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Uganda: Government officials suppressing citizens’ views, says report

A new report has shown that Ugandans no longer freely share their views on issues affecting the country’s development as they are quickly silenced by duty bearers.

The lead researcher, Prof Julius Kiiza, a Makerere University don, while presenting his findings in a report titled ‘Between Paper and Practice; Civil Servants’ Views On Access to Information and Citizen Participation’, said while Uganda is a member of the United Nations and has adopted UN slogans such as ‘Leaving No One Behind’, the reality on ground is different.

He explained that although it is almost 15 years since government passed the Access to Information Act, which empowers citizens to scrutinise government decisions and hold public officials accountable while protecting whistleblowers, there is little to reflect citizen participation.

“There appears to be disconnect between paper and practice. This comes out when you look at the country’s specific realities.

The inequality is rising, especially among the urban rich and the rural poor. Inequality is rising along levels of education and joblessness is worsening the matters,” Prof Kiiza said yesterday in Kampala.

He added: “We must be part and parcel of service delivery but in practice, when citizens rise, even at Makerere University to say fees must fall, we teargas them.

The duty bearers here are saying they are not spraying teargas to demonstrators at Makerere University where I work, we are only flashing out weevils… Our Constitution says all power belongs to the people. But now it is criminal to talk about people power.”

The study, which was sanctioned by Twaweza, was conducted in Wakiso, Kole, Buikwe, Hoima and Kamuli districts between December 2018 and March 2019.

According to the report, 63 per cent of citizens find it hard to influence decision making at the sub-county level whereas seven in every 10 citizens have failed to access government information.

Mr Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, yesterday declined to comment on the report.

“I have not had a chance to read the report. I was not invited and I cannot comment,” Mr Onyango said.

While Kamuli Chief Administrative Officer Elizabeth Namanda admitted that public servants have limited knowledge of the information act, Mr Mayanja Gonzaga, the commissioner for monitoring and evaluation in the Office of the Prime Minister, said citizens like complaining even when there is an effort by government to solve their issues.

“Communities like raising issues. I used to work as a district planner. People fear to go to the local council, sub-county and district officials.

We are trying to do coordination but as I said, as we try to do one thing, you demand for another.

We have barazas so that things being done by government are communicated to the people,” Mr Gonzaga noted.

By Daily Monitor 

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