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Posts Tagged ‘Uganda’

RTIThe right to information (RTI) is essential for the functioning of any democracy and is a prerequisite for transparency, accountability, gender equality and citizens’ participation in governance processes. However, Uganda faces numerous challenges to realising the right to access information despite having an access to information law. In the course of 2016, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) made various interventions to advance RTI, including holding training events and round table discussions for civil society, the media and government officials.

Uganda’s 2005 right to information law remains little known and largely unimplemented. Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) hardly release information voluntarily and tend to be unresponsive to information requests from citizens, due to a culture of secrecy and government bureaucracy that conflict with the law. Conversely, few citizens demand for information as a result of low awareness of their rights and the belief that public officials routinely ignore citizens’ information requests.

At a December 15, 2016 dialogue involving public officials, including information officers from various MDAs, journalists and civil society representatives, it emerged that the government and citizens have not prioritised RTI. “The role of information has been undervalued and sometimes it gets a zero release in [MDA] budgets,” said a public official. Another noted that 11 years after the law was enacted, no MDA has submitted an annual report to parliament on its information disclosure record, including requests received from citizens, as required by the law.

Other challenges prominently cited included under-staffing in MDAs, employing information officers that are unqualified and who often lack mandate to speak on behalf of the public entity, and conflicting laws that make implementing the RTI law difficult.

Journalists shared their experiences of regularly being denied information, often with no reason provided. One journalist noted that informal approaches are the primary means of attaining public information held by the state.

At an earlier training for journalists, which was held on November 23, challenges of public information officers who are either not authorised to release information, or who refer to secrecy oaths not to release information, were prominently cited.

Further, journalists pointed out the cost of accessing information as a hindrance for ordinary citizens. “If it is my right to access information then why am I paying for it?” asked Regina Nassanga of Mama FM. According to the law, a fee of UGX 20 000 (Just over US$ 5) is required when making a formal request at an MDA office.

Despite these obstacles, there are some indications that things could get better. Each government department is now required to have an information officer, and a few public bodies are beginning to implement the government’s 2013 Communications Strategy, although they have been unable to make any significant increase to budget allocations for the information function.

Civil society representatives pointed out additional concerns including the lack of deliberate action to promote RTI particularity for women and people with disabilities. Moreen Nambalirwa from the National Union of Women with Disabilities noted that when information is disseminated to the public via television and radios, people with visual and hearing impairments miss out. She also stated that despite the directive from the Uganda Communications Commission that all TV stations should have a sign language interpretation during some news broadcasts, none of the more than 10 local TV stations have done so, further contributing to the exclusion and limited participation by PWDs in governance processes.

The convenings were organised by CIPESA and provided a space for civil society, public officials and journalists to share their experiences, learn from one another, and suggest possible ways to improve access to information.

This article was originally published on CIPESA Website

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budget2015The National Budget is a key instrument through which governments implement their policies. It is an annual plan of expenditures and income. It is also a plan of what monies the government expects to receive in forms of tax revenues against how much it expects to spend in a given financial year. The National budget is usually derived from projected domestic and external revenue and these are determined by several factors such as past trends, efficiency gains, growth in volume of imports, elasticity of taxes, real growth in the real monetary GDP and prices. Normally, prioritization of sectors in the National Budget is based on interventions with direct impact on growth and poverty   reductions in a given country. s guide sector prioritization. Budget consultations start from top to bottom entailing cabinet retreats, budget call circulars and Local Government Local Government (LG) workshops.

Last week, I attended a meeting by the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), to analyze the Uganda National Budget Framework Paper (BFP) for the financial year 2015/16. The National Budget Framework Paper (BFP) outlines Government interventions for Social and Economic Development in a given financial year and provides link between Government’s overall policies and the Annual Budget. It lays out the fiscal policy framework and strategy for the budget year and in the medium term setting out how the Government intends to achieve its policy objectives over the medium term through the budget. The national BFP has three sections: Part 1 sets out the Government’s Medium Term macroeconomic forecast, Medium Term Fiscal Framework and Forecast, Charter of Fiscal Responsibility, the Resource Envelope and Annual Budget for and Fiscal Risks; Part 2 sets out Government’s Policy measures and programmes for social and economic development, as well as the indicative expenditure framework in FY 2015/16 and the medium term; and Part 3 provides details of proposed sector plans and expenditures.

My focus  in the budget paper on financing for social development. Although  the country is struggling to spend  within its means by reducing the total budget from 15829.9bn in FY 2014/15 to 14472.05bn in FY 2015/16, the cut has affected more of the social sectors such as  agriculture, education and health. Therefore the government’s proposal to reduce health budget by 317.4bn (from 1281bn to 963.7bn), Education by 45.3 bn (from 2026.6bn to 1981bn), agriculture by 56.7 (from 473.3bn to 4170bn) to mention but a few and yet Public Administration budget has increased by 155.3bn (from 554.8bn to 710.1bn), interest payment 678.4bn (from 1082.9bn to 1761.3bn) should be revised.

Reducing money of sectors that have direct impact on Uganda’s population will affect the overall welfare of the people and at the same time, increase the general economic costs  of o taking  care of sick, illiterate and hungry citizens.

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Activists marching through Busia to to raise awareness

Activists marching through Busia town  to raise awareness on SGBV

In december 2014 I was in Busia district, Eastern Uganda on a campaign to end Sexual and Gender based Violence (SGBV) organized by the Institute for Social Transformation (IST) and Isis-WICCE in Partnership with Busia Local Government.  The aim of the campaign was to mobilize communities in Busia district to discuss strategies to address the increasing SGBV cases.

According to Police files, on a daily basis at least three cases related to SGBV are reported and over 80 cases a month. These are only the reported cases and remember that so many cases remain unreported.

Over 2000 women, men, youth and local leaders from different sub counties in the district participated in the

discussions.

Dressed in their usual African dresses and non-traditional African attires in different styles, designs and colors with majority putting on head covers, the women listened attentively in the discussions and actively participated in different activities such as the march and group discussions.

Women during listening  to the facilitator during the discussion

Women  listening to the facilitator during the discussion

I kept observing  the crowds of women and then, I remembered that 20 years ago, the Beijing Conference took place and was a seen as major breakthrough in the history of gender struggles and women’s empowerment. The conference came out with what is known as the Beijing Platform for Action. The Platform established twelve Critical Areas of Concern that needed to be addressed in order to achieve political, social, economic, cultural, and environmental security among all people. These Areas are poverty; education; health; violence; armed conflict; the economy; power and decision-making; mechanisms for women’s advancement; women’s human rights; mass media; the environment; and, the girl child. For each critical area of concern, the problem was diagnosed and strategic objectives and concrete actions were e proposed for Governments and others stakeholders.

I asked myself, do these women know that there is Beijing Platform for Action and other human rights instruments that guarantee protection and promotion of women’s rights and gender equality?  As confirmed by Dr. Thelma Awori, the Executive Director of IST, women in Busia are afraid to stand up for their rights, afraid to take advantage of  the laws that are in place and have resigned to violence  that ‘what can I do, I just have to suffer’.

This state of hopelessness is what many women globally experience every day. Statistics from UN Women reports indicate that between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime and most of this violence takes place within intimate relationships.

Therefore as the world reviews twenty years of Beijing Platforn for Action code named ‘Beijing+20’,many questions  remain unanswered.  Why aren’t these frameworks changing the lives of women? What can be done differently? Are there any hopes of breaking through patriarchy? Are women losing the struggle against gender equality?

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On July 31, 2014, the elders of Ethur in Abim district, Northern Uganda imposed 6-months alcohol ban on women. This was agreed upon during their meeting that was convened to discuss matters affecting social lives of the Ethur and the major topic of discussion was reckless manner in which women behaved when drunk. Indeed, this is a good practice of ensuring that communities live together in peace and harmony. But  the concern here is why discuss the behavior of women only women? Don’t men also misbehave when they are drunk? This decision brings in mind many questions and unearths the cruel realities, violations and discrimination that women face in their daily lives. This is typical patriarchy at work and unfortunately, society has normalized it.

The Elders further stated that if one woman violates this ban, all the women will pay, because they failed to guide their member. And as part of the payment, woman will kill a bull for the elders, and each of the women will be required to brew a certain quantity of local beer (Kwete) for the elders. Really, this is selfishness of men   and unfair treatment of women

Why should women be judged differently from men? If they must ban alcohol it should be for everyone not for just women. Where is the Gender Equality that is inscribed in our constitution, policies and other international Human Rights Instruments. In any case do these people know that such instruments exist? So where is the missing link?

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