The issue of age recently exploded in the Ugandan media when a 19-year-old woman won a by-election in Usuk, Uganda. How could someone so young, so inexperienced, adequately represent her constituents? In Uganda, as in Canada, the youth are the ones bearing the brunt of the global economic crisis, and yet are facing constant criticism for being entitled for wanting a good education and decent jobs. They have a right to be represented and heard.
In Nyamata, a small, dusty town in southern Rwanda, there lies a tidy, red brick church. Its walls are riddled with bullet holes. The interior holds bloody smears on the floor, torn clothing neatly piled on benches, and rows of bones. But Idi Amin's torture chambers are something different altogether.
The rhino has been around for 50-million years. It has only taken the past 40 years to eradicate 90 per cent of them. It's hard to believe an elephant tusk or rhino's horn can fetch as much as $1-million USD on the black market, but soon there won't be any ivory left to harvest.
ISAAC KASAMANI / AFP
Small acts of courage by gay rights activists in Uganda are taking place against a backdrop of virulent hatred and fear. The country's tabloids, most notably Rolling Stone (not affiliated with the music magazine) and Red Pepper, thrive on spreading messages of hysteria with regards to the 'gay epidemic'. Rolling Stone published a list of 100 'homos' and called for them to be hanged. David Kato, a prominent Ugandan gay rights activist, was one on the list and he was brutally beaten to death with a hammer shortly after.
Lucy Young, Evening Standard / ZUMA Press
A strand in North American culture has tended to romanticize this vigilante style justice. In Uganda, death by mob claimed 438 lives in 2010, and that didn't include those who survived or the deaths that went unreported. Vigilante justice is terrifying, an overwhelming physical manifestation of rage and suspicion.
Nowhere are the contradictions of Uganda more readily apparent than in the nightclubs on any given evening. Uganda is a fairly conservative society; public displays of affection are frowned upon in public, and women often wear modest clothing. When the clubs open, the rules change. The hemlines become shorter and shirts a bit tighter.
Welcome to Karamoja, land of the cattle rustlers.Karamoja is the most isolated region in Uganda, bordering South Sudan and Kenya. Soldiers from the Ugandan Military patrolled the streets with heavy machine guns; billboards implored warriors to "Put down the gun and get an education."
In the Congo, a small town called Bunagana is falling to rebel troops. This led to 600 government soldiers and thousands of refugees fleeing into Uganda. What does this have to do with Canada? Everything. The DRC is the stage of a violent and bloody conflict that is being fueled by a rush for resource exploitation. The conflict may seem far away but Canada is right in the heart of it all.
It is a terrible irony that in order to eke out a living, Ugandan villagers must farm Mount Elgon to the point where it threatens their survival. The loss of their land, and the destruction of the environment have put them at the mercy of forces beyond their control. As climate change places increasing pressures on the Third World such tragedies will become the norm.
Aid and development are deeply complex and there are no easy answers. The physical donations of goods, be it food or clothes, often have negative impacts on the local economy. It would be far better for aid organizations to buy products locally. Aid shouldn't be about making North Americans comfortable with a culture of mass consumption and waste. It has to be actually making the lives of people in the recipient country better.
Recently, Toronto City Council did something that Mayor Rob Ford deemed "ludicrous and dangerous": They banned plastic bags. Yet, while commentators such as the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente decried the ban as the "new puritan cause," African countries have been out front on this issue for years.
What's the price of unemployment? In the case of Uganda which has the highest completion rate of primary school education in Africa, but where youth unemployment is at 80 per cent, many Ugandas pay the price of death. Just ask the family of Justine Nalugya who committed suicide in March because she didn't have a job.
Kampala has many advantages driving growth. It is resource rich. From a tourism perspective, the country is beautiful and, in comparison to Nairobi or Cape Town, it's quite safe. In some ways the country is well suited to lead Africa in economic development. Like being in the dark, literally. Unreliable electricity goes beyond being a mere hindrance; it can be life threatening.