Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Anti-gay bill claims more collateral damage

Victoria University Kampala
The controversial anti-homosexuality bill before the Ugandan parliament has claimed more collateral damage. The latest victims of this bill are the students of Victoria University in Kampala whose academic future is uncertain after the University of Buckingham in the UK has suspended its validation of Victoria University degrees because it is becoming "increasingly concerned about the proposed legislation in Uganda on homosexuality and in particular the constraints on freedom of speech".

The full University of Buckingham statement reads:
Over the last few months, the University of Buckingham has been in discussions with our partners, Edulink, who own Victoria University in Kampala, Uganda, about our continued validation of some of Victoria University’s courses. We have both become increasingly concerned about the proposed legislation in Uganda on homosexuality and in particular the constraints on freedom of speech in this area. In the light of this we have agreed to suspend our validation on the assurance that Edulink would produce viable arrangements for existing students on our validated courses to complete their studies. We will of course assist Edulink with any validation support needed to achieve this
From the above it appears that the UK university has decided to pull out of a collaboration agreement with Victoria University based simply on the premise that a bill whose content it has misgivings about is likely to be passed into law by the Parliament of Uganda.

First of all, as the full title of the controversial piece of legislation makes clear, it is just a bill. It is a private members bill (tabled by a backbench MP as opposed to one tabled by, for example, a cabinet minister, which would suggest government's endorsement). It has not been debated and passed as law and as such it is unfair for Buckingham University to use it as the basis of evaluating its relationship with an academic institution in Uganda.

Secondly, the law on homosexuality in Uganda is still the same as it was in 2011 when University of Buckingham and Victoria University entered into an agreement where Victoria University awarded undergraduate degrees accredited by the University of Buckingham. At the time of this agreement the bill in question was almost two years old and had already gained notoriety worldwide. So what has changed since?

Victoria University has also released a slightly more detailed statement on the issue in which it presents the current situation as the result of "fundamental differences between the two nations’ respective 
laws regarding equality and diversity, which cannot be reconciled". However, given the fact that the University of Buckingham is not the only British university that gives accreditation to degrees and other qualifications obtained in Uganda its reaction hardly seems warranted.

The situation appears to be a case of an institution that has nothing to do with the anti-gay bill being unfairly made to suffer the consequences of the bill by another institution that, pushed by zeal to show that it opposes a bad law in another country, reacts without giving much thought to those that are actually being affected by its actions. Sort of like the misguided defacement of the Uganda Law Society website by Anonymous in protest against the same anti-gay bill.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

AFCON 2013 is upon us, but gosh what a terrible theme song

Today I realised that the Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2013 AFCON 2013 (or CAN 2013 if you are Francophone) will be kicking off in exactly 2 weeks in South Africa and unlike most guys my first thought was not towards how the teams are getting on with their preparations but about what theme song was chosen (my beloved Uganda Cranes where very narrowly prevented from qualifying by the Zambians, which explains my lack of enthusiasm for the tournament).

I thought of the theme song because I liked the one for AFCON 2012 (and I even had a few nice words to write about it) so naturally I expected another catchy and uplifting tune-the kind that makes you feel good and makes you want to be part of the whole football experience. Sela Sela by Zahra Universe and Wes Madiko is not such a song.

I cannot seem to find anything to like about it. From the "tribal"dances (when will people get over this) to the bland uninspiring lyrics to .....You know what? You guys make up your minds about it. Maybe I am just grumpy this morning, but I doubt its just me.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Uganda Law Society website hack: Wrong target Mr. Anonymous

The Uganda Law Society website has been hacked by Anonymous, a Hacktivist group that has made a name for itself over the past few years, who claim they want to bring to the world's attention to the Uganda government's violations of human rights specifically in relation to some pending anti-gay legislation.

"We have gone to the trouble of compromising the Ugandan Law Society's webserver to bring to your attention, and to the attention of the world, your government's gross breaches of human rights and justice" 

The group had released a statement last year threatening some kind of action against Uganda government's network infrastructure and they have followed through by exploiting a vulnerability in the ULS website's security (which they cheekily pointed out).

Ironically, the target chosen for the first attack happens to be one of those organisations at the forefront of fighting the anti-homosexuality bill that is before the parliament of Uganda. The Uganda Law Society has been on record as being against the anti-gay bill and its members have been quite vocal in the support of activism against the bill.

I am guessing the the social justice hactivists at Anonymous probably saw the name of the organisation and assumed it was a government agency. The fact is that the ULS is an association of lawyers charged with ensuring high levels of professionalism among lawyers in Uganda (granted it was established by an act of parliament but strictly speaking its not a government agency).

I guess that really doesn't matter to the guys at Anonymous. The important thing to them is that their point has been made and they have shown that they are gearing to take on the government of Uganda.
"If nobody else will take action and the government of Uganda refuses to see reason, Anonymous will adopt a scorched earth policy towards Uganda's network infrastructure. They should expect us, for we do not forgive and we do not forget. Your networks are not secure, you cannot protect against us"

Under Anonymous's #OpUganda (which I am guessing means Operation Uganda) the ULS website hack is just the beginning and it seems many more Uganda government websites are going to be targets over the coming months if the list at the end of this press statement is anything to go by.

Judging from what these guys have to say about the internet security of most Uganda government websites this might be these guys'easiest operation yet. 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year 2013

As I settle into 2012 I have decided to pay some long overdue attention to this blog of mine. In fact, one of my (many) resolutions this year is to be a more active blogger. I happen to think it is quite an achievable one but that remains to be seem. The blog realignment is under way and my Idle Cogitations will start taking on a less random nature as the year goes by (I hope).

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous 2013. May it be full of whatever you all want it to be full of.