Human rights in Uganda

Human rights in Uganda

Uganda continues to experience difficulty in advancing respect for human rights in matters concerning torture, child labor, and liberties. There are as many as thirteen 'security' organisations of the Museveni government, some directly answerable to the President and not constitutionally based and established by Act of Parliament. These organisations persecute opponents of the government, carry out abductions, disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture and act both independently, interdependently with each other, and in cooperation with the Ugandan Police.

These organisations also harass the free media and official parliamentary opposition.

Conflict in the North

The conflict in the north of the country between the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has decimated the economy, retarded the development of affected areas and led to numerous gross human rights violations. Since Yoweri Museveni became president in 1986, more than 1.2 million Ugandans have been displaced and tens of thousands have been killed. An estimated 20,000 children have been kidnapped by the LRA for use as child soldiers and slaves since 1987. To avoid abduction, thousands of children leave their villages every night to hide in forests, hospitals, and churches. In the bloodiest incident in the history of the conflict, more than 330 civilians were killed by the LRA in Barlonyo internally displaced person's camp in February 2004.

Initiatives such as GuluWalk are seeking to raise awareness about the conflict in Northern Uganda. GuluWalk started in 2005 to tell the story of the 'night commuters'. Since its inception, GuluWalk has grown into a world wide plea for peace in Northern Uganda. GuluWalk Day 2006 saw over 30 000 people in 80 cities world wide walking in solidarity with the children of Northern Uganda.

Abuses by Ugandan security forces

Ugandan security agencies have been implicated in torture and illegal detention of suspects, including suspected LRA rebels and their sympathisers. Methods of torture include suspending suspects tied 'kandoya' (tying hands and feet behind the victim) from the ceiling, severe beating and kicking, and attaching electric wires to the male genitals.

:"On 14 June [2003] [Violent Crime Crack Unit Green] officers arrested Nsangi Murisidi, aged 29, on suspicion that he had facilitated friends to commit robbery and for alleged possession of a gun. Relatives tried in vain to visit him in detention. On 18 June the lawyer representing the family received confirmation of his death in custody while at the VCCU headquarters at Kireka, a suburb of Kampala. The death certificate established the cause of death as extensive loss of fluid and blood, severe bleeding in the brain and extensive deep burns on the buttocks. The body also bore 14 deep wounds. In October the Minister of Internal Affairs informed AI that an inquiry had been ordered, but no progress was subsequently reported." [http://web.amnesty.org/report2004/uga-summary-eng Source: Amnesty International Annual Report 2004]

Government agencies accused of torture include the UPDF's Chieftancy of Military Intelligence (CMI), the Internal Security Organisation (ISO), the Violent Crime Crack Unit (VCCU) and ad hoc agencies such as the Joint Anti-Terrorist Task Force (JATF.) In October the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), which only receives complaints for a small fraction of actual human rights violations, found that torture continued to be a widespread practice amongst security organizations in Uganda.

Political freedom

In April 2005, two opposition Member of Parliament were arrested on what are believed to be politically motivated charges. [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HRW/4261707c6d43856f29fa691a32ab4652.htm] Ronald Reagan Okumu and Michael Nyeko Ocula are from the Forum for Democratic Change, the movement believed to pose the greatest threat to the reelection of President Museveni in 2006.

Freedom of the press

As in many African countries, government agencies continue to impinge on the freedom of the press in Uganda.

In late 2002, the independent "|Monitor" newspaper was temporarily closed by the army and police. Journalists from the paper continued to come under attack in 2004, two of whom were publicly denounced as "rebel collaborators" by a spokesman for the UPDF.

In February 2004, the Supreme Court ruled the offence of "publication of false news" to be void and unconstitutional. [http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR590022004?open&of=ENG-UGA]

Uganda's press is rated as 'partly free' by Freedom House, an independent monitor of press freedom worldwide. In the Press Freedom Survey 2005, Uganda is rated as the 13th most free press of 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. [http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/pressurvey/regionaltables2005.pdf]

External links

* [http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/01/13/uganda9862.htm Uganda Human Rights Overview] , "Human Rights Watch"
* [http://web.amnesty.org/report2004/uga-summary-eng Uganda - Amnesty International Annual Report 2004]
* [http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/44/ Freedom of Expression in Uganda: IFEX]
* [http://www.harpers.org/MidnightsChildren.html Midnight's Children] Testimony of Abducted Ugandan Children
* [http://www.irinnews.org/webspecials/northernuganda/default.asp When the Sun Sets We Start to Worry] UN-collected accounts of brutality
* [http://www.refugeelawproject.org Refugee Law Project] "Part advocacy group, part research institution, part legal aid clinic, part trainer and educator", a leading Ugandan organisation working with refugees and the conflict in the North
* [http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-11/22/content_3817704.htm Ugandan lawyers to strike over treason suspects] November 22, 2005


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