How Uganda’s Criminal Defamation Laws Deter Investigative Journalism

 

Story-Based Inquiry, an investigative journalism handbook published by UNESCO, defines investigative journalism as the kind of journalism that involves exposing to the public matters that are concealed–either deliberately by someone in a position of power, or accidentally, behind a chaotic mass of facts and circumstances that obscure understanding. It requires using both secret and open sources and documents.”

 

Relatedly, the Dutch-Flemish investigative journalism group VVOJ defines investigative reporting simply as “critical and in-depth journalism.” But to do serious and critical journalism in Uganda is still not a free zone for journalists based on the developments that we have seen in the recent past.

 

The situation has made some journalists withdraw their passion from the sensitive stories for fear of being apprehended. Majority of them have actually resorted to reporting only press conference stories but this denies chance and right to citizens to know what is happening in their governments. Actually some journalists have been put on the red list not to cover certain state functions, which is really absurd.

 

PEN International Uganda, a local not for profit Organisation but England based charity Organisation that promotes literature and freedom of expression has called on government to repeal laws criminalizing defamation on grounds that the law continues facilitating official secrecy and undermining accountability.

Pansy Tlakula, the chairperson of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights  and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information says the laws are incompatible with the African Charter on Human and People’s rights and that they should be repealed.

“Criminal defamation and insult laws are nearly always used to punish legitimate criticism of powerful people, rather than to protect the right to a reputation,” Tlakula says.

The 2017 report titled; “Stifling Dissent, Impeding Accountability: Criminal Defamation Laws in Africa” shows how the cost of these laws is significant and how they stifle independent comment and political debate denying the public the right to know about stories of national importance and deter investigative journalism.

Hilda Twongyeirwe, the Executive Director FEMRITE – Uganda Women Writers’ Association urges Ugandan Writers and Journalists to join hands to form a Uganda Writers Union that would be charged with collective protection of their rights. She says the report is very important for practitioners to begin the debate on how to influence laws in Uganda.

FEMRITE-Coordinator-Hilda-Twongyeirwe

Ms.Twongyeirwe states that; “These things have been happening. The report is unearthing what has been happening. So now that we have information, that the individual stories are no longer individual stories, I think that is a trigger that should get all of us on our toes and act, yes everybody wants to be safe, we have families, friends and relatives but at the same time, it becomes so disempowering when somebody dries to silence our voices.”

Dr. Danson Sylvester Kahyana PEN Uganda Chapter President says they are now focusing on sensitizing the public and practitioners about the effect of defamation laws on the quality service delivery and in turn the quality of lives.

 

Dr. Danson Sylvester Kahyana

Dr. Kahyana, who is also a lecturer in the Literature Department at Makerere University, urges citizens to support journalists in the cause of informing and disseminating information and to stand with them in times when they face such challenges.

He also appeals to journalists and practitioners to quickly identify with several human rights organizations which could help them once they land in such troubles resulting from storytelling.

“The biggest challenge I think is ignorance, people do not know about defamation. Even writers don’t know anything about defamation, they hear about it the day they are being arrested. And that is the biggest challenge. That is why through our work we want to ensure many people are empowered. And people should know that being prosecuted doesn’t not mean that you are guilty because writers and journalists write these stories not on their behalf but on behalf of the population,” Dr. Kahyana.

Criminal defamation laws can be traced in the 1950 Penal Code Act. Specifically articles 179-186 clearly set out the law on criminal defamation.

Article 179 defines libel as unlawful publication of any ‘defamatory matter’ with intent to defame another person, while Article 180 defines ‘defamatory matter’ as that likely to injure the person’s reputation by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule.

The article protects the reputation of the dead as well as the living, although no prosecutions for alleged defamation of people who are deceased proceed without approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

These laws were used to prosecute two Sunday Monitor journalists, senior reporter, Angelo Izama, and Editor, Henry Ochieng, in connection with an article published in December 2009 that drew similarities between Uganda government under President Museveni and the former regime of Ferdinand Marcos in Philippines.

The two journalists were later acquitted in December 2012, by which time they had spent almost three years facing trial and threat of imprisonment for their peaceful criticism of the government.

Ronald Nahabwe, former Red Pepper Journalist who was charged with criminal defamation and later acquited.

In another notable case, authorities in Uganda arrested four journalists and charged them with criminal defamation in August 2015.  All the four- Madinah Nalwanga and Patrick Tumwesigye of the Vision Group, and Benon Tugumisirize and Ronald Nahabwe of the Red Pepper newspaper were criminally accused of defaming two Kampala businessmen in stories about a land ownership dispute.

They were granted bail but it was set at two million shillings each; while the Vision Group met this for their journalists, Red Pepper spent five days in Luzira prison before bail was paid.

Benon Tugumisirize another journalist who was charged using criminal defamation laws and later acquitted.

Trial proceedings against the four journalists, and a fifth person who had acted as their source of information, continued for more than a year before Buganda Road Chief Magistrate acquitted them of all charges in March 2017.

The fifth accused was however convicted was found to have provided journalists with information false information concerning the two businessmen with whom he was in dispute which they subsequently published.

According to the report, almost half of the 38 writers and journalists from 22 African countries who responded to the survey conducted by PEN and University of Witwatersrand on the impact of Criminal defamation and insult laws  indicated that the use of these laws inhibit them in practicing their professions.

Due to fear of prosecution under criminal defamation and or insult legislations, 16 of the respondents avoided writing stories at some point. For those that avoided writing stories oft would be on topics such as corruption, crime and politics.

“By fencing in the media in this way, criminal defamation laws deter investigative journalism and the exposure of corruption and other wrong doing by state officials and undermine media’s capacity to perform its acknowledged role as a critical watchdog of the public interest,” report.

Adding that; “They (criminal defamation laws) endanger media self-censorship and contribute to a climate of official inviolability, secrecy and unaccountability in which corruption, arbitrary unlawfulness and human rights violations may flourish.”

The report recommended that decriminalizing defamation would assuredly serve the public interest by freeing journalists to investigate and report on key political issues and personalities without constant threat of criminal prosecution as it would help ensure greater government accountability and enhancing democracy.

PEN International and PEN Uganda urges the government to promptly repeal Penal Code articles 39 and 40 on sedition which the Constitutional Court ruled in 2010 breached the constitution.

And subsequently repeal the Penal Code provisions criminalizing defamation and the publication of false news specifically articles 50, 53, and 179-186 and that the state ensures that truth is available as a complete defense to defamation.

PEN Uganda also wants amendments to laws that infringe on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression including the 2010 Interception of Communications Act and the 2011 Computer Misuse Act to ensure their full conformity with Uganda’s obligations under the African Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

They also want government to immediately and unconditionally release anyone detained or imprisoned on criminal defamation charges and drop all prosecutions on such charges.

Media owners, publishers, editors and journalist associations and practitioners have been urged to support, strengthen and comply with the code of ethics promulgated by the independent media council, train their journalists and provide adequate legal, financial and professional support to employees facing criminal defamation charges.

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Well Said SK, I am joining to support the Textile Industry too

IT’S been a couple of weeks of me ranting about AGOA (Africa Growth Opportunities Act) and the awkwardness of the situation surrounding textiles made in Africa being stopped from entering the United States under a commercial arrangement that benefits the Africans. I am clearly not done with this yet but providence has stepped forward, dressed […]

via black panther: another growth opportunity for african textiles – made in wakanda! — scare-a-hero

Let us Sell Patients, Inmates and raise Salaries for Medics, Prosecutors

 

One of the patients at Mulago Hospital lying on the hospital floor during the health workers strike.

For preventing patients in the country’s public hospitals and health Centers and various citizens rotting in jails as a result of state prosecutors strike, judicial officers, and poor investigations by police due to limited funding, I present a proposal which I think once adopted, these inmates and patients can be made beneficial to the public once we are serious about increasing our revenues as a country.

 

You colleagues, it becomes a catch 22 situation for them (health workers) when you walk through a hospital corridor and your ears pick cries of patients, unattended to, either because the doctor patient ratios are not matching, or the health workers are demotivated simply because they are thinking of how to get school fees for their children or even pay rent for the next month and there is a long queue of people to attend to.

 

Same situation for a Kampala woman, seller of menvu (Yellows) on the street of Kampala for a living. She is heavy and ready to deliver her third child and expects to receive first class attention from a national hospital like Mulago to be able to deliver. She has run out funds because when she gave menvu to her 9-year old daughter to sell in town, a highly paid, and merciless confiscated them. (I am told the lowest paid person in this high end part of the country, which is a tea girl, earns sh1.1m per month and of course her boss earning about sh43.7million. This is about 39.7 times her salary.

 

Nevertheless, that is not important; the doctor tasks this menvu woman to buy gloves in hospital because apparently they are out of stock. Unfortunately she does not have it at the moment, perhaps her only hope was menvu which is already being enjoyed by the ‘Kampala Yellow boys’. She delivers on the floor and that is when she gets attended to by an intern doctor who buys emergency gloves out of her upkeep.

 

Suddenly, another innocent soul has been maliciously detained for weeks, he is a sole bread winner at home from his motorcycle business and his pregnant woman is yet to deliver. But he is not there to provide because he is incarcerated. He of course cannot be brought to court because the prosecutors insist they want their payments enhanced. Word from corridors, even the nurses on go-slow-strike, of course there is no money to fulfill their demands, unless their need for money is to consult patients on Age limit, funding should be prompt.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that all this chaos from sections of workers is disturbing the peace of our caretakers and indeed present an appalling state of the pearl of Africa, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and economically viable method of making these patients, pregnant mothers, people on remand sound and useful Members of the society would deserve so well of the country, as to have his Statue set up for a preserver of the Nation.

 

Uganda Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng issuing a statement to all health workers resume work immediately lest they get fired.

Having turned my thoughts for many nights, up on this very important issue in the country, i think there is a way to help them so that they stop being a burden to not only their families but also the government of Uganda which is looking forward to a middle income status.

 

Think of it colleagues, if we as a country decided to sell off all patients currently in public hospitals, all prisoners who are yet to know their fate and several other consumers of salaried compromised services for one financial year, we would raise a lot of funds to run our health facilities until we start producing, his oil.

 

Assuming that we have roughly 10,000 patients per day, in public hospitals across the country multiplied by a cost of a slave in West Africa which $400 according to International Organization for Migration, approximately UGX. 1.4million, the country would be getting a total of 14.2billion shillings per day. This means that all patients would generate 428billion per month and 5.1 trillion shillings (about USD1.4bn).

 

Of course even though our human beings maybe sick, their value is more than those of Libya because they feed well here, and are battle hardened.

 

He is another perspective, the Uganda Prison services. They currently have about 55,000 inmates, with capacity of 20,000 people. Every day, court remands, sentences between 600-700 inmates while about 500 people are discharged every day from prisons. With the prosecutors strike, it means several are still stuck in the cells and cannot be released. This number is just subject to debate. I have not considered the number of those detained at various police cells across the country.

Patongo prison in Uganda Internet Photo

 

Ladies and gentlemen, this is another opportunity to where we can strategically benefit from the current market in Libya of human beings. The cost of one human being alone can satisfy a state prosecutor who is currently earning a gross of Shs644, 963 a month, and we will be good to go.

 

From simple mathematics, if for instance we have 55,000 inmates, each one would earn us 1.4million shillings and we would have in total Sh.78.5billion shillings for one sell off. Based on our inflows, there will still be prisoners coming in. So there are no worries about completely emptying the cells and we fail to have laborers in our cotton farms. Once we have these billions, judicial officers and prosecutors will have a pay rise as desired. The rest of the money we can invest in providing procuring chauffeur-driven cars for judicial officers and prosecutors.

 

 I profess that with this surging population with its growth at 3.3% per annum – 2002-2014, we are assured of stable supply of human beings for sale since their health is not guaranteed. Statistics project that we will have 45.8m people in 2020, 53.5million in 2025 and 61.9m in 2030.

 

And by the way, with this kind of growing population, we can’t afford to have threats from the unpatriotic citizens with insatiable appetite for remuneration. I applaud the move by government to hire mercenaries (Cuba doctors) in order to lay off youthful Ugandan health workers especially those under Uganda Medical Association (UMA). Once the trade is on, we will use a few dollars to clear off Cuba doctors, ensure stable supplies in hospitals of drugs among others.

A Public University Professor’s View on Presidential Age-Limit

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni addresses the congregation after his conferment on December 12, 2010

 

I have been reading Joachim Buwembo’s How to be a UGANDAN and while reading how to be a professor, it got me thinking what is the status of a University Professor in the presidential Age Limit Debate.

 

Joachim Buwembo alludes a reknowned Ugandan writer Okot p’Bitek’s question at Makerere University Main Hall in 1981 during a public Lecture.

“What use is a professor who has nothing to profess?” Okot demanded angrily while delivering a public lecture in a filled-to-overflowing main hall. But the professors were not in the audience to answer his question. They were busy elsewhere in the city, looking for money in different non-intellectual pursuits in order to make our personal budgets balance.

A couple of years after Okot’s public lecture, another Ugandan colleague of ours who tried to profess was stripped of his citizenship. Prof. Mahmood Mamdani had tried to tried too early to exercise his intellectual freedom and the government was not amused. As smartly put by Buwembo, in the seventies, many of our colleagues had paid with their lives for expressing their opinions freely. Prof. Ali Mazrui (born Kenyan but intellectually matured at Makerere) fled Kampala before the dictators exacted the ultimate price from them.

The Author indicates that by mid-seventies, the intellectual desertification of Makerere University was almost complete. Arguing that those who remained in the country were bound to have their mouths shut lest they be eliminated.

He indicates that the relationship between Amin’s Authoritarian regime and Makerere University has soured and in order to mend it, the university awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws and from then they started addressing him as Dr. Amin, a title he loved so much that prompted him to pay a visit to his “fellow” doctors at the teaching hospital of Mulago.

Once the staff meeting got under way, he asked the Minister of Health, who was a layman, to step out so that only “Doctors” remained in the room to discuss their own matters freely. “Fellow Doctors,” he began his address.

By the middle of seventies, the author says they had come to believe that a dead professor was no dead. For those who remained in the country, they exhibited two rules to survive.

Rule number one was to shut your mouth; someone could be tempted to feed you with a bullet. However provocative or interesting way a discussion that came up in your presence, you had to keep quiet and avoid provoking the state’s self-styled surgeons who had become obsessed with separating people’s heads from their necks.

Rule number two was to stick to what is already written and published. As long as you were teaching, you had to avoid sounding original and only quote the over-quoted scholars of yesteryear. For fear of state secret agents who infested lecturer rooms to report in case of teaching subversive ideas!


Professors resorted to part-time teaching in Kampala High Schools, taxi businesses, shop-keeping, chicken rearing, etc. in order to survive the gun rule and its economic pangs.

The author argues that post-1986 Uganda, university professors were ushered in good times. Despite the spate of strikes over their wages as highlighted in Prof. Mamdani’s Scholars in a Market Place, thirty years later, Professors salaries have been enhanced and to the commitment of country’s sole candidate and the all visionary leader, a professor will be earning Shs.15million by 2020.

There is no wonder however that could be a sign of another good turn since Makerere has been clear at positioning itself to the president. And indeed, on December 12, 2010, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was awarded Honorary Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) of Makerere University for his exceptional and significant contributions nationally and internationally for the development of humanity.

The orator at the event Professor Elly N. Sabiiti categorically stated that Museveni was able to relate effectively with the University in addressing institutional aspirations and concerns. And that he supports and sustains scholarly activity at Makerere University with the capacity to help Makerere University reposition itself and continue to have influence nationally and internationally.“Therefore, we in Makerere University are delighted to recognize and honour him. This is a measure of how proud we are of H.E Yoweri Kaguta’s Museveni exceptional achievements and this bears testimony to the high regard in which he is held by all who know him,” Prof. Sabiiti said.

After the successful staff woes, the lecturers in public universities seem contented with the current political leadership. Indeed in 2013, a professor at Makerere was earning Shs 3.1m. By 2016, this increased to 8.04m – a 159% increase over three years. President Museveni insists that this should be enhanced up to Shs15million. A professor’s prayer currently would be that the Members of Parliament consider the bill carefully so that the old man keeps the taps dripping in their pockets open.

 

 

A Letter to the Inventor

Tales of the Thoughtless MIND

There comes a time when you discover that you are a child. You will always be a child to someone. Yes, the way your parents treat you when you become an adult is different. The way they treat you when you graduate from university is also different. And that moment you become married totally changes how the parents see you. But in truth whereas they will treat you differently, you will always be their baby.

I can speak from personal experience. Among most of my family I am commonly referred to as baby. I have told them countless times that I am no longer a baby. Would a baby be able to produce countless words in the form of a blog? Anyway, to cut the long story short, my family, most especially my mother and older sisters have clearly stated that to them I will always be their baby.

What…

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Hon Kabafunzaki, the People of Rwamucucu Stand with you

Yesterday, some “ungrateful” Ugandans protested our investors in Nakasero for hawking. Ungrateful because they never know the role of our modern investors especially on the road to the middle income status, the protest got me thinking who is qualified to hawk and who is not. All citizens must agree that if we are all of us going to deliver our country to the middle income status, we need to allow hawking investors to teach us how to do business on the streets of Kampala. Perhaps that is how they succeeded.

My boda boda chap, called Ssalongo, this time around is from one of the lucrative centers in Katanga has his origins in the Kigezi region in the south western part of the country. My contract with him is to take me to Nakasero, it was just a tip off by a tweep that downtown hardware traders had had their tempers flare. Along the way our conversation is largely a fortune of being a Ugandan minister. Ssalongo says he is proud of the embattled State Minister for Labor, Employment and Industrial Relations Hon. Herbert Kabafunzaki for his brevity. “We Bakiga never settle for less,” he says. Adding that; “Kabafunzaki was working for his voters.”

I therefore stand with Bakiga and the Rwamucucu people in particular to congratulate Hon. Herbert Kabafunzaki upon a heroic move to direct an investor. Those who think we can reach the middle income status without investors must be guided.   Just in case someone feels offended as you are trying to look for salt and school fees for your children, we think those “little faults” are everywhere. There isn’t a man living who has got no peccadilloes: Heaven made him so, let those free-thinkers say what they like. Atakikolangako akasuke ejinja. Nyabirerema, Nyakasiru, Karorwa, Kyogo, Kibanda, Rutengye people still love you. They content you were setup. Just because it was not in billions, that is why you’re being gagged. It should have been more than that at least for we know the number of road blocks , security checks that one must brave to statehouse.

Hon. Kabafunzaki Herbert. Cartoon by Chris Ogon/ Daily Monitor

I associate myself with the people of Mparo village, Rwamucucu Sub-County in Kabale District where you are born. I also stand with the voters of Rukiga County upon your breakthrough as a first timer, minister. We congratulate you upon following the script. When you were appointed, as voters of Rukiga expect, you should be have a mansion. You should construct malls in all growing towns and you should have land all these are the social needs. It is your turn to “eat” why should people think you are not entitled to eating yet you’re meagerly paid.

 

We know you were set up by some unpatriotic Ugandans. Those who don’t know how hard it is to meet the president, are heckling and rubbishing your transport refund/ facilitation to lead the investor to the president. The same shameless people go around telling your voters that you are greedy. As if they don’t know how hard it is to reach the president. Forgive them for they don’t know what they are talking about.

You have made the people of Rwamucucu proud of you. Who knew a village called Rwamucucu, thank you for joining the league of hard workers! We no doubt have always known you for being a selfless, God fearing man. Who knows whether the 5million shillings were meant to construct a local church in Nyakagabagaba.

Your voters shall indeed give you another Kisanja for being a good representative. What if you were courting the Aya brothers to fund the Rwamucucu pads for girls’ campagn? We know government has said lately that it has no money to buy sanitary pads for the little school going kids.

We are sorry that your gracefulness has been taken for granted. Maybe the His Excellency could have given you a handshake for cleaning the investors’ name. Blame your love for ‘investors’ to create a good environment for our beloved investors so that when they are investing in hawking pipes, tiles and making chapatti they can “feel at home”.

We ‘sober’ Ugandans indeed stand with you, just like social media fans have vehemently stood with Maama Stella in Luzira. Those freethinkers don’t know that in the East African region you are one of the poorest paid as members of parliament. Who said that a country preparing for middle income status needs a state minister who only earns a monthly pay of just Shs25 million?

We the tax payers know you received a one off car grant of Shs103 million, but we fell and think that is just peanuts. And by the way, for those hecklers, do they know how much fuel you spend to check on your loyal voters in the hilly Rukiga County with impassable roads? Maybe they think only Shs4.5 million; mileage facilitation is enough for a minister of Kabafunzaki caliber? Why should Ugandans think that the Shs3.2 million you receive every month as constituency facilitation is enough for all your voters? You have to give back to community, to thank them for making you closer to the national cake.
Hon. Minister, there were rumors in corridors that you don’t pay taxes as MPs. Let those hecklers, and unpatriotic Ugandans know that you receive only Shs2.6 million as your monthly taxable salary. And that you have never defaulted paying taxes. Of all the people you have to take care of, why would anyone think that your subsistence allowance which is just about Shs1 million is enough. Does anyone know how important a honorable member is, we know members of parliament among other things is lobby for your voters. Why would they think that only Shs50, 000 per sitting in a parliamentary committee where you put your valuable time would be enough? They don’t know that just by spending that committee time where you will only earn 50,000, you can fruitfully use it to meet an investor, of Aya’s caliber and pocket 5million just in a flash of a second. They don’t know that even if you add the plenary sitting allowances of 50, ooo per sitting, you will have to wait for a year to raise the money like what Aya is presenting.
Shs9 million per month for Social Security Benefits is not enough. Any serious hard-working gentleman like you will have to dine with investors to see how to improve on your security benefits; voters commend you for the brevity. Can you imagine someone thinks a minister only can require just about Shs1 million as town running allowance. Don’t they know the traffic jam experience and the hefty fees boda boda riders charge one especially if they know you are honorable? How mean can we Ugandans be? If Paul Ojambo of URA can be given Shs29.5million to photocopy and work beyond 5 o’clock in the famous 6bn handshake, why not 5million for a minister to direct an investor to statehouse?
When you go to Rwamucucu, you must indeed appear like a honorable member. While you are given wardrobe advance (loan) of up to Shs50 million why wait for the money to accumulate a lot of interest yet some investors can help fundraise for you to settle the debts? They say you were given a free iPad costing Shs2.6 million, does of those critics know the maintenance cost of an iPad? How many Ugandans have seen an iPad? If people in Rukiga county must spend hefty sums of money on phone charging deep down in Omwineero or in Buchundura because of lack of electricity, how about when their honorable member is home? Do they expect you not to have power banks that can help the people Nozi when you go to visit them?
Indeed it must be the opposition FDC that set you up in a hotel to soil your relationship with mzee. They want him to forget how you strategically sought for Mzee’s 2021 support at Kamwezi in Rukiga County. We stand with you in all situations.

 

Are Sanitary Pads a magic bullet to Good Performance in UPE?

31 years and counting, the NRM government critics think distribution of free sanitary pads to school going pupils is the best stop-gap measure to improve the quality of UPE schools.

The Hakuna Mchezo government led by Gen. Museveni is yet to fulfill its campaign promise of sanitary pads for school going adolescents. But is it the best thing government can promise its populace?

Are pads the only tested stop-gap measures to improve the quality of education and perhaps the performance of our children in lower learning levels? I think both the led and the leaders’ one of them are misleading the other.

Let us forget the food flask issue. I remember in my early school life, we would take food (mawolo) to school for lunch. This would be either packed in banana leaves (enshandiiko) and banana fibres. It would only be kids from well-to-do families that would pack food in buckets. Whenever it would reach lunch time, we would all gather and we start eating (entanda) and we never complained of whether food was bad or what. And we passed. Who has made some people’s brains to stop thinking today?

Let us not lose sight of the fact that before the NRM came to power and perhaps before 2016, young girls were going to school. Was it a crime to experience periods? No, and is it a responsibility of government to regard it as a disability and that whoever undergoes such must be given free things courtesy on my taxes?

I think this pads revolution of holding government at ransom is acting like headless chickens. This doesn’t make sense at all. We surely need a population which can pressurize government on serious things that help improve the education sector. Pads will not put grades, pads will not pay teachers salaries, and pads will not buy chalk in school.

A study by UNICEF indicate that one in ten menstruating girls skip school for 4 to 5 days out of every 28 day cycle or drops out completely. About 23% of adolescents between ages of 12-18 drop out after they begin menstruating. A study carried out by the Netherlands Development Association in seven districts in Uganda revealed that girls miss 10% of school days due to menstruation. This is associated with the humiliation that comes with menstruation experienced by adolescents either for the first time and or failure by the parents to improvise for their children.

But who said that is government’s responsibility to provide everything? Where is a parent in the education of their children? Critics such as Nyanzi, Gashumba have been heckling over failure by government to prioritize sanitary pads; Gashumba Frank is on record bashing government move to provide free condoms and failing to provide for menstruation.

Did females go to school before the 1980s when the pad phenomenon became pronounced in the country? If yes, what did they use? Why would someone hold government at ransom to provide something that generations and generations have existed without them? Who is dying because they have no pads? If they are a priority, why wouldn’t anyone of you make noise so government can fund youth with projects such as MakPads and many other locally produced pads so as they can be supplied to schools freely. If government has failed to fully equip schools with textbooks, chalkboards, good classrooms, why would one want government to now focus on secondary issues such as pads? Would it help improve the quality of education? It is one thing to be a 1980 born but if in 201, a person still thinks like that, and then they must be misplaced. It is not just a matter of opening your mouths fwaa. Just think. How did our parents survive?

Last week, I happened to cover a two-day 1st National Conference on learning outcomes in Uganda in 2017 held at Kyambogo University. The conference was sponsored by Twaweza East Africa and attracted over one hundred educationists from within the country and abroad.

The backdrop for the conference was the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG4 around education. Uganda fell short of meeting a number of previous global development goals including education.

AFRIpads is a local social enterprise organisation and Plan Australia partner that makes and supplies affordable and reusable sanitary pads. Based in Kitengesa Village in Masaka District, SW Uganda, the aim of AFRIpads is to curtail the high rates of menstrual-related absenteeism among primary and secondary schoolgirls in rural Africa. The pads are made by local Ugandan women giving them the opportunity to generate an income and send their children to school.
Many women and girls in Uganda cannot afford or lack the knowledge to effectively manage their periods and do not have access to proper menstrual products. This Plan Australia project is helping communities to understand reproductive health and is giving women and girls access to affordable and hygienic sanitary pads.

Participants at the conference attributed these failures to a number of educational challenges including poor governance and a deep lack of accountability, under-resourced environments and unmotivated teachers, and gender norms.

These educationists were concerned that the country should rethink its approach towards education sector. They want learning outcomes to be a measure of progress for Uganda’s education not just adhoc interventions such as offering lunch to kids, free sanitary pads to kids etc.

Previously, global demands and commitments to reforms in education exerted pressure on African governments to address challenges related to access, quality and learning outcomes. In Uganda, commitments to Education For All (EFA) yielded the current enrollment of 8,264,000 children compared to 5,303,564 about two decades ago when Universal Primary Education was introduced.

As focus was placed on addressing education challenges including shortage of teachers, classrooms, and instructional materials, slow progress was made in realizing EFA goals 2 (which as ensuring that by 2015, all children have access and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality), eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2015 and improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all however, these challenges still persist especially exhibited in the quality of the graduates of the pupils as seen from the learning outcomes.

Piloya Caroline displays a sanitary pad she handmade at Awere Primary School, Uganda, as part of a project aimed to help keep girls in school. [Edward Echwalu Photography] Global Village

For a new reader, the UPE concept was popularized by African Leaders at a conference for African Minister of Education in Addis Ababa in 1961. The conferees proclaimed that access to education was not only a fundamental right but was also Africa’s most urgent and vital need. By 1980, this universal, compulsory, “free” primary education had spread the whole continent. In Uganda due to several insecurities at the time it would later begin in early 1990s.

The moral issues surrounding UPE initiative in Uganda concerned its contribution to social equity in a society in which unequal access to education had been a major source of social differentiation.

Right from the start, government stopped schools from collecting some money at schools to cater for a few basics as the school awaits government subvention. At first, parents were willing to participate willingly both materially and financially in their children’s education since they believed education was important for the child’s future, to parents and to the community and the country as a whole. Because the government interests and parents’ interests had remained unresolved by the introduction of UPE especially with government wanting to take full control of schools, there emerged a conflict over quantity Vs Quality.

The concept of “free education” has considerably grown and is affecting the quality of our graduates. Indeed Prof. Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba of Kenya has at some point wondered whether this free educations is indeed “free of knowledge”. Parents neglected their duties and since it was presumed compulsory, all parents would do was send their children to school to live at the mercy of teachers who are ill-motivated with majority in addition to earning meager remunerations and poor or no housing at all.

Uwezo Report 2016

It is common knowledge that majority of graduates are languishing on the streets with no employment. Despite Uganda’s huge unemployed labor force, the Ugandan economy still has a big shortage of appropriately skilled workers   which means that the education system has failed to tailor its outputs to the needs of the economy. Can we then now focus on readjusting the university programs to ensure skilled and well-tailored graduates are produced?

While some loud-mouthed humans think pads are the magic bullet to put right the education system in Uganda, I think they are misleading government on what should come as a priority in a country which struggling to take off.

It is indeed shameful to find a person who can afford to take their children to Kampala Parents, to Green Valley schools etc where fees is more than University tuition at Makerere to start demanding for pads from government instead of things that can help the country prosper. What if one asked government to ensure better trained teachers at the schools and demand performance rather than asking for a pad?

To this, I would propose that once government can focus on ensuring that infrastructure in schools are available, teachers are adequately trained and well motivated to meet the needs of children, parent are sensitized to ensure they equip their children with the basic requirements to aid them school well and then government on top of thorough supervision ensures that its subvention comes in time, then we can improve the quality.

During the 23rd Education and Sports sector review of 2016 at Golf course Hotel in Kampala, the Education Minister Janet Kataaha Museveni communicated the proposed action points for primary education. They included a policy to review pre-primary and primary education sub sector, nationwide campaign to promote school feeding, salary enhancement for primary school teachers and to have a UPE school in every parish.

The minister acknowledged the disconnect between the Ministry of Education and the families of pupils on point of feeding the children at school. She mentioned that the Ministry was set to undertake a nationwide awareness creation campaign on the role of parents in educating their children which included the responsibility of parents feeding the children as the education policy demands in the education Act 2008. I don’t know if it says that government shall provide pads to pupils.

I solmnely think that Sanitary Pads Not Worth my Tax

Making Sense of Makerere Guild Elections

Makerere Students went to polls on Friday April 7. By all accounts, Makerere is the best and perhaps largest university in Uganda and in the region. The election came after a two-week long campaign period and watching the process, more lessons are to be learnt.

Stick welding students clad in T-Shirts with labels GGB (Gongom Guard Brigade) this inscription means they are from Lumumba, one of the halls on the university. This is a security make up of the hall. every hall has this

Campus politics is of course somewhat different from the national elections and so to juxtapose the two maybe mistaking an elephant grass for sugarcane. Thought within universities, politics is played in different ways but the general characteristic of the polls especially in our higher institutions is extortion, academic mediocrity hence poor prospects of National leadership. While politics in such institutions should be basis for criticizing what is wrong in the country, it seems from the look of things, the reverse is true.

For purposes of clarity, I begin with the electoral process with the choosing of the electoral commission. Immediately campaigns commence, everyday, at least there is a rally in one of the halls of students’ residence on campus. After every procession, I go undercover trailing each of the candidates in a procession to make some observations and perhaps see what happens in these processions and where they go there after.

One of the student supporters wearing a mask at Makerere during the guild elections. PHOTO BY OKELLO HERBERT ANDREW

Majority of candidates have organized camps that base in their halls. Some have a reinforcement of former students and or hired mercenaries who will later mobilize crowds, make posters and pin them all over. Some take a surveillance role to see if the candidates’ posters are safe/ have not been torn by opponents.  Every day of a rally, one camp mobilized several students who converge in a hall that a particular candidate resides. Boxes with dozens of tot-pack waragi are distributed to the lucky few as motivation to charge for the rally.

Police begging students to remain calm at one of the rallies in Livingstone Hall

One of the most vivid campaign processions was of Mercy Faith Lakisa a UYD independent leaning Candidate. After a rally at Marystuart, the procession exits from the main gate to Wandegeya round about, Katanga slum, Kikumi-Kikumi, then to Kikoni and then back to campus climaxing at Africa Hall. While at the Marystuart rally, the atmosphere is raucous, students strolled into the box grounds others filling the staircase to the hall road as the occupants of the largest female hall on campus the “ladies” fondly referred to as “boxers” watch the proceedings from their room galleries, while others from the tower windows, openings in their dome-shaped spectacular Mary Stuart hall, a hall with the shadows of the past glory.

Next to the contestants set of chairs lay a table that sat young beautiful looking ladies with serious and busy faces dressed in Gomesi, others SCR members sitting around them in red gowns led by the culture minister. The boxes that sat in front of the tables were wrapped with white papers labeled “Elders Box” standing emphatically bigger than the rest and with an inscription, “No coins allowed” candidates are instructed to drop between 10,000 and beyond to receive blessings from elders. Table occupants keep looking at the candidates with great anticipation.

Paul Kato together with Simon Wanyera being carried during the final guild rally on Thursday this week at Makerere University.

Within the procession, a get to learn that Lakisa is a 3rd year Dental Surgery student from Africa Hall and an old girl of Gayaza High School who had lost in UYD primaries after attaining 21 against 24 votes of William Karamagi.  The campaigns are full of life with excited young ladies and men some wielding sticks profusely sweating and dancing to the rhythmically deafening noise of sounds from the music system sagging on a canter that walks like a tortoise. Traffic is still at Wandegeya round about as thousands throng the streets. Students proceed to Katanga, a slum in the valley between Mulago and Makerere University hills. This street has attracted several businesses including students’ hostels. While here students carry their heads through the windows if their rooms while others stand at the balcony of the buildings to cheer the candidate. The life, enthuse that comes with excitement on the streets. It sweeps everyone off the street including children who follow the procession with baskets of sweet bananas along.

Lakisa is to later garner a total of 1,567 followed by William Karamagi a UYD flag bearer who got 1,041. In total, 13,508 votes were cast with 423 invalid votes, Paul Kato emerges victor after he swept the polls with 5205 votes drawing the largest number of votes from his school, School of Education. His nearest challenger, Abdu Kareem Ziritwaula managed 4,369 votes.
The tightly contested race saw the usual candidates posters going up buildings , tree branches, and electricity poles all over the university and the neighboring suburbs of Nakulabye, Kikoni, Wandegeya and Kikumi-kikumi amid deafening, dancing and drumming by the swarms of rowdy students clad in their chilly-red undergraduate gowns.

Kato Paul, Guild President Elect, Photo by Kizza Ali

This year’s was a tense campaign. Just a day students went to the polls, police made orders that no politicians were to be entertained at the students’ rallies. Before the orders could sink into the students, Col. Kizza Besigye, the Forum for Democratic Change –FDC strong man had already  sneaked in the university accessing it through one of the dozens of illegal entrances and later be disguised in a Prado belonging to a one Doreen Nyanjura. Presence of the Police at the entrances busing themselves with searching each and every car to rid of any sort of cockroaches in case it disguised as Besigye will later look silly on realizing the man they are looking for is already inseparable with the students.

Students retreat to taking cover after shots as police exited Besigye from Makerere Guild Polls. PHOTO: OKELLO HERBERT ANDREW

Stones flying in the air will later exchange with bullets teargas and spray in the clash leading to car glass breakages as well as students and policemen sustaining injuries from the pelting stones. This just like the previous elections has been fused with national politics driven by money, oratory and later a fair amount of shallowness exhibited by not following issues but rather following the comic, the funny candidate. Candidates with funny and heavy vocabulary will be considered darlings. Most eye-catching in this election are slogans such as kowtow in their poohoo, tang tang buu nuguu among others.

A polling registrar displaying a ballot paper during the tallying process at Faculty of Arts

A student lies on ground after being overpowered by booze during the campaigns

Makerere campaigns just like national politics are full of mudslinging (usually called chemical), humor especially with emotions that are carried n the faces of the supporters, wacky ideas and then those campaign strategies such as one-o- one and door-to-door strategy as employed by one of the independent candidates James Kazungu who eventually garner a whooping on vote out of the 13,508 ballots cast that has buried him to criticism and ridicule.

We congratulate Kato Paul upon fighting for his share and we wish him a good time in budgeting for his 210millions. GRCs can afford to appease him in any way to attain ministries.

Why Uganda Cannot Dismiss Hand Hoes in Agriculture

As we head for Women’s Day tomorrow, I was thinking hard about the reality of our Ugandan women activists and i am not taking it it. I am rather still defiant.

My senior colleague Wambi Michael writes a story where the Uganda Women’s Network Executive Director, Rita Aciro Lakor said it is an embarrassment that hand hoe is still encouraged as a preferred tool in agriculture at a time when other countries are mechanizing agriculture.

The female activists actually propose that the use of hand hoes should be discouraged by government due to related implications such as low production, pains such as spinal pains among many others.

However, let me for now object to their views. First forward, several studies done on Agriculture in Uganda indicate that 99.4% smallholder farmers in Uganda use traditional, rudimentary and obsolete technologies and methodologies for pre and post-harvest operations.

Here, we’re talking about the 70% labor force in the country, people who are only doing agriculture to help sustain the country. If you went to markets in Uganda and see the various fresh products in Uganda being brought from gardens accross the various parts of the country, one must first of all thank the great men and women who toil to plant seeds in the soil to feed the entire populace. Hilda guide me where I go wrong this is your area.

Maybe for now, Ugandans are not yet ready for tractors. During the recent presidential elections (John Blanshe M) please remind me isnt it the time Mzee Museveni Kaguta promised to distribute over 18million hand hoes to distribute them to locals to enhance agriculture.

Whereas the activists might be having a point in that we need to now embrace mechanized agriculture for higher outputs, I think it is rather treacherous to advise that hand hoes should be banished. I have grown in a village where you must get a hoe and dig in order to secure food both for sell and and for home consumption.

We must first appreciate that given the population rise in Uganda, there has been pressure created on our land and most of the parts of the country especially in Western Uganda have been fragmented. Considering that mechanised agriculture requires land with good terrain, it might not be good advice to people to abandon hoes.

Especially following the recent reports on hunger crisis in the country, many people today either have been affected by the climate changes which has affected food production but this has also been due to unguided settlements and encroachments where people have for-instance encroached water catchment areas, forests depleted every natural resource at the expense of the climate.

A group of Abahingi women (subsistence farmers) from the village of Mirindi, Nangara clearing the land to plant beans.

We must all appreciate the fact that we need serious agriculture and a mechanized one for that matter but we cannot abandon the rudimentary tools when we do not have capacity as a country to establish agricultural farms to be able to produce for the ever growing population as a country. We need a strategy and I think we should be making noise to interest government on the need to do modern agriculture since like it is argued that our rudimentary modes of agriculture are not productive.

With this unpredictable climate change, government needs to strategically adopt some strategies of ensuring there is massive food production of food in the country. At the end of the day someone will not praise you for bringing piece when their children have slept on an empty stomach.

My friend and senior comrade Edgar Muvunyi Tabaro recently pondered on why China at this day age was donating the yellow rice to Uganda yet in a few years ago it used Uganda Used to be a food basket.

Media reports indicate that traders travel from as far as Rwanda to come to Mbarara and clear posho stocks in shops, Business men have gone an extra mile of paying off farmers in their gardens before even they plant. Mr. Justus Karuhanga let us not only focus on milk and meat production and we have people run out of food but also invest in serious crop agriculture.

The food situation in the country is not the best as many people are reportedly dying of hunger. If we must really have to help our population, we must ensure agriculture is embraced but not only through our traditional agriculture modes but also embracing modern mechanised agriculture which will take time. But there must be will by government.

I wish the passion that the government is running to clamp down kiosks and structures in parkyard market would be the same passion government is using in identifying areas which can accomodate irrigation and so national farms can be established.

One wonders that although Uganda is endowed with fertile soils and favourable climate, the major factors that influence agriculture, the country continues to produce at a law scale.

UNEB Officials Decry Social Media “Fake News”

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Davidson Ndyabahika

IN SHORT:

Prof. Mary Okwakol, the UNEB board executive chairperson has said that before PLE examinations were conducted on November 2nd and 3rd last year, social media circulated a fake Mathematics paper which trapped students, and teachers leading to failure of pupils in the schools that relied on the paper.

The Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) officials have decried the rate at which social media has been used to circulate false information purportedly originating from UNEB.

Speaking at the release of the 2016 Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) results recently at the president’s office conference room, Prof. Mary Okwakol, the UNEB board executive chairperson said there is a lot of misinformation that has been going around attributed to UNEB.

Prof. Okwakol said that before the Christmas break, social media carried a story attributed to the UNEB Public Relations Officer to the effect that the Board had changed the UCE grading which caused a lot of public concern.

She said that before PLE examinations were conducted on November 2nd and 3rd last year, social media circulated a fake Mathematics paper which trapped students, and teachers leading to failure of pupils in the schools that relied on the paper.

“Las week the platform carried another story attributing it to the UNEB executive secretary setting the dates for releasing the PLE and UCE and when the results were not released on the dates they had  circulated, another rumor camesaying that UNEB is not releasing results because changes are being made,” Prof. Okwakol before she added that;

“UNEB has not changed results since the marking was completed. This has also caused confusion and you will hear a lot more but as I said please take the steps to find the truth.”

Prof. Okwakol noted that the examinations board has received information that there are some individuals who are soliciting money from different schools throughout the country through social media.
She warned the public not to be caught off guard and asked that they should only go to UNEB to find out the truth and the authenticity of such information. She has further warned the public to disregard future information through such platforms.

The sensational form that fake news takes makes it appealing. Research has shown that people respond more to fake news than accurate accounts of events.

Recently, social media carried fake reports that the Uganda Advanced Certificate Education results were to be released this week.

However, information from officials at UNEB is that the officials will brief the Minister of Education and Sports on UACE 2016 results on Monday 20th February,2017,11am at Nakasero. The official UACE release will be on Tuesday 21stFebruary,2017 at 11am at Office of the President.