Members of Parliament on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee have recognized the critical need to have the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) empowered with resources to enable it execute its mandate. While reacting to the presentation of the UHRC’s ministerial policy statement made by the chairperson Hon. Mariam Wangadya on 6th April 2023, the members both from the ruling NRM party and the opposition expressed dismay that the UHRC was one of the least funded agency of government.
“You have made a very big case especially in respect of the salary disparities with other government agencies. This ought to be looked into seriously,” Hon. Shartsi Musherure of Mawogola North (Indep), said.
She promised to work together with fellow MP to make a case for the UHRC to have its budgetary allocation improved. The same was voiced by Hon Ssekitoleko Robert of Bamunanika County (NUP) who expressed delight that part of the UHRC’s effort had contributed to the release of fellow opposition MPs; Allan Ssewanyana and Mohamad Ssegirinya. He urged his colleagues to support the Commission especially in the area of Monitoring and Inspection so as to stem on the number of suspects being detained beyond 48 hours. On his part, Hon. Bosco Okiror (NRM) said the issue of human rights concerns every individual and therefore it is wrong to have a human rights body which is underfunded. The Deputy Chairperson of this Committee Hon. Yusuf Mutembuli who chaired the session also saw the need and asked the UHRC team to summarize the ministerial policy statement highlighting the critical areas where the UHRC needs their urgent intervention.
While resenting the ministerial statement, Hon. Wangadya had noted that it was the fourth time she was coming before the committee leading for its intervention to solve the dire funding gap and her efforts had not yielded. Instead the Commission has faced a budget cut for the Financial Year 2022-2023 and 2023-2022.
“Honorable Chairperson and members, UHRC has suffered gross underfunding for years. In the next financial year, the Commission does not have any funds for visiting and assessing the conditions of inmates and detainees in police cells, prison, remand homes and UPDF detention facilities; there are no funds to review bills in parliament for human rights compliance, save for one budgeted for. Whereas people will continue to come to UHRC to lodge complaints of alleged human rights violation, UHRC will not have the funds to investigate them, let alone those that are existing in the system whose backlog stand at 1,045 complaints,” she said.
The Chairperson was accompanied by Commissioner Crispin Kaheru, Commissioner Simeo Muwanga Nsubuga, Commissioner Lamex Omara Aitta, Commissioner Col. Steven Basaliza, the Secretary to the Commission Margaret L. Ejang; Directors; Ida Nakiganda, Byonabye Kamadi, Ruth Ssekindi, Sarah Nakhumitsa, Central Regional Head Juliet Logose, Senior Human Rights Officer Pauline Nansamba Mutumba and Human Rights Officer Lovisa Nassali.