Tomorrow, May 3,ganda will join the rest of the world to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day, a day that was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 to essentially have citizens do some soul-searching about the state of world media. The World Press Freedom Day provides us as a country an opportunity to celebrate the principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom and defend the media from any attacks.

The theme for today’s celebrations is quite instructive: ‘Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies’. The question we face is: whether our media is being allowed the space to harness the resources at its disposal, to build a peaceful, inclusive Uganda with information, disseminated unfettered and with citizens given the platform to access impartial information.

This year’s World Press Freedom Day comes on the backdrop of the 2016 general election in Uganda where our disposition as a country that believes in press freedom as a prerequisite for democratization was put to serious test. Campaigns were marked by physical attacks and threats on journalists that made it difficult for journalists to do their work. Incidents of security operatives beating up journalists who were simply doing the noble duty of providing information to enable full citizen participation in the elections are well documented.

During elections, journalists are obligated to be information resources to enable voters make informed decisions. Uncritical reporting of campaign manifestos, promises and pronouncements by journalists during elections denies voters a chance to make neutral assessment of candidates. Referencing the attacks on media that marred the 2016 elections, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in its media freedom ranking, had Uganda drop by 10 places from 102 in 2016 to 112 in 2017.

In its index, RSF was blunt. RSF unequivocally noted that, “acts of intimidation and violence against journalists are an almost daily occurrence in Uganda. The 2016 presidential election saw serious media freedom violations, including threats to close down media outlets…” Any attempt to muzzle the press especially during elections, inevitably has ripple effects on the entire electoral process as voters are be kept in darkness.

A free press is the cornerstone of democratic elections. With traditional media stifled, the fallback position for voters would naturally have been social media. Social media is a unique avenue of engagement as it allows users to take charge of their communication and information dissemination, uninhibited by the controls applied on traditional media. Even after clamping down on traditional media, government functionaries still remained paranoid of free-flowing conversations about the 2016 elections on social media.

Government took the radical step of shutting down social media and mobile Internet; effectively blocking communication platforms for an estimated 11 million Ugandans. Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) argued that the social media blockade was for security reasons but the writing on the wall was that the blockade was to frustrate efforts by opposition political parties to live stream election results via social media.

Even under such circumstances, some Ugandans managed to access social media using Virtual Private Network (VPN), a technology tool that circumvents censorship. The tragedy with affronts on free media in Uganda is that victims have very limited spaces from which to seek genuine redress. The case of journalist Andrew Lwanga is instructive here.

Lwanga, a TV cameraman, was beaten up by the then DPC of Old Kampala Police Station Joram Mwesigye as he covered a procession by youth activists a couple of years back. Lwanga’s spine was severely damaged and to date he has not been able to go back to work.

After nearly two years of legal gymnastics, court recently ordered Mwesigye to compensate Lwanga with just shs5 million in addition to paying shs1 million court fine. The punishment handed to Mwesigye did not by any measure match the harm he had inflicted on Lwanga. As we commemorate the World Press Freedom Day, let us ask ourselves the uncomfortable questions about the state of our media in regard to Uganda’s democratization process.

The writer is the Coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) This story was also filed bt The Red Pepper

The right to strike has indeed had a belaboured conception and birth. In fact, the ILO [International Labour Organisation] Convention No’s 8 and 98 make no clear express reference to the right to strike. However, the right has been considered one of the essential attributes of the “core” rights embodied in those two conventions and as an essential means available to workers and trade unions to promote and protect labour rights and interests.

Furthermore, it has been as essential to autonomy of (and non-interference with) the collective bargaining process and outcomes. Thus, in the context of the associational rights of workers and trade unions, the practice of collective bargaining is accepted as the most suitable means of setting conditions of employment. These may range from improvement of wages or deteriorating of working conditions.

However, it is also acceptable that this approach runs the risk that the parties (workers and employers) may not conclude the negotiations successfully and, if this occurs, there must be resource to some other method of resolving the impasse. In effect, the workers must be free to mount economic pressures so as to force employers to make concessions, otherwise “collective bargaining” will amount to nothing other than “collective begging”. It is said that the right to strike is determined not only by its objective but also circumstances under which it is initiated.

There are concerns as regards the lawfulness of a strike if its purpose is not fit to be regulated by collective bargaining, or only the fact that its objective is about the occupational interests of workers. In terms of procedural restrictions and pre-conditions (most of which tend to flow from collective agreements), common in most labour laws/regulations and practices are requirements such as democratic exercise by secret ballot where workers vote for a strike prior to its commencement and parties, especially workers, give prior notice of a specific length of time.

Parties also seek resolution of dispute through conciliation, median or arbitration. Measures during and the duration of strike should be proportionate and take into account concerns about law and order. While the issue of a vote for a strike is required in a number of countries and is largely intended to give the appearance of consensus on the part of the workers, the process, it has been argued, should not be such that the exercise of the right to strike becomes difficult or even impossible in practice.

The right to strike is, however, not absolute and in effect, the right can only be exercised within certain limits. To this end, conduct of a strike should not occasion harm and losses, especially those inflicted upon society as a whole or be out of proportion. Before considering concerns over the preconditions for lawful exercise of the right to strike, one may point out that distinctions have sought to be made in a number of countries regarding what is termed “official strikes” and “wild-cat (unofficial) strikes”. The distinction being that the former are those carried out by “Unionised” workers and are, therefore, able and capable of concluding collective agreements through the trade union to which they belong, while the latter are carried out by “Unionised” workers.

The issue can be posed in terms of the question as to who the bearer of the right to strike – is it the trade unions or the individual workers (although acting in concert)? In conclusion, the right is possible even in the essential service theoretically.

However, this may not be so in practice given the detailing constraints of our country, including irrelevance of some labour laws, ignorance of the law, high levels of unemployment, high levels of poverty , inequality and again, trade unions which would have been a possible avenue for airing out these views are full of disagreements. Therefore, issues of labour have largely been left to the market forces.

Bwiire works with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative This story was also Published by The Daily Monitor

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It was one of those hustle-free flights, where you don’t get the airline ground staff announcing “a delay” or an “overbooking” or one of those wacky things that gets your journey starting on the wrong footing. The cabin crew welcomed the passengers pleasantly – the flight captain actually stood at the entry of the aircraft to receive passengers. It was certainly the warm South African welcome aboard the 15:20 SA 161 flight from Entebbe (Uganda) to O.R Tambo (South Africa) last month.

Aboard, the crew unceasingly kept passengers posted on every flight detail. I am sure flight regulation and protocols require the crew to do just exactly that. The only distinguishing feature here is that the updates always came with an extra tinge of detail – which occasionally prompted a little mirth from those on board. Just about 30 or so minutes before commencement of descent to O.R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, the flight captain announced that the plane had developed a “technical problem” and the crew together with their ground counterparts were doing the best they could to fix the problem, remotely.

Not many of the passengers (I want to believe) heard this announcement. A few minutes later, the flight captain again announced that as a precautionary measure, fire engines and extinguishers had already been lined up on the runway to handle any untoward situation. The second announcement was without doubt welcomed with fright in the cabin. It was shell shock for many travellers – call it cold sweat on board. It is at this moment that many came alive to the worrying fact that there was indeed something wrong with the aircraft on which we were on board.

The second announcement marked the end of the playful mood that had filled the flight right from take-off at Entebbe. In an attempt to sort of calm the panicky passengers, the pilot quickly made a follow-up flight announcement giving assurances that the “technical problem” had been managed, but safety measures still had to be taken. A few minutes later, we steadily approached the airport area as I took a bird’s eye view of the runway – minutes before touchdown. Every passenger literally tried to see through the window to catch a glimpse of the scene that the pilot had described a few moments earlier – fire engines and emergency gear lined up on the runway.

The mood in the cabin remained drab even as things seemed to be in control. It was helpless anxiousness on board as some passengers softly sobbed. Upon touching down, the fire engines trailed the taxing aircraft both from the tail end and the sides. Moments later, the plane gradually cut speed, slowly turning and facing towards the parking lot. Several metres away from the parking area, the aircraft came to a complete stop – prompting more unease among passengers. The flight captain then announced that, all was well and he was waiting to be directed on where to park. The captain’s message was greeted with a sigh of relief by the fear-gripped passengers. As passengers left the aeroplane, there were whispers of how this experience could have been worse if the “technical problem” had happened mid-flight or if the problem had not been fixed – remotely.

Knowing how disastrous air accidents can be, this was a rude reminder of all the horrendous aviation incidents that have happened, especially the 1988 Uganda Airlines accident at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy in which we lost 33 of the 52 occupants on board. In its annual report, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) indicated a decline in the number of air accidents that occurred – from 68 in 2015 to 65 in 2016. Although 2016 may have registered slightly less accidents, those that occurred were a lot more fatal than in the previous years.

A substantial number of the incidents have partly been both maintenance-based and out of human error. This calls for strict adherence to air travel safety precautions. There is need to play strictly by the rules of air transport. Whoever is responsible to ensure the airworthiness of the aircrafts must do so without compromise. Pre-flight checks, inspections must be thoroughly performed. But also, we must say no to aircrafts that are prone to mechanical problems.

We shouldn’t allow old, problematic aeroplanes to fly to our countries. It is these old and bad planes that cause passengers to have traumatic travel experiences akin to the one I just described. It is time that those in charge take this message seriously; let’s not wait for another disaster to happen. We have already lost many lives in air accidents. Let’s act now to save lives!

The writer is coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda.

This story was also Published by The Daily Monitor

Issued: April 13, 2017

Introduction

Kamuli District in Eastern Uganda is part of the Busoga sub-region. According to the National Bureau of Statistics census report 2014, the district boasts of an estimated population of 500,800 people . Of this population, there are 29,668 registered voters who were expected to take part in the by-election today. The district is made up of one constituency and three sub-counties:

Kamuli Municipality, Northern Division and Southern Division. The district is comprised of the following villages; Balawoli, Bulopa, Butansi, Kitayunjwa, Nabwigulu, Namasagali, Namwendwa, Bugulumbya, Kisozi, Mbulamuti, Nawanyago and Warkole. Kamuli has 54 polling stations and the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) deployed at 30 polling stations.

In addition, CCEDU had over 10 roving observers. As a leading player in advocacy for electoral reforms, observation of general and by-elections and civic/voter education campaigns, the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) is in Kamuli to observe the election day processes and promote the integrity of electoral processes by detecting and deterring electoral malpractices.

CCEDU has a special mandate to observe Elections in conformity with the relevant international instruments governing election observation and the Constitution and National Laws of the Republic of Uganda . Launched on 19th August 2009, CCEDU is a broad coalition that brings together over 850 like-minded civil society organizations and over 25,000 individuals to advocate for electoral democracy in Uganda.

The CCEDU secretariat is hosted by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI). CCEDU’s vision is to realize a Uganda where the principles and practices of electoral democracy are upheld. Its mission is to advance integrity and citizen participation in Uganda’s electoral processes. CCEDU carries out its work in all districts and regions of Uganda.

This statement presents the overall observations of the conduct of Election Day processes of the CCEDU Election Observation Mission in Kamuli Constituency. Methodology: CCEDU mounted a scientific sample based observation mission by deploying 30 Election Day observers, who are stationed at specific polling stations distributed evenly in Kamuli Municipality. In addition, to the 30 observers, a team of 13 roving observers was on ground to ensure the smooth process of observation.

The 30 Election Day observers were trained to observe and report on Election Day activities in their respective polling stations. Each of the observers have been equipped

Download full statement

Voting is underway in Aruu North Constituency in Pader District in a by-election which has attracted five candidates. The Thursday morning low voter turnout was exacerbated by late delivery of polling materials at some polling stations.

“In some Sub Counties, voting had not begun by 9:30am on account of receiving polling materials late,” Crispy Kaheru, the Coordinator of the Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), said. CCEDU promotes the integrity, credibility and transparency of the electoral process.

The organisation is among the observers on the ground. The District Electoral Commission Registrar, Joseph Omona, on Wednesday assured voters that all was set for the exercise. The seat fell vacant following a Court of Appeal ruling.

The race is mainly between NRM’s James Kidega and Lucy Achiro, an independent candidate who is FDC party leaning. Others in the race are: Vincent Okot Obutu of the Democratic Party, Justin Boswell Oryema, and Henry Komakech who are independent candidates.

Story was Published by The Newvision

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