Press Statement at the Conclusion of the Mission of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to the Republic of Uganda

    The mission to the Republic of Uganda by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) which started on Monday 24 th July 2006, came to an end yesterday, 31 st July 2006. The mission comprised Commissioner Mumba Malila, responsible for promotional activities in Uganda and also Special Rapporteur for Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa, Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders in Africa and Fiona Adolu, Legal Officer at the Secretariat of the African Commission in Banjul, The Gambia. This promotional mission, the second ever since the Republic of Uganda ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) on 10 th May 1986 (the first such mission having been undertaken between the 17 th and the 21 st March 2000) was intended to inter alia, promote the African Charter and to exchange views and information on the implementation of the African Charter by the Republic of Uganda. Furthermore, the mission was intended to look into the situation of human rights defenders in the country, raise awareness and visibility of the African Commission and its functions among the relevant government departments and institutions and in the civil society, and generally to encourage a closer relationship between the African Commission and the government and between the African Commission and civil society in Uganda.

    Our mission started with a visit to Luwero District where we had extremely useful discussions with the District chairman Mr. Ronald Ndawula, the Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs, Major Jimmy Kinobe and other local leaders. For the important position that Luwero occupies in the human rights history of this country, the visit was relevant to the mission, not only because we had occasion to see the mass graves which house the remains of thousands of victims of human rights violations, but also because we had the opportunity to discuss with the local leaders of men and women who every day endure the painful memory and trauma of the past atrocities committed on them and those they loved by a regime which blatantly failed to protect the human rights.

    We also had occasion to meet with the learned Solicitor General of the Republic of Uganda, Mr. Lucian Tibaruha. We had a frank and cordial exchange of views with the learned Solicitor General on various human rights issues and how the Government of Uganda is dealing with some of those issues.

    My delegation thereafter, met with the Dean of the Law Faculty at Makerere University, Prof Sylvia Tamale, and discussed various human rights aspects and the areas of possible cooperation in popularising the African Charter.

    We visited the Uganda Human Rights Commission and met with the Acting Chairperson of the Commission, Commissioner Constantine Karusoke, in the company of other Commissioners and staff. The insights provided of the human rights situation in Uganda were most revealing.

    The delegation then called on the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Sam Kutesa, SC along with his Permanent Secretary. The Hon. Minister articulated the position of the Government of the Republic of Uganda on various human rights issues in Uganda, vis a´vis its international obligations under various international human rights instruments including those concluded within the framework of the African Union.

    My delegation then had the rare privilege of meeting with the Right Honorable Speaker of Parliament in Uganda, the Hon. Edward K Ssekandi and soon thereafter with his Lordship the Chief Justice of the Republic of Uganda, Hon Justice Benjamin J. Odoki. We had extremely fruitful exchanges on a variety of human rights topics with both the Right Honorable the Speaker, and his Lordship the Chief Justice.

    We also had occasion to meet with human rights defender organisations and other members of civil society organisations engaged in human rights work in Uganda with whom we shared useful ideas and information on many issues. The experiences and concerns of the human rights situation in Uganda which they shared with us were eye-opening.

    We also met with the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Prof. Ogenga Latigo in the company of some opposition Members of Parliament. We had very frank and candid exchanges on the human rights situation in Uganda with the Leader of Opposition and his team.

    Ladies and Gentlemen: my delegation also called on the Deputy Commissioner General of Prisons, Mr. James Mwange and had an illuminating briefing on human rights and prisons in Uganda. We thereafter visited and inspected the Maximum Security Prison in Luzira and saw for ourselves the conditions of detention and the inmates there.

    My delegation was also received in audience by the Uganda Law Reform Commission headed by Prof. Joseph Kakooza. The delegation was delightfully exposed to the work of the Law Reform Commission and its relevance in the human rights awareness creation programme.

    My team devoted the weekend of 29 th-30 th July 2006 to a visit up north in Lira of IDP camps and rehabilitation centre. We visited the three constituents of Aloyi IDP camp and were received by the Chairman of the camp Mr. Salem Aliem who gave us a useful brief on the situation in the camp and took us around to see the water reticulation facility, the learning centre and other facilities in the camp. We also visited the Rachele Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of formerly abducted children in northern Uganda and had occasion to hear the testimonies of some former children abductees who are currently undergoing rehabilitation. We also had an exceedingly revealing brief by the in charge at the centre Ms Els de Termmerman.

    Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, we had occasion to meet the Hon. Minister of Defence, the Hon. Crispus Kiyonga, his Permanent Seccretary and senior military officers at Bombo and they too, gave us useful details about what the Government, through Ministry of Defence, is doing to deal with some issues of human rights that confront the Government of Uganda to day.

    We later met with the President of the Uganda Law Society, Mr. Deo Rubumba Nkunzingoma and some other leaders of the Law Society. We discussed a variety of human rights issues in the country and the perception of the Law Society.

    Owing to limitations of time, certain very important persons and institutions could not be visited, but you will no doubt agree with me that from the people spoken with and the places visited, my delegation has a fairly good understanding of many aspects of human rights in Uganda today.

    My delegation wishes to thank the Government of Uganda for acceding to the African Commission’s request to undertake this promotional mission. We also thank the people of Uganda for their very warm reception and hospitality during our mission. The African Commission is truly grateful to the Government of Uganda for the facilities and services placed at its disposal during this mission. We wish to single out for special praise, the African Union desk in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the excellent arrangements which enabled my delegation to meet a cross section of the Ugandan society in order to have a fairly representative view of the human rights situation in Uganda.

    Without in any way pre-empting the contents of the report to be prepared following this mission, my delegation wishes to note that the peculiar political history of Uganda punctuated by a period of dictatorship and massive human rights violations during a civil war that has gone on for 20 years now, Uganda has taken giant steps in the direction of realising for its people, the rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The democratic space created by the reintroduction of multiparty politics, the creation of institutions of good governance such as the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Inspector General of Government, a fairly independent and impartial judiciary and a free and vibrant press are all pointers in the right direction and the Government should be encouraged to strengthen these institutions. A lot of course remains to be done. A strong opposition is always necessary in a democracy to make government accountable. We need a strong civil society movement too. Rather than stifle them, NGOs must be encouraged and strengthened for they play an important role of keeping those who govern on their feet. Constructive criticism should be viewed as a sine qua non for good governance.

    The African Commission commends the Government of Uganda for submitting earlier this year, its periodic report under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which will be formally presented to and considered by the African Commission possibly at its 40 th Ordinary Session slated for later this year. The report contains the legislative and other measures which the Government has put in place to ensure that the rights and duties as set out in the African Charter are realised for the people of Uganda. This will be yet another opportunity to engage the government of Uganda in constructive dialogue on what it is doing to ensure full realisation for the people of Uganda of the rights set forth in the African Charter. The African Commission wishes to encourage the civil society to take an interest in the Government’s reporting process under the African Charter and to familiarise itself with the mandate of the African Commission and what role civil society can play in the work of the African Commission. We invite NGOs in Uganda to apply for observer status with the African Commission.

    The right to take part in the governance of one’s own country is an important human right. This right includes the right to participate freely in the electoral process of one’s country. The African Commission commends the people of Uganda for holding earlier this year, peaceful elections the results of which were open to challenge through the courts of law. This is as it should be. In a democracy, those who govern must be under the control of those who are governed.

    We also commend the laudable efforts that are being made to find a lasting solution to the problems in northern Uganda. The African Commission remains very optimistic that all parties involved in trying to find a solution will step up their efforts so that the human rights and the humanitarian catastrophes are brought to an end.

     

    Done at Kampala, Uganda on 1 st August, 2006.





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      Date: 01 August 2006

      Commissioners: Catherine Dupe Atoki

      Special Mechanism: Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa

      States: South Africa

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