Ministry of Health in Uganda Exploits and Dumps Its Employees

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class) – LDC; Cert. PELD – NALI-K; LLB (Hons) – Mak; PG Cert. Oil & Gas – Mak];

Uganda’s health ministry shamelessly exploits, abuses and dump its employees. I derive this considered opinion from the experience of about 80 nurses and midwives who have approached me for assistance in handling their salary grievances against the Ministry of Health, which hired and deployed them to work in various parts of the country for one year, but did not pay them even a single cent for their services.

Briefly, the sad story of the said nurses and midwives is as follows:

The Government of Uganda, represented by the Ministry of Health, established a Private Not For Profit bursary pool fund, in partnership with its development partners, and the Uganda Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim Medical Bureaus.

Under this arrangement, the Government was to sponsor selected students in nursing and midwifery. The students were to undergo training at centres known as Health Training Institutions (HTI), availed and operated by the medical bureaus, at a cost of Uganda shillings two million per year, per student.

Formal bonding agreements were entered into in 2011 and 2012, between the beneficiary students and the Government, represented by Ms Kusasira Edith, who signed for the Permanent Secretary of the ministry. The agreements were witnessed by the Principals of the HTIs, and the Head of Personnel at the Ministry, Ms Birungi Rachel Asiimwe.

The students undertook studies and completed training in 2013.

On 23 June 2014, they were offered a Non-Pensionable Contract Appointment as enrolled nurses and midwives, for one year, as arrangements were made to regularize their appointment in the mainstream public service, subject to their performance. This offer was made in a letter signed by Ms Kusasira Edith, signing for the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, stating, among others, a monthly salary (for example, each midwife was to earn Uganda shillings 365,627/= per month, inclusive of PAYE and 5% employee’s contribution to NSSF), and that acceptance of the offer should be made in writing. It was copied to the Executive Director of Mulago National Referral Hospital, Dr Byarugaba Biryabareba.

The nurses and midwives accepted the offer in writing on different dates, expressing their gratitude for the deployments, and promised to abide by the rules and regulations of their work stations. Henceforth, they became employees of the Ministry of Health.

On 27 June 2014, the substantive Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr Lukwago Asuman, issued posting instructions to the nurses and midwives to various work stations across Uganda, including Mulago National Referral Hospital, effective 1 July 2014. The letter was copied to the Executive Director of Mulago hospital, Dr Byarugaba Biryabareba, instructing him to inform Permanent Secretary Dr Lukwago Asuman as soon as the employees start working, for him (Dr Lukwago) to start processing their salaries.

On 1 July 2014, the nurses and midwives started working at their duty stations across the country. During this time – around 3rd and 4th July 2014 – they also filed their Personal Record Forms with the Ministry of Health, indicating their particulars (like names, date of birth, nationality, sex, districts of origin, places of work, religious denomination, bank account details, educational status and qualifications, and next of kin).

On the instruction of Mr Louis Tugume, acting for the Permanent Secretary of the health ministry, they were examined by Government Medical Officers, to ascertain their medical fitness for appointment to the public service. After examination, they were found to be medically fit and cleared for appointment. The clearance was copied to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Service.

The employees worked for one year, up to July 2015. During this whole time, not even a single shilling was paid to them!

It is said, however, that Ms Kusasira Edith, who I gather is the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, made a verbal communication to some still unknown people, in September 2014 (only three months after the employees’ assumption of work), that the Non-Pensionable Contract Appointment was terminated. This, of course, was very irregular of Ms Kusasira, especially, considering that everything from the start was in writing, yet she now purported to terminate the contract by mere word of mouth, and given her close and personal involvement in this matter.

Nevertheless, the employees continued working at their duty stations, mainly because of strong and repeated assurances and encouragement from their superiors that their money would come in bulk. At Mulago hospital, for example, the Executive Director, Dr Byarugaba Biryabareba, told them confidently that their money was there, and warned that whoever didn’t work as per the agreement, would not get it. On basis of such reliable assurances and encouragements, the nurses and midwives continued working tirelessly, faithfully and loyally, serving their country and people diligently.

By God’s grace and mercy, I undertake investigation and resolution of this matter, with a view of helping the affected employees obtain justice; but some disturbing thoughts come to my mind.

It is highly possible that the nurses’ and midwives’ salaries were released, but misappropriated and stolen by officials either at the Ministry of Health or the duty stations. In the likely event that this hypothesis is true, then it would be very absurd and unfortunate for this country. I promise that whoever is found culpable in this matter will be held accountable before God, all the responsible authorities in Uganda and beyond, and definitely, the people, in whose name all public work is done.

Then, one cannot help, but pity the health workers of this country, who have to deal with insensitive, callous, exploitative, corrupt, and inconsiderate superiors. Many times I hear members of the public complaining that they are mistreated by harsh health workers especially, nurses and midwives. While this is wrong and should be condemned in the strongest terms possible, it is also important to appreciate the plight and hardships of our healthcare system personnel. Take, for instance, the nurses and midwives involved here, who worked for a full year without pay at all! They have to look after themselves, their families, and other dependants, plus a host of other financial obligations to cater for. How on earth are they expected to survive? I think it is due to such great or immense difficulties that some of them vent their deep-seated anger and frustration on their patients, although, as I have clearly said, unjustifiably so. As the saying goes, ‘A hungry (wo)man is an angry (wo)man.’


I Have Written My Epitaph

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma

[Dip. Law (First Class) – LDC; Cert. PELD – NALI-K; LLB (Hons) – Mak; PG Cert. Oil & Gas – Mak];

I have consciously written my epitaph, to be inscribed on my tombstone, when I die. It states as follows:

When it is said that I – Bakampa Brian Baryaguma, friend of all, enemy of none – am dead, let it be known by all and sundry that I am not, but simply gone to glory to be with Jesus, my Lord, eternal friend and savior, in whom I now have a long and peaceful rest.

My dear compatriots, friends, relatives, and strangers alike, in the event that I die, please see to it that those words are well labeled on my tombstone, and any photos or images either announcing my demise, or commemorating my stay in this world. My epitaph should serve as my parting message to a mundane world that I shall be happy to leave behind, and to a people I so cherished and loved; and further, to usher me into the realm of graceful eternity. It is only to be consciously changed by me while I still live.

It is human nature to fear and dread the unknown. It is no wonder, therefore, that people fear death. Fortunately I don’t, because to my mind, death, in and as of itself, is a good thing, since it is a transition to greater things and place ahead. Rather, I am afraid of how I die: in the sense that first, I dread death from a long and painful sickness, and second, dying without a credible legacy or leaving without having done something worthy and of benefit to humanity. That is why my unwavering prayer to the Almighty God is for the blessing of a long-enough life, with wisdom, for me to be able to cater for as many human needs as possible; and at the end of the day, when I have done all I humanly could, to pass away in peace. I may be wrong, but I think dying in sleep is dying peacefully. That is the kind of death I desire.

I wonder why people fear death, for, as well stated by Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich (1937), as revised and expanded by Dr. Arthur R. Pell (2004), at 273, ‘This fear is useless. Death will come, no matter what anyone may think about it. Accept it as a necessity and pass the thought out of your mind. It must be a necessity or it would not come at all.’ I cannot agree more. People fear death so much that they even abdicate their responsibilities like writing wills, for fear that if they do so, they will be invariably wishing and inviting death upon themselves. This is extremely irrational and embarrassing.

You see, nature designed life on earth in such a way that one living thing must die to give way to, and/or sustain another. Now, you who fear death: just imagine all the people who died were still alive today, right from the earliest person: would there be enough space for you to occupy, and food to eat, after thousands (perhaps millions) of years? I don’t think so. Then, think of those being born now, or merely being planned to be born: where and how will they live, if you don’t give way for them, by dying, like your predecessors did for you? So you see, death is a blessing, and pretty good thing, after all.

When the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, was condemned to suffer death by poisoning, through drinking hemlock, for ostensibly corrupting the morals of youth, his wife, students, and friends offered to help him escape death, by bribing the prison guards so he may escape to a pre-arranged exile. The immortal Socrates turned down their offer, reasoning that he was not afraid of dying, since to him death was nothing, but a long peaceful sleep, which is not to be feared.

It is my stead-fast belief and faith in the salvation of Jesus Christ, the remarkable foresight and time tested wisdom of Socrates, and the inspirational writing of Napoleon Hill, that inspire my epitaph. When I shall have done all there is for me to do, I shall happily say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus! I gladly wait for you.’

Kampala is Becoming Very Insecure

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma

[Dip. Law (First Class) – LDC; Cert. PELD – NALI-K; LLB (Hons) – Mak; PG Cert. Oil & Gas – Mak];

Kampala has hitherto been well known for being a safe and secure city, with hardly pronounced incidents of thefts, robberies, and other major crimes, in spite of being in a highly volatile region. Lately, however, this good reputation is fast phasing out, with increased incidents of thefts, muggings, and murders. I have personally experienced and witnessed some attempted thefts, and also heard several stories of them from very reliable sources, while reports of robberies and murders are commonplace in the media lately.

For example, once I was in a taxi on Kampala road, at City Square, when I saw a dirty looking man unsuccessfully try to snatch some items from a passenger in another taxi, ahead of mine. Then, one evening I was smartly dressed in a suit, carrying my laptop bag containing a laptop, books, and other valuable items, walking in Kikuubo, a busy Kampala street, when I was besieged by two men, one of whom was drunk and held the upper part of my arms from behind, speaking to me unintelligible things about KCCA, while the other searched my court pockets. When I realized their trick, I fought them off, and they run away, without stealing anything from me. Then, a few meters ahead, I saw a man snatch a bag from a lady, and attempt to run away with it, but was caught by another man, who took away the bag from the thief, and returned it to the lady. Interestingly, in all these scenarios, the thieves seemed unbothered by the likely consequences of their criminal acts, like arrest, as they just lingered around, without anybody else caring much about them. In the past, in such incidences, alarms would blaze, and hot pursuit would ensue, to punish the suspect.

While discussing this matter of insecurity in Kampala on Facebook, my friend, Mr Manzi Solomon, argued that I was, ‘…a near-victim of escalating insecurity in an over-crowded, unequal city with too few haves, and too many indigent [and] wretched have-nots … Middle-class proletariats like you become the buffer zone!’ In other words, that high income inequality has caused poverty, such that the poor end up preying on the rich for survival. Mr Manzi is right. Every possible measure should be taken to ensure equitable distribution of resources among all people in different socio-economic classes. One absolutely necessary measure is regime change, since changing those in charge of allocating public resources and devising public policies, will facilitate and ultimately translate into income re-distribution among the people of Uganda.

Otherwise, Kampala, once so secure that it was common to find down-town traders carrying large sums of money in their hands or polythene bags, to a nearby bank, amidst heavy traffic and congestion, is slipping into horrible insecurity (and certainly social anarchy) as is the case in some places like nearby Nairobi city in Kenya, where one would be lucky to just walk or drive through town wearing, for instance, beautiful jewelry or expensive watches. I am already missing that amazing Kampala. The one of today scares me very much. It is very unfortunate that our beloved city is becoming too insecure and intimidating to live in.

I therefore, call upon our gallant police, intelligence, and other security agencies, to scale up round-the-clock security patrols and surveillance in order to curb this absurd trend. As a country, we should seriously equip our security apparatus with the requisite manpower and equipment, necessary to guarantee the safety and security of people and their properties. Plus, I call upon the people of Kampala, and Uganda at large, to revive their vigilance against such inconveniences as theft. A few years ago, it was well known that if a person is nabbed stealing in Kampala, and in most other surrounding areas, he or she (usually hes) would be thoroughly beaten and burnt to death with car tires. Consequently, security was very high. I am tempted to endorse and encourage the re-introduction of such radical measures. Much as I am a lawyer, well knowing the legal niceties of presumption of innocence and the like, when the security of my person and property is out rightly impaired, undermined and negated, then such legal niceties inevitably count for so little.

Kampala City Festival 2015: I Was There

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma

[Dip. Law (First Class) – LDC; Cert. PELD – NALI-K; LLB (Hons) – Mak; PG Cert. Oil & Gas – Mak];

I was at the Kampala City Festival, yesterday, Sunday, 4th October, 2015. It was the third, organized annually by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), held under the theme, Our City. Our Celebration. Having missed the previous two, this time round I was there, because I really had to be there to witness the festivities for myself. I needed time and space to have fun, be extremely free, and somewhat naughty. I really enjoyed the event, and I also look forward to attending many others to come.

The festival provides an opportunity for the people of Kampala and elsewhere, to celebrate, jubilate, and take pride in their city. Judging from the prevailing mood yesterday, I think these objectives are being realized. I learnt of the event’s occurrence at about 7:30 pm of the night of Saturday, 3rd October, 2015, as I did my laundry, and I determined that I had to be there this time round, since I long desired to. I had many house chores and activities to do in the weekend, but I decided to be done with them by early morning of the next day. I worked tirelessly, and ended up sleeping at midnight. I woke up early Sunday morning, at 5:00 am, to prepare the day’s food, and finish other household chores. Then, I went to church, and on my return, ironed my clothes. At 3:00 pm, I set off for the festival, and reached Kampala city center, the venue for the festival, at 3:45 pm.

There were many entrances, but I entered via the Pioneer Mall / Mapeera House inlet that was heavily manned by police, with walk-through metal detectors. I immediately bought a customized festival cap to put me in a celebratory mood, which I am still keeping as a souvenir. Then, I embarked on studying the reach and extent of the festival, in terms of area covered, number and kind of people in attendance, the activities carried on, leisure and entertainment, and the prevailing security situation, among others.

I noticed that the festival was primarily on Kampala road. It was interesting seeing this intensively vehicle-jammed and extremely busy road ¬– the whole stretch from the KCCA fountain at Kampala Pentecostal Church (Watoto), near Fido Dido, all the way down to Victoria University, near National Theatre – and all adjacent road junctions, free of everything, but a mass of people. It was a remarkable tale of “from vehicle jam to human jam.”

I observed that the festival attracted no less than 500,000 people, of different races and nationalities, various ages, diverse socio-economic and political backgrounds, all with one common objective – enjoying themselves simply and easily. This festival is apparently becoming a tourist attraction of sorts. It was amazing how people were free with, and tolerant of one another, no matter what one did; as long as, of course, one did not take this liberty beyond acceptable limits like occasioning injury on another, or stealing another’s property. Whatever one did for fun’s sake was graciously accepted, and taken happily. For example, in the middle of the busy and tightly packed human traffic, I met two girls walking in my opposite direction, one of whom was extremely naughty, dressed in short and tattered jeans. She grabbed my hand and started rubbing it around her forbidden fruit area as she made some erotic statements. I let her have her moment of fame, until she let go. I was worried and scared however, because her thigh-land was very cold. I imagined how terrible it must be for her visitors down there. Later, I met another girl seated in the middle of the road (I think after exhaustion), and I sat on her laps. She laughed heartily, pushed me off them gently, and stood up, as other people nearby cheered us. I also met a chic with such a well-endowed and juicy looking big ass, which she shook so nicely in accordance with the rhythm of the sweet, sensational music, that I almost touched it, had it not been for the Holy Spirit, which immediately possessed me, urging me not to dare touch what her mama gave her.

There was a lot of trade going on. A variety of goods and services were available for sale, and many others for free. As expected, vendors were allowed to sell on the streets, without being hunted by KCCA law enforcers. There were different foodstuffs – both eats and beverages. Service providers especially, telecoms, were there advertising and selling their items like phones. Even a blood donation exercise went on, which tempted me to donate, but after quick deliberation in my mind, I declined to do so, remembering that I came to have fun, and be somewhat wild, yet I didn’t want to jeopardize this leisure moment, as I could easily collapse after blood being taken out of my body. Then, I came across a tent where HIV/AIDS counseling was done, and there was free condoms distribution too. I was handed two packs of Life Guard condoms, which I took without objection. For the benefit of the perverts, who I know are now having weird thoughts, I must clarify that I only took them as souvenirs too. Lolest!!!

In terms of leisure and entertainment, it was visibly clear that people really enjoyed themselves to the maximum especially, me. There were different and many local musicians, all entertaining people, free of charge. As usual and expected, Ugandans did not disappoint on this front. I am glad that we, Ugandans, know how to have fun, and enjoy ourselves. People devised and played all sorts of games especially, those considered childish, and rather naughty-like. I endeavoured to participate in as many games as I could. Men and women played kwepena (dear reader, I am sorry I don’t know this game’s English name, and I highly doubt it has any), which is traditionally a game for very young girls. I participated in one of the kwepenas whereby if one successfully dodged all the balls targeted at him, he would pick all the condoms on the ground, walk away with one of the girls busy dishing them, and return her after they are over. Boys were also available for similarly successfully girls too. Unfortunately for me, the first shot hit me, and I was out. I felt bad, because I wanted to win and walk away with all of the girls present. I came across a small group of boys and girls playing football at the point directly in front of Bank of Baroda (it was the kind such as that I played with my Kigezi High School OBs called karere). I joined them, and scored the first goal. Then we passed a rule that if the ball passed between one’s legs, he or she would not play again until either after touching a passer-by of the opposite sex, or receiving a slap. I was the first to fall victim to this rule, after the ball passed between my legs, and I chose to touch a girl, in order for me to continue playing. I touched the upper arm of some nearby hot babe, dressed in a cool, short white dress. That way, I was off the hook. She and her friends came to gaze at us, and I substituted myself for her. I am the perfect gentleman, you know.

Security was tight, and people were very well behaved. For the time I was there, 3:45 pm – 7:00 pm, I didn’t witnessed any ugly scenes in form of violence, skirmishes, thefts, accidents, or even arrests. Uganda Police, supported by KCCA law enforcers, a few Military Police personnel, and private security operatives, ensured that people’s lives and properties were safe. I therefore, commend these security agencies, and Ugandans, for being vigilant and disciplined thus achieving truly successful celebrations.

I commend KCCA leadership, under Lord Mayor Lukwago Erias, and Executive Director Musisi Jennifer, for this wonderful initiative. KCCA deserves our cooperation and should be enabled to continue organizing similar celebrations in the future. To my mind, there are many possible ways in which we can assist KCCA, but the best form of appreciation we can give the Authority is taking pride in, and cooperating with it to further implement its programs. There are simple basics, for instance, paying promptly all due taxes and other charges, avoiding littering and dirtying the city, keeping away from all protected green areas like the grass, shunning illegal trading, and generally giving city authorities the benefit of doubt for them to be able to fully and effectively implement their mandate.

We should also help to publicize this event, so as to make it a tourist attraction in itself, by informing and encouraging our friends, relatives, and citizens of other countries, to always attend it. That way, we shall attract foreign revenue in our country. Kampala City Festival oyeee!

Confucius Institute at Makerere Celebrates the Confucius Day and Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class) – LDC; Cert. PELD – NALI-K; LLB (Hons) – Mak; PG Cert. Oil & Gas – Mak];

The Confucius Institute at Makerere (hereinafter ‘the Institute’) celebrated the Confucius Day and Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival on Saturday, 26 September, 2015, at its premises in Makerere University. The celebration was well attended, with about 500 people present, including the Institute’s staff members, students, and members of the general public. This is an impressive feat, considering that no media advertisement was done, thanks mainly to the Institute’s administrator, Mr Rodney Rugyema, assisted by students under their umbrella body, Makerere University Confucius Institute Students Association (MUCISA), led by Karungi Edinah (President) and Namaganda Jackline (Consultant).

The celebration is a twin worldwide ceremony: Confucius Day and Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (known as Zhongqiu Jie in Chinese). In the former, the Chinese community remembers the wonderful works and teachings of the well-loved and world renowned Chinese teacher and philosopher, Confucius; while, the latter is historically an official harvest festival marked by Chinese and Vietnamese peoples, in observance of three fundamental concepts of gathering, thanksgiving, and praying.

In the concept of gathering, family members and friends come and enjoy or harvest crops together. Indeed, the Institute observed this rite by hosting 500 people, to whom it showcased different aspects of Chinese culture and also served them with delicious lunch of local food and drinks (water, sodas, and beers), all of which flowed in abundance. It was undoubtedly a day of great fun for all present.

In the concept of thanksgiving, people give thanks for the harvest of crops (especially, rice and wheat), and/or harmonious unions. In the past, food offerings were made in honor of the moon, to the lunar deity, Chang’e, known as the Moon Goddess of Immortality, believed to be responsible for rejuvenation of human life, being aided by the moon and water. The moon is central to Chinese culture because, among ancient Chinese, it symbolized unity and harmony. The Chinese still subscribe to this belief, although it is phasing out today due to changes in technology, science, economy, culture, and religion.

In the concept of praying, celebrants ask for conceptual or material satisfaction, such as for babies, a spouse, good health, beauty, longevity, or for a good future.

The Confucius Institute at Makerere is affiliated to Xiangtan University of China. This year’s celebrations in Uganda were hosted by the Institute, supported by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Uganda, and organized by the Institute’s students’ association, MUCISA.

Several activities were held, including showcasing Chinese language, Chinese martial arts and movies, Chinese food (like preparing moon cakes), among others. In learning centers, such as the Institute, the global celebrations include the Chinese Final Competition for the Mid-Autumn Festival which, according to Mr Rugyema, provide an opportunity to showcase what the Institute does. For instance, there was a Chinese speech and talent show, in which students competed. Aseya Phiona emerged best overall in this contest, followed by Praise Faith.

The day ended with classic entertainment, in which even staff members led by the Institute director, Professor Hong, participated, displaying rare dance moves, to the amazement and cheers of everyone. Students danced tirelessly to the music till late in the evening, thanks to the very good disc jockey (DJ).