Enforcing Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

Kim Yi Dionne and I wrote a piece for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog analyzing US-Uganda relations in the wake of Uganda’s newly passed Anti-Homosexuality Act, and in particular, following the raid of the Makerere University Walter Reed Project. The post is copied below.

Kim is Five College Assistant Professor of Government at Smith College. She tweets at @dadakim.

U.S. foreign policy and Ugandan domestic politics collide

By Melina Platas Izama and Kim Yi Dionne

Just weeks after the United States announced additional American troops and aircraft would be deployed to Uganda to hunt rebel leader Joseph Kony, Ugandan officialsstormed a U.S. military-affiliated research institution, the Makerere University Walter Reed Project, in the country’s capital, Kampala. The Walter Reed Project raid highlights challenges to U.S.-Uganda relations, strained both by the fractured nature of U.S. foreign policy toward security allies like Uganda and the lack of coordination across Uganda’s numerous security agencies.

Why was the Walter Reed Project raided? And by whom?
The Walter Reed Project was raided on Thursday, April 3, by plainclothes state agents without a search warrant, reportedly on account of the Walter Reed Project’s work with the LGBTI community. Uganda’s recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Actprohibits both the practice of homosexuality as well as “aiding and abetting” and “promoting” homosexuality. The law is vague on what constitutes the promotion of homosexuality, leaving interpretation to Ugandan law enforcement. Walter Reed Project staff members were whisked away in an unmarked car and interrogated at a police station. American embassy officials subsequently contacted the Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura, who was unaware of the incident. Kayihura then instructed the police station to release on bail the Walter Reed Project staffer who had been placed under arrest.

Screenshot of New Vision article taken from <a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/654211-panic-at-makerere-as-quack-cop-arrests-staff.html">Google Cache</a> on April 7, 2014 (Melina Platas Izama and Kim Yi Dionne/The Monkey Cage)

The next day, the government-owned daily newspaper New Vision reported that the raid was conducted by a “quack cop,” with one police spokesperson, Patrick Onyango, denying responsibility. The same day, government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said in a tweet that the Walter Reed Project was raided for “training youths in homosexuality.” He also accused a top diplomat of being involved. Another police spokesperson confirmed the arrest in a segment by Ugandan media house NTV.

tweet1

tweet2
By Monday, April 7, the New Vision story had been pulled from the newspaper’s Web site and both of the tweets above (screenshots) were taken down.

Public opinion toward same-sex practicing people is generally negative, with 97% of Ugandan respondents in the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project agreeing with the statement, “Homosexuality is a way of life that should not be accepted by society.” In the days before the raid, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was the chief guest of a “Thanksgiving service” to celebrate the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Hundreds of people swarmed Kololo airstrip in the center of the capital, many bearing signs with direct messages to President Obama. All heads of religious institutions, including the Catholic and Anglican churches, and the head mufti of the Muslim community, not to mention the evangelical bodies who played a key role in the bill’s success, were in attendance.

(Data: Pew Global Attitudes Project 2007; Figure: Kim Yi Dionne/The Monkey Cage)

U.S. response to anti-gay legislation
Obama released a statement condemning Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill before it was signed into law, and initiated a review of American aid to Uganda immediately following the bill’s passage. At the same time the aid review was taking place, however, the United States announced a significant increase in military aid to Uganda. As activists and observers have noted, the announcement was poorly timed if Washington wanted to send a clear message to the Ugandan government. Instead, the State Department’s actions look like a slap on the wrist quickly followed by the extension of an olive branch by the U.S. military establishment.

If mixed messages are an ineffective means of impacting policy, however, so too may be the economic sanctions and bullish diplomacy the State Department has attempted to employ thus far. American foreign policy must consider the constraints faced by those who publicly and privately oppose the anti-homosexuality law, including politicians. American policy must find ways to assist those who support rights for sexual minorities without creating a stand-off with either the Ugandan government or public. Such a stand-off can alienate Ugandan rights activists and also whip up nationalist sentiments, bolstering the anti-homosexuality movement.

How is Uganda’s domestic security structured and why does that matter?
The Walter Reed Project raid and initial response by the police and government spokespersons suggest an additional complication — the lack of coordination across branches of the Ugandan security establishment. As noted above, the Inspector General of Police was unaware of the raid until after it had taken place and in the day following the raid, government officials were both claiming and refuting that the Ugandan police had been involved.

An investigative report by The Independent in 2009 found no fewer than 30 separate security agencies operate in Uganda, both constitutional and unconstitutional. The proliferation of security agencies, like the proliferation of districtscabinet portfolios, and members of parliament, serves to bolster a patronage system and ensure that no one institution or individual is strong enough to challenge the executive. However, such fractionalization comes with considerable financial costs, and is both inefficient and unpredictable, as the raid on the Walter Reed Project demonstrates.

Another potential by-product of the proliferation of security agencies is the bungling of international relations. It is entirely possible that, rather than an overarching government strategy to target organizations who serve LGBTI clients, a particular branch or branches of the security sector have taken matters into their own hands. The raid comes at a critical point in Washington’s review of programing in Uganda. Amulti-agency team of Americans was in Kampala last week for the explicit purpose of reviewing U.S. commitments in the wake of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Meanwhile, Uganda’s Ministry of Health has been at pains to assure international partners that the law will not affect Ugandans’ access to health services. Thus, last week’s events suggest an internal struggle in government, between those playing to populist sentiments and those trying desperately not to irrevocably sever relations with donors.

The details of the raid suggest that at least some components of the state, much to the chagrin of the United States, have every intention of enforcing the anti-homosexuality law. Some hoped that the law would remain on the books but largely out of everyday activities of law enforcement. The plainclothes officers involved in the raid were in possession of personal information about Walter Reed Project staff, including where they live, suggesting substantial efforts have gone into gathering intelligence not only on members of the LGBTI community but also individuals who work with the community. Sources inside the police say that they have video recordings showing that the Walter Reed Project is a “gay training and recruiting center.” Some of the videos apparently feature American nationals.

The raid of a U.S. military-affiliated facility is a bitter slap in the face to Uganda’s longtime ally, but perhaps serves well to highlight the failure of U.S. policy on human rights in the region, particularly the protection and promotion of gay rights. Uganda’s political landscape and that of the region is complex. The United States has yet to demonstrate that it has a strong grasp on the stakes or dynamics at play. In the case of the anti-homosexuality law, U.S. sanctions, whether verbal or economic, may be ineffective at best and harmful at worst, as journalist Andrew Mwenda has argued. As noted in an earlier Monkey Cage post, the vast majority of Ugandans support anti-homosexuality legislation, some with fanatic zeal. This is true not only in Uganda but across Africa. U.S. policy must consider the public pressure and incentives the president and other politicians face. Attempting to strong-arm a president or others into overwhelmingly unpopular positions domestically, such as the protection of sexual minority rights, may backfire.

 

 

Scholarships and Fellowships for African Researchers in 2014

There are a number of scholarship and fellowship opportunities for African students and researchers with deadlines in early 2014. I’m compiling a list below (descriptions from respective websites); please feel free to send along others.

EASST 2014 Visiting Scholar Fellowship
What: “The EASST Visiting Scholar Fellowship seeks to equip East African social scientists with the skills needed to carry out rigorous evaluations of economic development programs. Researchers will be based at the University of California Berkeley during either the Fall or Spring semester, and will receive a living stipend, round-trip economy class air travel to Berkeley, CA, and the opportunity to receive a $8,000 research grant to promote impact evaluation at their home institution in East Africa. While at Berkeley, fellows will be able to audit courses, present research, attend seminars, develop curricula and design collaborative research projects.”

Deadline: March 16, 2014
Application portal here.

Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders
What: “The Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the new flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. The Washington Fellowship, which begins in 2014, will bring 500 young leaders to the United States each year for academic coursework and leadership training and will create unique opportunities in Africa for Fellows to put new skills to practical use in leading organizations, communities, and countries.”

Deadline: January 27, 2014
Application website here.

Harvard South Africa Fellowship Program
What: “The Harvard South Africa Fellowship Program (HSAFP) is intended for South Africans who in the past were educationally disadvantaged by law and resource allocation under apartheid. In 1979 Harvard University began awarding these fellowships for a year of study in one or more of its faculties or schools. Harvard funds these fellowships from its own resources. Over the years more than one hundred and forty fellowships have been awarded to South Africans.”

Deadline: March/April 2014 (exact date TBD)
Application website here (still undergoing updates for 2014).

APSA Africa Workshop 2014
What: “The American Political Science Association (APSA) and the Higher Institute of Public Administration (ISAP) are pleased to announce a call for applications from individuals who would like to participate in a workshop on ‘Distributive goods and distributive politics’ in Maputo, Mozambique. The two-week workshop will be held from June 30th to July 11th 2014 at the Higher Institute of Public Administration in Maputo, Mozambique. The organizers, with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will cover all the costs of participation (including travel, lodging, meals, and materials) for up to 26 qualified applicants. This year’s workshop will be conducted in English.

The Africa Workshops program at the American Political Science Association (APSA) is an ongoing effort to expand the capacity of political science research and teaching in east and west Sub-Saharan Africa. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, APSA is undertaking a multi-year program to organize a series of political science workshops throughout Africa and promote the profession of political science across the region. Each year, the program brings brings together approximately 30 scholars from across Africa and the United States for a 2-3 week seminar or short-course that focuses on a substantive theme of interest to political scientists. Driven by a unique syllabus featuring classic and cutting-edge research, each workshop program includes lectures, discussions, topical presentations and debates, guest speakers, peer review sessions, professional development seminars, and local field trips. Participants are required to arrive with and present their own current research, which they will then continue to refine for publication. Through these workshops, participants become an active part of the growing international political science community with increased access to supportive scholarly networks.”

Deadline: March 14, 2014
Online application form here.

MSc in African Studies, University of Oxford
What: “The MSc in African Studies is a three-term, nine-month course designed both as a stand-alone interdisciplinary introduction to current debates about Africa, and as a preparation for doctoral research on Africa. This advanced degree programme provides an excellent foundation for those who wish to expand their knowledge of African Studies, prior to working for NGOs, the civil service, international organizations, and the media, or in other professional capacities.”

“The African Studies Centre is offering full scholarships for the MSc in African Studies for the 2014-2015 academic year.”

Deadlines: January 24, 2014, and March 14, 2014
Admissions website here, scholarships website here.

African Women Public Service Fellows
What: “Wagner announces a call for applications for the African Women Public Service Fellowship, a fellowship program made possible by a donation from the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, which expands the opportunity for African women to prepare for public service in their home countries. As fellows at NYU Wagner, African women study in one of two graduate programs: the two-year Master of Public Administration or the one-year Executive MPA: Concentration on International Public Service Organizations. The awards for either program will support tuition, housing, travel to and from the United States and a small stipend to cover books and miscellaneous expenses. Applicants commit to return to their respective home countries at the conclusion of the program with the goal of assuming a leadership position on the continent where they can meaningfully contribute to the challenges currently confronting Africa.”

Deadline: varies, see application timetable.
Application website here.

Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Program
What: “The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Program (ADF) is a scholar exchange program, offered by IIE in partnership with Quinnipiac University (QU) and funded by a two-year grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY). ADF will support 100 short-term faculty exchange fellowships for African-born academics. The program exemplifies CCNY’s enduring commitment to higher education in Africa. IIE will manage and administer the program, including applications, project requests and fellowships. QU will provide strategic direction through Dr. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza and an Advisory Council he will chair.”

Deadline: TBD
Learn how to apply.

Quantitative Methods Training at U-M African Social Research Initiative
What: “The African Social Research Initiative (ASRI) at the University of Michigan seeks applications for up to four visiting scholars to attend courses in social science research methods and analysis at the University of Michigan during the months of June-August 2014. The program is open to academic researchers who are enrolled in or have completed PhD programs in the social sciences and who are from, or reside in, one or more of the following countries: GhanaKenyaLiberiaSouth Africa, and Uganda.
During their time in Ann Arbor, visiting scholars will attend courses offered by two internationally renowned summer training programs at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR). Applicants who are invited to attend the summer programs may select several options from amongst the four- or eight-week sessions offered.”

Deadline: February 14, 2014
Application details here.

Update: Rachel Strohm has a similar post, Fellowships for African Students.

What is the (global) village gossiping about?

What is the (global) village gossiping about?

Published online December 22, 2011.

Accessing people’s thoughts and interests from Asia to Africa is just a click away

It used to be that education primarily took place in a classroom. These days, the chalk and blackboard are fading away and steadily being replaced, or at least complemented, by new technology. Even in some of the world’s hardest-to-reach places, cell towers and solar-charging stations are re-inventing the learning and communication experience. Alongside the traditional classroom teacher are laptops and cell phones, paving the way toward a whole new way of seeing the world.

A world of data is at your fingertips, quite literally. The advent of personal computers and increasing interest in making information open and accessible to all means that we now have the ability to answer many questions faster and more accurately than we ever thought possible. Information on everything from economic growth to weather patterns to flu outbreaks is just a Google search away.  Data and data sources are not without their flaws, but we can often see broad patterns much more clearly across and within countries than we once could. The question is, how can we take advantage of new and ever increasing sources of information? Perhaps one of the most novel uses of data pieces together the wisdom of the crowd. In particular, Internet search terms are an amazing guide to all sorts of phenomena we care about, including public opinion on politics and policies, investment interests, and even trends in infectious disease.

What kind of information are people searching for? What are the questions to which they seek answers? One can of course look at broad trends in search engine search terms across countries, something similar to looking at words and topics that are “trending” on Twitter, but one can also look for more specific information. How many people in the U.S., Europe, or Asia look for information about Rwanda, for example? What kind of information do they look for? Google Insights for Search can help answer these kinds of questions, and reveal interests from potential investors, tourists, and others that can be useful to the local business community, government, civil society, and individuals.

If you look at the most frequent search terms related to “Rwanda” used by those living in the United States, France, or even China, you’ll find that most are related to the genocide or the movie, Hotel Rwanda. Within the U.S., searches for “Rwanda genocide” spike every April and May, although the spikes are becoming smaller over time. This is some indication that while the world still heavily associates Rwanda with genocide, this association is becoming weaker with time. Searches for “Rwanda safari” or “Rwanda gorillas” increased greatly in 2005 and 2007 respectively, and most of these searches came from individuals living in the United States or the UK.

Meanwhile, searches about Rwanda in the East African region show a very different pattern. The top three search terms about Rwanda from those living in Uganda and Kenya are all related to jobs, and primarily come from three cities, Kampala, Nairobi, and Mombasa. Meanwhile, searches from within Rwanda about Uganda focused on news outlets, such as the Daily Monitor, New Vision, and “news Uganda” more generally. The most common searches in Rwanda about Kenya include Kenya Airways, the Daily Nation, and Kenyan universities.

Understanding search trends can be useful for businesses and entrepreneurs, but they are also a cheap and easy way to do public opinion polling. In the U.S., search trends of the past couple of months have tended to mirror official polling trends for presidential candidates in the Republican party, for example. If you look over time, you can see the rollercoaster levels of support for candidates such as Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich. In the U.S., regular and nationally representative polls are conducted throughout the campaign period, but the more informal “search” polling can be very informative as well, and far less expensive.

One challenge for using this type of data in countries like Rwanda and Uganda is that relatively few people are online, although the number of internet users is growing by the day. In Rwanda, approximately 13 percent of people accessed the Internet in 2010, up from 7.7 percent in 2009, according to the International Telecommunication Union. More and more people are using their mobile phones, rather than computers, to access the Internet, which makes it easier to get online. Although there may not be enough people using Google to get a good measure of public opinion in Rwanda, this will very likely be possible in the not-too-distant future.

Already, one can observe trends in public interest in politicians among those living in capital cities. Searches for “Besigye”, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s archrival, spiked within Kampala in November 2005, a few months prior to the heated 2006 presidential election, and spiked again to a lesser degree in February 2011, during the most recent election. It appears there was much more interest in Kizza Besigye leading up to the 2006 election (even with considerably fewer people online) than during the time leading up to the most recent elections, a trend which was reflected in Besigye’s support on election day as well. Online searches for Besigye spiked again in April, during the Walk-to-Work protests, but unfortunately for the repeat presidential candidate, by then the election had already passed. Despite the limited connectivity of the population living in Uganda, general election trends were evident in people’s online behavior.

Searches for "besigye" in Uganda, 2004-2011

Finally, search terms can be useful for tracking trends in infectious disease. When people fall sick, they often turn to the Internet for information about their symptoms or illness. Tracking search terms can thus identify and follow outbreaks of particular types of illnesses. Google Flu, for example, uses data on search terms to estimate trends in the spread of the flu virus. Again, their data is best for countries in which the majority of the population has access to the Internet, but as Internet connectivity increases in countries like Rwanda and Uganda, crowd-sourced data on infectious disease may help health officials identify and address outbreaks.

The wisdom of the crowd has for long eluded policymakers, investors, and even public health experts because it is costly to collect information from a large number of people, and people often have incentives to misrepresent their interests and beliefs. Using search trends, however, as one measure of people’s interests, opinions, and concerns, is one way to crowd-source information gathering in a relatively inexpensive and expedient manner.

The Black Atlantic: Colonial and Contemporary Exchanges

The Stanford Forum for African Studies (of which I am a member) is hosting its annual interdisciplinary conference on October 28th and 29th. Program details can be found here. Below is the conference poster. Please spread the word! All are welcome to attend.

 

thoughts on the U.S. troop deployment in Uganda

I am gathering here some opinions regarding Obama’s announcement that 100 U.S. troops will be/have been sent to Uganda to help fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group who have been operating for the past several years in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan and in northern Uganda before that. There seems to be a dearth of good analysis on this topic (I realize the news just came out yesterday), but I will try to add more as they become available/are brought to my attention. Anyone have any additions?

US deploys special forces in Uganda, but why? Angelo Izama

Obama’s troops in Central Africa to fight LRA; will they deliver? Rosebell Kagumire

Did Obama make the right call on Kony? James Lindsay

And here is a very neat link to the US cables mentioning the LRA. It’s interesting that there were practically no cables on the LRA before 2006, despite the fact that the group was most active in Uganda from the 1990s to around 2005. (h/t Washington Post*)

*I should note, however, that in general I feel this post doesn’t really capture the politics or even essence of the LRA.

Updates:

A new one not to be missed: Rush Limbaugh “Obama invades Uganda, targets Christians“. Foreign Policy post on Limbaugh’s blindly ideological and shockingly uninformed statements here.

NYT article here. US has provided $33 million in the region to fight the LRA since 2008.

reading: the cables

Who isn’t? I have to say though, the wikileaks site is not user-friendly. I consider myself reasonably computer-literate, and I’m embarrassed to say it took me no less than 4-5 minutes to find the cables on Uganda from the main wikileaks page. I was busy searching for “Uganda”, until it dawned on me that the operative word was “Kampala.” I hope you’ve all struggled less than I, but just in case, the link to the Uganda (I mean, Kampala) cables is here.

I’m writing in the car from the parking lot of Nakumatt, with a low battery, looking sketchy*, so this will have to be a short one, but there is a lot to be discussed. Perhaps most interesting about the cables is not what they say, but what they do not say.

There are plenty of resources at the fingertips of the U.S. government, but information gathering is a people-based endeavor that requires the building of relationships and trust. I don’t admire those who have only two years to not only get their bearings, but also develop the kind of relationships that allow for the analysis of complex situations. But I guess that’s why I didn’t join the foreign service. When a foreign service officer begins referring to “Bugandans”, you know you’re in trouble.

More on this soon…battery is in the red.

*this is actually a happening spot for the young and restless of Kampala, in case you didn’t know. Its charm eludes me, but I guess that is a sign of the times. I’m getting old!

Is the AIDS industry hurting public health?

Is HIV/AIDS funding distorting health priorities in ways that actually harm efforts to improve public health? If so, how? These are questions I have wondered about for a long time. In 2008, the U.S. government spent $283 million dollars in Uganda on the HIV/AIDS sector via the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In the same year, the Ugandan government spent approximately $180 million on the entire health sector. What impact does PEPFAR levels of donor funding for HIV/AIDS have on the recipient country’s health priorities? On the amount of money spent on other health issues? On the number of doctors that work in primary care?

Tapiwa Gomo of Newsday writes:
” … The UNAIDS projects that by 2015, the annual resource needs will reach $54-57 billion (a total of approximately $172 billion in three years) which could avert 2,6 million new infections and 1,3 million deaths. Still this is not enough to cater for the 33 million people living with the virus today.
As a result of the presence of such huge financial figures, the HIV and Aids industry has uncontrollably grown in size and budget, thanks to the generous donors who can finance anything or anyone as long as there is an HIV and Aids dimension in the proposals.
However, what concerns some experts is that the impact of this colossal and resource-guzzling industry is not parallelled by results on the ground, in addition to the damage it has caused on the public health sector especially in Third World countries...”

The article in full can be found here.

I only have speculative and anecdotal evidence pointing to negative side effects of gargantuan HIV funding, but I am currently working on a project that I hope will provide more quantitatively sound evidence. More on this as the project comes along.