The 2021 elections presented yet another opportunity for Ugandans to listen to promises and commitments from political aspirants in form of manifestos. However, at the same time, Citizens presented their own Manifesto with 10 key development priorities which they felt needed urgent attention by the next government. In total, eight manifestos were presented at Presidential level, with most of them representing at least 50% of the Citizens’ aspirations. A Political Party Manifesto Analysis commissioned by the Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform (UGMP) that analysed all eight political party manifestos against the Citizens’ Manifesto found that the NRM Party performed marginally well in responding to the issues highlighted in the Citizens’ Manifesto, scoring about 67%. The outcome of the 2016 election gave victory to the NRM, which garnered the majority vote and the required over-50% of the total votes cast. The NRM Government assumed office and continued to implement its already existing programmes. The party also designed a few new policies to implement its manifesto.
Two and a half years down the road, the question we ask is: “Is the NRM Government on track to wards fulfilling its commitments to Ugandan Citizens?” In this report, you will find citizens’ voices regarding how the services delivered by Government are perceived. You will also find revealing statistics on how citizens are benefiting from the programmes and policies that manifest the NRM’s implementation of its manifesto. This report has been generated as a bottom-up tool for accountability by ordinary citizens with regard to how they relate to their Government. It is intended for use by mainly the ordinary citizen to reflect on the extent to which the NRM Government is delivering on its commitments. It is also intended for use by many other actors — including researchers, policymakers, civil society, development partners, and the media — to celebrate the gains made by the NRM Government and mount pressure on the same government to deliver better. We also hope that the NRM Government will receive this report in good spirit and use it for internal reflection on how it is performing, and ultimately step up efforts to fulfil the social contract it has with the Citizens of Uganda. We are confident that you will enjoy reading this publication and further use it to inform your own work and programming.
IS THE NRM GOVERNMENT ON TRACK TO ATTAINMENT OF ITS 2011 ELECTION COMMITMENTS?
The NRM gives clear achievements and plans for consolidation and improvement. Under democracy and good governance, for instance, the party commits to a policy on zero tolerance for corruption and promises to set up a Presidential Committee to investigate political leaders named in corruption scandals. Under Economy, the NRM commits to increase the annual economic growth to 10 percent by stimulating agricultural productivity, among other sectors. The NRM manifesto is strongest on the economic infrastructure aspects where it provides actual locations for energy plants, the roads to be tarmacked, naming the districts and specific roads as well energy plants. Overall, according to a Political Party Manifesto Analysis done by a team of experts prior to the 2021 elections, the NRM Manifesto was found to be the most detailed. It contains practical proposals especially on the economy, but at best glosses over the myriad of challenges the country faces — especially several governance deficits such as corruption, fusion of power between the Executive and Legislature, and drawbacks in the decentralization process. It was thus not clear, if at all, that NRM would deal decisively with them. For purposes of this audit, however, UGMP decided to focus on the ten development concerns already articulated in the section preceding this one.
This audit adopted a participatory and social accountability approach, putting emphasis on the extent to which the NRM government is delivering on its promises to the citizens of Uganda. The promises the NRM made during the 2016 elections campaigns are treated as the basis upon which citizens elected it into power. As such, these promises structure and define the social contract between the NRM and the citizens. The participatory approach adopted by the audit allowed stakeholders to inform the findings by voicing their concerns, perceptions and epistemologies about the performance of the NRM government for the last two and half years. The audit is based on a number of key social accountability, governance and human rights principles. The approach taken considers state accountability to citizens as a human right and a freedom every citizen has to enjoy. In auditing the NRM government the study adopted qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. Primary data was gathered using a household questionnaire, key informant interviews and focus group discussions; secondary data was gathered through a desk review. These methods are detailed below.
A desk review of key documents of government, NGOs and media reports was conducted, focusing on the documented performance of government for the last two and a half years. Some of the documents reviewed included: the Citizens’ Manifesto; the NRM Manifesto; the first NRM Manifesto Audit on which this one builds; National Budget speeches for FYs 2016/2017and 2019/2020; Background to the Budget 2019/2020; government performance reports; sector performance reports; ministerial policy statements; parliamentary committee reports; NGO sector performance and policy assessments; newspapers and media reports, among others.
A representative sample of 100 households per a district was selected from 33 districts for the audit, bringing the total number of households to 3,300 households The total returned and filled questionnaires were 3,075 from 32 districts, representing 97 per cent response and return rate – Central 400; Eastern 499; Far East 497; Midwest, 595; Northern 378; West Nile, 210;Western 496. All returned questionnaires were checked for completeness, sorted, coded and entered in the computer using STATA. After data was entered, it was cleaned and checked for accuracy before analysis. Households involved in the survey were selected using systematic random sampling. Systematic random sampling accords each element an equal-probability to be included in the sample. In the first stage, two sub-counties –rural and urban –were selected in each of the 33districts using systematic sampling. A complete listing of all urban and rural sub-counties in each of the 33 districts was developed. The total number of sub-counties –rural and urban –was divided by a value of 2. The answer in each case was used to randomly select sub-counties to be included in the survey. The second stage involved selecting 50 households in each of the two selected sub-counties. A complete listing of the villages in each of the selected sub-counties was developed and used to systematically select 50 households in each of the sub-counties. In each of the households, the household head was interviewed; where the head of the household was not available the second in command of the household was interviewed.
Focus Group Discussions
Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were also used to gather data used for this report. A total of71 FGDs were conducted. Participants at the FGDs included youths, women, elderly, and community and opinion leaders. FGDs were facilitated using an FGD guide covering 10 thematic areas namely, education, corruption, poverty, water and sanitation, environment, health, agriculture, civic conscious, infrastructure and job creation. FGDs discussed and nuanced community experiences with government social services.
Key Informant Interviews
Key informant interviews were conducted with district officials and political leaders including: Resident District Commissioners, Chief Administrative Officers, District health, production, education and environment officers, NRM district chairpersons. Key informants were purposively selected because of their knowledge and expertise of the thematic areas. KIs were facilitated by in-depth open-ended thematic interview guides. Interview guides were developed for each of the thematic area. A total of 372 KI interviews were conducted. The use of multiple data sources was intended to check validity and reliability. Information in government sector performance reports and national budgets was cross-referenced and checked with the Auditor General’s reports and FGDs, interviews and FGDs.
Data Handling, Management and Analysis
All the filled household survey questionnaires were checked for completeness, entered into a computer using STATA. Before analysis, the data set was cleaned. This exercise was conducted, a professional data management institution, and later transferred to the drafting team.
From the matrix above, out of a total 50 commitments that we audited, the NRM has made progress on 17, very limited or no progress on 23 and backtracked/ registered negative gains on ten commitments. It is also very clear that, so far, there are more areas where the NRM has performed averagely, followed by areas where it has made significant progress, and then, finally, areas where it has backtracked.
2.2 Macro-economic outlook
Uganda has experienced meek and favourable economic growth over the past two decades. In its 2016 Election Manifesto, the NRM-O promised to further increase economic growth to more than 10 per cent per annum, through targeted measures to increase productivity and production in agriculture, industry and service sectors (NRM, 2011). The Citizens’ Manifesto notes that despite the impressive economic growth figures, there exists a wide gap between those who have and those who do not have (UGMP, 2010).In the past two and half years the performance of the economy has experienced a mixed bag of gains i.e. regression in the first year and relative recovery over the past one and half years. Consequently, the more than 10 per cent economic growth rate as promised in the 2011 NRM Election Manifesto has not yet been attained as illustrated in the graph below, and the likelihood that this commitment will be attained by 2021 is questionable.
In the period preceding the 2011 general elections, the economy experienced shocks resulting from inflationary tendencies, poor productivity and production of the Agricultural Sector, with GDP dropping from 6.6 per cent in 2010/2011 to 3.4 per cent in 2011/2012. While the period 2012/2013 indicated some semblance of recovery, registering a GDP of 5.1 per cent, sectors like agriculture with the largest employment potential continued to experience sluggish growth (GoU, 2013c). The sluggish growth of the agricultural sector has continued to affect rural folks who rely on the sector as the main source of livelihood. Farm prices for most of the commodities fluctuated, exposing farmers to unstable market prices and losses in some cases. Without, institutional cushions the incomes of the farmers have been greatly affected, often resulting into increased levels of poverty.
Despite agriculture employing over 85 per cent of the population, it is emerging that productivity of the sector is affected by the fact that 61.1 per cent of the farmers never get agricultural extension services as indicated in the table 1 below.
This malaise in one of the key productive sectors ultimately affects the entire economy leading to poor growth rates. The failure of the NRM-O government to fund the sector to the internationally required standards and promised 15 per cent of the National budget could largely account for the poor performance of the economy.
“…among all things, it would be unfair to expect this government to fight corruption, the challenge is that everybody seems to have been entangled in it, right from the top to the last individual with responsibility…the only solution is change of leadership…”
In the Citizens’ Manifesto, corruption is recognized as Uganda’s topmost development concern which has a large bearing on all the other development issues. The Citizens’ Manifesto also notes that the legal and policy framework is sufficient and only requires decisive action mainly from the President (UGMP, 2010). As such, playing to the rhetoric of zero tolerance to corruption while doing nothing concrete about it was dispelled. On the other hand, and in addition to committing zero tolerance of corruption, the NRM promised to: strengthen the investigative and prosecution capacity of anti-corruption agencies to be able to handle the new and more sophisticated cases of corruption, including cyber crime; pursue the Qui Tam policy reform measures that the NRM Government has instituted to fight corruption; and finally, constitute a committee that investigates political leaders and senior public officers “ once they have been mentioned
” in corruption-related scandals (NRM, 2011).
What has become of the promises?
Knowledge and perceptions of Citizens about corruption One of the key challenges to the struggle against corruption in the past has been the passive role played by ordinary citizens in holding leaders and public officials accountable. The disconnect between citizens’ understanding of corruption and the implications that it had for their own livelihoods poke-marked the beginning of this problem. The trend of glorifying corrupt politicians and public officials who use stolen money to buy expensive cars, and build posh mansions, as well as the citizens’ continued demand/expectation and receiving of handouts from these thieves in part contributed to the continued glorification of the thieves.
This audit found that this trend had since changed. A Household survey conducted as part of this audit found that citizens generally understood the different categories of corruption and the negative implications it had for them. In fact, the majority of citizens managed to make the link between corruption in government and their own livelihoods, and were willing to play a role in bringing the perpetrators to book. In this household survey, citizens gave the different perceptions of what they understood corruption to be. These included giving of bribes (29.1%),receiving of bribes (21.9%), theft of government money (17.6%), theft of government property(14.2%) and any kind of theft (10.15%). Only 1.8% had limited understanding of corruption, as can be seen in Table 1.
However, while citizens’ understanding of corruption seems to have increased, it was not easy to track the role played by the NRM government in enhancing citizens’ understanding of corruption. The survey found that citizens mainly got corruption related information through interactions with civil society and the media as opposed to government agencies such as the police, IGG and others mandated to disseminate information on corruption and fight the vice.
Zero Tolerance to Corruption
While more cases have been exposed in this period, little or no concrete action has been taken against the main culprits. The amount being lost is increasing and this is weakening anti-corruption agencies as inaction on the part of government is rising. In only the past ten years, Uganda has lost close to Four Trillion Ugandan shillings in corruption scandals (Black Monday Movement, 2013), of which over One and half trillion Ugandan shillings was recorded lost in just the past two and half years. In spite of promising zero tolerance to corruption during the 2016 campaigns, NRM’s record in fighting corruption over the past two and half years remains wanting, with only 27% of Citizens interviewed agreeing that Government had vigorously implemented its zero tolerance to corruption commitment, while 73% felt that Government had not done much as may be seen in the pie chart below
As the results of the audit depicted in the pie chart indicate, it is clear that citizen’s satisfaction with the NRM’s anti-corruption fight in the past two and a half years was low.
Strength of the investigative and prosecution capacity of anti-corruption agencies
As one of its key strategies to fight corruption, the NRM promised to Strengthen the investigative and prosecution capacity of anti-corruption agencies to enable them deal with new and sophisticated cases of corruption, including cyber crime. This audit found that while the NRM Government had made some headway in fully constituting the IGG’s Office, limitations in resourcing the Office and undue political influence in investigations and other work it carries out remained a challenge. An interview with a staff of the IGG’s Office confirmed that one of the key challenges they face is having ample evidence to prosecute culprits yet not being able to use it. While disposing of one of the corruption cases, a High Court Judge complained that “…the challenge with these corruption cases is that prosecution chooses to present weak cases and weak evidence…”During the community consultations for this audit, the majority of citizens expressed lack of confidence in the capacity of government anti-corruption agencies to fight corruption as may be seen in Table 3.
As seen in Table 2, only 4.5 per cent strongly agreed that the NRM Government had made effort to strengthen its anti-corruption agencies, while 46% felt otherwise.
Investigation and Prosecution of Corruption Cases “…The only way this government can fight corruption is by Confiscation of property of corrupt officers….shorten the time for disposing corruption cases… ” (Female Politician in Mbarara District).
Despite committing to institute a committee to investigate political leaders and senior public officials mentioned in corruption scandals, this audit found that the NRM had not made any progress in that line. In fact, on a number of occasions, the NRM leadership had defended individuals mentioned in corruption scandals as whistle blowers. A case in point was the former Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister who had been profiled by the top NRM leadership as a whistle blower in the 50.2 billion-shilling PRDP scandal, despite being mentioned several times in the Auditor General’s report, and by other OPM officials while appearing before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
This audit also found that while official government records might indicate an increase in number of individuals prosecuted, trends over the same period showed that it was usually the smaller fish whose wings were clipped (Human Rights Watch, 2013), in most cases temporarily, while the major culprits were left at large. In the period under review, while over ten senior NRM officials were implicated in grand corruption scandals, only six found their way to the Anti-corruption Court, while only three were convicted and remanded to Luzira Maximum Prison. The three were later released on intervention of the President who claimed their innocence and pledged to cover the legal fees for one, and campaign for another who had lost his Parliamentary seat on conviction. In the same period, a total of ten grand corruption scandals have been unearthed totalling to a potential loss of 1,551,000,000,000 (One trillion Uganda shillings). These include; the 169Billion Shillings awarded to Basaja balaba (Haba Group) in compensation for a sham market transaction; 205 Billion Identity Card Scandal; 5 Billion Bicycle scandal; the 50.2 Billion PRDP money lost in OPM; 375 Billion Education Ministry money; 400 Billion, Ghost Firms Money in Ministry of Finance; 262 Billion Pension Scandal; 46.8 Billion Quality Chemicals Breach of contract scandal; and 37.9 Billion in Dura Cement compensation scandal (Black Monday Movement, 2013). In all these cases, while senior politicians and government technocrats have been implicated, none or in some cases only a few junior individuals have been brought to book. If the NRM Government is to be taken seriously in fighting corruption, it must translate its zero tolerance to corruption rhetoric into concrete actions.
Employment and Job Creation
In both the Citizens’ and NRM Manifestos, unemployment is highlighted as one of the major challenges facing the country, with an estimated over 2 million literate youths being jobless and a further over 2 million underemployed (GoU, 2013a; MoFPED, 2013). In response to youth unemployment, the NRM Government initiated several job creation schemes with a specific aim of providing them jobs. Some of these schemes include the Youth Capital Venture Fund(YCVF), the Youth Enterprise Capital Fund, the Graduate Venture Capital Scheme and, most recently, the Youth Livelihoods Programme. These schemes are in addition to the youth SACCOs’ which Government has also been rolling out. Government’s response to youth unemployment is pivoted on the NRM-O election promise of creating 1,070,950 jobs for the youth in this five year tenure. While in specific terms, the 2016 NRM-O Election Manifesto outlines interventions including creation of industrial parks, establishment of sugarcane plantations, oil and gas industry development, youth skills training and supporting of MSMEs, the Youth Capital Venture Fund has received more government attention and funding and as such is the central focus for this audit in this section. To date, Government has funded the Youth Capital Venture Fund (YCVF) to a tune of UGX 21 billion and supporting over 5,200 small businesses (GoU, 2013b). A selected number of banks are responsible for disbursing the YCVF money to the youth at a lower interest rate with a grace period of 6 months. However, there have been several concerns over the manner in which the commercial banks are managing the YCVF money.
One of the greatest concerns over this fund has been the fear that some of the youths who access these loans may be arrested for failure to pay.
The other concern has been the fact that commercial banks have over time generated their own list of requirements: including collateral; reduced grace period; ‘O’ Level education certificate, and guarantors, contrary to the list of requirements provided by government. In one of the community consultations in Paliisa District, for instance, a senior technical official observed that “…most of the youths do not have collateral security…. In Bushenyi District a political leader lamented that “…bank interest rates are high with no grace period…”
while the hard-to-reach districts such as Amudat, Nakapiripirit, Bukwo, Kween and Manafwa – districts without banks — cannot access the funds at all. It was also observed that some banks required the youth to present guarantors who are aged 40 years and above, while most of those that could stand as their guarantors were young men and women doing small scale business” (Parliamentary Hansard, Friday, 18 May 2012 ).
Despite the resolution by Parliament to have the requirement of an ‘O’ Level certificate re-moved from the list of requirements, many of the youths interviewed for this audit confirmed that this still remained a key consideration for most banks. In addition, the youth were asked for collateral such as land titles and their guarantors were asked to declare their financial as-sets. In Mbarara District, a political leader described the YCVF as inaccessible and constrain-ing to development of the youth. The general conclusion from this audit is that very few youths have benefited from the YCVF as can be seen from the figure below which shows the percentage of youths who have benefited from the YCVF in the last two and a half years by region.
Despite putting in place schemes geared at creating jobs for the youths, the manner in which these schemes are managed mirrors schism in government planning and delivery of services. These schemes have remained largely uncoordinated, with government taking a back seat as the commercial banks profit from the altered and high interest rates they charge on those ac-cessing the youth funds. The pleasure of making profits rather that the desire to create jobs for the youths has defined the nature of businesses that benefit from such Youth Schemes. Most of these businesses are not in the agricultural sector which employs most youth but rather in service and trade, regardless of the fact that the initial intention of the YCVF was to support youth agricultural projects. With such youth schemes not delivering the promised jobs, the situation of unemployed youths in Uganda has not changed much since the last elections as indicated in Table 3. Government is more interested in the number of businesses and groups supported rather than the quality and number of jobs created by the youth schemes. Hence it is difficult, even for government, to clearly know the number of jobs created by each of the youth schemes.
The situation of youths has not changed much with regard to securing employment. Table 4illustrates that that over 45 per cent of the youth are unemployed regardless of the government and NGO initiatives geared at creating employment for them.
Another 21 per cent of the youth are in unpaid employment, while only 10 per cent are in paid employment and 24 per cent are self-employed. Government approach to job creation needs to be revisited and focus more on creating an enabling environment for investment and enterprise creation, reduce the cost of borrowing, and also improve infrastructure, especially access to and cost of electricity for MSMEs in rural areas.
SACCOs as a poverty alleviation and job creation strategy
“…SACCOs help us to solve emergencies, pay school fees, pay for home obligations…”
As part of its strategy to redeem Ugandans out of poverty, the NRM-O promised to make heavy investments in savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs). By December 2012, membership to SACCOs stood at 1,150,000 (GoU, 2013b) and government had injected over UGX 54 billion in SACCOs by February 2013. The million-dollar question, however, is whether SACCOs are alleviating poverty and creating jobs as promised by the NRM-O government in its 2011 Election Manifesto.
Usage and benefits of SACCOs
As one of the key drivers for poverty alleviation and job creation, government has invested re-sources in the popularisation of SACCOs. It is no wonder that this audit revealed that 61.3 percent of households interviewed were aware of the existence of SACCOs in their sub-county. However, only 40 per cent of the households had knowledge of how SACCOs operated, with27 per cent being registered members of SACCOs. Probably the most central issue is the nature of benefits people get from SACCOs. The benefits define the manner in which people use SACCOs’’ money and people’s utility of SACCOs’. Table 5 indicates the benefits by region.
According to Table 4, it is clear that 43 per cent of the people who got funds from SACCOs invested the money in businesses, whereas, 29 per cent borrowed the SACCO money for other reasons such as paying school fees, organizing weddings, buying household property, among others. The use of SACCOs’ as a strategy to provide finance and alleviate poverty among an impoverished population can prove to be problematic as summed up by one of the participants in a Focus Group Discussion in West Nile
“…SACCOs’ money is used to buy household property, medication, pay school fees and funeral costs.
Whereas, the government intended to use SACCOs to help people finance and grow businesses, progressively SACCOs were turning into an enterprise to finance fortuitous subsistence costs for over 29 per cent of Ugandans. The danger was in how beneficiaries of SACCO loans would pay back. Without clear repayment plans and sources of income, some of the families had mortgaged their property (mostly land) in order to service and repay SACCO loans, leading to increased impoverishment; while others had run away from their homes for fear of SACCOs attaching their properties. While some individuals had explained this phenomenon as resulting from poor knowledge and experience of both the managers of SACCOs and the members of these SACCOs, that was a very simplistic explanation. People knew that SACCO money had to be paid back but they were often between a rock and a hard place and when SACCO money was dangled in their faces.
The Political Factor in SACCOs Formation of SACCOs and disbursement of SACCO funds was also riddled with political influence.
It was noted, for example, that in Pallisa District, the NRM has supported the establishment of SACCOs for NRM sub-county chairpersons and supporters who cross over from other political parties.
Whereas, it is fine for the NRM to support the establishment of SACCOs for its supporters and members –if is uses its party resources – where public resources are used to fund such party initiatives it becomes corruption. It also distorts the intention of SACCOs as individuals begin to construe membership to a SACCO as a direct ticket to access political money. This is often complicated when SACCO money is disbursed during political campaigns; entrenching the perception that it is political money not meant to be returned. The Auditor General’s report of 2019 notes series of political influences in the formation and management of SACCOs including some of the SACCOs that were formed and financed as part of the political campaigns. Indeed many of such SACCOs have been mismanaged and funds embezzled yet there are not mechanisms for recovery. The other challenges with SACCOs include mismanagement of the funds managers, struggles between board members and managers, political leaders’ failure to pay back money borrowed (Auditor General, 2019a). A senior technical official in Nebbi district lamented that
“…there are struggles between, board members who are largely politicians the and managers of SACCOs’…with each party interested in being in charge and use of SACCO money…”
National-level corruption impacting negatively on SACCOs
During an interview a district official noted that, “…With populations hearing of the big sums of money embezzled by leadership; they often do not see any rationale for paying back the borrowed money…this is Etandikwa money”.
Corruption at national level has an effect on SACCOs. There is a tendency for some people to think of SACCO money as government money which they are entitled to without needing to repay, considering that some individuals at national level have also failed to account for public funds. Where as, SACCOs have benefited some individuals especially those who have invested the borrowed money in income-generating activities, it can be said that the majority of the Ugandans who are members of SACCOs have only managed to use them to offset their daily subsistence needs. Individuals who use SACCO money to finance their subsistence needs hardly pay back such money, leading to loss of their collateral in some cases, accentuating poverty and family breakups. There are also mixed messages about SACCOs from government. Whereas, on one hand, government promotes SACCOs as a job-creating and financing mechanism, on the other handsome of the political leaders have used SACCOs to disburse funds to their supporters. This has had implications especially when it comes to paying back the loaned money, with some individuals viewing it as political money meant to reward loyal supporters. The structures for supporting SACCOs are not integrated with the local governance and service delivery apparatus, making the process of supervision and follow-up sometimes difficult.
Environment, Natural and Shared Resource Management
“…district by-laws punish the poor and not the rich who continue to degrade the environment…we must put in place a system that brings the real environment abusers to book… ”
On environment, Citizens made four key demands in their Manifesto: the prioritization of investment in the recovery and restoration of degraded ecosystems, especially wetlands and the protected forest estate; setting standards to deal with environmental governance; compliance and law enforcement; and, investment in a land reform process that builds the foundation for development and transformation (UGMP, 2010).Conversely, the NRM made two key promises: to restore degraded ecosystems as a strategy for disaster risk control and improved livelihoods including provision of tree seedlings through both public and private schemes to plant at least 200,000,000 trees annually equivalent to 180,000 ha; and then, boundary demarcation and gazetting of critical wetlands and given strict protection: Nakivubo, Kinawataka, Lubigi, Kansanga, Kyetinda, Nyanama-Lufuka,Mpologoma, Mayanja, Katonga, Kakyera, Teso wetland system (Agu, Awoja, Abuket, Kodike),and Okole-Arocha in Lango. Over the past two and a half years, Government and NGOs have initiated tree-planting drives in the country with the National Forest Authority (NFA) taking lead.
Between 2011 and 2013 NFA planted 1,897.8 ha of new forest plantations in North Rwenzori CFR, Katugo-Kasagala CFR, Rwoho and Bugamba CFR in Mbarara, Mafuga plantation in Kabale, and Lendu CFR(MWE, 2012). The National Tree Seed Centre and the regional nurseries of NFA produced at least 5,534,560 seedlings. Efforts have been made to restore forests and protect water catchment areas especially river banks and hilly landscapes through mobilizing forest encroachers to vacate forest reserves for example; Bugoma in Hoima, Kisombwa in Mubende, Mubuku in Kasese and other Central Forest Reserves. Relatedly, 281 hectares of degraded/formerly encroached forests were restored in Mityana and Lake Shore range. Despite the positive steps taken above, major gaps still exist in the management and governance of the environment in Uganda. For example, in 2011 Yoweri Museveni, amidst serious resistance, revived the discussions to parcel over 7,100 ha from Mabira Forest for sugar production by Mehta Group of Companies. Environmental experts have warned that if this plan ever succeeds, Uganda risks losing over 300 bird species that inhabit this central reserve forest. This would not only affect the environment but rather Uganda’s earnings from tourists that flock the forest for bird viewing. The continued use of firewood and charcoal as major sources energy in the country has remained a threat to the environment. In some areas it is argued that the growth in the population is also leading to degradation with limited interventions from the government. Recently, in the Mount Elgon region, the increase in population resulted into landslides killing and displacing hundreds of Ugandans.
Encroachment on wetlands
Encroachment on wetlands is increasing at an alarming rate across the country with little being done to protect such important ecosystems, especially in the countryside. While some efforts have been put in place to save some of the wetlands in urban areas, there are no similar initiatives to save wetlands in rural areas (Parliament of Uganda, 2012). Protection of wetlands is even made difficult by some of the laws of Uganda. For example, Under Article 237 (2) (b) of the Constitution, government has an obligation, among other things, to protect and preserve wetlands which it holds in trust for the people of Uganda. However, under the Registration of Titles Act the Commissioner for Land is allowed to issue titles to citizens who own land even in wetland lands. As such, regardless of the National Environment Management Act protecting the wetlands, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Uganda Land Commission and District Land Boards have continued to issue land titles to developers in wetlands.
Selective Application of the Law affecting Environmental Management
The environment sector also faces other challenges including selective application of the law. It is common for government agencies to punish the poor and less politically connected populations whenever they degrade the environment, yet the powerful and politically connected persons are instead facilitated to engage in numerous environmental abuses. The most recent example recorded during this audit is the degradation of the Lutembe Beach in Wakiso District by Rosebud, a flower growing company. In one of the community consultations in West Nile, citizens pointed out that the activities of Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho (Salim Saleh)on Barifa Forest Reserve were also causing serious environmental threats, to the country, yet without any mitigation measures in place. In Bunyoro sub-region, residents also expressed concern over the activities of oil exploration companies which were not putting in place convincing measures to deal with the environmental hazards that come with their engagements.
Water and Sanitation
“…we get water from the lakes and rivers…but the problem with that water is bilharzias and worms…” (Woman from Nebbi District during an FGD).
On water and sanitation, the overwhelming demand by citizens was increased investments and supervision in the provision of quality water services countrywide. In its manifesto, the NRM committed to increase access to safe and clean water in rural areas within a radius of 1km from the then 65 per cent to 100 per cent by the year 2020 (NRM, 2016).During this Audit, we found that access to tap water, especially in urban and peri-centres, had relatively increased. For the urban areas, access to safe water increased from 66 per cent, with-in 0.2km which was reported in 2016, to 69 per cent. However, in rural areas, the main source of water remains unprotected and protected wells and springs, river streams, and boreholes. In some of the districts, accessing clean water is a nightmare as people rely on unprotected and contaminated wells as their main water sources, with an access distance ranging from 0.5 to3 kilometres. We noted that access to safe water within one km in the rural areas was 64 percent (which was a slight decline from the 65 per cent reported in 2020).This Audit also found that there was lack of a coherent regulation and monitoring framework for water and sewerage services, especially in implementation of the pro-poor strategy in urban areas. In addition, access to household latrine coverage in the rural areas has remained at approximately 70 per cent over the previous two years, while access to hand washing has increased from 24 per cent to 27 per cent in the rural areas, and 85 per cent for urban areas (MWE, 2020).While official government documents record that government constructed piped water supply countrywide, this Audit found that households with access to piped water were only 18per cent, with the majority of the households (40 per cent) relying on boreholes as the main source of water as indicated in Table 6.
Whereas, the main source of water for most of the households has remained the borehole; in some of the districts, especially in the Karamoja and West Nile, people still fetch drinking water from rivers, lakes and dams. Nevertheless, the distance to the source of water has greatly improved as indicated by the chart below. Most of the households get water from sources that are less than half a kilometre away from their homes.