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[Africa News]

GULU, Uganda--A Gulu University don, Prof. Joseph Okello-Onen, has advised African governments to turn governance challenges in the course of their duties into opportunities in terms of projects.

Prof. Okello-Onen, who is also the Chairman of the Uganda African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) National Governing Council (NGC), made the remarks during the 4th Annual progress report validation exercise held at Gulu, Northern Uganda on Tuesday, 19th May 2015. Similar validations were also held throughout Uganda on the same day in Mbale, Mbarara and Mukono.

“We need to change our mindsets in some of these issues. What are the challenges that you can turn into opportunities in terms of projects and research topics?” Says Prof. Okello-Onen.

APRM is Africa’s Self- assessment for good governance. Its objectives are primarily to foster the adaptation of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through experience sharing and reinforcement of successful and best practices.

It is also an instrument voluntarily acceded to by member states of some of African Union (AU) as an African self-monitoring mechanism to ensure that policies and practices of participating states conform to the agreed political, economic and Democracy and Good Political Governance values, principles, codes and standards.

Uganda, which was peer reviewed on 29th June 2008, has been implementing its National Program of Action (POA) through National Development Plan and the National Budget, to guide and mobilize the country’s efforts in implementing the necessary changes aimed at improving the state of governance, and foster socio-economic transformation. President Yoweri Museveni is scheduled to present this report to his peers during a Summit in June 2015 in South Africa.

“APRM requires participating countries to present Annual Progress Reports towards meeting the APRM objectives of self-monitoring for good governance. Therefore a mandatory 4th Annual Report covering the period July 2011 to June 2014 has been developed,” Says Prof. Okello-Onen.

This report was developed by an independent National Governing Council (NGC) of 8 members as part of its cardinal role of offering leadership to the APRM process through a consultative and participatory process. It covers four thematic areas, namely: Democracy and Political Governance, Socio-Economic Development, Economic Governance and Management and Corporate Governance. They do this by capturing main achievements and challenges.

On Democracy and Political Governance, a member observed although the document circulated to members at the meeting states that “the armed conflict in Northern Uganda has been resolved”, truth on the ground states that we have instead expanded and exported the war to other countries in the region.

“However, we know that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)/ Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) fighting has been shifted from Northern Uganda to Central African Republic (CAR) and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is a big challenge because we have exported our own conflict as Ugandans to neighboring countries. The people there are suffering because of our egos to kill the leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony. Can’t we try alternative means of ending the LRA/UPDF war other than military means?” says the member who was present at the meeting but who prefers to remain anonymous.

“There is need to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Uganda as a means to bring everlasting peace. We need to give immunity to President Museveni in the Constitution even when he retires so as to address his fears of possible prosecution in case other Ugandans are thinking along that line,” he says.

Prof. Okello-Onen faulted the Uganda government for underfunding Agricultural ministry yet agriculture employs over 70% of the population. In 2011/2012 financial year, it was 4.5% while in the 2012/2013 financial year it was reduced  to3.5% and in the 2013/2014 year, it was reduced to a mere 2.9%.

“Institutional reforms in agriculture (and other sectors) and particularly in National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) have been long overdue. One option, the introduction of a Single Spine Extension Service (SSES), has not yet been adopted. The military was introduced to help improve supervision and speed up delivery of NAADS inputs to farmers,” saya the report in parts.

The report also criticizes commercial banks for keeping interest on loan high yet interest rates on savings by customers are very low. It says this is stifling business enterprises.

“While the gap between the interest on savings and interest on credit should ordinarily range about 7% point, in Uganda interest on savings is about 2.5% while interest on loans can be as high as over 20% per annum,” says the report.

The report notes that the share of commercial bank loan to agricultural activities remains low. This has resulted in low public investments in agriculture which dropped from 0.7% in 2010/2011 to 0.5% in 2012/2013 financial years.


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