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Your mail: State censorship destroying intellectual development

There is an old adage that when you offer a handshake to a leper, expect a hug in subsequent encounters.

This adage seems to prevail in Uganda with state censorship in our ordinary lives. The state has appropriated our inherent rights as enshrined in chapter 4 of the Constitution (as amended).

The plight of maverick Dr Stella Nyanzi, of thirty-three days in a maximum-security prison on accusation of her social media communication is a signal. The crime is related to her exercise of creative speech.

The numerous attempts to obliterate the mysterious social media figure – Tom Voltaire Okwalinga – accentuates police priorities. Suspected Okwalingas have been arbitrarily arrested and jailed. Incidentally, as they close one communication channel, modern communications technology keeps creating others.

When you have an educated population, you should expect value clash and critics when performances are below par. Unfortunately, the state censorship and surveillance have reached levels that prevail under totalitarian regimes.

Soon, they will fly their supersonic jets and helicopters over your villages to distribute pamphlets with scripts of what to say in your daily conversations. Their morbid desire is to police Ugandans until they develop a common language of the subdued.

Some Ugandans condemn Dr Nyanzi or TVO, subjects of witch-hunt by state functionaries. However, it is our free speech and intellectual freedom that this state is after.

Even if these critics’ writings or public utterances irritate the regime, or were somehow wrong, morally objectionable, and are indifferent to the emperor, should we just destroy them or shut them up? These people convey relevant issues that concern our expectations from our government, and we should listen, attentively.

Few days ago, a letter threatening to suspend the trade license of NBS TV was issued by Uganda Communications Commission, the state agency that censures our public and private dialogues, and regulates the media.

Apparently, UCC was appalled, concerned and took exceptions to strong language and conduct of a guest on an NBS televised show. This action demonstrates the boundless state ascendancy over our free speech.

You can imagine how much caution any Ugandan or business must exercise to survive a harsh confrontation with state apparatus. When we concede to tyranny by passively relinquishing one or two inalienable rights, we slowly and surely forfeit all.

Morris Komakech,
Ugandan in Canada.

Monitor working conditions of youths in industries

Launching Sunbelt factory earlier this month in Jinja, President Museveni passed a directive that people looking to invest in industrial development should be allocated free land without delay.

His argument was that when such investors get land and establish factories, they employ youths around the area, which reduces on unemployment.

I applaud the president’s idea. However, I ask the head of state to think deeper about the wages and working conditions of these youths in the factories. On average, factories in Uganda recruit manual workers who work for eight hours daily and pay them Shs 4,000 each.

This is in spite of the fact that these blue-collar workers perform duties under harsh conditions.

For instance, you will find welders without protective gear or porters walking barefoot under the scorching sun in a given factory.

This exposes them to numerous risks. But what bothers one more is that these factories don’t give medical assistance to their injured workers.

What will happen if you have about ten such factories, each employing 1,200 youths working under such conditions?

Ronald Dennis Bukomba,
0704329097.

Solve economic crisis

Uganda is currently facing a terrible economic downturn. Yet if there had not been sustained government corruption, this wouldn’t have been
the case.

Even then, there are a number of macroeconomic incentives that could be deployed to save the country from this ever-worsening situation. But the government is adamant and is following its dangerous line of thinking. Maize flour prices have moved from Shs 1,200 per kilogram to Shs 3,000.

Sugar prices have jumped to Shs 5,000 per kilogram, way above global prices. The same goes to products of Bidco, a company which does not pay some taxes. A bar of their soap is almost Shs 5,000!

Does this make any economic sense when people’s earnings are very small?

This government assumes it will train all Ugandans in vocational skills and thereafter all will be well. How hopeless?

If you train 2,000 people as plumbers, masons, bricklayers and there is no construction sector worthy of that name, how will they be employed?

Bwanika Nakyesawa,
Luweero.

Uganda suffering from ‘miltia capture’

I completely disagree with Makerere University dons who have suggested that Uganda is suffering from ‘elite capture’.

Uganda and Ugandans are not victims of the so-called “elite capture” but, rather, victims of a group of well-armed militias. Sadly, the majority of Ugandans, especially the university dons, are mere bystanders.

Some of these dons, opportunistically and/or by accident of birth, have managed to exploit and enjoy the economic loot and robbery. In fact, if you like, Ugandan ‘elites’ have always been victims of this regime, regularly seen on the streets crying to powers that be.

A big number of them have cut their losses and jumped on the next plane to the land of “green pastures”, including our own Dr Moses Khisa, the secretary of the new elite club.

Believe it or not, if it was not for the heavy guns on our streets today, the situation would have been very different today. The locals, the semi-literate and illiterate have been tired for long and have been fighting hard for change.

However, they have been met with blood-thirsty gun-holding militias, leaving some dead or injured. Unfortunately, the so-called elite have just been hiding under their beds or behind computers.

Bidi Halid,
Human rights student.

letters@observer.ug

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