The organisations within the civil society ‘fraternity’ – as its members are fond of calling this sphere – which are involved in advocacy and anti-corruption work, seem to have taken their activities to a new and higher level. They go from articulation to prosecution, from the radio studios to the court rooms. In Arendt’s universe, they jump from words to deeds. Until recently, the sphere of advocacy work by the CSOs existed in relative isolation from that of law enforcement; perhaps due to structural and personal reasons. But now they are able to file charges against corrupt officials and individuals, and thus to complement their activities with formal prosecution in some of their cases. At least this is how it looks to the informed outsider…
Here follows four cases which hopefully will illustrate the point without inconveniencing anybody:
Transport fares become a common problem: The Coordinators of NGO Link Forum Apac (NLFA), The Apac Anti-Corruption Coalition (TAACC) and a Save the Children representative advocated for lower transport fares between Apac and Lira, sparked by a letter to the mini-bus operations by the TAACC Coordinator. The three activists thereafter participated in and ad hoc dialogue meeting with the taxi operations, called and mediated by the Resident District Commissioner (RDC). The issue was not resolved completely, but had now been catapulted from the private into the public sphere and was hotly debated on Radio Apac FM.
Farmers released on human rights grounds: TAAc and the Coordinator of NLFA have been involved in advocacy for the release of the ‘Tarugali farmers’ who were arrested for attacking a pastoralist and his 75 cattle in October 2007. 27 farmers suffered human rights abuses during their arrest, inviting criticism from Amnesty International. TAACC-sponsored legal aid to the farmers led to the release of a majority of them.
Charges filed against the embodiment of justice in Apac: TAACC filed a case against the Resident State Attorney of Apac, aiming at the tip of an iceberg which signifies widespread corruption and extortion by a ring of individuals in the local council system, the police and the court. Needless to say, the Resident District Commissioner is trying to sort this case out.
In Kampala and Apac, some people are watching these developments, holding their breaths. The public sphere in Apac has proven itself to be one of interest but never charming.