Don’t spit or litter please, Ugandans told

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS

Kampala : Ugandans living in the capital have been asked to put their best foot forward as the country hosts its biggest international meet: the three-day summit of 53 Commonwealth nations that began Friday.

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Authorities have warned Kampala residents that anyone found littering or spitting will be penalised. Motorists have been told to discipline themselves while a fresh coat of paint has been given to buildings near the summit venue. Owners of cattle roaming Kampala – scenes familiar in New Delhi – can be jailed for up to six months.


Kampala is on a state of unprecedented high alert following fears of possible terror attacks. The Ugandan Army has been pressed into service to assist the police in providing security to the visiting heads of states and government as well as other delegates numbering about 5,000. Even the Interpol’s help has been sought.

Private security guards employed at banks, hotels, private residences and offices close to the summit venue have been disarmed. Says Uganda’s minister of security: “It is not that we have any specific threat against the CHOGM summit. We have decided to take precautionary measures just in case anyone has bad ideas about the summit.”


Uganda’s opposition parties do not share the country’s seeming enthusiasm for the CHOGM. Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who heads the Forum for Democratic Change, has called for a boycott of the CHOGM and asked people to take part in parallel events. “We consider what is going on in Kampala as a CHOGM mafia, a CHOGM that has nothing to do with addressing the problems of Ugandans,” Besigye said. The opposition brands Uganda President Yoweri Museveni a dictator, comparable to Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf.


The CHOGM fever is running high in Kampala. The Bank of Uganda has issued in limited numbers a commemorative bank note of 10,000 shillings to commemorate the event. Its real value, however, won’t be much because of the weak nature of the country’s currency. One US dollar fetches 1,700 Uganda shillings.


Queen Elizabeth received a roaring welcome as she flew into Kampala Thursday for her first visit to Uganda in 53 long years. Cheering crowds greeted the Queen, who is the head of the Commonwealth and who flew in accompanied by husband Prince Philip and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.


Uganda is notorious for power outages. But thanks to the CHOGM, Kampala has been spared its daily punishing bouts of electricity cuts during the past three days. But Kampala’s gain is a huge blow to rural areas, many of which are facing a virtual blackout, say city residents.