Tuesday, February 7, 2017

WHERE IS THE CIVILITY OF SECURITY AGENTS?


Media freedom and other attendant rights accorded to an individual by our constitution, last week received a boost when the High Court in Fort Portal ordered for the reinstatement of a political radio programme which was ordered off the airwaves by state security operatives.

Justice Rugadya Atwooki concurred with advocates representing Life FM, a private rural radio station, that the security agents' actions were unconstitutional and violated the Electronic Media Act. The judge ruled that the suspension of a political radio programme by state agents was inconsistent with what is acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.

Although for sometime now, the courts have been slowly developing our jurisprudence in all spheres of media law, this particular case is unprecedented because unlike in the past where the majority of settled media cases largely involved the print media (newspapers), the judgment in Fort Portal concerned itself with the electronic media (radio).

We have heard threats from government officials and the president to deal with radio stations or presenters who freely debate and tackle issues of human rights, democracy, corruption, good governance and the general rule of law.

This is because in most cases, the issues discussed directly affect the state and the people who run it . But instead of owning up and engaging their critics, our leaders often and unjustifiably, consider such critical views as treasonable and use the state machinery to muzzle them. Why should a spoken or written word be taken to be treasonable? Why should Ugandans tolerate incendiary statements by our leaders and army generals yet they (the masses) are denied the same freedoms to express their thoughts?

The free flow of information and ideas lies at the core of the very notion of democracy, which is effectively about respect for human rights. Democracy is about accountability. The public have an alienable right to scrutinise actions of their leaders and engage in open debate about the general welfare of the country. Unfortunately, our leaders at all levels are terribly afraid of these values and just don’t want the people to know the goings on in government .

And the reason for this belligerent behaviour, the intolerance and genuine fear among our largely corrupt, undemocratic leaders is clear- they have turned themselves into the law. It’s common knowledge that in rural areas and up-country towns, state operatives are on the loose! They are increasingly exploiting people's ignorance of the law and their constitutional rights to harass, intimidate and in worst cases terrorise the masses with abandon.

A case in point is the Life FM station in Fort Portal where a whole Regional Police Commander Martin Abilu who should have known better that media freedoms are constitutionally protected ordered the management of the radio station to “immediately and forthwith” suspend the “Twerwaneho” programme because, to him, it incited public anger against the government.

Why can’t our nation learn from other advanced democracies where restraint and tolerance for opposing views has become the cornerstone for upholding civil liberties!

Let’s take a recent scenario in the United States where inflammatory remarks by pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the hitherto leader of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, shocked the American society.

Rev. Wright, who for 20 years was the pastor of Mr Barrak Obama, a popular candidate for the USA Democratic Party nomination, accused the US government and whites generally for giving black people drugs and building bigger prisons for them. He then called on God to damn America for treating its citizens as less than human.

President Bush’s right wing Conservative Party which controls White House, did not send paratroopers to close down Trinity United Church of Christ nor did they arrest or arrange prosecutors to charge Rev. Wright.

Similarly, Mr Obama did not disown his long time pastor. Instead he (Obama) and the rest of the Americans and the media, have engaged Rev. Wright in a civil manner to show that his remarks are outdated, wrong and have no place in the modern era.

Surely, can’t Ugandans especially our national leaders borrow a leaf from this! Can’t we for once, in our 30-year turbulent political history, learn to engage each other in a more tolerant fashion and resolve our differences political or otherwise, in a civil manner?

The write is a journalist and advocate
msserwanga@gmail.com















Moses Sserwanga interviewed Uganda's ambassador to China about the economic ties between the two countries now that China is the second largest economy in the world
excerpts bel

Can you give us an overview of the economic relationship between China and Uganda?

The relationship between China and Uganda is good. We engage in the private sector, commerce, trade, investment and government projects. The e-government project in Uganda is one of the several projects supported by China with $106million under concessional loan arrangement. Other projects include: a hospital of 100 beds, which is being built at Naguru, Kampala, an agricultural technological demonstration centre, aqua-culture and a fish farm which is being built at Kajjansi. Also inclusive is a government complex, a twin building which is being constructed adjacent to Parliament, the former Criminal Investigations Department Headquarters among others.

What are the trading ratios and Chinese investments in Uganda this year?

Trade volumes have been growing. In 2006, trade volume between China and Uganda was $170 million and we are now in excess of $300million.

What are the major exports to China?
At the moment, it is cotton, hides, skins, coffee and fish.

In terms of Foreign Direct Investment how has Uganda benefited from China’s tremendous economic growth?
According to Uganda Investment Authority records, Chinese companies are the leading investors in Uganda at the moment. I do not have the exact figures though.

What is the latest about the National Back Bone Infrastructure knowing that internet is now a major factor for development and then the e-government project where a Chinese company Hauwei is providing software systems?
The first phase of the project was largely to improve communication coverage within Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja for purposes of successfully hosting Chogm. The second phase is to cover the broader area of Uganda beyond the three towns and eventually to cover the whole country and ultimately the 3r 3rd phase is to cover the component of e-government.

How was the NBI and e-government project supposed to work in areas where there is no electricity?
In terms of the e-government project in Uganda, there are two aspects to it. One, the usage, the ability to use and the desire to use. This is a new project. It is supposed to go up to the sub-county level. Depending on whether those people in the offices at the sub-county would wish to use these facilities. There is the issue of facilitating the infrastructure that is put in place in order to increase the utilisation of the e-government which will help to provide good environment for investors and businessmen. It will cut down on the red-tape and corruption. The government is handling its part, which is to provide electricity to various locations. There is a programme financed by China for development of solar energy, late this year or next year targeting electricity deficiency in the remote areas.

It is alleged that shoddy work was done on the NBI, what’s your response?
If somebody says shoddy work was done that is a subjective statement because I believe this was a big project and there were set standards, set specifications and set quality outcomes. To say shoddy work was done there must be an evaluation done by some authority and the same authority must have determined that shoddy work was done. To the best of my knowledge no competent authority came up with report to say Huawei did shoddy work. It was speculation by different people.

Ingrained in the contract, there were set standards. Somebody must have proved that Huawei breached the contract in terms of those set standards. We have the National Information Technology Authority, we have the Ministry of ICT, I guess we have several agencies in Uganda who would come up with a position that Huawei did shoddy work and not based on speculations as was the case.
Secondly this is a big company in China and globally which cannot allow their reputation to be tarnished by substandard work. There were allegations of corruption; again this was subjective and speculative. Uganda has well stipulated procurement procedures which were followed and I know the Chief Executive officer of Huawei and top management practice zero-tolerance to corruption. Rather than speculate, Ugandans need to embrace this project. The contractors have done a good job according to the facts available to me.

How about the issue of cost? There are reports that the Uganda project cost more than that of Rwanda.
That is comparison. What were the components in terms of e-government and NBI? There is the element of taxation. In Rwanda did they pay taxes, the area coverage? The information I have is that the cost taking into account all the components was almost the same. There were no major deviations. The Uganda component is inclusive of equipment and civil works and taxes.

Is China interested in oil extraction or oil refinery in Uganda?
China has shown interest in the oil industry in Uganda. Chinese companies are already taking over interests of Heritage in the exploration stage. The President of Uganda has been emphasising that we will not export crude oil and that we must refine it from here.

The Minister of Energy has been to China for talks. Sinopec, a major Chinese player in the oil industry has shown interest in building an oil refinery in Uganda and I hope the negotiations will be successfully concluded. Sinopec officials will be visiting Uganda sometime next month (September) for more negotiations. Once the negotiations are concluded, hopefully by the end of this year, we will be in position to negotiate with the government of China.
How many Ugandans are living and studying in China?
At the moment, every year China offers Ugandan students scholarships at all levels, at graduate and post graduate levels, 35 students per year and there is an existing exchange programme for human resource training. Every year, more than 300 Ugandans of various disciplines come to China for various courses ranging from one year to six months. There is a lot of cooperation at the political level, in terms of training. There are vast opportunities and there are times when there is a need for specialised skills obtainable in China and a request is made by the Ugandan government to the China government and the embassy follows up the matter.

How will Uganda benefit from the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China?

First we are grateful to the China government for supporting Uganda and other countries to take part. They provided money to set up the African pavilion. I was told about $650,000 was spent for the construction of the African pavilion. The Expo will help us to showcase what we have, especially in areas of tourism. Many visitors have been to our stand. The benefits are many.



JUDGES CAN"T BE ACTIVISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

Last week’s Judicial Roundtable on the Domestication of International instruments registered some startling views from the learned members of the bench who argued that suspects should stay on remand for longer periods without trial.

Apparently ,the justices led by court of Appeal judge , Amos Twinomujuni , were up in arms- criticizing parliament for amending the criminal penal law thus reducing the remand days for capital offenders before they can qualify for automatic bail from 360 to 180 days and 120 to 60 days for minor offenders.

Following these amendments to the Penal code, the right to bail for accused persons has become a controversial issue in judicial circles. Different judges have given different interpretations to the new provisions causing confusion not only within the legal fraternity but among the public as well.

With due respect however, their justices reasoning that the reduced remand period for suspects is a threat to public order and security since thugs and fugitives would have a field day should not go unchallenged.



Although courts of law have interpreted the constitutional right to bail to be discretionary and not an absolute entitlement, this should be read together with article 28 (3) which provides that every person who is accused of a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until proved guilty or until that person has pleaded guilty.

Further still, article 23 of the constitution guarantees the protection to personal liberty – a right so important its only second to the right to life among those provided for in bill of rights provided for in chapter four of our constitution.

The exception to the right to liberty is for purposes of bring a person before court in execution of an order by court or upon reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or is about to commit a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda.

Article 23 also renders redundant the provisions of section 76 of the Magistrates Act which hitherto allowed a magistrate not to release a suspect from custody if its expedient for the protection of the public.

In the constitutional Court case of Uganda (DPP) vs. Dr. Kiiza Besigye, court noted that bail is a constitutional right which is derived from the presumption of innocence until proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

The constitutional court in this matter pronounced itself on the cardinal principle of constitutional interpretation. Court stated that when interpreting an article or clause of all articles bearing upon a subject matter under discussion, they have to be brought into purview and read or construed together as one whole so as to bring out the greatest effect of the document (constitution).

Bail court reasoned should not be denied mechanically simply because the state wants such orders. The refusal to grant bail shouldn’t be based on mere allegations, the grounds must be substantial.

This is the reason why parliament granted courts the prerogative to exercise their discretion to grant bail in exceptional circumstances as stipulated under section 15 of the Trial on Indictment Act , which include, old age, grave illness , obtaining a certificate of no objection from the DPP, infancy of the accused .

It’s not legally bidding therefore for judges to treat remand as a punishment. Suspects should be allowed to access justice because justice delayed is justice denied and this will always be unconstitutional.

A refusal to grant bail would contradict the suspect’s inherent right of innocence and indirectly suggest that the law presumes the suspect guilty of the offence before he is put to his defence in court. In fact parliament should urgently amend the law to reduce the remand days further.

Suspects should not suffer long remand periods without trial because of government’s inadequacies , incompetence and corruption experienced in the management of criminal cases.

It’s only last week that daily monitor exposed these inadequacies when it quoted a secret police report which indicated that a single detective in police handles 58 instead of 12 criminal cases a year. According to the police repot, crime is growing while state institutions are not responding adequately thereby denying Ugandans justice.

People should only be arrested when there is reasonable proof that they have committed a crime and the state should then expediently put them on trial.

Judges should also be reminded that we live in fragile political environment where flimsy charges are preferred against political opponents or vocal critics government without hard evidence.

This means that all Ugandans including flamboyant military generals are potential suspects or jail birds for that matter. The judiciary is a very important institution in ensuring the respect for human and civil liberties.

The writer is a journalist and Advocate
msserwanga.blogspot.com
msserwang@gmail.com

UGANDA MUST EMBRACE E-GOVERMENT


By Moses Sserwanga
Parliament has this year created more than 20 new districts bringing the number of
the local administrative units to an unprecedented 119.
Uganda is one of the smallest countries in Africa with more districts than any
other country on the continent. Algeria, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of
Congo are the largest countries in Africa but each has less than 60 districts.
DR. Congo has 41 districts, Sudan 54 and Algeria only 34 districts.
This has certainly placed great strain on the limited physical and human
resources with some districts having hardly any competent technocrats to run
them. Another area of our public life that has been affected by the
proliferation of districts in this country, is the coordination of both
policy and institutional structures.
Although there have been efforts to develop and reform the decentralisation
programme with government considering a more advanced approach to public
administration through the E- government project, no tangible- positive results
have been realised that far. The E-government system installed by a Chinese
company Hauwei to help ministries coordinate their activities without
officers necessarily moving places, has not been optimally utilised .
Often the craze for new districts has been driven by political imperatives
without sustained planning to take into account the costs and what it takes to
deliver quality, adequate and timely services to the majority rural poor.
That’s why government should fast track the implementation of the E-government
programme .
E- government is a revolutionary concept that has given public administration a
new meaning in some of the more advanced countries like China. In china
alone ,the E-government model has helped transform local administration -
enabling improved coordination between the central , provincial and local
administrative units .
The successful example of this model can be borrowed from China’s western
mountainous province of Chengdu where a standard service oriented
E-government was created just six years ago and its now serving between 2-3
million people a year.
With this model, the central and provincial governments are in position to
speedily coordinate the operations of 43 ministries at a one stop center . For
instance if you are a foreign investor and you want to set up business in
Chengdu city , you don’t have to run from one ministry to another. All you need
to do is visit the Chengdu E- government service facility with highly
centralised service windows to address almost all people’s needs at reduced
cost and time.
This has created transparency, led to reduction in administrative costs and
red tape-ensuring a good business environment that is the hall mark of china’s
tremendous economic growth. With the e-goverment model the public is in
constant touch with the local administrators to determine public policy and the
pace of social and economic advancement. Public servants are monitored
through CCTV to ensure that they report for duty on time and attend to public
affairs with a professional tenacity that allows the Chinese people to work 24/7.
This approach is also quite significant because its has altered democratic
governance as it traditionally constituted - making nonsense of the quest by
any public servant / politician to make arbitrary decisions without the
approval of the people governed.

It has also opened up space for the leaders at all levels to exercise
creative policy engineering often needed to lift the economy . This can
perhaps explain why china , only this week ,became the second largest
economy in the world effectively overtaking Japan the hitherto, perennial
occupier of the number two position after the United States of America.
Now that our leaders are hell bent at creating as many districts as they can
possibly be, let them at least embrace the E- government model to scale down on
the costs of public administration and provide quality services to the people
in reasonable time.

The writer is a journalist and advocate


MEDICINE AND THE LEGAL CONSENT OF THE UNDER AGE (CHILDREN)

MEDICINE AND THE LEGAL CONSENT OF THE UNDER AGE (CHILDREN)
As the state struggles to marshal resources to meet core components of the right to health ,the majority of Ugandans who live in the country side l walk long distances to get to the nearest health center for medical attention.

And when they finally get there , the quality of services they get from these inadequately manned health centers are deploreable to say the least . These health centers lack medicines and medical implements. The poor suffering rural folks are in most cases left to the mercy of God.

One important development in the law of malpractices among medical practitioners therefore, concerns the direct liability of provider units( read village clinics or health centers) and the medical workers who man them for the failures in their services.

Courts have maintained that even in situations like Uganda where health centers are poorly serviced , in terms of medicines and medical equipment, a doctor or any other health worker has a higher duty to provide a satisfactory standard of care to avoid causing injury to a patient like the case was with Nafuna a baby girl who lost her arm due to a poorly administered injection.

The standard of care which has to be adhered to by all medical practitioners extends even to diagnosis and communication with the patient(s). For instance in medical practice, before a medical worker ventures into diagnosis, he must first get to understand the medical history of a patient.

And the readers of this column will agree that this is not the practice in many of our clinics let alone our major referral hospitals . Doctors and nurses alike , are always in a hurry to diagnosis patients even before knowing the history of the cases brought or refered to them. The doctor's failure to study the a patient's medical history can be fatal. it does not only lead to wrong diagnosis but also wrong prescription and wrong treatment and in a process aggrevates a patient's condition. That ' s why courts have again held medical workers liable if they give a wrong diagnosis which is contrary to acceptable standard practice. In situations where a patient(s) would be entitled to damages.

The intervention of courts in cases of negligence in communication by the medical professionals is also on the rise. As more and more doctors and paramedical workers become involved in a patient ' s treatment, the danger of verbal instructions to such a patient is only too apparent. Errors in the general practitioner ' s letter of referral where say a doctor refers to left leg instead of right leg can so easily lead to an injury of a patient.

In the case of Nafuna another legal issue seems to have emerged. The girl's father didn't consent to decision of the specialised doctor to amputate her harm. The question then is , in life threatening situations where minors are involved, do doctors have to seek consent of parents before carrying out a medical procedure which can like in the case of Nafuna ,lead to permanent disability?

The care of children is governed by the general principles governing professional standards. The law of consent is premised on the assumption that patients will normally be able to take decisions for themselves, but this will often not be the case with children.

In cases where children cannot consent a parent may usually give consent on their behalf. A child or minor according to our constitution is a person below the age of 18 and by implication such a person can not give legal consent. That ' s why even if a 17 year old girl willingly indulges in a sexual relation with a man, the man would still be charged with defilement and he can ' t plead that the 17 year old girl gave consent.

However, for medical purposes, courts have held that the test to be applied is whether the child had ' sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him or her to understand fully what a doctor has proposed ' .

Understanding fully, therefore requires an appreciation of the consequences of treatment , including possible side effects, and also the anticipated consequences of failure to treat. And the test of maturity established by courts is assessed in respect of each individual child and each separate medical treatment.

An example of who the test of maturity has been applied can be found in one of the decided cases, where a 15 year old boy who was dying of leukaemia expressed his opposition to receiving a blood transfusion . the judge held that he did not appreciate the extent of the fear and distress he would suffer, and consequently did not really understand what he was demanding. He was therefore not competent to give consent.

The overwhelming picture that emerges from this is - that courts are reluctant to allow children to choose to die rather than live and extremely resistant to such decisions where the motivation is religious. And doctors need to seek consent of parents when medical treatment is required as an emergency to save life.

So Nafuna ' s case is arguable since its not clear whether her condition was treated as a case of emergency to save her life by the doctors who amputated her arm. The facts show that the girl ' s father was opposed to the doctor ' s decision to amputate- however is the doctor the girl ' s arm as an emergency to save her life, then he is protected under the law.

Courts have stated that where it would be considered unreasonable in the opinion of most relevant medical experts to withhold the medical care in question, and it does not raise social or moral considerations , then it is permissible to proceed without parental consent and even in the face of parental objection like in the case of Nafuna ' s father.

These legal principles therefore , allow medical practitioners to dispense medicines and treatment when it is done in the interest of the person who cannot consent and permit the health care professionals to judge where those interests lie.

In situations where parents disagree on the issue of consent in cases which are not of an emergency nature, courts have held the medical professional could still be held liable if the proceeded to treat a child. It is also possible that it might amount to negligence if no responsible body of professional opinion would support proceeding without the consent of both parents.

And where parents and children disagree, the law is to the effect that health professionals can only treat the basis of the parental approval. This is because the right to consent to treatment is only lost by parents once the child became competent to consent. The law presumes that parents stand in the best position to attend to the best interests of their children for as long as the case is not of an emergency nature to save the life of a minor.


Moses Paul Sserwanga
Journalists/ advocate

msserwanga@yahoo.com


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

WHAT LEGACY HAS OBAMA LEFT

The Barrack Obama has been such a  dissapointing Presidency. Apart from taking out Bin Laden what is the other significant achievement has the  Obama presidency registered that  will define is legacy? He is left Africa the way he found it, he has not helped the black communities in America's inter-cities, he has not fixed the problems in Iraq , Lybia, Syria ,Grecee etc; he has not fixed the un-employement problem in America which largely cost his party the presidency, the obamacare is in a shambles. He has left America more divided than he found it and remember he was elected by majority Americans irrespective of race and colour.So generally ,apart from being the first black USA president ,Obama was generally a no show!

TRUMP'S RESOUNDING WIN HAD A LOT TO DO WITH THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY

Idont beleive in polls .there are all cooked up to manipulate voters. But Trump's resounding win has a lot to do with the Obama presidency .Many Americans felt betrayed by the obama adminstration and perhaps that expalins why they didnt get out the black and latino vote as expected . Obama , throughout his presidency tried to please so many by playing safe and ended up eroding the democratic party base which has ultimately cost his party the presidency and both houses of representatives -the congeress and the senate . lessons for our local party strategists and campaign managers- ,never, ever ignore your traditional base or take your supporters for granted the way the clinton campain did by not campaigning in hitherto traditional blue states. For one to win you must always consolidate your base and play to your strength .