Law Society slams M7 on Insecurity

The Uganda law Society has strongly condemned the ruling government headed by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni supported by security forces for abdicating their constitutional obligations of protecting the lives and property of Ugandans.

Releasing its 2nd quarterly report at Serena Hotel in Kampala this week, ULS President Francis Gimara noted that the report documents failures by the state to uphold the rule of law in the period April to June, 2017 during which scores of Ugandans died at the expense.

Highlighting incidents arising from the SIM Card Registration, Torture at Nalufenya detention centre in Jinja, Insecurity in different parts of the country, corruption in ministries, violation of children’s rights, infringements on freedom of worship, ULS says that the government is failing to live up to its constitutional obligations of protecting the lives of Ugandans.

On Security, the lawyers’ fraternity challenged government not to abrogate its responsibility but rather come up with concrete measures to ensure security for all citizens following the upsurge of criminal activity by the new gang named bakijambiya.

The Uganda Law Society stresses that government is obliged to investigate and apprehend the perpetrators of criminal acts witnessed in parts of Makasa, Wakiso and Kampala districts since April this year.

The chairman Rule of Law subcommittee of the Uganda Law society Professor Fredrick Ssempebwa says that government has not done enough to arrest insecurity that it widespread in the country.

Ssempebwa argues that this responsibility cannot be left to the citizens as its is a constitutional obligation of the government under different articles of the Constitution.

Article 20 for example states under clause 1 that: “Fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual are inherent and not granted by the State.” Clause 2 also states that: “The rights and freedoms of the individual and groups enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of government and by all persons.”

Other legal instruments such as the Presidential Aoth of Allegiance (4th Schedule Article) obliges the President to protect the lives of Ugandans.

Other legal instruments such as the Police Act and the UPDF act further entrench the obligation of protecting the lives of Ugandans and property of Ugandans

Prof. Ssempebwa says that despite the numerous incidents of insecurity and murder of people, no action has been taken save for a piece of advice from President Museveni who asked the people to buy CCTV Camera’s, so that they can protect themselves.

“How many of you have obeyed this directive but we (Uganda Law Society) think is a dangerous statement because it indicates that the government is abandoning its duty to provide us with security. Very few of us can afford CCTV cameras and in any case it is not protection,” Prof. Ssempebwa noted.

In respect to the torture of suspects who were detained at the infamous Nalufenya detention facility run by police, ULS called for thorough training of the police officers especially in regard to investigations.

Ssempebwa says besides condemning the use of torture as a way of getting information from suspects, President Museveni and government ought to do more to stop such human rights violations.

ULS recommends that perpetrators of torture be bought to book, stressing that they should be held individually responsible for their actions.

“The president talked about using scientific methods of getting information from suspects. Personally I am not so sure what this means, but we do recommend that the police should be equipped with modern investigation skills, properly trained so that internationally acceptable standards are applied,” Ssempebwa said. For Details click here

Powers of Uganda’s cyber crime unit questioned

 

Cybersecurity Digital

Government challenged to reveal the powers of the cyber crime unit established under the Uganda Police Force.

In reaction to the recent press reports indicating that the Police had established a unit to curb the increasing cases of Cyber crimes, activists want the mandate of cyber crime to be fully explained.

But according to the police spokesperson Fred Enanga many people are reporting cases of cyber crimes under which a lot of money is lost.  Indeed there ills that come along with any developments like technology which justifies regulation.

The creation of this unit comes at a time when social media critic Robert Shaka had been arrested and charged with offensive communication. Other circles believe that Robert Shaka is suspected to be behind the serious government criticisms under the Facebook page of Tom Volatire Okwalinga (TVO).

Coincidentally also the President Yoweri Museveni recently warned members of the public not to abuse the social media platforms. This was after a hateful audio message ridiculing the Bahima people of western Uganda spread over Whatsapp. In response to the audio, Museveni released a nearly 15 minute video calling for the arrest of those who created the message.

And on the other side Politicians like the former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi have embraced the technology to the extent of using the YouTube channel to launch his presidential bid, without engaging in the troublesome traditional ways of conducting political campaigns.

Whereas Human Rights Activists do not dispute the fact that Internet is abused, they challenge government’s readiness to ensure that the right to internet is not curtailed in the process of pursuing offenders.

Activitists at the Unwanted witness Uganda a non-government organization that promotes online rights, says the actions are unconstitutional as they intend to limit internet freedoms and free speech.

Answering the why now question, the Acting Executive officer, Unwanted Witness Uganda Godfrey Twesigye notes that this is likely to stifle the right of expression.

Supporting his argument Twesigye says that the move comes at the backdrop when Uganda is preparing for the 2016 general elections, and the need to control all forms of dissenting views classifying it as sectarian attacks.

“The aim of establishing the unit is to crack down on use of social media especially on persons considered using cyberspace to incite hatred and tribalism, which has been noted might cause security risk to the country”-Twesigye

He further explains that in doing this, the government seeks to invoke the Regulation for interception of Communications Act 2010 that seeks to monitor communications by individuals in whatever form.

However the organization has rechoed the need for government to urgently pass the Privacy and Data Protection Bill 2014 to safeguard citizens from unnecessary intrusion.

Tweisgye also recommends that government should establish and empower an independent agency to oversee the actions of the cybercrimes unit and any other agencies involved in surveillance.

However the Makerere University Lecturer at the School of Law, Dr Kakungulu Mayambala adds that although the Uganda Police Force has the powers to create any unit to address specific crimes, the public should be interested in its operations. What is important is the execution of this mandate, he said.

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Campaign to block bill on abortion to go to presidents

A section of Members of Parliament from Uganda are preparing to petition Heads of State from the East Africa Community to stop a proposed law by the regional Parliamentary body to legalize abortion.

The contentious bill is titled the EAC Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Bill, 2017 and is sponsored by Dr. Odette Nyiramilimo, a Rwandan Physician and EALA legislator. The text of the bill states that it seeks to provide a legal framework for matters relating to sexual and reproductive health, to protect children, adolescents and young persons from sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation, to provide for assisted reproductive technology.

Section 15 (1) of the Bill states that Member States should legalize abortion, provided the pregnancy endangers the woman’s health and life.

“The partner states shall safeguard and give effect to the reproductive rights of a woman by permitting the termination of pregnancy when in opinion of a trained health professional,” states the proposed law.

But the proposed law is facing stiff opposition including from former Ethics Minister Dr. James Nsaba Buturo. Nsaba Buturo who has mobilised his colleagues to form a group Parliamentary Forum on Ethics and Integrity with among other causes to engage and convince the leadership of all member states from the region not to legalize abortion.

Buturo told The Sunrise Newspaper that the bill seeks to legalize abortion under the guise of advocating for women’s rights want to use the East African Community to legalize abortion among other ills.

James-Buturo

The lawmakers also fear that if the bill is passed into law, it will bind all the East African Nations to provide contraceptives and allow abortion of unborn children. As a result they have vowed to block it.

Article 22, section 2 of the Constitution of Uganda states that: “No person has a right to terminate the life of an unborn child except as may be authorized by law.” Kenya’s constitution also prevents abortion except if it provided by another law.

But Buturo, also the MP for Bufumbira East Constituency, says that because the Bill is before the East African Legislative Assembly, the group will also engage the Ugandan Representatives to block the passing of the draft law.

“We want to engage Heads of State to alert them to dangers that are coming. So we have that practical way of really killing it from source before it becomes law, ” Buturo added: “The other way is to mobilize the public; they must show their resentment that will put pressure on individual MPs to think twice before they support the bill in case they intend to. we have the advantage majority of our people do not want that nonsense.”

Manjiya County Member of Parliament in Bududa District, John Baptist Nambeshe says that advocating for such rights also undermines the rights of the unborn baby which qualifies to be on the list of crimes against Humanity under the International Criminal Court jurisdiction.

“If you were a former fetus a former baby would you promote the death of those colleagues who are in that world about top avail in where you are, so as a former fetus as a former baby, am opposed to abortion in fact, am of the view that abortion should be included among crimes against Humanity, ICC should capture it. Actually abortion in my view is a genocide, Genocide is the Killing of innocent people belonging to a particular race or generation”-Nambeshe.

Proponents of safe abortion have always argued that the number of women dying due to unsafe abortion is on the rise with East Africa sharing a disproportionate share of deaths due to unsafe abortion. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), East and Central Africa have the highest rates of pregnancy related deaths in the world (36 per 1,000 reproductive-aged women).

However Dr. Buturo dismisses these figures saying that: “We can’t accept the situation where two lives are lost adding that it’s not good to say let me lose one and save the other.”

Bututo insists that the intention must be to save both the mother and baby stressing that where there are unique circumstances, you take a tougher decision whether to allow the mother to live or the child to live although those are exceptional circumstances.

“Having pregnancy is not a must, the problem is today everybody is having sex all over the place, there is no decency, no respect for sex, so we have to educate people in that aspect. Especially young girls who think it is fashionable to have sex, they don’t go beyond to say by-the-way this sex am having can bring about a baby,” Buturo noted.

He further called for educating of people, however he quickly adds that even this may not be 100% successful but some people will be saved.

“One of the ways of support such girls that have unexpected pregnancies is to empower the state or relatives to take the child away or care.”

Quoting the some statistics, Joy Asasiira an activist at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) says that unsafe abortion is a major challenge facing not only women but also the health system in Uganda.

In 2013, an estimated 314,304 induced abortions occurred, a 7% increase on the 2003 estimate of 294,000.

Given that 2.3 million pregnancies occurred in 2013, these statistics imply that more than one in 10 pregnancies end in abortion.

An estimated 14% of an unintended pregnancies end in abortion or a rate of 39 per 1,000 women aged 15-49 years. This is slightly higher than the regional average, which has been estimated at 34 per 1,000 women (2010-14) for the East African regional as a whole.

In response to the MPs’ concern, Asasiira says that Uganda is a signatory to a number of regional and international treaty documents and frame works like the Convention on Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the Maputo Protocol that recognize sexual reproductive rights as Human Rights, and as such member states that are signatories to these instruments are obliged to respect, protect and fulfill the sexual reproductive rights of their citizens.

She says that Uganda is not exempt from these obligations, unfortunately, many a times morality arguments have been used to circumvent these obligations by the Ugandan government.

“I commend the East African Community for drafting a bill that seeks to create a framework to regulate some of the more ignored issues that majorly affect the women and girls causing preventable death and illness”-Asasiira

Reacting to MP Nambeshe’s proposal for the International Criminal Court to consider abortion as a crime against Humanity, Asasiira said that Abortion is a health service that is only required by women.

“Criminalizing a health service that only required by women is discriminatory. Furthermore, the fact that Uganda’s law recognizes that there are exceptional circumstances under which abortion may be accessed negates any legitimacy to such claims”-Asasiira noted.

Passion fruit farmers get marketing skills

The Uganda Export Promotions Board (UEPB), Senior Export Marketing Executive, Brenda Katarihawe, has advised horticulture farmers to always do market research before engaging in production of any crop.

At a one-day passion fruit farmers training at the National Crop Resource Research Institute (NaCRRI), Namulonge last week, she said that it was important for farmers to know the standards and requirements for profit maximization. “Export markets are not lacking. We produce without the market in mind and what we are trying to encourage now is that before you put your seed in the ground, know whom you are producing for,” Katarihwe said.

She said that there was a huge market for fruits and vegetables both within and abroad but farmers must know the right fruit varieties and other standards. For instance, she said that of the 530 passion fruit varieties, a farmer must know which variety is required by what buyer and the suitable packaging.Brenda Expo

She revealed that horticulture crops have been identified as having great potential for foreign exchange earnings. These products are the fastest export sub-sectors in the country estimated at 20% per annum.

The Executive Officer of Happy Farmer Agricultural Consultancy (HFAC), Allan Ssempala Kigozi, the organizers of farm training stressed the importance for farmers to have a strategic and reiterated what Katarihwe had said.

Ssempala gave details the details of the requirements, ranging from: the type of seedlings needed, market standards, costs involved, post harvesting and the transportation arrangements.Allan Ssempala

All these formed the strategic plan, he said. These farm trainings are aimed at empowering farmer, not only with managing pest and diseases, but equipping them with managerial skills, adopting new methods and agricultural practices like irrigation in order to scale up their quality and quantity of production to satisfy the market demands, he added.

Ssempala said that HFAC will continue helping farmers on issues of post-harvest handling.

He pledged that HFAC will follow-up the farmers to their farms for continuous monitoring and guidance. Through this they hope to get better quality products that will attract big markets.

HFAC buys the passion fruit from the farmers. Ssempala said that there is a ready market for passion fruit in Qatar, Egypt, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the European Union.

He revealed that next month, HFAC will head to Soroti, Kumi, and Ngora districts where people cultivate a lot of citrus. He said that HFAC wants to advice those farmers on fighting a certain disease that affects their fruit before ripening them before the full maturity. HFAC also wants to help on how to retain water for the citrus fruits, he added.

The one-day training at National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI)   in Namulonge attracted several companies, such as: Housing Finance Bank.that offers agricultural loans; Davis and Shirtliff and Adritex Uganda Limited, which are specialize in modernized technologies in irrigation; and, MTK Uganda for pesticides, among others.

Corporate businesses are infringing on People’s Rights-CSO Report 

Government has been tasked to prioritize enactment of the Human Rights enforcement bill 2015, to make the horizontal application of the bill of rights workable.

The recommendation comes after a study by a group of civil society organizations on the practice of corporate accountability in Uganda.

According to a recent report released at Makerere University, the civil society organizations, a number corporations operating in Uganda especially in the extractive industry are said to be violating human rights under the watch of the government authorities.

The report titled “the State of Corporate Accountability In Uganda” says residents from the mining centers in Moroto, Mukono and Lake Albertine region had concerns over exploitation, health risks, occupational safety, land rights and environmental pollution related to the companies operating in their respective areas.

Presenting the report at the 3rd National Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Dr. Christopher Mbazira from the Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability noted that whereas there Human rights provisions in the constitution, the laws have not been fully enforced to address violations of such rights by the corporate companies.

“Corporations can bear human rights obligations and can as a result, be held accountable for them. The rights for which corporations can be held accountable include the right to a healthy environment; the right not to be subjected to discrimination, right of children to protection of economic exploitation and labour rights among others. However it remains unclear whether all these rights can be enforced directly against corporations by way of a direct constitutional action, the few cases decided on this show that the courts accept such direct constitutional actions but they do so without considering the relevant debate on the issue” –the State of Corporate Accountability in Uganda.

Because of this finding the civil society now advocating for the enactment of the draft Human Rights enforcement bill 2015 in order implement the bill of rights as scheduled in the constitution.

Mbazira said that there is also need for the state to raise awareness on the human rights responsibilities of corporations. He stresses that this can be done by encouraging corporations to adopt corporates codes of conduct that allow communities to engage with corporations and to make tangible corporate social responsibility commitments which they must keep.

In some instances corporates have embarked on projects worth millions of shillings which are not necessarily the priorities of the people in the community.

Interacting with the Sunrise Newspaper on the sidelines of the conference Joshua Kisawuzi who was part of the research team gave an example that a corporate can spend millions of shillings on celebrated music artists to entertain the community as part of its corporate social responsibility, yet the priority for the residents in that particular area is putting in a Borehole.

Government has been very keen at promoting both local and foreign investors, and the efforts have yielded results. These investments positively impact on the economy and unfortunately they also present challenges to the communities.

“Corporations play both a positive and negative role in the communities within which they operate. However communities highlighted concerns such as exploitation of local miners, failure to provide protective gear and medical care, causing social discord and being sidelined in decision making relating to land acquisition,” states the State of Corporate Accountability in Uganda

In some cases, the report states, these socio-economic and cultural rights have been violated with the knowledge of the government.

According to the testimonies of the residents, the exploitation of local miners disregard of the environment, disruption of community life, land grabbing and evictions can be seen as a means by which corporations meet the high costs of doing business in poorer communities.

The Report alleges that government sent soldiers to protect Jan Mangal, Tororo Cement and Dao Africa when communities demonstrated against these corporations protect.

One of the major negative impacts of the corporation working in the extractive industry is the environmental pollution.

Although the environment impact assessments were conducted, some of these corporations like Seyani Brothers and Tong Da China International in Nakisunga have caused pollution, cracking of houses in the area, miscarriages among women and other forms damages with impunity.

It is against this background that the study recommends government to strengthen the statutory provisions on environmental impact assessment and audits by requiring all corporations to consider the impact of their projects and business on constitutionally protected rights

The report further recommends that government should clarify the role of the Uganda Investment Authority with regard to ensuring that corporations conduct business consistently with the rights the constitution protects.

Responses from other stakeholders faulted government for lacking political will to stop the continued violations of human rights and its failure to implement the available laws. These corporations in most cases are given protection from security agencies like the Uganda Police.

Speaking at the third conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights held at Makerere University law don Prof. Jean John Barya says that the government’s decision to over liberalization of the economy has led to flooding the market with many foreign businesses.

Barya adds that the economy has opened up so much to the extent that businesses that would be easily done by Ugandans were taken over by Kenyan and South Africans. Participants also decried what they refer to favoring foreign investment at the expense of protection of the citizens’ rights which are even stipulated in the constitution which is the supreme law.

 

UCC petitioned over Telecom Charges

Because of the increasing number of complaints about the dropped calls among other issues raised by the Telecommunication clients, the Uganda Communication Commission has been asked to establish an independent consumer protection unit within the commission for timely response to claims

The call is part of the recommendations in a petition filed by the Unwanted Witness-Uganda  a civil society organization following registration of a number of complaints pertaining the quality of telecommunication services offered by the different Telecom companies.

Unwanted Witness-Uganda is a non-government organization that advocates for safe and accessible online platforms for the realization of human rights and good governance in Uganda.

The Organization wants the Uganda communications commission to cause an urgent investigation into widespread swindling of Ugandans’ hard earned cash by the telecom companies through dropped calls, unsolicited messages and caller tunes among others.

The Communication Regulatory body is also asked to privately investigate these claims before formerly referring them to telecom companies.

The petition particularly mentions MTN Uganda and Africell as companies whose subscribers have registered the highest complaints.

Over the years, many Ugandans have fallen victim to this telecom scam without any intervention from the regulator although it is legally mandated to oversee operations of service providers as well as regulating communication services in the country.

Now the Executive Officer Unwanted Witness –Uganda Wokulira Ssebaggala says technology for development is embedded in government’s vision 2040 and this can only be realized if all obstacles to technological utilization by the citizens are addressed by different players

He revealed that Unwanted Witness-Uganda has recorded several complaints from different telecom subscribers whose service providers have either cheated them via voice calls or mobile data.

Ssebaggala adds that the practice does not only undermine the country’s technology development but also violates citizens’ consumer Rights as enshrined in the UN Guidelines for consumer protection.

It is upon this background that the activists also challenge the UCC to evoke section 1 (K) of the communications Act 2013 to check quality of service offered by telecom companies to the public.

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Patient intends to sue MediK Hospital over Negligence

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Health advocates have embarked on investigations that will lead to legal action against Medik Hospital and its health workers over negligence and violation of the patient’s rights in Kakiri Wakiso district.

The Center for Health, Human Rights & Development (CEHURD) a civil society organization is investigating a case of health rights violation of Hadija Najjemba an expectant mother whose uterus was removed without her consent and later detained by the health facility over treatment fees.

It all started on 12th May 2016 when Robert Kisitu took his expectant wife to Kikubampanga health centre to deliever before she was refered to MediK hospital in Kakiri Wakiso District where she was operated in bizarre circumstances.

According to Robert Kisitu the husband to Najjemba, the health workers at Medik Health facility denied him information about his wife which resulted into unprofessional operation that damaged her internal organs that resulted into unbearable pain.

Kisitu has now approached the Centre of health, Human Rights and Development to take legal action to ensure adequate compensation from the facility and the doctors violated the patient’s rights despite the huge expenses he met.

The 30-year-old Boda-boda cyclist says his wife continued to suffer unbearable pain at the facility due to the negligence and mismanagement of the operation when the facility administrators refused to discharge and refer her to Mulago Hospital.

According to the social and economic Objective Number 20 of the Uganda Constitution, the government of Uganda is committed to ensuring access of all people to high quality health care services. And to have objective this realized in 2009 the Ministry of Health together with Uganda National Health Consumers Organization come out with Patients Charter that ensures the rights of the patients are protected.

However the from Kisitu’s Ordeal a number of patients’ rights were violated and it’s upon these abuses that the Program Manger Strategic Litigation at the Centre for Health Human Rights and Development Primah Kwagala condemns practice of extorting money and detaining patients over treatment fees.

Kwagala further asked the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council to urgently investigate the facilities of Medik Hospital and its license to operate in the various areas in Uganda.

Turning to the ministry Kwagala says that there is need to urgently strengthen the measures in place for supervision and regulation of the private health facilities and private health workers in Uganda.

This particular recommendation stems from how health workers treated Kisitu and his wife Najjemba right from Kikubampanga health Centre to MediK Hospital which are both private. Kwagala is quick to add that the situation is unique to the private facilities, saying there human rights violations in Public facilities as well.

Health advocates say access to health as a right cannot be attained if the health services are not affordable.

On the issue of affordability, Kisitu’s narrative portrays an ugly scernario in the private health facilities where poor Ugandans seeking medical care are overcharged.

For instance, despite the payment of heavy treatment fees for his wife, Kisitu had to cater for transport of the health workers as the moved from different points to the health facility where his wife was admitted.

Explaining his ordeal Kisitu says that at one point Muhammed Mugwanya asked him to cater for the fuel expenses for an ambulance that did not even transport his patient.

“Because I had 40,000 shillings only on me I asked him to take 20,000 shillings…but as we departed ways he came back to me asking for another 20,000 shillings that will facilitate a Boda-boda cyclist who would bring blood for my patient the following morning… and I had to cough it out”-Kisitu

Still on the affordability issue, Najjemba was never discharged when Kisitu asked for a referral letter to go for better medical care and treatment at Mulago Hospital. This was because Dr.Kuno wanted him to first pay shillings 180, 000 he could not afford.

Even at the involvement of the area police, Dr. Emmanuel Kunonya insisted and detained the patient saying he must pay first.  Kisitu attribute the release of his wife from Medik Hospital to the aggressiveness of his boda-boda colleagues, a media friend that asked for the intervention of Kakiri Mayor.

Emerging reports indicate that whereas the District Health Services Department of Wakiso District Local Government closed down Medik Hospital, the facility has re-opened. Uganda Police has also initiated investigations in the conduct of the implicated doctors who were released on bond.

The health advocates say a lot more need to be unearthed for the protection and promotion of the health rights especially in the private health facilities.

Center for Health, Human Rights & Development (CEHURD) now pledges to continue to monitor the investigations being carried out into the matter to ensure that whoever is liable is appropriately held responsible. Kwagala who has been investigation the matter on behalf of the centre says that they will ensure that family of Robert Kisitu and Haddija Najjemba are adequately compensated for their loss, pain and suffering.

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