Statement on Violence, Excessive Use of Force and Blatant Violations of Human Rights during the Electoral Process in November 2020

Protests erupt all over Uganda following the arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi – Photo by Badru Katumba

The Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) has a released statement titled Violence, Excessive Use of Force and Blatant Violations of Human Rights during the Electoral Process in November 2020condemning the actions of several state actors in November 2020, especially following the arrest of President of the National Unity Platform (NUP) Robert Kyagulanyi and President of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Hon. Eng. Patrick Amuriat Oboi (both presidential candidates in Uganda seeking to overthrow the incumbent and candidate for another term H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni) on the 18th day of November 2020.

Below is the statement by Dr. Zahara Nampewo, the Director of HURIPEC.

The Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC), a university based centre at Makerere University School of Law.  HURIPEC works for the achievement of democratic values, peace and human rights in Uganda. Based on this, HURIPEC is concerned about the events that the nation has witnessed over the last few weeks during the electoral process of 2020. This is especially in respect of the actions of key State actors following the arrest and detention of presidential candidates Hon. Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi and Hon. Eng. Patrick Amuriat Oboi on 18 November 2020.

This period has been dominated by a series of disturbing events. We have seen the country’s worst unrest in a decade. We have seen the State and its law enforcement agencies respond in a brutal and often excessive manner to citizens’ demands for release of, or access to their presidential candidates during the campaign period. During this period, the Police and other security agencies have done the following: (a) restricted some opposition candidates from accessing their campaign venues; (b) used excessive force, including live ammunition and copious amounts of tear gas resulting in the loss of life and injuries; (c) destruction of property in the process; (d) arresting  and imprisoning many people, some without charge.  

While the State has a duty to ensure law and order, the State is also obliged to respect, promote, protect, and fulfill the rights of its citizens as enshrined in the 1995 Constitution and other regional and international treaties to which Uganda is a signatory. 

HURIPEC is particularly concerned about the presence of non-uniformed security personnel shooting at citizens with impunity and in utter disregard of the law. . Article 212 (a) and (b) of the Constitution lists the functions of the Uganda Police Force to include protection of life and property, and preservation of law and order. Similarly, Article 208(2) obliges the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces to be non-partisan, professional, disciplined and subordinate to civilian authority. In fact, the Constitution under Article 209 (c) lists one of the functions of the UPDF as ‘to foster harmony and understanding between the defence forces and civilians’

We have witnessed actions to the contrary where security forces have been involved in the taking rather than preservation of civilian lives. In attempting to fulfill its obligations of preservation of law and order in the last few weeks, the State has instead used excessive force resulting in the infringement of some of the fundamental rights enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution. The rights include the freedom of assembly (Art. 29 (1)(d), freedom of speech and expression (Art. 29(1)(a), freedom of movement, right to access prompt, fair and timely justice and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment.

In particular, 

Article 22(1) of our Constitution states:

No person shall be deprived of life intentionally except in execution of a sentence passed in a fair trial by a court of competent jurisdiction in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda and the conviction and sentence have been confirmed by the highest appellate court.

The actions of law enforcement in a bid to quell demonstrations in different locations in the country resulted into deprivation of lives in circumstances that are questionable. The Spokesperson of the Uganda Police Force put the death toll at 45. A police report indicates that a total of 116 cases involving riots were registered in the country between November 18 and 20 2020. 836 suspects were arrested, of whom 362 suspects were charged, 330 were remanded, 32 released on court bail while one was released on police bond and 633 in police custody pending court (Monitor Newspaper, 24 Nov 2020). 

Sadly, one life lost is one life too many.

According to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by law enforcement officials, whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials should exercise restraint and use force in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved. They should minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life. Moreover, a threat to property alone cannot justify the use of firearms against another person. In using force, officials should: “as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result.”

The same principles guide that: 

Governments and law enforcement agencies should develop a range of means as broad as possible and equip law enforcement officials with various types of weapons and ammunition that would allow for a differentiated use of force and firearms. These should include the development of non-lethal incapacitating weapons for use in appropriate situations, with a view to increasingly restraining the application of means capable of causing death or injury to persons.” 

The use of force by security forces during this electoral period indicates a lack of State policy on differentiated use of force and de-escalation. It showed a lack of restraint and precaution which resulted in the arbitrary deprivation of the right to life of many Ugandans. 

HURIPEC has observed the events of the past weeks with deep concern and condemnation on the use of excessive force by the Police, UPDF and other security agencies and we call upon the State to take critical measures to address the key issues raised by the public on the electoral process so as to avert further violence and instability in the country. In particular, we wish to register our deep concern regarding: 

  1. The use of excessive force and especially the use of live ammunition to quell demonstrations, indiscriminate physical assaults on civilians, spraying of vast amounts of tear gas upon crowds occasioning loss of life and property, severe injuries and pain including upon innocent children, by standers, those at work and urban dwellers. We are greatly concerned that rather than enjoy state protection, citizens are preoccupied with defending themselves against its wrath;
  2. The brutality of officers of the Uganda Police Force, Uganda Peoples Defence Forces and other security operatives in handling the civilian protests; 
  3. The intimidation of human rights defenders who have spoken out on various issues of concern including the declining space for engagement;
  4. The attack on journalists, which has involved beatings, pepper spraying, confiscation of equipment and arrests and detention without charge;
  5. Censorship of the media and a curtailing of press freedom and freedom of expression, including intimidation and security threats to journalists and media houses carrying out their duty as a watchdog of the state and provider of information to the public;
  6. Contrary to the public appeal for the perpetrators of violence to be brought to justice, the Minister for Security defended the use of brutal force and praised security forces for the “decisiveness” with which they quelled what he called “premediated riots” across the country. Such responses from government risk promoting impunity and provocation.
  7. The increased militarization of the State and use of armed forces to enforce law and order and quell peaceful protests which heightens risks of violent conflict and will affect the entire population of Uganda including men, women and children.

HURIPEC calls upon the Government to respect, promote, protect, and fulfill the rights of its citizens as enshrined in the 1995 Constitution. Government must recognize that the language of force and violence is counterproductive to the harnessing of peace and security.

We call upon the heads of security agencies in Uganda to prevail over serving officers to desist from acts of torture, shooting, cruel and inhuman treatment of the people of Uganda. We also caution against the unfair targeting of some politicians involved in their campaign processes as this fuels a trigger for violence and protests. Errant officers should be duly prosecuted.

We further call upon concerned actors within the Justice Law and Order Sector including the Judiciary, Directorate of Public Prosecution and Uganda Human Rights Commission to initiate thorough, prompt and impartial investigations into the human rights violations committed by the security forces.

We also call upon government to thoroughly review the national laws on the use of force and align them with international standards including clear enforcement measures. 

Finally, we call upon the public to remain peaceful in the pursuit of various rights during this electoral period and to desist from violent actions and violations of the human rights of others such as undressing women and attacking security personnel. 

The statement is downloadable here.

Foreword to the Second Issue of Volume 26 of the East Africa Journal of Peace and Human Rights 2020.

The Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) will be launching the Second Issue of Volume 26 of the East Africa Journal of Peace and Human Rights 2020 (EAJPHR Vol. 26 Issue 2, 2020), next week, after releasing the previous Issue One, that is currently available for purchase in both physical and digital copies

The Director of HURIPEC, Dr. Zahara Nampewo has authored the Foreword to the yet to be released Journal that focuses on the rights “Freedom of Expression, Assembly and Information”, and has been availed earlier, prior to the launch, to give readers insight into the Journal. Once the Journal is launched next week, it will be available for download on the website via online HURIPEC shop and physical copies from the department’s office at the School of Law, Makerere University.

Foreword by Dr. Zahara Nampewo.

Dr. Zahara Nampewo, the Director of HURIPEC

The right to freedom of expression, assembly, information and association are some of the fundamental rights to humanity. The international community has recognized the importance of these rights in several human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Similarly, many counties across Africa have translated these provisions into their national constitutions. Whereas this is a commendable development, in the recent years, the ability of citizens, academics, activists and the media to express themselves freely without intimidation has become increasingly curtailed, with these groups facing daily threats to their physical security for exercising their basic civil and political rights. Many are arbitrarily arrested and detained or otherwise intimidated for expressing opinions on social, political and economic issues.

It is notable that traditional methods of undermining freedom of expression, assembly, information and association are being replaced with new ones. In an ever-evolving political and technological landscape, there are new challenges that are threatening the enjoyment of these freedoms on the continent. For instance, governments are aware of the fact that old forms of media repression do not necessarily work: they attract international attention, bad press, and can unsettle a regime. As a result, they are adopting subtler forms of control to undermine press freedom. In this regard, several governments have made various attempts to use new laws to control these freedoms. All have raised arguments relating to public security and order to defend draconian legislation that criminalises free speech online. These can sometimes be even more insidious because they pass unnoticed. Uganda and Tanzania as two of the countries represented in this journal issue have not been spared by this regressive conduct.

In directly challenging the relapse in the enjoyment of the said four freedoms especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which has introduced new limits on expression and enjoyment of rights generally, the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) in partnership with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI) issued this special edition of the East African Journal for Peace and Human Rights (EAJPHR) to highlight recent trends, practices and emerging issues in the region impacting on the enjoyment of these freedoms with a focus on the situation in Uganda and Tanzania. This publication examines the state to which the rights to freedom of expression, association, information and assembly  are respected by the countries in the East African region and beyond.  It is part of HURIPEC’s effort to contribute to a society that respects and protects fundamental human rights.

We hope that the trends, practices and emerging highlighted herein will help to elevate the attention of the importance of these freedoms and influence policy and law reform for improved governance generally in the region. 

Zahara Nampewo

Director / Managing Editor
East African Journal on Peace and Human Rights
Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC)
School of Law  Makerere University

HURIPEC Webinar on Social Policy in Uganda and Covid-19

The Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC), School of Law, Makerere University is delighted to invite you to our forthcoming webinar on Security and Social Policy in the Context of Uganda’s Covid-19 Response. The event, the second in a series of conversations aims to examine the concept of security in the context of the Government of Uganda’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and further explore a broader and holistic understanding that reflects principles of human dignity, safety and development in the interest of all Ugandans.

The webinar will take place on 01 June 2020 from 10:00AM to 11:30AM (EAT) You will be joining our experts in a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of Uganda’s social policy as they have been uncovered by the covid-19 pandemic in the two sectors of health and social protection.

Our speakers for the Webinar will be Dr. Olive Kobusingye , a Surgeon, Senior Research Fellow, Makerere University School of Public Health will outline the issues that emerge in the country’s health sector approach to managing the pandemic, Prof. John Jean Barya , a Law Professor at Makerere University School of Law will highlight the strengths and weaknesses in the sector of social protection and the role of the security sector in this regard and Mr. Yusuf S. Kajura , a Researcher with the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) will trace the historical perspectives to social policy, its evolvement in the country over the years and the issues that it surfaces in regard to the government’s current approach in managing the C-19.

Register to view the event on Zoom, or tune into the Facebook livestream at 10AM (EAT) And join the conversation via the hashtag #SocialPolicyUg on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Zoom Meeting : ID – 886 5845 8194

LLD Scholarship on Militarization, Human Rights and Development in Uganda

Applications are invited for an LLD scholarship at the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC), School of Law, Makerere University. This scholarship is an integral part of a research project “Militarisation, sustainable growth and peace in Uganda“ implemented by HURIPEC in collaboration with the Centre for Resolution of International Conflicts (CRIC), at the University of Copenhagen. The successful applicant will thus join a vibrant international research environment and enroll at the School of Law, Makerere University. The studies are expected to begin on 1 September 2019.

The project is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and administered by Danida Fellowship Centre. The rationale behind this research project is to explore the current trend of militarisation in Uganda with a threefold aim: First, to better understand the militarisation phenomenon in Uganda and to analyse its scope and consequences; second, to contribute to theoretical conceptualisations of militarisation; third, to increase the dialogue and awareness among private and public partners in Uganda about how democratic accountability, protection of rights and state-building can be strengthened in an era of militarisation.

The applicant is to independently design and propose a project for the LLD dissertation. Within the larger framework of the general project, the LLD dissertation is expected to address Ugandan military identity and practices in order to deepen the understanding of the Ugandan military as an actor and institution in the country’s development, human rights record and regional positioning.

Scope of the Scholarship
The Scholarship will cover the following;
(i) Tuition for up to four years
(ii) A generous monthly stipend for the duration of the doctoral studies.
(iii) Research period of 6 months at CRIC in Denmark
(iv) Full access to the Danish Library and other connected libraries.
(v) Extra and thorough supervisory research support from Senior academics under the project at both HURIPEC & CRIC.

Instructions for Application

We are seeking a motivated, creative and mature candidate who displays enthusiasm and good interpersonal and communication skills. Candidates with good knowledge on East Africa and fieldwork experience are preferred. Familiarity with military institutions is an added advantage. Experiences from outside the academic world will count in the evaluation process. The applicant must have a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from a recognized university.

Applicants should submit a 5 page concept note which should include key questions, theoretical framework, methodology and how your planned thesis will add to already existing research. The concept note should also comprise a preliminary bibliography and a preliminary study plan. All applications will be reviewed by an appraisal committee following which the successful application will be submitted to an expert for further assessment. The successful candidate will be asked to fulfill the admission requirements at the university before submitting a full proposal.

Assessment Criteria
The following criteria will be followed when shortlisting candidates for assessment:
1. Relevant qualifications and knowledge to the proposed area of study
2. Research qualifications relevant to the overall research project.
3. Quality and feasibility of the concept note
4. Originality and creativity of the research project.
5. Significance of the research in respect to the following issues:
(i) The special need addressed in society / discipline.
(ii) Providing a solution to an existing problem
(iii) Improvement of a critical service
(iv) Proposal for alternative best practice or cost effectiveness
(v) Contribution to a strategic goal or global issue
6. Performance (grades obtained) in graduate and post-graduate studies.

Concept notes should be submitted electronically to E-mail:, together with the following;
(i) Cover Letter detailing your motivation and background for applying for the PhD programme
(ii) Workplan demonstrating ability to complete the LLD programme in less than four years
(iii) CV including list of publications, where available.
(iv) Recommendation from at least one Senior academic in a recognised institution of higher learning.
Download this notice HERE

The application must be submitted electronically. Deadline for applications: 21 June 2019.

About the implementing partner institutions
Centre for Resolution of International Conflicts, CRIC, is an interdisciplinary research centre aiming to strengthen the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts through developing analytical tools and practical techniques in collaboration with practitioners. It was originally funded for four years by the then “Danish Council for Strategic Research“ and later by the Carlsberg Foundation. More information about CRIC is available at this LINK

The Human Rights and Peace Center, HURIPEC, a semi-autonomous department under the School of Law was set up by Makerere University in 1993, as the first human rights center of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. The centre pursues a vision of contributing to the establishment of an educated, activist, academic society with a high awareness of human rights in Uganda and other countries. It has consistently engaged in events geared at promoting the understanding and respect for human rights, democratic governance and sustainable peace in the East Africa subregion specifically and Africa generally through teaching, research and outreach. See: Huripec Website

Administered by Danida Fellowship Centre
Danida Fellowship Centre administers Denmark’s support to development research and research capacity building on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

Call For Respect Of Human Rights At Makerere University

KAMPALA, UGANDA / October 29, 2019 – The ongoing happenings at Makerere University involving student protests against a 15% cumulative tuition increment by the University and resultant reactions by security forces have shocked the entire country. We have watched in disbelief what was intended as a peaceful protest led by female students degenerate into violence including raids on student residences under the cover of darkness. Consequently, students have been hurt and their property maliciously damaged. It is also regrettable to note that there have also been reports of sexual assault on female students. Such actions violate fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution.

Whilst the student body has made its reasons clear for engaging in the protest, and the University administration on the other hand has the duty to counter the situation, as the human rights fraternity we have a duty to remind all stakeholders involved of the responsibility to work within the law and uphold human rights for all concerned.

The refusal by security forces for student leadership to air out their concerns to the press and the deliberate barring of the media from accessing such information is a breach of the freedom of information and expression. Several journalists have reported being blocked or attacked by security forces during their attempts to cover the protests. Of particular concern are the excesses and brutality meted out on the students by the security forces, including the use of live bullets. These occurrences disregard the principles of proportionality and necessity which mandate law enforcement officers to exercise restraint and avoid using force including lethal force, where the harm that their actions would inflict outweighs the gains to be obtained from using it.

Under the recommended standards, law enforcement officers must determine in advance, the seriousness of the offence they are responding to and the objective they seek to achieve by using force. This objective must be lawful. Targeting students in their halls of residence or those peacefully protesting with the aim of subduing their freedom of expression and right to assemble are not lawful objectives. Additionally, police or law enforcement officers must always use nonviolent means first as far as possible before resorting to force. Firearms should only be used to avert a threat to life, or serious injury and only where such threat is, “imminent.”

Criminalization of peaceful protests is never a solution. Managing divergent views should be inclusive, participatory and accountable. We condemn in the strongest terms the implicated security forces’ acts of impunity. We further observe with dismay that Uganda’s current statutory laws on the use of force grant unlimited power to security agencies with little to no frameworks of accountability.

We therefore call upon:

  • Makerere University to continue to civilly engage students and protect them from unlawful attacks by rejecting the illegal and unnecessary deployment of military forces in the university;
  • The Parliament of Uganda to enact legislation to regulate use of force by security agencies;
  • The Uganda Police Force to maintain law and order professionally at the university and to conduct its role in accordance with Uganda’s laws, including upholding the principles of proportionality and necessity in use of force as provided in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of force and Firearms for Law Enforcement Officers and the African Union Guidelines for Policing of Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa;
  • The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) to investigate the impugned acts in relation to these protests, and to bring individual perpetrators to account in addition to providing adequate compensation to the victims of this violence; and
  • The Makerere University student body to continue to peacefully engage with management and respect the rights of others.

Human Rights Violations in Uganda: The Abuse of Civil and Political Rights in the Era of Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo

Over 270 people extra judicially killed during Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo

Human rights violations, in utter disregard of the law, continue to occur under President Museveni’s fifth term, dubbed Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo, with increasing level of impunity on the perpetrators according to Human Rights and Peace Centre, a department of School of Law Makerere University.

In the report titled HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN UGANDA: THE ABUSE OF CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS IN THE ERA OF KISANJA HAKUNA MCHEZO, HURIPEC documents over 270 cases of extra judicial killings that occurred across the country between 2016 and 2018 as a result of intense physical torture, use of unwarranted, unjustified excessive and lethal force, heavy handedness and indiscriminate shooting at people resulting in death of innocent bystanders including children and students.

“In spite of the international, domestic legal guarantees and political assurances, arbitrary deprivation of life by the State, its organs and agents has happened since February 2016 as a result of unnecessary use of excessive and lethal force during law enforcement operations; intense physical torture with impunity; in total disregard of the principles of absolute necessity, proportionality, precaution; and with malice aforethought,” says the report.

President Museveni was sworn in on 12 March 2016 for his fifth term. He declared the term Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo (a term of no games). In 2018, HURIPEC undertook to audit the observance of selected civil and political rights in Uganda and conducted several alomost 400 interviews across the country.

“The situation in Uganda today is less stark than the said dark days of former president Iddi Amin. But the situation is far from great and there remains work to be done in ensuring respect for civil and political rights in Uganda. We have not yet done all we can do to breathe life into our constitution that protects the sanctity of human life and dignity, and all the various freedoms. And we as HURIPEC emphasize that as a country, we need to be straight about our human rights picture which is not rosy,” said Dr. Zahara Nampewo, Director HURIPEC

The report sites several deaths that happened in hands of Uganda Police Force, Uganda People’s Defence Forces and Uganda Wildlife Athourity during law enforcement operations. The UPDF’s Fisheries Protection Force, established by the president to curb illegal fishing in Uganda, and is held responsible for the death of nine people between June 2017 and August 2018 as result of intense physical torture. The report cites the warning of the FPF commander at the beginning of the operations that “this is a total military operation …but we warn that when you hear of death of somebody, do not blame us.” The report talks of a father who lost a son in Namayingo district as result of intense physical torture by the UPDF-FPF in August 2018. He say his son Reuben Bwire was subjected to 50 strokes of the cane three times a day and by the time he was released from detention his condition had deteriorate and later passed on.

HURIPEC further reveals that UPF was responsible for death of more than 60 people including children, students and political enthusiasts especially during by election and political rallies. It also states in UWA rangers was responsible for 27 extrajudicial killings in March 2016 and December 2018 in not even a handful of villages neighboring three national parks and one game reserve in which HURIPEC conducted its research. “UWA’s law enforcement rangers killed people under circumstances which did not warrant use of lethal force,” the report notes.

HURIPEC is concerned over the lack of prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the extrajudicial killings in-spite of numerous calls for such and the attempts made are stopped by the executive.

“The study found a number of lapses in the investigation of extrajudicial killings which is worrying. What happened to the Kasese deaths for example? The question draws a blank,” Dr. Zahara said in reference to what happened to attack on the Rwenzururu kingdom palace in November 2016.

The report notes further that torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment continued to occur is condoned by the highest offices, appear to be institutionalised and well planned given the level of organization of the perpetrators and the impunity with which they act. The report identifies almost 70 torture techniques used by security agencies against suspects to force them confess or extract information. HURIPEC highlights that arbitrary arrest and illegal detention of people in unknown places and beyond the constitutionally prescribed time is prevalent in Kisanja Hakuna Muchezo. The reports says wives and children of suspects have not spared. Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and police as the main culprits. The report list a number victims who spoke of harrowing experiences while in detention.

“A disturbing finding was that arbitrary arrest and detention of children by security agencies was on the rise. This happened mainly among the Muslim communities who were alleged to be involved in child trafficking and radicalization,” HURIPEC noted in the report.

The department of school of law, also noted that courts orders, especially requiring the release of suspects detained beyond the 48 hours, are increasing being ignored by the security agencies. The report gives a list of cases where these orders were ignored.

The report reveals that the people right to a fair hearing, freedom of assembly and to practice the religion and culture of their choice continue to be abused in Kisanja hakuna Muchezo.

The reports says security agencies in Uganda had variously targeted a section of Muslims in Uganda known as the Salaf whom they portrayed as a threat to the people of Uganda. On a number of occasions, different members of the Salaf sect were cited as the first suspects and many were always arrested in the immediate aftermath of murders of prominent persons in the country. Children of Salaf members were also arrested and detained without due process of the law providing for protection of children.

HURIPEC say sidelining of the UPF in law and order enforcement functions, disregard for the rule of law, lack of political will, negative political interests and lack of clarity in some laws especially those or arrest and detention are some of the factors facilitating human rights abuses.

The full report can be accessed HERE

For further information and inquiries contact:
Zahara Nampewo (PhD)
Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC)
School of Law – Makerere University
P.O. Box 7062 Kampala – Uganda
Tel: 256–(0)41 – 532954 Cell +256 779114220