Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Democratic Party Press Release

Press Release.

D.P wants Education to be accessible and available to all Ugandan:

Kampala 31st January, 2012. The Democratic Party is appalled that the teachers’ plight continues unattended to. The teachers’ salary is too meager to talk about, yet when they demanded an increment of 100 per cent which would make their salary come to a token of Shs50,000, they were rubbished. This amount is not even enough for subsistence for a family of four. Yet teachers have spouses, children and dependents including their siblings and their elderly parents. Shamelessly, the government has blatantly refused to grant that modest request and they have promised teachers a 15 per cent increment which would translate into a mere Shs35,000. This money is not worth one meal for one of the ruling party politicians’ family. The Democratic Party Condemns this grave injustice meted out onto the teachers by an insensitive regime.
We have learnt that Universal Primary and Secondary Education are hot air. The government remits a paltry Shs1521 for each pupil under UPE, per term and we have got incontrovertible reports that some times the government remits far less than that amount. As for USE, a token Shs41,000 is remitted. This is utterly absurd. The poor parents are heavily burdened yet we are deluded that we have universal education.
University education has been rendered almost inaccessible to the brilliant sons and daughters of the poor. To make matters worse, state house sponsored scholarships which are funded by taxpayers’ money are a preserve of a few politically connected. We must condemn this patronage-clientelism method of running the state. As DP we want university education to be available, accessible and affordable to all on the basis of merit.

Ugandan is dying of curable and complex diseases:

The Democratic Party is concerned that quite a number of people are dying because of power outages in hospitals, the children in northern Uganda are nodding to death; very many Ugandans in the whole country are dying of curable and complex diseases such as diabetes, cancer, kidney failures and so many yet the greedy ruling party cadres pilfer funds that would be adequate to treat these diseases daily with impunity. We in the Democratic Party condemns this practice and we pledge to fight for justice for all Ugandans

Uganda should respect and observe treaties:

The Democratic Party has filed a suit against the Attorney General of Uganda and 3 other East-African states in regard to the failure by state parties to the African Charter on Human and People’s rights failure to deposit a Special Declaration submitting to the Competence of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights to handle individual cases by Partner States Nationals and Rights NGOs with grievances to access this court as required by the above law. This is a violation of Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Article 34(6) of the Protocol of the Charter that establishes the African Court on Human and People’s Rights but also infringes the Principle of Pacta Sunt Servanda enshrined in article 26 of the1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of treaties which mandates states to respect and observe treaties once signed and ratified. Of all the five East African countries, it is only Tanzania that has deposited the special declaration to the African Court of Human and People’s Rights. We in the Democratic Party believe that failure to honor the African Court on Human and People’s Rights is not only aimed at violating People’s rights but also promoting impunity. We condemn this in the strongest terms a reason as to why we pray the East African Court of Justice to declare the actions of the Respondent states illegal.

For more information contact:
Hon. Mathias B Nsubuga
Tel: 0772500500

Plot 2/3 William Street, P.O. Box 7098, Tel./Fax: 0414-236010, Kampala-Uganda
www.democraticparty.ug Email: info@democraticparty.ug

Friday, January 27, 2012

Is the NRM anniversary worth celebrating?

Vincent Nuwagaba

The NRM celebrated twenty six years in power yesterday Thursday 26 January. As the ruling NRM celebrates 26 years in power as a country we need to ask ourselves whether this is the day worth celebrating. Many will agree with me that we can only commemorate the NRM 26th anniversary but not celebrate for there’s so little if any to celebrate. The advent of the NRM was greeted with ecstasy because many Ugandans were disillusioned with the Obote and Amin regimes. The NRM revolution was premised on what was to be known as the NRM blueprint – the ten point programme which contained the following points; 1) restoration of democracy; 2) restoration of security; 3) defending and consolidation of national unity and elimination of all forms of sectarianism; 4) defending and consolidating national independence; 5) building an independent, integrated and self-sustaining national economy; 6) restoration and improvement of social services and rehabilitation of war ravaged areas; 7) elimination of corruption and misuse of power; 8) redressing errors that resulted into the dislocation of some sections of the population; 9) cooperation with other African countries and; 10) adoption of an economic strategy of mixed economy.
Later the NRM added five points to make the fifteen point programme which included; point number 11) the financing of public infrastructure using internal borrowing and creation of employment in the country; 12) focused human resource development and capacity building in the technical and public service sector; 13) preservation and development of our culture; 14) consolidation of programmes which are responsible to gender and marginalised groups; and 15) environmental protection and management.
A proper assessment of the twenty six years of the NRM in power calls for analysis of its blueprints and manifestoes. We commemorate the 26 years of the National Resistance Movement at a time when the country is in a crisis but I must argue that for so long the crisis has been in the country. We have argued over and over again that Ugandans were politically malnourished for the first twenty years of the NRM because of the suspension of political party activities. Accordingly, Ugandans listened to only one political gospel – the gospel according to St Yoweri Museveni that demonised and vilified political parties for Uganda’s mess. Very few Ugandans didn’t know their suffering under Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada had nothing to do with parties. Because of demonisation of parties even after the superficial opening of the political space the hitherto existing political parties notably Democratic Party and Uganda People’s Congress could not gain ground. The Forum for Democratic Change which emerged to be the strongest opposition party since 2005 is an offshoot of the NRM comprising of the hitherto NRM members and supporters that were disillusioned with the NRM leadership.
Assessing the achievements
That NRM has made some remarkable achievements is undisputable. For instance, the military has largely been disciplined to the extent that some civilians can step on the toes of the military men and get away with it. Nevertheless, political scientists will concur that all political parties/organisations aim at capture, consolidation and retention of political power. The NRM had captured power using the gun but their war was largely supported by civilians without whose collaboration they would never have succeeded. The NRM leader President Yoweri Museveni being a good Machiavellian knew quite well that disciplining the military would help him consolidate and retain power. Had he chosen to tolerate undisciplined military, he would have portrayed himself similar to the past regimes. In fact, it is largely because the military have been friendly that many Ugandans are often heard saying, “at least we can sleep”.
The NRM leaders say they have restored democracy through among others holding regular elections. This is an issue that is highly contested. We have had a plethora of elections which are neither free nor fair. In the aftermath of the 1996 presidential elections, President Museveni reportedly said that had he been defeated by DP’s Paulo Kawanga Ssemogerere, he would have gone back to the bush. The NRM mentality is “we either win or they lose”. This is an anti-democratic mentality which defeats the purpose for which elections are held. The Supreme Court rulings for 2001 and 2006 are there for everyone to see. The 2011 in which the NRM “won” with a landslide 68% is the most contentious elections. In the midst of the campaigns, state coffers were raided as you may all recall that a 602billion supplementary budget was passed in the heat of the campaigns, MPs were donated taxpayers’ money in the guise of monitoring government projects at a time when they were busy campaigning, the opposition was denied airtime on a number of upcountry radio stations but also the UBC and New Vision which are state-owned media houses gave a disproportionate coverage to the incumbent at the expense of the other candidates. I aver that virtually all the elections we have always had have been sham only meant for window-dressing purposes. We can assert that we have had electorocracy as opposed to democracy.
Democracy must be concomitant with rule of law, constitutionalism and respect for human rights but the NRM has fallen short on all these ingredients of democracy. The abolition of term limits from our constitution was the genesis of all our problems. The proponents for the removal of term limits argued that Museveni was an indispensable human resource and on his part, the President didn’t hesitate to say he never saw anyone with a vision. Like Lord Acton stated, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. By opening up for Museveni to vie for presidency as more times as he wanted, we gave him a green light to rule us till he drops dead.
I agree the Local Councils which initially started as Resistance Councils have ensured participatory democracy. But how come they are not funded? While the NRM can argue that Local Councils were started to widen popular participation, one can argue that the LCs were also created as a tool to consolidate and retain the NRM in power. In fact, with the creation of LCs, some Catholics who belonged to the Democratic Party and had not tasted power ascended to leadership positions. They were mesmerized by that development and they have forever remained grateful to the NRM. What they fail to understand is that the Local Councils helped them to gain leadership positions without power as they are not paid. As they are in leadership positions without power, the politicians at the central level and civil servants steal money left, right and centre and impunity has become the order of the day. It’s high time the Local Councils were evaluated properly. In my considered view, real democracy must be accompanied by social justice. This means, social services such as education, health and infrastructure must be provided by the state. Today, our health centres are death traps; our education system is not only disoriented but education is not funded; the state of our roads is so despicable that only last year some citizens organised themselves to campaign against potholes. Yet, ironically Ugandans part with huge sums of money in taxes which are not accounted for.
I need to put particular emphasis on education. The NRM in 1997 introduced what it called “Universal Primary School Education” (UPE) and later in 2007 “Universal Secondary School Education” (USE) was also introduced. How universal these programmes are should be our focus. The government remits a monthly capitation fund worth Sh507 per pupil under UPE. This translates into Sh1521 per term. Parents on the other hand spend not less than Sh15,000 on each child under UPE. Why then should we believe that it is the government that sponsors our children. As for USE, the government remits a paltry Sh41,000 per student. Yet this amount is not even enough for one month’s student’s meals. This is laughable!
The biggest indictment of the NRM is on theft of public resources euphemistically referred to as corruption. As Norbert Mao once said, fish starts rotting from the head. The NRM doesn’t have the ability to fight corruption. I believe that nobody is free from corruption within the NRM ranks. The sale of public parastatals without giving accountability for the proceeds thereof was particularly the worst form of corruption and Ugandans must continue demanding for accountability.
My area Member of Parliament Major General Kahinda Otafire has often stated that leaders don’t lie to the people they lead and that leaders don’t steal from the people they lead. But the NRM leaders have perfected the art of fleecing and lying to Ugandans. In fact the main tools used to retain power have been deception, manipulation, cooption and sometimes coercion. Only in the current renewed term of President Yoweri Museveni we have seen political activists, traders, lawyers, women activists, university lecturers, students and teachers strike all because the government is insensitive about their plight. What we clearly can see is the presence of the state when it comes to collecting taxes and sheer absence of the state when it comes to delivery of services. Sectarianism, cronyism, grand corruption, impunity and privatization of the state have vividly been seen in the past twenty six years. As we commemorate the NRM 26th anniversary, sadness and tension are the major traits characterizing our nation. It’s in the 26th year of NRM that Ugandans are ranked 11th saddest people in the world. In fact, many of us clamour for liberation from the “1986 liberators”. Given the state of affairs, should we celebrate or merely commemorate the NRM anniversary? For God and my country!
The writer is a political scientist cum human rights defender

Here is why all well-meaning citizens of this country are sad

Posted by Vincent Nuwagaba

on Monday, January 23 2012 at 00:00

I was impelled to write this piece by the news article that was published by the Saturday Monitor of January 7, titled “Ugandans are 11th saddest in the world”. The story cited Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index for 2011. Some Ugandan journalists on their Facebook page felt the Daily Monitor blundered to run that story for it portrayed a negative picture of our country. I must say, I am terribly disappointed with such people.

While it is a sad commentary, we must applaud the Saturday Monitor for exposing that grim reality. Bashing the newspaper for publishing scientific findings shows disregard for the importance of research and is akin to attacking the messenger or breaking a mirror for showing blemishes on your face. Responsible journalism acts like a mirror. Let’s attack the message and devise means of getting out of our quagmire and clean ourselves of the blemishes.

Here is why all well-meaning Ugandans must be sad. Polina Bayagwa, a widow from Bitereko, Ruhinda, is diabetic. Before taking meals, she takes an insulin injection. Recently, she told me that the weekly insulin treatment which used to cost her Shs125,000 a year ago currently costs her Shs250,000. Transport alone to and from Comboni Hospital, Kyamuhunga, costs her Shs20,000. This is an old woman who earns no money. Luckily, her sons cater for her.

Jadress Tisaasa who is also diabetic spends not less than Shs400,000 per month and my aunt who died two years ago used to spend Shs400,000 every week. My own mother has a plethora of ailments, including kidney failure. In 2009, I took her to Mulago to be operated for fibroids and was asked to pay Shs3m for a private wing. The gynaecologist who saw her was so concerned that he told me, “I used to treat these cases from Naguru but now Naguru is no more”.
John Turamyeomwe, Polina’s son who is also diabetic vigorously campaigned for the NRM but now wonders whether he’ll cater for his ailing mother and then afford university fees for his son next year. He is saddened that the government cannot extend medical facilities to Bitereko Health Centre III and make fees in public universities affordable.

Talking to parents in Ruhinda, I discerned bitterness despite the cosmetic smiles and superficial joy during the festive season. They are worried about fees as averagely Shs15,000 is spent on each child under UPE since government makes a monthly token remittance of Shs507 per child making it Shs1,521 per term which sadly is sometimes not remitted in time. As for Universal Secondary Education, the government remits a paltry remittance of Shs41,000 per term for each student. This money is not even enough for students’ lunch. Plausibly, parents pay for their UPE and USE children because they know that the “universal education programme” is but hot air.

The Makerere University 62nd graduation jubilation is going to be short-lived. Basically, very few of the fresh graduates will get jobs on meritocracy basis and they have been weaned so they have to fend for themselves. Politicians or civil servants who pilfer public funds fear other Ugandans for they think they intend to spite them.

I won’t tire of citing Dr Martin Luther King Jr who remarked in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.

The misery in my home area is a pointer of sadness in the whole country. Some of us may feign happiness or naively think we are alright but we have neighbours, relatives and friends whose misery makes us grieve.

Well-meaning Ugandans are sad about the status-quo; the President is sad that Ugandans are galvanising the courage to question his vision. Clean Ugandans must be saddened by the failure of the government to account for their taxes through provision of basic services.

Finally, all we see is disillusion, disappointment and betrayal. This has three by-products and the first one is sadness, the second is sadness and the third is sadness. I have a hunch that only sadists, the thoughtless and the heartless are happy with the status-quo.

Mr Nuwagaba is a human rights defender.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mr President, please always be tolerant

Vincent Nuwagaba

My friend ABETO’s Moses Musana recently gave President Yoweri Museveni a peace award. ABETO stands for Always Be Tolerant and Museveni was awarded for promoting peace and tolerance in Africa. I won’t question Musana’s criterion for the choice of Museveni as a promoter of peace although I know of many Africans who view (and rightly so) President Museveni as a war-monger. As a political science scholar, I know that tolerance and toleration are key tenets and pillars of peace-building and democracy. Ironically, soon after winning the peace award, Museveni declared war against anybody who doesn’t agree that part of Mabira forest should be given away for sugar production. One of the foremost enlightenment philosophers, Voltaire said, “I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. The President cannot be a promoter of peace if he only listens to and believes in himself. Instead, he will be a harbinger of chaos, instability, violence, virulence and regression.
President Museveni must know that unlike men who are most times iniquitous, our God is a just God. Accordingly, God created multi-talented Ugandans. Museveni might be a good mobiliser and warrior but he is not necessarily a good thinker. Even if he were a good thinker, he cannot be the most knowledgeable in every field. At least I am not sure that the President got distinctions throughout at O level, straight A’s at A level and a first class or super second class upper (Dean’s List) degree at the university. I listened to the shadow minister for environment Hon John Ken Lukyamuzi when he was addressing the press at parliament. Hon Lukyamuzi said by destroying Mabira, we shall lose convectional rainfall hence leading to the reduction of water levels in Lake Victoria and River Nile, hence the reduction on hydro-electricity power. Sadly, I also heard Hon Adolph Mwesige on Capital Gang arguing that by giving away part of Mabira forest, electricity generation will improve. While Lukyamuzi’s assertion is technical, Adolph Mwesige’s argument is merely political and technically wanting.
Some of us have consistently given free advice to the president using all forms of media but unfortunately instead of appreciating our wise counsel, we have been labelled saboteurs and treated inhumanely. That’s not why Musana gave President Museveni a peace award. I will assume that Comrade Musana didn’t know Museveni’s belligerent side, now that he has opened war against those who believe in non-violence and peaceful means of resolving disagreements, is Musana considering withdrawing his award? The press reported that guests shunned Museveni’s Peace Award ceremony, could the organisers have asked themselves why?
Museveni has in the recent past won two controversial awards – this one and the Makerere University honorary PhD award ostensibly for statesmanship and boosting agriculture never mind that agriculture is among the least funded sectors and that farmers’ cooperatives died during his regime. I personally wrote to the vice chancellor over the PhD award but received no response. I remember when I was a fresher at Makerere University in 2001/2002, President Museveni, while addressing parliament said, he no longer cares about Makerere University but prioritises Mbarara University which he calls his very own. Indeed Makerere University has been starved of funds. Lecturer’s remunerations are meager and they don’t access funds from government to conduct academic research. Thus, they have opted for consultancy research and moonlighting both of which are inimical to academic advancement. Right now, a university professor can hardly sponsor his children for prestigious courses such as law at Makerere University because in 2009 fees were hiked up to 126%. Those who opposed the heartless fees hike led by yours truly faced the wrath of the state thanks to the flawed criminal justice system. Surely, one cannot promote peace by denying the underdogs the right to education which is enshrined in article 30 of our constitution and other international legal and human rights instruments that Uganda has ratified.
As a politician and political science graduate Museveni should know that all revolts have had both underlying and immediate causes. There are many Ugandans who have wounds on their hearts in regard to the manner in which the ruling party has managed (read mismanaged) the state. Unfortunately, by declaring war against those opposed to the giveaway of Mabira, Museveni is giving them justification to fight him. Ultimately, Museveni has waged war against himself and it is a war that he will surely lose. Mr President don’t abuse ABETO’s award; always be tolerant.
Mr. Nuwagaba is a human rights defender

President Museveni, Ugandans need sustainable development

Vincent Nuwagaba

President Museveni has declared war against the anti-Mabira giveaway crusaders. His 2007 attempt to give the said forest to Mehta was confronted with stiff resistance from the opposition and civil society activists. However, Mr Museveni seems to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from the 2007 April Mabira protests. If indeed power belongs to the people as the constitution says why doesn’t Museveni organise a referendum on whether or not Mabira should be given away. I am awaiting the opposition response to the war threats by the president against those opposed to his unholy schemes of giving away the natural forests.
I know that some anti-Mabira giveaway activists risk losing their lives. But I must say killing someone at the forefront of the struggle doesn’t kill the struggle. Uganda Martyrs were burnt but Christianity continued to blossom. A bean cannot reproduce itself unless it has been buried into the soil; one cannot resurrect unless they first die. And I believe that if one lost their life on the struggle, although physically dead their souls never die. Jesus Christ was crucified but is now alive; Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, and Sr. Mother Theresa, St Francis of Assisi inter alia didn’t die for their names have lived centuries after their bodily demise.
We, the Pan African club members debated Mabira on Friday August 19, 2011. Denis Twahika, an NRM cadre argued that let Mabira go after all, health, education, cooperative societies and many others are gone. People who think like Twahika are resigned into frustration and frustrated into resignation. They think they cannot do anything to salvage their nation. To me, it is not only about Mabira. My major concern is the abuse and misuse of power by people who claim to have gone to the bush to liberate us. I read in the press that Mehta doesn’t care what parliament says, all he wants is Mabira forest. This is sheer contempt! Beggars don’t give orders.
We are in a free enterprise economy not a command economy. Accordingly, the government will not fix price for Mehta’s sugar, why then does he want free land? What will Ugandans benefit if Mehta is given free land? If we can make a written agreement with him that he will sell a Kg of sugar at Shs1,000 we can give him land but still not our valuable forest. If not, he should be told in no uncertain terms that he should get money and buy land. But maybe he has paid for the land in which case we demand that the President gives accountability to Ugandans. President Museveni is averse to dissent which is a pointer of outright dictatorship.
Meanwhile, Makerere University students reported for their 2011/2012 academic year on Saturday August 20 and the lectures are supposed to go on this week. However, it is not yet clear whether lecturers will be ready to teach given that they are demanding a 100 percent salary increment to match the rising costs of living. While I believe the lecturers’ demand is a modest demand, it will have a domino effect on other sectors. With each sector demanding 100 per cent salary increment, President Museveni will find it difficult if not impossible to enjoy the statehouse delicacies. As the lecturers make their demands, students still demand to have tuition fees slashed down to the figures prior to 2009/2010 academic year and to have students’ loans as promised by President Museveni on his campaign trail.
By 1960, Uganda was at the same economic footing with the Asian Tigers. We are now 49 years old as an independent state and President Museveni has been in power for 26 years. As opposed to Milton Obote and Idi Amin, Museveni is a political science and economics graduate. Why he failed to replicate the Asian Tiger Miracle here, he alone knows. If we are to attain genuine transformation, we must: - identify brilliant Ugandans on meritocracy basis; invest in their education; deploy them in our bureaucracies and pay them handsomely. This is impossible if prestigious degree courses remain a preserve of the rich not the bright. Mr President, we need sustainable development.
Mr Nuwagaba is a human rights defender

Monday, January 16, 2012

It is pretty clear that the emperor is now naked.

Human Rights Defender
written by Vincent Nuwagaba, April 08, 2009
It is pretty clear that the emperor is now naked. The President has arrogantly shown all and sundry that he cares not about what elite Ugandans say. He now openly lives in pomp, ostantation and pageantry.

It is also clear that the president is no longer bothered about elections for he uses bribery, intimidation, coercion, manipulation and cooption to retain power regardless of whether or not he has anything new to deliver.

I must make it quite clear that as long as some of us are increasingly locked out of opportunities on grounds that we are from the wrong families, it will be difficult for this country to have peace.

It is clear that the President has not only reneged on his promises but has successfully denied this country the opportunity to benefit from the brains it has on merit. No wonder, our country is running down the drain. Its high time we stopped lamenting and embarked on a strenuous campaign to oust M7 and Musevenism. We must use all the available democratic and constitutional means to do this for this country belongs to nobody but us. To those in power, if you make peaceful change impossible, violent change will be inevitable. This is a fact of history that you must always be aware of. The government must realise that it is guilty of criminal negligence for lack of drugs in our hospitals and lack of jobs among our graduates. This deliberate unemployment is partly if not largely responsible for the increase in prostitution and all its associated outcomes. The government must realise that a hopeless, frustrated, desperate population is not in its best interest. This is a population that is very easy to mobilise into rebellion, violent or otherwise for they have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the rebellion. If Dr Besigye sacrificed his job in a Nairobi Hospital, Major General Muntu sacrificed the delicacies in his father's home since his father was a righthand man of President Obote, what would stop a person who has spent all his resources to get educated only to be rendered perpetually jobless from engaging in armed rebellion. Remember, for two decades we have failed to defeat Kony. What would happen if other ten armed rebellions broke out. I am not drumming up for war but echoing the inevitable if people are continually pushed against the walls. The ruling oligarchy must know this. The civil society activists must know this and the donors must know this. How can the donors continue giving aid to a regime that gives no political and economic accountability yet they (donors) are obsessed by talk about good governance. The frustration and hopelessness I have talked about can easily lead to normlessness and lawlessness in which case even the donor agents may fall victim. All actors in the democratisation process must do something to forestall the possibility of our country sinking into anarchy. I am not a prophet of doom but as the Ankore saying goes "ogamba akabi tiwe akareta" meaning he who predicts catastrophe is not the one who causes it.



Today, we are here to announce the launch of our latest campaign ‘Walk to Work’ Reloaded. We started the year in much the same way as we ended it: With more stories of public wastage and corruption set against a backdrop of economic gloom and misery. The government announced a once percentage fall in inflation from 28% to 27% as though it were reason to celebrate, well knowing that it is pathetic to talk of any substantive change with such a high inflation rate. Even with the shilling gaining strength against the US dollar towards the end of last year, the ordinary man on the street was unable to reap any benefits because the contradictions in the economy have overwhelmed the best minds in the central bank and Ministry of Finance.

By raising the Central Bank Interest Rate CBR) to 23%, the government was passing the effects of its failed economic policies to traders and ultimately to the person on the street who buy from the traders. The natural consequence of the raised CBR was raising of commercial interest rates to percentages as high as 27 – 30%. As though this was not punitive enough, the government allowed commercial banks to impose this high rate on both new and existing loans thereby exposing businesses (particularly small businesses) to capital and liquidity risks that they had not envisaged at the time of borrowing old loans. The outcry from the trading community was inevitable and in our view it was overly considerate. The harshness and insensitivity of this government’s economic and fiscal policies deserved an even greater, country wide response from the business community. We applaud KACITA in their efforts to campaign for lower interest rates and will add a voice to their cause because it is ultimately the cause of the common man.

As though to add insult to injury, the Electricity Regulation Authority chose the period of the traders strike to scrap the power subsidy and hike power tariffs by an average of 45% across different users. Uganda National Chamber of Commerce responded swiftly, noting that "These tariffs shall fall on the shoulders of the consumer so as to offset the subsidy of 396 billion that electricity regulatory authority (ERA) has been paying to the power generators and distributors, to cushion power consumers from higher tariffs." In addition to the high interest rates and day long load shedding, businesses now have to find means of paying these increased tariffs. Yet the power tariffs do not affect only businesses but also domestic users who will pay Shs 524.5 per unit instead of the Shs 385.6 (a 36% increase), commercial users will pay 487.6 instead of 358.6, (a 36% increase) and medium industrial users will pay 458.9 instead of 333.2 (a 37% increase) while large industrial users will pay 312.8 instead of 184.8 (a 70% increase.)

As the cost of living continues to soar, wages and salaries for teachers, workers and professionals on government’s pay roll have remained stagnant. The Chief Justice has recently joined a queue of public servants that are demanding higher salaries some of whom are threatening organized industrial action.

It is under these severe economic hardships that we are launching walk to work reloaded. Our methods and goals have not changed. We shall continue to use nonviolent action to draw attention to the plight of the common Ugandan. We shall continue to speak out and amplify the voices of millions of Ugandans whose voices are stifled by an oppressive, corrupt and uncaring government. We shall continue until your voices are heard in the highest offices of government and beyond. The year is fresh and we are ready to meet the oppressor on the street as we carry your voices. We ask you to join us at a series of rallies that we have lined up under walk to work reloaded.

Hon. Nabillah Sempala has graciously accepted to host us in her constituency for our first rally, which will be held this week. Rallies will continue over the next couple of weeks at venues and times to be announced on radios. Our final grand rally will be at Kololo Independence Grounds on 28th January, 2012.

We call on all Ugandans across the political and social spectrum to join us and participate in this program where they can express their dissatisfaction and listen to a variety of speakers with ideas on how to tackle the economic crisis. This morning, Police surrounded our colleague, Ingrid Turinawe’s home as early as 5am to pre-empt our activities. She was intercepted and is now being detained at Kasangati Police station. The police Spokesperson alleges that at the weekend A4C beach bash in Entebbe, Ingrid said we would march from this press conference and ‘cause chaos.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. We caution the police to stop being reactionary and to desist from acting on the basis of speculation. We look forward to seeing you all. Our rallies like all our activities are peaceful and anyone harboring ideas of violence is not invited. We call on the police to provide us with adequate security for our peaceful rallies.

Mathias Mpuuga

National Coordinator, A4C

Activists 4 Change

Is Uganda ready to respect human rights?

Vincent Nuwagaba

On the 9th and 10th December, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate International Anti-corruption Day and Human Rights Day respectively. Uganda has ratified core human rights instruments and the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the African Union Convention for Preventing and Combating Corruption. We’ve also domesticated anti-corruption instruments by enacting the Anti-corruption Act 2009 and the Whistle Blowers Act 2010. Sadly, the Ugandan government is now a vehicle whose engine is fuelled and lubricated by corruption. This leads to erosion of human rights because corruption deprives the government of resources necessary to provide for positive rights and any agitation for those rights is met with excessive brutality. While Uganda has in place institutions meant to promote human rights and good governance, it is self-evident that these institutions are largely for window-dressing purposes. Accordingly, they neither promote human rights nor fight corruption effectively. At least, I haven’t seen a robust condemnation by the National Human Rights Institution of the phony treason charges against Sam Mugumya, Francis Mwijukye and Ingrid Turinawe.
Unfortunately while we commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, few of us understand what human rights mean. Ugandans relegate positive rights even when the government ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1987. Ironically, many human rights organisations also tend to be obsessed with civil liberties and political rights but few of them are forthright and upfront on socio-economic rights. Yet these are the critical rights since they address bread and butter issues. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on human rights affirmed that “human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright
of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments”.
It further stressed the universality, indivisibility, interrelatedness and interdependence of all human rights and that all human rights must be treated in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing with the same emphasis. Talk about the suppression of protests, all the human rights groups will be up in arms; hike fees in public universities leading to the denial of access to higher education to the majority, none of them gets concerned.
The raison d’ĂȘtre for the human rights movement is human dignity. The cardinal principles of human rights - equality and nondiscrimination are aimed at ensuring human dignity. How can Ugandans live in dignity when they can hardly take their children to schools; when they hardly access health facilities; when they rarely get jobs on merit?
Look at the plight of teachers and the rank and file members of the police, military and prisons. Policemen who stay in asbestos roofed houses risk contracting lung cancer because of inhaling the air contaminated with asbestos. Policemen feed on posho and beans from December to December. They hardly afford fees for their children because the government remits less than Sh2,000 per pupil under “Universal Primary Education” (UPE) and a paltry Sh41,000 per student under “Universal Secondary Education” (USE). Yet, the NRM manifesto says in part that “The NRM Government will strictly observe the Education Act 2008 that outlaws payments of any kind of fees in UPE, USE and BTVET schools. NRM will not tolerate any charges imposed by head teachers or parents associations”. Three questions arise: 1) Doesn’t the NRM Government know that children pay huge sums in UPE and USE schools? 2) How does the government expect schools to run with token remittances? 3) If the government is not aware of this fact, doesn’t it portend the utter absence of the state from the lives of the citizens? Clearly, UPE and USE are pipedreams.
The Ugandan human rights crusade rarely attracts the full support of majority Ugandans because the message hardly dovetails with the interests of the masses. What do numerous civil society organisations (CSOs) that we have exactly do? Apart from writing accountability reports to the donors, do the numerous CSOs account to the citizens on whose behalf they get funding? How many organisations do public interest litigation? Do CSOs effectively hold government to account? Are human rights organisations transparent and accountable? As we commemorate the human rights day, we need to ask ourselves, as human rights defenders, are we up to the task?
The writer is a human rights defender

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Rebellion Against Social Injustice Must Be Ugandans' Patriotic Call

Vincent Nuwagaba

20 December 2011


I was impelled to write this article by my namesake MP Vincent Mujuni Kyamadidi.

While on Capital Gang on December 17, Kyamadidi mesmerised listeners and his co-panelists with well-quoted verses of the scripture to buttress his stance against corruption and injustice within the ruling party, a position that has earned him and some other legislators the lable of "NRM rebels".

I first met Kyamadidi in 2008 when I was hosted on a political programme on Radio West as I represented DP while he was an LC5 councillor. Though on the programme he eloquently conceded to the ills of the government, he would describe President Museveni as a Godsend. Maybe that was good for his political survival. I am not surprised that although some public officials have named the President in abuse of public funds cases, no 'rebel' MP accuses him. That notwithstanding, I commend Kyamadidi and company for the stance to oppose wrong and support right. Indeed, I congratulate them upon the venerable label of 'NRM Rebels'. In a party whose chairman confesses is full of thieves, being branded 'rebels' is gratifying. No pun intended for the President revealed while in Rwanda that his government is full of thieves. Rebellion against injustice is a patriotic call for all of us. While I congratulate NRM 'rebels' upon placing their nation above party and self-interests, I was incensed by Kyamadidi's condemnation of the A4C, saying the NRM MPs will punish the thieves but the opposition should refrain from A4C reloaded. Kyamadidi's argument prompted me to revisit Martin Luther King's 'A letter from Birmingham jail', which I have read countless times.

Accordingly, I recommend Dr King's letter for all politicians to see the urgency for justice. Martin Luther King says, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". I support A4C activities not because I hate NRM. An emphatic NO. It's because I love justice passionately.

On December 27, Makerere University students will begin exams. State House sponsored students (who incidentally are arbitrarily sponsored by taxpayers' money) will sit exams even when the State has not paid. Sadly, poor students - some of who are Kyamadidi's voters, relatives or neighbours, who have not paid will either get dead years, or dropout altogether as has happened before. Upon the increment of fees by up to 126 per cent in public universities (which by law are supposed to be maintained by public funds), many students dropped out. How then do we build for the future? Ironically, with a disoriented education system, illusory UPE and USE, a collapsed public healthcare system, deplorable graduate unemployment, miserable, hungry and angry teachers and police officers, excruciating economic downturn, Kyamadidi condemns A4C!

The task before us is too huge for only MPs to handle. Pouring cold water on civil society efforts to hold politicians to account is an insult to the voiceless Ugandans and a travesty of democracy. For instance, media reports about UBC must be revolting to all right-thinking members of society. I am yet to see whether NRM 'rebel' MPs will push NRM cadres, notably managing director Paul Kihika, corporation secretary Dickens Kagarura and station manager Tony Owana from the national broadcaster and deploy them at the NRM Secretariat. Fusion of the State and the ruling party is abhorrent.

The most venerable Catholic Church leaders have shockingly reportedly decried A4C as a precursor for violence. They should condemn the Police for using violence against peaceful protesters and urge government to address the issues giving rise to protests. Nobody wakes up with a view to riot. Always well-intentioned peaceful protests morph into riots after provocation by the Police.

Appallingly, the government is hell-bent on enacting unjust laws to curtail civil protests. We shall inevitably defy them lovingly, openly and with willingness to accept the penalty since according to St. Augustine "a bad law is no law". No matter how well-intentioned the so-called 'rebel' NRM MPs are, disillusioned Ugandans should not rely on them to set a time table for their freedoms, rights and liberties. Like King wrote, 'Freedom is never given voluntarily by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed'. We must all be rebels against social injustice, inequality and discrimination. Personally, I lovingly plead guilty to terrorism and rebellion against social injustice.

Mr Nuwagaba is a human rights defender