A Bound Prison Service!

Have you ever spent a night sleeping while standing? Not just one night, but many nights. And not just standing in a free space but compressed together with other people in a small space, body against body? And not because that is your preferred sleeping position, but because there is no space on the floor to sleep. And not that those on the floor are sleeping in any better condition because usually they are sleeping on a cold, hard and bare surface?

Well, that is how over 28,000 inmates in Ugandans prisons spend their nights – standing because of the overcrowded prisons. Just in case you didn’t know, Uganda has 217 prisons and 45,092 prisoners and there are prisons whose current inmate load is beyond 500%! These include Kisoro which stands at 906%, Ntungamo at 720% and Rukingiri at 530%! Uganda’s prison capacity, ie the number of prisoners we are able to accommodate in the current prisons is only 16,040, so at 45,000 inmates (and growing), that is more than double the capacity.

On top of this overwhelming number, prisons are perpetually underfunded. While Uganda Prisons Service had requested 50 billion shillings to feed and house the current inmates this financial year, Ministry of Finance was only able to allocate them 23 billion shillings, which is less than half the money they requested.

These figures are indeed mind boggling and they beg many questions about our penal system, the first being how our numbers got there in the first place? Why are we incarcerating so many people? Who are these people? What is their profile? How many men, how many women? Why are they in prison? Is prison the only answer, the only way to address crime in Uganda? How does Uganda Prisons Service manage the perpetual underfunding? How do they address the budget shortfalls? How do they manage the disease and potential for prison breaks that comes with overcrowding? How are we stemming the flow of the prison population?

These questions lead me back to one I have been asking myself over the last couple of days about whether and why we need more districts in Uganda as the ‘answer’ to service delivery deficits. I think prison officials must cry when they hear that Government is going to borrow over 1.4 trillion shillings to set up new districts. This money will not help address the challenges that prisons are currently facing.

Prisons are given the last and least attention probably because the people they serve are hidden from view. But these are Ugandans we are talking about, Ugandans that are entitled to basic minimum rights as prisoners including the right to accommodation that meets the requisite requirements for health.

We cannot let this situation go on like this. We must stand up for those that stand as they sleep.


Be Aware of the Journey

imageThere are some things I believe God made just for me and travel is one of them. Oh how I love to travel! I get all excited, my heart races as my anticipation grows. I especially love road trips! I love looking at hills, at planes, at valleys, at trees. I love looking at all the beautifully tended gardens and the roadside markets swelling with colorful fruit and food. I love looking at animals, at cows as they lazily graze, at goats chasing each other. I love the clean crisp air, the smell of freshness everywhere. I love looking at the little and big towns along the way, each town with it’s unique history, color, texture, mood, vibe. I love looking up at the sky, at the beautiful fluffy clouds of all shapes and sizes, at the blueness of the sky, at the birds as they glide. I like looking at my fellow travelers, other road users along the way, wondering where they are coming from or going to. I like the sight and feeling of the endless road. It speaks to me of endless possibilities. I like reading the different signposts on the way whether it’s names of upcoming towns, names of shops and buildings or road signs that tell of upcoming bends or black spots, that give direction about speed or the kilometers ahead. I like the feel of the wind on my face, music blaring as I race, singing along in my loudest voice, with no one to impress! I love to travel!

This reminds me that leadership too is a journey and not a destination. It reminds me to stop and notice the journey. What am I learning? How am I growing? What are the different signposts on the way? Where do they point to? What are they showing? Who am I meeting on the way? How are they shaping me? How am I shaping them? What mistakes have I made? What lessons have I gleaned? What do I celebrate? What do I regret? What do I hold onto? What do I let go of? What have been the bumps, humps and potholes on my leadership journey? When has it been smooth sailing and why? When have I been frustrated and cried? What has enabled me go on despite the odds?

So many questions. So many things to notice, see and ponder.

What is your leadership journey? Are you aware of it? What do you see? What does it teach you?

Leadership is a journey, it’s ever changing, always evolving. Notice it. Learn from it. Grow. Never stop. Keep going.
Sent from my iPhone

Where Can We Find Them?

Two stories, both from the Monitor Newspaper caught my eye – one was in yesterday’s paper and the other is today’s. Yesterday’s story was titled “Creation of New Districts Burdens Govt”. This was said by the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Keith Muhakanizi, as he criticized politicians for their continuous demand for the creation of more districts and municipalities. Mr. Muhakanizi said theEthics in Leadership new districts put a strain on the national resource envelop in form of administrative costs. In fact, the revelation that Government cannot afford new districts was brought to light last week in Parliament, when Hon Onzima, the Local Government State Minister, openly criticized Government’s push for creation of new districts.  Hon Onzima pointed out that the Ministry of Finance had written saying Government does not have enough money to fund the new districts.His fellow ministers almost had him for lunch for revealing this fact!

In today’s Monitor on page 6, it is reported that President Museveni blames the demand for new districts on MPs. He said MPs are obsessed with creation of new administrative units instead of lobbying government for things that would improve the welfare of their constituents. So in essence, the President is saying that MPs are behaving like two year old children throwing a tantrum over sweets and the President, like an overwhelmed parent, has to give in to the demand, even though he knows what he is giving is not good for the child. How else do you explain why, despite knowing that there are more pertinent issues and answers to addressing service delivery and that there is no money to accommodate new districts, would the President still succumb to the demand to create more districts?

To top it all off, the Parliament of Uganda, which last Thursday had been sent on an indefinite recess by the Honorable Deputy Speaker, has been re-called for a special sitting to take place next Tuesday on September 1st. Among the three things they are going to discuss is creation of districts.

Why does this go on? Why can’t our leaders listen to the Ministry of Finance when it says there is no money to accommodate this demand? Why can’t the MPs devise other strategies for improving service Right Thingdelivery since they claim that is the main reason for creating districts? Why would our leaders let their short term political aspirations get in the way of the long term development of Uganda? Why isn’t anyone listening to reason? Why can’t the President, as Head of State, take the hard decision not to grant the new districts?

Maybe we should demand that each politician that wants a new administrative unit created, first present a feasibility plan to show how resources to fund the new unit would be generated and sustained. We should demand that they present sound business plans for the new districts they are demanding and we should subject these plans to rigorous review.

We need leaders with backbone. We need leaders who will actually lead. We need leaders who both know the right problem and know how to devise the right solutions. We need leaders who understand that leadership is not about being popular, it’s about doing the right thing. And sometimes the right thing is not the popular thing.

Watch Your Step

For many of us, our footprints are the last thing we think about, yet we leave them every where we go. When I was younger, I loved walking along a wet shoreline and I would watch in fascination as a wave would come and sweep mfootprinty footprint away. And then I would repeat the process all over again – step into the wet sand, look at my footprint and wait for the wave to sweep it away. I also remember tracing the footprint of a child or other person for whom I was going to buy a pair of shoes. Having the footprint  with me would ensure that I didn’t buy the wrong
size of shoe.

I’ve been thinking about footprints in relation to leadership. Footprints are the marks we leave both on ourselves and on others. We can use our footprint to walk all over people. We can use our footprint to avoid people all together. Or, we can use our footprint to walk with and beside people. As a leader, you choose your footprint daily, whether you think about it or not.

I am inviting us to be aware of our footprint today. What footprint are you leaving in your life? What footprint are you leaving in the lives of those you lead? Do they feel stomped all over by your heavy footprint or do they feel enabled and empowered to live to their full potential?

Everyday, everywhere you walk, you leave a foot print. Be ware of your footprint. Be aware of how you live and lead in this world.

Would you want to meet you?

For the whole weekend, I have been chewing over a powerful quote I came across by Lolly Daskal which said “Be the type of leader you want to meet.”

On Friday afternoon, I had a conversation with one young man who was disappointed in the leadership of various organizations that he has worked with, or done work for. These were leaders who would not keep their word, leaders who were short changing him, leaders who did no seem to be strategic in the way they applied themselves and the resources at their disposal.

It’s so easy to get frustrated with and complain about leaders because we deal with them every day all the time.

That conversation, coupled with the quote, got me thinking about what type of leader I want to meet and here is my short list in no particular order:

  1. I want to meet a leader who respects time – both their own and others. I want to meet the type of leader who keeps time no matter what, who is not full of lame excuses about why they cannot manage time.
  2. I want to meet the kind of leader who cares deeply about people, who empathizes with people, who has a heart and leads from the heart. Another quote that has stuck with me over the years is one by John C Maxwell, a leadership guru, who said “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
  3. I want to meet the kind of leader who is true to his word, whose word counts for something, who sticks to what he says and does not change his mind and his word for the sake of personal expedience. I want to meet the kind of leader whose word I can trusLeader you would followt.
  4. I want to meet the kind of leader who is not afraid to share his power, who delegates correctly, who assembles the right team to get the right job done, who empowers others to lead too, and does not think that leadership starts and ends with him.
  5. I want to meet the kind of leader who has a goal and purpose for their leadership, and who has made that goal clear. I want to meet the kind of leader whose road map is sure, whose direction is clear.
  6. I want to meet the kind of leader who is aware of and works at building institutions and systems, who understands that systems and institutions are important because they are the scaffolding that hold organizations together, they give the organization certainty, they help the organization stand the test of time, they help organization grow stronger.
  7. I want to meet the kind of leader who is humble, who knows when to say sorry, who knows that he too is human and makes mistakes, who learns from his mistakes and grows.
  8. I want to meet the kind of leader who knows when it’s time to let go and let others lead. I want to meet a leader who helps his organization work through transition, who prepares for succession, so that when he or she leaves, the whole organization does not collapse.

Now, I need to look at myself and ask myself whether or not I have all these qualities, and if not, how I can improve my own leadership.

I have to ask myself whether I am the kind of leader I would want to meet.

Know What’s in The Box

The BoxThis week I saw a powerful quote on the Facebook page of a former class mate of mine. The quote read “Thinking outside the box must follow a deep understanding of what’s in the box.”

I’ve been thinking about the issue of districts again and how the standard justification for their creation is to bring services closer to the people. But I think it has become a convenient answer to what is really a politically motivated (not necessarily service oriented) move. Who says that creation a district is THE ONLY way through which Ugandans can access services. Have our leaders bothered to think about what else or how else services can actually get to the people? Scores of studies have been done about the paucity of services across Uganda across all sectors, but like a crammed answer, whenever the question of how to improve access to services is raised, the first thing politicians think about is creating a district.

Let me give an example from the Justice sector, which I am more familiar with. Every year the judiciary suffers case backlog, i.e. the number of pending cases in our courts of law has reached staggering proportions. But as the cases increase, the number of judicial officers does not. There is a huge human resource gap in the judiciary. There are not enough judges and magistrates to handle the volume of cases. And each year the Judiciary makes this case to Parliament – the need to fill all the positions in the judiciary and even the need to innovate new ways of increasing the human resource. One such suggestion is to have senior lawyers act as judicial officers for a short period of time – say six months, in order to help reduce the case backlog. But does Government listen? No. It took the President 3 years to appoint a new Chief Justice and an even longer period to finally fully constitute the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court bench. This was despite the number of letters and appeals to the President to appoint the required number of judicial officers at the higher bench, so that cases could be heard. Creating districts cannot solve the issue of case backlog in the judiciary. It takes an understanding of the reasons behind the constant delays in administration of justice in order to craft the right solution.

Addressing case back log takes supporting and improving expeditious forms of dispute settlement including alternative dispute resolution – a mechanism that doesn’t require one to resort to adversarial processes and instead promotes mediation. It will require supporting the roll out of plea bargaining which would allow those whose crimes are not of a capital nature, the ability to plead guilty (if indeed they are), and negotiate for a lighter sentence. knowledge-but-imagination-albert-einstein

Improving administration of justice requires improving the capacity of police to investigate crime. It requires the right equipment to investigate crime, it requires a properly skilled and trained and motivated police force to improve the investigation of crime, in order to address delays in administration of justice. Right now, the police is more equipped to quell demonstrations than it is to solve and resolved crime.

Addressing case backlog requires improving the prisons services. Currently, the prisons in Uganda are stretched beyond capacity point and they lack the basics in terms of accommodation, food and even transport for prisoners. In many instances, even when court is sitting to hear cases, the delay will be caused because the prison does not have transport to deliver suspects to court. If you have been in some of the remote places up country, you will see prisoners walking for several miles to get to the courts. In some instances, judges have been able to hold sittings at the prison premises in oder to deal with the challenge of lack of transportation in prisons.

There are a whole host of other remedies one could craft. It takes the political leaders sitting down with those in the Justice, Law and Order sector, to listen to their ideas about how to improve access to justice and how to ensure that this service is accessed by as many and brought as close to as many Ugandans as need the service. Creation of more districts would definitely not be the right solution to the problem of access to justice.

Generating the right solutions takes leadership. It takes the kind of leaders that take time to understand the problem. It takes the kind of leaders that will not craft one solution to the multifaceted problem of service delivery deficits. It takes the kind of leaders who understand the box and who understand that “the significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”.

Who Will Stop This Madness?

UG in 1962

Uganda at Independence

I feel sad every time I hear that we are breaking up our country into more and more districts. I feel especially sad because many of the new districts have been divided along tribal lines splitting two or more ethnicities that have for long learned to live together. I feel sad because the country is mostly divided into districts in pre-election years and while the politically correct justification is so that services may be brought closer to the people, we know that districts are created more for political expedience, for scoring political points and getting political wins in an election year. It’s never about services. It’s never about the real needs of people. I feel sad about the amount of money wasted in setting up new districts, which money should actually be channeled to improving service delivery.

UG Now

Uganda in 2015

From an Observer story today titled “New Districts too Costly – Finance”, the PS of Ministry of Finance, Mr. Keith Muhakanizi says Government just does not have the money it takes to set up new districts. It takes 70 billion in the first year, to get a new district up and running. The figure includes costs required for creation and operation of new district headquarters, offices for Electoral Commission, police, internal security and district hospitals among others. The Ministry of Finance says these costs are just not tenable, given the fact that the resource envelope is already stretched too thin.

One would hope that before our leaders create or demand for new districts, they have done a feasibility study about the viability of such a proposal. But more often than not political expedience trumps economics and so what you have in the end are smaller, weaker, non-viable entities we like to call districts. In the end, services seem to elude Ugandans as the ‘cake’ is split into smaller and smaller bits until the crumbs don’t make sense.

In the end we will no longer be “united, free”, as we claim in our anthem. We will be divided and trapped.

Reflections on Leadership, Reflections on My Country

Over the last few weeks, the issue of leadership has occupied my thoughts quite a lot. This is partly because I lead an organization and so I am constantly aware about how I lead. It’s also partly because, in the last several weeks, I have received invitations from three very different organizations, to speak about the issue of women in leadership, and so this has caused me to reflect on the matter. Lastly, Uganda is in a pre-election year and that means we have the opportunity to observe our political leadersLeadership up close and personal as they jostle for political survival in order to ensure a come back in the 2016 general elections.

I think leadership is one of the mountains we face as a country, and one we have to confront in terms of celebrating good leadership and addressing the deficits. Leadership is a question we cannot avoid. Leadership matters!

And there are all kinds of leaders, leading in all kinds of ways. Just from this week – Monday started with a stark headline in The East African Newspaper, about how Major Ronald Kakooza Mutale, of the Kalangala Action Plan infamy, is training young men to ‘deal with the opposition’ in the 2016 elections. Going by his past record, we know what he means by ‘dealing with’ political opponents. He goes physical, his dealing involves violence against those who are perceived to be against the current government. That is how he has chosen to lead. That is how he has chosen to use his influence.

The media has been awash with reports about the current judicial probe into corruption and mismanagement at the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA). Each day we watch as different people are subjected to interrogation as the Commission of Inquiry delves into the depth of the magnitude of theft of resources in the roads sector. UNRA is the way it is because of leadership. Leadership creates culture. The culture created at UNRA is one where rules are flaunted and deals to defraud the country are cut, where contractors get away with doing shoddy work, where ghost construction firms are created and paid.

Just this week, several presidential aspirants picked up nomination forms. Going by press reports, 14 gentlemen ranging from the well-known to the non-descript, picked up forms. They all think they have what it takes to lead Uganda. They all think they have a solution to Uganda’s ills. But do they? I guess we will only know as they hit the campaign trail.

This week we watched as a Ugandan legislator threatened suicide if his home area was not granted district status. Districts have become a hot election issue. Every pre-election year, the President dishes out a few districts here and there. At the start of his leadership, Uganda had 39 districts, now we have 112 districts and there are about 25 others in the offing. The justification for every new district that services will be closer to the people. This is despite the fact that districts hardly generate their own resources, they suffer huge human resource gaps, which affect service delivery, and more than 80% of the money that districts receive from the central government goes into administration costs and not into actual service delivery. Watching the MP in Parliament, tug at his tie and attempt to put it around his neck, as he dramatized his suicide threat, I thought to myself – this is how he has chosen to lead.Leadership bubble

Every day we are being led or we are leading and so leadership affects and impacts us all. But even if we don’t want to bother about leadership, even if we don’t think we lead anyone, at the very basic level, we lead ourselves. We manage our actions, reactions and interactions with others and with ourselves, and so we should be concerned about the question of leadership.

Who are you as a leader? Are you self aware? How do you lead? What values underpin and drive your leadership? What is the purpose and direction of your leadership? Is your leadership adding value or not? Are you leading towards a positive end or a destructive one? What areas are you good at as you lead? What are your leadership blind spots? Where do you need to improve? Are you growing as a leader? Are you growing and grooming other leaders?

The Mountain Beats You Up (Or Down) Sometimes…..

We came down Rwenzori Mountain on 20th July and it has taken me almost a whole month to recover fully.

Upon getting back IMG_3844to Kampala, my knees were aching, mostly from the pressure on them from the descent. Coming down a mountain is very hard on the knees. But this pain lasted for about two days tops.

What really got to me was a rough cold. Right from the night we arrived back at Mihunga Lodge at the foot of the mountain, until we got to Kampala, I had a terrible cough. Joy, with whom I shared a room that night, gave me a concoction that consisted of ginger, garlic, cinnamon, honey and lemon. It was sweet to the taste and it helped ease the cough somewhat. By the time we got to Kampala though, I had lost my voice and I was coughing ceaselessly. In addition, I got very bad chills. I felt cold right to my bones! Despite covering myself with a heavy blanket, I still felt cold. The relentless coughing and the chills lasted for about two weeks. I also experienced a numbness at the tips of my fingers, that I couldn’t quite explain. This numbness lasted about a week or so.

I decided to rest and take it easy. I decided I would take a break from exercise. After all, I had walked a minimum of five hours each day for the seven days we were on the mountain. I figured that was more than enough exercise to make up for the time I needed to rest.

While I was still coughing after the two week break, I decided to get back into my exercise routine. Judging from my past, I knew that the longer I put off exercise, the more likely I would fall off wagon completely and it would be hard to regain the discipline again. So off I went to dance fitness class. And boy was I in for a rough ride! As soon as my heart rate picked up, I coughed a lot, to the point that it made doing exercise hard, but I pressed on. The next day, I did danIMG_3845ce fitness class again. While doing one of the dance moves, I felt a sharp pain in my lower back. I ignored it and continued but my did I suffer for it! The sharp pain lasted during the day and I had to sit down very carefully. I could not make any sudden move while getting up from a chair. At some point the pain was so unbearable that I had to lie down. I had made plans to go pulling tyres while running that evening, but I knew that for my own safety and well being, I would have to cancel the exercise.

I decided to rest for another two weeks so that I could heal completely. Yesterday marked the end of the second two week rest period and I was able to do exercise without too much trouble. I went dancing in the morning and I did spinning in the evening.

I learned that mountains beat you down sometimes. I learned that the body needs to re-adjust to life back on the lowlands. I learned that it’s OK to rest and take it easy. I learned not to push my body more than what is necessary. I learned that one should respect mountains. They are their own creatures!

I am glad I am feeling strong again. I am now looking forward to my next physical challenge, my next ‘mountain’ to conquer. A marathon perhaps……?

Who is Really Immoral Here?

About a month ago or so, I was asked by a journalist to comment on the story of women stripping naked in defense of their land. The common narrative was that this act was immoral and that the women should use other means to convey their dismay that their land was being taken away.

My take was that what was truly immoral was the land grab the women and their community were facing. What is immoral is when citizens are so pushed to the wall that all they can fight back with are their bodies. What is immoral is the connivance we see all across Africa – between big business and our Governments to strip citizens of their land in the name of development. Development cannot mean the dispossession of communities from their land, it cannot mean rendering people homeless and rootless in order for business to thrive.

Development must first and foremost be about people. It must first and foremost be about preservation of that which gives meaning to life.

The immorality we must stop is a development paradigm that does not have the citizen at the center.

The Ugandan women who strip to defend their land http://t.co/KbeFKmqF89

A group of elderly Ugandan women have been stripping naked to protest against the eviction of communities in a land dispute with the government, writes the BBC’s…