Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Commonwealth chair is Museveni’s big test
Now that Chogm has passed, it’s imperative that the country takes stock of the historic week when citizens once again demonstrated that they can stick together to attain a common objective.

President Yoweri Museveni, now has the privilege and right to be the Chairman of the Commonwealth community for another two years after the country successfully hosted a major international event since Independence.

As the organisers chest-stamp and indulge themselves with glee, the Chogm 2007 will truly have extraordinary consequences for the country and its leadership on the world stage.

The bar has been raised; Uganda’s holding of the chair for the Commonwealth will have the country come under intense scrutiny for the next two years on matters of democracy , rule of law and respect for human rights.

President Museveni, appeared to suggest months before Chogm that his government will not slip back to the dark days when oppressive governments undermined people’s fundamental rights to live in a free society.

Mr Museveni said that this will not happen especially now that he is the chairman of the Commonwealth. Much as the president can be given a benefit of doubt on his promises to realise democratic governance; growing our democracy will take more than just the spoken word. The role of good governance in boosting economic growth and development cannot be underestimated.

This is the reason why , the successful hosting of Chogm should not mask a multitude of problems the country is facing which include among others the total lack of respect and accountability by our national leaders to the 11 million voters that gave them the mandate to lead this country to prosperity.

There is still widespread –call it rampant corruption, the deliberate undermining, by the executive, of parliament and the judiciary which should ideally check against the excesses of the state and the apparent lack of general respect and tolerance to critical views and opinions of Ugandans; let it be the media, (event after being accredited, some reporters and photographers from the independent media were denied access to some state functions during the queen’s visit which again shows lack of tolerance and fair competition in our business).

But even opposition leaders must be tolerant to the views and decisions of the majority. That’s how a vibrant democracy functions.
A situation where our national and local leaders care too much for their own well being and too little about the people they lead, the peasantry that live on less than a dollar a day (just about Shs900), should also be urgently reversed.

At the opening of the business forum at Sheraton Hotel, President Museveni was quite persuasive in his arguments for the 900 Africans to ‘burst onto the world stage by exporting value added commodities and touch off an “Africa Industrial revolution”.

He rightly bemoaned the widening inequalities between the developed and developing world. But this inequality is also very evident in Uganda where the gap between the rich and the poor has assumed alarming proportions. For now , the government has done very little to improve the peasants’ lot. Charity should begin at home.

The country would save a lot of money from thinning the rank of idle cadres who have openly complained about being redundant and bored. The cost of Mr Museveni’s unprecedented huge government is simply astronomical!

The president should do the logical thing- cut down on the number of ministers, RDCs, presidential advisers (you can have one per region) and use the money to strengthen and professionalise national institutions the way he has done with the army and police.

Now that the country is relatively peaceful, we need to cut down on defence spending as well, to help extend to the countryside the un-precedented pre-Chogm renovations and construction witnessed in Entebbe and Kampala. Remember the country should, as a must, maintain these facilities together with the beautification and general high level of cleanliness experienced during Chogm. For those who pocketed the Chogm funds now is the time to account.

The out going Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon, a very pleasant man and accomplished diplomat, said, “the Commonwealth should be true to our values; freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and opportunity for all, especially women and young people. He then posed a question-what is the most important thing in the world? People! People! People!” What a wonderful way to say his adieu!

The writer is a journalist and advocate

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chogm; we want fair trade, not aid

Chogm; we want fair trade, not aid

About 5,000 heads of government, delegates and the international media descend on the capital Kampala this week, not only to participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), but also to have a feel of what Britain’s greatest statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, described as the Pearl of Africa.

The theme for this year’s historic event is: transforming Commonwealth societies to achieve political, economic and human development. The theme is a perfect reminder about the growing gap between the developed world and the so-called third world countries in terms of socio-economic and general human development.

This is why Chogm is a crucial forum to address the fundamental causes of this inequality and work out practical solutions to bridge the gap. This target is particularly important because the rich nations are getting richer while the third world is becoming poorer.

The Chogm forum should not forget that the social and political revolutions of the 19th century were partly due to this inequitable social conditions in the various societies while ideological polarity(division) was to cause two world wars in the last century.

Africa has a great potential, with vast minerals and a huge total land area which if well managed with good leadership, trading policies and fair trade regulations can spark a second industrial revolution. Chogm should place emphasis on fair trade among the member countries and work to eliminate the handouts from the first world in form of aid.

Needless to say, that apart from fanning corruption , aid plays to the advantage of the giver– the richer nations of the world which keep the poor –mineral rich countries dependent and in many ways, economically colonised. What we need in the Commonwealth group is fair competition and eliminating subsides that give developed countries unfair advantage.

For instance according to the UN 2005 Human Development report, the trade barriers for the poor countries exporting to the rich countries are on average three to four times higher than those of the rich countries exporting to each other.

The Commonwealth leadership seems to have taken note of this worrying situation and is now focusing on trade regulation as an area of growing importance to Commonwealth countries and, correspondingly, for the Economic and Legal Section (ELS) in the Special Advisory Services Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

ELS has extended its traditional platform in this field- from designing legislative and institutional arrangements in trade-related areas, particularly investment and competition policy- to providing legal advice on implementing multilateral trade rules through the establishment of sustainable regulatory frameworks.

And there shouldn’t be any artificial bottlenecks in fast tracking this effort because the Commonwealth Secretariat which is the central administrative organ of the Commonwealth community is mandated, among others, to promote the rule of law as an essential part of its efforts to enhance good governance and development in member countries.

The legal cooperation is a unique feature of the Commonwealth, made possible because member countries have similar legal systems, most based on or greatly influenced by the common law principles and practices.

It’s imperative therefore that the Commonwealth delegates urgently hammer out a roadmap that will harmonise trading patterns by putting in place solid trading policies which is fair to all members.

All the member countries should be encouraged to actively make good use of the Special Advisory Services Division (SASD) of the Commonwealth, which focuses on Debt Management, Economic and Legal Services, Enterprise and Agriculture, and Trade.

Member countries especially the host Uganda, should also engage the Economic and Legal department of the Commonwealth secretariat which provides technical assistance that focuses on reform of regulatory environments in Commonwealth countries to encourage investment and export growth.

The underlying rationale is to help members derive greater benefit from the opportunities provided by globalisation. Economic cooperation in the regional states should remove trade barriers, harmonise taxes, guarantee free access to markets across borders and establish joint infrastructure.

The writer is a journalist and advocate

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Museveni, now why plead for killers?
November 13, 2007
The debacle about whether Joseph Kony and his LRA gangsters should escape justice by benefiting from government’s amnesty has taken on a new twist with sharp differences emerging in the rebel camp about the future of the ongoing peace talks.

The fate of LRA’s second in command, Vincent Otti, is unknown after he was allegedly arrested by Kony, the LRA’s top ho ncho, who is not interested in peace. And this should not come as a surprise to many, even after spending a year and billions of shillings of taxpayers’ money wooing the insurgents out of war they shouldn’t have started in the first place.

For Kony and his LRA marauding ragtag vicious army now estimated at 600 strong, the human tragedy in northern Uganda was just a game. They derived much, very much pleasure from maiming, raping and abducting thousands of Ugandans; the young, the old and all.

The LRA butchers forced their captives to chop off each other’s limbs and lips. Kony and his gangsters forced children to shoot and kill their grandparents, mothers and fathers, their clansmen including pregnant women. Their indiscriminate, criminal acts spared none. It’s therefore contemptuous of President Yoweri Museveni, an elected national leader, to feel sorry and even plead for the life of Otti to be spared. The two men who are at the helm of the atrocious LRA are war criminals who should be at The Hague facing trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Who cares that they are in a sticky situation and have turned their blood stained guns against each other? What goes round comes around! The blood of so many people killed at the hands of these two men and the gangsters they lead has come to haunt them.

There is no place for war criminals in the civilised world and this is what has informed the fast evolving international criminal and human rights law. That’s why Kony and four other leaders of LRA are now indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2002.

The ICC has since issued arrest warrants against Kony, Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Raska Lukwiya. Ironically, the public should note that the arrest warrants were issued after a complaint filed in the ICC by President Museveni, who is now pleading for these accused to be spared!

According to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC, crimes against humanity include murder, extermination, enslavement, exportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law.

Torture, rape, sexual slavery also form part of crimes against humanity and these must be committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed to a civilian population which is what Kony and his henchmen have orchestrated in northern Uganda for 20 years.

Since Adolf Hitler’s Nazi atrocities, international criminal law has taken a new dimension and has gone ahead to recognise a number of offences as being international crimes.
Once a person has committed war crimes as stipulated in the Rome Statute, such a person cannot benefit from the municipal/ local amnesty law. In the case of former Chilean leader Gen. Senator Augusto Pinochet who was arrested in London on a warrant from Spain requesting his extradition on murder charges, the House of Lords held that international criminal law principles take precedent over municipal or local statutes.

Pinochet, just like Kony, was arrested at the request of Spanish judges seeking to extradite him to face charges related to more than 4,000 political killings alleged to have taken place during his 1973-1990 brutal dictatorship in Chile. Although the Chilean government tried to protect Pinochet, the international community prevailed and the man was charged for crimes against humanity.

Similarly, Mr Museveni and his government cannot have the option of providing a safe landing for Kony and his men because the international community can still have them extradited for trial in The Hague. Kony and the LRA should be tried for the heinous crimes committed against the people of northern Uganda.
The writer is a journalist and advocate
Tel: 0772 43 46 77

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The President is about to break the law

The President is about to break the law
November 6, 2007
President Museveni, at the weekend, reassured the nation that the executive is not about to alienate the rights of landlords in a renewed government effort to protect peasants from evictions and rent hikes.

Government is already in advanced stages of amending the Land Act to ‘protect’ peasants from land evictions. Among the proposed amendments is one intended to give the Minister of Lands more powers to order Resident District Commissioners to stop land evictions.

It’s been proved in the past though, that political interventions in land ownership and management matters- have not been particularly helpful in resolving the land question in this country. In fact ‘political solutions’ to the land problem that usually pit landlords against tenants (peasants) have abetted more conflicts.

Because the right to own property including land is protected in the Bill of Rights in our national constitution, it’s not politically prudent for our national leaders including Mr Museveni to side-step the provisions of the law in their pursuit of social justice.

In any case , equity and parity can only be realised by observing the rule of law. RDCs who are largely partisan have no constitutional mandate to stop the execution of a court eviction order in land matters.

Besides, the Registration of Titles Act (RTA) provides that ownership of land can only be recognised and enforced at law when a land owner erects to register his interests in land at the Land Registry upon which a certificate of registration is issued.

It’s only a certificate of registration that is conclusive proof of ownership of land . Any person without a certificate of registration can not lay a claim of ownership- meaning that such a person can be evicted from land at anytime upon a directive of court.

Because of these internationally accepted principles governing ownership of land as a major factor of production and in a broader move to resolve the conflict between landlords and tenants/squatters, the framers of our constitution in Article 237(8) provided for additional rights to protect the equitable rights of the peasants.

The constitution provides that persons in lawful or bonafide occupation of land shall enjoy security of tenure. This new set of land rights coupled with the traditionally known mailo, freehold (under these two tenures land is owned/held in perpetuity), leasehold and customary, form the country’s land tenure system.

The Land Act defines lawful occupant to mean a person occupying land by virtue of the Busuulu and Envujjo law 1928 or that person(s) who entered the land with the consent of the registered owner. The other category of lawful occupants protected by the Act are those in occupation of land under customary tenure but whose tenancy was not disclosed or compensated for by the registered owner when he or she applied for a public lease over the land.

On the other hand, a bonafide occupant of land according to the Land Act is one who, before the enactment of the 1995 Constitution, had occupied or improved land without being challenged by the registered owner of the land or his agent for 12 years.

Bona fide occupant also refers to a person (or a successor in title of such a person) who had been settled on land by the government or its agents including the local authorities such as district councils. The law also treats a bona fide occupant as a tenant by occupancy and is required to pay ground rent not in excess of Shs1,000 (per annum).

It’s clear from the provisions highlighted above that the main mischief the constitution and the Land Act sought to cure was the eviction of millions of landless people. But much as we have an elaborate law governing land, the conflicts between the landlords and tenants continue to grow because although the rights of the peasants are recognised by law, they are subject to the registered landlords under the RTA explained above.

And these competing rights can only be resolved through purchase or lawful transfer of property rights from one party to another or acquisition after adequate compensation or purchase at open market value.

Much as the government has made strides in securing the rights of squatters (peasants), nothing or little has been done to address the residual problems of offering adequate compensation to the landlords on whose land the squatters acquired equitable interests under the constitution and the Land Act respectively. Government should economically empower peasants to purchase and own land.
The writer is a journalist and advocate
0772 43 46 77