Posts Tagged ‘Uganda’

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Tree Plantation in Mukono, Uganda

A country with immense natural resources endowed with concourses of opportunities but littered with countless abuses by politicians and public servants that have failed us to reach our potential. We lack the public will to secure own our food when hunger strikes hard. So we are a hungry nation with failed agricultural promises and policies. 
 
Our exceptional climatic conditions, fertile soils and two planting seasons make us such a potential agricultural rich country. We live in a country where 75 percent of our citizens male, female and youth are engaged in agriculture-related businesses. 72 percent of our sisters, wives and mothers are employed in agriculture and this even gets higher for the rural Ugandan woman. 
 
I have been privileged to witness the failed policies of this regime for a period of 31 years. As a young man who was born in Jinja. I grew up seeing Busoga Cooperative Society work for the farmers from that part of the country and as the sun fades away to let the night take its place was the promise from good to worse in the late 1990s for the farmers across the country when the work of cooperative societies started to be interfered with by the regime agents.
 
We have seen the fights between the Bugisu Cooperative Union where the agents of the regime took over and billions were stolen and it almost crumbled if it was not the defiant spirit of Hon Nathan Nandala Mafabi we stood up for the farmers of coffee in that sub-region.
 
My point here is how can you fail to see where your potential lies as a government? Uganda is a country at the heart of Great Lakes Region with a blessed fertile soil and a good amount of rains but still, we have failed to seize the opportunity of being the region’s food basket even if we had the rains. The waters of River Nile seem to be working miracles for Egypt and they are willing to go to war if anyone ever tampered with the flow of that water. But being at the source what have we done to utilise the waters of this river?
 
Our smallholder farmers are hard working men and women who have fought for their survival amidst failed promises and policies from the regime. The problem of our country has never been that we lack food or produce. No! Our farmers have been dealing with a huge Post-Harvest-Loss problem for a long time. Even when there is a huge harvest, there is no government policy to stabilise the prices of our produce so the only way would then be to sell cheaply in order to avoid the produce from rotting away.
 
A government that cares not for its people deserves not any mandate to manage public affairs.
This government has failed to see that food insecurity is such a big and costly problem. As the country is ravaged by a drought that has left many hungry and without food still there is no debate about food security and ways on how to help keep the country’s food secure for such hards times. As we seek to save lives by providing food to those in need we need to unite under a bi-partisan umbrella to care for those without food rather than shooting at those who have come with food to share it with those without. We cannot seek to secure our political images at the heart of those who are dying of hunger we must unite as a nation to save our own. Uganda Police should not be naive to the point of shelving away common sense, even robots have emotions and can judge good from bad, I implore our men and women in uniform to be smart. There are silly orders that can be ignored for the common good.
 
As I conclude I would like to call on Parliament to engage into constructive policy debates that can only put our country first and it is time to debate about an agricultural policy that solves problems like lack of food for our people. 

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The long dry spell that has hit and affected Teso, Karamoja, Elgon, Busoga in eastern Uganda and other areas of the country has left many without food and water for themselves and their livestock. In Karamoja, we have lost both human and their livestock and in Isingiro families have migrated from their ancestral lands. The dry spell hit the country as early April 2016 and has left millions starving but with little relief interventions to help them survive.

Isingiro is an Agricultural economy based district and many call it the food basket of Ankole. According to Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperative economic profile, 97.1% of the Isingiro district population derives their livelihood from Agriculture. Isingiro district has an equatorial climate with minimum annual rainfall of 1,200mm and the rain season is normally in the months of March to April and September to November.

In November 2016, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Uganda’s opposition political party reached out to the people of Western Uganda in the district of Isingiro where many were migrating to neighboring districts in search of water sources for their livestock and food for themselves to prevail the dry spell that desolated their farms and garden left them with no option but to look for an option for their survival.

I spoke to the FDC Secretary of Mobilization Ms. Ingrid Turinawe and she confirmed to me that 2,000 bags of food were given to the people of Isingiro. This relief was received with gladness by the locals but left a bitter taste in the political mouth of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) leaders.

 

Enter Toroma, Katakwi.

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Following Forum for Democratic Change’s Teso Regional meeting where the party is evaluating itself after the 2016 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections, the leadership had another stop over to make in the region and this had to be Toroma County in Katakwi. I read a Facebook post from Margaret Wokuri Madanda the Mbale District FDC Chairperson; “Off to Katakwi, where the FDC and the People’s Government will hand over food to the community.”

The day started well and that was like good music to my ears, having such a great intervention to be done in Toroma County was a good gesture until the Police and deployed to stop them from distributing this relief. It never hit me that they would stop anyone from receiving food that they are so much in need of until I watched videos of a charged and violent Police force against an angry and hungry population. There was an outburst of Social Media when pictures of Police blocking FDC leaders from giving the people of Toroma County food.

 

84 Year Old Ekilek Defies Police’s Live bullets and tear gas.

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The charged police on the orders of Regional Police Commander Francis Tumwesigye and the Resident District Commissioner Filbert Ocailap were not resting their cell phones, a move that confirmed that they were remote controlled by their superiors. Locals started running out of patience and an exchange between local leaders of the FDC and the Police went on and on. RPC Francis Tumwesigye gave an order to his men to disperse everyone and then live bullets were shot in the air, canes onto the bodies of the locals and tear gas fired all over the place.

When all this happened there was one brave man that defied and withstood all the threats. Mr Vincent Ekilek an 84-year-old from Oboguti village did not move an inch. His mission was to shake the hand of Dr Kizza Besigye which he did while there was heavy shooting and tear gas. He said; “I have been hungry for long and when I heard that Dr Kizza Besigye and FDC were coming to talk to us and give us some food I did not sleep, I woke up early to travel here and be able to get my share.”

All these statements would not change the minds of a charged Police they continued to disperse everyone, including 84-year-old Ekilek to go away from the Toroma County grounds. FDC leaders resorted to using MegaPhones to speak to the waiting locals because the public address system that was hired was confiscated by the police. Later on, Dr Kizza Besigye went to Toroma Health Center IV to visit those that were injured during the scuffle and the Police tried to stop him from entering, but he used another entry point to access the victims of Police Brutality.

After running battles, the leaders of FDC resolved to have food handed over to Citizen Relief Initiative (CRI) that was represented by retired Bishop Obaikol for storage until it can be distributed.

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My Take:

When citizens of any country are going through a challenge like this one that threatens their existence, it is imperative that a bipartisan approach is sought to solve the challenge for the good of the country. In times like these, the people of our country ought to be united as One people solve a common concern. This is when political differences are buried for a greater good. The Toroma Country violence against the peaceful and hunger stricken people was an abuse of the human right to life. Our constitution is charged to provide for the welfare of the citizens of the country.

This duty has been abused and the constitution has been abrogated. Going forward the Police should understand that the reason why Ugandans do not trust them is because they have reduced themselves to an NRM political tool used to settle political differences in the country.

Toroma in Pictures. (Ronald Muhinda)

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The Opening of EALA Plenary 5th meeting 4th session of the 3rd assembly in March 2016. Photo: EALA Website

East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) is more of an Inter President affair! The summit discusses and decides on everything even without the involvement of EALA. The scramble for positions here in Kampala is a mere bread and butter issue for the winners, while the real issues that affect citizens in the region are swept and the carpet. I bet General Mugisha Muntu the Forum for Democratic Change party President know this better than anyone else because he was at the EALA. The scramble for these positions in political parties is reduced to rewarding loyal cadres rather than looking at what the country’s priorities and goals in this treaty that was signed. But the real struggle for Forum for Democratic Change is to take power and change the lives of all Ugandans.

Our sole purpose in sacrificing our time and resources has been invested in making sure that we defend the dignity of every Ugandan, expand opportunity, build an economy that creates jobs but also serves and rebuilds households that is the dream some of us are committed to not the scramble for a few jobs to make a small class happy and while millions of Ugandans starve, bleed to death in hospitals and health centres and others are rendered homeless and destitute in their own country.

The Park yard market eviction is before us and as a party that Ugandans have invested in we must show real cause in defending their plight. Our job lies in securing individual freedoms and liberties that are the foundation of real prosperity and socio-economic transformation cannot be achieved by giving up and cutting deals for positions but by standing up to the tormentors and telling his subjects and tools that the problem is real, that there will not be rest unless there are cardinal solutions that change lives of Ugandans. There is no way we can set foot to defend Uganda in the international and regional arenas when at home everyone is bleeding. We must deal with our domestic problems and find solutions for them.

Our job then is to stop the bleeding and participate in processes that can bring real healing and hope that is what our job is not to scramble for survival tactics we must show that we are a selfless breed of leaders who put the people at the centre of this struggle for our dignity.

The challenge that the EALA races continues to show is that Ugandans are divided and this image should be out there at Arusha let no one participate in going and pretending that everything is okay, Forum for Democratic Change’s absence at EALA is the real fundamental divide that Museveni brought to Uganda and this is the reality that his regime cannot follow simple rules and court judgements.

We are who we are until we work hard here at home to change that. Those who are aspiring to go to EALA should know one thing there isn’t a thing in Arusha for them to do, but it will be a holiday kind of for all that go there, I have never seen real policies enacted to solve problems that affect the citizens of this region, this integration is Presidential not for citizens across the region. It was Burundi would not have to bleed that long without a solution.

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The quality of a country’s policies and governance depends on the strength of its Institutions and those appointed to led in those institutions. The ongoing Parliamentary inquiry into the Presidential Handshake tells you how easy it is for a patronage system to misuse institutions to share or loot resources meant for the entire nation.
As a country, we have a crumbling economy that was brought due to systematic indolence and incompetence. In a normal functioning country, institutions can easily change their policy instruments to be able to rectify emerging problems or challenges. In a serious country where good governance is taken seriously heads roll, people lose jobs for abusing their authority.
Power is in the hands of a certain socio-economic group, that controls institutions to their benefit rather than the entire population of Uganda. The fact that millions of dollars were signed off to the pockets of a few people using unlawful means entirely reveals the oil presidential handshake a true image of a patronage led economy and an act that has robbed the entire population.
The Presidential Handshake is just but the smallest question in the oil tax scandal that Ugandans should be asking. The question is why should a tax body Uganda Revenue Authority whose job was to make sure that Uganda gets her taxes amounting to US$407 million in capital gains tax in a such a big case that had been heard and won before Uganda Tax Appeals tribunal be pulled out from the same court where Uganda won a case against Heritage Oil? The precedent set by the Heritage Oil case would have been the guiding principle to stay the Tullow Oil versus Uganda Revenue Authority case in the same court hoping to win it for Uganda.
The reason Government of Uganda took this case to the International Tribunal they were convinced they had a good case, why would they go in for settling out of court through a confidential Memorandum of Understanding with Tullow Oil for a lesser amount?
On 15 March 2011, they rushed to the International Tribunal and applied to withdraw the case and settle of out of court? And Tullow made an announcement on their website; Tullow settles Capital Gains Tax dispute in Uganda
We are setting our eyes on just US$20 million but there is a problem, those who might have benefitted from the out of court settlement must have walked away with millions of dollars close to US$157 million. We must ask serious questions in whose interest was that memorandum of understanding between Tullow Oil and Government of Uganda? Why has that Memorandum of Understanding been never made public? Was it a private or personal document and yet it was made on behalf of the people of Uganda?
So this so called Presidential Handshake is just a mirror of other handshakes and that is why it points back to the patronage. You see if that case had not been tampered with, the money it would have brought would have benefited the entire population, but because we are living in a patronage led economy the economic fortunes of many are shared with those who they know rather than what they know and can do for the whole country. The continual circumvention of the tax laws is abused in order to favour their group.
If you look at the way the list was generated the biggest number of the beneficiaries depend on the good will of their master and personal contacts within the group. You have seen that everyone is questioning how the list was generated but no law was followed in generating the list and so the same happened with the way they accessed public funds to reward themselves. That group of people have a problem with a well-functioning government and institutions, that would make it difficult for them to be able to circumvent the laws for their personal gains.
We live in a system that does not care about educational qualifications, that doesn’t care about hiring people on merit because of their skill-set, where institutions are led and controlled by a certain class of people and the socio-economic group that is interested in enriching themselves as opposed to serving the population. This group is behind the Presidential handshake on oil and their role is to cover up for the bigger handshake.
We must ask the real tough questions regarding our oil money. Over US$180 Million was stolen and that is what we should be looking for not just US$20 Million.

A country that had one man at the helm for over 10 years, that is a period long enough to ruin a country’s institutions especially when the one presiding over is a selfish person who doesn’t respect institutions. Many nations have crumbled because their institutions have been mismanaged and misused to profit a section of the people in power leaving the minority to slave for the majority. Whenever there is an abuse and disrespect for institutions, the period that follows is a transition to restore sanity and respect bac into those institutions, there must be painful and hard decisions to be made on all sides especially from the leader of the transition after an incumbent losing power to his opponents.

There was a short moment when former of Kenya Mr Arap Moi stepped down, there was a bit of stability and concessions were made from Moi and other political leaders for a peaceful transition, but Kenyan leaders again dropped the ball on the Kenyan people. Leaders must make measured but responsible choices for all citizens. Leaders must put the country first and above all their aspirations anything less than that will sink the country into chaos or anarchy.

The 2007- 2008 Kenyan crisis went past an election mismanaged, never should any sane leader use elections as a means to create a humanitarian crisis for any nation or settle a political challenge gone bad.

Change is not when one with power loses it to his opponents but when those with power manage it well enough to accommodate everyone.

Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, the Opposition coalition chairperson spoke to The Guardian 

“We don’t trust him. The longer we leave him, the more possibilities he has to leave the country, to escape from the country and to even do an insurgency. He is capable. The man is capable. In Kanilai, he has bunkers. I have reliable sources that [say that] he has bunkers. I have been reliably informed that he has treasure in Kanilai, he’s sitting on treasure, on gold as they say.”

“He can’t leave. If he leaves, he’s going to escape us,” she said. “We are stopping him from leaving. We are negotiating. He said he wants to go to Kanilai. Any day he tells us he wants to go abroad, then we say no. It’s the presidential prerogative.”

The Gambia Opposition coalition and its team failed to manage their personal egos, a nation’s aspiration for change must be big enough to bring a new way of doing things for all. Change is when your persecutor sees no retribution but a country they missed and betrayed when they had power and misused it.

I have spent all my adult life advocating for a peaceful change for Uganda when the people of Kasese were massacred by the same army that we call our national army I weep for Uganda. I thought Luwero and Northern Uganda was but the last drop of blood we could spill as a country so immature in politics, but I was mistaken after all that I saw happening to the people of Kasese I fear for the future of this country. But I hope that we can end the cycle of guns ending lives for sake of one climbing at the helm. There is nothing a nation profits when it loses its own people because someone wants to be in power by means arms. The use of violence to get power is the first failure on the part of those who want to take part from those that have failed. There is no change when the one who you want out used guns to get in while you want to use the same means to get in.

We all want justice for all but when a country is going through a transition like a chance Gambia got every word must be calculated and every action double checked for the good of the nation, not for politics of the day.

“He will be prosecuted. I’m saying a year but it could be less than that, this is my personal opinion – it might have taken three months because we really want to really work fast. Jallow-Tambajang said.

Meanwhile, the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has promoted 49 Sergeants to the rank of Captain and the military has been deployed across the country because of a recklessness of the Opposition coalition. This might take back Gambia into uncertainty and bloodshed.

There seem to be mixed signals that are coming from the Opposition Coalition which is a dangerous thing for the Gambian people the President-elect seems to be a reconciliatory man while as the leader of the coalition opposition parties is a very angry lady prepared to hide what she wants President Yahya Jammeh to face when he is out of office.

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President-Elect of Gambia Adama Barrow Photo Credit: Inger Anne Olsen.

President Adama Barrow posted on his Facebook Page calling Yahya Jammeh to accept defeat and hand over power peaceful so that the people can enjoy peace and freedom they deserve;

Let him know that leaders come and go sooner or later, I must also go. This is a fact that all of us must accept that all times and act in the supreme interest of The Gambia. I urge him to change his current position and ACCEPT the verdict of The Gambian people in good faith for the sake of The Gambia, our homeland, whose people deserve peace and freedom and prosperity.

 

 

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October 3, 2016: Uganda Police Force blocks Forum for Democratic Change Party Offices ahead of Dr Kizza Besigye return in the country. Photo by Shawn Mubiru

 

Elections are an opportunity for the citizens of the world to appreciate those that have done well in their assignments in public offices to get re-elected or punish those that have failed to deliver as promised and expected by the electorate by voting them out of those offices. Elections put the voice of the citizen at the centre of policy formulation and implementation, but as we can see the adage of power belongs to the people in every constitution around the world especially in Africa it makes no sense anymore, elections are now rituals used by incumbents to usurp power at any cost. I will concentrate on Africa because this is where I call home and the problem has threatened peaceful handover of power and has now created dictators.

Elections no longer deliver the change for the citizens on the African continent, many countries stick with strong men or dictators as you may choose to call them, these men don’t believe that there is such a time when power can peacefully be handed over from themselves to another leader that successfully challenges the things as they are. That dream has not made sense to many of these strong men. These men prefer the power of the gun to the power of the people who come with the legitimacy to lead. They have continued to claim the popular mandate of the people but their heads are still hidden behind mean faced looking men with big guns, and armoured war trucks.

The story of our continent continues on with disappointed faces because of violence that dominates the rest of the positive side of this lovely motherland, because of greed and love for power.

We seem never to understand the lessons taken during the liberation struggles of our revolutionary men and women of our continent. We have failed as people to overcome greed that has contributed to the loss of the common good. We have forgotten that togetherness in societies led to growth and development we now practice divisions among each other and we have created classes within us and this has continued to undermine the  common good.

In my country Uganda leadership seems not to make sense at all to the led, those in positions of power seek to protect themselves from the ones they lead each day. Our Parliament now is the most guarded or secured institution in our country’s history. Gone are the days when you would easily walk to Parliament to catch the plenary of men and women who loved and did put Uganda first. Our electoral management system is still questionable by the political opposition and civil society that is why we have over 100 Parliamentary electoral petitions in the Court of appeal.

The 2014 National Consultation for Free and Fair raised a number question in our electoral system and the leadership, but the proposed then were all rejected by the Museveni administration.

In February 2016 Uganda went to elections, rejected by all they did not get a clean bill of health to declared them as called free and fair elections until now. Without discussing what really happened in the Presidential elections voices from different Civil Society groups under Women’s Movement are calling on the ‘appointing authority’ to give them a seat at the table so that they can take part in the same mess. With due respect, we have a problem with the way elections, the solution cannot be a new ‘saviour’ at Electoral Commission but reforming the entire management of our electoral system and how to conduct our elections. People should hate it or fear to talk about it, we have a rigged election in between us, we have a presidential candidate who is not free in his country. We have an illegitimate government armed against the people. The problems at hand can only go away when we are free  and choose to talk about the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary election mess. We have to audit ourselves on what took place and forge a way forward that only puts Ugandans at the centre of all discussion making.

Uganda is heavily laden with a rigged election and a regime armed against its people. The future is bleak the economy is limping, social services are at its worst and with rampant corruption and an environment in a red alert.

 

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At the just concluded ICT Innovators Forum organised by the Uganda Communications Commission in Bugolobi, Kampala the minister for ICT and information Frank Tumwebaze said; 

Someone talked about mentorship and subsidised internet but where do I find you to mentor you or to subsidise internet? That means there must be a common centre or we should have these public hubs so that we can come in,

 The government knows well that these public centres are available, but rendered either useless or were made the offices of RDCs and DISOs around the country.

The Community Centre model built by the late President Milton Obote UPC government comes to mind. These were centres where youth met to learn and be taught these centres created the most endeared talents in the country, but the 1986 graduates rendered them useless and have never replaced them with a tangible initiative.

I grew up in Jinja where I was privileged to have competed at all these 3 community centres at the Kakindu Community Center where a football stadium and a community hall was available for indoor games, I used to play table tennis and football, but I was also reading my books in the Kakindu Public Library a place that was like an innovative centre of that time.

Recently, I happened to place by the library, but it is in a very poor state still 30 years have passed nothing serious has been added to this brick of bright idea.The other community centres were Walukuba Community Centre and Mpumudde all that have been either taken over by the NRM machinery for offices or homes.

Frank Tumwebaze you don’t need a centre to support innovation, but you need a will and a heart to feel the need of service amongst the needy. And to subside the internet, you don’t need a building, but the facts on the costs of doing business in Uganda.

Uganda has the most expensive rates in buying internet data and that is not a good one for small business owners and innovators. To spur innovations you must make the internet available and affordable to a majority number of citizens.

Government’s duty is to recognise and promote excellence and creativity in the public sector first. The government should first start a program that will highlight exemplary models of government innovation and advances efforts to address the nation’s most pressing public concerns.

Before a government pledges to build innovation hubs, they should first support existing innovators by starting a competitive award that can help fund the winning innovators. These winning innovators will be Uganda’s next employers, Uganda needs to invest where they are creating jobs and indeed well meaningful jobs.

A government that values talent will start an Award to serve as a catalyst for bringing creative and effective solutions to some of the nation’s most urgent and seemingly intractable challenges.

Some of these awards can be a launchpad for bright ideas from young innovators around the country.

These initiatives can be designed to further recognise and promote creative government initiatives and partnerships and create an online community where innovative ideas can be proposed, shared, and disseminated.

These innovations can lead to developing of  case studies that can be incorporated into curricula of public universities and vocational institutions courses.