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Uganda: Minister,Otafiire calls for Press Freedom.

By John Odyek-New Vision Uganda.

Uganda’s Justice Minister Gen. Kahinda Otafiire has rooted for freedom of speech, saying it is a right guaranteed in Uganda’s Constitution.

Everybody should be allowed to talk without exception, he said.

“Whether they are wise, foolish and absurd, provided they don’t infringe on the rights of others, everybody should be allowed to talk freely. All citizens should talk. If you don’t talk it is your fault,” the minister pointed out.

He was opening a consultative meeting on the draft National Civic Education Policy at Esella Country Hotel, Kiira, Wakiso district mid this week.

The meet was organized by the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC).

Otafiire stressed that there is no leader too mighty to listen to others, as it’s the people who transfer authority to their leaders.

Civic education is critical in empowering citizens to exercise their rights, the minister went on, adding that there are over 100 FM radios and over 40 TV stations that should be put to good use.

The draft policy defines civic education as a process of imparting knowledge, skills, creating awareness among citizens on their rights, duties and responsibilities.

The general made it clear that state power in Uganda can be changed through elections and no other means.

“The exercise of state authority can be attained through willful election and wish of the people of Uganda through the ballot box and not the bullet box and not by birth right, not by force.

“I have been hearing a lot of clamoring of recent – you didn’t give us this, you didn’t give us that …,” he spoke out.

Med Kaggwa, who chairs UHRC, stressed that the mandate of the commission is to protect and promote human rights.

The chairman said they actively participate in discussing the (National Civic Education) policy because effective civic education is a vital component in promoting human rights.

The commission finds civic education as a proactive and preventive strategy against human rights violations.

“The uncoordinated civic education delivery by multiple actors in the county has made it difficult for the positive impact of civic education to be realized. The uncoordinated interventions in civic education delivery will be addressed by the policy,” Kaggwa said.

The draft policy states that the confusion created over the years has made voter education synonymous with civic education.

“This is because in every electoral period, significant efforts are made by the stakeholders led by the Electoral Commission to deliver civic education which is limited to voter education and ends with elections,” reads the draft in part.

The draft spells out the legal framework for civic education, it defines the state and non-state actors in civic education, and it also provides for communication strategies and financing of civic education.

Civil society representatives, donor groups, ambassadors, embassy representatives and ministries were part of the meet.

Others in attendance included departments and agencies of government, local government leaders and religious leaders.