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Human rights in Uganda

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Title: Human rights in Uganda  
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Collection: Government of Uganda, Human Rights in Uganda, Politics of Uganda, Ugandan Law, Ugandan Society
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Human rights in Uganda

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Foreign relations

Uganda experiences difficulties in the achievement of international standards of human rights for all citizens. These difficulties centre upon the provision of proper sanitation facilities, internal displacement and development of adequate infrastructure. Nonetheless, Uganda is, as per the Relief Web sponsored Humanitarian Profile - 2012,[1] making considerable developments in this area.

After a heavily contested election campaign, President Yoweri Museveni was re-elected into office and his re-election was independently verified by Amnesty International. Despite verification of the election results, Amnesty did express concerns over alleged election violence and freedom of press restrictions.


  • Conflict in the north 1
  • Persecution of homosexuals 2
  • Abuses by Ugandan security forces 3
  • Political freedom 4
  • Freedom of the press 5
  • Child labor 6
  • Historical rankings 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Conflict in the north

Since various rebel groups started fighting the government of President Yoweri Museveni, beginning in August 1986, about 2 million Ugandans have been displaced[2] and tens of thousands have been killed. An estimated 67,000 children have been kidnapped by the LRA for use as child soldiers and slaves since 1987.

Signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement in 2006 due to a successful campaign executed by the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) put an end to LRA violence in Uganda.

The past 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. These violations centred upon the poor emergency provision provided to Internally Displaced Persons fleeing their homes to avoid LRA. In the six years since the signing of hostilities agreement[3] many of those displaced persons have returned to their homes and a rehabilitation and redevelopment programme is underway. It has been acknowledged by both the Ugandan Government and the United Nations[1] that this is a work in progress and that considerable improvements must be made. In this regard a rehabilitation programme has been launched[4]

Persecution of homosexuals

In October 2009, a bill was tabled in the Ugandan Parliament entitled "Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009" calling for harsher penalties for homosexuals, up to and including the death penalty.[5] As originally drafted and tabled this bill also requires that any citizen who suspects another person of being homosexual, is required to report the homosexual to police, or they too may receive a fine or time in prison.[6] The proposed bill goes so far as to forbid landlords from renting to a known homosexual, and would ban any public discussion of homosexuality.[7]

The international community was greatly opposed to the introduction of this bill and expressed concerns about the fact that it may become law, indeed U.S. President Barack Obama called it 'odious'.[8] As a result of mounting international pressure the bill never proceeded past committee stage.

On 7 March 2012 backbench MP David Bahati reintroduced the bill to much controversy. He was however at pains to point out that the provision for death penalty had been decided upon as unnecessary and removed from the bill at committee stage in the 8th parliament. As such, the bill as introduced into the 9th Parliament, had no provision for the death penalty.[9]

This bill remains highly criticised and controversial. It has again been met with widespread condemnation. The Ugandan government in replying to this condemnation issued a statement citing the fact that the bill was a private members bill and that it did not have the support of the government.[10]

On 24 February 2014 President Yoweri Museveni signed the '"Anti Homosexuality Bill" into law. The following day the tabloid "Red Pepper" published a list of 200 allegedly gay men.[11]

Following the tightening of the bill several western industrial nations, among others Sweden, the United States and the Netherlands have suspended their aid to Uganda. The World Bank postponed a $90 million loan to Uganda's health system over the law.[12]

Abuses by Ugandan security forces

"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."[13]

Political freedom

In April 2005, two opposition Member of Parliament were arrested on what are believed to be politically motivated charges.[14] Ronald Reagan Okumu and Michael Nyeko Ocula are from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), the movement believed to pose the greatest threat to the reelection of President Yoweri Museveni in 2006.

The most prominent opposition to President Museveni, Kizza Besigye has run for office three times and been defeated each time. On the occasion of his last defeat (the 2011 elections) Kizza Besigye called for all his FDC party members to boycott the parliament and not take up their seats as elected. Party members of the FDC refused to do this and Kizza Besigye stood down as party leader. Besigye is a prominent political figure and he has identified several incidents whereby his political freedom was violated. Notably in 2011 Besigye was placed under preventative arrest, however he was immediately released as this arrest was deemed unlawful by the Ugandan Courts.[15]

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.[16]

In 2005, Uganda was rated as the 13th most free press of 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa[17] In 2010, Uganda was rated the 15th most free press of 48 countries.[18]

On the 24th day of January 2012 Issac Kasamani, a photo journalist alleged in a newspaper report that he had been shot at by a police officer whilst covering an opposition rally.[19] An independent investigation into this incident was immediately ordered and an independent report completed by a foreign national concluded that no live ammunition was fired on the date in question.[20] Upon release of this report Ugandan Minister Hon. James Baba expressed concern over the standards of reporting surrounding the incident and announced his intention to look closely at media regulation. This is of international concern.

In November 2012, John Ssegawa, co-director of the critical State of the Nation play reported that Uganda's Media Council had decided to ban further showings. Ssegawa said the theatre production company would continue to stage the production and defy the ban.[21]

Child labor

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Uganda has made significant advancement in eliminating the worst forms of child labor in 2013. However, underage children continue to engage in strenuous activities mostly in the agricultural sector and in commercial sexual exploitation.[22] The Department's report Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor indicates that 30% of children aged 5 to 14 are working children and that 95% of them work in the agricultural sector, picking coffee and tea, growing rice, herding cattle and fishing among other activities. Instances of child labor have also been observed in the mining industry (brick making and charcoal production) and in the services sector. Categorical forms of child labor in Uganda included sexual and military exploitation. In December 2014, the Department issued a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor where 10 goods were listed under the country of Uganda. These included bricks, cattle, charcoal, coffee, fish, rice, sugarcane, tea and tobacco.

Historical rankings

The following is a chart of Uganda's ratings since 1972 in the Freedom in the World reports, published annually by Freedom House. (1 is best, 7 is worst)[23][24]

Year Political Rights Civil Liberties Status President
1972 7 7 Not Free Idi Amin
1973 7 7 Not Free Idi Amin
1974 7 7 Not Free Idi Amin
1975 7 7 Not Free Idi Amin
1976 7 7 Not Free Idi Amin
1977 7 7 Not Free Idi Amin
1978 7 7 Not Free Idi Amin
1979 6 6 Not Free Idi Amin
1980 4 4 Not Free Godfrey Binaisa
1981 5 5   Partly Free   Milton Obote
1982 5 5 Partly Free Milton Obote
1983 4 5 Partly Free Milton Obote
1984 4 5 Partly Free Milton Obote
1985 5 4 Partly Free Milton Obote
1986 5 4 Partly Free Tito Okello
1987 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
1988 5 5 Partly Free   Yoweri Museveni  
1989 6 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
1990 6 5 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
1991 6 6 Not Free Yoweri Museveni
1992 6 5 Not Free Yoweri Museveni
1993 6 5 Not Free Yoweri Museveni
1994 5 5 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
1995 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
1996 4 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
1997 4 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
1998 4 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
1999 5 5 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2000 6 5 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2001 6 5 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2002 6 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2003 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2004 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2005 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2006 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2007 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2008 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2009 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2010 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2011 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2012 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2013 5 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni
2014 6 4 Partly Free Yoweri Museveni

See also


1.^ As of January 1.
2.^ From 1977 to 1979, Amin titled himself as "His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular".


  1. ^ a b [16]
  2. ^ [17], An Amnesty International article discusses a 2008 agreement between the government and the LRA to try LRA leaders for their crimes.
  3. ^ [18]
  4. ^ [19]
  5. ^ "Homosexuals face death penalty", 25 October 2009
  6. ^ "Uganda Considers New Anti-Gay Law", 25 October 2009
  7. ^ "US slams Uganda's new anti-gay bill", 25 October 2009
  8. ^ [20]
  9. ^ [21]
  10. ^ [22]
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Source: Amnesty International Annual Report 2004
  14. ^ [23]
  15. ^ [24]
  16. ^ [25]
  17. ^ [26]
  18. ^ "Freedom of the Press: Uganda". 
  19. ^ [27]
  20. ^ [28]
  21. ^ [29]
  22. ^ Uganda, 2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
  23. ^  
  24. ^ "Release Booklet", Freedom in the World 2014, Freedom House, 24 January 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2014.

External links

  • 2012 Annual Report, by Amnesty International
  • Freedom in the World 2011 Report, by Freedom House
  • World Report 2012, by Human Rights Watch
  • [30]Freedom of Expression in Uganda: IFEX]
  • Midnight's Children Testimony of Abducted Ugandan Children
  • When the Sun Sets We Start to Worry UN-collected accounts of brutality
  • 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
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