African prison chiefs demand for increased funding

Nyakairima

Uganda’s Internal Affairs Minister. Gen. Aronda Nyakairima

African governments have been urged to address the prevalent challenges facing prison facilities through prison reforms, increased funding and attention to human rights.

This comes as there are major concerns that the 1.5 million people incarcerated in African prisons face years of confinement in often cramped and dirty quarters, with insufficient food allocations, inadequate hygiene, and little or no clothing or other amenities.

Uganda’s Internal Affairs Minister General Aronda Nyakayirima says that while these conditions are not uniform throughout the continent, their prevalence raises concern and need to be dealt with increased funding , adding that the veil of ignorance as to prison conditions merely fuels the neglect and abuse of Africa’s incarcerated.

“We must create enough jobs and absorb people who are behind bars among others factors. There should be deterrent measures and conducive environment that reduces incarceration. But every country should remember its unique history, unique social-economic circumstances and unique landscape in dealing with Prison services challenges,” General Aronda told a meeting of the Executive committee of the African Correctional Services Association that sat in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

The meeting was attended by Prison Chiefs from nine African countries including the host Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Angola, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia.

The Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Service Dr Johson Byabashaija says that prison services are very expensive ventures for governments and therefore they are very reluctant to put in money.

“The resultant challenges impact on those in management of these prisons. We who are in charge of these prisons, not only do we have to be innovative with the limited resources we have, we have to go further and meet so that we can compare notes, good practices and benchmark each other and see how we overcome these challenges,” said Dr Byabashaija, the current chairman of the Executive Committee of the African Correctional Services Association.

“Prison population is increasing with the biggest number of prisoners being those who are still awaiting trial. The one million prisoners in Africa are incidentally mainly the youth in their productive ages and therefore attention must be drown to these issues if we are to advance,” he said.

He said that at the beginning of 2014 there were 10.2 million prisoners in the whole world. This number excludes the number of Prisoners in China and North Korea who have prison camps as well as prisoners from Eritrea, Guinea Bissau and Somalia.

In Africa there are over 1.5 million inmates living in very serious conditions of detention. South Africa is the highest incarcerating country in Africa; at the beginning of 2014 they had 157000 inmates. Uganda is ranked number nine among the countries with the highest number of prisoners, while Tanzania has the least number of inmates in East Africa with 35000 inmates.

Dr Byabashaija said that the number of prisoners has been increasing with the increase in the populations of these countries. The next meeting of the Executive committee of the African Correctional Services Association will be held in Malawi.

A recent Human Rights Watch report called on the Ugandan government to issue direct orders to halt forced prison labor for private profit, to discipline prison officers for abusing prisoners, and to establish guidelines for the immediate referral of all prisoners with confirmed TB or HIV to facilities where they will receive treatment.