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JUSTICE FORUM (JEEMA) WEEKLY PRESS STATEMENT

By JEEMA
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Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
Thank you for coming to this weekly press briefing.

1.0 Failed land policies
On May 30, the minister of state for Lands, Ms Idah Nantaba announced failure of the newly constituted land committee by President Museveni to continue with its operations. In the regime's understanding, this committee had come as the last solution to the chronic land evictions, arbitrary dispossessions, disputes and land conflicts afflicting the nation.

As we have earlier pointed out, this latest appointment of a seven-weak-committee, comprising minister Nantaba, MP Rosemary Seninde, Lubega Farouk, Ronald Sekaja, Mulinde Mukasa, and Cap. Stephen Mugarura, all but one from the central region—to traverse the entire nation after all earlier efforts were disbanded, is enough to tell right-thinking members of this country how pathetic and misguided the NRM regime operates.

In the first place, none of the committee members has grounded competence in land matters, save that they are all presumed to be loyal cadres of the regime. And this narrow-mindedness is spread across the administration board. Secondly, the committee was resource constrained—to the extent that it couldn't travel beyond the home district of minister Nantaba in Kayunga. Thirdly, it was operating under a grossly NRM-inspired flawed piece of law—the Land Amendment Act 2010 is. These and more issues combined demonstrate the governance incompetence of the regime in power.

1.1 JEEMA'S alternative
First off, the nation has to acknowledge the existence of operational loopholes in the current Land Amendment Act 2010. The equal duo rights it grants to both the land occupant and land lord are themselves a source of competition and conflict. Secondly, the state of deprivation most Ugandans experience forces them to dispose off their land rights at pea nuts and later disown the buyers—thereby, aggravating the conflicts.

In February 2013, the NRM cabinet approved the first ever consolidated national land policy. They claim to have conducted wide consultations even though they disregarded political elites of this nation who don't subscribe to the ruling party. JEEMA, though, not surprised by this conduct, finds this exclusion practice, especially at such a critical issue that concerns human exists, a gross anomaly.

Never the less, we shall offer our alternative policy as regards land matters in our country.

The NRM-unilateral land policy tends to alienate Real Estate developers, accusing them of fragmenting huge chunks of land. But in absence of the National Housing and Construction Corporation that was divested in 2005, real estate developers cannot be totally dealt away with.

Therefore, JEEMA offers that private estate developers have to be incorporated in the National Land Policy and engaged in a public-private partnership arrangement. It's these companies that have the capital to construct residential estates to be occupied by rural dwellers—so that they create space for commercial farming. The developers can then agree payment schedules by the farmers who would eventually own these apartments. As the settlement estates would evolve into urban centers, homestead incomes would multiply—ultimately before even the thirty-year vision it has to take NRM to change people's fortunes. However, this can only be done by a government genuinely wishing its people to emerge from a state of deprivation.

2.0 Media operations
JEEMA congratulates the two media establishments; the Nation Media Group branch in Uganda and the Red Pepper Publications upon their successful resurrection from a temporary government instigated demise. We thank all who have courageously acted against this action and encourage you not to give up even in future until a state of sanity on the part of governance is realized.

We sincerely share the mental, physical and financial trauma suffered by the private investors in the affected media establishments, the managers, staff and all Ugandans who were affected by this unfortunate development.

It's strange that the Nation Media conglomerate that has a presence across other East African countries-i.e Kenya and Tanzania, only the regime in Uganda consistently finds flaws with its operations. It should be recalled that the company's TV station branch in Uganda, NTV, was faulted hardly before a month from commencement of business in Uganda and subsequently lost a whole year in limbo.

The above speaks volumes of the Kampala regime's perception and interpretation of the concept of freedom of expression—that is prominently enshrined in our constitution of 1995 as amended in 2005. The fact that despite a standing court order to end the siege, the government went ahead to compel the affected institutions to sign its own drafted set of conditions before resuming operations on May 30 is a clear testimony of its hypersensitivity to any media content that lacks its own input. And that defeats the conventional concept of a free press.

As JEEMA understands it, what has happened in our nation throughout the last few days is a blatant assault to the freedom of the press and an attempt to gag the fourth estate's contribution to the democratic and transparent development process of Uganda. As it is, it's enough to argue that our regional partners who have well perceived the importance of incorporating the media, despite their active scrutiny and watchdog role, are comfortably progressing better than us in terms of democracy and development.

As we have stated before, in closing the media houses, the NRM leadership was sending a signal that it won't tolerate free and independent media ahead of campaigns for the 2016 elections - in what will be Museveni's thirty-fifth shot at the helm. In this is a demonstration that, as truly the case is with all dictatorships, freedom of expression exists with great difficulty under the NRM regime and all its advocates, not only media practitioners have to bless for more running battles.

2.1 JEEMA's Alternative Approach
An emerging democracy and economy that our country is, requires a supportive media industry. But this should not be misunderstood for compromising media ethics. It doesn't either call for application of tools of coercion on the part of government to forge this media responsibility. It's conducted through mutual and consistent dialogue.

Thus the alternative policy JEEMA offers as regards the media industry is the need to enhance capacity building of the non-statutory professional Independent Media Council of Uganda (IMCU). Like other professions have their independent bodies such as the bar, health workers, civil engineers, accountants, IMCU is best suited to enforcing media professional codes of conduct that stress accuracy, fairness and balanced reporting. These can never be enforced by non-professionals and more so the armed component of government.

JEEMA, therefore, condemns the continued application of arms by the NRM government as a solution to settling any sort of conflict.

But since we have in place a government that seeks to directly control every one and individual actions, it's unlikely that NRM will give IMCU a lee way. We, therefore, urge you dear members of media to prepare in advance alternative ways of serving your audiences.

Don't be cowed at using the internet, despite threats of monitoring your electronic mail accounts and be sure, to publish even simple newsletters that don't require heavy advertisement revenue to survive up to the time you will attain a fully free space to operate from.

Thank you,
Swaib K. Nsereko
SECRETARY FOR INFORMATION