The Day I Got ‘Saved’

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Things were tight!

To improve my welfare and for another equally needy high school student, Yabin Ofumbi, we hatched a plan for at least one of us to get a political position at School. Because of my drama skills (I can give some people a run for their money BTW), we thought I would run for Entertainment Prefect. However, because I lacked “swagg”, I was afraid of being beaten by someone with fancy clothes (the ones I listed yesterday) and cool accent. Besides, I had stepped on many toes (literally) especially of chics and most importantly, the BALOKOLE. To the latter category, I was the real representation of Lucifer more so with my Nyanzi tongue (Yes, I knew about freedom of expression even before stepping Law School).

So we agreed that Ofumbi runs for Dining Hall Prefect. This was strategic. As his close friend, I was assured of eating the “top layer” of the school beans. In other words, I would be among the few eating real fried sauce. Additionally, as a DH prefect, he had access to the food the teachers were eating i.e. RICE. In Wairaka College, rice was a deal breaker. It could get you the attention of even the hottest chic at school. We used to eat the thing once a week (I remember it was on Wednesdays). But because of being a DH Prefect, Ofumbi would be having a daily supply of rice (I later learnt it was the balance of what the teachers left behind). So we needed this position. The spillover effect (of course it would be to me) was high.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we had a serious campaign ahead of us. The stakes were high. So how would we secure this victory? We hatched a plan. Since Ofumbi used to be saved in O’ Level but had backslid (I hope not because of me), we agreed that he publicly “re-commits himself to Jesus”.

Ooooooh my Gawd!!!

That was arguably the most talked-about Sunday service during our time. The entire hall was on fire. (People were looking for me hoping I could have been inspired too but waaah, my ‘Lucifer’ was still tight). Anyway, with Ofumbi duly nominated and elections a few days away, we needed this publicity badly. I started attending all the Fellowships (mbu from Saul to Paul) just make people happy. I also had to mend fences with all those I had crossed with (of course the chics).

To cut the long story short, on election day we had a landslide victory. If I have ever campaigned for somebody with passion, I think Ofumbi is the only person I have done it for.

How I got (and lost) my first phone

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Inspired by my Facebook friends Bish Roland and Arinaitwe Otim Rugyendo, I hereby share my first phone experience.

The year was 2005. A family friend bought for my mum a phone. It was a Motorola C333 — silver in colour; curved edges and rubber buttons. It had green lights on the rubber buttons.

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My first phone Motorolla C-333 (INTERNET PHOTO)

Unknown to him, mummy already had her cherished Nokia 3310 she had bought in 2003 after saving per diem on a trip to Malawi. So she had to naturally give this extra phone away.

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Mummy’s cherished Nokia 3310. She used it for 9 years (2003-2012)

My elder brother was in a vocational institute so our school calendars were different.n At that crucial moment, I was on holiday while he was a school. Certainly, all the odds were against him. I took advantage of his absence and pitched my business idea to mum. I convinced her that whereas phones were illegal in MM College Wairaka (I was in S.6 then), I could stealthily use it in the night and charge students who wanted to speak to their families (by then a minute was 300shs and I would charge them 500shs). She bought the idea and even gave me some capital (20k UTL airtime — I think it was called Mango then).

On reporting day, I successfully beat the school check points and smuggled my phone inside. This is where it started. You all know in the first two or three weeks of the term, kids have money so business was booming. Guys would come wanting to talk to thir chics and friends. I even called my mum and assured her she didn’t have to worry about pocket money for me.

About four weeks later, a friend (he was the Entertainment Prefect) borrowed my phone to speak to his girlfriend. Since as a prefect he was living in a cubicle, I deemed it safe to give him. Yes, he was safe because nobody could spy in his room or even steal the phone. But his safety had limits too.

The next morning, he left the phone on his bed and came to the verandah to wash his legs (guys never used to shower in the morning those days). Unknown to him, the teacher on duty, a one Mr Kirya was doing his routine morning rounds. He reached the door and entered the room before my friend could dash in. He came to break the news to me.

“Man Ochom, Mr Kirya grabbed the phone” he muttered to me. I almost died!!!

My world literally came to an end. I was summoned to Mr Kirya’s office. I didn’t deny the charges (of course I wouldn’t disown my phone!). Fortunately, he was a cool guy. He made an offer that he keeps the phone and hands over to me when the term closes. The other option was to report the matter to the authorities (obviously to the no nonsense Deputy Headteacher Mr Okabo) and this would definitely earn me a much more serious punishment including suspension or dismissal. I weighed my options and let the phone stay with him.

When my brother visited me at school, I approached Mr Kirya to hand over the phone to him but he refused arguing that he can only give to a “serious person”.

True to his word, he handed over the gadget at the end of the term and I immediately gave it over to my brother upon reaching home. That was the end of the story!

I got my next phone in the second semester of my first year at Law School. It was a Nokia 1600 — black one with glass/plastic buttons and an alleged coloured screen. I saved 89,000/= during my holidays and sent my friend Eric Akol (who was more experienced with phones since he had a Nokia phone with a flap) to buy for me in town.

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The second phone I owned Nokia 1600 (INTERNET PHOTO)

I didn’t sleep for two nights. The first one, I was anxiously waiting to deliver. He did so late in the evening. The other, I spent time adding phone numbers and “advertising” my number to whoever cared. After all, the phone came with some pre-loaded airtime.

I had cruised my first semester without a phone and lacked swagg completely.

No wonder I didn’t hook a campus chic then.

What was your experience with your first phone? How did you get it? Where is it now?

Makindye Court Incident: Revisiting the role of the Public in the Administration of Justice

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On Wednesday 11th August 2016, Makindye Magistrates Court was a bedlam of activity as a charged mob reportedly attempted to lynch the private lawyers representing victims of the recent police brutality who have instituted a private prosecution against the Police Chief General Kale Kayihura, and seven others. The suit alleges that several junior policemen, allegedly acting under the command of their seniors named in the suit, wantonly beat up and tortured supporters of former presidential candidate Dr.  Kizza Besigye. During the furor, it’s reported that a vehicle belonging to one the ‘besieged’ lawyers was vandalized by the mob.

This incident raises an often disregarded but critical rule of law issues, to wit, the role of the public in the administration of justice.  I argue that the citizens of Uganda are the central focus of the country’s justice system. Article 127 of the Constitution mandates Parliament to make law providing for participation of the people in the administration of justice by the courts.

Administration of justice, simply put refers to the process and structure which facilitates the resolution of disputes by a legally-established body. In the context of criminal matters, it entails the process of detecting and investigating; prosecuting; and punishing crimes—duties performed by the Police, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary respectively.

So the question that emerges is; where are the “people” in the system? It’s crucial to note that administration of justice is beyond the court room; and encompasses the broad spectrum of citizen watch, reporting cases to the police, effecting arrests of suspects, compliance with the law, participation in justice process as well as in holding justice actors accountable, etc. This is where the public comes in. The people, individual and in community, have a duty to render to the courts such assistance as may be required to ensure effective dispensation of justice, and not inadvertently participate in process that cripple justice administration.

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Demonstrators at Makindye Court (Photo: Daily Monitor)

In a court setting, any person with relevant information to a particular case has a duty to give testimony that is relevant to the case. Through the system of assessors, in criminal trials, individuals are given the opportunity to assist the judicial officer with input on the merits of a case, before judgment is given. In other words, they directly participate in informing the outcomes of a criminal case.

Where an individual is not satisfied with how a particular matter is being handled in court, they have a right to file formal complaints with the relevant institution like the Judicial Service Commission, Inspectorate of Government, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, among others. Certainly, violence is not and shouldn’t be an option!

The hallmark principle in the administration of justice by courts world over is to ensure the fair and impartial protection of rights and punishment of wrongs. It therefore follows that the role of the public should fit within the ambit of this principle. Any acts, omissions or excesses that depart from that principle should be abhorred by all right thinking people.

It’s important to note that whereas judicial power is derived from the people as provided for in the Constitution, the exercise of that power is not subject to the control or direction of any person—not even the public. The sentiments of the Judiciary are well captured in the words of the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe and I quote “… we are very upset about the events at Makindye Chief Magistrates Court last week. No one has a right to disrupt court proceedings” I agree with him!

To this end, this incident, to the extent that was disrupting the dispensation of justice defeats the intention of the framers of our laws. It is regrettable and all measures should be taken to bring to justice the perpetrators of such violent and regressive actions.

In Defence of Kadaga’s Rights to Worship and Culture

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Over the weekend, the Speaker of Parliament was reported to have visited a cultural shrine of her clan in Nhyenda Hill, Nakigo Sub-county in Iganga District to thank them for her recent political successes. This raised dust on both mainstream and social media with some alleging that that she had gone to consult/worship a “witchdoctor”. Some commentators condemned her for this “evil” act while others defended her. I want to join those defending her for the following reasons.

For argument’s sake, let us assume the Speaker went to pray in the shrine. The Constitution of Uganda guarantees citizens the freedom to practice any religion and manifest such practice which shall include the right to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious body or organisation in a manner consistent with this Constitution. This right does not specify a particular God/god or that one should worship or a certain place where one can worship from. In other words, one can worship a tree, mountain, clouds, a phone or anything that makes him/her comfortable. The only restriction is if that worship contravenes the law.

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An illustration of Rebecca Kadaga at a shrine (Daily Monitor)

Secondly, as a Musoga, Kadaga, just like most of us, has a culture she identifies with. Article 37 of the Constitution states that every person has a right to belong to, enjoy, practice, profess, maintain and promote any culture, cultural institution, language, tradition, creed or religion in community with others. It’s her right to visit a cultural site in her clan or any other.

Just like many other rights, freedom of worship and culture has restrictions. However, there’s no evidence or information to suggest that Kadaga crossed her legal boundaries. So from a purely legal perspective, the Speaker acted within the law.

Society should not condemn leaders or ordinary citizens for professing their culture or faith. Uganda may have a large number of people believing in a monolithic God but this should not be bar against the enjoyment of one’s rights if they chose to.

Let us learn to be tolerant!

Open Letter to the 10th Parliament

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Dear MPs,

Courtesy dictates that I should congratulate you upon winning the just-concluded elections. For most of you, it symbolizes the trust that your constituents have in you and it’s now your patriotic duty never to betray that trust.

Honourable Members, you will agree with me that modern constitutions on the African Continent require that the authority to exercise State power be conditional on the sustained trust of the people. As you should be aware, the first article in our Constitution provides for sovereignty of the people and further emphasizes that all authority in the State emanates from the people of Uganda.

In 2012, the Directorate of Social Protection in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development did expenditure review for Uganda and revealed that about 67% of Ugandans are either poor or highly vulnerable to poverty. According to the 2013/14 Uganda National Panel Survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBoS), at least 18% of Ugandans are chronically poor and that a substantial population (31%) is vulnerable to poverty. The long and short of these statistics is that a Member of Parliament in Uganda largely represents poor people. Little wonder, most of them have turned into providers for their constituents in terms of school fees, burial arrangements, fundraising, marriages, etc.

Whereas this “generosity” is welcome, we all know that it’s not sustainable. In my view, this partly contributes to the high turnover in parliament–about 60% of you are new.

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(INTERNET Photo)

Parliament largely has three roles; legislation, oversight and resource appropriation. As legislators, I expect you to push for pro-people laws. A good example is the National Legal Aid Bill and Policy which have been shelved for over four years now. Such a law will go a long way in helping guide the provision of free legal services by the state—a very key ingredient in the democratization of this country and reduction of poverty. Similarly, Oversight on the effectiveness of government programmes is one of the most important ways Parliament can support the fight against poverty. Most of these well-intended projects have been literally eaten by some people and they go unpunished. Please ensure that all supplementary budget requests advance the public interest. Through your mandate of appropriating resources, please ensure that sectors that touch the welfare of the poorest of the poor are prioritized-these are your voters.

Lastly, the Constitution vests you with the power to make laws on any matter for the peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda—exercise this power appropriately.

Note: The article was originally published in the Daily Monitor of Wednesday May 18th, 2016. See http://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/Letters/Open-letter-to-new-legislators/-/806314/3207486/-/27lj39z/-/index.html

 

The Need for Human Rights Awareness in Uganda

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Article 2 of the Constitution of Uganda provides for supremacy the Constitution and nullifies any law or conduct that contravenes it. The Constitution in Chapter Four espouses basic rights for everyone and provides, through several other laws, avenues for redressing any violations/abuses of one’s rights.

Like they say, knowledge is power. Therefore, knowledge of ones rights and obligations is crucial. If one is ignorant of their rights, they deny themselves the right take actions to protect him/her. As a matter of fact, in Uganda, the State, under Article 4 is mandated to promote public awareness of the Constitution through inter alia, translating it to many languages, and providing for its inclusion in all educational institutions and programmes (it’s up to you, reader to asses if this is happening!). Similarly, an entire chapter, as stated above is dedicated to fundamental and other human rights and freedoms.

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(Internet Photo)

But what is the reality on the ground?

My experience in legal aid service provision and overall human rights work for the past five years shows that a large number of Ugandans cannot or do not have access to basic legal information. Most people are ignorant of their rights and obligations under the law. Even those who can read and write panic when there is an infringement of their rights. Therefore, people need information about laws and procedures; advice and assistance on how to apply them and/ or where to go; and counselling as to their available choices.

People need information from different aspects of the law to enable them fight for or defend their rights. Our society is filled with thousands of people whose rights are abused and violated on a daily basis but are unable to take any action because they are ignorant of their rights. In some extreme cases, they may not even be aware their rights have been trampled upon and that they have lawful options of remedying the injustice.

Legal information and awareness of human rights therefore empowers people to claim their rights and fulfill their obligations under the law. Thus, there’s an urgent need to institute or strengthen mechanisms to ensure that citizens appreciate their rights. The work of tmost NGOs and government agencies, though commendable, is still inadequate. We need programmes aimed at empowering people with knowledge particularly the poor and vulnerable groups in our society who in my opinion, are the primary target beneficiaries of these rights.

Remember, that the law is only powerful if it is understood well.

 

 

The Politics of Privacy vis-à-vis Trust in a Relationship

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I rarely attend weddings.  I find them largely boring–the usual speeches and the whole drama that comes with the celebration.

However over the weekend, my fiancée’s friend was wedding so I had to tag along (needless to say, I only appeared at the reception for the obvious reason—food and cake).

But one of the speakers struck me. He advised the couple NEVER to pick their calls in private when they are together. He also encouraged them to permit themselves to pick the other’s calls regardless of the time or who the caller is. As far as I understood, his point was that in a relationship, there is no privacy.

Is that true? Privacy is the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people. In Uganda, it even has a legal backing. The right to privacy of person, home and other property is guaranteed under Article 27 of the Constitution. Specifically, Article 27(2) states that “No person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person’s home, correspondence, communication or other property”. I am more interested in correspondence and communication.

There is a tendency among lovers to stealthily check the other’s SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, emails and all tribes of communication avenues. Even those who pretend not to, actually do it whenever they are sure of not being caught!

This is where relationships get tricky. As a couple, there is always a need to strike a delicate balance between being close and attached while at the same time respecting your partner’s sense of independence. The mere fact that one is in a relationship does not necessarily mean that they have forfeited all their liberties.

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Internet Photo

But here is the other angle; relationships are built on trust. Trust can only be achieved through transparency. It entails telling the truth literally about everything. But to establish this trust, one needs to somehow invade the other’s privacy. I mean for example, if I want to establish that my girlfriend is not cheating on me, the most natural option is to check who she communicates with regularly. So in the process, I am interfering with her “space” and when she realizes, she will quickly take it that I don’t trust her. So in essence, a well-intended act of killing my “fears” will actually end up “confirming” them to her. More often than not, she will conclude that I don’t trust her. Ladies and Gentlemen, at this point, just know the trust level would have shrunk significantly. Snooping hurts a relationship!

It’s also note-worthy that whereas snooping may be a breach of trust, it can also expose some untrustworthy behavior. Some partners have used the concept of privacy as a scape goat for their wrong moves because ultimately when snooped, the discoveries may actually be justifiable. Sometimes snooping is essential to discover the information you deserve.

This may not be the best solution but I propose that whenever one has reasons to doubt the other, face them. Inform him/her of your fears and deal with it. If this fails, go ahead and snoop but be ready to deal with the consequences.

Like they say, what you do not know does not hurt…

                                                         

                                                                                             The author is in a relationship…