UGANDA: “INVEST MORE IN ‘CARBON CREDIT’ TO TACKLE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS”- EXPERT

dickson langoya.jpg

Mr. Langoya speaks to students from Gulu University on carbon credit.

“I want to announce that we have started to regulate illegal activities around forest products by stopping illegal indiscriminate tree cutting. I am disappointed that, despite total ban on the cutting of beyo tree species (azalea Africana) by the Ministry of Water & Environment, dealers in forest products still find their way out of the region yet there are several check points”

“Some of us think that tree-cutting is bad. No! You are still storing carbon so long as you don’t burn it. Once you harvest a tree, use it for making furniture. These furniture store carbon”

GULU-UGANDA: On Thursday, April 19, 2018, a group of students from Gulu University Faculty of Agriculture & Environment visited the forest plantation of Mr. Dickson Langoya which is located in Opok Forest, just fifteen minutes’ drive from Gulu City in Omoro district.

The students wanted to discuss with this retired forester now an entrepreneur in forestry and its products; the carbon concentration in planted forest as compared to that of natural forests and how they complement each other.

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the intergovernmental treaty, was adopted as the basis for a global response to tackle the challenges posed by climate change. With 195 Parties, the convention enjoys near-universal memberships.

The ultimate objective is to stabilize gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with climate system.

With erratic rain pattern, declines in agricultural activities which has led to famine in some parts of the region; and unpredictable weather; the visit of these students to Mr. Langoya’s plantation is timely since the motto of the university is ‘For Community Transformation’.

On the same day also, Gulu district Local Government Chairman, Mr. Ojara Martin Mapenduzi, held a press conference in his office on the subject of ‘environmental degradation’.

“I want to announce that we have started to regulate illegal activities around forest products by stopping illegal indiscriminate tree cutting. I am disappointed that, despite total ban on the cutting of beyo tree species (azalea Africana) by the Ministry of Water & Environment, dealers in forest products still find their way out of the region yet there are several check points”, laments Mr. Mapenduzi.

Azalea Africana trees are very marketable in Asia, especially in China, and are a rear tree species which is found only in northern Uganda and South Sudan. The trade has attracted several high ranking government officials including senior police officers.

According to Mr. Langoya however, cutting down of trees is not bad in itself so long as you don’t burn it because you will still be storing carbon.

“Some of us think that tree-cutting is bad. No! You are still storing carbon so long as you don’t burn it. Once you harvest a tree, use it for making furniture. These furniture store carbon”, says Mr. Langoya.

Mr. Langoya asserts that it is more beneficial to the world to emphasize on the importance of establishing timber, pole and fuel wood plantations as a substitute to accessing forest products from natural forests.

“One hectare of planted forest will save almost 75 hectares of natural forest from the spiral process of forest degradation. By planting ten hectares, you will have saved 750 hectares of natural forests. One could also earn over 30-35 million shillings (about $9,436.51 US dollars) per hectare of planted forests from five years”, says Mr. Langoya.

Another bonus of planted forest/trees is that planted forests sink/sequestrate more carbon from the atmosphere than natural forests.

“Planted forests can on average sink/sequestrate 14 tons of carbon per hectare per year while natural forest can sink/sequestrate 9 tons per hectares per year after 25 years of waiting”, says Mr. Langoya.

Mr. Langoya explains that a ton of carbon sequestrated by forests costs about US$5 in voluntary market. With ten hectares of planted forests, one should be paid US$700 per year. That is why most organizations interested in carbon trade are going for planted forests rather than natural forests.

“UN convention on Climate Change dictates a limit by which a country can release carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If you go beyond it you have to pay for the extra tons you released and this goes to countries who have underutilized their limits in the form of carbon credits. It is like the business of Stock Exchange”.

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UGANDA TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS GIVE HOPE TO SOUTH SUDANESE REFUGEES SEEKING HIGHER EDUCATION

South Sudanese

South Sudanese grandaunts at EAIMS

“I am happy because my parents supported me. With this qualification, I can work anywhere in East Africa. I want to try to rebuild what our people back home in South Sudan lost during the war”

“You should have the fear of God at heart. You should sit down at a round table and resolve the conflict among you peacefully. We want South Sudan to develop like other states but we cannot develop in war situations”

GULU-UGANDA: Mr. John Kuch Garang, a man in his late twenties, is a South Sudanese refugee who lives in Adjumani Refugee Camp which is located in North-western Uganda.

He is part of the statistics of over 1.5 million South Sudanese who fled their country in 2013 following a new war which broke out between the President Salva Kir and his former Vice-president Dr. Riek Machar. Of this, about 85% (percent) are women and children.

Mr. Kuch Garang has been a student pursuing a two-year Diploma in Accounting & Financial Management from the Elego (border post) Learning Center which is located at the border with South Sudan.

This learning center was established by the Gulu based East African Institute of Management Science (EAIMS) to assist South Sudanese students get opportunity of Higher education since the war in their country disrupted learning.

EAIMS has also established another learning center in Bwuyale Township purposely to assist South Sudanese Refugees living in Kiryadongo district in Uganda get tertiary education.

“With this education, I want to empower our people at the grassroots to sustain their own lives instead of relying on politicians who have brought us problems through their senseless war”, says Kuch Garang.

He says he knows very little about what goes on inside South Sudan and is ready to work anywhere within East Africa.

“I am happy because my parents supported me. With this qualification, I can work anywhere in East Africa. I want to try to rebuild what our people back home in South Sudan lost during the war”. He says.

Another South Sudanese national, Mr. Samuel Khot Boldit, who came to the graduation ceremony of Kuch Garang as a parent says the war in South Sudan is a ‘political war’ which had not been planned at all. He works as a Refugee Welfare Committee member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), an international NGO working with refugees in Nyamanzi Refugee Camp in Adjumani district.

“You should have the fear of God at heart. You should sit down at a round table and resolve the conflict among you peacefully. We want South Sudan to develop like other states and we cannot develop in war situations”, Khot Boldit tells the warring parties in South Sudan.

He appreciated the worm and good neighborly behavior of Uganda which is currently hosting about 1.5 million refugees from South Sudan. Twenty-three South Sudanese are studying at the Institute for Diploma and Certificates in various disciplines of studies, four of whom graduated.

Speaking as one of the guests at the graduation ceremony on Thursday March 29, 2018, Mr. Alfred Kakembo, from the ministry of Education says Central Uganda still take the lion’s share of the number of Tertiary Education in the country; taking 50% (percent) of the total number. Western Uganda takes 25% (percent), Eastern takes 17% (Percent) while the North is trailing with 8% (percent).

“I know the challenge you went through-because you had prolonged war here in the north. Many parents have not changed from buying education expensively from Kampala to the institutions in the north. There is no reason as to why people should be extravagant in buying education in central Uganda”, says Kakembo.

According to the director of EAIMS, Mr. Kyanira A. Apuli, his institute is tipped to be one of the degree awarding institutes in Northern Uganda.

The Chief Guest, Mr. Robert Odok Ocheng, cautioned the grandaunts to beware of HIV/AIDS, work hard to earn money, aim higher qualifications, produce food for own consumption and sale and try to start a business and employ others.

“The most expensive commodity in the world is ignorance. Though education is expensive, it is worth it. Wisdom comes out of accumulated knowledge and achievements. Studies don’t end”, he asserts.

 

“MY MAYOR”-THE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STORY OF UGANDA’S 2016 LOCAL COUNCIL ELECTION- BOOK REVIEW

my may

The cover of the book-My mayor

In this book, Ochitti p’ Igunye Kumgem (his family root name) shares his experience as a local opposition political novice in local grassroots elections. He shares stories of poverty, betrayal, intrigue, corruption, sex, and power in a local democracy.

The book highlights the nature and level of corruption, intrigue, and betrayal in local electoral processes and how it challenges democracy and good governance in a poor country like Uganda through the character of Cana Denis (again, not his real name) and that of his colleagues.

GULU-UGANDA:  “Who will educate our children?” This is the rhetorical question, which is the opening sentence of this book, and it is also the heading of the first chapter of the small but a must read book.

Just below the heading, Ochitti quotes the first democratically elected former President of South Africa; Nelson Mandela: (R.I.P) “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world

Armed with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, Post Graduate Diplomas in Human Resource Management and Project Planning and Management and a Masters in Peace and Justice, Ochitti tried his luck in local grassroots electioneering to be the Mayor of Wipolo Municipality in 2016 elections. Wipolo is the fictitious name he gave to represent Gulu Municipality in real life.

Cana was convinced to try his luck in grassroots election politics by a group of  his elitist friends while enjoying lunch together from a low-cost food joint; and without much thought and adequate mobilization of resources like finances for campaigns, he just jumped into the political limelight.

“Cana, why don’t you try your luck? You are educated and can manage the job…The Office of the Mayor has failed to attract educated people. It requires anyone with the minimal qualification of an Ordinary Level Certificate, but if our town is to become a city, we will need someone educated and with great competence. Maybe you could start a scholarship awards to educate intelligent children of the poor since you have a project management background”. Part of the book that inspired Cana into politics reads.

“Cana, what hurts me is that many of you have your children in the city getting good education, but you don’t care about us in the informal sector who cannot afford the high cost of education today. Now that you have founded a non-governmental organization (NGO) to volunteer and serve others, why don’t you volunteer for us and deliver our voice in this campaign? I dropped out of school after being defiled and getting pregnant in senior four”.

With the above quotation from one of his admirers and friends, Cana now finds the theme on which his manifesto for the campaign will be based.

Cana did not stop the consultation from the food joint before he made up his mind. One of the first politicians he consulted was the district chairman, Honorable Gem Moses, and to him he also was open about his inadequate funds.

Cana shared with him his passion for education and how he got inspired to undertake this responsibility. He also confessed to admiring his leadership skills and asked him to be to mentor him into local political leadership.

What surprised Cana was that even when he (Cana) informed the Chairman that he would join his The Alternative Forum (TAF) party ticket, he responded that it didn’t matter what party he represented, yet TAF didn’t have a candidate.

At first his family members did not support his idea of joining politics because most people think politics is ‘a dirty game’. After counseling, they agreed to bless him but warned him “never to bring to disrepute to the family name” because of politics and never to insult anybody.

“Our name is all we have, so don’t ruin it”, the family concluded.

Cana’s first test of what grassroots election politics was all about was how he survived the temptation of being bribed by a group of low-cadre employees of Wipolo Municipal Council in return for favors when he wins election.

The second test was how his mentors were putting him under pressure to contribute to the nomination event. Cana’s elite friends would rather have a beer with him and discuss politics but not contribute to the campaign; neither were they ready to offer their cars for use. To them politics is all about you and your interest so go ahead and sort yourself out.

The third challenge and introduction to local politics was on nomination day when his papers were deliberately mixed up by one of his agents and he failed to get nominated on the first day. He was being welcomed to local grassroots politics in styles he had never imagined.

The fourth challenge Cana faced was when he was rejected by his mentors and lost their support in favor of the incumbent, who was on the race as an independent candidate, yet he belong to the same political party with them.

His mentors thought he was becoming so popular with electorates that he could be a threat to their popularity and would spoil their votes.

One of his mentors is quoted to have said that Cana ‘unserious’ and promised that Cana would be the last in a campaign of nine candidates, so ‘they didn’t need to waste their money funding his campaigns.

The fifth challenge he faced was required to enter into inappropriate relationship with women who were almost his mother’s age.

“If you want to win elections in some of these places, you just have to make these women enjoy sex. They will be loyal to you and not demand even money from you to facilitate your campaigns. They get motivated to work for you”, one of the power brokers told Cana.

One of Cana’s greatest weaknesses was the impression he created that he was a Facebook candidate and was only for the educated class, yet those who would vote didn’t use Facebook. He was the only candidate in the mayoral race with a functional website, which had his manifesto and was updated regularly.

When the incumbent mayor won the election, Cana was quick to congratulate him. He admitted losing the elections but would continue to serve the people in any way he could; even through his nonprofit organisation. He even reconciled with his mentors who had accused him of being too poor to hold the office of the mayor.

“The choice for Cana in the future was whether to pursue politics, focus on his scholarly life or maybe continue with the development work. But if Cana choses politics, the question would be, would Cana eat dog meat if he had to? Would he play by the rules? Would he still champion the education campaign?” These are questions Cana would answer in the future.

 

 

UGANDA: GIRL EDUCATION FACES CHALLENGES WHICH FRUSTRATE EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE DREAMS

mao dancing

Norbert  Mao (in coat) joins bwola dancers from Gulu Army SS in entertaining guests during a gala.

“We saw how her grandmother was struggling to pay fees and we decided to invite her, together with other students facing similar difficulties, to come to school during the holiday to make some bricks to earn money to supplement their parents. The school is putting up a hostel to accommodate students who come from afar”.

“Uganda registers 230 HIV infections a day. Despite widely available anti-retroviral therapy, 76 people die of AIDS-related causes every single day”

GULU/LAMWO-UGANDA: Nineteen-year-old Ms. Scovia Abalango is a senior three student of Palabek Secondary School in Lamwo district, some 472 kilometers (about 298 miles) north of the Uganda capital City of Kampala.

She is an orphan who never saw her father, Richard Okot Atungul (RIP). He committed suicide while living in protected village, later renamed Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp at Palabek Kal when Abalango was still in the womb.

Her mother left her under the care of her sickly and elderly mother-in-law, Ms. Leonora Lalar Otika after weaning her; and has since remarried another man. Ms. Leonora made sure she sent her first grandchild, Scovia, to school, although with difficulties.

When I visited their home in December 2017, I found that Scovia was not enjoying her holidays as other children. She had to go to school every day to work for her school fees for the new term.

“We saw how her grandmother was struggling to pay fees and we decided to invite her, together with other students facing similar difficulties, to come to school during the holiday to make some bricks to earn money to help their parents. The school is putting up a hostel to accommodate students who come from afar”, says Deputy Headmaster of Palabek SS, Mr. Peter Olaa.

“Although I want to study hard and become a medical worker in the future, I intend to branch off to a medical training institute after senior four since there is nobody to support my grandmother in paying for my higher education in a better school outside my district”, says Scovia.

The story of Ms. Scovia is not different from that of Ms. Innocent Aloyo who had to drop out in 2017 from Lukome Secondary School in Gulu district because of lack of school fees. She only returned to resume studies in 2018 after a team from a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Wizarts Foundation, visited her at her home and convinced her to come back and at least complete a cycle of studies.

There are many factors that contribute to women and girls education in Uganda and to girls dropping out of schools. According to the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports, dropout rate is highest at the primary level than at the secondary level.

There are so many reasons for this, namely; lack of interest, pregnancy, early marriages, hidden costs at school and family responsibilities.

According to UNICEF (2015) report, 35% (percent) of girls drop out of school in Uganda because of early marriages and 23% because of early pregnancies.

Teenage pregnancy rate is 24% (percent) with regional variations; 34% (percent) in the poorest households but only 16% (percent) in the wealthier households. 24% (percent) of the girls in rural areas get pregnant while the percentage for urban girls stands at 21% (percent).

According to United Nation (UN) Press release dated February 23, 2017, young people, especially girls aged between 15 and 24 are disproportionately affected by HIV infection.

Every hour, two young women are getting infected with HIV in Uganda. The prevalence of HIV among adolescent girls stand at 9.1 % (percent) compared to the national prevalence rate of 7.3% (percent).

“Uganda registers 230 HIV infections a day. Despite widely available anti-retroviral therapy, 76 people die of AIDS-related causes every single day”, reads part of the UN press release to the UNAIDS Global Review Panel Mission to Uganda.

It is with this grim picture in mind that Wizarts Foundation, with support from the U.S. President’s Emergence Plan for Aids (PEPFAR), embarked on the implementation of a two-year program called ‘Super Woman’.

“Super Woman-The woman I want to be” aims at keeping girls in secondary schools as a strategy for reducing new HIV infections among adolescent girls. The project is being implemented in the two districts of Gomba (in central Uganda) and Gulu (in northern Uganda) in a total of ten schools.

In Gulu, benefitting schools are Paicho Secondary School, Lukome Secondary School, Awach Secondary School, Gulu Secondary School and Gulu Army Secondary School.

“We started this program in December 2016 with the view of keeping girls in school. We believe that when a girl stays in school, the rate of getting HIV is reduced until after university or other tertiary institutions. So far, a total of 1310 girls have benefitted from the program”, says Ms. Jennifer Akello, the program officer in the Gulu office.

On Friday March 9, 2018, the Wizarts Foundation organized a gala to recognize the girls from participating secondary schools that have distinguished themselves in the production of the Superwoman Radio Show during which there were performance of traditional dances and drama.

Speaking as guest of honor during the gala, Mr. Norbert Mao, the leader of the Democratic Party, says girls should not be denied opportunities simply because they have wombs, but instead concentrate in education.

“Having a womb does not mean you should be denied opportunities. This is a fight I encourage you to fight on. I want you to realize that education is the key to everything. The past is not equal to the future. You can still save your future”, says Mao.

 

 

UGANDA: PRESIDENT MUSEVENI DIRECTS ARMY TO DRIVE PASTROLISTS AWAY FROM NORTHERN & EASTERN REGIONS

 

ankole cattle

Long horned Ankole cattle being bred in Gulu district, replacing local Zebu breed

‘It was not a mere change of guards, but a fundamental change’

“After the deadline of April 22, they will be taken to court. It will be very serious after that deadline. We have enough forces to carry out that operation; which is being supported by a jet-ranger helicopter for air surveillance”

“The picture now is Balalo are going reluctantly. On Monday for instance 78 trucks crossed Karuma Bridge going southwards. They are not supporting going back. Their interest is to have as big herds of cattle as they can, but the issue is; land is not enough. Why don’t you settle; have few herds instead of having big number yet you don’t profit from them”

GULU-UGANDA: When the National Resistance Army (NRA) captured power in January 1986, using the barrel of the gun as their means, President Yoweri Museveni, then a young man, is quoted to have said ‘it was not a mere change of guards, but a fundamental change’, during his maiden speech as president.

Since then, a lot of waters have flown under the bridge to solidify that fundamental change; one of which is the breeds of cattle in northern Uganda.

Before NRA captured power, the people of Northern and Eastern Uganda used to keep short-horned zebu breed of cattle. These short-horned zebu cattle are now endangered and in the verge of extinction. Why?

It took some months before NRA could cross the bridge at Karuma, which is the natural boundary between North and South of the country. They had to strategize how to defeat former Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) soldiers who had retreated home with their guns when Kampala fell to NRA.

As a student in a course to become an intelligent Officer in the previous regime, we were taught that one must deny one’s enemies making war which can make such enemies defeat you in battle. You do this by denying such enemies access to territory, food, water sources, infiltrating their front lines to find out their battle plan and movements, plus the use of propaganda (shiasaa). These are the same tactics NRA used in accessing northern and eastern regions.

During the five-year bloody war to capture power beginning 1981to 1986, NRA deployed covert officers from South-Western Uganda in the form of cattle keepers (balalo herdsmen) to northern and eastern Uganda to spy on the wealth of the population and also recruit enemies of Obote in their ranks. The spies came as people looking for jobs of keeping cattle of those who owned large herds.

These Balalo herdsmen left their jobs as soon as NRA took over government in 1986, only to return back to northern and eastern Uganda leading the new army (NRA); this time in full combat uniform and wielding AK-47 rifles.

It was therefore not surprising that one year later (1987), unprecedented looting of cattle began in northern and eastern Uganda ‘allegedly by Karimojong pastoralists’ from north-eastern Uganda.

In my village located in Ayuu Anaka Parish in Lamwo district, for example, one of our own sons, a lieutenant by rank in the NRA, visited is parents in the company of a group of Karimojong cattle rustlers he was commanding in 1988. By the year 2000 one would hardly come across short-horned cattle. Instead, there are now long-horned Ankole cattle.

It is equally not surprising that government has so far refused to pay former owners of cattle in northern and eastern regions despite court orders but instead prefers re-stocking, where government imports exclusively long-horned Ankole cattle instead of the traditional short-horned zebu breed.

A ready market in northern Uganda for Ankole cattle has been created for Museveni’s kinsmen, the Balalo, as a strategy to empower them economically. Most of them believe that if you don’t get rich while Museveni rules Uganda, you will remain poor forever under a new leader when government change hands.

It is this re-stocking program, which has empowered Balalo herdsmen to sell away their relatively small pieces of land in south-western Uganda, bought Ankole long-horned cattle and began to move their herds to other regions where they had previously spotted ‘idle land’ in northern and eastern Uganda to graze their cattle.

These herdsmen use contacts within the security establishments, including Gombolola Internal Security Officers (GISO) to access land. It has since bred land conflicts within the community and family members. These GISOs and some Local Council (LC I) chairmen connive with one member of a family without the consent of other members of the family and negotiate renting their family’s ‘idle land’ to the Balalo for grazing and  burning charcoal thereby causing a lot of conflicts .

Since land conflict was getting out of hand, dictator Museveni decided to establish a Commission of Inquiries in land conflicts. Lady Justice, Ms. Catherine Byamugeirere is leading the commission. Preliminary reports points accusing fingers and security personnel as the leading group fuelling land conflicts.

As 2017 comes to a close, President Yoweri Museveni issued a three-month ultimatum for pastoralists to leave northern and eastern Uganda through an operation code named; ‘Rudi Nyumbani’, Kiswahili phrase for ‘go back home’ , led by the army.

The commander of the Fourth Division of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF), Brigadier Emmanuel Kanyisigye, Tuesday March 27, 2018, held a press conference in his office during which he revealed that the deadline expires on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

“After the deadline of April 22, they will be taken to court. It will be very serious after that deadline. We have enough forces to carry out that operation; which is being supported by a jet-ranger helicopter for air surveillance”, says the Brigadier.

“The picture now is Balalo are going reluctantly. On Monday for instance 78 trucks crossed Karuma Bridge going southwards. They are not supporting going back. Their interest is to have as big herds of cattle as they can, but the issue is; land is not enough. Why don’t you settle; have few herds instead of having big number yet you don’t profit from them”, says Brigadier Kanyisigye.

He says over ten thousands animals had crossed Karuma as a result of the operation. There are estimated over one hundred thousand herds of Ankole herds of cattle in the eight districts in Acholi sub-region.

Challenges in this operation include three reported cases of Foot & Mouth disease, theft of animals from the community by pastoralists and some of the lower cadre local leaders who have been compromised by the pastoralists.

“Some leaders have been compromised. Some of them have not fenced off their land. They have started to own large herds of cattle. The Balalo tend to hide their animals in the locals’ names. We are consulting over these new issues”, he says.

It is therefore not surprising that poverty index level in Uganda shows that the level of poverty among the people of Central and Western Uganda is not as high as it is in northern and eastern Uganda. They are reaping from the support they rendered to Museveni between 1981 and 1986.

This scenario of the fate of Acholi’s short-horned zebu animal reminds me of what one of Uganda’s leading columnists, Mr. Charles Onyango-Obbo wrote in the Daily Monitor years back about why the Baganda ethnic group, whose staple food is matoke (bananas), is now importing the same from Western Uganda.

  1. Onmyango-Obbo argues in his column that the Balalo who came to Buganda as farm laborers began taking back home some banana suckers and began planting them too.

They are now exporting matoke to feed the Baganda. In a similar manner, the people of northern region will begin to import short horned zebu cattle from other regions.

UGANDA: A DAY IN THE CHALLENGING LIFE OF A PEASANT FARMER IN AFRICA

Isaac

Isaac Lubangakene imitates digging using an axe

“I have managed to clear three acres of land using hand hoe already singly handedly. I wish government or any other body to help us with at least a pair of oxen plus ox-plough to help us. I find challenge in digging enough to enable me pay my three grandchildren in school”

“Inequality in Africa is fueling poverty, factoring our societies, and stifling the potential of millions of people”

LAMWO-UGANDA: Isaac Lubangakene is hardly two years old, but he is already imitating the trade what his mother, Ms. Agnes Lamaro:-digging!

It is rainy season now in most parts of Uganda and farmers are busy opening   land ready to plant. Farmers use various means/tools like tractors, ox-ploughs while poor ones like the parents of Isaac are still stacked with hand hoes depending on status.

Isaac picks up an axe and begins to imitate his mother and sister instead of using hand hoe as his tool like his mother and sibling, ten-year old Ms. Kevin Aryemo and a Primary four pupil of Ligiligi Primary School in Palabek Gem sub-county in Lamwo district.

I took keen interest in what Isaac intends to do with the axe as he tries to lift the axe; which is actually too heavy for his small size. He was unbothered by my coming close to him with my phone ready to take his photo as he tries to till the land with this dangerous tool for children. I took six shots of him as he was lifting the axe; at one point missing his right toe by centimeters.

It was about ten o’clock in the morning, local time (about 07.00 GMT) on Thursday, February 15, 2018, at Ayuu Lupur village. Two couples were weeding my cassava garden in exchange for what most people in poor community yearn for in the world- money! Because they do not have baby-sitters, all of them came to weed my garden with their children.

Kevin did not go to school on this day because, according to her mother, she (Kevin) has to look for money to buy basic scholastic materials like exercise books and pens, which cost less than a dollar.

Three-year old Daniel Lubangakene is forced to babysit his sibling, Isaac, although a community nursery school, Lok-Yengo, (literally meaning words satisfy) is hardly a kilometer away.

In urban settings, Kevin and Daniel would be in school at this time of the day, but sadly, their parents are illiterate who don’t see the value of education.

The parents of Kevin and Daniel still use antique farm tools (hand hoes) of the pre-industrial age while others in other developed regions of the world are busy with intensive large scale commercial farming using GPS driven machines for planting crops.

Although the peasants of Ayuu Lupur village in Lamwo own large swaths of fertile land suitable for large scale commercial farming to drive away poverty, they still use hand hoes for tilling the land. Lack of knowledge, capital and modern farming methods has limited their efforts to open up more land.

There are about six peasants in this village who use oxen to open land. They hardly hire out the oxen to others who don’t have. Even when one wants to hire a pair of oxen to open land, they usually cannot afford to pay the fee of hire (about thirty dollars per acre of land). Only one peasant, a retired civil servant, managed to hire a tractor which opened six acres of land on which he planted rice.

By eleven o’clock in the morning local time (8.00 GMT), I decided to go to nearby homes and mobilize them to come to my garden and work for some good money. I was paying them shs.2500 (about $4 dollars for each katala’. A ‘katala’ measures one hundred square meters.

A hard working person can dig up four hundred square meters of land in a day, thereby earning about shs.10000 (about $12 dollars) in a day. The two couples managed to dig up to eight ‘katala’, and earned a total of shs.20000 ($24 dollars that day.

While the two couples were working, I took time to find out from some youths who are in their early thirties why they have not gone to dig as the two couple. I found one of them, known only as Joe, was busy smoking marijuana. When I asked him why he had not gone to dig that morning, his reply shocked me: “I have no hoes”, he says.

According to the treasure of Ayuu Pugwang clan Association, Ms. Elizabeth Otika, Joe knows only drinking, smoking marijuana and destroying the now endangered shea nut tree species; which he cuts for burning charcoal.

A day in the life of a peasant farmer in this village

Ms. Elizabeth begins her day at 05.00 o’clock (02.00 GMT) at dawn with prayers to her God since she is a born again woman. She then goes to ding three ‘katala’ up to about noon, after which she returns to rest and eat some left-over food from the previous day.

She returns to continue and dig more ‘katala’ up to six in the evening then she returns home to prepare supper. She goes to bed at ten o’clock in the night.

“I have managed to clear three acres of land using hand hoe already singly handedly. I wish government or any other body to help us with at least a pair of oxen plus ox-plough to help us. I find challenge in digging enough to enable me pay my three grandchildren in school”, says Ms. Elizabeth.

An ox-plough costs about $100 dollars while a pair of oxen costs about $400 dollars in the open market.

According to Oxfam, African poverty is far worse than thought. The social justice organization details the crisis facing Africa’s poor and issues a challenge to African leaders “to champion new economic models”. There are fifty million more people living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 than in 1990.

In South Africa for instance, three billionaires own the same wealth as the poorest half of the population-around 28 million people. “Decades of record growth have benefitted elite but left millions of ordinary Africans behind and as a consequence, poverty has declined more slowly in Africa than in other region”.

250-350 million people could be living in extreme poverty in the next fifteen years.

“Inequality in Africa is fueling poverty, factoring our societies, and stifling the potential of millions of people”, says Ms. Winnie Byanyima, the Ugandan born executive Director of Oxfam.

My experience on this day reminds me of a hit-song by one of Acholi’s greatest artist, the late Lumix, titled “Anyim leka koyo”, literally meaning I am grieved with fear for the future. The future of the children in Sub-Saharan Africa looks bleak indeed.

 

 

UGANDANS POKE NEW MENTAL HEALTH BILL AS POST-COLONIAL ACT IS REPEALED

 

Dr. Stella Nyanzi

Dr. Stella Nyanzi (left) and Hon. Betty Aol Ocan, Gulu Woman Member of Parliament, (center) before the Parliamentary Committee on Health.

“We don’t know her parents. She was found dumped in a dustbin. A Good Samaritan took her to Mama Maliam, then keeping orphans and abandoned children like Apici. Mama Maliam, who is my paternal aunt, then brought her here. We have since, been keeping her”

“Nobody knows the fathers of her children. She is very aggressive towards boys and we believe that someone waylays and rapes her on her way home from Laliya Trading Center late in the evenings. We only notice her pregnancies when they are in advanced stages”

GULU-UGANDA: “You are a very lucky woman to have two babies; unlike me who has no child nor husband!”, Ms. Anne, a social worker from Hungary who deals with human rights of people with mental disabilities worldwide, tells seventeen-year Ms. Millie Apici (not real names).

“Nobody knows the fathers of her children. She is very aggressive towards boys and we believe that someone waylays and rapes her on her way home from Laliya Trading Center late in the evenings. We only notice her pregnancies when they are in advanced stages”, explains Ms. Evelyn Abalo.

Watoto Church Orphanage took custody of the first child, Joyce Lagum but refused to take on the second child, Angel Lakica; born a few months after the first child

Ms. Millie Apici a beautiful young girl lives in Oguru village, Laliya parish which is located just on the outskirts of Gulu city in northern Uganda. She has lived with mental disability since childhood.

Her parents are not known. She was found abandoned and dumped by her unknown mother in a dustbin in Gulu City during the height of the insurgency in northern Uganda about seventeen years ago.

“We don’t know her parents. She was found dumped in a dustbin. A Good Samaritan took her to Mama Maliam, then keeping orphans and abandoned children like Apici. Mama Maliam, who is my paternal aunt, then brought her here. We have since been keeping her”, Ms. Evelyn Abalo explains.

“We began to see her mental abnormality right from childhood and this prevented us from sending her to school. Our challenge as a family is how to ensure that her two children are sent to school”.

Ms. Anne, who flew into Uganda from Hungary recently, learnt about the plight of Ugandans like Ms. Apici who suffer from mental illness through Mental Health Uganda, a local Non-Governmental Organization which works with people with mental disabilities.

Anne is worried that a person who cannot make informed decision on her sex life like Apici can easily get infected with HIV/AIDS since there is apparently no law which protects people like her.

The law governing mental health, The Mental Treatment Act, was last updated in 1964. It does not take into account modern knowledge and discoveries regarding the treatment and care of mentally ill persons and is not Human Rights based.

It was basically custodial, to remove people with mental disorders from society and keep them confined without much considerations of clinical care.

There is a new law in the offing called The Mental Health Bill, 2014, which is currently before the Parliamentary Committee on Health.

The object of the new law/bill is to provide for care and treatment for persons with mental illness, at primary health centers, to ensure that persons with mental illness are enabled to seek treatment voluntarily; to ensure the safety and protection of persons with mental illness and the protection of their rights and the safety of the people who come into contact with then; among other objects.

One of the Ugandans who appeared before this committee on Wednesday, February 7, 2018, is renowned scholar and critics of the regime, Dr. Stella Nyanzi of Makerere University, who was charged with cyber harassment and offensive communications against the president of Uganda.

“In my first week at Luzira Women’s Prison, two strangers who identified themselves as government psychiatrists intruded upon my mandatory health checkup (where I was testing for HIV). They attempted to commence an involuntary mental examination to which I strongly objected in the strongest terms possible”, says Dr. Nyanzi.

“In spite of several delays in the process of enacting the Mental Health Bill (2014), the legislation provides an opportunity for mental health law reform aimed at re-writing a progressive law that protects one of the most vulnerable social groups, namely people with mental disabilities and mental illness”.

According to another scholar, Professor Seggane Musisi, a Senior Researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at Makerere University, the proposed new bill has four major omissions; namely that it does not address itself to the issue of rehabilitation and chronic care of mentally disabled individuals; it has no section specifically dealing with children and adolescents.

“Often the mental health problem of children and adolescents stem from family dysfunction including neglect, abuse and violence. The bill should address itself to the treatment needs of families and minors (Children and Adolescents) afflicted by mental health problems”, says Professor Musisi.

He says the bill also misses out on the ill-health of drugs and alcohol which cause physical, mental and social health problems; and that it does not address itself to offending mentally ill individuals.

According to the State-Owned New Vision newspaper of February 5, 2018, Uganda has only 32 psychiatrics for 34 million people. 20% (percent), 6.8 million people have some degree of mental illness, ranging from anxiety, depression and severe madness. 5% (percent) of children in Uganda have epilepsy.