topical issues,politics and society

Music: Let us face it; Copyright Law cannot fully function in Uganda yet.

It is not unlikely that you will hear or see a Ugandan entertainer, as often as possible complaining that they are losing too much! That they do not benefit from their sweat. That they benefit less than they actually should, from Uganda’s entertainment industry, mainly because we do not have a copyright law in Uganda. Actually, while I should sympathise with them, I instead do the right thing-get completely annoyed with them. To make it very clear, there is a fully functional copyright law in Uganda-the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, 2006. Even before enactment of this law mentioned, there was a law on copyright-the Copyright Act, Cap. 215 Now I do not get it when our beloved entertainers tell us that we do not have such laws.

This is even made worse by the media. You will, so often read in papers, articles written by responsible reporters, approved by qualified editors, that Uganda lacks laws on intellectual property. To be honest, it makes me sad.

Look at New Vision, Friday, November 30th 2012—the PAKASA pullout, Page 30. The writer goes: “Unlike in the developed economies like the US where comedians have unions that protect their works against piracy, most comedians in Uganda steal colleague’s jokes and get away with it…..” Has the writer heard about the Uganda Performing Rights Society? Did he bother to find out if any of Ugandan comedians has entered protection agreements with the society?

What makes me even sadder is the fact that our entertainers are examining the wrong problem. The question to be answered now in Uganda should be: What can we do to make the Copyright laws work? I will not give an answer to this, as I think it is better and fit for the people employed in the industry (both directly and indirectly) to answer that question. I instead will focus on why I think the law on copyright has failed to take root. Why, despite having a very broad and highly inclusive law, we still have major problems with finding a solution to scanty protection of intellectual property, especially copyright in music in Uganda.

Slow Economy.

Uganda still has a “slow” economy, despite the steady growth experienced in the last couple of years. This simply means that the poverty levels are still high. Music, as it is today is a luxury, not a need. This means that for one to spend on music, he must have his needs covered, and then buy a CD out of the surplus. This is unlikely as majority of Ugandans still borrow money from the nearest SACCO, just to buy food for the night. This means that if the law is fully implemented, the entertainment industry, the entertainers will be at the losing end. If we cannot access their music from the nearest “kibanda”, we shall not access it at all, as we cannot afford to buy it in music stores. This means that they will lose free publicity. The Ugandan entertainer would rather have his music listened to, freely than take a thousand years to penetrate the broke market.

Entertainers Vs Media Houses.

I am mainly talking about TV and Radio. Let me be frank. Our entertainers need TV/Radio more than TV/Radio really needs them. While the media houses have an alternative (foreign music; which has a better following) our entertainers have no alternative. This simply means that the TV/Radio does not have to pay any entertainer to air his/her music. Actually, the entertainer could pay the Radio/TV handsomely to have his/her music aired! Strict enforcement of the copyright laws would only work to the disadvantage of the entertainers. If the media houses ignore local music, they have nothing to lose; they can stay in business buy playing foreign music; which is highly popular in Uganda. Look back at the 90s and early 2000s, and you will know what I am talking about. Unfortunately, if the entertainers demand for pay from media houses for playing their music, the TV/radios will do one thing: stop playing the music. Who will lose in such a case? Who needs publicity in the market? I really feel for our entertainers.

Shows and daily bread.

On every single day of the week, a Ugandan singer/comedian will be performing somewhere. At a bar, club, formal corporate function etc; thanks to our media houses. They provide the publicity by airing entertainment products from the industry. To be concise, our entertainers survive on public performances, other than revenue from CD sales. That is why there is a concert in Kampala every single weekend. Someone will be launching a song, and album, a video. Who knows, next time we shall even pay to attend a launch of a beat, or an album cover!

All these shows are possible because we have TV and Radio. Because these two play the music and we actually listen to radio. We then develop interest in the music. Finally we part with our hard-earned cash and go for some of those not so important shows and concerts. Now, unless the radios play the music, everyday; unless the TV airs the video every day, the Ugandan singer will find it hard to attract us to his concert. Why? Because we do not know his/her music. Because we are even not aware that he/she sings! Thanks to TV and Radio, Eddy Kenzo can afford to put some posho on his dinner table.

If police says that before Radio Simba plays Eddy Kenzo’s music, it should first produce evidence that Eddy Kenzo’s management got payment first, I bet my arm on this: Eddy Kenzo will mobilize fellow singers to storm police and demand to know why Police is interfering with their business! Look! He is interfering with the operation on the copyright law and he does not even know it!

The problem.

I have always said it, that the reason the law will not work is because our entertainers do not want the very law they so miss! Bobi Wine, who has made something out of himself out of our music industry, is my witness. Asked if they should arrest those chaps in kiosks down town, who spend the whole day duplicating, burning and selling singers’ music (without their knowledge/approval),Bobi Wine too asked why “hustlers” “his ghetto people” should be arrested for struggling to earn a living? He said that those boys are on the street hustling and they should be left alone. When he is told that those boys are actually earning from the sweat of other people; cheating the rightful owners of the music, Bobi Wine insisted that Kampala is like that! Kuyiya. I guess you see my point.

May be he is right. One thing I know about Bobi Wine is: he is like my grandmother! He will never give you a direct mother. Maybe, maybe he was saying: Look, those boys are down the marketing chain for a reason. Since I cannot afford to do media marketing reviews for my music, it is those boys you call cheats that are doing it for me. Actually, that is what happens. The music industry in Uganda benefits when the copyright laws are broken! Those boys are doing the work proper Record label companies ought to be doing. The market and promote the artiste at no cost!


Now this question will have 80% of Ugandan singers throw raw eggs at me. But I still will ask it: Is most of Ugandan music on the market worth spending a penny on? I leave it to the individual. How many Ugandans (I mean those who can afford) go to a store and buy an original CD by a Ugandan artiste? I have not done research on this. But the singers’ confessions give me the right to hold an opinion that those Ugandans are very few. Yet those CDs are actually relatively cheap! Just imagine the police and the copyrigDJ-Michael-Yenze-Owa-Bodyht protection bodies decided to fully implement the law, meaning that if you wanted Mr.Mosh’s music, you must go to his stall at Nakumatt and buy it and listen to it at home. Or, maybe you must log into your iTunes account and buy the music online; how may Ugandans would actually do it? Yet I personally have bought original CDs of Maurice Kiirya, Juliana Kanyomozi, Suzan Kerunen, Bobi Wine, Sarah Ndagire, Navio…and I am waiting to buy Naava’s original CD. To cut the long story short, our singers must produce quality music before they start calling for full implementation of the copyright laws, otherwise, it will be them to lose. Well, that is the paradox our entertainment industry is.

Good News.

The bright side however is that they know it: that the law, in the current circumstances works against them. The odds do not favour them. That is why I said maybe they are right to play the hypocrite. Demand for the law they actually hate! But the industry is growing. More quality music is hitting our airwaves, production has improved; we now have structures—a bit like real Record label companies. And our industry is actually peaceful.


Jesus Camp:Wont Parents give Children a break?!

Last Thursday,I attended the monthly meeting of free thinkers organised by Freethought-Kampala, at Spice Gardens(formerly Four Points Bar and Restaurant)-Centenary Park.It was the usual topical discussion, only that this time the discussion was preceded by a movie/documentary-Jesus Camp.

I will not go into the details of the documentary,though it was briefly about several families in the United States of America that take their very young children to a summer camp. The aim is simple: teach and groom the children into strong, righteous Christians. That sounds good, normal. Doesn’t it?

But wait,this is not just teaching children about the birth-life-death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.The children are actually doctored into extreme Christians through extreme methods; of threats,songs,praise and obviously prayer and lectures.The summer camp was not a failure.You actually see the success in the general aptitude of the young children.They reasoned out religious issues, perhaps much better than some of your ordinary preacher at your local worship centre.

The documentary got me thinking: To what extent should parents be able to groom their young children into religion? To what extent should a parent determine or influence his/her child’s religious belief/preferences? Does such extreme and exclusive conduct amount to responsible parenting, or even child abuse? That was one of the controversial questions we had to answer after watching the documentary. We got and I am sure we will continue to get as many answers as there are thoughts and opinions.

My initial position during and after the movie was that,while it is completely wrong for parents to force their children into such religious drills,it is perhaps equally unreasonable to consider such drills as child abuse.

It is important to understand it from the parents’ point of view; so we were warned by James Onen (Fat Boy) Parents hold a big responsibility of grooming their children into responsible citizens. Parents reading this will understand the pressure the suffer when they start imagining the future of their children. A parent has the moral and natural responsibility of grooming and modeling his/her child into a responsible human being. Modeling and grooming include, but are not limited to teaching the children morals. Needless to say,the standard for morals in the lager part of our conservative societies is still based on religious teachings.Simply meaning that what is moral should be usually religious in nature. That is the opinion of religion and its proponents, not mine. Are you fair to the parents in blaming them?

My problem is:Why wont parents open the world to their children-so that the children can be able to make an informed decision? Religion is not a hereditary thing.That is why our law gives each and everybody the freedom of worship. Custom over the years has sort of dictated that we follow the religions of our families. But does that give parents a right to heavily/wrongly influence/manipulate their children into their own religions?  My answer is NO. I consider that insecurity,as well as selfishness.

This brings me to the issue of child abuse: in relation to the topic. We have parents getting infants with delicate and extremely young minds. Minds not old enough to to tell between A and B. These are children who believe that what Dad/Mom says is absolutely right. They take these helpless children into an isolated camp and torment them into submission.Threats of death,everlasting fire,curses,the devil and other sorts of things. Actually, they make the young children think they are the worst people on earth, who simply need God’s grace in order to live another day.They give them the-the world is against us-impression. They actually do not teach them the meaning and relevancy of religion. What do you expect? How else can one call that? The parents’ responsibility to groom children also involves involves giving the children all relevant information within their rich.Why can’t parents expose their children to a variety of of world views? Why should a parent deny a learning child a chance to read,ask and understand evolution? I consider the habit of denying such reasonable information to the children a form of child abuse.

I don’t care/know about the rest. But I intend to give my children the chance to follow their conscience;because I believe that there is nothing as righteous as one’s conscience. I will teach them values of humanity and harmonious living:sharing,respect,love,forgiveness,thanking,justice,peaceful resolution of conflicts, etc. For the record,i don’t intend to teach my children any religion. That is a private matter and therefore their personal business. If they grow up and admire a particular religion and want to join and follow it,I have no problem as it is a mature and informed decision. I will bless them.I don’t care what religion it is.If they want to be atheists,its their choice too. I will not reward them for that. But I will be sure that they are not Christians or Muslims-just because Dad is.

I think,in my conclusion,that parents should be fair to their children.If the parents were in their infancy denied their right to choose,they should not deny their children the same. They were simply unlucky. The wrong in the past cannot justify the wrong in the present.

The other side of the “Uganda Martyrs.”

Ok, before I get to the gist of my article, I would like to do some education on freedom of speech or/and expression. It is one concept of social life that Ugandans so love for themselves, but strangely want to deny the rest of the people (except themselves) the same. To quote: David F. K. Mpanga (a top Advocate), in the Saturday Monitor of June 2nd 2012 made an interesting statement in his article “The Politics of Common Sense.” It states thus, word to word:
“Freedom of expression is a universally recognised human right. If you are to think about it, freedom of expression would be absolutely meaningless if it only guaranteed our ability to say or express ourselves about wise, well considered and researched things that everybody else agrees with. What it actually does is guarantee the right to express dissenting, eccentric, silly, obnoxious, ignorant, frivolous or vexatious opinions.”
This is not much different from what I have always made of the concept of freedom of press, speech, expression, etc. I believe that if the Uganda police could understand this simple concept, it would save Uganda lots of money, by avoiding unnecessary criminal litigation. Anyway, that is a topic for another day. Believing that I am now secure, I am talking about the so-called Uganda Martyrs. To put it straight from the start, I will say that I personally have never considered them to be martyrs. My reasons will be explained.
First, I do not think this was a religious matter. Their death was not religious matter. In fact, it had nothing to do with their religious convictions. Their alleged murderer; that is, Kabaka Mwanga was not exactly a religious conservative. History tells us that he actually converted to Islam at one point. This is my point: If Kabaka Mwanga was so in love with Buganda traditional religion, he never would have embraced any other religion. But you know he did actually convert to Islam. That simply proves my point. Kabaka Mwanga had no problem with those men joining any religion of their choice. Now you will ask me. Why then did he kill me them. Why did he have them burnt? My answer is here below.
This was a political matter. Not religious at all. To be more precise, the so-called martyrs simply committed treason. They disobeyed the King’s orders in the name of doing what their other King (Jesus) told them to do. And do not begin thinking that Kabka Mwanga had no right to order for their death. You all know that at that time, Buganda, just like most other communities all over Africa was a monarch. And you know what happens in that kind of political setting. The King’s power and order are absolute. They cannot be questioned. So in essence, the Kabaka had all the right to order for their death. He had the responsibility to protect the Kingdom and keep its norms, and above all, he had to exert his political power and be in charge. Then some few rebellious guys are telling him that they owe their allegiance to their “other rightful King.” What would you do if you were in the King’s feet? I stand in defence of Kabaka Mwanga here. This can still be likened to the death of Jesus Christ, which I think was more political than religious. The authorities had no problem with his religious teachings. He only got into trouble over the statement “King of the Jews.” Guys, we live on planet earth and on earth, king is associated with political power, not religious/spiritual leadership. If you follow what transpired up to the death of Jesus Christ, at no one point was he asked about the truthfulness of his gospel. Nobody doubted his religious, moral and social teachings. He simply threatened the political establishment when he started to feel comfortable with his followers calling him “King”, ”Master” and many other names that had political relevancy. If you were King at that time, believe me you would have done just the same thing: order for arrest and execution.
My problem is one; the religious establishment in Uganda simply hijacked the whole matter—playing it to their advantage. If I challenged them, will they openly say that the “Uganda Martyrs” did not do anything wrong? Is disobeying the King’s lawful orders right? If it were a purely religious matter, I believe there would be no Christianity in Buganda today, because nobody would dare risk their lives especially after seeing what happened to those diehards. That is why I insist that there is nothing worth celebrating about the Martyrs day because it is an indirect way of celebrating the success of colonialism over our political and traditional political setting. That is where I find the double standards of religion and its proponents. They so blame the western culture for moral degeneration in Africa; and yet they are the first to discourage the establishment of African traditional religious practices forgetting that one’s’ religion plays a very big role as far as his/her moral attributes are concerned. Actually, I would like to suggest that the current moral values we experience have a direct relationship with the most prevailing religious establishments. That is the nature of our society.
Thus I refer to the first paragraph. If you want to criticise me remember this before you start: Freedom of expression opens doors for serious thought and debate. Before I forget, the Uganda Cranes played bravely and earned a point in Angola. Let us support the boys. Have a great week!

Museveni to kill bail: A case of shooting one’s foot.

Just as we begin thinking that the government has finally listened to the peoples’ needs (going by Museveni’s first speech after being sworn in for his 6th term), we are entertained with yet another scene of drama. The government is said to be introducing yet more constitutional amendments. This has got nothing to do with food security. These are aimed at making it very hard, if not impossible for certain Ugandans to access their constitutional right to bail when they appear in court. Museveni’s intention is that people who are suspected of rape, murder and participating in demonstrations (riots) should not be able to apply and access bail until the mandatory days have passed. This will require that Article 23(6) of the constitution be amended to contain the new proposals. This will definitely call for repealing certain sections of especially the Trial on Indictments Act as well as the Magistrates Courts Act.

Meanwhile, the government has also drafted a bill (the Public Order Management Bill) which aims at making organizers of demonstrations to pay for losses suffered by the public during such demonstrations. The state Minister for Internal Affairs Matia Kasaija confirmed the fact that Museveni actually met NRM legislators of the incoming 9th Parliament over the matter. This bill will also contain clauses that require organizers of demonstrations to inform police at least one week before and to agree with the police on the routes and venues of such activities.  The proposed law will also empower the relevant minister to declare certain places out of bounds for precessions and demonstrations.

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard the news was not anger. Actually, it was far form human rights. I thought for a second: will our MPs be so stupid to make such amendments? Can’t they really see that making such laws will be nothing less than digging one’s grave? It actually reminded me of one gentleman called Grace Ibingira. What do our NRM legislators consider as a procession? Will it be only one involving members of the opposition? Can’t NRM supporters demonstrate against Besigye and company? And how will the law be applied in such a situation?

I tried to answer those questions but I remembered that I was inflicting a worthless headache on myself.  I will not write much. The proposals are still in infant stages. But I can bet my arm on this. If NRM legislators finally wake up to throw out such proposals, then I will certainly consider believing in miracles.

That said, I now would like to look at this from the legal, constitutional point of view. Does the Museveni understand the whole point behind the presumption of innocence?  What then will be the significance of Article 28 of the constitution? I personally consider access to bail as one of the ingredients of a fair hearing. And even if the law was legitimate, are the three proposed offences the worst the country is facing? What about corruption, torture? My humble opinion is that the proposed law is not in good faith and it should be challenged in the strongest ways possible. Even if it is not thrown out at debate or voting level (for obvious reasons), it must be challenged in the constitutional court after it has been passed into law.

I cannot accept a situation where the government makes laws, not out of necessity, but aimed at certain individuals in the country. Laws are supposed to be universal in nature. Secondly, I am not comfortable with putting too much power in the hands of ministers. These are political appointees who cannot say no to what the president says. Will there be that point of balance? Is there any likelihood that the minister can ever make a judgment that does not put the NRM to the advantage? Now, if his/her hands are tied, what will happen next? I see more fights between the government and the opposition politicians who look more than willing to act against the police and minister’s orders. Does it solve the problem? I say NO. What we need are not laws against peoples’ freedoms. We need a responsible government.  Period.

Now, my last word to the NRM legislators. The country watched you lie and change the constitution when you were bribed into scrapping the term limits. Your reports to parliament did not represent the peoples’ view-and you know that. You have gone ahead to pass laws according to the direction of the executive-the president in particular. You have not done your responsibility of checking the excesses of the executive. In short, you have put your party before the nation.  I will not say we are watching you because we have always watched you. That does not put you to shame anymore.  We just want to remind you that one who plays around with fire must not have a grass-thatched house.

Five more years of stagnation?

Five more years of stagnation?

Yesterday, the 12th of May 2011, marked yet another significant year of the Museveni/NRM rule over Uganda. Museveni was sworn in for his 6th term as president of Uganda. He now comfortably takes his place as one of the longest serving presidents in Africa- and even all over the world! While all the glamour was going on at Kololo Air Strip in Kampala, another (more) energetic and equally violent occasion was taking place just at Museveni backyard in Entebbe. To be more precise, it was the (final) return of Col. (Rtd) Dr. Kizza Besigye; Museveni’s worst nightmare. Let this be a topic for another day.

The gist of this article is mainly about the significance of yesterday’s occasion at Kololo. What does this mean for Uganda? Should Ugandans have any hope? Do we see any significant change for the future? What is the position and significance of the opposition especially after the poor performance in the 2011 general election? My discussion is going to rely heavily on the facts we have on ground, not academic ideology and the like.

Museveni has held the top job in Uganda for 25 years. The first 10 or about 15 years of his rule were convincingly full of progress, though not entirely clean. However, with political pressure mounting on him and his men, things got rather out of hand. This explains the very sharp difference between the 1986-2000 era and the post -2001 era. Many wounds have been created over the years, some healed and others deepened. This brings out the issue for today? What is Museveni going to do about the two societies that exist in Uganda? Because, it is evident that the political differences in Uganda are not created by the difference in ideology. It is far from that, even our own politicians do not really understand ideology. I then highly doubt that the common man downtown in Kiseka market really pays attention to political ideology. Look at our parties and try to figure out what their driving force is. You will get shocked to realize that there is none! This will perhaps help explain why our political leaders do not plan for the country at all. In Uganda, we just do things. Today it is Entandikwa, two years later, Prosperity for All and after barely 6 months, we launch Bona Bagagawale. After all those years, we see no results on the ground. That is the banana state we are!

Museveni has created two states within one. Those that have, and those that do not have. One will now want to ask: where in this world will you ever find an equal society? My answer is similar to yours: NO WHERE. But wait a minute. Does that justify social injustice in our society? Does that justify failure of a government to provide to most or even half of its citizens with basic needs? Does that justify impunity? Does that justify corruption and misuse of public funds? Does our similar answer justify institutional failure? Remember, we are not talking about any government, but a government that has been in power for 25 uninterrupted years. My answer to all these questions is therefore NO.

The biggest problem I see in Uganda in lack of political tolerance. Museveni, after being declared the winner of the last election, made a tough public statement to the effect that all he cared about are the 5 million citizens that voted for him. In other words, he does not feel like he is a leader of all the other citizens that support the opposition. That has been further evidenced by his attitude whenever there is an opposition uprising. Men are beaten, killed and locked up. Do you ever hear Museveni (as a responsible president) reign over his indiscipline men? I personally have never. The last time I heard him; he said that the CNN cameras that captured Besigye’s “unconstitutional” arrest were faulty!  These economic factors coupled with the visible intended political neglect have sharply divided up our society. We have those that feel happy with the current system. We however have the majority that is unhappy with the system. Now that looks like it’s normal. You cannot make everybody happy, so they say. Wait, this is not about unhappiness. It’s about bitterness. Many Ugandans feel cheated by the government. They pay very high taxes but they get a raw deal in return. Meanwhile, there is another group of people that get much more than they deserve. How is Museveni planning to reconcile these Ugandans? (that is if he plans so anyway…)  Ugandan politics is now driven by the desire to “protect”. Those that have much are ready to protect what they own at all costs, even if it means keeping all the wrong guys in power and positions of responsibility. Meanwhile, they have opened a political war against the majority that feel cheated by the system. The war has been joined by the NRM party. It fights alongside the few beneficiaries. It makes political sense of course.

But is this the kind of country we want? We are definitely sowing seeds of hatred amongst Ugandans. One day, people will wake up. What will Museveni tell his grandchildren? What shall we tell our children? It’s something worth thinking about.

Now let’s look at Museven’s “win” in the 2011 election. The electoral commission indicated that over about 12 million Ugandans registered to vote. That number did not escape debate. Out of the 12 million, Museveni managed to win about 5 million votes. Dr. Besigye came distant second with about 2 million votes. The rest shared the rest of the vote, which was less than a million. This means that about 4 million voters did not take part in the election. What is the significance of such a scenario? It is very important that we take note of the fact that Museveni, our current president got less that half of the total vote. And remember Uganda is now about 33 million, in terms of population. Now, if Museveni is going to concentrate on only 5 million Ugandans, where will the rest 25 million go? Who is their president?

I do not want to make predictions for the future. But our leaders (including opposition) surely must look beyond politics and power. We need leaders that will take us to the next level, and honestly 25 years is enough honeymoon. I personally do not see anything for Ugandans in the next five years. Museveni’s legal (but illegitimate) government is facing a crisis. It has a long task to prove to the population that it won an overwhelming majority in the last election. Why are they so desperate and paranoid? Why shoot the people that voted you into power? There must be a secret. As for the opposition, it’s now or never. The people want solutions not just noise and hullabaloos.

Then, to my dear Ugandans. Dr.Besigye is not a prophet. He is not Jesus. He is not going to fight alone. And even if he did manage to fight and succeed, he will forever feel cheated. Ugandans must lean to put their leaders to the accounting table. This is our country and we must fight for it. Otherwise, we are going to have first-class citizens and second-class citizens. I don’t know where you would like to belong.