Wednesday, December 21, 2011


There is a new-born in the family and Dad likes the new-born more! Dad will therefore be updating this new-born more frequently and is cutting the umblical cord that ties me and my other sibling with him (Males are not good mothers at all). So, find us at Words and Noise. That is where Dad is making Noise and writing Words from and at.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Why the human rights justification for the invasion of Libya is faulty.

Human rights are generally defined as entitlements which accrue to human beings for merely being human. Human rights have since the foundation of the United Nations been classified into two major categories, socio-economic rights and civil-political rights.

Economic, social and cultural rights are socio-economic human rights, such as the right to education, the right to housing, and the right to health while Civil and political rights protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.

Throughout history, notably during the cold-war era, the west insisted on civil political rights as the only rights and as mutually inclusive of socio-economic rights while the east argued that socio-economic rights are the only rights worth the tag and are mutually inclusive of the civil and political rights. This divergence in opinion has outlived the cold war. To-date, in China, it is understood that a citizen’s right to housing, food, work, health, education among others is more important than the right to free speech, sexual orientation and others which the United States of America may consider the bedrock of the other rights.

Muammar Gaddafi’s thinking as espoused in the Green book naturally falls on the China-way of thinking. Thus Libya has in the forty two years Gaddafi has ruled the country attained one of the highest standard of living, not only in Africa and the Arab world but also arguably in the world. It is reasonably understood that whereas the United States of America is reputed as a developed nation, the poorest man in Libya is incomparable to the poorest in America; the latter will perceive the former as rich.

The noise that has of recent been made regarding Gaddafi’s seemingly endless rule over Libya is largely a matter that borders on ideological thinking and preference and detestation for and of socialism and capitalism on either side. That Gaddafi largely ensured that Libyans of population strength of 6,461,454 as at July 2010 attain education free of charge, free quality health services proven by a Life expectancy of 77.47 years generally, male 75.18 years and female 79.88 years is no mean feat.

The “mighty” United States of America knows the opposition the Health proposals by the Obama administration went through. Thus, some Americans do not have access to what an ordinary Libyan has access to. We must admit however that the ordinary Libyan would/cannot not express him/herself like the broke and poor ordinary American.

The dichotomy between socio-economic rights and civil and political rights is largely academic, all rights, socio-economic or civil-political are interdependent and mutually inclusive. The Libya-America comparison is thus a story of two brothers building their houses. Each house needs both civil-political and socio-economic rights to be complete. However, each brother prefers to emphasize one of the rights against the other as they build. America has built well so far by implementing civil and political rights but there is huge deficit regarding socio-economic rights, we must admit. Libya has also excelled in building its own but has only worked on socio-economic rights without considering the civil and political rights.

In the process of these brothers building, America (in this case representing the west) is however smitten by their brother Libya’s progress and has put a stop on his own house to first destroy Libya’s house and also force it to start on the civil-political rights path in the process destroying the progress made in the socio-economic rights realm. At the end of the day, the Libyan is the loser. The progress made in the socio-economic rights realm is lost for good. They have to start afresh to build the civil and political rights realm and following America’s instruction will concentrate on that and forget the progress they once made. As for America, destroying Libya’s progress is not only inhuman but also evil and immoral. To hide behind the human rights cloak is not only shameful but also hypocritical because they know that Libya’s progress was huge and admirable!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why you should desist from giving your law savvy friend the coveted “counsel” title

It has become common to hear people refer to their friends and colleagues who are law students or practicing lawyers as “counsel”. Interestingly even among the law student community, it is not unusual to hear one student refer to another as “counsel” anywhere and at anytime in any circumstance. Is every lawyer “a counsel” as the common speak seems to suggest? To appreciate the depth of the problem with the title “counsel”, we need to look at all possible titles to a person whose professional attachment is the practice of law with particular regard to Ugandan legal practice.

A lawyer according to the 7th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is a general term for a person who is trained and qualified to advise people about the law, to prepare legal documents for them and/or to represent them in a court of law. The Black’s Law Dictionary defines a lawyer as a person learned in the law. Mr. Francis Wazarwahi Bwengye writes in his book; Legal Practice in Uganda; The Law, Practice and Conduct of Advocates at page 16; “... there are notable lawyers who have not been advocates. These include law professors, corporation secretaries, business managers and others with academic qualifications in law. … These people have all the justification to call themselves lawyers.” My understanding of Bwengye’s view is that graduates of law can use the lawyer tag even when they are not advocates.

Who then is an advocate? An advocate according to the Advocates Act, Cap 267, Laws of Uganda, 2000, section 1(a) is any person whose name is duly entered upon the roll. The roll is according to section 1 (m), (l) and 7 of the Advocates Act, Cap 267 means the roll of advocates kept by the chief registrar of the High Court. One becomes an Advocate following the provisions of the Advocates Act, Cap 267 and compliance with such requirements, relating to instruction, examination and otherwise as to the acquisition of professional skill and experience as specified in regulations made for that purpose by the Law Council. The process of becoming an advocate is a long winding one but briefly, one must complete four years of university study thereby attaining the LLB qualification, and then pursue the one year postgraduate bar course at The Law Development Centre and the satisfy set requirements and go through elaborate procedures before they can have their name entered on the roll of Advocates of the High Court and issued with a practicing certificate.

There are individuals who have completed four years of university study and attained the LLB qualification only or have even completed the one year postgraduate bar course at The Law Development Centre but stopped there. They are lawyers but not advocates because to be an advocate, one must have their name entered on the roll of Advocates of the High Court of Uganda following the elaborate procedures and requirements set by the Law Council.

Before we address our minds to how problematic the apparent use of the title “counsel” is, let us first consider the title attorney and Esq. also in use in relation to legal professionals. The 6th edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Law states that an attorney is a person who is given power to act on behalf of another in business or legal matters. This is done by signing a power of attorney. An attorney according to the 7th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is a lawyer especially one who can act for somebody in court. Thus, whereas in common speak, an attorney can mean a lawyer or advocate, in legal language, an attorney is the bearer of a power of attorney, not necessarily a lawyer. In the United States however, an attorney at law (or attorney-at-law) means a practitioner in a court of law who is legally qualified to prosecute and defend actions in court on behalf of clients.

Esq. is the title used after the name of a male or female lawyer according to the 7th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Wikipedia agrees that the suffix Esq. frequently used in the United States, most commonly designates individuals licensed to practice law, and applies to both men and women. Wikipedia adds that although many attorneys in the United States use the form of address Esq. when signing correspondence or filing documents with a court, it is usually used only when the reference is in the third person, such as addressing an envelope, making a formal introduction, or on business letterhead. Esq. is never used with any pre-nominal form of address, such as Dr., Mr. or Ms. Thus, Brian Bwesigye, Esq. or Mr. Brian Bwesigye would be correct, but Mr. Brian Bwesigye, Esq. would be incorrect.

Let us turn to the problematic title; “counsel”. The 7th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines Counsel as a lawyer or group of lawyers representing somebody in court. According to Wikipedia, the word counsel is used to mean either a single person who pleads a cause, or collectively, the body of barristers engaged in pleading a case. Barrister, a word in use in the United Kingdom means a lawyer in Britain who has the right to argue cases in the higher courts of law.

The word counsel is thus used during court proceedings to refer to the advocates in court who are arguing the case before court in that particular court session. Wikipedia notes that it is customary to use the third person when addressing a barrister instructed on a case: "Counsel is asked to advise" rather than "You are asked to advise". The word has no plural thus “counsels” in reference to more than one person does not exist.

It is important to emphasize a few things; firstly that in Uganda, only advocates argue cases before judges of the High Court and other superior courts, secondly, that the use of the word “counsel” is limited to a court session and to the advocates arguing the case. Out of the courtroom, the use of the word Counsel to refer to anyone is erroneous. Even in the courtroom, only advocates arguing a case are referred to as counsel. The law students should therefore relax and read harder, you are not yet qualified for the title of “counsel”, even when you become advocates, you shall only enjoy the reference when in court and arguing a case. My fellow bar course students, we should only savor the weekly moots when we get to argue mock cases, because then we are in imitations of real court proceedings and as “advocates” we qualify for the tag, “counsel”, but then, even then, it will be a mock title, like the moot is a mock case.

So, the next time you want to utter the word “counsel” to refer to a lawyer or law student, remember this. Those with non-law backgrounds might be forgiven for misusing the title, but how the law students and lawyers explain the abuse of the title is even worse than the non-law public. How unlearned!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tribalism and Tribal Identities in Uganda, no need for polarization.

On Friday 22nd, October, 2010, while at Uganda Christian University, one of the lecturers that attended the competition that the Uganda Law Students Society and the International Committee for the Red Cross organize annually came close to me and asked, 'Are you Kenyan?' I was not surprised as much because my neighbor had in the last week observed that I have a Kenyan accent. But I didn't want to assume, I asked the lecturer why she thought I was Kenyan. She told me about my curly hair, that I speak so fast and yes, my accent!

In 2006, fate threw me to Pallisa where I was working in a restaurant. Pallisa is a melting pot of tribes; it has Bagwere, Basoga and Itesots among others. I was always bemused at how it was so easy for people to greet me in Ateso, than Lusoga or Rugwere. Almost everyone thought I was an Itesot. When I engaged one of my co-workers on the matter, she told me that all my physical features are Itesot, from my dark complexion to my height and small body.

Later in 2007, as we lined up at Makerere university freedom square (was helping a friend applying to join the university), some two tall boys fluked some space in front of us in the line. Annoyed at the arrogance, I told them that they should respect us and go behind. One of them sneered at me and blurted in heavy Runyankore, 'ogu omwairu egyi agyetsire Gulu?' meaning 'does this "mwairu' (Runyankore for servant) think this is Gulu?' I understand Runyankore because my mother tongue Rukiga is linked to it, but to this man, I was from Gulu, probably an Acholi. How wrong! Pretending not to have understood, I pestered them further and then they responded more rudely and even referred to me as a 'mukooko' (Runyakitara for animal)! That is when I lost my cool and I guess others in the line had been equally annoyed by the couple of these arrogant and no doubt discriminatory boys. We united and threw them out of the line, almost physically.

So, Brian Bwesigye, before disclosing his surname that always offers a free clue to his tribe has been mistaken for a Kenyan, an Itesot, an Acholi and a Rwandan (Tutsi)! Yet I am one simple Mukiga, born among the Basyaba of Maziba, Kabale! To judge a person's identity by their looks and physique is folly. Many a time when people realize that I am a Mukiga, the first comment is that I do not look as strong as Bakiga! My height, from an early age has always attracted comparisons to the Tutsi, my dark complexion when I started living in Kampala also attracted comparisons to Acholi and when I lived in Pallisa, I was a typical Itesot! That is not to mention my accent when speaking English, some have said it is Kenyan, others have said that it is Rukiga-influenced!

But that does not mean that tribal identity is non-existent because it can not easily be discerned by physical features. It is in fact important. Those who have lived and stayed with me, (they no longer judge my tribe by my looks) easily tell you that I am a Mukiga. My identity comes through many aspects of character. You can not see them the first time we meet. My ancestry, my history, my culture, my mother-tongue, my likes and dislikes, the taboos in my life, the values that my parents, community and folklore have inculcated in me are all that make me a Mukiga! Do not take it for granted that the hills of Kabale have also shaped this identity. Our interaction with nature shapes how we think and what we think and no doubt the hills have shaped that. One who has lived on the shores of a lake has their identity shaped by the lake.

And this is the identity the Baganda yearn for when they say there is one radio in Uganda (kingdom owned CBS), it is the identity the Bahima jealously guard including using force, when they clothe their fascination with large patches of land in legitimate claims of bonafide occupancy. It is the same identity that the Karamajong also want, despite the fact that other pastoralists like them get preferential treatment. The Rwezururu kingdom inhabitants of the Rwenzori mountain ranges want the same right to have their identity recognized, the same for Banyoro, Acholi etc. That does not mean we are dividing the country, it means we are uniting the country as we celebrate our diversity! So, why is there polarization among the different identities? Because politicians have messed us up! They have attempted to inflict their own identity on us, to destroy our identity in favor of theirs! And to judge our qualities and entitlements on the basis of our identity, than merit and citizenship!

Thus when Col. Dr. Besigye contested for FDC president with Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu in FDC, we did not hear any voice against "tribalism", when one won, now a one Nabillah is saying that FDC is ruled by "westerners", an ambiguous identity because as a Mukiga, to be humped together with a Muhima does not augur well for my identity! And was Col. Besigye voted for being a Mukiga and Muntu not voted for his tribal identity? And who did the Baganda vote because there was no Muganda in the race? Do people like Nabillah and Betty Kamya want an election where the eight plus tribes of Uganda are having a candidate each? It is shallow to resort to tribe to justify selfish ambitions. We should vote people because they deserve and have the qualities we want. And we should out rightly reject those who undermine our identities, those who look down upon us when we respect our cultures (like kneeling for our kings). Those who use tribal identity to divide us like one that once wrote that Bakiga should not contest for elective positions have no place in the Uganda we deserve. Our diversity should not polarize relations among us; our diversity should fortify our efforts to develop as country!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ugandan media buried beyond resurrection?

A blogger named Tumwijukye tickled a topic I have been thinking about for years now in her post titled "Death of the Watchdog" (read the post here

The revelations made by the links in the blog make a moralist want to choke, the radical want to launch a revolutionary war (of words or of guns, whichever). Well, they added to some baggage that I have heard, seen, sensed and I thought my eyes were already wet with tears. Well, I did not cry, because it hit me that mere tears cannot help the situation! I would certainly lick them off my cheek and with them, I would lick the worries and the Ugandan media would continue losing its dignity and without dignity, credibility would be lost.

Then, a thought invaded my brain, maybe journalists need a Uganda Journalists' Society (like Uganda Law Society for lawyers)! This thought clarified itself by telling me that this society would have a disciplinary arm. Then I asked the thought, who would comprise of the body? Who would appoint members? By an election? Government appointments?

Then, my memory told me of the existence of the Uganda Media Council! First wait and I say something about that council.The council was established by the Press and Journalist Act of 1995 and charged with the regulation of the Mass Media. From their website (, I gather that the members are Dr. Gorretti Nassanga (Chairperson), Mr. James Walugembe, Mr. Katebalirwe Amooti, Mr. Wafula Oguttu, Mr. Paul Mukasa, Mr. Paulo Ekuchu, Ms. Beatrice Were, Mr. Kawooya Mwebe, Mr. Sunday Wilson Ojiambo and Ms. Lina Zedriga. The council has a disciplinary committee. This council has heard around nineteen cases. My facebook friends that have followed my status updates since August easily recognise the last member of this council. At a personal level, I wonder which justice she dispenses, knowing that she left her magisterial job under unclear circumstances, left the job she had at Gulu university fearing a probe and with the recent turn of events at APILU where she is under a probe, to hear that she is adjudicating a matter makes the whole matter a joke! I respect some members of the council like Wafula Oguttu and others but why keep the company of individuals like Ms. Lina Zedriga who could assault an employee (that employee is yours truly) as a member of a council meant to regulate the media? And I have not mentioned the list of claims of forgery claims on her name and other undignified acts and incidencies of misconduct. Which dignity can such an undignified member instill in the media? Thus with the Media council, I do not think there is much hope for any help in regard to instilling dignity in the fourth estate. And it is not because of Ms. Lina alone, thus do not jump to dispute the African saying that one girl that produces before marriage taints the whole village (loosely translated Rukiga saying). The general public generally seems not to apprecaite the role of the council, you just need to see the statitistics of cases filed at the council and that does not mean that there are no cases to report. You perhaps remember the infamous role of the council in the "Vagina Monologues" saga sometime back!

Someone remembers that there is a Uganda Journalists' Association. I know it more for its scandals than its good work, I can not risk to talk about its good side which I do not know. (Read further on the dignity of this body here;

We know what the Mutabazi led Broadcasting council can do. Don't we remember the record closure of more than three radio stations in two days? And Mr. Mutabazi owns some media (broadcasting to be exact) entities as well, meaning he is the judge-goat judging fellow goats! I do not see any dignity in that.

One asks, where should those interested in an independent and dignified Ugandan media turn?I know a predictable comment that there should be a media tribunal like that proposed by the Zuma led government in South Africa, I am not sure that is a one-fix-all solution! I can not point out an exact and precise solution now and here, so should I cry and lick my worries?