Baz Waiswa

Baz Waiswa

Miners Decry Continued Harassment By Police Mineral Protection Unit

Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (ASMs) across the country are having a hard time working with the Police Mineral Protection Unit because police officers have turned to criminal acts instead of sanitizing the mining trade.

Miners from western Uganda districts of Buhweju, Kisoro and Busia in eastern Uganda on Thursday told the 3rd Annual Citizens’ Convention on Mining at Hotel Africana in Kampala that some police officers have made it a habit to disrupt their operations.  

Officers of the Police Mineral Protection Unit formed in 2017 to deter illegal mining and crime in the minerals sector has according to accusations made by miners involved themselves in mining activities, aided illegal mining or extorted money from miners.

Nabulindo Jane Kwoba, the Woman Member of Parliament for Busia District, speaking at the citizen convention convened by Global Rights Alerts and partners said police has been joined by soldiers of Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) to chase miners from their land.

“They never listen to anybody. They are chasing my people from their land,” the politician told the convention.

An ASMs leader from Kisoro revealed that police officers are working with foreigners in Kisoro to mine wolfram at the expense of local artisanal miners.

Similar complaints were raised by gold miners in Buhweju districts where the Police Mineral Protection Unit is said to have periodically arrested miners and disrupted meetings of miners with civil society organizations.

The heated accusations put the commandant of the Police Mineral Protection Unit ASP Moses Musinguzi Karakire in a tight spot and to bravely defend the unit in face of irate miners who have suffered at the hand of the unit.

Musinguzi who denied his unit ever engaging in dubious deals advised miners to report the implicated officers to the Uganda Police Professional Standards Unit so that the culprits are apprehended and punished.

“When such mistakes happen, blame the individual but not the institution. We have to work with all people because we are a people police,” said Musinguzi.

“Some people are using equipment that is not expected to be used by a holder of a particular license. Where police go and find a crime being committed, he or she has to stop it,” added Musinguzi.

Responding to the issue of disrupting meetings in Buhweju, Musinguzi said they had gone to the area to sensitize miners but instead the miners ran away from police.

"We went to Buhweju to sensitize and give information on both TV and Radio but when people heard that we were coming, we found they had disserted the mines but we still looked for them and sensitized them," Musinguzi explained.

Asked why police sometimes act parallel and unresponsive to the ministry of energy and mineral development, Vincent Kedi, the principal engineer for mining at the department of geological survey and mines, acknowledged that there is a disconnection between the two and challenges in reporting to authorities.

Earlier, the minister for minerals Peter Lokeris had reiterated government’s commitment to help ASMs by putting in place an enabling environment for ASM operations and ensure that both our local people and the country at large, derive the most optimal benefits from mining.

“The government of Uganda recognizes the potential that ASM can contribute to the local economic development if well regulated. ASM can play a significant role in providing employment especially in rural areas, improving the livelihood of people directly or indirectly and controlling rural to urban migration,” Lokeris said in his address.

The convention was organized by Global Rights Alert (GRA), Action Aid International Uganda, Transparency International Uganda (TIU), Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), Uganda Association of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (UGAASM)and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD).

This theme for the two-day convention was “Amplifying citizens’ voices, harnessing mineral wealth opportunities for Uganda”. It attracted ASMs from different parts of the country, MEMD officials, Civil Society Organizations, district officials and investors.

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Chamber Makes Demands Ahead Of Mining Conference

The Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum (UCMP) is going into the 8th Annual Mineral Wealth Conference scheduled for 2nd to 3rd October at the Serena Kampala Hotel with demands tabled before the government.

UCMP, a private sector-led lobby group for the extractives sector in Uganda, has been critical of the government’s sluggish approach when addressing issues to do with mining in the country.

Uganda, endowed with close to 50 profitable mineral types, barely earns from the mineral resources because the government has not really made it conducive to attract moneyed investors into the country to explore, mine and trade.

And for that matter, UCMP is asking government to ensure that there is a conducive environment that can entice investors to invest in Uganda’s mining sector ‘whose performance towards the Gross Domestic Product is still very low.’

"As a country, we are still losing billions of money because the majority of the players are still artisanal miners. This has impacted big towards the development of the sector which has the potential to contribute significantly to Uganda’s economy," UMCP Council Chairman Dr Elly Karuhanga told a media briefing on Monday

"One mine in Uganda has got $16bn sitting down there. The GDP of Uganda is worth $28bn. Do you think that mining in Uganda is significant or not? One mine in Uganda is capable of changing the entire economy," he noted.

"Kilembe mines alone used to contribute 30% of the country's GDP. I like to repeat this because I think 30% is quite a lot to come from one company," he added. 

Richard Kaijuka, chairman Board of Trustees at UCMP said Uganda has not done a lot of exploration as a country to actually establish what minerals the country has.

"Uganda is next to DRC, which is known as a mining destination. This gives Uganda a chance to have minerals that maybe on high demand in the near future," Kaijuka said.

"As a youngster, I was a bank manager in Kilembe. Kilembe was employing about 4, 000 people. Ugandans don’t understand the impact that mining can have on this nation,” Kaijuka added.

Frank Mugyenyi, a representative of the African Union advised that while Uganda has been mining and selling minerals, it can now go further and actually add value to these minerals.

The theme for the this year's Mineral wealth conference will be, "Creating an Enabling Environment for Mining in Uganda"

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It Is Hard To Find Right Human Resource In Academia – Vice Chancellor

All has been well for Assoc Prof Krishna N. Sharma during his time as Vice Chancellor of Victoria University for the past two years. In this elaborative interview, Dr. Sharma tells his story at Victoria University so far.

You have been to Victoria University, for now, two and a half years, what are the highlights of your stay here and the things you have been able to achieve as a Vice Chancellor?

I joined Victoria University in January of 2017. I joined here as dean faculty of health sciences. Then after six months, there was a vacancy for the Vice Chancellor and I applied. Fortunately, I was selected and I was appointed in July 2017.

The journey has not been easy as you know Victoria University had some turbulent times during that period. The good thing is we had a good team at that time and everyone supported each other including directors. We started setting up our targets.

Our priority at that time was to come up with strong policies and procedures. We had some but we wanted to improve on that. In two years, we have almost 30 policies. I am happy that my team could achieve that.

Our next priority was to put in place a good human resource- to attract and retain good human resource. We mobilized professors from Sweden, Nigeria, Uganda and India. We also increased the number of fulltime, dedicated, staff members to decrease the number of absenteeism by lecturers which is very common with part timers because they just come, teach and go.  Part timers are not available to mentor students; they are not committed and never focus. They have limited time at the university.

Our next task was to improve on research and publication since we had the issues of policy and staff sorted. It became very prominent and smoother. In my tenure, we have published about 35 publications including three books, some best sellers. That was an achievement for us.

For the two years, we have significantly grown the number of students who have joined the university. It is in this tenure that we have the biggest intake in the history of this university. Our students’ numbers started improving when we improved on all these administrative things.

We also started on community engagements. It was that time we started engaging communities. We started to go into slums to work with NGOs, held health camps and others. At the moment we are working with Mpigi local government to set up a model village.

Our faculty of social sciences wants to direct all its energy, research, internship, to that project. Every program impacts the community in different ways. Our students are trying to see how they can create a positive impact.

We are trying to see how we can create collaborations because you cannot do everything alone. We started signing MoUs and implementing them. These are the things we are focusing on. We also engaged professional bodies. We sit with technocrats, employers, experts and regulators to revise our curriculum. So we revised everything in the curriculum. We made it more practical, market driven and research based. We needed that paradigm shift.

We started improvising technologically. We are going away from the paperwork way; we are now going digital. We have systems in place to achieve this. That is where we have started going, fortunately, we are seeing some good response.

We have started working with the Uganda Cricket Association and Federation of Uganda Basketball Association offering free courses to officials and players. We are planning to do so much so that we can create an impact. 

You seem to have settled in quick going by some of the things you have been able to achieve at this university, what are some of the factors that made this possible?

When settling in a new place, their setups that you need to put in place first. I have worked in Africa earlier before coming to Uganda, in Cameroon. So I was quite comfortable working in Africa. When I came here, I didn’t see any difference between India and Africa.

We all have that culture of togetherness so for me it was not difficult and Uganda being a friendly country, I settled in fast. In the institution, I was fortunate that I found a good team. Everyone was supportive and that gave me an advantage.

I got good friends through the university community and rotary club.

One of your priorities, when you arrived at this university, was to prioritize and focus on research and publication of research findings, what is the scorecard now so far?

When I joined, at that time, we had only about three or four publications since 2010. But since I joined, we have about 35 publications, by both students and lecturers. That is quite a good improvement in the past two years.

What we want to bring to this university is the culture of research. Under research, all around the world, the leading motivation is peer recognition. This year we are going to set a research agenda as a university and every faculty will set their own research agenda. Then every student and every staff. But all must fit in the whole research agenda of the university.

When you came in, you made it clear that for a student to progress, grades and classwork marks shouldn’t be prioritized over skills development, now that you have been here this long, do you still share this same school of thought?  

I still feel the same. Scoring high marks doesn’t prove that you will be successful in life. This is why we were having a discussion about the awards given to students who get good grades in exams. We said, why should we only recognize those who pass their exams and ignore those who do well in exams but also in other co-curriculum activities like sports.

Why are we judging them by the ability to cram their classwork and have good grades? Why can’t we recognize someone who is just passing their exams but is doing very well in the community? That is why we identified a student who is good at music and I linked him to a colleague in India. They are going to record music together.

And the students are responding well. Students are coming up with proposals for project ideas they like and passionate about.

In the recent past, we have seen Victoria University enter into several partnerships with different organizations, are the fruits coming through?

Our collaboration with Speke Group of Hotels offers a better opportunity for internship opportunities. Our collaboration with Victoria Hospital and other hospitals around us is giving us better opportunities for students in the faculty of health sciences to do the internship. Through our other collaborations, we had an international trip to Kenya. These partnerships are important.

As the head of the administrative unit at Victoria University, what challenges have you faced?

My biggest challenge is to find the right human resource in academia. We get so many applications but unfortunately, when we interview them we get disappointed. Many people are trying to make money.

You find someone with four masters but not a PhD. They are doing these master’s not because they love them but because they want to show that they can do this and that because they have studied it. This means you are a jack of all trades and a master of none.

Why would a parent choose to bring his or her child to study at Victoria University?

A parent and student should know why they should join a particular university. There are so many institutions out there. For example, why should one go to a business school when they can help their parents operate a shop or anyone’s shop and start learning on the ground?

What is the essence of going to university, and that is a question that is coming up very often?

Before going to a university, a student and parent should know what the child wants to do for the rest of his or her life. I suggest that parents should help their children identify their passion. 

At Victoria University, we help you identify where your strength lies as an individual. You don’t have to sit in a class with hundreds of other students, you can’t get that Victoria University.

Victoria University has state of the art facilities. Our professors are well vetted before being recruited. Every lecturer is interviewed not just by anyone but the VC, faculty deans, university council and the appointments committee. We are so careful when finding a fulltime staff.

We help students get an internship at the right organizations. We structure internship objectives for students, give them internship introduction letters, pay for the internship and the student will just go to do the internship. Thereafter, the student will have to defend the internship report proposal, even at diploma level. I am surprised many universities in Uganda don’t do it.

We don’t have too much negative bureaucracy. If a student wants to meet me, I am available for mentorship, guidance and guidance. Other members of the management and teaching staff are available. A student doesn’t need to have an appointment to be attended too.

Victoria University Council Moves To Realize Much Needed Growth

Victoria University, as a leading private university, continues to grow and insists on tapping into the existing resources that can help its growth as a learning institution and trainer of young people.

This ambition to have a prospering university is made possible by an innovative management that has been able to lure young and enterprising young minds to join the university as a guarantee that the university is here to empower young people.

The recent development from the university is that seasoned journalist Andrew Mwenda and businessman Dr Chirag Kotecha joined as members of University Council of Victoria University.

The two joined others like Dr. David Byatike Matove, Chairman University Council; Joseph N. Biribonwa, Vice Chairman University Council; James Kelebo, Council Member; Justice Maintum, Council Member; Joram Francis Kahenano, another Council Member.

The University said the Council strives to achieve the educational objectives of the University and those matters that affect the common interests of faculty, staff and students.

It is authorized to initiate policy proposals as well as to express its judgment on those submitted to it by the administrative officers of the University and its various academic divisions.

With the guidance of the Council, Victoria University is building capacity of not only the teaching staff but also that of students graduating from the institution. Initiatives such as Total Graduate Program which was recently conducted are taking the university in the right direction.

The workshop training themed ‘towards a complete graduate training - after university, what next?, was aimed at teaching the University’s student who will be graduating in September the basics of formal employment and doing business.

The training which took place on Monday 15th and 16th Tuesday, July 2019, addressed issues to do with the social life of the students, the business world, religion, personal and community security and work-life balance.

Topics discussed at the workshop included career planning, job searching and retention, writing CV and undertaking job interviews, public speaking, business startup and registration, business etiquette, financial literacy, investment portfolio and social media for business.

The University is also looking at collaborating with institutions like Uganda National Council for Science and Technology to undertake powerful and purposeful research.

Victoria University under the stewardship of Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Dr. Krishna N. Sharma has prioritized research as a cornerstone for their teaching and education delivery. This has been much more evident in the faculty of health sciences and ICT.

The faculty of health sciences published more research papers and journals than any other faculty at high rising Victoria University in Uganda. The Vice Chancellor of Victoria University Dr. Krishna N. Sharma said in the academic year 2018, 35 publications were released from the University.

Also, Victoria University recently offered free financial literacy training to the public. The two day training helped attendees to ‘possess the set of skills and knowledge that allows you to make informed and effective decisions with all of you financial resources.’

Participants got skills on informed and effective decisions on financial resources and also learnt the main steps to achieve financial literacy. The also learnt the skills to create a budget, ability to track spending, book keeping, techniques to pay off debts and effective financial planning.

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