Uganda’s high court on Thursday blocked a government bid to suspend dozens of top journalists, on the grounds that their coverage of the arrest of popstar MP Bobi Wine had endangered national security.
The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) earlier this month called for 13 radio and TV stations to suspend their news editors, producers and heads of programming over their coverage of the latest detention of the popular rapper and politician.
Two activists petitioned the court on behalf of the Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) to have the order struck down.
“I am aware of the national security interests, however, regulatory actions cannot be used to trample the rights of people’s freedoms and right to information,” judge Lydia Mugambe Ssali told a packed courtroom in Kampala.
“The application is allowed and injunction ordered against the respondent (the UCC).”
The ruling was hailed by journalists present in court.
“This is a historical ruling that has shaped the rights and principles of our profession,” the UJA’s head of media safety and human rights Arnold Anthony Mukose told AFP.
“We have been trampled upon by illegal, oppressive and irrational directives not only from UCC but other state agencies. In this case, the judiciary has stood with us,” he added.
UCC lawyer, Abdu Salaam Waisswa said: “We are going to analyse the ruling and see the way forward.”
The UCC order prompted diplomats from the EU, US, and another 14 countries to raise alarm about Uganda’s clampdown on media freedom and protests.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was detained for allegedly staging an illegal protest in 2018 -charges fellow opposition MPs have decried as ridiculous -and later freed on bail.
The popular singer is the figurehead of a new generation who grew up under President Yoweri Museveni but want to see change.
He has emerged as a real challenger to the veteran president who intends to run for a sixth term in 2021.
Ugandan authorities have frustrated Wine’s efforts to hold concerts at his private club, and have detained him repeatedly for procedural misdemeanours.
Wine is also facing treason charges along with more than 30 opposition politicians over the alleged stoning of Museveni’s convoy after a campaign rally in the north-western town of Arua in 2018.
Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality
Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.
Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.
The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.
Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.
The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.
Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.
The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.
Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement
Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.
The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.
“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.
AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.
Uganda approves return of over 2,500 nationals stranded abroad
Over 2,500 Ugandan nationals stranded abroad amid the Covid-19 pandemic can now return home as approved by the Ugandan cabinet.
The cabinet on Monday, agreed that Ugandan nationals trapped in 66 countries can return home at their own cost.
The government is making arrangements with the UN World Food Program (WFP) to fly the stranded citizens home, Judith Nabakooba, the country’s minister for information, communication technology and national guidance says, adding that all the returning citizens will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine.
President Yoweri Museveni last month, directed Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to study the possibility of evacuating dozens of citizens stranded abroad amid Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
To contain the spread of Covid-19, the country on March 22 suspended all incoming flights, except cargo flights.