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Every 18th May is celebrated globally as the International Museums Day (IMD), a day to reflect on and celebrate the role of museums in serving society as educational and remembrance platforms for matters of direct concern to society. IMD 2019 was held under the global theme: “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The future of tradition”

According to the Statutes of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), adopted by the 22nd General Assembly in Vienna, Austria, on 24th August 2007, “a Museum is a ‘Non-Profit, Permanent Institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purpose of education, study and enjoyment.” 

Uganda as a country has close to twenty-five (25) private community museums spread across the country. These provide spaces for people to interact, network and learn from the curated objects/materials. Their foci vary and include themes such as war and peace, culture, and religion, among many others. Some of these museums include: The National Memory and Peace Documenter Center in Kitgum, Ker Kwaro Acoli Museum at the Royal Palace in Gulu, Igongo Cultural Center in Mbarara, Museum of the Missing Persons in Pader, Uganda Martyrs University Museum located near the equator, Koogere Community Museum in Fort Portal, Kiwa Heritage in Kasese, Karamoja Women’s Cultural Group in Moroto,  Batwa Cultural Experience, Mt Elgon Museum of History and Culture in Mbale, and a number of others across the country that should be invested in and supported.   

Museums in Uganda should play a big role in addressing socio-political and conflict-related issues in most conflict-affected communities, as their facilities offer platforms for communities to dialogue on matters of contention through documentation and research.
Museums in Uganda also benefit posterity by providing educational spaces that also promote remembrance of past events to ensure that they are not forgotten. Most museums in Uganda are working with schools to promote children’s interaction with Museums. Cultural museums, for example, are contributing to helping many young children have a better understanding of their culture and its diversity, thus helping them appreciate the role of culture in a dynamic world.


Caption:School children and members of the public view NMPDCs traveling exhibition at the Uganda Museum during the IMD 2019.

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In the spirit of promoting the ‘Truth’, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) nine years ago in 2010 proclaimed 24 March as the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. This date was chosen because it was the day on which Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador, was assassinated in 1980 for his active engagement in denouncing violations of the human rights of highly vulnerable individuals. The purpose of the Day is to: Honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice; Pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all; Recognize, in particular, the important work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, for defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.

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The UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (2019) report published in time for the recent Fourth United Nations Environmental Assembly, calls on decision makers to take immediate action to address pressing environmental issues to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other Internationally Agreed Environment Goals, such as the Paris Agreement.

Even when such flagship reports show governments how they can put the world on the path to a truly sustainable future, there is still reluctance by many to take full action. For example, when over 170 countries recently gathered in Nairobi to address the environmental impacts of plastics, they could not still take bolds decision to eliminate single-use plastic products. So how do we then deal with the report’s emphasis on urgent and inclusive action needed by decision makers at all levels to achieve a healthy planet and with healthy people?

As RLP and Uganda join the rest of the world on March 21 to mark International Day of Forest, a day proclaimed by the UN General Assembly for raising awareness on the importance of forests, I offer my thoughts on our different roles in this journey to achieve a truly sustainable world by 2050.

First, pollution of the aquatic spaces: Annually more than eight million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans—leave alone what ends up in our lakes, rivers, wetlands, and the environment around us. Earlier proposed initiatives such as the phasing out of single-use plastic by 2025 had already been objected to by several richer nations - led by the US. So with such high profile engagement failing to bring about an agreement to phase out single-use plastics, for how long shall we continue postponing our moral obligation to address our environment issues? It’s a shame that selfish interests coupled with lack of political will of nations, institutions and individuals continue to impede achieving key milestones in the right direction to save the environment for future generations. The current Pope once expressed his support during the push to the #BeatPlasticPollution for clean seas campaign, saying “we cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic”. Natural polymers and organic materials that biodegrade rapidly are practicable options that also could manage our ecosystems smartly & sustainably. Uganda needs to revive or enforce the seemingly shelved government ban on environmentally hazardous product (Plastic/Kavera) that the president ordered last year to be effected (Section 2 of the 2009 Finance Act), a statutory instrument issued over nine years ago banning the manufacture, importation and sale of polythene bags less than 30 microns in order to protect our environment but fell short of implementation by NEMA for some reasons.

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Do you know about the National Memory & Peace Documentation Centre?

A collaborative initiative of the RLP and the Kitgum District Local Government. The NMPDC is located in Kitgum district town council - Northern Uganda an area ravaged by over two decades of armed conflict and is struggling to recover in the post-conflict era...
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