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Monday, 15 September 2014 06:46 By Nicole Namubiru
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Gerald AbilaUgandan ‘rebel lawyer’ wins global accolade for putting community service ahead of money

At the Barefoot Law offices in Kampala, the phones - both landline and mobile almost never stop ringing. As I waited to speak to Gerald Abila about the award he recently won from the American Bar Association in recognition of his work, he spent a while speaking on the landline.  I later learned that a man in Kaliro District in eastern Uganda needed legal advice on a property succession issue for a deceased man who never left a personal will. The family of the deceased had come up with two potential successors and administrators of the vast estate but the elders according to the tradition required one who wasn’t listed among the two chosen by the late man’s family.  The man needed help because he was getting frustrated as to how to handle the issue. This is what Barefoot Law lawyers do on a daily basis under a facility dubbed, ‘dial-a-lawyer.’

To an average Ugandan who barely has any clue about how legal issues work, Barefoot Law offers free consultation services pertaining to legal matters and they do labour to explain it in lay man’s language through the various internet-based platforms. This is done on social media - Facebook, Twitter as well as Skype. Skyping time is usually done on Monday evenings from 4-6 pm. This is done after making an appointment with the lawyer. On Facebook and Twitter it’s is a minute by minute activity.  Abila says Barefoot Law’s motive is to break down legal information for a lay man and make the law more accessible to the ordinary person. They try to make it as basic as possible, hence the name “barefoot.”

 
Monday, 15 September 2014 06:15 By Patrick Kagenda
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President Yoweri Museveni in 2013 denied accusations that he was the one behind Busoga’s failure to get a Substantive Kyabazinga. FILE PHOTOPolitics, greed, corruption, contempt of court take centre stage as Kyabazinga squabbles continue

On August 23, 2014, Prince William Wilberforce Kadumbula Gabula IV was purportedly elected as the new Kyabazinga of Busoga having been chosen by eight out of the 11 royals. With that development, Ugandans thought that Busoga had at last resolved its Kyabazingaship issues.

Hardly a week later however, a group from Bulamogi County announced that they had elected Gabula’s rival, Prince Columbus Wambuzi, as the new Kyabazinga. Barely, a week later, Eriakasi Ngobi Kiregeya also pronounced himself as the rightful Kyabazinga, saying he had been chosen as the successor of the late Kyabazinga Henry Wako Muloki. As it stands, we are back to square one.

 
Wednesday, 10 September 2014 07:36 By Julius Businge
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The private sector is critical in implementing the East African Community Integration process, according to Uganda’s minister for East African Affairs, Shem Bageine.

Bageine who was addressing the members of the East African Business Council (EABC) at a recent retreat in Kampala, said member states are on course towards implementation of the integration but, he said, there are challenges hampering the smooth implementation-non-tariff barriers being one of them.

“The EAC integration process must be people and private sector centered,” he said, adding they [private sector] has opportunities in sectors like trade, manufacturing, infrastructure, energy, entertainment among others.”

He added that government has never been good when it comes to doing business. “What we can do as government is to partner with the private sector to do several projects or business,” Bageine said.

 
Tuesday, 09 September 2014 12:17 By Ronald Musoke
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Healthcare has surged forward as the most prominent priority for Ugandan voters according to a survey report released on Sept. 8 by a group of civil society organizations working to ensure access to essential health services in Uganda.

The survey was conducted in Uganda last month by researchers from both Uganda and the US-based Columbia University.

According to the survey findings, during the course of the 9th Parliament, healthcare has surged forward and is now considered far more important than crime, education, or unemployment by Ugandan voters.

The survey reveals that a majority of voters will not support an MP who does not prioritize health issues, such as correcting medicine stock outs or increasing health financing.

The latest findings support conclusions from other recent surveys such as the one done by AfroBarometer two years ago which also confirmed the importance of healthcare for the Ugandan voter.

In a 2012 survey, a majority of citizens polled by AfroBarometer reported that the current government was doing very badly in terms of handling the provision of essential health services.

The researchers for the August survey interviewed up to 1,426 Ugandan voters across the country about their priorities ahead of the 2016 general elections and 86% of those polled said they would only vote for MPs who are willing to fight for an increase of the budget for health services while 66% said they would only vote for MPs who work to secure health services.

Another 86% of those polled said they would vote in legislators who were ready to stop stock outs of essential drugs in Uganda’s public health facilities. However, the 2014/15 budget for the health sector fails to address these voter concerns.

This is the reason the coalition which brings together over 30 civil society organizations is calling for MPs to take action based on these data with particular emphasis put on revising the 2014/15 national budget so that it dramatically scales up investments in recruitment and motivation of front line professional health workers, alongside expansion in primary health care (PHC) funding for health facilities.

“A nation of sick Ugandans cannot benefit from economic development,” said Dennis Odwe, the executive director of the Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA-Uganda).

“These data show clearly that MPs cannot ignore the health priorities of their voters,” he said.

“Without expanded funding for these priorities, pregnant women will continue to suffer preventable deaths and complications, people with HIV will wait in line for life saving treatment, and Ugandans will continue to suffer without access to essential health services.”

Odwe added that for too long, health workers have toiled without adequate remuneration, leading to demotivation, attrition, and lack of accountability for poor quality service delivery.

Coalition members also demanded an increase for primary health care funding which includes the resources health facilities use to pay for electricity, clean water, fuel, and other priorities.

“The current PHC non-wage recurrent funding levels are only Shs 41 billion instead of the required Shs 82 billion,” said Samuel Senfuka of White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Uganda.

“Government is failing to deliver on its commitment to ensure access to emergency obstetric care in all Health Center IVs, and women are dying as a result.

“Our health facilities cannot respond to the leading causes of preventable maternal death—post partum hemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labour, unsafe abortion and eclampsia—unless they are equipped to provide essential health services. Government must match their promises with the funding levels needed to save the lives of pregnant women, newborns and children.”

When Maria Kiwanuka read the 2014/15 budget in June, she said the government would enhance health workers’ remuneration and improve their skills through capacity building” and that “health facility infrastructure at both local government and referral levels, would also be expanded, in addition to the construction of additional staff houses in lower level health facilities to minimize absenteeism.”

However, according to civil society, the government did not emphasize what portion of the Shs 450 billion allocated for enhancement of civil servants’ salaries would be invested in health workers.

Already Shs 215 billion is ring fenced for a raise in teachers’ pay.

The coalition says the balance of Shs 235 billion should be invested in production, recruitment and retention of front line health workers, particularly priority cadres such as midwives working in local government health facilities.

They also want government to expand funding for HIV treatment so as to be consistent with prior years’ increases.

“This year’s budget proposes a flat line in funding for lifesaving anti retroviral treatment,” said Margaret Happy of the International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICW EA).

“Yet more people are waiting in line for treatment because Uganda has changed the clinical eligibility criteria so that more people with HIV can benefit from the clinical and prevention benefits of treatment. We call on government to increase investments in HIV treatment by 50%.

According to the coalition, there should also be a dramatic enhancement of the primary health care budget by Shs 41.2 billion in the priority areas of administration of health facilities to cater for immunization, supervision, coordination, hygiene inspection, and health education as well as prioritize enhancement of wages for midwives and other critical cadres of the health workforce is estimated to cost UShs 13.3 billion.

The coalition also wants the government to complete the recruitment exercise of over 3,300 health workers at a cost of Sh 28.3 billion in annual salary and allowances as well as increase investment in HIV and TB treatment by 50% to UShs 150 billion.

In 2012, about Shs 49.5 billion investment in health workers by the government resulted in tangible benefits for pregnant Ugandan women and their communities.

This followed an unprecedented effort launched by civil society and MPs to ensure that Uganda’s financial year 2012/13 budget was not passed without a focus on increasing the number and motivation of professional health workers at Health Centre IIIs and IVs.

The effort succeeded, with the budget passed on Sept. 25 last year having an extra Shs 49.5 billion to recruit 10,231 professional health workers and deploying them to Health Centre IIIs and IVs.

Salaries for medical doctors at these two health centre levels were also enhanced from Shs 1m to Shs 2.5m per month to strengthen their retention.

Asia Russell, the director of international advocacy at Health GAP [Global Access Project] said the impact of the Shs 49.5 billion investment in health worker recruitment and retention has been undermined because Parliament and government did not finish the job by funding health worker motivation and retention.

“The draft 2014/15 budget is completely out of step with voter priorities,” she said.

Russell said, as the draft 2014/15 budget shows, government is not giving health the political prioritization it urgently needs and voters are recognizing that.

“They are demanding government make bolder, smarter health investments to end needless suffering and death from preventable and treatment diseases and conditions such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and pregnancy related causes,” she told The Independent in a separate interview.

“Parliament should take action this week by prioritizing wage enhancement for midwives and nurses--the budget should be delayed if needed, since these are life and death matters.”

 

 

 

 

 
Monday, 08 September 2014 06:38 By Ronald Musoke
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A field of maize and beans. With low fertilizer use, many Ugandan farmers are struggling to have such gardens. COURTESY PHOTODoubts remain as to whether Tororo phosphate factory will boost farm output and check environmental degradation

Barely ten days after President Yoweri Museveni launched the construction of a fertilizer factory at Sukuru in the eastern district of Tororo, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) released a report that should give policy makers some food for thought.

The report titled, “Seeking Fertile Ground for a Green Revolution in Africa,” notes that Ugandan scientists blame nutrient mining for poor banana yields of just five to 30 tonnes per hectare.

 
Monday, 08 September 2014 06:15 By AFP
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Food aid is offloaded from a United Nations helicopter in the southern Sudanese town of Akobo, a remote region in Jonglei state, on August 8, 2009. Thousands have been displaced by a spate of bloody ethnic clashes and supplies are low, with roads closed due to heavy rains and the main river route blocked by hostile neighbouring groups. AFP PHOTO/PETER MARTELLJUBA - War-torn South Sudan faces possible famine early next year, the UN chief in the country warned Thursday, as aid workers said the shooting down of a UN helicopter threatened efforts to save lives. “We all are working very hard to prevent a famine... but I am very worried that we will not be able to prevent it,” UN aid chief in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, told reporters. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 1.8 million have fled a civil war sparked by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar. “The single biggest cause if there is a famine is the failure of the political leadership to resolve this crisis,” Lanzer said.

Famine, if declared, could be expected at the end of 2014 or “more likely” in early 2015, he added.

 
Monday, 08 September 2014 06:10 By Ronald Musoke
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Workers at an oil rig in Buliisa District, western Uganda. INDEPENDENT/RONALD MUSOKEExcitement as estimate of Uganda’s oil reserves jump to 6.5 billion barrels

On Aug.28, the government revised upwards the country’s petroleum resources by over 85% to about 6.5 billion barrels of oil initially in place.

This was an upgrade of the 3.5 billion barrels of oil, which the government announced about a year ago.

In addition, about 500 billion cubic feet of non-associated gas (independent gas) is also now estimated to have been discovered in Uganda to date. The gas volumes are equivalent to about 90 million barrels of oil equivalent.

 
Monday, 08 September 2014 06:06 By Joan Akello
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Lord Mayer of Kampala Elias Lukwago, (M) accompanied by the JEEMA president Asuman Basalirwa (L) and Mwenjukye for his case court petition ruling at Supreme Court on August 21. Court referred him to the court of appeal for a hearing. INDEPENDENT/JIMMY SIYACity residents continue to bear the brunt as Lord Mayor Lukwago, President Museveni battles enter new phase

Shortly after the recent Supreme Court ruling that ordered Kampala City Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago to return to the Court of Appeal to file his appeal before three Justices, the embattled Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago looked straight in the cameras and told the whole world that President Yoweri Museveni would “never break his back.” To the few people who are not conversant with the Lukwago vs Museveni war, this statement was a little puzzling; how could a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court be linked to President Museveni?

 
Monday, 01 September 2014 06:29 By Flavia Nassaka
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Future of tertiary education threatened as public university land bonanza goes on unabated

Increasingly, public universities are losing large chunks of their land to private owners through dubious means. If not checked urgently, there is a fear that encroachment on land on which public education institution sit is likely to cause a crisis in the future as the institutions will not be able to expand to take care of the rising numbers of students.   MP Alice Alaso, the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC), says Parliament is desperate to deal with the situation. She says the committee is investigating how government officials use their offices to influence the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) to issue out land fraudulently.

Prof. Eli Katunguka, the vice chancellor of Kyambogo University, told The Independent that the institution’s land is like meat to greedy hyenas as it has become a target for powerful people who look at these institutions as lame ducks and believe that no one in these institutions is strong enough to resist their land grabbing schemes.

 

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