By Ayebare Mariam
“You can fool some people sometimes. You can fool some people all the time BUT you cannot fool all the people all the time,” One scholar famously retorted. This adage greatly reflects whatever transpired at the Round Table Meeting for People With Disabilities (PWDs) at Eureka Hotel in Ntinda, a Kampala Suburb on Thursday.
This round table meeting, which was facilitated by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, brought together stakeholders in the Persons with Disabilities fraternity.
The only notable absentees were MPs for PWD’s, who, voters accused of incompetence and exploitation. Jasper Arinda, a Special Needs Scholar and Activist wondered why the MPs do not attend their meetings and if at all they are for them since they have been shunning them since the election time. “It’s as if these MPs are not for us.
They are dodging us and are not useful to us. The last time, we had to go through the Office of the Speaker of Parliament to coerce one of them to attend our meetings. We are marginalized but our MPs are just silent and feasting on our sweat” Arinda remarked amidst applauses from fellow PWD’s. Naboth Coole, a Lecturer at Makerere University called upon fellow PWD’s to desist from just voting for petty issues like accommodation, transport, food as these MPs later work to recover what they spent in the campaigns.
He called for the amendment of the PWD’s Act to have voted at regional levels instead of all delegates voting for all the MPs. Immaculate Akello told the meeting of a scenario where she was denied scholarship at Makerere University because the officials were corrupt and just maligned her claiming that she is not properly disabled.
This revelation brought a deafening silence in the meeting room, which prompted Harriet Nalukenge, who had represented the Equal Opportunities Commission to encourage them to forward their complaints to her office for redress as they have a tribunal and a team of lawyers ready to help them. Joseph Munyangabo, the Country Director for Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) did not go far from Nalukenge’s observations as he emphasized that Westminster foundation has also put in place already, a 2018-2023 strategy dubbed NOW IS THE TIME and this is aimed at providing people with Disabilities with the same opportunities as everyone else.
He added that this strategy was created after their Global Disability Summit where leaders from all over the World made promises to support People With Disabilities in Developing Countries like Uganda. Munyangabo further stressed that WFD is fully pushing for the promotion of nondiscrimination on all fronts including disability as this will strengthen policy making, electoral processes, transparency, accountability, and citizen participation. Munyangabo, however, noted that however much there are over 1 billion PWD’s of which over 5 million of them are in Uganda, People with Disabilities have not been given equal opportunities like others, and this is limiting their participation in political processes.
The meeting ended with a bold resolution of bringing forward amendments to the PWD’s Act and have all these impediments to PWD’s participation expunged from the Act.