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By Patience Atuhaire
BBC News, Kampala

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Ugandans under the age of 35 – and that is more than three-quarters of the population – have only known one president.

Yoweri Museveni, who came to power on the back of an armed uprising in 1986, has defied the political laws of gravity which have felled other long-serving leaders in the region.

The 76-year-old’s time at the top has been accompanied by a long period of peace and big developmental changes for which many are grateful. But he has managed to maintain his grip on power through a mixture of encouraging a personality cult, employing patronage, compromising independent institutions and sidelining opponents.

During the last election five years ago when he addressed the issue of him stepping down, he asked: “How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?”

For this revolutionary the harvest is still not over.

media captionFive things you should know about Uganda’s elections

My introduction to the president came in the 1990s in the form of a school play in which the turbulence of the Milton Obote and Idi Amin years was acted out.

The piece climaxed on 26 January 1986, with Mr Museveni’s National Resistance Army liberating the country, bringing an end to wars and senseless killings.

It is this image of the man as liberator and peace-bringer that many Ugandans have been raised on, and are reminded of at every opportunity.

Presidential press-ups

He is also a fatherly and grandfatherly figure.

Many young Ugandans refer to the president by the nickname “Sevo”, and he fondly calls them Bazukulu (meaning grandchildren in the Luganda language).

But the family man does not see himself as a typical ageing patriarch, reclining in his favourite chair with his children and grandchildren fussing around.

In his campaign for his sixth elected term in office, which feels like it started straight after the last election, he has been traversing the country, launching factories, opening roads and new markets.

And with an eye on his relatively youthful challenger, 38-year-old former pop star Bobi Wine, Mr Museveni has been keen to show his vitality. Last April, to encourage exercise during lockdown he was filmed doing press-ups, and then repeated the trick several times including in front of cheering students in November.

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“If your father loves you, he has to empower you. In the next five years, ‘Sevo’ will make sure that when we finish school, we are able to get jobs,” 25-year-old Angela Kirabo says, touching on the issue of youth unemployment, which is a major source of concern.

The economics graduate is a proud Muzukulu (grandchild), having grown up in a family supporting the governing National Resistance Movement (NRM). She also served as vice-chairperson of the party’s chapter at university and thinks the president still has a lot to offer after 35 years in power.

Presidential age limits overturned

One of his closest friends and advisors, John Nagenda, says Mr Museveni’s selflessness is one reason for his ability to inspire loyalty.

“He was prepared to die for Uganda. I would say that we are very lucky to have him,” the 82-year-old says.

“Most of the other people that I know who have been presidents, they wanted to do it for themselves; they wanted the glory. But Museveni wants to do [it] for the country and continent… he is an Africanist.”

A woman in a mask in front of a mural


Uganda’s general election

14 January 2021

  • 11candidates are running for president

  • 1of the candidates is a woman, Nancy Kalembe

  • 5elected terms so far for Yoweri Museveni

  • 50% plus 1votes needed for a candidate to avoid a run-off election

  • 529MPs will also be elected

Source: Uganda electoral commission

Nevertheless under the original clauses of the 1995 constitution the president should not have run for office again after 2005.

Indeed, before then it was widely understood that he was against staying on in power, brushing off queries about the idea, saying that he would rather go back to his farm.

Journalist William Pike, who at one time was seen as very close to the president and the NRA, described in his memoir how the president was genuinely upset when asked at a dinner in the early 1990s whether he wanted to stay in power for the rest of his life.

“Museveni said: ‘Of course not’, but he was clearly furious at what he considered a real insult. He was not faking it. At that stage he really was not intending to stay on in power,” Mr Pike wrote.

But something changed his mind in 2004, though it has never been clear what exactly that was, and his MPs endorsed the idea that the constitution should be amended to remove presidential term limits.

He had the green light to stand until he reached 75 years of age.

media captionChairs were thrown during the debate in parliament

And then in December 2017, the constitutional obstacle of an age limit for a presidential candidate was also removed – an issue which led to brawls on the floor of parliament and a police raid on the building.

Many saw this as the NRM’s way to allow Mr Museveni to become president for life.

It is not for nothing that parliament felt compelled to reward the long-serving leader. The willingness of MPs to go along with the changes has a lot to do with the fact that they felt they owed their positions to the president.

Fewer challenges to authority

The significance of patronage extends right through society.

It sometimes manifests as development programmes for women, market vendors and government jobs. In a country where 15% of young people are unemployed and over 21% of the population live in poverty, aligning with the right party can save an entire village from destitution.

But his supporters point to the transformation of Uganda as a positive reason to give Mr Museveni five more years.

“If you come from the north and east you will understand that a big achievement of peace has been brought. For 20 years those regions were engulfed in war,” says 28-year-old Jacob Eyeru, who leads the government’s National Youth Council.

While acknowledging that joblessness is a worry, he adds that the NRM has “transformed the economy to make it not just regionally competitive but also globally competitive”.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMr Museveni’s supporters believe he still has a lot to offer

Despite these changes he has also weakened the independence of some of the country’s key institutions to ensure fewer challenges to his authority.

The judiciary has not been spared, and in recent years has been accused of recruiting so-called “cadre judges”, who are loyal to the government.

When judges have taken independent decisions, they have sometimes found themselves at loggerheads with the authorities.

For example, on 16 December 2005, highly trained armed security personnel raided the High Court in the capital, Kampala, and re-arrested members of the suspected rebel People’s Redemption Army, who had just been acquitted of treason charges.

“They turned the Temple of Serenity into a theatre of war,” Justice James Ogoola wrote in a poem about the incident entitled Rape of the Temple.

When it comes to challenging election results, the outcome of every presidential race since 2001 has been contested in court. In all cases, the courts ruled that the irregularities were not serious enough to warrant an annulment.

media captionPresident Yoweri Museveni and singer Bobi Wine are fighting for Uganda’s youth vote

The media has also had its independence threatened.

On the surface, Uganda has a lively media industry which has grown to hundreds of private radio and TV stations, print outlets, and internet-based services under Mr Museveni.

“In the early days, before cynicism and rot set in, there was a strand of intellectualism within the regime that tolerated dissenting views and was able to debate and disagree with them,” says Daniel Kalinaki, the Nation Media Group’s General Manager for Editorial, in Kampala.

But outlets have been raided and journalists detained, as the leading lights in the government have become “increasingly thin-skinned”, Mr Kalinaki adds.

But perhaps the most significant factor in Mr Museveni’s longevity is the way that any potential opposition force has been neutered.

Opposition supporters shot dead

As it became clear 20 years ago that he was going to stay in power, some of his former associates started to break away. As they did, the security forces, touted as a people’s police and army, turned their guns on these political opponents.

Kizza Besigye of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, once Mr Museveni’s physician, first ran against him in the 2001 election. He has been detained and prosecuted on numerous charges, including rape and treason, but has never been convicted.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPresidential candidate Bobi Wine has proved a popular draw for many young voters

Now that Bobi Wine, a singer whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is mounting a serious challenge to the president’s rule, he has become the latest politician to face the wrath of the men in uniform.

The MP, whose star power draws huge crowds of young people, was brutally arrested during a colleague’s by-election campaign in the north-western town of Arua in 2018. He then faced treason charges which were later dropped.

On the campaign trail for this election, the police have arrested, tear-gassed and shot at him and his supporters for defying coronavirus restrictions on the gathering of large groups.

During two days of protests in November following Bobi Wine’s arrest, 54 people were killed, many of them believed to have been shot by the security forces.

Sticking your head above the parapet in Uganda is a brave choice and anyone who seeks to challenge Mr Museveni should be in no doubt about the level of harassment that they are likely to face.

Through his 35 years in charge, he has come to sit at the apex of power where he is in total control. He has also managed to reinvent himself.

Whereas he was once the political upstart in his early 40s, anyone taking on that role now risks incurring his considerable wrath.

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Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

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“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

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Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)

5 min read

Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

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How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers


Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

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