Monday Akol Amazima
When I relocated to Europe, I thought I had taken a break from journalism, little did I know that journalism is addictive. As issues come up in the media, the urge to have a comment or two becomes unstoppable. There has been a wave of high profile people including though not limited to serving ministers being humiliated publically. The honourable members have unceremoniously been sent to Luzira to the country’s ‘prestigious university of understanding.’ The arrests have drawn both criticism and applause depending how one views the fight against corruption. However, every dark cloud has a silver lining and no matter how ugly the situation, there is a lesson or two to learn.
Among those sent to Luzira was the Hon Amos Lugolobi the State Minister of Finance Planning and Economic Development. As and when he was receiving bail, he did say that it is God that sent him to Luzira so that he can be able to see the horrible situation the prisoners go through. Luzira has hosted high profile prisoners ranking from former president Paulo Muwanga to former Vice president Prof. Gilbert Bukenya.
Some current high profile and powerful ministers have before been to Luzira but what is strange is that non of then looks back as an OB or alumni of the place to highlight the plight of inmates. What Hon Lugolobi is saying must not be taken lightly. Our prisons, instead of acting as correction centres, have turned into humiliation and dehumanising centres.
The congestion in cells and prisoners that have falsely been accused or convicted is among the many horrible stories you will get from Luzira. Horrible pictures of prisoners being tortured beyond repair are some of the images that come to some people’s mind whenever they talk about prison. Oh yes Nalufenya under the then all powerful IGP General Kale Kayihura and her victims of gross torture are still fresh in people’s minds
As the junior minister for planning, Hon Lugolobi ought to know there is need for Uganda to have a functioning planning sector or department. General Mugisha Muntu once called Uganda a fire brigade country that only deals with emergencies all the time. It is interesting that after many photos of the big potholes on our roads went viral, it was when the fountain of honour ordered for release of funds to have them repaired!!!!
When a high profile person dies in an accident, this is when the traffic will look at the state of the cars and eligibility of drivers on our public roads. When it is reported that women in Kasese give birth on the floor, it is when the ministry of health will think of showing the newly renovated Masaka Referral Hospital, to cover up the shame.
It is important that as a country we go back onto the drawing board and look at the key sectors. Failure by government to plan and allocate resources in time is largely the main cause of the general breakdown in most of the institutions.
Our prisons as rehabilitation centres ought to graduate or pass out people better than they came into the prisons. For example a young man is caught stealing on the streets, taken to prison, one would imagine that after serving his sentence he should have acquired skills that will enable him live a better life and be acceptable back into the society.
But in most cases when they have finished serving their sentence, some have nowhere to restart life. They find their families disintegrated with children and the wife being left to fate to decide. Prisoners and former prisoners still have a role to play in Uganda and therefore the lives and welfare of prisoners at all time must be prioritised.
The author is a journalist, teacher and Pan African based in Stockholm Sweden