On Saturday 10th December, Uganda will join the rest of the World to commemorate the International Human Rights Day, which is the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. The UDHR is a milestone document, which proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to, as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Since the adoption of the UDHR, human rights have become more recognised and more guaranteed across the globe. The UDHR itself has since served as the foundation for an expanding system of human rights protection that today focuses also on vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants.
However, the promise of the UDHR; of dignity and equality in rights, has been under a sustained threat in recent years. As the world faces challenges such as new and ongoing pandemics, conflicts, exploding inequalities, morally bankrupt global financial system, racism, climate change, – the values, and rights enshrined in the UDHR provide guideposts for our collective actions that, we should not leave anyone behind. As a National Human Rights Institution, the Uganda Human Rights Commission is once again taking the lead in organising a series of commemoration activities before, during and after the day. The day will help all stakeholders to take stock of the progress made towards the realisation of human rights and to reflect on the challenges faced as well as conduct solution-oriented advocacy. As a country, it is a time for all of us to recommit ourselves to the protection and promotion of Human Rights for all. At the international level, this year’s commemoration will flag off a year’s long series of activities which will climax with the commemoration of the UDHR at 75 in December 2023. At the National level, the focus is on Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) and Access to Justice with an objective spotlighting what the declaration means for people in their everyday lives.
As we commemorate this important day, we note that for the first time in many years, the Human Rights Committee of Parliament sat and reviewed a number of UHRC reports for the years; 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and has already come up with its report to be tabled on the floor of Parliament. The Commission also successfully issued its 24th Annual Report on the State of Human Rights in the Country. We encourage stakeholders to read it – as it covers a wide range of pertinent areas which we continue to grapple with – as a country.
The Human Rights Situation in Uganda
The Commission notes that despite the challenges, there are strides that have been made towards the progressive realisation of human rights in the following areas:-
1) The Government of Uganda fulfilled its international Treaty Reporting obligations in respect to the International Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
2) The recent outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in both Mubende and Kassanda districts has posed a challenge especially to the residents in those districts. In an effort to curb the spread of the disease, government imposed a lockdown on the two districts, restricting movement into and out of the districts.
3) The Commission notes that unlike the first lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 when the Commission received several complaints of harassment and degrading treatment by security agencies enforcing the lockdown, the complaints from the two districts have been minimal and we wish to encourage all security agencies to continue observing human rights in the enforcement of the Ebola lockdown in the two districts. Nonetheless, the Commission shall continue to monitor the situation until the lockdown is lifted. 4) There have also been allegations of missing persons who have allegedly been picked from their respective homes, workplaces and off the streets by persons believed to be security agents. Our 24th Annual Report intensely covered this issue in the bigger part of its Chapter Five (5). We encourage you to read about our findings as documented in our reports. The Commission takes the allegations very seriously and has continued to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders to inquire into the incidents as well as condemn arrests and detentions that are not conducted in line with the law. However, we urge country men and women to take note that – not every arrest is an abduction or kidnap as has been widely framed by some sections.
In furtherance of its mandate to protect and promote human rights, the Commission has launched the first ever online application to enable people use their mobile phones to access our Services – the UHRC App. The App which is easy to download and use can be accessed on google play for those with phones that use Android software and it will soon be available for those with IPhone and IOS softwares. One can lodge complaints, get answers in regard to any human rights issue and follow the progress of his or her complaint lodged with us. The Commission continues to welcome and investigate all human rights complaints, monitor the observance of human rights and empower the citizens with continuous human rights education so that they can comply with the law and fulfill their civic duties and responsibilities such as the duty to realise that where one’s right ends is where another person’s right indeed begins.
Joint Commemoration activities
The Commission and its partners have lined up a series of commemoration activities intended to mobilise, galvanize support and provide further information about observance and protection of human rights. Below are the lined up activities:-
Joint Press Conference: This press conference we are holding today is part of the activities lined up in commemoration of the day. It is intended to mobilize the general public to embrace and fully take part in these commemoration activities.
Main Commemoration: This will be held at Nakawuka Playground, Kajansi Town Council in Wakiso district. The event will be covered live on TV for two hours courtesy of our partners, GIZ. It will also involve a psycho-social, legal camp where we together with different partners like Uganda Law Society, Refugee Law Project, African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), the Judiciary among others will be rendering their services free of charge to the people. Let me therefore take this opportunity to call upon whoever has a legal issue or any other Human Right related issue to join us at Nakawuka on Saturday December 10, 2022 as we commemorate this day. On this note, I would also like to thank the Wakiso District Human Rights Committee for the ground mobilization and support.
High-Level SGBV Symposium: This will be held at Sheraton Hotel on December 9, 2022 and is also part of the culmination of the 16 days of activism. The UHRC will convene this event together with UN Women, UNFPA, OHCHR among others. This is intended to bring together policy makers to discuss issues of Gender-based violence.
TV and Radio Talk shows: The Commission and partners will hold a number of TV and Radio Talk shows supported by the French Embassy, ACTV and the Wakiso District Human Rights Committee.
Community Outreach: This will be a pre-event community outreach mainly spearheaded by the Wakiso District Human Rights Committee. It will involve mobile human rights Clinics in different wards that make up Kajansi Town Council starting today 5th December up to Saturday when we will hold the main event.
Regional Activities: The Commission and its partners will also hold joint commemoration activities at the regional level, especially in the districts of Gulu in Northern Uganda and Moroto in North-eastern Uganda. These have been decentralized to enable our regions give customized packages for the people in those areas.
Multimedia campaign: The Commission and its partners will also print T-shirts, banners and will conduct a social-media campaign from today 5th December. This is intended to promote messages that will outlive the 10th December main commemoration event. We invite the public to be part of our online campaign by following our social media pages.
The Commission remains grateful to several partners including Government of Uganda, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda, the Embassy of France in Uganda, the Germany Agency for International Corporation (GIZ), the Uganda Law Society, ACTV and Wakiso District Human Rights Committee for the financial and technical support towards this event. Not forgetting other partners like Uganda Law Society for volunteering its probono team to grace our Psycho-social legal camp, Penal Reform International, National Alliance of Agricultural Co-operatives in Uganda (NAAC), the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Judiciary.
For God and My Country
Mariam Wangadya CHAIRPERSON