Entries in Uganda (12)


New Ebola Outbreak in Uganda

Hemera/Thinkstock(KAMPALA) – ABC News has learned of reports of a new Ebola outbreak in Uganda, not far from the capital of Kampala.

The country’s Ministry of Health released a statement Thursday morning, saying that two family members from the Luweero district were confirmed dead from the dangerous virus, and a third death is currently under investigation. A group of five people that have been in contact with the bodies is currently being monitored for any possible signs of the sickness.

The Ministry has also cited safety measures it is taking to contain the outbreak, including immediate isolation of suspected cases, taskforces already on the ground to assess the situation, and plans to create special facilities at local health centers and hospitals.

This is the second outbreak of Ebola to have occurred in Uganda this year. The first outbreak happened in July, where 17 people died before the virus was successfully contained.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Producer of Gay Play Released from Ugandan Jail

Kevin Horan/Stone(KAMPALA, Uganda) -- British play producer David Cecil was released from a Ugandan jail Monday three days after his arrest for staging a play about a gay man, but declined to speak about the case because his situation was “delicate.”

Cecil pleaded not guilty at his bail hearing Monday, but his passport was confiscated and he could still face up to two years in prison. He is scheduled to return to court Oct. 18.

“When I spoke to him today as he was getting released, physically he was okay, but I think psychologically he was a bit tortured,” Cecil’s friend and Ugandan civil rights attorney Godwin Buwa told ABC News.

Uganda is a conservative East African country where homosexual acts are a crime, and some lawmakers are pushing to extend the sentence to life imprisonment.

Buwa is not representing Cecil in the case, but accepted questions on his behalf after Cecil decided Monday to refer media calls to his attorney and others familiar with his legal situation.

Cecil was arrested Thursday on charges of “disobedience of lawful orders” from the Uganda Media Council which accuses him of staging the play “The River and the Mountain” in the capital city of Kampala at least twice after he was sent notice to suspend performances.

“His case is becoming quite delicate in the public and the authorities will see him as a promoter of homosexuality in Uganda, which of course is a ridiculous thought,” said Buwa.

Cecil operates a small theater and bar in Kampala and has lived in Uganda with his girlfriend and two children for at least three years.  He previously told reporters he is not a gay activist, but he is driven to produce great art and simply wanted to contribute to Uganda’s theatrical tradition with a drama about a little discussed, but very real issue faced by people who are gay in Uganda.

“The content of our play is actually very mild. We don’t have any explicit reference to sex of any kind really. There’s no swearing. There’s no violence on stage. We actually deliberately constructed the narrative of the drama so that it would be family friendly, so that anyone could come and enjoy it. It’s a comedy drama,” Cecil told Radio France International shortly before he was jailed.

Cecil said the “The River and the Mountain,” written by a British poetry student Beau Hopkins, is about a young businessman who loses friends and family and is ultimately killed by his own employees after revealing he is gay.  According to the Ugandan Daily Monitor newspaper, the Uganda Media Council said in court documents the play was found to be “obnoxious” with “violence towards persons of homosexual behavior and indeed implicitly promotes a deification of such persons.”

Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister, Simon Lukodo, told the BBC he may also pursue legal action against the Ugandan actors in the play.

Buwa said Cecil and his attorney are no longer granting interviews to Ugandan media hoping to limit attention on the case.  In a country where newspapers have publicly “outed” hundreds of gay people who then feared for their lives after being called “evil” and accused of “recruiting” children, Buwa fears Cecil will be vilified in the press.

“Being a foreigner, the whole thing about homosexuality being seen as a foreign practice being pushed on Uganda, he may be looked at as an agent of Western influence bringing homosexuality to Uganda,” said Buwa.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ebola Outbreak: Deadly Virus Spreads in Uganda 

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The president of Uganda is calling on people in the East African country to avoid physical contact, including handshaking and kissing, to prevent the spread of the deadly and highly contagious Ebola virus that is believed to have killed 14 people in the last few weeks.

The disease has no known cure or vaccine and some strains can kill up to 90 percent of victims within days. Ugandans are so fearful of the disease that residents in Kibaale province where the outbreak was reported said that people immediately fled the hospital after hearing patients with Ebola were there.

In a nationally televised speech today, President Yoweri Museveni said health officials are working to contain the disease to the rural district where the outbreak was confirmed Saturday, but at least one of the suspected victims was taken to a hospital in the capital city of Kampala.  Now, nearly two dozen medical workers at Mulago Hospital are being held in isolation.

“We have asked people in the whole country to be careful and aware of those who present with symptoms.  We have informed health facilities of the right way to respond,” said Dr. Anthony Mbonye at Uganda’s Ministry of Health.

Mbonye said no other patients at Mulago Hospital in Kampala are at risk, and he is optimistic the outbreak in the Kibaale district 125 miles west of the capital city can be contained soon.

“I have hope because since Friday we have not had any new suspected cases of Ebola,” he said.

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Mbonye said people are frightened because many illnesses that are common in the region, such as malaria, have the same symptoms as Ebola.  He said health officials have to balance the need to inform the public while not wanting to cause unnecessary panic. In Kibaale, schools are closed and social gatherings have been cancelled.

Experts from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are in Uganda to advise health officials responding to the outbreak.

People infected with Ebola usually have flu-like symptoms at first.  They can then begin bleeding internally and externally as their vital organs shut down.

Ebola was named for the river near where it was first reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976.  Scientists believe an Ebola outbreak usually begins when a human contracts the disease from an infected animal.

The CDC operates a laboratory in Uganda where a team of scientists is studying Ebola and other deadly viruses in Africa.  In the past couple of years, U.S. defense officials expressed concern that terrorists could try to use Ebola as a biological weapon.  The threat posed by Ebola and other little understood viral diseases has been dramatized by best-selling books such as “The Hot Point” and Hollywood movies like “Outbreak” and “Contagion.”

This is the third outbreak of Ebola in Uganda since 2000 when 224 people were killed.  At least 42 people were killed in another outbreak in 2007, and there was a single confirmed case in 2011.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Joseph Kony Top Commander Captured in Central Africa

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A senior commander in the rebel army of the world’s most wanted warlord is now in custody, according to Ugandan military officials.

Joseph Kony’s top military strategist, Ceasar Acellam, was taken into custody in a region near the border between Congo and Central African Republic, following a firefight with 30 rebels. Two other rebel fighters were arrested with him.

Joseph Kony gained international attention earlier this year when a viral video about his atrocities in central Africa was viewed more than 100 million times.  California-based advocacy group Invisible Children created the video as part of a social media campaign calling for his capture by the end of this year.

For nearly three decades Kony and members of his Lord’s Resistance Army have been attacking rural villages across four central Africa countries and have become notorious for mutilating victims and forcing children to become soldiers and sex slaves.  In 2005, he was indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Last year, President Obama sent 100 Special Forces troops to central Africa to advise the Ugandan army and other regional armies searching for Kony.  Even though it is believed his army has dwindled to less than 300 fighters, the U.S. military said it is possible it could take years to capture him.

The search is proving to be extremely difficult because Kony’s fighters are roaming in a dense jungle in an area the size of California, and they have stopped using phones and radios to avoid detection.

A senior U.N. official said there are indications Kony is feeling the pressure of the stepped up efforts to find him.

Abou Moussa, head of the U.N. Regional Office for Central Africa told reporters Friday defectors have said he is now moving locations nearly every day to avoid capture.  Moussa said they have found traces of where he has stayed.

Also last week, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters he is confident Kony will be killed or captured by the end of the year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Kony 2012′ Escaped Child Soldier Supports Movie

Sam Farmar/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Jacob Acaye, the former child soldier featured in the “Kony 2012″ viral sensation, told ABC News Friday that although attention from the film was overwhelming, his life was good now and it was important for people to see the video.

“It’s a hard movie,” he said Friday in an exclusive interview. “It brought back some memories. … I still don’t know when will it end. The more time is ticking, the more people are dying. The more people are still suffering.  The more people [are] being abducted.”

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At the age of 11, Acaye was one of 41 youth taken from a Ugandan village by Joseph Kony, the leader of the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army.

In the video, Acaye, who escaped from the LRA, was interviewed by videographer Jason Russell, a cofounder of the San Diego-based charity Invisible Children Inc.

“We worry. The rebels when they arrest us again, then they will kills us,” he says in the video. “My brother tried to escape. Then they killed him. … They cut his neck. … I saw.”

“Kony 2012″ has garnered nearly 58 million views since Monday. It is part of a campaign by Invisible Children to bring Kony to justice, although the group has faced its own critics for its religious affiliations and financial practices.

In “Kony 2012,” he tells Russell that even though he’s not with the LRA, he wants to die. Then, at least, he would be reunited with his brother.

“No one is taking care of us,” he says. “We are not going to school.”

Acaye is now 21 and studying to become a lawyer at Uganda’s Makerere University  -- it’s a wish he shared in the 30-minute film released by Invisible Children.

He said that when the video was shot -- he was 13 -- he did not think it would reach this level of success.

“By then, I was like really, really invisible -- like real meaning of invisible children,” he said. “We are like the children who are not seen. Children who are not even knowing that they are suffering.”

Acaye told ABC News Friday that while the video reminded him of horrible memories of his childhood, it made people aware of Kony.

“If they [people] know and they have seen and they could learn that Kony is still being the same in that movie, they can think about what to do,” he said. “And they can think about what they can do.”

Human rights groups say the LRA has terrorized Central Africa for more than 20 years, killing and maiming thousands of civilians and forcing children to become young soldiers. Kony and his commanders are wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Kony 2012′ Campaign Against Uganda Warlord Takes Over Internet

Sam Farmar/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If you logged onto Facebook at any point Wednesday, you may very well have found friends and others sharing “Kony 2012,” a 30-minute YouTube film on the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

The nonprofit charity Invisible Children Inc. uploaded the video Monday to bring attention to Kony and the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army, which has terrorized central Africa for several years. The YouTube video currently has more than 7 million views.

The hashtag #stopkony has been trending worldwide on Twitter.

On its Facebook page, Invisible Children says it “uses film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity.”

The charity came about after three Southern California filmmakers returned from Africa and released a documentary on the children forced to fight under Kony’s leadership.

In October, President Obama sent 100 troops to Uganda to help regional forces battle the LRA and capture or kill Kony.

During that announcement, he said that for more than two decades the LRA had been responsible for having “murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa” and continues to “commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”

On April 20, the group is asking supporters to cover their hometowns with posters calling for Kony to be brought to justice. On its website, supporters can sign a petition and contribute to the cause by buying T-shirts, posters and bracelets.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Uganda Reintroduces Anti-Homosexuality Bill

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KAMPALA, Uganda) -- A prominent Ugandan parliament member reintroduced a controversial anti-gay bill during a parliamentary session on Tuesday.

David Bahati is the architect of the proposed anti-homosexuality bill which he first introduced in 2009. Homosexuality is already illegal under Ugandan law, with prison penalties for violations. The previous bill imposed tougher measures including a death sentence for cases of aggravated homosexuality, serial offenders or those with HIV.

The bill was widely supported in the conservative nation's parliament but after international condemnation and threats from the United States and European countries to cut off aid to Uganda, the bill was dropped.

Bahati's new bill, which was applauded by lawmakers on Tuesday, imposes a life sentence instead of the death penalty and prosecution for anyone who fails to report violations to authorities.

Homosexuality is illegal in 37 of 53 African countries.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Exclusive: Obama Saw 'Obligation' to Send Troops to Uganda

The White House(JAMESTOWN, N.C.) -- On Friday, we learned that President Obama authorized the deployment of 100 Special Forces troops to Central Africa to help regional armies remove from the battlefield senior leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which is known for committing horrific crimes as well as using child soldiers.

Tuesday, in an exclusive interview with President Obama, ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper asked about the “process of agreeing to deploy troops in a situation like this where you know that these Special Forces might have to return fire and they might be firing upon child soldiers.  How difficult is that as a decision to make?”

The president responded that “none of these decisions are easy.  But those who are familiar with the Lord’s Resistance Army and their leader, Mr. Kony, know that these are some of the most vicious killers, they terrorize villages, they take children into custody and turn them into child soldiers, they engage in rape and slaughter in villages they go through.  They have been a scourge on Uganda and that entire region, Eastern Africa."

“So there has been strong bi-partisan support and a coalition -- everything from evangelical Christians to folks on the left and human rights organizations -- who have said it is an international obligation for us to try to take them on,” Obama continued.  “And so given that bipartisan support across the board belief that we have to do something about this, what we’ve done is we’ve provided these advisers, they are not going to be in a situation where they are called upon to hunt down the Lord’s Resistance Army or actively fire on them, but they will be in a position to protect themselves."

“What they can do is provide the logistical support that is needed, the advice, the training and the logistical support that hopefully will allow this kind of stuff to stop,” he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Activists React to President Sending Troops to Africa

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- When President Obama authorized the deployment of 100 armed U.S. troops to Central Africa to help regional armies fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, he referred to legislation he’d signed in 2010 -- the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act -- which had 64 cosponsors, passed the full Senate by Unanimous Consent and the House by voice vote.

The author of that legislation, former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., told ABC News in a statement that “our legislation did not authorize the use of force by American troops anywhere,” but he noted that the bill “did call for a comprehensive approach in dealing with the Lord’s Resistance Army, which includes military, intelligence, diplomatic, and development components.”

Feingold said, “If the military advisors being deployed by the President are being used to facilitate information and intelligence sharing, including among regional militaries, that is consistent with part of what our bill was seeking. But that mission should be just one piece of a larger strategy that focuses on civilian protection in the broadest sense.”

A coalition of human rights groups applauded the president’s move.

“By deploying these advisers, President Obama is showing decisive leadership to help regional governments finally bring an end to the LRA’s mass atrocities,” said Paul Ronan, Director of Advocacy at Resolve.

“These advisers can make a positive difference on the ground by keeping civilians safe and improving military operations to apprehend the LRA’s top commanders.”

John Prendergast, Co-Founder of the Enough Project, said that if “part of a larger multinational strategy, the deployment of U.S. advisers can help play a catalytic role. Missing elements include more capable forces dedicated to the apprehension of Joseph Kony and protection of civilians, and an intelligence and logistics surge from the U.S. to help those forces succeed.”

Critics highlight the fact that Obama recently went back on promises U.S. forces would be involved in Libya for "days, not weeks" -- it's been months since the U.S. and NATO forces began helping rebels battle Moammar Gadhafi's forces -- and his pledges there would be no American "boots on the ground" there.

Sen. John McCain, President Obama's former presidential rival called Obama's new foray into Africa as "worthy," but, like Sen. Feingold, complained Congress should have been notified troops were going to be put in harm's way.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Special Forces Mission to Africa Planned for More Than a Year

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The mission to deploy U.S. military forces to Uganda -- about 100 over the next month -- has been pending for well over a year, but special ops forces weren’t available before now, according to senior military official.

The challenge has been “the availability of special forces, ” said the official. “Now, because of a decreased commitment in other places we were able to bring them in.”

The official was optimistic that U.S. forces can help the Africans find and capture Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and other senior LRA leaders although the official doubted that Kony would allow himself to be taken alive.

The mission is intended to be training, “not operational,” according to the official. When asked for an explanation, he said that the U.S. forces will indeed be going out on “training” patrols with the Africans, which he said could indeed be dangerous. But, he added, if the Africans actually execute a mission to go find Kony or senior leaders the U.S. trainers will not go with them.

“If it is intelligence driven and they are conducting a specific raid, U.S. will not go,” he said.

The official said that in the past few days there have been big discussions about whether congress had to be notified and it was determined notification must be made because the U.S. troops are “combat equipped.”

This official thinks the way the information was released has gotten it “rolled way out of proportion.”

He described the mission as better enabling and aiding the African troops to capture and kill Kony and senior leaders.

Is this open ended? “Yes, but I don’t think it will be too terribly long.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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