The creative industry is by far one of the most obvious development opportunities in countries like Uganda that are characterized by unemployed youth, unbalanced opportunities in formal institutions, poor education background, poor family background, to mention but a few.
The performing arts top the list of the creative arts that have without doubt become a lifeline for many people and especially the youth who solely depend on these to earn a place in society, to live with basic decency, to inspire their peers, to uplift their near and sometimes extended families, to cut back on the possibility of leading criminal lives, to keep hope alive for those seeking a breakthrough as they focus on the burning desire to shine through their art.
Unlike, other professions that require formal qualifications, the performing arts are informal gifts from God that can be an alternative where for some reason one was not fortunate enough to meet the circumstances that would have turned him or her in to a Lawyer, Doctor, Engeneer ,Teacher or any other formal occupation.
For generations, the Performing arts were frowned upon and ridiculed in the perception that they were indulgences for the lesser men and women. In Uganda, even those that sought to formally study the graduate course “ MUSIC, DANCE AND DRAMA” met societal mockery when the course code-named ‘MDD’ popularly got to be known as “ MUSSIRU DDALA DDALA” which literally means ‘very very stupid’.
Even though the tables have in many aspects turned in favour of some performing artists turning them in to leaders ,earning them riches and significance in society which is the substantive proof that the aforementioned ridicule of performing arts is misconceived and sheer ignorance, the vestiges of such ridicule are still evident.
While much of the world has shifted their view point and decided to exploit the performing arts through policy geared to develop them as a major development sector subsequently contributing greatly to their GDP and enhancing their foreign policy, Uganda has remained cold and unbothered for the most part. For example; in the last 12 years government has failed to effectively implement the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, 2006, (CNRA), a situation that has helped neither the artist nor the State.
There is a spurious argument that copyrights being private rights ought to be protected privately and this argument in my opinion fails where government has not in the least provided a conducive environment for such private mandate to be realized.
The CNRA’s most obvious lacuna is in the lack of provision of a statutory body particularly cut to deal with the technicalities that the copyright based industries face. The fate of these industries is left untended at the table of URSB( Uganda Registration Services Bureau); a body whose primary role is registration under the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the ill-prepared police.
The performing arts being drivers of culture (the reverse is also true) are also envisioned in the Uganda National Culture Policy under the stewardship of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and social Development. However, the only statutory body created under the said policy is the UNCC (Uganda National Cultural Centre), whose mandate does not squarely favour all the performing arts and I must add that the ministry has failed in its role to supervise the UNCC which is now moribund.
What prompted the writing of this paper is the apparent proposed regulations by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
The said regulations purport to be under “ THE STAGE PLAYS AND PUBLIC ENTERTAINMENTS ACT CAP. 49. This was an Act that came in force in 1943 which is among the many laws that ought to be repealed as they grossly contradict the 1995 Constitution.This particular Act aimed to curtail freedom of expression and was tailored to suit the colonial government and should therefore have no place in the free Uganda.
Further, the said Act does not give any ministry or person power to make any Statutory Instrument and does not mention the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development as the line ministry. For the Act itself was meant to be the regulation.
Furthermore, the Act was meant to licence theatres and not performing artists that’s why the line ministry mentioned in the Act is the Ministry of works.
Further still, the Permits envisioned in the Act were for the particular play or stage act and not for the performing artists as the proposed regulations provide. Therefore, even then no performing artist was required to have a licence before he or she could be allowed to perform.
More still, the Act expressly provides that the Broadcasting Council established under the Electronic Media Act is the one to grant the said permits and not the National Culture Forum as provided in the proposed regulations.
Legally, the procedure that the ministry has preferred in regard to the said regulations is irregular because its an attempt to make a Statutory Instrument without an enabling Statute which situation would fit the figurative; putting the cart before the horse.
Logically, it is absurd that the ministry which in my well-founded opinion has not taken any useful responsibility in the creative industry is bargaining for such leverage.
In fact, the proposed regulations exhibit profound ignorance on the part of the drafting team that verges on lawlessness in as far as they offend the Constitution of Uganda, 1995, and recklessness in as far as they affront natural justice and civilization.
In conclusion, the act of regulation in itself is necessary but it should flow from legality and logic, any attempt to bully Ugandans using policy is poor governance and should not be justified.
In recommendation, assuming that we are all development driven and that the said regulations are not malafide and fashioned to some selfish end, the government should focus on implementing the CNRA and making the necessary amendments for the mutual benefit of the performing artists and the State. The amendments may include a copyright Board and/or a copyright tribunal to meet the esoteric nature of copyright law.
More Regulations can flow from the CNRA to govern the creative industry and these should be benchmarked on the ideal of development both social and economic.
Instead of finding new laws to deal with performing artists, the existing legislations like the Public Order Management Act,2013, and the Penal Code Act (Cap.120), should be found sufficient to avoid the unnecessary duplicity.
Lastly, the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social development, should focus on empowering the Performing arts Associations through the National Culture Forum and foster the necessary rapport for future initiatives.
Moreover, the culture policy may be amended to provide for an “Arts Council” for the development of the arts including funding artistic enterprises.
THE AUTHOR IS A UGANDAN MUSICIAN AND LAWYER.
BY: SYLVER KYAGULANYI.
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