Daniel Kalinaki's weblog

A commentary on news and events in Uganda and elsewhere


Just an ordinary bloke.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Merry Christmas; you have the right to remain silent...

THIRD FLOOR -- I got two letters from the police this week. The first was a belated Christmas card, personally signed by the Inspector General, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, bless his soul, to me and my family.

The card went to the ornamental table, next to the rest of the batch from workmates, sources, clients, etc. The second letter, copied to two workmates, was less pleasant and more direct: it was a summons to present ourselves at the Criminal Investigations Directorate to assist the police investigations that a story we published in the paper was prejudicial to national security.

To that uninitiated, that would be section 37 of the penal code act of Uganda. Maximum sentence? Seven years.

In many ways, I saw it coming. Being a journalist in Uganda is increasingly becoming unpredictable, rough and dangerous as President Museveni seeks to tighten his grip on power. Dissent and critical voices must be silenced. A department has been set up in the police force to deal with errant media. A Cabinet sub-committee was tasked to find ways of 'sorting out' pesky hacks through all means possible. The President has, on several occasions, vowed to deal with the media.

While this reference to the 'media' is wide, The Monitor, which I edit, is the 600-pound gorilla in the room, complete with a target painted on its backside. It is us that, more often than not, are foolish enough to question government actions, inactions, graft, incompetence, insolence, etc. It is us (with others) who question why political appointees, many of them school drop outs, are paid more than doctors; why public land is given away in dubious circumstances; why we spend more on the Presidency than on agriculture which employs eight out of every 10 Ugandans, etc.

So to work with the Monitor is to expect these kinds of things. If anything, it is surprising that it is the first summons in the six months I have been back at the paper. Yet, to be honest, when they come, as they did this week, they still send a chill down the spine, however momentarily. Friday is a dreaded day; if you don't have the time or money or sureties to arrange bail, a weekend in custody is on the books. But even if you do get bail, the incessant visits to court or to the CID are as schedule-disrupting as they are energy-sapping.

And yet, these trials -- and the fortitude with which other editors and journalists have faced them -- have a way of strengthening the resolve, of helping you see the posturing of power for the regime weakness and insecurity that it really is. I have been there before; once beaten, second time dragged to court, twice, to gag me.

I will be there again on Friday to take the latest installment from the state. If you don't hear from me for the next seven years, I will be doing my PhD by correspondence in the calm and quiet of the lakeside resort of Luzira (or, God-forbid, Kyenjojo!), all expenses paid by the state. Considering the dearth of social services, that might be the only time I benefit from my taxes, no?

Whatever happens to me, Happy New 2009 to you.



Blogger snottyganda said...

Could you please post or tell us what the article was about that has landed you into this predicament. N', please tell us whether you expect a fair question time with the security authorities. Will you have your attorney present during these proceeding? What kind of atmosphere reigns during this time of questioning i.e is it civil or do you have black mambas breathing down your necks and dishing out a few salvos of slaps and other physical and mental torture?

4:45 pm  
Blogger Joshua said...

weather this storm...Kalinaki. We are thinking of you. -josh

3:53 am  
Blogger Joshua said...

yikes. any follow up on this?

2:21 am  
Blogger Spartakuss said...

i feel bad that it came to this.I'll keep my fingers crossed that it comes through ok for you.

but seriously if you were not in the least interested in the NRM's machinations for power, would you ever have a clear conscience because if you wouldn't then you shouldn't regret for a second what you are doing: i mean showing up. you choose to run.

12:33 pm  
Blogger wesonga said...

Hi Daniel.

Just a word of caution, those 'goons' - Police/ISO/CMI/ESO if you wish - could raid your house.

I believe some of these chaps, just like you and me, do blog.

The moment they know some of the Christmas cards are from sources they may want know, they (goons) will invite themselves to your house the way some Armenians did to The East African Standard.

The ISO hirelings will simply vist when you, and girlfriend are at your respective offices,anddaughter is at school.

The house-help can easily be confused by a handsome twalire bodaboda asking for a soft spot in her chest, and readiness to offer her free rides to the market to buy jeans and 'spaghetti tops' or to a video hall (kibanda)to watch Nigerian movies because your SONY BRAVIA is too complicated for her to turn on.

Fore- warned...

8:40 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Youg rock.You sound stylish on radio than the goals you score on the pitch at East kololo.
Never the less youre the no. 1 blogger:real with brilliance in it. cheers
a.k.a Lampard.

1:17 pm  

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