Uganda Debt Network recognises the importance of the media in facilitating its advocacy work both at the local and national levels, for public information and action by duty bearers. Over the years, UDN has developed working relationships with several media houses to express national policy concerns affecting service delivery and good governance in Uganda for Government action. Furthermore, UDN has entered strategic partnerships with local radio stations across its areas of operation to run radio programmes where duty bearers, service providers and community members (rights holders/beneficiaries) come together on the same platform to discuss service delivery concerns and accountability issues for improved service delivery.
On Monday, 14th July 2014, Uganda Debt Network launched a new community radio programme in the Bunyoro Sub-Region as a platform for increased community participation in monitoring and evaluation of Government service delivery programmes within the region. This comes after UDN conducted a training in the Community Based Monitoring and Evaluation System (CBMES)for community monitors from Pakany and Kajarubu Sub-Counties in April. The live interactive bi-monthly Radio TalkShow that will air from 10:00am-11:00am every first and last Saturday of the month on Bunyoro Broadcasting Station (96.0 FM) is to be jointly run by UDN community monitors in conjunction with staff from Recreation for Development and Peace (RDP), a local NGO. It is hoped that the Community Monitoring and evaluation and radio programme will go a long way in fostering social accountability in Masindi District and the entire Bunyoro area through community empowerment.
Executive Director, Patrick Tumwebaze (left) briefs listeners on UDN's work during the launch of the Community Radio Programme on Bunyoro Broadcasting Station in Masindi Town
Currently, UDN facilitates five other community radio programmes on Kinkizi FM in Kanungu District, Saviour FM (Amuria District), Continental FM (Kumi District), Crane FM (Bushenyi District) and Eastern Voice FM (Bugiri District).
Since 1998, UDN has facilitated community members to undertake community monitoring of public expenditure and service delivery in the Bushenyi area in Western Uganda - which today is comprised of 5 districts of Bushenyi, Rubirizi, Mitooma, Buhweju and Sheema. Supported by UDN, the communities bring forward their field findings to the attention of the Local Government authorities through dialogues, for corrective action or any other necessary follow-up.
UDN together with a UDN supported local NGO in Bushenyi, Ms Western Ankole Anti-corruption Coalition (WAAC), organised a series of district level dialogues, scheduled to take place from 14th-18th July 2014. Two of the planned dialogues were successfully held in Bushenyi and Rubirizi districts on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th July (e.g see New Vision 17th July, 2014, page 9 and Red Pepper of 16th July, 2014, page 12). A similar exercise in Mitooma District, nonetheless, was on Wednesday 16th July, 2014, halted by the Police.
While the dialogue between the members of the communities and some sub-county and District Local Government officials was going on, police swooped on the unsuspecting participants at about 3.00 p.m. Consequently, three UDN staff members, three members of WAAC and an NTV journalist were detained by police and charged over allegations of "Spreading false propaganda and associating/being an ambassador of a rebel group that wants to over throw the NRM government" - the Black Monday Movement. The journalist’s equipment was also confiscated. The organisers of the dialogue, meanwhile, had prior authorisation from the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) for Mitooma. The detained were later released on Police bond, but had to appear before Police for further questioning on Friday, 18th July 2014. The case against them has since been dropped.
This year, Uganda Debt Network has so far also held Sub-county and District dialogues in Masindi, Kayunga, Mityana and Amuria Districts successfully and remains committed to serving Uganda as public accountability activists despite the seriously dwindling, if not closed civil society space.
UDN community monitoring reports presented at the Bushenyi and Rubirizi dialogue meetings on Monday, 14th July and Tuesday 15th July 2014 respectively by the Western Ankole Anti-corruption Coalition have already borne remarkable fruit in as far as facilitating accountability for public funds.
As reported in the Red Pepper (Thursday 16th July, 2014, page 12), for instance, the Bushenyi District LC5 Chairman, Willis Bashasha, while responding to the findings of a community monitoring report presented by the UDN-supported monitors, blamed the poor state of roads in the district on the negligence of the district engineer, Barnabas Kiiza Mbonimpa and admitted that the district had lost a substantial amount of resources as a result. In a related article, the New Vision (Thursday 17th July 2014, Page 9) reported that Mr. Bashasha had ordered for an audit of all National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) programme beneficiaries in the district to ascertain value-for-money for the public resources spent on this initiative.