In what appears to be a well-timed give and take response to the Buganda question, President Museveni yesterday ordered for the immediate re-opening of the Kingdom’s radio - CBS - unconditionally.
The Minister for Information and Communication Technology, Mr Aggrey Awori announced at a news conference in Kampala that the decision to re-open CBS was prompted by a request from “listeners”.
“It is in the consideration of the listeners who have been complaining to me and to the President that CBS be re-opened. The listeners were unnecessarily inconvenienced,” Mr Awori said.
He said the Broadcasting Council; the government regulatory body revoked the CBS broadcasting license on September 10, 2009 after breaching the minimum broadcasting standards.
“Since then the government of Uganda and the management of CBS have been holding consultations with the objective of resolving issues and opening of CBS. Arising out of the said consultations, government is happy to announce that CBS may resume broadcasting with effect from today October 23, 2010,” he said.
However, the minister said other administrative and regulatory issues shall be handled by the Broadcasting Council which is the regulatory body for the electronic media.
The government closed CBS radio, among other radio stations last year, accusing them of breach of regulations governing broadcasting by promoting ethnic hatred leading to the September 2009 Buganda riots.
The riots were caused by the banning of the Buganda King – Kabaka Ronald Mwenda Mutebi II - by the government from visiting his own county of Bugerere in Kayunga District. The riot claimed the lives of 27 people.
Suubi FM, Radio Sapienta and Akaboozi were also closed and have since then been opened after they publicly apologised to the government.
However, CBS remained closed following Buganda’s continued defiance to apologise before its re-opening as demanded by the government. But with the 2011 general elections on the cards, the government has in the end ordered it’s re-opening without public apology.
Asked whether the government was ready to compensate CBS through replacing their equipment, Mr Awori said it was not the government’s fault.
“Why should we compensate them? If you break the law, are you compensated for the time you spend in jail?” he asked.
CBS’s studio link and the tower were yesterday handed over to CBS’s.
Managing Director, Mr Kaaya Kavuma, who was not available for a comment by press time. On whether CBS apologised to the government as one of the conditions, Mr. Awori said: “the apology is not necessary at the moment. But from now on CBS and any other radios must obey the law of the day.”
Government had also directed that some of the CBS senior broadcasters be sacked for allegedly inciting violence but Awori said it is CBS that manages its own staff and not the government.
Buganda’s spokesperson Peter Mayiga was not available for comment. At one time, President Museveni had insisted that CBS will only be re-opened after the Kabaka and clan leaders hold talks with him on a matter that has caused discontent in the country and threatened to cost him support in Buganda in the 2011 general elections.
Over the years, the President has accused the opposition politicians of hiding behind the Kabaka and CBS radio to fight political wars. Out of frustration, CBS employees have since dragged government to court demanding for Shs1b in compensation. The case is still pending in courts of law.