9000 Trees Destroyed Daily by Uganda Prisons

Uganda Prisons Service uses a staggering 227 tones of wood fuel every day to prepare meals in all the 252 prisons around the country.

This revelation was made by the Commissioner General of Prisons Dr. Johnson Byabashaija during the launch of Rotary International‘s Mission Green campaign that was held at the Uganda Prisons Training School in Luzira. Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga officiated as chief guest.

According to environmental experts, 227 tones is equivalent to about 9000 mature trees. A mature tree takes not less than 50 years to attain that weight.

Dr. Byabashaija raised alarm about the huge and growing cost of the Prisons dependence on wood fuel on the environment, people’s ways of life and the economy as a whole.

Dr. Byabashaija says he has under his custody 55,600 inmates in all the prisons, a population that is growing by 10 percent per year and exacting even more pressure on the country’s already over-stretched forest cover.

He said something must be done to reverse the situation. He cited the need to promote energy-saving cook stoves across all prisons as one of the remedies to the situation. Energy-saving institutional cook stoves can help to reduce energy loss up 40 percent.

The custodian of prisons however lamented the meagre budget of the institution as a major hindrance to the adoption of better cooking technologies, especially energy-saving cook stoves, which he estimated at just Ushs2billion.

“Yes, we have energy saving stoves but these are  in very few prisons, I would probably need 2 billion shillings to establish energy cooking stoves in all my prison facilities but with our meagre budget, we are not able to do that,” Byabashaija lamented.

Speaker Kadaga pledged her support towards Uganda Prisons’ efforts to obtain the funding required to install the cook stoves as a means to reduce the impact of forest destruction for purposes of obtaining biomass for cooking.

At the same event, Speaker Kadaga criticized the Ministry of Environment for failing to plant trees and leaving the job to NGOs yet they draw salaries and other benefits from tax payers.

Dr. Byabashaija said that as the head of prisons, he will avail land for planting of trees in all the 252 facilities that could be used to harvest wood for use in the prisons. He also pledged to support the idea of using prisoners to set up nursery beds as well as planting new forests at subsidized costs.

But the impact of Uganda prisons on Uganda’s vegetation possibly highlights the staggering scale of forest degradation arising from the demand for wood and charcoal not only in homes but also in other institutions like the army and schools.

According to the Uganda National Charcoal Survey 2015-2016, 94% of Ugandans use wood bio mass for cooking energy. This translates into an estimated forest loss equivalent to 115 football fields just for cooking every day – either in the form of firewood or charcoal. In Kampala, the price of charcoal has been rising at about 20% per year largely due to the rising urban population but also due to the rapidly decreasing forest cover across the country.

Experts have warned that at the current level of forest destruction, the demand for wood is expected to triple by 2025, posing a grave threat to the economy and biodiversity as well as making people increasingly vulnerable to disease and poverty.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) estimates that up to 90,000 hectares of natural forest is lost in Uganda every year. The alarming rate of forest destruction, experts say has serious implications such as disruptions in rainfall and hence agricultural activities on which majority of the population thrives.

The loss of vegetation has also been linked with the increased spread of diseases as pathogens that used to reside in forest-based creatures are forced to spread to the general population.


Kadaga lashes out at Environment Ministry over degradation

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga is known for her no holds barred approach to issues. And so when she was invited by Rotary to officiate at a mass tree planting campaign in Luzira near the home of the Ministry of Water, she didn’t mince her words.

Kadaga lashed out at the Ministry of Water and Environment for failure to implement the National Forestry Act 15 years ago in order to protect the country’s environment.

“Am surprised that you are supporting Rotary instead of taking the lead… the Ministry of Environment should give us a national program of tree planting but here you come and saying thank you to Rotary, yet that is your work. Tell that to the minister,” Kadaga charged attracting a thunderously applause and cheers from the audience.

The Minister of Water Sam Cheptoris was lucky his absence saved him from the embarrassment. But his director for the environment Paul Mafabi was seen shifting uneasily in his chair after the Speaker fired at him for lazying around.

Kadaga was annoyed that the NGO was performing the work of an entire ministry that receives billions of tax payers money but has not shown cause for it.

Kadaga said that Parliament passed an act to promote environmental conservation and yet the country continues to suffer widespread environmental damage forest degradation and wetland destruction.

Comparing efforts by other African countries to protect the environment, Kadaga said the Ministry of Water and Environment has not put out a comprehensive and sustainable program for Ugandans to conserve the environment despite the enactment of the relevant laws.

Kadaga also mocked as a joke a promise by the Ministry to contribute a million tree seedlings to Rotary International for this project.

She reminded the Director of Environment who represented the Minister for Environment that Parliament enacted the National Forests Authority Act 15 years ago and the country expected that the National Tree Fund would be established which has not happened.

“We were also supposed to have National Tree planting days. I have spoken and spoken and spoken and No one is listening, We want to see you (the Ministry of Environment) in the field in action, leading Ugandans rather than supporting from the sides,” Kadaga.

In response to the challenge by the Speaker of Parliament, the Director in Charge of Environment Affairs at the Ministry Paul Mafabi said that whereas the ministry has activities to encourage tree planting it is limited with inadequate funding.

“From what we lose we need to plant 7.5 million trees, if you multiply that by the cost of one tree seedling (500 shillings) we are talking of billions but there is a budget deficit. At the moment government has provided Ushs 5 billion to support the community’s tree planting program under the National Forestry Authority (NFA), but for starters we need at least to double the figure provided to be able to produce the required seedlings. The minimum we require to get seedlings alone is about 10 billion shillings,” Mafabi said.

After planting her symbolic tree at the compound of Luzira Prisons Academy and Training School, Kadaga asked Mafabi to ensure that the ministry’s puts in its financial requests for consideration at the next budget process. She pledged to lend her support towards the ministry’s efforts for a higher budgetary allocation aimed at conserving the environment.

Despite numerous calls by Rotary International and other civil society organizations for the authorities to reverse forest degradation and declining biodiversity, the impact of decreasing forest resources is all evident in Uganda as seen from recurrent droughts and rising temperatures.

Now, the Uganda and Tanzania District Governor Kenneth Wycliffe Mugisha says Rotary International was prompted to embark on the Mission Green Initiative to address the adverse effects of environmental degradation after realising that the relevant authorities were not doing enough.

Mugisha explains that the Mission Green that targets planting 20 million trees every year is aimed at reversing the adverse effects of forest degradation, which are believed to be connection to the increasing cases of cancer and famine in the communities.

When asked what motivated Rotary to embark on this kind of Initiative, Mugisha said it was the unavailability of water in areas that use to be water catchment areas like Insingiro district that is now facing famine.

He went on to justify the need for the initiative by saying that the cutting of trees has contributed to the rise in health problems, citing cancer as one of them.

Mugisha stressed to The Sunrise Newspaper that absence of trees, carbon emissions come to our bodies directly and therefore causing several cancers we are taking about today.

“Cancer is one of the biggest killer diseases in Uganda right now. And I feel we must do something for the future generation, what are going through is not what we would wish our children and grandchildren to go through. We should take action and Rotarians are men and women of action”-Mugisha.

Uganda Prisons Services partnered with Rotary International to facilitate the Mission Green Initiative.

The Commission General of the Uganda Prisons Service Dr. Johnson Byabashaija acknowledged that Prisons with the ever increasing population is the second contributor to tree cutting for wood fuel something that should urgently be done.

There are a total of 55, 600 inmates in the 252 prison facilities in the country and the population growth rates in these facility stand at 10 %, yet prisons use wood fuel to cook their meals which makes environmental conservation a very serious challenge for the Uganda Prisons facility.

Byabashaija regretted that the Prisons use 80,000 tons of wood fuel every year this translates into 9000 trees cut down every day and therefore being a net destroyer of forests.

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.


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.