Sunday, April 24, 2011


A forwarded email i received

A friend  of mine opened his wife's underwear drawer and picked up a silk paper wrapped package:

 'This, - he said - isn't any ordinary package.'

He unwrapped the box and stared at both the silk paper and the box.

 'She got this the first time we went to New York , 8 or 9 years ago. She has never put it on , was saving it for a special occasion.

Well, I guess this is it.

He got near the bed and placed the gift box next to the other clothing he was taking to the funeral house, his wife had just died.

He turned to me and said:

'Never save something for a special occasion.

Every day in your life is a special occasion'.

I still think those words changed my life.

Now I read more and clean less.

 If it's worth seeing, listening or doing, I want to see, listen or do it now....
I sit on the porch without worrying about anything.

  I spend more time with 
  my family, and less at work.

  I understood that life should be a source of experience to be lived up to, not survived through.

  I no longer keep anything.

  I use crystal glasses every day...

  I'll wear new clothes to go to the supermarket, if I feel like it.

  I don't save my special perfume for special occasions, I use it whenever I want to.

  T he words 'Someday....' and ' One Day...' are fading away from my dictionary..;

I don't know what my friend's wife would have done if she knew she wouldn't be there the next morning, this nobody can tell..

  I think she might have called her relatives and closest friends.

  She might call old friends to make peace over past quarrels.

  I'd like to think she  would go out for Chinese, her favourite  food.

  It's these small things  that I would regret not doing, if I knew my time had come..

Each day, each hour,  each minute, is special.

  Live for today, for tomorrow is promised to no-one..

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Introduction -

I am one of those who would normally keep quiet in times of turmoil and conflict. Like many Christians I know, I will normally seek for a 'comfortable hideout' where I can watch events roll on from the safety of my burrow. However, this kind of Christianity is not what I believe the Lord has called me to. As events this year have continued to be more and more challenging in Uganda and the world, I believe the Lord expects Christians and especially the 'professional' Christians to stand out from the crowd and be relevant. The time for crossed arms across the chest and head shaking in disbelief as events roll by should, in my humble opinion come to an end. The more we keep quiet is the more we Christians continue to be criticised for being irrelevant. In any case I am reminded that ''– if you want to avoid criticism, say nothing be nothing do nothing – Elbert Hubbard (and yet even then you will be criticised – emphasis mine).“ Clearly, -'' a time comes when silence is betrayal" as stated by the executive committee of the 'Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam ( ). Therefore, like the hot tong which the Seraphim in the Bible placed on Prophet Isaiah's mouth (Isaiah 6:6), or the vision of Jeremiah calling him to discard youthful fear and speak, ( Jeremiah 1:7) I add my voice now to those who, like me are concerned about the state of affairs in Uganda and the world.

In discussing below, I must start by declaring that that I am on the side of human rights and good governance - and as a christian and a lawyer, I am cogniscant of the various conflicts that are in my mind as i write this. As a researcher, I am also aware of the various 'truths' that can be found in this discourse. I am also aware that mine is just but one view- which i wish to share - and i welcome any contrary opinions hereafter -

The Issue -

It is upon this back ground that I wish to respectfully respond to our First Lady and our mother / sister in Christ, Hon. Mrs. Janet Kataha Museveni who was kind enough to challenge us Ugandans – and rightly so – by her opinion piece in the New Vision Newspaper. ( ). (reproduced below) I wish to respond to a few of the comments she highlights which I think are pertinent.

A: 'Walk-to-work' (W2W) demonstration and the 'Opposition' nomenclature

The First Lady notes that the W2W is merely an attempt by the opposition to stay in the media. Whereas it might be true that the opposition seek to remain relevant by riding on any opportunity they can use as would be expected in any free and democratic society, it is unwise, not only to lump the opposition as one homogeneous group and even include all those Ugandans who support the walk to work. There are people like Betty T. Kamya who have stayed clear of and discouraged Ugandans from being a part of the W2W.

There are voices from the public and even within the ruling NRM party who concur that there is need for government intervention in the current financial hardships which the country is facing. These Ugandans would still hold this view, even if the First Lady has taken an essentialist approach to the opposition as only or mainly Dr. Besigye and the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Some of these Ugandans have been walking to work, to church, to the mosque and to the market for various reasons and not necessarily to score political sympathies. Some might not even know that the brand W2W even exists today.

Others feel like identifying with this cause even though they might not make their actions publicly known or visible - and this is a right all the groups above should enjoy as provided for under Art.29(1) of the Constitution of Uganda, 1995). That is why, the Dutch envoy Jeroen Verheul, has urged the Government to allow the opposition to express their views through demonstrations, and has criticised the manner in which the Police crackdown has been disproportionate in terms of the risks associated with the W2W''. He therefore has called on the government to 'relax on the opposition and allow legitimate demonstrations, freedom of speech and assembly to happen in Uganda.”

More crucially however, H.E The President stated that Dr. Besigye has no ulterior motives/plans and that he has discounted any intelligence reports which have insinuated this actually calling them rubbish. ( It would therefore be fair to assume that apart from refusing to get police permission for walking (which in my view is not a 'demonstration' properly so - called). It can therefore be argued that Besigye as an individual only seeks to exercise his right to walk and to walk to work as guaranteed by Article 29(2) of the Constitution -other considerations not withstanding.

Therefore the subsequent Government message that the said W2W is intended to '' psychologically prepare the masses, especially the youth, for armed insurrection”, or that it is meant to '"provoke confrontation with the Police in order to portray the Government as brutal in its actions" and this could cause “disaffection and hatred and if not checked, can lead to negative political, social and economic consequences.” leaves alot to be explained. Why would the government go on to show its brutality if it is not brutal? Why would the government assume that disaffection does not already exist by itself due to the current economic hardships? Why would an economically or socially hard- up person seek to even make his condition worse? These reasons are unfortunately not convincing at all. One need not be in the 'opposition' in order to feel the pinch of the economic harships. Wole Soyinka said, "I don't care about the colour of the foot pressing my neck.--I just want to remove it."

' As stated earlier, even if Dr. Besigye or other opposition leaders like Nobert Mao, Cecilia Ogwal, Anne Mugisha,Olara Otunnu et al were absent from Uganda at this particular time or chose not to walk to work, there would still be politicians and citizens who will walk to work. So whereas we might castigate ''the opposition'' for being part of the Ugandans that are currently walking, the fact still remains that many more Ugandans are doing so( and have been doing so peacefully, without being provocative or provoking others – as envisaged in Article 43 of the Constitution.) Therefore there is no need to bribe people -some of whom have been walking even before the said fuel prices surged even further(as insinuated by the Government statement) to walk to work - how absurd would that be? Besides, how can the said ''organisers'' ever be able to know how many people are walking to work because they are demonstrating and those who are walking to work because they 'just want to do so' or 'always walk to work'? Insisting on knowing the 'size of the entourage' when there is none envisaged does not help.

Let us not forget that this is not the first time Ugandans have walked. The mayhem after the Kenyans elections caught our Government flat-footed as the current situation. I recall many Ugandans walking to and from work because there was hardly any fuel. Ugandans even walked in bigger groups that we see today. They did not have to be mobilised to do so. They did not have to notify the police either. Therefore the assertions by the government statement are difficult to accept - indeed being able to show the nexus between walking and overthrowing the government ( beyond reasonable doubt as required by the law) will be such a herculian task for any state attorney- which probably explains the kind of charges that are currently being preferred against the 'disobedient'.

B: The Price of fuel and other commodities

The First Lady also argues that it is not the government that determines the prices of commodities, but rather the market forces of demand and supply'. She further notes the effect of drought and the global fuel prices on the market. However, this, in my view, does not absolve the government of its primary responsibility to us. The government was admittedly, insensitive and didn't gauge the mood of its citizens as the financial downturn continues to press hard on us.

This was not helped any bit by the rash statements of the Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko. It is reported that H.E. ''(T)he President reportedly took issue with the response given by Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko that the inflation was due to the forces of demand and supply and therefore it was beyond government control. It’s alleged that he described Kabakumba’s response as arrogant and insensitive to the population.'' .

These statements were not made any better by the news stories of the government taking '$740 million (about Shs1.7 trillion) worth of taxpayers’ money from Bank of Uganda to buy fighter jets and other military hardware from an unknown country ' or the proposal to spend 4 billion shillings for the May 2011 swearing- in ceremony., expenditures which are viewed as unwise and exorbitant in light of the current financial situation.

If the above is true, then it is possible that the government can make an intervention. We cannot hide our heads in the sand and pretend that all is well. Rather, we should take the bull by the horns as governments all over the world -and even neighbouring Kenya- are doing by intervening in these dire circumstances.

As Yasin Mugerwa advises, ''without the government intervention, we don’t know how long this agonizing double-digit inflation is going to last.''As ''an interim measure, he argues, 'the government must deal with this inflation – before prices get out of control.'' .

Although the President says that the taxes on commodities like fuel are very small, some have argued that they are the comparatively the highest in the whole East African region yet countries intervening -even if slightly- on behalf of their citizens around the region and the world are very many. I submit that it is possible for government to do something – anything to alleviate the situation.

C: Government action or inaction?

Although the First lady ''agrees to a certain extent'' that ''the Government should be functioning better than it is'', she does not elucidate on this extent nor does she give reasons as to why this is so. She stops at wondering whether it is the '' calibre of our leaders on both sides of the political divide (sic) is many times a stumbling block rather than a stepping stone?'' This is left unaddressed which in my view should be the crux of her argument -

There are wide ranging reasons here;- lack of sensitivity to the people's plight as alluded to earlier by the President, inter and intra- party conflict, lack of political will, political interference, inter and intra- governmental conflicts, laxity of parliament, laxity in fighting corruption, bad governance, lack of accountability, non- adherence to procurement rules, poor ethical and moral standards, and others. Clearly, unless these matters are addressed steadfastly, the government will continuously be criticised for its laxity and this will always be a fertile ground for the opposition as would be expected in any democratically elected system.

Be that as it may, I do agree with the First Lady when she states that ''not everything depends on one being in the Government.'' This is certainly true and indeed fellow Ugandans, we do need to pull up our socks with regard to our own responsibilities to the nation especially when it comes to individual accountability in our jobs and family lives. We can discuss this more in another article. However, when the First Lady, asks what ''those who have made it their occupation to merely point fingers,'' are ''doing for the country'', I beg to submit that 'pointing figures as of itself is a great contribution' to the development of the country in the same way that police monitors and maintains law and order or the way the preacherman asks his congregation to repent of their sins.

Thus, classifying a criticism as negative and looking for tangible or other ''contributions'' as positive is ad hominem and misses the point. For example, when a doctor diagnoses a disease in a patient, such patient does not ask whether the doctor is taking care of him or herself too - No - It would be expected that the patient will take the medication in order to get better. Neither does a student set an exam for their teacher and grade it merely because the teacher has done the same.

This is where roles and responsibilities come into play. Obviously, this does not mean that there haven't been examples of ''practical and tangible examples'' of those who have been given the opportunity to serve their country – and done a good job. However that is beyond the scope of my submissions today. Besides, it is one thing to cite these examples, and another thing to grade their success or failure rate – which ends up as a subjective test depending on which side of the fence you depend on (not forgetting those like the cat in Animal farm who will sit on the fence itself).

In any case the Bible in I Corinthians 12:12 states that 'Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.'

It is therefore unwise to assume that those in government are working for their country, while those in opposition are not. In this spirit therefore, I say thank you to all those Ugandans, whether they are in government or not, who have served their country in various ways- be they as mothers, teachers, parents, nurses, soldiers, policemen, traffic warders, farmers, name it. Whereas by their very role, the opposition is a 'government-in-waiting- in any democratic state, that is an essentialist view of opposition.

There are those within the opposition who also oppose each other (I know am sounding academic here) and there are also those within the government who are also opposing certain actions of the government(A good example is Hon. Theodore Sekikuubo and Hon. Henry Banyenzaki). Like I stated earlier, there are those in other sectors of life who oppose certain things in and out of government – be it the family, education, health, religion etc. – they are all part of the society that envisages forces that tag against each other. Without these forces, we cannot have a discourse of society per se.

D: Way Forward for our Nation

The First Lady then 'echoes the words of ' John F. Kennedy, the former President of the United States, specifically for the opposition. However, taking her cue, when JFK said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?” he also said ''ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

In the same acceptance Speech, JFK said '' (T)o those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required—...not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.'' This is in my view self explanatory when put into the context of Uganda today. The call is not only on opposition, it is a call to government and the entire citizenry.

JFK did not stop at that, he further stated that '' civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.'' In our present case, this is is a direct call to the powers that be – I see nothing wrong with the police for example, escorting Dr. Besigye as he walks to his work place instead of refusing him outright.

Neither do I see anything wrong with Besigye participating in any negotiations regarding his safety and the safety of others. However, to merely blanket Besigye's right to walk-to-work as a precursor 'violence and chaos' and regime change while allowing other citizens to walk-to-work, is out rightly unfair and cannot be justified. In my opinion, it is such a far cry from reality. As a lawyer, I still fail to see how walking of itself contributes to 'violence' while I can recount numerous times where refusing one to exercise one's rights has indeed had the reverse effect.

It is like the Titanic avoiding the ice-berg only to ram hard into the main glacier or ice-shelf. As a Christian, I am reminded of the words of Jesus Christ when he was accosted for having people sing his praise during his entry into Jerusalem and his response was, "I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:39). I am aware that in quoting the Lord Jesus, one would easily ask whether I equate some leaders of the opposition to Jesus, which is obviously not my intention- rather, I seek to draw attention to the fact that when something is being said because it is true, no amount of pressure shall stop such truth from being uttered.

The First Lady concludes her missive by calling upon fellow Ugandans to '' recognise that we have come to a critical time in our nations history'' where '' (N)ow more than ever, we have the opportunity to determine our destiny.'' A good point which I agree with fully. Let us not go back to the days when rights and life were a dream. Let us not go back to the days when the barrel of the gun was the means of communication in all circumstances. Let us not go back to the days when dissent was answered by blood and iron. I do agree with the First Lady.

That is why I also wish to remind my readers that when President JFK called Americans to action in similar fashion, the country as Martin Luther King stated was 'taking the black young men who had been crippled by (their) society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in South-East Asia( Vietnam) which they had not in south-west Georgia and East Harlem (in USA).'' Thus black Americans were '' repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill(ed) and die(d) together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. (they watched)them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit (USA). (This is why Rev. Luther) could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.''( ).

We can make comparisons today – where demonstrations are banned, taxes are unbearable and yet freedom to express discontent is refused. Thus leaving the individual between a rock and a hard place

In the same breathe, Martin Luther King Jr further noted …

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. In the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Similarly, even as our country moves towards the promised land, (a concept which I believe in as much as Boxer, the horse in the Orwellian Animal Farm believed in the concept of the sugar candy mountain but died miserably at the expense of those who benefited from his sweat), so too it is in the current situation: As Ugandans move towards the promised land, let us have due consideration for the input and rewards of all people.

Therefore, as the President starts yet another term of office, we should be gracious enough to admit like JFK that the government's plans ''will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But, he continues, ''let us begin." ). JFK further advises that '' Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah—to "undo the heavy burdens ... and to let the oppressed go free." (a)nd if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavour, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved. ‘( ).

E: Conclusion

Therefore, addressing the current economic situation is very advisable and I would like to agree with some of the measures suggested by Yassin Mugerwa where he calls upon the Central Bank to take a more nuanced role and control prices to a manageable level, the easy use of money in the national treasury without parliamentary approval should be stopped , illegal spending of tax payers money should be stopped, refurbish the fuel reserves, subsidise motorists and set exchange rates for importers (the import duty for rice stands at 75 per cent in Uganda, 35 per cent in Kenya and Tanzania (Zanzibar) at only 25 per cent.)

These are just but a few suggestions on what can be done. Indeed, we cannot just blame the situation on global events and wait for the oil from Bunyoro or the long term plan suggested by the government.

So, as the ''Boxers'' of this day toil to make a living, it is the duty of our government to help alleviate this burden.

As for the rights of our fellow citizens, let the universal concepts of human rights as we know them today, apply across the board. In the enjoyment of various rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR and the Constitution of Uganda, let all people be allowed to co-exist and enjoy their freedoms – be it of movement, speech or otherwise. Let it not be said of Ugandans, that some cannot walk to work merely because they are politicians. Let it not be said of our nation that 'some are more equal than others' or that some are more innocent than others (Art.21 of the Constitution of Uganda- All people are equal before and under the law).

The Bible teaches in Galatians 3: 28 ' You are all sons of God … there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus … and heirs according to the promise'' (NIV). The US State Department also reminds us that 'freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights and a critical component of modern, functioning democracies. We call on the Ugandan government to respect the opposition's right to express its viewpoints and citizens’ rights to demonstrate peacefully and without fear of intimidation.'' . This is because human rights are inherent and not granted by the state (Art. 20 of the Constitution of Uganda, 1995).

As the legal minds of our nation sit to consider the way forward, I hope they will ask these broad questions - why should the Police ban peaceful demonstrations? Is a demonstration to buildings, fields or trees a demonstration as envisaged by the Constitution? Can permission or notification to 'demonstrate' be allowed by the police well knowing that the demonstrations have been banned? Why insist that 'walking' is a 'demonstration' knowing full well that 'demonstrations' have specific characteristics to which walking does not fall? Can something surely be ''illegal because the organisers did not inform the Police about it or because the police is banned it?''?

Those questions do need answers – May the Good Lord help us answer them in truth and in fairness

God Bless you All
Attorney and Lecturer-at- Law, Makerere University , Member, Uganda Christian Lawyers' Fraternity (UCLF)- These views do not necessarily represent those of the UCLF or its members-

We shall not be derailed
Publication date: Friday, 15th April, 2011
By Janet K. Museveni

I find it hard to believe that one of our Presidential candidates in our recently concluded elections blames the high fuel costs on the Government as though Uganda is isolated from the global economic conditions.

It is even more perturbing that this same candidate during the elections was pinning the blame on the Government for the low commodity prices. I am sure this individual is well aware that it is not the Government that determines the prices of commodities, but rather the market forces of demand and supply.

Now that prices have gone up, Mr. Besigye sees this as a window of opportunity to draw attention once again to himself.

In Mr. Besigye’s interview of April 13, he states that his walk-to-work demonstration was harmless and was not in any way the political position of his party, Forum for Democratic Change.

It is amazing that the Monitor newspaper of April 11 was privy to the information that Mr. Besigye was planning to demonstrate and published the story, even before the event occurred. As Mr. Besigye left his home in his walk-to-work demonstration, lo and behold, there was the press waiting for him with cameras rolling. Mr. Besigye should not insult the Ugandan people by thinking that we fall for his poorly disguised ploys.

Many in the opposition criticise the way the Government operates, saying that it should be functioning better than it is. To a certain extent, I agree with this opinion, we can do much better. The question is, why aren’t we?

Could it be that the calibre of our leaders on both sides of the political divide is many times a stumbling block rather than a stepping stone?

For those who have made it their occupation to merely point fingers, I would like to ask: what are you doing for your country? One does not have to be in government to make a positive contribution to their country. From a passive observation, it seems to me that Mr. Besigye and his colleagues are very strong on the negative — criticising President Museveni and his government, and painfully low on the positive, actually providing a practical and tangible example for other people to follow. Surely, not everything depends on one being in the Government.

John F. Kennedy, the former President of the United States, once said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?” I would like to echo those words to the opposition. That apart from demonstrating, walking out of Parliament and spewing negativity on our radio airwaves, what good have you done for the Ugandan people?

The Movement Government, not withstanding its flaws and weaknesses, has a good track record. We can all testify to how far we have come as a nation over the years. We as Ugandans should cherish our stability and know that it is one of the keys to our progress. The tragedy in Africa is that once a nation has developed to a certain stage, there are some elements of the population who rise up to completely destroy and bring to naught all of the progress they have made up until that time. Everything is erased and they have to begin again from scratch. I submit to the Ugandan people that Mr. Besigye and his colleagues are of that spirit. Since they are not happy, because they failed to secure the people’s mandate in a general election, they would rather cause chaos and bring city life to a screeching halt. The alternative for them is their greatest fear, that Ugandans would realise that they are irrelevant and have nothing constructive to offer.

I appeal to Ugandans to recognise this walk-to-work demonstration for what it is — another pathetic attempt to remain in the media — which the opposition interprets as being relevant to the politics of this country.

Our elder statesman, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, once said: “Africa must run while the rest of the world walks.” This is so that we can catch up with the other countries that have enjoyed stability for centuries and thus managed to develop. We have just concluded a lengthy campaign and election process. Three months were gazetted for political candidates to make their case before the people. At the end of that time, the Ugandan people spoke through their vote. If you are a candidate and felt you lost because of any election irregularities, there are suitable avenues to address that. Mr. Besigye already forfeited that opportunity.

There are countries in the world that give a limited time for elections and campaigning. For example, Singapore, assigns only nine days during an election year, for campaigning and one day for voting. After those few days, it is back to work for the people and the transition for the government they have elected. Uganda, being a bigger country allotted more time to this process, but I feel that it is time for people to put politics aside and get back to work. Lord knows we have enough to do, so please let’s not waste any more time.

Regarding the high cost of commodities in the country, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be ignorant of the situation. Uganda has not had sufficient rainfall for well over 7months. This has drastically affected the supply of food. As the supply went down, the price of food increased; the price of matooke has increased to sh15,000 from around sh8,000 last year. A kilogram of beans has increased to around sh4,000 from a mere sh1,500 last year. The price of a goat has risen from sh70,000 to sh100,000.

These are prices at the farm gate and so by the time the produce reaches the city it must be even higher. Although this is a negative situation for the consumers, farmers are making a profit.

The price of oil has gone up to the current $135 per barrel from about $70.

Thankfully, the rains are here now, and we pray that our harvest in August will be better. Some areas in the North eastern region have still not received sufficient rainfall and so the concern is greater than in other areas of Uganda. The government is working to introduce irrigation schemes especially in areas susceptible to long dry spells.

All through the campaigns the President made it clear to Ugandans that NAADS is a big priority for government, precisely because it deals with making households self sufficient and helps them even turn farming into a profitable business. The Government has invested heavily in NAADS to provide better quality of seeds and livestock to farmers with the goal to improving their productivity.

The Movement Government is moving forward with a plan that is consistent with the resources we have at hand.

In conclusion, I would like to ask the Ugandan people to recognise that we have come to a critical time in our nations history. Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to determine our destiny. In the book of Exodus in the Bible, we see the story of the Children of Israel being freed from bondage and going to the Promised land. Within their ranks there were certain individuals, that constantly kept trying to convince the Israelites that they should go back to Egypt. This led to many delays and unnecessary pain, finally God dealt with those characters and the Israelites continued to possess the Promised Land.

I feel there are many parallels to our experience as Ugandans. We have come out of the deep darkness of war and bondage. We are on our way to the Promised Land. It has not been an easy journey but by God’s grace we are making progress. Let us not listen to the voices that try to lead us back into violence and chaos, instead let us continue with faith to possess our own promised land.

God bless you all.

The writer is the MP of
Ruhama County

Friday, April 15, 2011

O cry the beloved country!!

Today I pray for this unfortunate lady whose life, like that of Iranian Neda Agha-Soltan, has not been spared by that bullet or whatever artillery was used to blast away at her decency - mercilessly ripping her insides apart
I wonder what she thought of in those dying moments as her right to life was unceremoniously yanked away by an indiscriminate and callous act. I equally wonder what the trigger happy man or woman felt as the poor lady collapsed in a heap. Did that gunman jubilate? Was there a feeling that a contribution had been made to the socio-economic or political development of his or her country? I can only wonder.

My thoughts are then turned to the 'walkers'. What do they hope to achieve when they 'walk to work'? Will the economy suddenly be sorted out as they 'protest against the sky-rocketing' prices? Probably not. Why waste time walking instead of sorting out the economy directly? I then think about the police once more - Did they get it right when they assumed that by blocking a few politicians from walking, they would have the situation quelled? The answer is simply res ipsa loquitur ( the facts speak for themselves). More paradoxical however is that the policeman who stops the 'walkers' and the 'walkers' themselves -are all Ugandans. They have to go back home and look for a way to survive the economic storm sweeping over the country.. They probably walked back home together after the melee and shared the same communal water tap.

So, if that be the case, what is the way out of this vicious cycle?
First of all, the basics. For each human being, there are basic rights and freedoms. Some are absolute whereas others are not. Walking to work or merely walking is such a inherent freedom. Whereas it is true that the Constitution requires freedoms to be enjoyed in a way that does not infringe on the freedoms of others (Article 43), it does not in any way stop or prevent such freedoms from being enjoyed per se. As Mark C. Tonner of the US Department of State stated, ''freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights and a critical component of modern, functioning democracies. I agree with him in -toto. Thus, if we claim that Uganda is such a democracy, then walking to work, as chosen by any individual as an expression of displeasure at the current state of affairs in one's country, in the same way that others choose to either refrain from food and drink or paints ones' face or cars with words or symbols expressing such dissatisfaction -or approval- , should be respected as a way of expressing peacefully and without fear of intimidation.

The initiators of this the 'walk to work' therefore clearly asked those who wished to stand in solidarity with other struggling Ugandans or those who wished to express their grievances, to do so by simply walking to their various places of work. Period! Whether one lived two yards or ten kilometres away from one's workplace, the simple sign of solidarity or expression was to walk - nothing more, nothing less. In itself of course, walking will not or would not change the economic situation in Uganda in the same way as carrying placards and hiring a band to march across the central business district would not stop domestic violence or HIV/AIDS. The idea here being to show one's commitment to this cause. As I understand it it was and remains a voluntary exercise. It is always envisaged that not everyone will support one's choice and that is expected in a free and democratic society. No one was forced or is supposed to be forced to do so participate. Besides, the 'walkers' specifically asked those who wished to support them, NOT to walk in huge groups or to engage in any acts that would breach the peace or the rights of others. Those walkers, who tried to force others to walk were wrong. Those who tried to block non-walkers from using the roads were also in the wrong.

It is therefore, in my humble opinion, unfair - and discriminatory, for some people to be prevented from walking to work simply because they 'might' or 'will' be followed by others'. I reiterate that it is discriminatory and unfair – contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to the Ugandan Constitution. It would be ridiculous to stop someone from accessing their means of livelihood and sustenance. Therefore, the situation in Uganda today - where the police force decides to make its own interpretation of which type of walking ought to be allowed and which ought not, is laughable, unfortunate, uncalled for and unjustifiable. Preventing a person from expressing his or her view in a way he or she has chosen merely because such expression might be abused by others is plainly wrong.

It was argued that the police should be notified officially when such expressions are being planned. However, not only was this a situation which didn't warrant such notification, but even if it did, this information was and is so readily available in the media. In essence, it is a lame excuse which ought to and has indeed fallen on its face. It is legally known that notice may be either actual or implied. As seen this week, the police intervened in spite of not being 'officially informed'. Therefore, stopping some people from walking because there was no official notice is to try to have one's cake and eat it at the same time. Further, the insistence that the 'walkers' wanted to overthrow the government seems to be to be very out of touch with reality. The government has just won an election with a majority of 68%. How would the same government which has won this election be overthrown by a minority? The nexus is hard for me to place but that is a discussion for another day.

Therefore, the aforementioned reasons did not justify blocking some people from walking this past week or in future. Rather, it achieved the opposite result of inciting public discontent and triggering protests and riots. This is what happened during the demonstrations against the Mabira forest give-away. The police has the duty to maintain law and order – not to augment it. I have queried elsewhere that it is not for the police to choose 'how' people should express their views. The Police only provide security for those who are expressing those views.

That said, it would be unfair for me to assume that there would not be any ' likelihood that some people would still choose to walk in smaller groups. It is for these that the role of the Police is called for. The police would have provided the necessary deployment on the streets – probably of single file movement policemen as was the case during the just concluded presidential and parliamentary elections. The policemen would have been equipped to quell any acts of 'actual breach of the peace' rather than assuming that specific people will cause these breaches and thereby restricting their chosen form of movement.

It should also be noted that by arraigning the suspected 'walkers' in court (after long hours of confinement), on flimsy charges like blocking traffic or inciting violence, the police have contributed to the abuse of the court process. Precedent shows that the prosecution of such cases hardly comes to its logical conclusion. As with the case of the Alabama non violent marches in the 1960's, the walkers are not bothered about their freedom – some have outrightly refused to apply for bail and have been granted bail 'force' – this shows that the fear of prosecution or gaol has waned. More so, the damage to our country's reputation as such events are reported all over the world, is irreparable and our tourism and investment profile is affected.

Therefore, it is my strongest conviction that what the police did was wrong - and I am sure here are, within their rank and file, officers and men who agree that it was completely unnecessary. As such, the use of tear gas and rubber or real bullets was not and will not be useful since all it does in my view is ferment more frustration and anger among certain- but certainly not all - sectors of the public. One can only look for a more nuanced position - a win/win situation where human dignity and freedom is respected. Failure of which, we shall either see more people being shot at or clobbered by those supposed to protect them as we anticipate more and more walking to work or other such expressions in future. We should instead look to a more balanced approach from the Uganda Police Force - an approach that acknowledges that there is a correct interpretation of the law – despite its underpinnings- that rights and freedoms, when used in their proper place, can actually be used and protected for the benefit of all. Obviously I do acknowledge that no State will kindly look upon any form of protests of whatever kind. However, our Nation's commitment to a free and democratic society envisages that dissent should not be quelled by coercion, intimidation or force. The history of our nation has enough stories already of such acts.

As for today, let me weep -for the fallen and the injured. My heart bleeds for the lady slain in innocence, I feel for her children, her husband - her family, her friends. She obviously, like most of us, has been feeling the pinch of the economic down-slide. She probably was trying to search for a way to feed her children that night – and God forbid that hers was a suckling baby.
Today, my heart bleeds for her – our Ugandan Neda Agha-Soltan-

May Her Soul Rest in Eternal Peace

Attorney and Lecturer-at-Law

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

To walk or not to walk?

The news that the Uganda police force arrested opposition leaders who had chosen to walk into the capital city from their various homes in and around Kampala has permeated through various media fora. For some of the 'walkers', the reason was to 'stand in solidarity with those Ugandans who have to do this each day' for others, it was 'in demonstration against the current increase in food prices'. police and some media houses have however expressed a different view, simply that the increase in the cost of living is no fault of the government of Uganda, so in essence, the wrong party is being blamed here. In any case, 'Uganda “is not a welfare state that is obliged to look after every hungry person”.

Thus, we have had a stalemate between those who insisted on having a right to walk and the police who insisted that they can lawfully prevent that 'right to walk!?!. Ofcourse, the one with means of coercion always 'wins' the battle. Pictures and clips on various televisions show how these opposition leaders were picked up - some literally and others metaphorically - and charged with offences ranging from inciting violence to blocking traffic. Many of the accused are used to the court system now, having been either arrested before or even charged before the courts of law. For the police, it is a job well done and 'everyone can go back home happy'. Another attempt to ''cause unrest and topple a legitimate government elected by the people'' has been foiled. For the State prosecutors however, it is another lot of 'problematic cases'. It will be hard to prove - beyond reasonable doubt - that when a Ugandan, in light of the current economic situation in the country, chooses to walk to work, the only logical inferrence is that such person intends to 'incite violence and topple the government.'

For the rest of us outside the courtrooms, the questions remain- whose responsibility is it to ensure that the country has affordable prices for goods and transport? Who may or may not walk to work? Most crucially though, when will the right to demonstrate, as is expected in a 'free and democratic society' - and guaranteed by the Constitution -be deemed legal?

Lastly, one of the accused is quoted as having said this in his plea, ''If walking is an offence then am guilty and if condemning extravagancy exercised by our leaders is an offence then I should be charged. l am here because I am standing with millions who are sick and tired of enforced misery.'' Those words have caused me to remember other words - those of Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous ''letter from a Birmingham Jail'',.. 'I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

I rest my case - for now.