in the media
Vocal journalist Andrew Mwenda says he supports rampant land grabbing in Uganda because it is indicative of some people having tidy sums of money for investments.
Speaking at the 8th Annual High Level Policy Dialogue on the Budget in Kampala, organized by policy think tank Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), Mwenda said land grabbers want to do commercial farming, which is actually good for the country.
According to Mwenda, there has to be a conversion of customary land on which subsistence farming is practiced to commercial farming if the agricultural sector is to develop.
Mwenda said it is through land grabs for commercial agriculture that Europe managed to industrialise, a thing that should occur in Uganda, adding that land grabbing is, as he put it, "a good sign".
He said the rich in Europe deliberately grabbed land of the poor to do large scale farming thereby transforming the peasants into workers.
Mwenda's comments come in the wake of rampant reports of land grabs throughout the country. The government has set up a commission to probe various cases of land grabs in the country.
Mwenda is no stranger to making controversial justifications. In 2015, he once said corruption was good for developing countries like Uganda as the stolen money may be invested in productive ventures that government may have neglected hence spurring growth.
Mwenda is brother to Burahya county Member of Parliament Margaret Muhanga Mugisa, who in 2016 stunned Ugandans with the claim that she sold her “cows, goats and everything” to raise the Shs 10.2 billion that she paid in cash to buy the 23.1-acre land belonging to the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).
She was later forced by parliament’s Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), chaired by Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu to return the land title to UBC. The land in question changed ownership three times within two minutes in a transaction court described as tainted with illegalities, irregularities.
Landslides have destroyed part of Kabale-Katuna road at Kyonyo in Katuna town, Kabale district prompting police to divert traffic to alternative routes. Part of the road sunk in following heavy down pour on Thursday and Friday.
Police has now diverted traffic to the newly completed Ntungamo-Mirama Hills road to connect to Rwanda. According to some residents, the road developed cracks and smoke was bellowing out of the ground before it sunk in.
Earlier, on May 13, the landslides also destroyed part of the same road on the Rwanda's side at Gatuna-Gicumbi-Kigali road at Cyumba Sector in Gicumbi district, about 4km off the Ugandan border. The Gatuna road has since been repaired and reopened for traffic.
Patience Tusiime, a resident of Kanyanjonka village in Katuna town says the landslides were triggered by heavy rains that started on Thursday night. She says the landslides also buried four houses in the areas.
Augustine Kabanda, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) Kabale station engineer says a team has been dispatched to ensure that the road is repaired as soon as possible.
The speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga has advised the ministry of Education and Sports to include road safety in the national education curriculum so as to raise awareness on the dangers of road accidents among school children.
According to Kadaga such a curriculum would reduce on the number of students killed and injured in road accidents. Launching a legislative action plan on road safety on Friday aimed at curbing road carnage in the country, Kadaga wondered whether teachers still had time to teach children how to cross roads.
Vehicle wreckages towed to parliament to showcase the magnitude of road accidents in Uganda
“In my [primary] school [Shimoni demonstration] which is now a construction site, we were taught how to cross a road. Many children walk in this town, there is a lot of walking even in villages on high ways and children are competing with buses, taxis and boda-bodas,” Kadaga said.
“I don’t know whether now days the teachers have the time to teach children how to cross the road. We need to address that issue within homes and schools,” Kadaga added.
Kadaga also directed that the parliamentary committee on education discuss with relevant ministry of Education authorities how the curriculum could capture and emphasize awareness on traffic laws and regulations to curb deaths due to road accidents.
“We need to see how we can build it in our children so that they can grow up knowing just the basics,” Kadaga said adding that the road safety situation in the country continues to be a challenge with a number of factors accounting for high road carnage on major highways.
Kadaga alluded to the organisation of road systems in the United States of America noting that bad road users are apprehended by digital systems like CCTVs set up along roads and that Uganda can pick a leaf from that.
“We have been talking about installing CCTV cameras in this city and country. I don’t know how far that programme has gone. These will be very useful in spotting those who cause carnage on our roads,” Kadaga said.
In March 2015, government signed a contract with a Swiss company Societe Generale De Surveillance (SGS) to routinely inspect vehicles, largely to get cars in poor mechanical condition off the roads and reduce accidents.
However, the number of vehicles and boda-bodas taken for inspection have reduced following parliament’s resolution to investigate the company’s contract terms. SGS communications manager Susan Nava told The Observer that 33,000 vehicles had been inspected in a year period but the numbers started dwindling.
“We hope to have more vehicles for inspection soon because that inspection does not only reduce numbers of accidents due to poor mechanical state but it enables vehicle owners to know what exactly the fault is with the car that should fixed,” Nava said.
“When you take your car to the garage, you know what requires to be fixed and since you know that, the mechanics will not cheat the person seeking the repairs,” Nava added.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga signing a petition for road safety
World Health Organization (WHO) country representative Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam said that road accidents which is predicted to be the fifth largest killer by 2030 globally, is holding back health and economic development.
“In the last decade, road accidents in Uganda rose by 25.9% from 2,597 deaths per year in 2006 to 3,536 in 2016. Additionally, up to 33% of emergency beds in hospitals are occupied because of road accidents and this is clearly a huge disaster holding back health and economic development in the country,” Dr Woldemariam said.
According to Woldemariam, Uganda loses $1.2bn equivalent to 5% of its GDP to road traffic accidents and related causes.
“The road sector contributed about 3% in 2014 and 2015, clearly indicating that we are paying more in lives than we gain in the economy,” Woldemariam said.
The parliamentary forum on road safety indicated that the implementation of road safety legislative action plan in conjunction with the World Bank group would address legislative issues regarding the institutionalized management of road safety issues.
Forum chairperson MP Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal Municipality) said he would rally support from all stakeholders in the enactment of laws and policies aimed at ensuring a systematic approach to road safety in Uganda.
“The legislative strategy we have launched is symbolic to the processes that will be on going to champion all road traffic motorized issues across the country but most importantly first tracking the current road safety and traffic amendment Act, 1998 which is still about to get to cabinet. We are going to put pressure on the executive to ensure that this amendment is first tracked,” Ruhunda said.
The commissioner for basic education at the ministry of Education, Dr Daniel Nkaada has discouraged head teachers under universal primary education (UPE) schools from setting up boarding facilities.
Nkaada said such an arrangement would be aimed at charging illegal hefty fees from parents yet government does not sponsor children in primary level for boarding.
New classroom blocks at Kokopchaya primary school in Bukwo district. The ministry of Education says such UPE schools shouldn't have boarding sections
“We understand that children trek long distances to schools but we have to bear with that for a time being rather than denying children space for learning with fixing boarding sections,” Nkaada said.
“We strictly want buildings for classroom activities because once boarding sections are introduced, children will be forced to study under trees.”
He added that young children are supposed to be with their parents until such a time when they are old enough to be able to stay away from daily parental guidance.
The commissioner was responding to a joint request submitted by head teachers from nine UPE schools that have been refurbished under the Uganda Teacher and School Effectiveness Project (UTSEP) in Bukwo district. These are; Chekwir, Ndilai, Aryowet, Koikoi, Tuyobei, Kokopchaya, Kapsekek, Muton and Kapchemoken primary schools.
Through Sam Cherotwo, the head teacher Kokopchaya primary school, the head teachers wanted government to give them a green light to utilizing part of the new structures to set up boarding facilities.
“I must thank government for being focused and remembering education deep in Bukwo district. However, most of the children and teachers are delayed to reach school due to the rough, rocky terrain of this area. When it rains, the roads get more slippery for young children,” Cherotwo said raising applause from his colleagues before the request was turned down.
In 2014, government secured a $100 million grant from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to construct 138 schools in 31 districts with World Bank as the supervising entity.
So far, 54 schools have been handed over in six districts of Arua, Kapchorwa, Bukwo, Isingiro, Ibanda and Alebtong. Construction of 84 other schools is underway and is expected to be finalized by December 2018.
Also the coordinator of the GPE project, Nkaada insisted that all the new structures countrywide will not get boarding facilities despite the fact that they are located in hard-to-reach and stay areas.
“If a school wants a boarding section, that will be a private arrangement agreed upon by the school management committees and the district. Even then, they have to construct new facilities but not to utilise what we have given schools through the grant,” he said.
His views were echoed by the state minister for primary education, Rosemary Seninde, that such an arrangement would fail the UPE programme.
“If we are still challenged with feeding in UPE schools, why do we run into creating boarding sections?” Seninde asked urging parents to provide lunch to learners because “even when we construct classes but with children are not feeding, it will be useless.”
Meanwhile, of the 54 completed schools, Bukwo is the only district that has received nine teachers’ houses. Seninde said without teachers’ accommodation, the new schools in Bukwo would turn into “white elephants” hence children dropping out of school.
At the same event, Seninde commended a one Dinah Chemotos Juma for donating five acres of land on which new structures at Kokopchaya primary school were constructed.
Minister Seninde chats with Dinah Chemotos Juma, who donated the land for construction, as Bukwo woman MP Evelyn Chemutai (C) looks on
The school was founded in 2007 by the community in an internally displaced persons camp following sporadic cattle rustling that resulted into massive killings in 1960s.
She asked her to write a memorandum of understanding giving away the land as the ministry has had challenges where land is donated but when people pass on, their children demolish schools.
Also appreciated were the contractors; Excel construction limited and Sumadhura Technologies Ltd, for braving the bumpy mountainous landscape of the area to construct the schools.
“We have been sending money in form of school facilitation grants (SFG) to districts but they do shoddy work with cracked new buildings that also collapse in the shortest time,” Seninde said. “We have wasted a lot of money on SFG but this has been lesson to use competent contractors in order not to end up being disappointed.”