A CALL TO ACTION BY UGANDAN CIVIL SOCIETY 

 

Press Release on August 20, 2018, at Kampala

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The 15th August 2018 Arua Municipality by-election to replace the slain Hon. Ibrahim Abiriga left a very huge scar in Uganda’s politics. The ugly events prior to and after this election have no place in any modern society, and in Uganda, a country touted to be playing a key role in contributing to stability and peace in the region. 

During this particular episode there has been violent arrest, torture and mutilation of several Ugandans including ordinary citizens, Political Party Leaders, and Members of Parliament such as: Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi (Kyadondo East), Hon. Francis Zake(Mityana Municipality), Hon. Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo), Hon. Paul Mwiru (JinjaEast), Hon. Mike Mabikke (former Makinye East MP), and one of the contenders and MP Elect for the Arua Municipality, Hon.Kassiano Wadri. Other citizens who were arrested along including five womensuch as Jane Abola, Night Asara, Akira Maida, and Caroline Nalubowa have been tortured by men in uniform. Over 20 other young people, including juvenileswere arrested in Kamwokya, while trying to express themselves peacefully inresponse to this impunity. There have been several similar actions of torture in other parts of the country.  

Several explanations have been presented to justify the inhumane and barbaric acts on those incarcerated. These range from illegal possession ofbasic and sophisticated military ammunition, vandalism of a Presidential vehicle, treason, among others. Several accounts of eyewitnesses that were present in Arua while all this transpired, present different and compelling evidence to these explanations. Reports indicate that security forces vandalized and confiscated personal property of those arrested (including vehicles) as well as the property of the hotel in which some of the victims were residing. 

Most of those incarcerated were tried and remanded on charges of treason.  Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi was charged in the Military Court Martial and remanded to Makindye barracks.  Hon. Zaake was mysteriously dumped at Rubaga Hospital in an unconscious state to fight for his life, without any formal charge. Going by the reports given by those that visited most of these suspects, including the Uganda Human Rights Commission, it is clear the victims are not getting sufficient medical care. Night Asara for instance who was allegedly hit by a gun and stepped on several times on her stomach by security men, was presented in court in  dire state and continues to be held by the state without adequate medical attention.

Fellow Ugandans, the events that have occurred in the last few weeks are not isolated, and we should not treat them in that manner. The Kasese massacres, the barbaric treatment of Members of Parliament as the constitution was being amended to remove presidential age limits, the tragic loss of lives in other by-elections and many other violent episodes are part of a trend we must stop to salvage our motherland. We must unite in condemnation, but also revive the calls for a national dialogue that will lead to justice, accountability and a new Uganda. As leaders in civil society, we would like to make the following calls: 

  1. 1.The security forces, led by the Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) should provide a list of all their officers that took part in this unprofessional conduct and present them to the courts of law for justice to be attained by all parties affected. Extrajudicial killings, torture and mutilation of citizens has never been part and parcel of the Terms of Reference of any security organ. In fact, the security forces, are enjoined to respect the rule of law; particularly Chapter Four of the Constitution on the Protection and Promotion of Fundamental and Other Human Rights and Freedoms and to follow and uphold them; specifically, Articles 22, 23, 24 and 44 on protection of a right to life; protection of personal liberty and freedom from torture respectively. The state also has a duty to protect as a global political commitment (Responsibility to Protect-R2P) which was endorsed by all member states of the United Nations in 2005. 
  1. 2.The Courts should order for the immediate release on bail of all affected suspects to enable them receive decent and trustworthy medical care of their choice. Courts should also direct government to meet the medical bills of all those affected. It’s important to note that all of those detained have the right to humane treatment, due process, access to lawyers and to their families, and a prompt, fair, and transparent trial. Article 23(5) (b) and (c) of the Constitution provides that all detained persons shall have access to their next of kin, lawyer, personal doctor, and shall be allowed access to medical treatment, including, at the request and at the cost of that person, access to private medical treatment.  
  1. 3.Parliament of Uganda should reclaim its position in Uganda’s governance and demand for a halt on the assault on it as an institution, but most importantly its Members. The continued brutality, harassment and torture of Members of Parliament is progressively undermining the institution of Parliament and rule of law. The Speaker of Parliament should thus work with the other arms of government to put a halt to this worrying trend, and consequently issue a statement assuring Ugandans of the steps they have taken to protect the sanctity of the institution of Parliament. 
  1. 4.While its notable that Donors and International Partners have issued statements condemning these incidents, we are yet to see tangible actions that can lead to justice for the affected citizens. Ugandans need to see more concrete action from our development partners that confirm their belief in human rights and rule of law. An urgent Political Dialogue between the Government and the European Union foreseen under Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement should be held to ensure discussion and commitments to respect of human rights.
  1. 5.The Civil Society, including the Uganda Law Society, religious leaders, cultural institutions, media, trade unions and business community, NGOs and other actors should unite and mobilize their constituencies to denounce and provide solidarity actions with these affected citizens and their families. The following actions should be undertaken: a) request for an advisory opinion from the International Criminal Court for the perpetrators of these atrocities, b) organize solidarity visits to the prisons as well as families of the affected, c) use several platforms to denounce these injustices and court Ugandans to unite against this tyranny, d) ensure strict independent oversight on political and electoral processes.
  1. 6.The new generation should continue to act informed by conviction of its role to contribute to progress in the democratic process in keeping our national heritage and ensuring a link to economic transformation. Young people should thus be given ample space and all the relevant tools to make their contribution and secure their future. Young people should in addition unite and use their 78% majority of the Ugandan population to collectively defend their inheritance. 
  1. 7.All Ugandans must be concerned that escalating political intolerance is a huge challenge to Uganda.This situation has impact on the economy, the productivity of citizens and our competitiveness as a country.  We have to understand that these brutal incidents that are broadcasted around the world undermine our brand globally. 
  1. 8.And finally,to the Head of State, it is incumbent upon you as the Fountain of Honor to reassure the citizens of Uganda and the whole world that Uganda Government respects its Constitution as well as the fundamental human rights and freedoms of all its citizens. According to Articles 24 and 44 of the Constitution “…No person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment...” The Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012, gives effect to Articles 24 and 44(a) of the Constitution; to the respect of human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment by prohibiting and preventing any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. So far the Head of State has remarkably failed in this duty as Fountain of Honor by justifying the heinous crimes committed by the security forces.
  1. 9.We recall that when the Late Hon. Nebanda died, you reassured Ugandans that Government does not kill itsopponents. On the contrary, the killings in Arua, Bugiri, Mityana among others present a contrary picture to the world. As Commander in Chief, you must be more accountable and ensure that the security forces do not blatantly commit crimes without accountability. The victims and their families deserve an apology from Government, for the pain and trauma that the actions of security organs have caused to them. 
  1. 10.We also invite all political leaders, including the President to embrace the efforts by peace loving Ugandans led by the Inter Religious Council of Uganda, the Elders Forum and several Civil Society Organizations to convene the National Dialogue for Uganda. We believe that in thisnational Dialogue process, there will be anopportunity for us as a people to discuss our past and current differences and arrive at a national consensus on how to manage our future challenges and how to treat each other as citizens of one country. Our diversity should be celebrated.Our diversity and differences should never lead to our demise.  
  1. 11.As Civil Society, we shall continue to denounce all acts of violence by the state or directed towards it. More importantly, we are now called, more than ever before to offer the space for ordinary citizens to organize and work towards realizing a peaceful country, one in which we see equal opportunity and shared prosperity. We will remain in active thought about additional non-violent actions we can take together will all peace loving Ugandans to contribute to the above.

FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY