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At the heart of civil society

CSC Alumni Uganda Panel Discussion

What does accountable leadership look like and can it change society for the better? Commonwealth Alumni in Uganda gathered on Thursday 6 December 2018 in Kampala to discuss these questions as part of a panel discussion on the topic of ‘Accountable leadership- a tool for promoting good governance in Uganda for sustainable development’.

‘Peace, justice and strong institutions’, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. To address these development aims, panellists were drawn from across government departments, including judiciary and Inspector General of Government (IGG), as well as non-state actors, to share, educate and inform the audience on accountable leadership, what it looks like, and how it can be implemented.

The judiciary plays a fundamental role in the promotion of democracy. Judges, especially of the higher courts, occupy a special position in a democratic society. The Constitution provides that judicial power which is derived from the people and shall be exercised ‘in the name of the people and in conformity with the law and with the values, norms and aspirations of the people’. The Constitution establishes courts as the bastion in the defence of the people against oppressive and unjust law and practices. The courts must protect fundamental human rights and freedoms which, as pointed out above, are a cornerstone of democracy.

Panellists were drawn from across government departments

Panellists were drawn from across government departments

The panel and discussion points were as follows:

  • Justice Kenneth Kakuru, Judge, Court of Appeal. What is the role of the judiciary in promoting accountable governance?
  • Justice Mike Chibita, Director of Public Prosecutions. How can the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) promote accountable leadership for all Ugandans?
  • Francis Gimara, Partner, Arcadia Advocates. How to promote state-citizen engagement
  • Perry Aritua, Executive Director, Women’s Democracy Network. Accountability and inclusion

The audience was comprised of alumni, including recently returned Scholars, officials from the Ministry of Education (the CSC nominating agency), a representative from the British High Commission, and members of the legal fraternity in Uganda.

Fiona Inci, British Council Country Director, made the opening remarks and highlighted the progress and plans of Commonwealth Alumni through the local alumni association, Uganda Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows Alumni Association (UCSFAA).

How can the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) promote accountable leadership for all Ugandans?

Justice Mike Chibita addresses attendees

Justice Mike Chibita addresses attendees

Justice Mike Chibita discussed the role of the DPP and the various government departments and ministries it works with to support prosecutions, including the Inspector General of Government, Uganda Revenue Authority, International Crimes Department, and Ministry of Youth and Gender. He noted the challenges faced in this work, which included case backlogs, governance, budgetary constraints, and corruption. Another challenge raised was the monetisation of politics and asset recovery bottlenecks.

Despite these challenges, Justice Chibita shared some key improvements and innovations made. The office of the DPP has now introduced a system to follow up on cases in far to reach areas like Kisoro, Karamoja, to ensure that all efforts are made to serve justice. Plea-bargaining was now greatly utilised which in particular has helped to clear people who have stolen small amounts of money, which has subsequently reduced over-crowding in prisons. The office of the DPP has also put great emphasis on victim support and has taken a victim centred approach in most of the cases handled.

Justice Chibita was pleased to share achievements made by the DPP, including news that they had successfully prosecuted the majority of the accused in the Office of the Prime Minister Scandal, and that they had recovered more than 1 billion Ugandan shillings in stolen money. He ended his discussion calling for communities to have more vigilant people and greater need for the promotion of zero tolerance to impunity.

Accountability and inclusion

Perry Aritua focused her discussion on issues surrounding accountability, noting that it should be at the heart of civil society. She highlighted that a negative narrative surrounding accountability has created apathy among the public and it is now important to create a positive narrative to re-engage citizens. As part of this, she raised that there was a loss of values in society and that more should be done to address civil awareness among children through schools.

How to promote state-citizen engagement

Francis Gimara focused his talk on ways to promote state citizen engagement and encouraged the audience to think about the following questions as part of this: what kind of citizen do we have? Go back to basics; do we have citizens or subjects? Do we have empowered citizens? As a means of achieving accountable leadership he stated that citizens have to feel empowered to demand it and recognise the values needed for good leadership.

The panel discussion was followed by a lively Q&A. Final remarks from the moderator, Alice Namuli Blazevic (2014 Professional Fellow, Hogan Lovells LLP), urged Commonwealth Alumni to think about the ways they can support and achieve accountable leadership and the wider aims of SDG 16 in their own communities, and as individuals.

Following discussions and thanks, Commonwealth Alumnus and President of UCSFAA, Arthur Niwagaba (2012 Scholar, MSc Computer Forensics and System Security, University of Greenwich), thanked the British Council for their support in organising the event and encouraged attendees to take initiative in helping their communities. He noted that opportunities for further engagement between Commonwealth Alumni and stakeholders in the justice sector could be continued in future.

Attendees pose for a group a photo

Attendees pose for a group a photo

Photos from the event are available on CSC Flickr

If you are a Commonwealth Alumnus and would like to find out more about CSC events an activities taking place in Uganda, please contact alumni@cscuk.org.uk

You can also get involved in the local alumni association, Uganda Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows Alumni Associations (UCSFAA), which is coordinated by its President Arthur Niwagaba (2012 Scholar, MSc Computer Forensics and System Security, University of Greenwich) and supported in its work by the British Council Uganda

Photos on flickr

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