Privacy, Digital Rights and Safety: How Safe Is the Information You Exchange Online?

BY SHANINE AHIMBISIBWE

The internet has become part of our lives and communication could not be any easier in this information driven era. For the 17 million internet users in Uganda, not a day goes by without liking something on Facebook, sending an email or chatting on WhatsApp. Internet has made it so easy to find information, keep in touch with our loved ones locally and globally, build business, reach far off markets and make purchases at our convenience but how safe is the data, often private, that we share through these invisible channels? Privacy both online and offline is everyone’s right but it has come under attack in the age of technology.

Digital privacy is protection of information used or created while using the internet. A right for all, it is not entirely guaranteed and in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Yahoo data breach and Google plus data leaks, the importance of keeping your browsing and online activity secret cannot be stressed enough.

As you enjoy the perks of a good internet connection, it is important to keep your information and profile safe. In Uganda, cybercrime and digital breaches have not been well documented but they do happen quite often with leaked private information and photos and account hacking. It is important to be cognizant of safety as you leave your print on the internet. Using strong passwords, disabling auto log in, closing old accounts and updating mobile apps are some of the ways in which this could be achieved. But is it enough?

In a training for women journalists on digital security, rights and privacy for women held early this month by Unwanted Witness, online etiquette, data privacy and regulation and policies to safeguard users both in Uganda and the global context were discussed and a host of privacy concerns were raised. While Uganda is a signatory to several international conventions on security and the Constitution clearly provides for privacy and calls for its protection, the responsibility for digital safety rests largely on individual users. Stalking, hacking, phishing, identity theft, revenge porn, locked accounts and cyber harassment were pointed out as some of the major threats to privacy online.

“Just this year, my twitter account has been locked three times and I have had to change my password all times to regain access. There is a hacker trying to get into my account and I am not sure that my account is safe,” said one of the participants.

Using different passwords for all online accounts, creating a strong password; not less than 16 mixed characters, unique impersonal words, closing all old accounts, unsubscribing from promotional/free websites you do not regularly use, turning on two step verifications and encrypting gadgets are some of the ways to ensure digital security. While many people choose quick, easy to remember passwords for their convenience, the danger of having your information compromised is greater than the inconvenience of having a more complicated password. Personal information has become a valuable tool for leverage and advertising online, safety cannot be stressed enough.

In as much as all the fifteen participants were tech savvy, conversant with the workings of the internet and heavily reliant on internet storage, most popularly google drive and Apple iCloud, a simple exercise to test the strength of their passwords revealed that most were a less than two weeks (of dedicated attempts) away from having their phones and online accounts hacked.

I do not have a password because I do not have anything to hide,” remarked a participant whose phone and computer had never been password secured. “I make sure I delete sensitive information and so I do not see why anyone would hack me.

While there may not be anything to hide, there is a lot to protect. As the internet experience gets better and online platforms get more user friendly, so do opportunities for hacking and information loss. The state and internet companies are mandated to keep you safe as you use the internet but privacy still remains a personal responsibility that should not be neglected.

We may not be able to completely secure our online profiles and gadgets from hackers, companies baying for data and spying technologies, but we can reduce our exposure and limit how much information we give away.

This post was first published by Unwanted Witness.

Are We Safe?

BY ISAIAH NGABIRANO

Insecurity has become the talk of the town in Uganda that not a day passes without hearing a kidnap or a killing knowing that the people who are committing these atrocities walk free on the streets and are possibly planning to commit more of the same crimes. The main question remains, are we safe?

Time and time again we have seen security take a large chunk of the budget, something I actually support because there is no government without people. But if security is receiving all of this funding, why is the nation not safe anymore? Why is everyone scared that at any moment they can be killed or kidnapped?

Basing on the recent events that have been taking place like the killing, in cold blood, of the former IGP Felix Kaweesi in 2017 and more recently, Arua municipality Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga, the kidnap and brutal murder of Susan Magara after her parents had failed to pay the hefty ransom, all whose murders have not been solved, I decided to seek people’s opinions on the insecurity that is looming in this country. This is what the people of Uganda have to say.

“I really don’t understand why the police is always protecting these ministers and MPs and then one wakes up to headlines of so and so was killed. The security forces should be put through some serious training like forensics in order to always find what caused these crimes. Security should be taught by parents to their children for example not trusting strangers people should also take precautions and keep their own security because the Government will still be around even when they are dead.” Said Derrick, a student at Makerere University.

Hamad, a Boda-boda rider at Kyaliwajjala stage suggested that the government should actually come up with some solutions to these killings instead of always blaming Boda-boda riders who are trying to make ends meet. When asked for the solutions that can be come up with in order to stop or reduce the insecurity, he suggested that Uganda’s security should try to benchmark from the other countries because the other countries have probably had the same issues some even worse.

Source: Google image

Esther a student from Makerere University Business School (MUBS) says, “I don’t feel safe in Uganda anymore. I live in fear of being kidnapped since the kidnappers majorly are targeting the girls. I beg the Government to get organized and start to put into action all of the plans that are always being drafted instead of wasting time debating on whether or not someone should stay in power or not because the country should be protected from such evil acts.”

I spoke to Kamba, a student also from MUBS who believed that the insecurity is largely caused by the large number of unemployed youth who end up indulging in criminal activities like kidnapping or theft after searching for jobs in vain, yet they have to sustain their lives. To attain safety in the nation, the government should find a way of providing employment to the citizens.

He further mentioned that the poor conditions that the officers work in and the low salaries they receive do not motivate them to focus on their main objective which is to keep law and order which hinders the keeping of security in Uganda.

During the budget reading for the financial year 2018/2019, Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija said that there is a proposed regional forensic referral centre (RFFC) for the Uganda police force to start working on the constant insecurity worries from the public. He added that the “safe city project” which involves the installation of CCTV cameras is also going to begin in this financial year and also the implementation of crime record management system (CRMS) will all take place by the end of this financial year.

The police force is not doing its job right. I believe that if the corruption that is in the police is greatly reduced and education of the police forces on carrying out delicate investigations and handling suspects through other means not necessarily torture and involving more of the public to assist them in investigations, technology should also be involved in their work this can greatly contribute on the improvement of the security situation in Uganda.

#SecurityUg

#SafeNation

Aid Data: Tracking Foreign Aid For Efficient Service Delivery and Accountability

Uganda has a paradoxical relationship with foreign aid. Whereas many are of the view that it is a barrier to recipient country’s development and sustainable growth, there is evidence that it has helped countries to develop and set them on the path to sustainable economic progress. In fact, it is argued that ending or rapidly reducing extreme poverty and donor dependency often depends on effective use of aid.

Uganda is a major recipient of aid. During the period of 2003 and 2012, the country was ranked 13th largest recipient of aid in the world after the country received above USD16 billion in official development assistance.

Would the country have registered much more impressive economic development if the aid was put to effective use? If citizens followed the money and knew where every penny was allocated to ably demand for accountability, would that make a difference?

According to the Transparency International, Uganda was ranked 151 out of 176 countries in the 2016 Corruption Perception Index. The misuse of public funds, which includes foreign aid, has left many Ugandans distraught. It denies them basic health services, education and other necessities of life. It also cripples government’s ability to provide public infrastructure that is critical for economic development and poverty alleviation.

To make matters worse, corrupt leaders are enjoying impunity due to lukewarm political will to fight corruption and weak legal systems that are largely incapable of investigating corruption deals to secure convictions.

Little wonder, over the decades, the local dailies have been constantly awash with corruption scandals with mismanagement of foreign aid.

In 2011, for example, officials in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) were caught embezzling USD 13 million in foreign aid resulting in withholding of millions of dollars.

In 2006, the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) suspended cash support to Uganda following misappropriation of USD 4.3 million in health aid (meant to fight malaria, TB and HIV/Aids) by senior government officials. The suspension had a significant negative impact on immunization coverage in the country dropping immunization coverage from 83% in 2008 to 76% in 2009/10. In 2011, the national immunization coverage had dropped further to 52%.

Laws and regulations have been put in place to curb the corruption epidemic to no real success, igniting a wave of citizen engagement to demand for accountability.

Increasingly, Ugandans have taken it upon themselves to make the failed system work through the use of all the tools at their disposal, most popularly, social media and personal blogs. With hashtags like #SaveMulago in 2016, Ugandans expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to fix a run down radiotherapy machine while also tasking the government to stop sending public officials to international hospitals with tax money.

While not much success has been registered from these efforts, we can only do more to get our voices heard and stop the siphoning public funds, which later translate into poor or lack of public service delivery and increased taxes, by greedy officials.

To make accountability and foreign aid tracking easier and more efficient, web-based tools have been created to track funds provided by donor countries and international bodies. These tools give a detailed analysis to monitor the way in which these projects are managed and how the money donated has been appropriated to achieve the desired objectives.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 12.28.37
The d-portal interface which can be used to track foreign aid

For instance, the International Aid Transparency Initiative and the OECD Credit Reporting System provide a detailed account of funds released to Uganda by various donors, their intended use, and an update on the progress of projects. These aid tracking tools have been designed to be easily used by anyone seeking information in external funding as they provide concrete figures on the funds disbursed by donors.

In a bid to demand for accountability, this information will go a long way in providing real figures of the money Uganda gets in form of foreign aid. With social media and other avenues of civic engagement, people are given the means to follow the money and use the information to effectively push for accountability.

This post was first published on Shanine’s blog.

Does getting a passport in Uganda have to be a nightmare?

Processing my passport has been on every “To-Do” list I have made for the last 7 months. I kept putting it off, largely because it wasn’t urgent and from what I’d heard, the process was quite cumbersome. I eventually picked the application forms from Internal Affairs and soon, I realized why a large number of Ugandans only acquire their passports when they need to board a plane.

Getting the first stamp from the LC I Chairman was the easy part. Having lived in the same area for over 20 years, he was not a hard man to find. I got his number and set up an appointment. He signed my form and gave me some advice on how I could acquire the rest. This process required luck, money and perfect timing.

Along the way, a friend told me of a guy who could get this passport for me at UGX 300,000. Hassle free. Considering the going rate for an ordinary passport is UGX 150,000, the increment in price wasn’t too bad for an expedited process. I was feeling particularly patriotic that season so I decided not to enable the inefficiency. I would do this the right way.

I slid my envelope containing the forms and “stamp fee” under the LC II Chairman’s front door and picked the stamped forms the next day. Next was to the Wakiso district Headquarters for the Resident District Commissioner’s verification. I must have arrived too early as I found all the offices closed, save for the one which had a cluster of people waiting in line to address their National I.D queries. After waiting outside the RDC’s office for 2 hours, I cajoled a man in the I.D. office into giving me his number and gave him a call. He told me to give my forms to his secretary and come back. Come back when? He could not say. It was one more hour before his secretary arrived. She sent me to Nabweru for a stamp from the District Internal Security Officer.  

I went to Nabweru at 9:00am the following day and asked for the DISO. I was led to a man who had to finish his breakfast before he could attend to me, an activity that took over 30 minutes. He leisurely examined my forms, asked me to buy this and photocopy that, and then told me to leave the forms behind so they could be signed by the DISO who was not available at the moment. But I could leave the stamp fee behind.

I will be going back to Nabweru soon, then to Kasangati to have the forms signed by the Deputy RDC. I look forward to that, I have always been curious about Kasangati.

Throughout this process, the back and forth and the creative ways “stamp fees” are collected, I have noticed a trend among these office holders and their aides. They are slow, inaccessible, unethical people with little regard to time. Most of the people I interacted with in these offices lacked a sense of urgency and were in no hurry to offer service. Considering there is only one of them and many of us, they have the luxury of taking us in circles and extorting shilling by shilling from the common man, because we need them. We are desperate for their authorization, their signatures and stamps on our pieces of paper but they go to no lengths to make the process definitive.

Slow and inefficient service delivery has prompted many people to resort to using back doors just to get things done. In hindsight, the value of the time and energy I have spent running after stamps is a lot more than the UGX 300,000 I would have parted with to have my passport in less than three weeks.

This is a trend that you will observe in public hospitals, schools, law enforcement units and other institutions. Paying someone to do their job just so you can move on, paying someone to do their job because they will not do it if you do not. There is a great deal of unprofessionalism and inefficiency in service delivery that has taken root in our society, that it has become standard procedure for a tax paying citizen to pay a public servant for a stamp and signature.

It is going to take a lot more than commissions and committees to weed out this ineffectiveness and mismanagement of office. It should become a civic responsibility to ensure that public services are provided with as much ease and structure as possible. We ought to take conscious and deliberate steps to change the narrative of service delivery in our country. This has ceased to be a government issue, it is now a personal concern. After all, the people that hold these offices do come from our communities. They are our friends and family. They are us.

From Teacher to Frustrated Beggar

My mother worked for the government for 38 years. First, let that sink in…38 years! Since 1977 when my mother began her teaching career as a Home Economics teacher, she worked diligently for the government of Uganda. In return, the government paid her a paltry salary, just enough to keep her alive but not enough to cover most of her bills.

Like most teachers, and indeed most government workers, the only reason they remain in the civil service is the hope that once they retire at 60, they will get their “pension” or retirement benefits. The salary earned is to too little to write home about. So, they soldier on. A large majority die before they reach retirement age. Still, their next of kin are entitled to compensation for the decades of sacrifice and hard work.

Luckily for my mother, she is still alive, but barely. Retired at the beginning of 2015, she is 63 years old in 2017. By Ugandan standards, she is very old. My mother suffers from chronic illnesses that require frequent hospital visits.

She promptly applied for her pension in early 2015. And the government promptly cut her off her salary. But forgot to promptly pay her pension. Thus began her journey to secure the pension. For nearly three years, my mother has not received any pay from the government.

According to the Ministry of Public Service which is charged with salary and pension payments, “a public officer shall, on retirement, receive such pension as is commensurate with his or her rank, salary and length of service. The payment of pension shall be prompt and regular and easily accessible to pensioners.” This is even laid out for all to see on the ministry’s website. But nothing can be further from the truth.

On any given day, a visit to the ministry’s offices you will find old people, who have been reduced to beggars, sitting at the reception. These men and women served and trusted their governments to pay them what is due to them, especially in old age. But why then is the process so complicated?

I have tried and failed on several occasions to assist my mother to secure her pension, I have been to the Ministry of Public Service offices several times, armed with a manila folder full of documents, some older than myself, moving from office to office in search of stamps and signatures. Numerous officials have appended their signatures on those documents. I have been to Embassy House along Parliament Avenue where the Education Ministry officials have to attach more stamps and more scribbles. At one point, I was told that I had everything and that it was time for the Mitooma District Local Government where my mother worked last, to pay. A letter ordering the district to pay was signed and attached. I happily delivered the file to my mother. And we began plotting how we are going to “eat” the money. It’s been over 15 months, no money, and no sensible explanation.

Internet photo: This teacher hopes to be paid her pension at the end of her career without first having to beg for it

Two weeks ago in May 2017, my mother made another trip to the Ministry of Public Service to check. She was told to check again at the end of June. As she explained her journey to me, you could hear a sense of resignation and desperation. But why? Who has no empathy for old people? Why do they have to beg for what is actually theirs? Why are the processes so unclear, so zigzag? Where can these old people report their frustration?

“Things get difficult at the district,” she told me on phone just the other day. Now, the government apparently had eased the process by decentralizing part of the process, so that our mothers and fathers do not have to make the journey to Kampala. But now, the districts are seemingly complicating things.

I ask her why she says the process is difficult.

Kanshi corruption,” she says tiredly. I press on. How do you know there is corruption? Has anyone asked you to pay money, I demanded?

“No, no one says anything,” she says quickly, afraid to implicate anyone. “But the Personnel Officer keeps asking you to check again, and again. When you talk to others that have received theirs, they tell you how much they gave as bribes. They tell you nothing will be processed until you promise to give an exact figure. I had hinted that she would get something, but it seems she did not understand. For example, your father had to part with Shs.2.5M, others 3M, others 1M. But don’t write these things before I get mine and it fails to come out,” she pleaded.

There it was, the fear. Fear of being sabotaged. Fear that one person whose job it is to put a stamp or click a button will refuse because either 1) you have not given a bribe/promised them a bribe, or 2) you have hinted somewhere that the process is not straight and they “sit” on your money.

She ended the call begging me to please not say anything, not mention her name or district.

My prayer is that she lives long enough to receive her pay. Shame on the government officials that profit from pensioners’ money. I will not repeat here all the corruption scams regarding pension payment in Uganda. It has become a song. But this song is affecting lives of real people.

Are Fossil Fuel Industry’s Interests above Our Survival?

No matter how old the cry may be, the debates about combating climate change keep on becoming fresher and fresher every day at UN Climate Conventions, UNFCC. The ODI report shows that “despite committing to end fossil fuel subsidies, 10 European countries (like France, Germany, UK,  Italy, Spain, among others) continue producing 84% of Europe’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions [that] are still propping up the coal industry” On the other hand, our ‘poor’ developing are still trapped in the language of how to counteract issues of mass poverty, (gender, regional and tribal]) inequality and Climate change that is also cropping up. African countries lie among those who have the potential to emit greenhouse gas emissions which can deter the world from reaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius but haven’t followed due to poor machinery and low oil prices in the international market.

Putting all that aside, the UNFCC faces another problem. There is the influence of the so-called ‘elephants’ at these climate meetings who have lots of money, the will and the influence on what agenda the fossil fuel industry debate should take; the likes of Exxon Mobil, Shell, etcetera.

Therefore: ‘Are fossil fuel industry above our interests? In the report Inside Job: Big Polluters’ lobbyists on the Inside at the UNFCC,” we are shockingly told that some of the world’s largest business organisations like The US Chambers of Commerce (that) “represents 3 million American businesses, the largest business organisation in the world, funded by major corporate polluters…” has executives that deny climate change as a human activity causality and are as well strong critics of the Paris Agreement. The irony is they are “still granted a seat at the table at the UNFCCC” and continue to do “nothing to promote the cutting of emissions and has aggressively sought to stop domestic climate policies in their tracks.” In fact, “more than 270 business and industry organizations are admitted to take part in UNFCCC negotiations”

Thus should this big fossil fuel industry lobbyists continue to enjoy such a privilege of the UNFCC conventions while they continue in their climate denial? Isn’t time the UNFCC put an end to this climate chaos which undermines issues of global health, food crises, natural disasters and breeds more gender disparities?

The fossil fuels exploitation might not look to be our biggest problem in Uganda per say but in reality, it is. Remember 2016, the hottest year on record? The effects of climate change keep on catching up with us. Uganda might not be emitting as seriously as China or US but the fossil fuel industries around us are enough to cause us pollution, bring us hunger, and contaminate the water sources and its habitats. The UNFCC not addressing or by continuously allowing the ‘elephants’ at the climate change global conventions is one way of portraying how constructive power can be. Fatton’s (1990) contends that class power envisages state power to stay the ruling class. But it’s also a lesson developing countries [can] draw from. It simply means today’s climate change negotiations are by construct usual business deals, something backed by the hand of the state that a dominant business entity (class) is allowed to negotiate for the state and its citizens,

The failure by the fossil fuel industry to recognize climate change as a real humanitarian issue, something causing now ‘environmental induced refugees’ is heartbreaking. The rising temperatures, sea levels, the constant heat and scorching sun, the droughts, and hunger, name it to make the access of goods and services in developing countries a dilemma since it brings along issues of scarcity and turmoil. The guise of these lobbyists in the name of “corporate social responsibility” complex is through a Marxist lens, an incentive to greater exploitation since it keeps society in check unconscious of its false interests.

My prayer is only one, the fossil fuel industry lobbyists – the ‘Elephants’- should only be welcomed on board by their level of how they harness new advanced technologies that help in trapping and disposal of carbon dioxide without releasing it to the environment, their involvement in reforestation, promotion of renewable energy reliance. If countries must reach 2030 as net zero emitters and a free emissions planet by 2050 as agreed in #COP21 Paris Agreement, everyone must commit! Yes, the private sector “definitely have a role to play in climate action’ but the bigger question remains; are they going to be allowed to write the rules for it?”

The Writer of this article, Mr Ibrahim Bahati is currently a Climate Tracker’s Fossil Fuel Online Fellow, (2017 Cohort) and a 2016 ISS Ugandan Fellow at the University of Oslo, Norway; Email: bahabris@gmail.com

The Ugandan Government depends heavily on donor support to fight HIV

USAID funded 5 years project whose goal was to support the government of Uganda and partners to design and implement quality health communication interventions that contribute to a reduction in HIV/AID’s infections, total fertility, maternal and child mortality, malnutrition and Tuberculosis TB. The project involves innovative health communication approach, capacity strengthening, increased collaboration among partners and extensive research and knowledge management for health communication.

OBULAMU campaign reached an estimated 10.3 million people with information and referral to HIV prevention and treatment, family planning, TB as well as nutrition and breast feeding services. Radio, TV, interpersonal communications, community mobilization and social media platforms were used to reach out to the audiences.

Apparently, USAID is implementing SUSTAIN project to support the Uganda ministry of health to strengthen comprehensive HIV care prevention, laboratory and Tuberculosis services at selected regional referral and one district health care facilities.

The SUSTAIN project focuses on early warning indicators of treatment failure during the ongoing project quarterly mentorships and performance reviews, including prescribing practice, client retention, and appointment keeping. Arua regional referral hospital is one of the 12 regional referral hospitals supported by USAID/ project- Strengthening Uganda’s Systems for Treating AID’s nationally – SUSTAIN project to deliver comprehensive HIV/AID’s services.

The SUSTAIN project scope for Arua Regional Referral Hospital consisted of only one laboratory strengthening until 2013.At that time voluntary medical male circumcision services were introduced. Later, in July 2014, the project took over support from comprehensive HIV/AID’s services from Medicine San Frontier MSF.These included prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AID’s, HIC care and treatment, and management of Tuberculosis and Multi-drug resistant MDR Tuberculosis.

Arua Regional Referral Hospital is the largest hospital in the West Nile sub-region of Uganda, with a bed capacity of 394.The hospital offers general and specialized services such as medicine, gynecology, and research among others.

According to 2014 census report, Arua regional referral hospital serves a population of approximately 1.6 million people from the districts of Zombo, Nebbi, Koboko, Maracha, Yumbe, Adjumani, Moyo and Arua.The hospital also serves people from the neighboring parts of South Sudan and the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

SUSTAIN utilizes the chronic care model approach to offer comprehensive HIV support for prevention services, including; HIV testing and counseling, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, voluntary medical male safe circumcision , and Tuberculosis screening and treatment. The project aims is to improve patient’s ability to care for themselves, provide services to the community, and improve the efficiency of clinic services provision.

The project supported renovation of the main laboratory, including, roof replacement, new terrazzo floor, workshops, air conditioning, water supply and space extension. Backup power system, solar system installed upon completion of renovation work. New laboratory equipments were supplied for example automated machines CBD FACS Callibar for CD4, Cobas C311 for Chemistry tests and Sysmex for hematology in addition to supportive equipment such as roller mixer, refrigerator, and centrifuge among others.

The project also supported training of laboratory staff on the use of the new machines. Biomedical engineering technician was recruited. The project provided ongoing assessment of the workshop to establish renovation and equipment needs; it supported the acquisition of a workshop vehicle to support transport needs and bio medical equipment and repair toolkits.

Most of the resources to finance HIV response in Uganda to date have come from USA donor. Resources mobilization to fund the AID’s response also has been influenced by donor fatigue and by high levels of corruption within government ministries as the recent evidence in the office of the prime minister scandals when direct aid was haltered after evidence of fraud by office of the Prime Minister. Donors noted that if future donor’s funds are moved to direct funding of projects rather than basket funding, donors funding will be meaningless without any multiplier effects to the community. While donors funding for HIV dramatically increased, it has been misappropriated.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, up to 20% of total spending on health is used for HIV services, and of this over 85% is estimated to come from international funding rather than in-country sources. In Uganda, the fiscal liability to maintain services for all those who are currently receiving it is estimated to be as much as 3% of Gross Domestic Product GDP. There is concern that the current funding mechanism for HIV programs in Uganda may be difficult to sustain and service providers are not sure if they will continue their work without donor support.

Since 1990, 45 billion USA dollars has been spent in development aid for health. The aid comes primarily from donor governments and philanthropic organizations which the USA leads in the contribution. Uganda is among 51 countries that rely on international sources of funds. Over 20 donors contribute over $400 million annually.

There were an estimated 1,500,000 people living with HIV in Uganda by 2012 and by the end of June 2013, 567,000 eligible persons were estimated to be receiving Antiretroviral Therapy  ART. Unfortunately, despite the scale up of HIV services in Uganda, there is increased prevalence which has qualified Uganda to be the third in HIV prevalence rate in Sub Saharan Africa.

The United State Government Presidents Emergency Fund for AID’S Relief PEPFAR funded programs invested over USD$ 1.8 Billion in HIV related financing for Uganda between 2004 and 2011.PEPFAR currently contributes over 85% of the national HIV response through projects implemented by international and local NGO’s which provide free HIV services or significantly support such services at public facilities. PEPFAR funding has already reduced and now requires cost sharing assurance from the government if it is to continue.

PEPFAR has committed significant technical and financial resources to the fight against HIV, working with local partners in Uganda to promote prevention programs, increase the number of patients receiving antiretroviral therapy ART and strengthen national coordination and monitoring of programs.

USAID support for strengthening of Uganda decentralized health system and strives to improve the quality of and access to HIV services, maternal and child health services was a land mark in history of struggles against HIV epidemic in Uganda. USAID supported a numbers of CSO’s to address HIV prevention, care and treatment programs , including provisions for OVC through direct grant funding to NNGO’s, the Inter Religious Council of Uganda and mechanism such as the USAID –CORE initiative  which was supported by USAID Washington DC based office.

The CORE initiative expanded services for youth and for OVC by facilitating collaboration between Government of Uganda and CSO’s .This included enhancing the effectiveness of the Uganda Aids Commission in coordinating efforts to reduce vulnerability to HIV among youth and providing capacity building and technical support to NGO’s and CSO’s for improving programs quality and sealing up youth prevention, and care and support activities for OVC.

The bulk of the work in the fight against HI in Uganda remains largely at the hands of donors. It is no doubt that Museveni‘s regime of has relied on donors support more than any other government in Uganda.

HIV/AID’S was identified in Uganda in 1982 in a fishing village on the western shores of Lake Victoria .Since then the disease has had a very dangerous effects on the people, economic and social structures of Uganda.

In the late 1980’s, Uganda experienced the worst epidemics. This was exacerbated by social stigma and insecurity related to economic crisis and war.

By 1997, the Ugandan health system was strained to a breaking point in a country where the per capita health expenditure at it best was under $3.HIV patients related illness occupied more than 55 percent of the beds in the hospitals. By 2000 the numbers of HIV bed ridden patients had increased to 70% according to the ministry of Health reports of 2001.

In 1998, an estimated 1.9 million people were living with HIV/AID’s according to UNAIDS’s reports of 1999.AIDS’s had overtaken malaria as a leading cause of death among people aged 12-49 years and AID’s was responsible for 12 percent of all deaths. More than 500,000 people had lost their lives to HIV/AID’s epidemic, leaving behind an estimated Two million orphans who had lost one or both parents. Extended families were the only solutions to cater for these increased numbers of orphans.

As the epidemic continued to spreads and increase in Africa in the early and mid 1990\s, prevalence rates in Uganda were reported to be declining particularly from 1993.

Development partners and donors that supported the struggles against HIV/AID’s in Uganda began using Uganda as a success story and an example to argue that, with proper resources and appropriate prevention messages, HIV/AID’s could be controlled.

Donors concentrated on two indicators of Uganda’s strategies 1-the important roles of the political leadership in speaking openly about HIV/AID’s   at an early stage; and the government assumed use of the approach of abstinence, being faithful and condoms use ABC as a combination that reduced HIV prevalence .When the Uganda’s success stories were told, along with those of Senegal and Thailand, the reason for scaling up global funding for HIV program was set up.

The Politics of Oil by Oil firms and government on influencing Climate change Policies

On August 3, 2016, The Daily Monitor reported that the Petroleum Directorate from the Ministry of Energy hailed the coming of four new international oil firms into the Ugandan oil world. These included “Australia’s Armour Energy Limited, WalterSmithPetroman Oil Limited, Oranto Petroleum International Ltd and Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Ltd from Nigeria.” These firms were to join the existing UK’s Tullow Oil PLC, France’s Total E&P and China’ Cnooc. Alongside this, Ugandans (still) continue to have high hopes that this natural resource will dawn our country into the new age of globalization like the Asian tigers. However, the emergence or increase of these firms calls into question the issue of the fossil fuel industry corporations and if they are influencing on Uganda’s climate and energy policies. Almost all these companies belong to the greater lobbyist corporations like FuelZero (representing the likes of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, among others) and The US Chamber of Commerce. These corporations with their

However, the emergence or increase of these firms calls into question the issue of the fossil fuel industry corporations and if they are influencing on Uganda’s climate and energy policies. Almost all these companies belong to the greater lobbyist corporations like FuelZero (representing the likes of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, among others) and The US Chamber of Commerce. These corporations with their conflicting interests continue to advise, write and influence UN climate change agreements by any necessary means.  The response of these hailed companies to shy away from the Ngaji block bid due to scare ‘smear campaign from environmental groups’ shows how politicized the question of climate change and oil exploitation language can be.

 Why does ‘everyone’ like the Climate Change card?

Currently, Uganda seats on the untapped rich resource of crude oil in the Albertine region. Also, Uganda could be one of those developing economies that might share on the $100bn by the year 2020 from developed countries to transform its economy without emitting or relying on fossil fuels extraction. The Uganda Oil sector itself notices to have faced similar challenges of this oil exploitation thus the lead time for exploration and exploitation in some cases, has been extensive since the world prices of oil tremendously hit lowest 40$ per barrel. This itself brought in two dilemmas than the country had not foreseen.

One, Uganda’s crude oil exploitation meant to be halted in its extraction due to low demand and competition from the world markets big producers like Saudi Arabia, and two; it increased more of its fiscal dilemmas of which it’s alleged big importer and consumer – China, was pampering in money in the extraction construction. Besides, the West was beginning to panic over China’s hands on Uganda’s oil, the former British colony. The country also looms in survival politics where there is no guarantee that corruption won’t plague the oil sector. With some prominent politicians calling it ‘their oil’, one wonders how will issues of climate change and global warming be combated or ideally, the benefits from this resource shared for the benefit of all citizens.

Therefore the issue of climate change and reliance on fossil fuels (oil, gas, petroleum, coal) is a political issue filled with political interests. In policies like The Uganda National Land Policy 2013 where Climate Change is talked about, it is not broken down to represent issues of who does what and why from the household to the national level, in the category of sex, gender, class, race, among others. And unless climate change policies start incorporating or taking into account with specificity the different categories of people and their expectations, climate policies will always be manipulated by these big oil corporations and political interests at the mere cost of the citizens.  Thus, ‘everyone’ seems to like playing the climate change card because it’s an easy way to channel the blame as something beyond human/stakeholder control, something vested within the hand of God.

Ibrahim Bahati is currently a Climate Tracker’s Fossil Fuel Online Fellow, (2017 Cohort). Email: bahabris@gmail.com

What the heck is Empowerment?

It was one of those mundane conferences I have become accustomed to attending; the speakers raved on about the importance of empowerment and because I have heard the talking points so many times, I was hoping for something new, a new angle to present to the news audience, otherwise I foresaw my story going along the lines of “…added their voice to call for more avenues to empower the youth”

As I start to zone out and contemplate which assignment needs my attention while I buy time till Break Tea time, a young lady takes a seat next to me. She smelt like a few hundred thousand shillings and looked like she had come with a purpose. She pulled out her Mac Book and I start to think, right there is an empowered woman. About 15 minutes into her sitting, she taps me and asks “But what does empowerment mean?”

I am taken aback by her question, almost with this stare of – are you kidding me right now? She too looks taken aback by my reaction and to downplay my shock, I mumble, “Well, empowerment is…” And for a whole minute I draw a blank and can’t believe I can’t define a word like empowerment. To mask my embarrassment, I ask Uncle Google and for a few minutes I think I have saved face. At the tea break we laugh it off as one of those off days and we are back to more empowerment being thrown around

So I return and as predicted, write the story along the same lines, but was reeling from not being able to define a word that has defined policy and governance in this country. If you go by a day and don’t hear the words “Women Empowerment”, or sentences like “we need to empower the youth to adequately cater for challenges of the future,” You are living in a different country. I took time and Identified 25 people at random that were youthful and sought to find out if we know or even understand what the heck empowerment is;

And it seems I was stalling a “Well…empowerment is…..”(draws blank).

The other answer revolved around someone giving the other the power to be better …

I was ashamed and shocked that we the generation, champions of empowerment, can’t even define or understand the essence of empowerment. How then do we hope the less literate and more who are in need of support in economic and social areas to dig themselves out of poverty will understand the concept of empowerment? I will of course not venture into the women, child and social empowerment; too large a conversation for this small blog. But I will venture in a report by Ministry of Gender, to show you the impact of not grasping empowerment or to be more specific to youth empowerment.

In a report released on May 24, 2017, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development says Government has failed to recover Shillings 54.3 billion that was disbursed to the various youth groups under the Youth Livelihood Program-YLP. The money is part of the Shillings 64.4 billion disbursed to 8,963 youth groups across the country since the inception of the program. If you remember the government’s rave about The Youth Livelihood Fund, its purpose was to …wait for it… “Empower” the youth to ensure the poor and unemployed youth in all districts could start up sustainable income generating projects.

Of course this report makes government’s attempt at empowering the youth laughable to say the least.  More than 80% of money given to the youth to make more money has just gone down the drain! Woe unto us! Cry the beloved youth of this country!

But I can’t say I am surprised at the utter squander of funds by the youth. Did anyone explain to them in depth what these funds were for? Did anyone skill these almost 9000 youths in money generating skills? Was there a financial literacy class before funds were handed to these groups? As much as I would like to say your guess is as good as mine, the plain truth is no one did.

Empowering, as my mother explains in simple terms is teaching people to fish and not catching the fish for them. It’s also making sure that they know that they have options like smoking and salting the fish so that it doesn’t go bad and can be kept for longer. We need to revert to the basics; teach people empowerment in the simplest terms. Shred the concept so that even that guy who stopped in P7 understands your messages, instead of throwing the word around in the hope that it will miraculously give people  skills, resources, authority, opportunity and motivation that will contribute to their competence.

Frontline Men for Women

Eerste River, Cape Town, South Africa – Valencia Farmer, a 14-year-old girl is gang raped by four men before she is stabbed fifty-three times; her throat slit and she is left for dead. The young girl is unable to grow into an adult because four rapists have snuffed out her opportunity to grow old. More than a decade and a half later, a fourth man accused of taking part in the crime is convicted to 23 years in prison.

Cameron, Texas, USA – an 18-year-old Dede Westbrook is arrested twice for domestic violence incidents. On one incident he is reported to have thrown the mother of his two children to the ground. On another incident, he is accused of biting her arm and punching her in the face with his fist. He is then arrested for criminal trespass, reportedly after violating a restraining order.

Masya, Kanungu, Uganda – Agnes Asiimwe, a mother of four, suffers violence and rejection because when her husband tests positive and she tests negative for HIV Aids, he demands to have unprotected sex with her. Things don’t go so well for her.

“When my husband tested positive, he wanted us to have sex without using a condom. Accepting his situation was hard and at times he would force himself on me,” Agnes laments.

Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria – 36-year-old Ronke Shonde, a banker is reported to have been beaten to death by her husband, after suffering an abusive relationship for quite a while. The mother of two is found dead in her Lagos home while her husband, the alleged murderer flees the scene of the crime. Her six-year-old child cries uncontrollably as Ronke’s body is laid to rest a few days later in Atan Cemetery, Yaba, Lagos

News about violence against women is something that has over the years become a common occurrence often generating unprecedented outcry, massive backlash and several hashtags to condemn the act across the whole world. However, despite all this world wide condemnation, there seems to be a sad realization that violence against women is not going to be a thing of the past, at least not in the near future.

As a man who has talked to a number of women who have suffered at the hands of senseless and often brainless men, one thing seems to cut across. It is common knowledge that men are the greatest perpetrators when it comes to violence against women. What is even more unfortunate is that we men also hold quite a chunk of power in this battle to eradicate a practice that most sane people would agree to have no place in today’s world.

I have had several interactions with campaigners for the protection of women from Violence and many of them seem to have little respect for men as a whole. While their ill-sentiments are not entirely unfounded, I get the feeling that the struggle to weed out Violence against women is going to zero down to Men Vs Women – which in my opinion, it should not. The campaign to weed out violence against women is one that needs to be fronted by both men and women because from experience, men are probably better placed to tell fellow men how horrible and inhumane violence against women is.

On 25th November 2016, during the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Uganda took an important step forward to protect women and girls by launching its National Action Plan on the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence. The plan, advanced by U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac was intended to advance the plight of the girl child and women as a whole. The plan highlighted the bitter truth that gender-based violence manifests in many ways, including ‘physical violence, rape and sexual assault, child and forced marriages, female genital mutilation, human trafficking, and the denial of resources and services.’

Very many women got on board and joined the cause, while most men sat back and quietly promised to offer support whenever the need arose.

The idea of actively involving men in this struggle is an idea that might not seem like a big deal seeing as men are the perpetrators of this heinous act anyway. However, men are a crucial part of the conversation and as much as it is women who are victims and therefore actively involved in campaigns to end Violence against Women, it is important to recruit as many men in the struggle as possible.

It is easier for two men to face off than for a man and a woman to face off. When a man faces off with another man, he will most likely not be taken for granted and neither will he accept to be shoved aside easily. If it comes to a confrontation, a man facing off with another man will be more evenly matched than a woman facing off with a man. When a woman stands up for herself or for another woman, she might be dismissed and her complaints relegated to the ‘rants’ section. However, when a man complains on behalf of the woman, he will most likely be given more attention. As sexist and unfortunate as this may seem, it actually is a more logical path to take especially if the end goal is weeding out violence against women. One or two feminists might not be too impressed with this approach but after realizing that more women will be saved from violence if men actively got involved in fighting this vice, they just might give this school of thought a chance.

 

Let’s have more frontline men fighting for women in this seemingly endless struggle to end Violence against women. Let’s have more men actively ridicule, call out and stand up against men who are violent towards women. Let’s have more men name and shame fellow men who are violent towards women. Basically, let’s have more men lead the fight to weed out violence against women.

Soon enough, women will not be scared to walk around freely or express themselves because they will know that if a man as much as lifts a finger, other men will rip him to shreds.

“There are two kinds of males – men who stand up for women’s rights & cowards. The choice is yours.” ― Abaida Mahmood