Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘Uganda’

Jinja, Source of the Nile

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 21st December, 2013

Jinja main streetSource of the NileFinding the source of the River Nile was an obsession for Victorian explorers. David Livingstone perished while frankly looking in the wrong place; John Hanning Speke had already correctly identified the outlet from Lake Victoria that fell over what he named Ripon Falls as the beginning of Africa’s greatest river. That is the White Nile, of course; the Blue Nile starts in Ethiopia, where I visited its supposed source a few years ago, and the two join at Khartoum, a city I found enchanting, even if the government is not. Anyway, yesterday I had the chance to go and see the Ugandan Source of the Nile, which is actually much more striking than I had imagined. A branch of Lake Victoria, called Lake Bujagali, mutates into the Nile at the hydro-electric dam where the Ripon Falls used to be. The body is already quite wide and swift moving, and I was able to drink in its atmosphere while having lunch, entirely alone, in the Mezzanine Restaurant on the bank, in the compound of the Jinja Backpackers comp9und. Jinja itself is a rather charming town, with suburbs of fine villas that would not be out of place in Virginia Water. The centre’s main street is lined with one- and two-storey buildings from the early 20th century. Some have an Indian flavour, reflecting the fact that that there used to be a thriving Asian business community here before Idi Amin threw them out. A few have since returned, in today’s more welcoming climate, but Jinja still has a sense of being frozen in aspic from a gentler age.

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Entebbe’s Subtle Charms

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 17th December, 2013

Lake VictoriaLake Victoria HotelFor people above a certain age, the name Entebbe conjours up memories of the daring Israeli raid on the airport where a hijacked plane was being held in July 1976. But nearly 40 years on, this small town on the shore of Lake Victoria is one of the mostly placid places one can be. Although the airport is still the main gateway to Uganda, few arrivals linger long in Entebbe itself, but head straight for the capital, Kampala. In doing so they miss a lot. The Lake Victoria Hotel, where I have been staying for the past three days, is one of those wonderful old colonial establishments that have been preserved but polished, thanks to the Arab company Laico, which owns a number of prestigious hotels in Africa. The 50,000 souls in Entebbe town are well spread out, the overwhelming impression being one of greenness — in formal gardens and prolific natural vegetation loud with the singing of birds. Down on the lake there is a very narrow sandy beach, fringed by some modest cafes. When I was there yesterday I saw only one other foreign visitor, while local lads swam naked and mock-wrestled in the sand. Religion is omnipresent in Entebbe, from the various Christian churches to the mosque and the Sikh gurdwara and the people have a low-key, dignified friendliness. Though this is my first time here, I am sure I will be coming back, probably en route to future explorations of neighbouring South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.

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Lynne Featherstone’s African Remit

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 13th November, 2012

During her two years at the Home Office, Lynne Featherstone did great things to promote the equalities agenda, even if she and Theresa May did not always see eye to eye. The Equal Marriage consultation was a real win for the LibDems within the Coalition, and to his credit David Cameron “got” the issue, even if some of his backbench headbangers didn’t. So there was initially some disquiet among LibDems when Lynne was moved in the ministerial reshuffle earier this year to the Department for International Development (DfID). However, as Lynne made clear at an informal briefing to the International Relations Committee (IRC) of the Liberal Democrat Party in Westminster this evening, she has taken equality issues along with her (with the PM’s blessing), and it is especially important that she is able to champion the central role of women in development. She has just returned from a mission to South Sudan, which was rather jumping in at the deep end, though other states she has visited this year include Kenya and Uganda, and Africa is now central to her remit. DfID has of course been directed to phase down its involvement in India (now one of the BRICs) but Africa remains a main area of concern, not only for the traditional problems of famine and disease (including HIV/AIDS) but also for the way that women are excluded and often oppressed within many African societies, including through the persistence of female genital mutilation (FGM). It was interesting that FGM was a major topic in the discussion after Lynne’s presentation at the IRC, but then it is a quintissentially Liberal issue, relating to human rights and gender matters as well as to health. Lynne was a shadow International Development Minister some years ago, so she is not entirely fresh to the field. But it is clear that Africa is offering her a steep learning curve, from which both she and Africa’s development should ultimately benefit.

 

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The Bell Tolls for Dictators

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 22nd August, 2011

Like many bloggers and tweeters I stayed up late last night, transfixed by the scenes in Tripoli, where the National Liberation Army (as I prefer to call it) penetrated neighbourhoods of the city, including the iconic Green Square, which was immediately renamed Martyrs’ Square. At least two of Mouammar Gaddafi’s sons have been captured and it can only be a matter of time before Gaddafi himself is cornered. Will he do a Hitler and shoot himself, or arrange things so that he gets killed? Or will the cause of justice be served by him and some of his closest associates being taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC)? It’s staggering to think how fast events have moved since the impoverished Tunisian fruit-vendor Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself last December. The Tunisian President Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s President Mubarak was forced to resign and is now on trial, Yemen’s President Saleh was seriously injured in clashes during the uprising to oust him and remains in hospital in Saudi Arabia — which has a reputation now as the retirement home for dictators, beginning with Uganda’s Idi Amin. And now Gaddafi’s day of judgement is nigh. To remind ourselves of the speed and significance of these events, just take a look at the photo here of the four dictators looking so pleased with themselves at an African Union Summit last year. And next? Syria, inshallah.

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Historic First for International Criminal Court

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 26th January, 2009

More than six years after the International Criminal Court was established in The Hague as a permanent war crimes tribunal, its first case opened today. The defendant (who has pleaded not guilty) is Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, who is charged with conscripting children under the age of 15 to kill, rape and pillage ethnic Lendus in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2003. More people have died as a result of the fighting in Congo than in any other modern conflict, but the crimes Thomas Lubanga is accused of are especially chilling — basically turning youngsters into automated killing machines through brutality and fear. As the Argentinian Chief Prosecutor at the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, says, ‘the children still suffer the consequences of Lubanga’s crimes’.

Other people the ICC would like to get its hands on include Joseph Kony, leader of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army and — more controversially — President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan (over Darfur). But that is easier said than done. Many governments do not wish to cooperate with the ICC. Indeed, a significant number of countries have refused to sign up to the Court, including the United States, China, several Arab states and Israel. The Bush administration justified its boycotting of the ICC on the grounds that malicious prosecutions might be brought againt US troops for their actions in Iraq and elsewhere. Similarly, the Israeli Prime Miniseter, Ehud Olmert, has just declared that the Israeli government will ensure that no Israeli soldier will be at risk of prosecution for alleged war crimes in the recent operation in Gaza.

Despite these handicaps, this has been an historic day at the ICC. Those of us in Europe and elswhere who want to see a world in which no-one is beyond the reach of justice when they commit horrendous crimes should take encouragement from this and start to put pressure on Barack Obama and others to ensure that every self-declared democratic nation proves its commitment to the rule of international law by endorsing the ICC.

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