Housewife From Bwaise

We (media) always refer to ourselves as the voice of the voiceless, so are we really that? I think it is time to re-examine our roles, colleagues in the industry.

Conquering Mountains

Every once in a while the media approaches me to give a comment on the goings on of the day. After I give my comment, the following conversation ensues:

Reporter: “Madam, what is your title?”

Me: “I’m a housewife from Bwaise.”

Reporter: (smiling in bemusement) “Is there anything else?”

Me: “Not really. I don’t have another title. Do you people not think that a housewife from Bwaise can have anything intelligent to say about the issues of the day?”

Reporter: “It’s not that. It’s just that…… Ok, can we say you are a lawyer?”

Me: “If you so wish…”

I am not a housewife and I am not from Bwaise. But I use the two together as a way to say that we cannot only just hear opinion from people with high sounding titles. We cannot only hear opinions from people who stay in the high end suburbs of Kampala…

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Kaveera ban hangs in balance

Kaveera ban

Civil society activists have expressed concern over the government’s commitment to the enforcement of a total ban on polythene bags also known as Kavera.

The head of Action Coalition on Climate Change, a Non-Governmental Organization, Enock Nimpamya expressed reservations about the commitment saying the government is not forthcoming when it comes to enforcement of the ban.

Whereas there has been a ban on Uganda’s law books banning Kavera, there had been no action regarding the enforcement, which encouraged the production and use of plastic bags of less than 30 microns across the country.

But in April this year, the National Environment Management Authority – NEMA revived the ban starting with Supermarkets in Kampala and other major towns.

The ban attracted praise from environmentalists, but scorn from manufacturers who protested it saying they had invested a lot of money in the production and importation of the polythene carrier bags.

Opponents of the ban, who included some senior government officials expressed reservations about potential loss of jobs for thousands of people.

The campaign by manufacturers was so aggressive that they got the Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda to intervene and order the suspension of the ban.

NEMA vowed not to relent as they kept their eyes on Supermarkets and other shops in Kampala. But in the absence of full government support and its coercive machinery meant that NEMA would not go very far.

This gave room for traders in Kaveera to do their job almost unencumbered with.But recently, August 26, 2015, Cabinet agreed to back the Total implementation of the ban without any reservations.

According to sources in the cabinet meeting, the Minister of Water and Environment, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu told his colleagues that the ongoing implementation of the ban had greatly reduced environmental degradation in the country.

In an interview with The Sunrise, Nimpanya says that whereas it’s the right direction taken by government, it is unfortunate that the same politicians usually frustrate the enforcement of such resolutions.

He notes that for a long time they (activists) have called for a total ban on Kavera to protect the environment.

Speaking passionately about environmental protection, Nimpamya says the politicians in this government directly and indirectly benefit from the plastic manufacturing industries and therefore they tend to be soft when time for enforcement of such a significant ban comes.

He intimated that some of the manufacturers actually finance political campaigns of politicians who in turn frustrate the enforcement agency NEMA.

On their part, reacting to the same cabinet resolution to a total kaveera ban, Manufacturers think that this ban on polythene carrier bags is bound to alienate foreign investment and cast government in bad light as unreliable.

This is according to the executive director Uganda Manufacturers Association Ssebagala Kigozi. Kigozi blames the authorities for politicizing economic issues, and failing to fully investigate certain business investments, which destroy such development when they have already taken off. He says this has caused losses both for the investors, and the economy.

Kigozi who is upset by cabinet’s recent agreement, adds that it was harsh and rushed. He said the Kaveera business is something that should have been allowed to phase out gradually.

“It is very very, very unfortunate , a very big deterrent for other people to come to invest in Uagnda because they will not be certain……we would have had a gradual program of the same by government…since it licensed the same to come and compensate these producers to close shop, which is not discussed”-Ssebagala.

But giving an example of Rwanda where ban on Kaveera has been effectively implemented, Nimpanya says that there is need for political will in Uganda to see that NEMA and other government agencies are fully facilitated to comprehensively enforce the ban.

President Museveni should pronounce himself on the matter, to give a good example to the other leaders and even the manufacturers will appreciate that this is a serious resolution that must be strictly enforced.

Nimpanya had no kind words for Manufacturers who argue that the ban is not necessarily a solution to environmental degradation but rather sensitization of the public on usage.

As a way forward, Nimpanya says that before NEMA stretches its enforcement arm from the Supermarkets to other places, Production of the polythene bags must be completely stopped.

He called for an increase in NEMA’s funding to enable them hire enough man power to enforce the ban. He says that with less than 50 people staffing NEMA, the agency is over-stretched to deliver on its mandate.

“Effective enforcement of the ban would require empowerment of the relevant bodies like NEMA and the Uganda National Bureau of Standards that control the border points to address the smuggling of the dangerous plastic materials into the country,” says Nimpanya.

The activist says the voters should ask the candidates for clear positions on the environment and if they stammer, they should be denied votes.

slubambula@gmail.com

Please Steal This Blog Post

At Outernet [replace with your organization name], we believe that free access to information is a human right. The Internet has dramatically enhanced our ability to exercise this right, but unfortunately most humans cannot access the Internet. Today, over 4.3 billion people cannot connect to the Internet at all and another roughly 1 billion people have their Internet connections censored or monitored. A world where only 20% of humans have truly free access to digital information is unacceptable.

That is why we support the creation of Humanity’s Public Library, an initiative by Outernet. Outernet broadcasts a data signal from satellites that is free to receive anywhere on Earth. While this is not an Internet connection, it is a free stream of critical information. What information is considered “critical?” You decide.

Outernet and Creative Commons are co-hosting the first edit-a-thon for Humanity’s Public Library on July 18-19 2015 to decide what is included in this library. Anyone on Earth is encouraged to participate – details on how to have your voice heard in this process can be found at http://editathon.outernet.is.

We want to encourage our users to submit their own work and to submit content from Outernet [replace with your organization name] that is licensed for redistribution. One such work is this very blog post. Copy these words and post them on your own blog and let’s all gather together and build a #LibraryFromSpace.

Activists express fears over the Police Cybercrime Unit.

 

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.

END

It’s time to demand for your rights.

Mothers' Rights

The demand for health rights is now more meaningful for civil society activists and the entire general public, following a landmark ruling by High court that found Nakaseke District local government liable for the acts by a doctor that led to the death of an expectant mother.

Ugandans especially expectant mothers can now confidently further their demand for the enjoyment of the right to health from those in charge, since there is now a precedent set when government was held accountable for its failed obligation.

This comes after, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) a civil rights organization won a case last month against Nakaseke local government, it filed on behalf of David Mugerwa who lost his wife Irene Nanteza during child labor.

Nanteza died on 5th May 2012 due to failure to access medical attention towards an obstructed labour she was suffering while at Nakaseke Hospital.

According to Mugerwa, his wife was left unattended to, for over eight years. He adds that the doctor on duty arrived at the hospital too late to have any medical intervention like performing a cesarean section since she had obstructed labor. Nanteza bled to death due to a ruptured uterus.

This case prompted Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) to challenge the deliberate denial of the deceased Nanteza’s access to emergence obstetric care which caused her death.

According to the Human Rights Documentation and Advocacy manager at CEHURD Primah Kwagala, the organization accused the hospital management of denying the expectant mother access to the ambulance for transfer to another hospital which amounted to the abuse of her right to health service.

Making his ruling, Justice Benjamin Kabito said the rights of Nanteza to access emergency Obstetric care, life, health, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and equality and those of her children were violated.

Justice Kabito asked Nakaseke local government to compensate Mugerwa 35 million Shillings as costs for damages for failure to execute its constitutional mandate of overseeing the performance of persons employed by government.

Now civil society activists, lawyers, and some MPs stress that the High court judgment in this case is a clear indicator that government is fully responsible for protection and fulfillment of the right to health for all.

Makerere University don and also chairman at the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development Professor Ben Twinomugisha says the ruling sets a good precedent for Ugandans that have lost their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters due to preventable maternal deaths.

Twinomugisha says that the ruling reminds government of its obligation to provide emergency obstetric care in health facilities as one way of respecting the right to health for mothers.

 “what it means is found in law, what we call precedent because when higher courts decides a case it is binding on all courts and all organs of the state”- Twinomugisha

Mityana District Woman MP Sylvia Namabidde says although monetary court rewards cannot be equated to the lives of mothers lost during child birth, the court ruling is a strong message to government to take extra efforts towards improving the functionality of health centers in order to stop high maternal mortality.

Namabidde adds that on top of calling for increased health budget, there must be a checklist for all health centre IVs to ensure that all the necessities for safe delivery are available.

“Health Centre IVs are very key to saving mothers because they are the nearest points of referral so if Nakaseke is a Health Centre IV it is supposed to have a theatre  which is functional, we as MPs have tried to ensure that  they become functional by even increasing salaries of doctors at these facilities, then there must be Obstetric drugs but there must be blood, there must be functional ambulance”-Namabidde.

Meanwhile this is one case out of the many mothers that die in similar circumstances. The Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), as an organization registers more than 30 cases of negligence against medical personnel every three months. Kwagala said that many of the cases are never pursued to their logical conclusion.

“it’s important for government to account back to the people  because as a citizens you have a contractual relationship with government….because you vote  and even pay taxes, so government must be held accountable”-Kwangala.

However on sad note, the High Court ruling did not pronounce itself on the negligence of individual doctors. Because this is a case of human rights violation, it is suggested that the medical council and other authorities take punitive action against such professionals like cancelling their licenses.

Professor Twinomugisha emphasizes that negligence of individual officers must be curbed to avert further violation of the right to health for expectant mothers.

slubambula@gmail.com

Survey Forest land-NFA officials demand

 

 

In a bid to protect the Forest reserves across the country, conservationists have appealed to government to embark on boundary opening and marking for these Natural resources.

 

The National Forestry Authority (NFA) sector manager for Kagadi region that covers six central forest reserves in Kibaale district asked his superiors in government to ensure boundary marking in order to protect the forest reserves from being encroachers.

 

The forest reserves are currently under attack by neighboring communities for purposes of cultivation and timber harvesting.

The concern to protect the Uganda’s Forest reserves is very significant because it links with the ecology system and people’s right to clean environment, not to mention the adverse effects of the climate changes that can cause food insecurity.

Now the National Forest Authority sector manager for Kagadi, Charles Arian has pleaded with higher authorities to urgently provide funds for boundary marking of the six endangered forests.

According to Arian, the authority staffs have tried their best in enforcing the laws for the protection of forests but they are limited by the absence of forest boundaries. He said that the encroachers have taken advantage of the absence of these boundaries to cut down the gazette forests with impunity.

A well qualified surveyor should be attached to each gazetted forest to undertake boundary marking to serve forests across the country, Arian suggested.

The call comes as the Uganda joins the rest of the world to mark the World Forest Day (on Saturday 21st march 2015) under the theme Forests and Climate Change.

Arian said that currently the National Forestry Authority Officials are incapacitated because the forest reserves have no clear boundaries.

While on the guided tour to the depleted forest, Arian showed reporters the open area within the forest reserve that is cleared for cultivation, stressing that the hand of the NFA staff hands are tied.

 

 “This boundary must be opened. And once it is  opened we would know exactly where the boundary line passes and those who are on the reserve land would be told to go out but as of now the boundaries are not clear so our hands are tied”- Arian said .

 

He adds the when the encroachers are got into the area, they claim that they never knew that they were operating in government land since the forest reserve has no boundary. And in fact even the Forestry official him/herself can’t show them that this is the boundary because they also have no evidence, says Arian

 

Kagombe and Ruzaire the most deforested reserves in Kibaale district,

When asked the extent of the damage, Arian said that when you look at Kagombe forest Reserve, the damage is almost 50%, half of the forest is gone due to agriculture.

He explains that 50% of Kagombe Central forest has been cleared by encroachers for both timber harvesting and Cultivation.

Uganda loses 92,000 hectares of forest cover annually exposing the country to harsh climate change conditions hence the need for Environmental conservation.

It is reported that over 700 people have encroached on Kagombe Forest. Some of these encroachers are leaving in the forest reserve while others have slashed acres of Kagombe forest reserve for cultivation of crops.

Meanwhile during an on spot operation to stop such illegal activities in Kagombe forest, Vincent Byakaaka was arrested while clearing a section of the forest in preparation for the next planting season.

According to Arian, Byakaaka is one of the many who have abused the court order that stopped fresh clearance of the forest. Arian observes that many people have continued using the areas in the forest where they have always been cultivating from.

 

 “And when we arrest such people who are cutting the forest, again it becomes a problem, there is a gentleman called Kinusu who interferes when he gets to know that we have arrested people for cultivating in Bujogolo area, he takes it to be that we are doing a wrong thing… yet they are the ones expanding agricultural activities into the forest”

 

Policy analysts in this sector have expressed dismay over how lack of coordinated efforts has frustrated forest protection.

 The deputy Executive Director Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment ACODE Onesmus Mugyenyi said that the lack of coordination of efforts has also undermined the institutional capacity to manage the forest estate and ensure full implementation of the laws.

“we have this encroachment challenge and we have got mixed signals, today we are talking about eviction, then tomorrow there is another government voice which will say do not evict and, so that poor governance of the sector has continued to allow illegal activities taking place in the forest, this must be addressed.”- Mugyenyi DSC06722

Right to Privacy threatened ahead of 2016-Activists

Communication SurvillianceActivists have warned that as the country draws closer to the general elections slated for 2016, chances of violating the right to privacy are on steady increase.

The warning was issued by the Chief Executive Officer Unwanted Witness Uganda, an organization that advocates for digital freedoms, Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebagala at a one day National Conference on Communication Surveillance and the right to privacy.

Speaking at the conference that attracted IT officers, Lawyers, journalists and program officers’ from  different organizations, Ssebagala warned that amid the increasing communication surveillance in the country, there more chances of abusing personal information collected by both private and public agencies.

Referring to earlier processes like the National Security Information Systems (NSIS) registration exercise also known as the National Identification registration, Ssebagala predicts that violations and abuse of people’s the right to privacy will increase.  Just like for the earlier case of the SIM Card registration, this National Identification Registration exercise was also conducted in the absence of data protection law.

So according to Ssebagla, the infringement on one’s right to privacy may  increase, mainly targeting Human rights defenders, government critics, opposition politicians, journalists among others during the forthcoming general elections in 2016. Subsequently this will undermine other related rights and freedoms like the freedom of expression.

And even ordinary individual members of the general public are not safe from the online violations, which may result into physical human rights abuses. This is because a lot of personal data is now out there without protection from misuse.

The Misuse of this personal data is not limited to government agents but also other ill-motivated individuals that case easily access this vital inform either by bribing those in charge which can be very dangerous to the safety of the people.

There already examples from the previous general elections where a certain presidential Candidate managed to campaign via people’s mobile telephone. Now Ssebagala wonders how these politicians access citizens’ information, and mobile phones without their consent.

There was a request for a supplementary budget totaling to over 200 billion shillings for government to procure surveillance equipment in order to enforce the regulation of the Interception of communication Act and at the same time citizen’s data has been taken during the National ID registration yet there is no enabling law to protect this data, which is worrying, ssebagala said.

“the interest of government, we know is going to really harm its opponents ”-Ssebagala .

Makerere University Human Rights and law don, Dr. Kakungulu Mayambala says that the current legal framework including the computer Misuse Act, Ant-Terrorism, regulation of interception of communication Act, Anti-pornography law among laws makes it easy for the duty bearers to contravene article 27 of the constitution that provides for the right to privacy.

This is because these laws give some exceptional situations that can be used to exploit someone’s right to privacy. For instance, in the name of protecting national security, fighting crime, upholding morals or for any other public good. But the million dollar question is who defines such situations to justify communication surveillance on an individual and thus violating their right to privacy.

Presenting a paper on strengthening Communication Surveillance and the right to privacy in Uganda, Dr. Mayambala urged members of the civil society, IT practitioners and lawyers to take it upon themselves to legally challenge the unfriendly legislations, if they are uphold the right to privacy as enshrined in the supreme law.

“There is need for a public litigation to challenge these laws that are contravening the constitutional article 27 that provides for the right to privacy”- Dr. Mayambala.

However there reports that a draft bill on Data Protection is in the offering and this is expected to address the concerns of having people’s data at the hands of government agencies and private companies. But still activists wish that unlike in other previous law enactment processes, this time round the authorities should involve the public in the enactment of this particular law since it directly affects them.

END