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Ugandan NGOs to Government: We shall not succumb to your intimidation…!

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By Witnessradio.org Team 

As Uganda’s public institutions continue to face credibility and independence challenges, the ongoing rift between government and civil society organizations is not about to end. The organizations have vowed not to be spectators as government drags the country into anarchy by altering with the constitution.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is one of several organizations that have accused Uganda’s public institutions of facing credibility and independence challenges due to corruption and political interferences among others. https://www.hrw.org/report/2013/10/21/letting-big-fish-swim/failures-prosecute-high-level-corruption-uganda

The stand off between government and NGOs followed a crackdown on the organizations, raiding some and confiscating documents, equipment as well as freezing accounts for two organizations.

Accounts of Action Aid Uganda were frozen and all personal accounts of employees with Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies disabled.

Speaking during a joint meeting in Ntinda, the organizations said that this was a scare tool to have them shut up but vowed never to relent.

Irene Ovonji from FIDA says now is the time for Citizens to tell off their leaders not to support the bill that will see article 102[b] of the constitution changed. “We will continue to get closer to people led organizations, the workers, doctors, this is an attack on all the citizens and the country in general”

The organizations resolved to reach out to citizens in all districts with an aim of getting their opinion on the matter. The executive director Action Aid Uganda Arthur Larok confirmed that they will start in the districts represented by MPS in support of the age limit bill. “It is not a bad idea if we started in WestNile and western Uganda where the mover of the age limit bill comes from …” Larok said attracting wild cheers from the audience.

peaking during the same meeting, Human rights lawyer, Nicholas Opio challenged NGOs on compliancy to avoid the risk of attacks. He advised leaders to clear their taxes, register with the relevant authority and also understand laws under which they operate. “Understand the nature of the legal framework under which the sector operates, you know that all NGOS are supposed to register with the financial intelligence authority, how many of you are registered, how many of you pay NSSF for your employees…such gaps expose you” He emphasized.

Meanwhile for Sarah Bireete , this is the time to challenge the NGO Act that cripples their work. She also advised members to be more vigilant, watch one another’s backs as well as use modern technology to guard against hackers.

During the same meeting the executive director Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies Godbar Tumushabe advised the president to retire peacefully for the a brighter future of the country. “The president is being held hostage by conmen who lie to the president that NGOs are funding the opposition which is not true… If the president retired peacefully and with dignity, he could be a major source of knowledge to Uganda, the region and Africa in general.”

This prompted a response from FIDA head Irene Ovoji who said this implied that the president is “Mr.Fix it” which is completely false. “Am sorry Godbar, I don’t agree in what you say, the president is not Mr. Fix it all but rather Mr. Spoil it”.
The Organizations will now traverse the country seeking citizens’ views on the proposed amendment of art

NGO work

Uganda: Judicial harassment and sexual assault of woman human rights defender Florence Orishaba

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On 22 July 2021, woman human rights defender Florence Orishaba appeared before the High Court of Uganda. She has been charged with “inciting violence”, “defamation of a government official” and “promoting defiance among communities”. On 19 July 2021, the woman human rights defender was provisionally released from arbitrary detention at the Mbarara Central Police Station. On July 4 2021, Florence Orishaba was abducted and sexually assaulted by individuals believed to be plain clothed security officers, before she was officially detained in the Mbarara Central Police Station.

Florence Orishaba is a woman human rights defender, land rights defender and the executive director of Defence For Human Rights (DEFOHR). DEFOHR is a Ugandan non profit organisation that works to defend human rights by sensitizing communities to their rights and violations of their rights. On 1 July 2021, DEFOHR debuted a project which involved weekly radio talk show appearances from Florence Orishaba to sensitize communities regarding their human rights and how to handle human rights violations. DEFOHR had previously run a program that involved educating the public regarding their rights through radio shows.

On 4 July 2021, Florence Orishaba was exiting a local radio station after being hosted as part of DEFOHR’s project, when she was approached by unknown individuals in plain clothes. She told Front Line Defenders that she was sexually assaulted by the individuals and taken to an unknown location. Later the same evening the individuals, who the woman human rights defender believes to be security officers, turned her in to the Mbarara Central Police Station where she was detained with no charges for 15 days, which is long past the 48 hours stipulated by the Ugandan Constitution. On 7 July she was granted access to her lawyer and DEFOHR’s program coordinator, however, during her detention she was denied access to her family, allegedly due to COVID-19 guidelines. Despite her lawyer urging for her release based on her arbitrary detention, Florence Orishaba was only provisionally released on 19 July 2021.

The woman human rights defender’s arrest was preceded by threatening messages sent to the coordinators of DEFOHR on their personal mobile telephones. The threats started following the debut of DEFOHR’s radio talk show project, which is in collaboration with six local radio station. During the shows, the woman human rights defender discusses property rights, specifically land rights of women and children.

On 22 July 2021, woman human rights defender Florence Orishaba was charged with “inciting violence”, “defamation of a government official” and “promoting defiance among communities”. The case has been adjourned to 28 July 2021. As a response to the unlawful detention of Florence Orishaba and the assault against her, DEFOHR will be submitting a petition on 28 July 2021 to the High Court to seek an investigation into the matter.

Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned by the arbitrary detention, abduction and sexual assault of woman human rights defender Florence Orishaba and believes that she is being targeted solely as a result of her legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities of Uganda to:

  1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the detention, abduction and sexual assault of Florence Orishaba, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

  2. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations of threats to Defence for Human Rights (DEFOHR) and its members, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

  3. Immediately drop all charges against Florence Orishaba as it is believed that they are solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;

  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Uganda are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

Original Source: Frontline Defenders

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NGO work

30 civil society organizations have written to the World Bank Group demanding to publicly disclose the Africa Energy Approach paper.

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By witnessradio.org Team

30 civil society organizations from around the world are demanding that the World Bank must cease investing in fossil fuels, scale up investments in decentralized renewable energy, and expand finance for energy access, including clean cooking, while embedding these efforts in a much wider ‘just recovery’ from the COVID-19 crisis, that can serve as a bridge to a ‘just transition’ to a zero-carbon future, more generally.

The demands are being raised in an ongoing discussions around World Bank’s engagement in the African continent to support borrowing countries energy sector represents a huge opportunity for the Bank to walk the talk when it comes to climate solutions and increasing the Bank’s share in supporting energy access projects, given the existing global financing gap for energy access, particularly for the least cost solutions needed by people living in energy poverty (SEforALL, 2019).

Letter To World Bank Executive Directors

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African Civil Society Refuses To Engage With UNFSS Without Radical Change

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Members of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa 

Dr. Agnes Kalibata 

Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit 

Prerequisites for engaging with the UNFSS 

Dear Dr. Kalibata 

AFSA acknowledges your invitation of 17th September 2020 to be part of the champions group and represent African civil society. At first, we declined, for reasons set out below. However, after careful deliberation, we, the undersigned 36 network members of AFSA, came to a consensus that we would be prepared to engage with the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), scheduled to take place in September 2021 in New York, USA, dependant upon the UNFSS agreeing to the conditions set out below. 

AFSA initially welcomed the UN Secretary-General’s announcement to convene the world Food Systems Summit in 2021 with profound hope and enormous optimism. The food systems transformation agenda is long overdue, and many social movements and civil society actors, in Africa and globally, have been fighting for systemic and structural transformation of food systems, stressing the urgent need for a radical shift from fossil fuel-based industrial agriculture and corporate monopolies of food and agriculture to food sovereignty and agroecology. 

However, our genuine hope for a vibrant, inclusive, and democratic summit on food systems transformation has consistently been eroded. Below, we declare the reasons that pushed AFSA to officially refuse the invitation and set conditions for engaging with the UNFSS summit. 

Industrial agriculture is a key driver of biodiversity loss and a significant contributor to carbon emissions. Further, as COVID-19 illustrates, there are complex interactions among deforestation, reduced biological diversity, ecosystem destruction, and human health and safety, in large part driven by globalised agricultural and food systems. Exposure to existing and emerging pathogens, as ecosystem destruction continues and essential protective barriers provided by nature are breached, are tremendous public health threats. 

The inextricable connections between climate change, deforestation and industrial agriculture – a prime mechanism of agrarian extractivism and extractivist development – drive social and political instability and food insecurity on the continent, which further fuel the systemic, existential crises we face globally. 

Development interventions to date have and continue to reinforce indebtedness, inequalities and social exclusion. They deepen dependency on destructive, short-sighted and short-lived fossil fuel and capital intensive projects, and global agricultural and forest value chains, which all contribute to creating conditions for extreme vulnerability to shocks, including but not limited to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Rapid and unplanned urbanisation, with the consequent shift in the labour force from largely food producing to non-food producing jobs, and a rising African middle class, is affecting rural land use and changing our food systems. The rapid erosion of Africa’s culture coincides with the degradation of our soils, which is becoming a major issue affecting the livelihoods of many, while the growing retail/supermarket sector is also destroying and displacing local food systems and local markets. 

Yet Africa remains essentially a continent of smallholder food producers. Solutions will only work for Africa if they work for millions of farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, indigenous communities, custodians of nature, and women and youth in the food system. Hence, how Africa will feed itself in a situation of rapidly changing, catastrophic and chaotic climate change, and in a manner that heals nature and cools the planet, is one of our most urgent and pressing survival questions. 

About 20% of Africans – more than 250 million people – go to bed hungry every night. At the same time, industrial ultra-processed foods and sweetened beverages have penetrated African markets – many of which are high in sugar, salt, saturated fats and preservatives, thus contributing to the spread of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. This has also contributed to a major rise in excess weight and obesity, with the rate of overweight children under five having increased by nearly 24% since 2000. And affected populations are more vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Fiscal policies and regulations, such as sugar taxes, labelling of unhealthy foods, and restricting marketing, often face strong opposition from large food companies that dominate markets. Thus, Africa faces a triple burden of hunger, malnutrition, and obesity and ill health from poor quality food. Clearly, the people of Africa are facing a multitude of intertwined crises linked to changes in our farming and food systems. 

Even so, Africa has much to offer its citizens and to the world. With appropriate redirection of policies and investment, the wealth of our seed, agrobiodiversity, land, vibrant cultures and nature can contribute to solving the food crisis affecting so many of our people. 

The answer lies in our collective ability to effect holistic and systemic transformation of our food systems. Such a fundamental transformation would tackle the climate crisis, lift millions out of chronic poverty, help our people defeat hunger, nurture a healthy life for all, revive vibrant cultural practices, address structural inequality, and rejuvenate the biosphere. 

We are deeply concerned that the current rushed, corporate-controlled, unaccountable and opaque process for this UNFSS will not lead towards the transformation we envision of revitalised, sustainable and healthy food systems. A summit geared towards repeating the agri-business-as-usual model to solve the food and climate crisis cannot deliver on this visionary future. 

The current multi-stakeholder approach and structure of the UNFSS give major influence over our food system to a few corporations and philanthro-capitalists, many of whom are part of the problems. We are profoundly concerned that the UNFSS will be used as a conduit to echo the business-as-usual, quick-technofix policy prescriptions of the agribusiness agendas. 

The science is clear. Climate chaos, land-use change and erosion, and alarming biodiversity loss are the biggest existential threats to all life forms on Earth. The industrial food chain and corporate concentration around food and agriculture is the primary driver of many of the underpinning crises that humanity faces today – including health, hunger, malnutrition, deforestation, land degradation, loss of soil fertility, structural injustice and inequality. 

Nothing short of a fundamental rethink of our food systems will reverse the trajectory of chaos and crises. Incremental change is no longer enough. “Agriculture at the Crossroads,” the 2009 report by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), clearly indicated more than ten years ago that the future of the food supply lies in the hands of smallholder and peasant farmers. That report is still relevant today, with several of its authors having issued a follow-up earlier this year titled “Transformation of Our Food Systems: The Making of A Paradigm Shift”. 

Agroecology is an alternative bottom-up paradigm that fundamentally addresses the nexus of environmental, economic, cultural and social regeneration in agriculture and overall food systems. AFSA, as part of the food sovereignty movement, stands in solidarity with peasant/family farmers, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, fishers and other citizens to exercise their fundamental human right to determine their own food and agricultural policies. AFSA stands in solidarity with thousands of farmers’ organisations and social movements worldwide to push for this holistic vision of a transition to agroecology and food sovereignty. We believe embracing agroecology is the right path to restore the damage done to our nature and cultures, cool the planet, feed the increasing population, fix the nutrition and health crisis, and build fair and just economies and thriving livelihoods. We demand that agroecology is put at the centre of the recommendations coming from the FSS. 

The current UNFSS process gives little space to traditional ecological knowledge, the celebration of traditional diets and cuisine, and the social sciences, which are critical for the future of our food system. Indigenous and local community Africans have experience and knowledge relevant to the current and future food system. Any process or outcome that does not recognise this is an affront to millions of African food producers and consumers. 

Therefore, AFSA must see the following conditions fulfilled before we engage with the summit: 

– A transition to agroecology should be central to any outcomes of the UNFSS, based on the 13 principles of agroecology outlined in the High Level Panel of Experts for Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) report on agroecology and how these can effectively be implemented globally in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

– The formal FSS process should establish an additional track to focus on the transformation of corporate food systems to food sovereignty, as also demanded by the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM) of the Committee on World Food Security. 

– The CSM should be given the mandate to lead proceedings of this 6th Action Track, in collaboration with relevant UN bodies and governments, and attention must be given to cross-cutting implications in the other Action Tracks. 

– The traditional knowledge and practices of people, inclusive of Indigenous peoples, must be included in all processes and outcomes in a clear and demonstrable way. 

– The AFSA strongly believes that the ideal and legitimate forum to host and facilitate debates as significant, complex, and crucial as rethinking global food systems should remain under the United Nation’s Committee for World Food Security (CFS). 

– The FSS must commit to turning over any recommendations or outcomes to the CFS for implementation, and commit resources to strengthening the CFS and reversing its capture by corporate interests and governments. 

Sincerely, 

Original Source: afsafrica.org

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