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

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