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

slubambula@gmail.com

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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Ensuring food security whose role?

Food

Joining the global movement to end hunger this year, a section of Ugandan lawmakers have asked first the journalists before them, to be a part of the solution to Hunger.

The legislators justified their request that was also going out to other leaders and the entire community saying when it comes to hunger, the only acceptable number is zero.

Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life and that means about one in nine people on earth.

The humanitarian body says that Uganda has significantly reduced its levels of hunger and poverty over the last two decades.

According to the World Food Program, Uganda has made significant strides in addressing the problem of hunger but there is an uphill task to address the humanitarian and development challenges especially in the Karamoja region and among refugees.

Overcoming this problem that still affects many Ugandans yet the country has been referred to the potential food basket for the region, the sure way is by increasing food production and better storage mechanisms.

Now in a bid to address hunger in some parts of the country, government has been challenged to revise its policy of leaving the Agriculture sector to be dominated and run by the private players.

The concern raised by Members of the Uganda Parliamentary forum on Food security, population and development comes days after the World Food Day that is marked on the 16th of October every year.  This day was commemorated under the theme social protection and Agriculture.

The parliamentarians say that it is high time that government directly gets involved in the Agricultural production to improve quality and volume of food production.

Kyadondo North MP Robert Kasule Ssebuya says that government should interest itself in areas like availability of irrigation technologies, food storage, seed multiplication and distribution in order to ensure better productivity and food security. Kasule noted that Agricultural Research institutions should be protected instead of leasing out the land to private investors.

Kakuuto County MP Matthias Kasamba says after year of giving priority to other areas in the National Budget, it is now time for the Agriculture Sector to give a lion’s share of the Budget.

Kasamba also the chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentary forum on Food security, population and development stresses that since the Road infrastructure is fixed and Power Production is almost completed, in the next financial year 2016-2017 a trillion shillings should be allocated to Agriculture.

One can only be optimistic that at the end of this political season in March 2016, the key decision makers will have to determine what to allocate to their voters who mainly derive their livelihood from Agriculture.

slubambula@gmail.com

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.

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