Month: September 2021

Archbishop of Church of Uganda condemns brutal re-arrest of legislators

The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Samuel Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu has appealed to security forces to respect human rights and desist from disrespectful acts like the recent brutal re-arrest of Kawempe North MP, Muhammad Ssegirinya and his Makindye West counterpart, Allan Ssewanyana.   

“I want to call upon people to take the message of President in his recent speech seriously. The issue of human rights should be respected and also calling upon the soldiers and security personnel to respect human beings,” he said.  

He made the appeal shortly after receiving a donation of Shillings 30 million from the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among towards the payment of the debt for Church House. Ssegirinya was re-arrested from Kigo Prison on Monday, shortly after being released on bail by the High court in Kampala. The same joint security team had earlier on re-arrested Allan Ssewanyana and driven him to the Special Investigations Division, Kireka.  

The two are accused of machete killings in Greater Masaka sub-region, which have claimed close to 30 people. Archbishop Kaziimba says that the President’s message on respect for human rights needs to be respected by everyone in order to ensure a peaceful nation.

In regard to the Church House debt fundraising, Kaziimba said that Shillings 1.4 billion has so far been raised since the campaign was launched in June. He appealed to all faithfuls to contribute towards the cause noting that he was optimistic that more people would donate money since places of worship have now opened.

The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among said that her contribution is to show solidarity with the Church and that more contributions would be made.

COU asked each Christian to contribute at least Shillings 60,000 towards clearing that debt of Shillings 48billion accruing from the constriction of Church House, which is found along Kampala road. Equity Bank extended a loan of Shillings 41 billion to COU towards the construction of the 16 storied building. The bank currently demands Shillings 40 Billion Shillings while other debtors demand Shillings 8 Billion.

Kaziimba says that completing the debt will help the Church in its self-governance drive. In 2017, Equity Bank threatened to take over the structure valued at Shillings 58.8 Billion upon completion. In 2018, the Bank again threatened to auction the building after the Church failed to service its loan and accumulated arrears.

To construct the building, Christians and well-wishers contributed about Shillings 10.8 Billion through fundraising but since the money was inadequate, the Church acquired a loan from Equity Bank through its business arm, the Church Commissioners Holding Company Limited in 2010. 

Speaker questions Access to Information Law

Parliament Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah says there is a need to ensure that all Ugandans understand the value of the right to access information.

He said while Uganda and other countries have enacted laws guaranteeing the right to access to information, such laws seem to benefit a small section of the society especially the elite.

Jacob Oulanyah was the chief guest as Uganda joined the rest of the world to mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information held annually on September 28.  

The event in Uganda was hosted by Africa Freedom To Access to Information (AFIC) and Twaweza East Africa’s Uganda Office.  

The theme of the 2021 International Day for Universal Access to Information highlighted the role of access to information laws and their implementation to build back strong institutions for the public good and sustainable development, as well as to strengthen the right to information and international cooperation in the field of implementing this human right.    

While highlighting the need for the right to access to information, Oulanyah said the civil society has not done much to ensure that all Ugandans whether they are educated or not.  

He said there is a need for an evaluation to find out how the Access To Information Act has impacted rural communities, which make up the majority of the population.       

 “The Access to Information Act was enacted in 2005 and the question is, since its enactment, of what benefit has it been to the ordinary person,” he said. 

  Jacob Oulanya is of the view that the law which has been in place for over ten years has benefited those on social media and generally the elite.   

 He made reference to the recent addressees by President Museveni on the Covid-19 pandemic where he said that majority of people were only able to access such information through the broadcast media. 

 “They say that information is a public good, and it is true, but to whom. Is it just high-sounding rhetoric or does it come to action to help people who this information change their situation and status? If we can’t change their lives then we have no purpose in saying what we are saying so eloquently in these big meetings,” Oulanyah said.     

But before Oulanyah’s speech, Africa Freedom of Access to  Information Centre (AFIC) Executive Director, Gilbert Sendugwa had highlighted examples in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi demonstrating how citizen’s access to information unearthed rot in government contracts.

Sendugwa said when citizens access information, corruption is fought in the different offices.  “We have learnt from our work in Uganda that when government agencies disclose information, they receive great feedback from civil society and other data users which helps these agencies to perform better,” he said.   

 While the government says it has enabled citizens to access information through barazas and regular press conferences, civil society groups want the citizens to access information and records on contracts, tenders, and details in budgets.

 The Head of the African Governance Architecture (AGA) Secretariat Salah Hammad at the African Union (AU) says that Governments should advance and protect the rights to access to information. 

 Joyce Ssebugwawo the Minister of ICT in charge of Information says that information helps in the delivery of Government services.   She said the government established information access centers like the Government Citizens interaction center as part of the efforts to ensure that the government officers give out timely information to citizens if requested. 

While Uganda has been hailed for being among the first African countries to enact the Access to Information law, several scholars and studies have found that the law has not been implemented. Government officers at the Central and local Governments continue to hide under laws of secrecy to deny citizens access to information and public records.

Parliament has on the other hand been faulted for failure to demand that the Minister of Information and National Guidance provides an annual update on the status of access to Information Act.

NRM MPs to consult on proposed bail ban for capital offenses suspects

The ruling National Resistance Movement -NRM Parliamentary Caucus has resolved to carry out a two-week consultation on President Yoweri Museveni’s proposed ban of bail for capital offense suspects.

Museveni on Tuesday addressed the NRM legislators at Kololo Independence Grounds and according to the Government Chief Whip, Thomas Tayebwa, they had a candid discussion about the matter and they agreed to carry out further consultations about it.

He noted that the President informed the MPs that their meeting was meant for consultation purposes on granting of bail.

Tayebwa said that they are to meet the President again after two weeks and come up with a final decision on the matter.

President Museveni has in the past criticized the provision of bail to suspected capital offenders and on Monday, he clashed with Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo on the issue of granting bail to persons accused of capital offenses pending determination of their cases.

This occurred at the 4th Annual Memorial Lecture for the slain former Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka held at the Judiciary Headquarters in Kampala where Museveni was the Chief Guest and Owiny-Dollo the host. It was organized under the theme “Administration of Justice in Uganda through the years”.

At the event, the Chief Justice said bail is a constitutional right that is supposed to be either granted or denied upon the discretion of the presiding judicial officer who should also exercise that discretion judiciously. 

Owiny-Dollo said a judicial officer cannot wake up from the good or wrong side of the bed and decide whether to grant or deny bail to an accused person because it’s a constitutional right the officer has to grant upon considering a number of circumstances for instance if one will abscond from trial or not among others. 

The Chief Justice added that however, he has heard President Museveni on a number of occasions having a different view on the right to bail, saying that the judicial officers should remember the oath they took to dispense justice without fear or favor and independently. 

But Museveni said that the concept of dispensing justice has to be harmonized, challenging the judicial officers to go and read the Constitutional Commission proceedings where he says the majority of the people of Uganda didn’t want bail for capital offenses. But the former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki who headed the Commission left it to the discretion of the judicial officers, which the president is opposed to.

According to Museveni who spoke in a tough manner on the matter, he said granting bail is a provocation that will not be accepted. He gave examples of people who were killed by mob justice in Arua and in Gomba, saying that when courts give bail on capital offenses, societies become hopeless and start killing people who are charged with such crimes.

The President has severally in the past criticized the issue of granting bail. On Wednesday last week, while speaking at the swearing-in of new judges at State House Entebbe, Museveni insisted that bail is not a constitutional right.

Amos Okot, Agago North MP questioned why a suspect would be denied a constitutional right of bail.

William Museveni, the Buwekula South MP said that the Constitution is clear about bail and that there is no need for any amendment.

David Kabanda, the Kasambya County MP said that they subjected the matter to a discussion and that he will go ahead and oppose the proposal by the President.