yumbe District. He did not receive any formal education. After the overthrow of Idi Amin’s regime in 1979, remnants of his soldiers took up arms against the new government under the banner of the Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) I, led by Gen Moses Ali.

In 1993, following Gen Ali’s alignment with the ruling NRM government, UNRF I, under the late Maj Gen Ali Bamuze, splintered off to form UNRF II, operating in West Nile until the rebels signed a peace accord in 2002. However, unbeknownst to Ayiga and 52 others, Bamuze excluded them from the amnesty list, leaving them without resettlement assistance.

On September 3, 2014, Ayiga returned to rebellion in South Sudan, uniting with remnants of another rebel group, the West Nile Bank Front of Juma Oris, and forming a coalition of about 600 rebels. This coalition aligned with the SPLA-IO in its fight against the South Sudanese government. Ayiga returned to Uganda on October 31, 2022, and stayed in Yumbe until February 19, 2023, when he was handed over to CMI.



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Norwegian Government Announces Closure of Embassy in Kampala, Uganda

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The Norwegian Government has revealed plans to close its Embassy in Kampala, Uganda, by 2024. This decision is part of a broader restructuring of the country’s foreign service missions to better align with its foreign and development policy priorities.

The Norwegian Embassy in Kampala currently serves Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. Following the closure, its activities will be relocated to Kenya, where an increased number of diplomatic staff will be stationed to maintain and strengthen Norway’s representation in these countries.

Announcing the decision, Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt stated, “In a rapidly changing world, it is essential for us to have diplomats in places where they can monitor global issues that have implications for Norway and promote Norwegian positions. At the same time, we must continually assess where it is best to maintain a presence to safeguard Norwegian interests optimally with the resources we have.”

As part of the restructuring, more diplomatic staff will be assigned to Norwegian Embassies in Accra, Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Kinshasa, and Nairobi. These missions are deemed essential for focusing on priority areas such as food security, business development, and regional security in Africa. Additionally, the Embassy in Beirut will receive a new diplomatic position dedicated to aid efforts related to Syria.

The Norwegian Government emphasized that its decision to close the Embassy in Uganda would not impact its aid to the country. In 2022, Uganda received NOK 382 million (Shs131.397 billion) from Norway, supporting various sectors, including civil society, education, energy, refugees, and women’s rights.

Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim confirmed Norway’s ongoing commitment to development cooperation with Uganda through civil society partners and multilateral organizations. The country also reaffirmed its dedication to promoting human rights, particularly those of women and minorities in Uganda.

Norway currently maintains 96 diplomatic and consular missions worldwide, including 78 embassies, 8 consulates general, 9 delegations, and 1 representative office. This restructuring aims to ensure effective resource allocation to support Norway’s foreign policy priorities.

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LGBTQ : Cameroon Lifts Ban on Canal+ Elles TV Channel Following Content Compliance

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The National Communication Council (NCC), Cameroon’s electronic media regulator, has officially lifted the ban on Canal+ Elles, a TV channel penalized in September for allegedly broadcasting content featuring explicit material with an LGBTQ theme.

The NCC has granted permission for the channel, a subsidiary of the French media company Canal+ International, to resume operations after it removed the offending programs.

The decision to lift the ban comes in response to Canal+ Elles’ commitment to implement a series of measures aimed at preventing such content from airing on all channels within the Canal+ International bouquet in the future.

Cameroon is among several African nations where homosexuality remains illegal under existing laws.

The country’s media regulatory authority has consistently emphasized the importance of media organizations adhering to existing laws in their content.

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Uganda Invites International Artists to Hold Congress in the “Pearl of Africa”

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Betty Amongi, Uganda’s Minister of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, extended an invitation to over 120 artists from around the world to host one of their upcoming congresses in Uganda, where they can experience the warm hospitality of the “Pearl of Africa.”

The minister made this invitation while speaking in Dresden, Germany, as the guest of honor at the opening ceremony of the 2023 Congress of the International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists (IAPMA). She was invited by IAPMA President Franziska Leischker, also known as Fides Linien, and The Xsabo Foundation.

With 652 members hailing from 56 countries worldwide, IAPMA stands as the world’s premier organization for paper artists.

The accompanying exhibition, “PAPER ALIVE!,” featuring 82 artworks from over 30 countries, was unveiled at the opening ceremony. It provided a unique opportunity for the general public and art enthusiasts to engage with the intricate interplay between papermaking, contemporary art, and society.

The Xsabo Foundation, a Ugandan non-profit organization that financed the IAPMA Congress 2023 and related events in Germany, is the corporate social responsibility arm of The Xsabo Group. The Xsabo Group is a leading player in Afro-European commercial diplomacy and renewable energy initiatives, aiming for zero-net economic growth in Africa.

This unique scenario saw an organization from the Global South fully funding a major international event in the wealthy European Union (EU).

Matthias Roessler, President of Parliament, who accompanied Minister Amongi, remarked, “The fact that a Uganda-based Afro-European foundation is financially supporting such a major international event in Germany is highly unusual, I agree. But it speaks volumes about how globalization enables economic success regardless of national borders today.”

Addressing the more than 120 congress participants from over 30 countries, Minister Amongi emphasized that her delegation’s visit to Germany holds great importance for Uganda. She noted that the creative sector in Uganda is still in its early stages, and her benchmarking on an international level aims to provide optimal support within her ministerial mandate.

“We are here to connect with you and raise awareness of each other’s culture and heritage,” she said. She emphasized that the IAPMA Congress 2023 serves as an important platform to highlight the value of art and cultural heritage, not only for Uganda but also as a pivotal instrument for international understanding and cooperation among people worldwide.

Minister Amongi pledged to leverage her position to promote art in Africa through exchanges with other ministers responsible for art in Africa and at international forums.

During the same event, Parliament President Matthias Roessler described the presence of the Ugandan minister in Dresden as an excellent opportunity to strengthen the mutually beneficial bilateral relationship between Uganda and Germany. Uganda is the focus country for the economic cooperation activities of the Free State of Saxony.

Alobo, CEO/Managing Director of The Xsabo Group and Chairman of The Xsabo Foundation, informed journalists that discussions on various impactful initiatives took place during the event.

Minister Amongi also shared valuable insights into Uganda’s successful efforts to create a safe and supportive environment for displaced individuals from troubled neighboring countries and beyond.

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Rwanda Rebuts Human Rights Watch Report Alleging Repression of Critics

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The Rwandan government has strongly refuted allegations made in a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which claims that authorities and their associates are employing violence, legal processes, and intimidation to stifle dissent among Rwandans living abroad, calling the report “bad faith.”

In a 115-page report titled “‘Join Us or Die’: Rwanda’s Extraterritorial Repression,” HRW details a range of tactics it says form a global network of repression aimed at silencing dissent and intimidating critics, including Rwandans seeking international protection. The report alleges that these tactics include physical violence, such as killings and enforced disappearances, surveillance, the misuse of both domestic and international law enforcement, abuses against relatives in Rwanda, and online harassment.

Yasmine Ahmed, UK director for Human Rights Watch, stated, “The Human Rights Watch findings highlight that Rwanda is not a country the UK should rely upon to uphold international standards or the rule of law when it comes to asylum seekers.” Ahmed added that the British government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is damaging the UK’s international reputation as a defender of human rights.

In April 2022, the UK and Rwandan governments announced an Asylum Partnership Arrangement, under which the UK intended to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing. However, in June, the UK Court of Appeal ruled the asylum deal unlawful because those sent to Rwanda might face the risk of being returned to their home countries, where they could face mistreatment.

HRW highlighted that Rwandans living in the UK, who have received threats against them, have had to take extreme measures for their security, including changing phones frequently. Some fear that the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement may jeopardize their safety.

In response, Rwanda’s government spokesperson, Yolande Makolo, dismissed HRW’s report, stating that HRW continues to present a distorted picture of Rwanda. She emphasized Rwanda’s progress in advancing the rights and well-being of its citizens over the past 29 years.

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, Vincent Biruta, defended the asylum arrangement, emphasizing the responsibility to prioritize the safety and well-being of migrants, welcoming the partnership with the UK to host asylum seekers and migrants while offering them legal pathways to residence.

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Former Beauty Pageant Winner Ruth Kamande Granted Permission to Appeal Death Sentence

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Ruth Kamande, a former beauty pageant winner from Lang’ata Women’s Prison, has been granted the opportunity to appeal her death sentence at the Supreme Court following an unsuccessful initial appeal at the Court of Appeal.

Kamande was convicted in the case of fatally stabbing her boyfriend, Farid Mohamed Halim, 25 times in 2015. The gruesome incident occurred in their Buru Buru residence, with witnesses reporting the victim’s desperate cries for help before the police arrived, discovering him already deceased. The post-mortem examination confirmed that he died as a result of multiple injuries and blood loss due to penetrating force trauma.

Previously, in November 2020, Kamande had appealed her conviction and sentence without success. Her latest appeal centers on the assertion of battered women syndrome, with her lawyer, Githu Muigai, contending that individuals who claim self-defense within the context of domestic violence should be considered for reduced charges.

While Muigai’s earlier argument for a lesser charge of manslaughter based on self-defense did not prevail, he now maintains that the appeal raises issues of significant public importance related to the battered women syndrome and the standards of proof for self-defense claims. The submission also underscores the importance of safeguarding and advancing the rights of victims of domestic violence in accordance with the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act.

Kamande argues that the prosecution did not sufficiently challenge her self-defense claim, and the court did not adequately consider it during her trial. The prosecution did not oppose her application to appeal, believing that it is in the public interest to further examine the raised issues at the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal concurred with this viewpoint, regarding the grounds for appeal as potentially novel legal issues deserving of the Supreme Court’s attention. The court acknowledged that the concept of battered women syndrome is relatively unexplored in the country, making it a matter of significant public interest.

In a statement, the three-judge bench declared, “We have reviewed the issues raised by the applicant and note that the topic of battered women syndrome is relatively uncharted in the country and has not seen many decisions on the matter. We believe that the Supreme Court should have the opportunity to delve into the same.” As a result, the court has granted Kamande’s application to appeal her death sentence at the Supreme Court.

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Human Rights Watch Accuses Rwandan Government of Widespread Abuses Beyond Its Borders

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has leveled allegations against the Rwandan government, claiming it is involved in a campaign of “extraterritorial repression,” involving violence and intimidation against its critics outside the country. The HRW report, unveiled on Tuesday, sheds light on a consistent pattern of purported human rights violations linked to the Rwandan government.

Rwanda has been effectively under the leadership of President Paul Kagame since the 1994 genocide, and the long-serving president intends to extend his rule in upcoming elections. HRW contends that, to maintain its grip on power, the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front has responded vigorously and aggressively to perceived challenges to its authority.

The HRW report, based on interviews with over 150 individuals, chronicles numerous instances of killings, kidnappings, attempted abductions, forced disappearances, and physical assaults against Rwandans living abroad. These actions are not restricted to critics and opponents within Rwanda’s borders; they extend to those residing in other countries.

In response to the accusations, Yolande Makolo, a spokeswoman for the Rwandan government, dismissed HRW’s claims, asserting that HRW presents a distorted portrayal of Rwanda.

The release of the HRW report coincided with hearings at the Supreme Court in London concerning an appeal by the British government against a ruling that blocked its plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

HRW’s report underscores that these violent abuses occur with alarming frequency, especially in African nations and countries where the Rwandan government has a substantial presence, including military operations. In some cases, it is alleged that countries have collaborated with Rwanda or turned a blind eye to these acts transpiring on their soil.

While attacks on the Rwandan diaspora in Europe and North America are less common, their occurrence contributes to a climate of fear, even among those residing thousands of kilometers away from Rwanda. To exert pressure or exact retribution on individuals beyond its reach, Kagame’s government purportedly harasses and threatens the relatives of critics in Rwanda.

HRW contends that countries with close diplomatic ties to Rwanda, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, rarely raise human rights concerns in their interactions with the Rwandan government. This perceived lack of international response has left many Rwandans feeling as though they have no avenues for recourse.

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