As we say ciao [good bye] to 2019, it has been a busy 12 month from all of us at TND News and our mother institution Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Media Studies. All were tasked with a role to play in ensuring we serve you [our audience] with quality news, information and entertainment.
Our tagline, Accurate. Timely. Balanced which will soon change to “accuracy before speed” has been at the back of our minds [editorial team] and it helped us serve better.
While we close this decade and year 2019, we found some of the stories, commentary among many published in the last 12 months exceptional. These pieces overwhelmed us with feedbacks from our readers across the country and globally.
Below, we have summarized them for you. Enjoy!
How ‘fraudulent processes’ saw Maruzi Ranch going at paltry shs.9m
Issues affecting land in Uganda has been key topics for discussion, especially when it’s to be given for investment purposes.
And to many, especially those in northern Uganda, it’s the only asset they have and they will do all that is possible to defend it.
And whereas for a country to develop, its investments must be conducted on land – this includes establishment of factories and industrial parks, hospital, among others.
However, locals living on it are often displaced violently, with others even being killed.
Again, and for decades, areas where lands has been allocated for investment has seen force during evictions, fraudulent processes during compensation and yet those executing the exercise are left without much questions or being tried in Courts.
This is exactly the event happening to those living on Maruzi Ranch, Maruzi County, Apac district which has been given to an investor from Kenya.
Maruzi Ranch which is 64 Square Miles (42,149 acres) was leased to Uganda Livestock Industries Limited by Uganda Land Commission on 29, April, 1969 and its use was restricted to ranching and beef production.
Back then, it was customary land owned by at least two tribes; the Ongoda, the Oyima and others.
However, the 13,987.860 hectares (part of the ranch) was fraudulently given to Hillside Agriculture Limited of P.O. Box 215 Jinja, a company owned by a one Rajeev Singh Rai from Kenya.
This transaction (lease) for 50 years, according to investigations done by this contemporary online newspaper, and whistle-blowers’ accounts, was sealed on the 7, September, 2018 at a fee of Uganda shillings 9.3 million only.
The economic activity on the land has since been changed from what it was gazetted for formally, to Palm Oil Production – something the communities do not want – whilst approved by some leaders.
President Museveni is said to have directed Lands Minister also the Oyam South MP, Betty Amongi to get the title for Maruzi Ranch.
However, this directive was done either way, by instead changing the title, locally, investigations show.
“It was a cabinet decision which does not guarantee a Minister to process another land title,” a whistle-blower says.
TND New has landed on a letter dated 25, September, 2018 written by Minister Betty Amongi to State Minister for Privatization and Investment, Evelyn Anite, communicating to her that President Museveni had directed her (Amongi) to conclude titling of Maruzi Ranch land in favor of Hillside Agriculture Ltd for Palm Oil Production.
It’s worth recalling that Plots 2 and 17 Block 2 covering 24,149 acres of the ranch was registered as leasehold under LRV 717 Folio 4 in the name of Maruzi Ranch to Uganda Livestock Industries Ltd on 29, April 1969.
On 4, July, 2018, Apac District Land Board caveated the land but it was fraudulently substituted on 7, September, 2018 to Freehold title, comprised in FRV 1560 Folio 20 using an analogue systems as opposed to LIS [Land Information System].
Investigations showed that Lira zonal land office advised officials involved that since system for acquiring new land title was analogue, it could not show on its LIS system – and sources say the ministry of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries and other key stakeholders were never consulted.
To that effect, another land title for plots 2 and 17 Maruzi, Block 2 at Lango Maruzi Ranch was issued on 20, January, 2016 by Golooba Aruna, Registrar of Titles.
Another document printed on 7, September, 2018 at 10:02am showed that Lease for Plot 63 Maruzi Block 2 to Hillside Agriculture Limited of P.O. Box 215 Jinja for 50 years W.E.F 6, September, 2018 [LRV 4624 Folio 1] was issued on 6, September, 2018 for area covering approximately 13987.860 hectares.
Speaking to TND News on phone Thursday, Ishaa Otto Amiza, an activist and former Oyam South MP who is vocal and analytical on matters of national concerns, wants President Museveni to declare his interests on Maruzi land.
“The President should declare his interest on this ranch and substantiate his directive under Minute No.396 (CT 2018) as quoted by Hon. Amongi Betty to avoid speculation and misuse of his name on this scam,” Otto said, in an interview.
“I know President Museveni has used his office to grab land in Uganda and it’s the same they are using Hillside Agriculture Company Limited pretentiously to do Palm Oil Production but this time, they will never grab Maruzi land because that land will go at a cost,” former MP added.
He added: “To me, the Akena – UPC are trying to pay back to government the Maruzi Ranch for their selfish gains and political favor and that shall never be.”
To Otto, this is a wakeup calls to the people of Lango entirely to reject and never vote for President Museveni and those under Akena for if they do, that land will permanently go and those that are not yet given to investors.
Tea growing in northern Uganda: Edwin Foundation up to the task
Before the Edwin Foundation Tea Initiative [EFOTI] Limited arrival and intervention in northern Uganda, tea once planted were left to ruin, tea farmers had no hope and chiefly, even the little green leaves they had harvested would not be processed, packed and sold.
But where there is hope, amidst challenges, thinkers are not sleeping to save the situation and their selfless efforts are being prayed for.
Soon, EFOTI came in and intervened, first of all by establishing the first tea nursery bed in Lugore government prison – north of Gulu municipality.
The Lugore tea nursery bed has since become a demonstration site [farm] and supplying plantlets for free to tea farmers in the region.
Worth to note is that, like any other region, preaching the gospel about tea farming in northern Uganda was one of the hard undertakings especially where cash crops like sorghum, millet, beans, soybeans, etc are widely farmed.
However, with such mind-set among farmers in the region, EFOTI limited executive director, Mr Edwin Atukunda Beekunda – an expert in tea farming, research, processing and marketing, now spanning more than 20 years, preached the tea gospel – with difficulties and people are now taking tea farming seriously.
Mr Atukunda, together with his staff had done a research in which according to them – the region’s soil texture and favourable climatic condition were all good for commercial tea farming.
“Tea growing can take place in every part of this country and northern Uganda much inclusive. Provided there is no water logging, that is; the drainage of the soil and the height of the water table are all satisfactory, soil erosion and water run-off are under control,” the EFOTI Limited boss said.
As of June this year, there were 350 committed tea farmers
in Zombo district, with Acholi and Lango sub-regions having 120 and 145 tea farmers respectively.
These statistics has swiftly risen with the foundation intensively embarking on capacity building of tea farmers, evidence of improved tea gardens through decentering – thanks to EFOTI Limited under the supervision and active participation of Mr Atukunda, presence of Zombo Royal Tea and Zombo tea, among others.
In less than a year of EFOTI presence and intervention in tea farming, especially in Zombo district, hundreds of farmers and cooperative society have embraced tea and agreed to work with the foundation in ensuring success and improving households’ incomes.
In his letter dated 16, August, 2019 to northern Uganda State Minister, Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, the Nebbi district LC5 chairman, Mr Urombi Emmanuel expressed commitment to working with Edwin Foundation Tea Initiative Limited. This was after the district was convinced by the EFOTI intervention and recommendations by tea farmers to the district authority to endorse the foundation.
Children of Acholi FRONASA fighters ‘blame’ President Museveni
Acholi sub-region – Family members of those who fought under Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) in Acholi sub region are demanding for audience and financial support from President Museveni.
They say their parents (many now dead) fought harder to help President Yoweri Museveni Kaguta get into power and stay for three decades and still counting.
The group, now angry and hungry, say Mr. Museveni has left them “without any support despites losing their parents and relatives in the fight for the liberation.”
Nyero Denis from Atiak sub-county in Amuru district who lost his father in the fight for liberation, says the President always dispatch people to interrogate them but the “end result is not there.”
“We were also requested to register names of our children for education scholarships but it is very unrealistic and annoying,” he added.
Susan Amony, another orphan revealed that her father was killed long time ago and they are from Obwona Amos’s family.
“We never studied and i’m appealing to the President to help me pay my daughter who is studying Law. Right now, I am struggling to pay her tuition from the small business I do,” Ms Amony told TND News.
Gaspher Arop, the chairperson FRONASA in Atiak revealed that “our challenge is not with the President but those he normally send to (us) the community and most of them do it for their self-gains and their interest.”
“Our interest is to get scholarships for our children. The President promised that in each and every FRONASA family their children will get education scholarship but that has not been achieved,” he added.
“W really want to meet the President one on one so that he can hear our plights and group us for solution,” Arop says.
Francis Okello Odoki is the FRONASA coordinator in Acholi sub-region. He said that they are very disappointed because in this regime they believed their father fought for, they are living in pain, anguish, poverty and above all their children are not going to school.
Lira female health workers not sleeping at the facilities, “their big husbands in gov’t” “can’t allow them”
This is health watch! Structurally, in the health sector or a health center setting, an In-charge of a facility is akin to a head teacher whose core mandate is to manage both the school and the teachers under him/her for effective service delivery.
But this is the exact opposite of the situation in most of the health centers in Lira district where some In-charges have openly told district officials that they are not in position to supervise and have a grip on some female staff posted to their facilities because they are the wives and husbands of some officials at Lira district.
This vividly emerged on Wednesday (last week) at Lira district council hall as Lira district local government engaged in-charges and sub-county chiefs in a bid to underscore the factors contributing to absenteeism from work, and why most of the health workers are not residing within their work places yet all the health workers have been provided with decent accommodation.
First, it was the chair of the meeting George Okello Ayo, the Lira LC5 vice chairperson who also doubles as the health “minister at the district”.
Mr. Ayo expressed bitterness over the deteriorating state of affairs at most of the health centers and implored all the in-charges to candidly express all they feel could be impediments to their administration.
Soon, Gino Okot, the In-charge of Ogur health center IV took to the podium and poured his heart out.
It should be recalled that a latest monitoring by GLOFORD Uganda and the district officials exposed the rot in Ogur where most houses are not occupied but used as soyabean’s stores.
“I am sorry for saying this,” Gino started. He added: “But we are in the 21st Century, how do you expect a medic to stay in such houses, only two rooms with a kitchen overlooking a pit latrine, coupled with lack of power and amenities such as DSTV?.”
To add salt to an injury, Gino said some factors were beyond them much as they have tried to enforce that all health workers reside within the facility.
Tasked by the Council Speaker, George Rashid Opio to explain what he meant, Gino said the problem is with the district officials.
“I am telling you sometimes it is beyond us because these are wives of big men at the district who appears untouchable, so we are helpless,” he reveals.
This was immediately corroborated by a statement from Geoffrey Ocen, the In-charge of Bar-Apwoo health center III in Lira sub-couty.
“I would like to substantiate what my colleague just mentioned; it is true that we have some nurses and mid views who are wives of the so called “big fish” in the district and once you try to reprimand them you find yourself in problems,” Ocen asserted.
He, however, challenged the district to plan for capital development which should cover constructions of inpatient wards for admission to be effected.
“Sometimes we would want to be at the facility but since you have no patient to monitor, why must I stay around. So, construct for us inpatient wards and we would feel motivated to stay around the health facility since we even have to work on patients at night,” he told the meeting.
However, James Omara Elem, a youth councilor and a member of the health committee, said it would not be prudent to leave the issues without probing further.
Mr. Omara opted for all the In-charges to disclose to the district the number of health workers who are spouses to health officials and are a headache to their administration.
But unfortunately, apart from Innocent Akaki, the In-charge of Agali health center III who said he has not registered any case of misconduct, all the In-charges remained tightlipped while others told TND News at the “corridor of power” that they would prefer a separate meeting to iron out the issues.
However, an independent investigation by this contemporary online newspaper reveals that there could be up to eight personnel who are driving female and male In-charges nuts and they are spread across health centers in the district.
Police fires live bullets at mourners in Kole as slain boy is buried
The Alito sub-county space in Kole district was engulfed with gun smokes after mourners turned rowdy at Police and district leaders.
This follows a decision by the ‘family members’ of slain child, Okello Dickens, 11, who was allegedly murdered by two Indians denying top security chiefs to address them [mourners].
Immediately, after being denied chances to make statements or perhaps eulogies, North Kyoga Region RPC, Kole DPC, Mohamed Musahakana and their boys started exiting the deceased child’s home.
Shortly, locals started throwing stones directly at them, some hitting their targets. Police, who were deployed there, started firing live bullets to quell the tense situation.
There were neither injuries nor death. TND News Reporter, Immy Amony reports that majority of mourners had to leave, including Lango Paramount Chief, Won Nyaci Yosam Odur Ebii.
Earlier on, Frederick Odongo Ocen who read deceased life history told mourners that as family members they are sure the two Indian men killed their son.
“No matter what police say, the two Indian men killed our son,” he said.
UPC politics: Akena asked us to support, vote M7 in 2016 – Ishaa Otto
The entire month of February – through March, 2019, if not seen critically will be dominated by Uganda People’s Congress [UPC] indoor and outdoor “bad politics”.
To most people, they thought reconciliation, truce and love had been made, or if not yet, it was in the pipeline – coming!
This is after two groups, one loyal to Jimmy Akena, in whom many congresswomen and men believe is their legitimate party President whilst those loyal to Joseph Bossa, another party president in whom, John Olara Otunu handed over office to, nearly four years ago.
The new war of words started officially when Ebil Ebil Fred, the Congress’ Secretary General, in his letter dated 29, January, 2019 is summoning Ishaa Otto and three others to a disciplinary hearing scheduled for 15, March, 2019 at Uganda House, starting at 10:00am.
Otto and his colleagues, critics of Akena led UPC and occupation of Uganda House, 6th floor, are alleged to have breached Article 5.2(10) of UPC Constitution 2008 as amended.
Addressing press at Uganda House, Wednesday morning – Jimmy Akena says those summoned are masqueraders, who have been holding out as party national leaders, without authorization of his leadership.
Akena added that “the party has offered them enough time” to stop their “dubious activities”.
Akena – also the Lira Municipality MP, denies being in any alliance with NRM party, he however, revealed that it’s good to “be close to your former foes”.
Lango ‘building Akii-Bua Stadium’ on their own, for the love of football
A local adage widely used by Lango people says “a stick far away can’t kill a snake” and indeed it’s very true.
Some wise people have always said “start with what you have and grow big”.
Now, with two above adages appearing to be one or two of the only options, Lango people have started constructing for themselves perimeter wall and levelling play field on the controversial proposed Akii-bua Olympic stadium’s land.
Worth to know is that what Lango people are doing for themselves now is a government multi-billion project, which besides stalling for decades, has had controversies.
This was after Parliament queried how over shillings 600 million given to Lira district local government for preliminary works was mis[used].
As per fund’s allocation, both Lira district local government and central government didn’t include Akii-bua Olympic stadium construction in their immediate plan and too, in the 2019/2020 fiscal year budgets.
What stands as of now are simple pavilion, pit latrines, access roads – all done, thanks to government.
‘We can’t wait’
Speaking to TND News on Friday morning, Francis Ogema Awany – one top moblizer and an ardent supporter of Lango Province Team in the popular Fufa Drum Competitions says they couldn’t wait.
He refuted reports indicating that Lango are “building entire Akii Bua Olympic Stadium”, revealing that alternative playground is what is being worked on.
“We are doing it as Lango. We took the initiative because we can’t wait for local government’s decision and it has not been planned for,” he says.
Mr. Ogema added: “UTC Lira playground is worn out and so many activities taking place there. FUFA gave us conditions that they want green field with perimeter fence.”
Asked how they’re getting funds to do the works, he says, “we are picking by ourselves and some well-wishers are contributing”. About shillings 22 million is required for perimeter fence.
Asked if after Lira district LC5 chairman, Alex Patrick Oremo Alot using his powers to allow Lango Province Team management ‘develop the stadium’ and be used for Province footballing activities, there is any more polical supports from Lango MPs, Ogema said “we are not begging anybody for help”.
“We are not looking for everybody and we can’t beg anybody. If Lango Parliamentary Group (LPG) want, let them come,” Ogema sounded on phone, Thursday.
He applauded Lira district for giving them “more than what anybody has given”.
According him, what they’re doing now is out of “passion for football”.
Keynote address by Dr. Benson Obua Ogwal at 2nd Media Conference
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HON. DR. BENSON OBUA-OGWAL AT THE SECOND ANNUAL MEDIA CONFERENCE AT ALL SAINTS UNIVERSITY, LANGO ON 23RD OCTOBER 2019 UNDER THE THEME:
“ROLES OF MEDIA, STAKEHOLDERS IN DEVELOPMENT AND PROSPERITY”
“It is with great pleasure that I present this keynote address to this great audience today at the 2nd Annual Media Conference at the All Saints University, Lango.
I would like to thank the Convener and the organizing Committee who chose me for this task. I count it a great honor.
I did not attend the inaugural Media Conference which I am made to understand took place in 2016, and was very successful. Neither have I been privy to the proceedings of that first conference or its resolutions. But I am aware that the inaugural conference generated so much interest that it created the thirst to hold it annually.
However, I notice that three years has elapsed between the first and the second Media Conference for reasons that the organizers have outlined. It is my conviction that this conference is so important that no effort should be spared to ensure that it can actually become truly annual.
For that to happen, the Chief Convener and his committee need to be supported by all stakeholders; government, NGOs, civil society, business community including media moguls, and individuals. I will be happy if by the end of today’s conference there are firm undertakings and commitments in that direction.
My role this morning is simple and arduous at the same time. Simple in that I have to set the tone for the conference by giving an overview on the theme in generality, but arduous because I have to do justice to a very wide theme in just 30 minutes.
I will start by making a disclaimer that I am not a media specialist or practitioner in the strictest sense, neither am I a media owner/entrepreneur.
But as a student and youth leader at the local, national and international levels, and as a politician and activist, I have interacted with the media for over 25 years locally, nationally and internationally. I have also done a lot of study of the Media on my own and have reasonable knowledge of how it works and its roles which has given me the right to speak about it here.
There is no gainsaying that the media plays a very constructive role in today’s society and influences all facets of life, both positively and negatively like the proverbial double-edged sword.
Harnessed and used properly by all stakeholders, the media can cause cultural and mindset change which can result in national unity, national transformation, prosperity and development. Conversely, if abused and misused, the media can cause confusion, chaos, wars, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and destruction.
It can also promote dangerous alien cultures and entrench destructive concepts that can destroy a whole nation.
At this point, even if everyone here has an idea of what Media is, a working definition is in order:
The Media, in its simplest contemporary understanding can be defined as the main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) regarded collectively.
There have also been different forms of media for communication at different stages of human history.
Media, in a wider context, is the form (or medium) through which knowledge is passed on. We shall use the two definitions concurrently as we examine the roles which the Media play in society to foster development and prosperity.
The term Media is derived from Medium, which means carrier. Media denotes a link specifically designed to reach large viewers or readers. The term was first used with the advent of newspapers and magazines.
However, with the passage of time, the term broadened by the inventions of radio, TV, cinemas and Internet. In the world of today, Media has become almost as necessary as food and clothing. It is true that Media is playing an outstanding role in strengthening the society.
Its responsibility is to inform, educate and entertain the people. It helps to know current situation around the world. The media has a strong social and cultural impact upon society.
Because of its inherent ability to reach a large number of public, it is widely used to convey message to build public opinion and awareness, it can be used to educate people at a very low cost.
Imagine a classroom in every city with thousands of students being taught by just one teacher, an expert or authority in a field sitting in a studio!
But unfortunately, because of money-making approach of Media by private individual entrepreneurs and lack of interest by government, very little work is done in using the media to educate.
Media plays an important role in increasing public awareness and collecting views, disseminating information and shaping attitudes toward issues. Media is the most powerful tool of communication in the emerging world.
In this decade of knowledge and awareness there is a huge and grand role of Media, and it is all around us when we watch television, listen to the radio, read books, magazines, and newspapers, and everywhere else that we get some knowledge and information from. Without the media, people in societies would be isolated from the world.
Media helps us to expose and deal with social vices such as poverty, violence, corruption, bribery, suppression of human rights, rape, discrimination, crime, etc. TV Channels, Newspapers, radio, internet, etc. help us to estimate the realities of life and focus on every social matter and give us the chance to explore the issues of society more openly.
The media has got a vital role in moulding a good society, to develop and promote lifestyles and move a nation on the right path.
It is the best tool to spread awareness in the modern society, whether it be in the political, social or economic sector, giving us latest insights about what is happening in our world, making us aware about our rights, creating awareness against evils in our society, new happenings around us, exposing corrupt politicians.
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Once again from all of us, Happy New Year 2020!