Thursday July 3 2014

Touch not our National Anthem!

By Farouq Lubega

The National Anthem has featured a lot in the media in the recent past. All manner of suggestions have been floated and aired about what to do with our Anthem, including making it more “dramatic and participatory”, an idea that came from the Minister of Tourism, Hon Maria Mutagamba. Other notables who have commented on the subject include Alex Mukulu and Milton Wabyona ( in the Daily Monitor of June 30, 2014).

In all these animated discussions, an important legal issue has been overlooked regarding who has the moral right to a Uganda National Anthem, which right confers upon them a further right to object and seek relief in connection with any distortion, mutilation, alteration or modification of the work? The last time I checked, the moral right to the Uganda Anthem lay with the estate of George Wilberforce Kakoma, the composer.

History has it that shortly before independence, a sub-committee for the creation of the national anthem organised a countrywide publicity campaign for original compositions. Ugandans were encouraged to submit their pieces.

Many participated but fell short of the sub-committee’s expectations so it directly approached George Wilberforce Kakoma, a renowned inspector of schools and a teacher of music in Masaka District who came up with the current National Anthem.

The late Kakoma thus derived copyright and subsequent moral rights in his works because he did not create the song under the direction or control of the government.

Actually, in his action against the government in the case of Kakoma v. The Attorney General ( High Court Civil Suit no. 197/2008), one of his averments was that he had never assigned his copyright to the government and had never been paid for it, a point which court agreed with.

The fact that Ugandans just like citizens of other countries around the world are not adept at reciting the stanzas of their anthems notwithstanding, the moral rights to the Uganda Anthem lie with the estate of the Kakoma.

The government has to first seek the family’s consent using the proper legal procedure before it purports to either distort, mutilate, alter or modify (including translation into other languages outside English).

Failure to do this, attracts civil action in court that would in the end cost the taxpayer money.