The Okimanyi? Project Launch

“The greatest wealth is health” – Virgil

On the morning of Thursday 24th of August 2017 an unusual ceremony was due to take place in Luzira Prison Complex, Uganda. Anyone who could walk into Luzira Prison Complex main gate could tell from not only the atmosphere but also the environment and the movements of prison and APP staff who were hectically trying to prepare the venues for the project launch of the first of its kind in the prisons in Uganda; the Okimanyi? Project.

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We were delighted to mark the occasion with two key milestones in the life of Luzira Prison complex. We celebrated the launch of the Okimanyi? Project and the ground-breaking event for the construction of a Youth Centre in Luzira prison Barracks. The event started with the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a youth centre followed by the launch of the project, officiated by the Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Service. The project will benefit a population of 12,000 children and young adults residing in Luzira Prison Complex.

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Uganda Prisons Service for the open-door policy and for allowing APP to implement various projects in prisons in Uganda and the prison communities they work. Some of us lock up our children in our houses because of lack of friendly services around but with the presence of the youth centre, our children will have a favourable environment to go and build on their various capacities in so many things." Says Ogwapit, a beneficiary from the secondment programme.

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The project was officially launched by the Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Service, Dr Johnson Omuhunde Rwashote Byabashaija. The event was also graced with the presence of other distinguished guests such as the Ambassador of Democratic Republic of Congo, and representatives from the French Embassy and the British High Commission. We also had some of our partners, funders and stakeholders in attendance such as the Independent Development Fund, GIZ, Directors, Commissioners, Officers in Charge and other representatives from Uganda Prisons Service.

Celebrations were marked with a variety of entertainment melodies from the Uganda Prisons Band and heartfelt speeches from the Regional Prisons Commander, Kampala Extra Region; Mr Magomu Wilson, the Assistant Commissioner for Uganda Prisons Health Services; Dr James Kisambu, APP country director; Peter R. Tibigambwa and the Commissioner General of Prisons; Dr Johnson Omuhunde Rwashote Byabashaija.

The youth are vulnerable internationally and this is one of the factors that has led to increased HIV infection rates, early pregnancies and high crime rates.

“I commended APP for coming in at such a crucial time to empower the youth in Luzira Prison Complex to take responsibility for their own health.”

-Dr. James Kisambu, Assistant Commissioner for Uganda Prisons Health Services

At APP, we don’t only look at the prisoners but also the well-being of prison staff and their families. We believe that prisons can be places of positive transformation. APP, through its Health and Life Skills Programmes, hopes to build a healthy generation in Luzira Prison Complex through the Okimanyi? Project.

The event was closed by the Guest of Honour, Dr Johnson Byabashaija who in his remarks officially declared the Okimanyi? project launched in Luzira prison complex. In his speech he said;

“In 2007, I met a very young man, 18-year-old Alexander McLean, brought to me by Mary Kaddu our retired commissioner. He didn’t want to walk me through, what he wanted to do in Uganda prisons but wanted to run me through what he would do, which I didn’t agree to. Being a good opportunist, I took advantage in what he was doing, and now, as of today, we have many fully stocked libraries, laboratories, enhanced capacities of Village Health Teams, and empowered the capacity of Uganda prison service staff, like Ogwapit, that were privileged to visit the UK courtesy of APP- thank you APP. I will continue to take the opportunities being brought forward for the better services in prisons.”

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In his speech the commissioner General also highlighted on the percentage of the youth in the country, and the alarming percentage of them that are in prisons.

As of July 2017, of the 55,500 inmates in Uganda prisons, 75% are youth between 18 years and 34 years. 50% of the people in Uganda are below the age of 15 years. With this, 17% are in real trouble because of lack of jobs and idleness that cause them to commit crimes. By APP coming up with “Okimanyi?” project, they are dealing with the future. I would like to commend them for this and I will continue taking the opportunity. Because we have ignored the youth for so long and we only talk to them during times of politics because we are afraid of them. The youth centre is going to offer learning, recreation and health facilities which are very good possessions. I would like to thank you for inviting me to be associated with this project.”

“The law education programme in prisons is very essential. Someone once called me on phone from abroad asking how he can be part of the University of London law programme sponsored by APP in prisons and I was quick to tell him to either be our staff or an inmate! All inmates who have gone through education while in prisons do not re-offend. There is a 21% re-offending rate currently in Uganda which could be one of the lowest in the world.”

"Partners and stakeholders around, please support APP and its programmes so that they continue benefiting prisoners and the prison community.”

He thanked all the stakeholders and partners for attending the launch and asked them to support APP in all ways possible in various projects that it implements.