On Wednesday, 20th April 2016, as I did my early morning read-and-write session, I did a Google search for an article that I had authored in the past. This is because I needed to remind myself of the exact argument I had made therein. So in the Google search engine I typed in the key words for the article and several links came up including the ones to my article. One other than the one to my article caught my attention, so I decided to check it out and to see what it was about, hoping to discover a ‘scholar’ with whom I have similar views or not. I read the article of the other ‘scholar’ and every single word contained in it was familiar. I thought, wait a minute, this sounds exactly like my writing style. So I checked out the links to my own work and I discovered that Samuel Okulony, the other author, had extensively plagiarised my work.
You may want to note that, according to information online, Okulony is actually the “Programmes and Research Coordinator” for an organisation that he works for; an organisation which has the word “Governance” as part of its name. Okulony, according to his online staff profile, purportedly has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Kyambogo University. This discovery further incensed me. How could one who holds such a position and have such academic qualifications resort to stealing other peoples work. In other words, how did this fraud get such a key job in an organisation such as that and how did he get a degree from an academic institution such as that? It smelt like rotten fish and I decided that silence was not going to clean out the stench. I decided I was not going to let him off the hook. I thus wrote to the editor of the online-publication which had published Okulony’s article which contained that which he had stolen from me. In my eyes Okulony has committed a felony, period. Here below I reproduce the email exchanges:
ME: To the editor I wrote: “The post titled: “Blog: Address Land Conflicts in Uganda’s Amicably”, that is allegedly authored by Samuel Okulony, and that is published online on (gave the link) extensively plagiarises my work. See attached pdf of online post with my notes pointing out that post’s content is over 80 percent plagiarized from my work. Okulony significantly steals from the posts on by blog: The Humanist View and specifically in this instance my blog post “Conflicts in Uganda’s Land Tenure” in which I published a link to a backgrounder that I authored and that was published on the Africa Portal from which Okolony also extensively steals.”
I pointed out to the editor the text plagiarised as follows: The first five paragraphs of Okulony’s post are plagiarised verbatim from my backgrounder. They are in fact the opening paragraph of my backgrounder. Paragraphs 6-9 are extracted from my blog post. Paragraphs 10-12 are verbatim from my backgrounder. As I do that, I am thinking, Okulony’s post had 18 paragraphs, of which 12 he directly stole from my work. Mmmmmm. I am inclined to believe that even the remaining six paragraphs he stole from someone else’s work. Anyway, I then proceed to request the editor as follows:
“Please un-publish Okulony’s post on (name publication). Or if you would like the post to remain then clearly credit me for my content that is included in his post; and clearly direct your readers to the original works. Please let me know when you have unpublished the post or when you have up-dated it to credit me for my work. May I also request you to publish an apology on (name publication) and in which you clearly disassociate (name publication) from promoting the culture of plagiarism.”
EDITOR: Copies me in an email that he writes to Okulony as follows: “Good morning Samuel. You are being accused of plagiarism. Please respond to these claims as soon as possible to enable us take appropriate action. Thanks.” I am thinking, nice one editor – let us see how he explains this away. And then Okulony’s explanation came and I was well … aaaah … read and decide. Here it is:
OKULONY: Copies me in an email in which he responds to the editor as follows: “Hi all. Thanks for the concerns raised and inserting links to confirm your work in this matter Norah. I must admit during the land wrangles in Soroti for which I was a victim too I found it prudent to publish something that would be calling for action to the matter, in my process of research, some of the information gathered was from social media while others are from interactions with colleagues. It is either unfortunate or fortunate that some information belongs to Ms. Norah Owaraga since she had a full publication of it. In my opinion, editor please go ahead and do what is necessary either crediting her on the post by inserting the links or removing it at all.”
This is not a joke folks. I am thinking this guy is of such inferior scholarship that it beggars the question how did he get employed in such a big sounding post in the first place? How in the world did he get to be a contributor for a reputable on-line publication? Yes, the only logical explanation, stealing other peoples work. So I made up my mind and wrote the editor as follows:
ME: Dear Editor, there is no doubt that Okulony plagiarised my work. The probability that two different writers can reproduce the exact texts word for word, more over months apart in the one instance and multiple years apart in the other instance, is really close to none. The flippant manner in which Okulony has responded to your request for an explanation is totally shocking. Please un-publish Okulony’s post containing extensive extracts from my work without crediting me and without my permission. And also extend me the courtesy of an apology. Thank you.”
EDITOR: “Thanks. It will be dropped.” Yes, I crosschecked and noted that the publication has since dropped the post and the link is no longer functional. I have not received an apology from the editor, unless it has been published online and I am not aware of it. Am fascinated that the Editor did not find it fit to apologise to me via email or even perhaps by giving me a phone call. This is especially so, considering that for his email signature he quotes Plato as follows: “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” Is he good people or is he bad people? Surely any reputable online publication should have software for checking for plagiarism. In fact, results of a Google search indicated to me that there are free “Plagiarism Checkers.” Is it the case that the editors for this particular publication are just plain lazy or are they collaborators too? But then again what is the law on plagiarism in Uganda?
For those not convinced of how really bad plagiarism is – think inappropriate government policy, which leads to inappropriate interventions, which leads to poor service delivery, which leads to poor quality of life. Yes, it happens simply because someone was lazy to do the work, stole other people’s work which may or may not be suitable for another context. Or an unqualified person got the job and this incompetent person is the one making policy or implementing it.