Examining the nexus between Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Human Rights in Africa Project
Information and knowledge sharing is an integral part of the processes of growth and development of individuals and societies. Over the last few decades, information and knowledge sharing has been enhanced by the exponential growth of the internet and mobile means of communications generally referred to as information and communication Technologies (ICTs). This growth has culminated into what is now better understood as the information and knowledge economy and has attracted the attention of governments, scholars and policymakers world over, who are approaching the question form varying perspectives, with the issue of access to knowledge and information keeping center stage in almost all forums.
Simultaneously, the regulatory framework for ICTs is a largely stringent and constrained one, particularly in development countries of the world. International debates on the issues surrounding this area are equally varying. Stakeholders are debating issues such as access to ICTs, diversity, openness and security in the use of ICTs and the availability of critical internet resources. Human rights and goods governance concerns are not absent from these discussions.
Of notable concern is the fact that not all the studies adopt a human rights perspective to the issues involved, nor indeed, do they cover the wide arena of rights moreover, few of these studies have covered the African continent. Among those that have paid some attention to African countries, the coverage of human rights and other issues peculiar to the African continent remains wanting.
In a nutshell, while the literature on ICTs in Africa is significant and growing, very little of this output has focused directly on the link between ICTs and human rights. Against the preceding background, this project aims at filling in the research gaps by providing a comprehensive collection and analysis of data on the critical question of the link between ICTs and human rights.
II. Objectives of the Project
The primary goals of the project is to surface a more holistic approach to the discussion of the nexus between ICTs and human rights within the African context. The issues to be canvassed – in an interdisciplinary manner – are beyond the ordinary scope of digital censorship and surveillance or internet and telephone interception. As the general level this research considers a number of broad issues, including access, diversity, openness and security , critical internet resources , the role of ICTs in good governance, the rights of marginalized groups and the nexus between ICTs and the MDGs in the countries studied.
More specifically, the project focuses on the question of access to information and knowledge, the right to privacy, censorship ad cyber democracy, the nexus between ICTs and the rights of marginalized groups, and the right to freedom of expression. These issues are situate within the broader framework of the context of good governance referred to above unlike previous cyber- democracy studies conducted hitherto. At the crux of this project is investigating the nexus between ICTs and a range of critical human rights.
This project commenced as a scoping phase, with the view of moving towards the commissioning of a broad project to examine the nexus of ICTs and human rights in five African countries, namely, Uganda and Rwanda (for East Africa because of the varying legal regimes, francophone aspects), South Africa (for the southern hemisphere of Africa), Morocco (for the Maghreb region) and Nigeria (for the Western part of Africa). The scooping mission sole objective was to frame the issues and gather the evidence necessary for stakeholders in five African study countries to investigate the nexus between ICT and human rights and to prepare a more comprehensive proposal for the establishment of a research net-work on ICT and human rights in Africa.
The scooping phase was followed by a project workshop held in Kampala, Uganda on 2nd and 3rd April 2009 where the various country teams identified during the scooping mission as possible working partners on the Project from Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco and Uganda presented well-researched papers on the status of ICTs and human rights in their respective countries. The results of the various activities captured in this workshop demonstrate that there is not only an urgent need for scholarly research in this area, but also a niche on research in the legal and policy spaces and frameworks that need to be filled. Deliberations at the workshop further brought to the fore the necessity of considering the developmental dimensions of the impact of ICTs on the study countries. On the whole, the quality and amount of research that has been done in the scoping time alone is a great achievement in light of what the motive of the scoping study was and illustrates just how much work there is to do in this area.
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs) Project
I. Objective of the Project
The general objective of the project is to carry out basic and policy-oriented research on the situation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs) in Uganda, relating in particular to the general lack of enduring developments in the area, their legal content and effect and the necessary mechanisms for their enhanced enforcement and protection. How, for example, do current governmental policies on the eradication of poverty exemplified in the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) relate to and enhance the right to work, access to medical care and the achievement of education for all? What would be an acceptable and realizable level from which the government cannot detract without being in violation of its international obligations? Which domestic normative and institutional mechanisms can be erected to assist in ensuring that the base-line for enforcement of these rights is not transcended? Such questions need to be asked with the primary intention of recasting the issue of the interrelatedness of all categories of rights, against the background of the process of political transition that is currently underway in the country.
II. The specific objectives of the project are:
- To clarify the key issues in the debate on ESCRs, especially as they resonate in the case of Uganda;
- To provide a preliminary framework and context for further debate and consideration by the various actors (local, national and international), and in particular, for activist Human Rights NGOs to begin to consider the struggle for ESCRs as a critical and integral aspect of their operations;
- To foster greater consideration and action among international agencies (UNDP, IBRD, IMF, etc.) in the integration of human rights perspectives into their policies and operations, and with particular respect to macro-economic policy, as presently applied;
- To critically analyze the PEAP and subject it to a rights-based framework, especially with respect to the key areas of health, education, shelter/housing, food and adequate living standards;
- To establish a foundation for future cooperation and collaboration among human rights groups, individuals and policy institutions for the elaboration of concrete strategies of action, through the mechanism of workshops, seminars and conferences;
- To publish and disseminate the results of the research to a broader audience including the various actors identified, and
- To provide a foundation for the establishment of teaching and training programmes in ESCRs for university students, activists and policy makers.
III. Research Areas Include:
- Globalization and ESCRs in Uganda: A Background Study
- ESCRs in Northern Uganda
- HIV/AIDS and the right to healthcare
- The Right to Shelter/Housing
- Education: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary
- Poverty and Adequate Living Standards
- The Question of Water
- Food and sustenance rights
- Promotion and Protection of Cultural Rights
IV. Achieved Outputs So Far:
- There has been publication of nine research reports/ working papers on the topics including Globalization and ESCRs in Uganda among others. There are accessible under the publications on the website for free download.
- Workshops have been held in the past with discussions based on the above research topics. This provided a platform of engagement with critical actors in the policy, activist, developmental and humanitarian arenaand facilitatedsignificant input to policy debate and discussion.
Debating Form and Substance in Africa’s New Governance Models: An International Workshop
I. Project Objectives:
The broad objective of the project was to bring together scholars, researchers and activists from different parts of the continent engaged in work on constitutionalism and governance and to interrogate the key challenges facing countries that have introduced new models of democratic governance. The main project activity was a two day workshop that assessed both the success factors of political transition processes in different national contexts, and more critically considered the practical obstacles that stand in the way of the realization of the often-lofty ideals embodied in those constitutional instruments.
II. Achieved Outputs So Far:
Publication of a book on New Governance Models in Africa Edited by Nansozi Muwanga and Joe-Oloka Onyango.
The following nine papers were presented in the:-
- Legal perspectives on the Search for Legitimacy in African Governance Systems: By Mulela Margaret Munalula.
- Not Yet Democracy: Assessing Rhetoric and Reality in Contemporary Africa; By J. Oloka-Onyango
- From Theory to Practice: Africa in Search of Electoral Substance and Legitimate Governance in the 21st Century; By Onalenna Doo Selolwane
- Democratic Governance in Africa: Towards Common Values and Standards; By Eddy Maloka
- Constitutional Engineering and Elections as Sources of Legitimacy in Post-Cold War Africa: By Kassahun
- Electoral Process in Uganda: Form individual merit to multi-party; By Salli K. Simba
- Assessing Africa’s New Governance Models: By Adebayo Olukoshi,
- Bananas and Oranges! Ethnicity and failed constitutional reforms in Kenya: By Karuti Kanyinga
- Sustainable Electoral Process and Governance in Africa: By Felix K. G. Anebo
The Workshop participants shared experiences of constitutionalism and governance, with a particular focus on the trends, structures, processes and good practices in Africa.
The above papers presented formed basis for a new book New Governance Models in Africa Edited by Nansozi Muwanga and J. Oloka-Onyango.
Decentralised Governance and Human Rights in Uganda
I. Project Objectives:
The overall objective of this project is to enhance access to justice through the promotion of human rights based approach to governance, service delivery and gender relations at the local level. This project entails a number of specific objectives including: research on governance, human rights and access to justice, and enhanced awareness of local government officials regarding human rights. The districts of Gulu, Kayunga and Kampala provided a pilot sampling for the project.
II. Specific Objectives are:
- To conduct research on the linkage between decentralization, democratization, human rights and access to justice at the local level;
- To raise awareness among stakeholders in local government to appreciate and understand fundamental human rights principles including the right to a fair trial, equality of all persons, non-discrimination, due process, the rights of vulnerable groups and full participation in so far as they relate to the justice sector; and
- To influence policy-makers on the need to integrate human rights principles in local government administration;
II. Target Groups:
- Civil Society Organizations engaged in human rights training for local governments.
- Policy-makers especially in the area of local government.
- Senior local government officials (district chairpersons, chief administrative officers and others in the local government structures);
- Local Council Courts (LCCs) in the selected districts (with a particular focus on LCC III), and Human rights institutions such as the UHRC, and human rights CSOs;
III. Achieved Outcomes So Far:
- Increased human rights awareness for local governments and LCCs resulting in reduced violations of human rights related to access to justice;
- Research was conducted and provocatively- informative working papers were published and available under publications for free download;
- A Training Manual on Human Rights for Local Government officials was also developed and disseminated to the Local Governments.
Governance, Democratization and Human Rights Project
I. Project objectives:
- Teaching, research, training and publications in Human Rights and Governance
- Stimulating debate among staff, students, and policy makers
- Improving internal governance
- Capacity Building of Makerere University staff and students
II. Research Areas:
- Arms of Government and the Rule of Law
- Assessing Uganda Governance Institutions
- The Situation of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples
- Criminal Justice
- Military Justice
- Multi-partism in Practice
- Media Rights and Freedom of Expression
- Access to Justice
III. Target Groups:
- University staff and students
- Policy makers
- Human rights organizations, and
- Institutions of governance
IV. Achieved Outputs So Far:
- Changed perceptions among stakeholders on governance and human rights issues
- Increased and policy input influence
- Increased university influence on government policies
- Several published and online working papers.
Preventing a ‘Kenya’ From Happening In Uganda: Towards An Early Warning Mechanism To Prevent Election Violence In 2011
The post election violence that engulfed neighboring Kenya following the 2007 Presidential elections caught the East African region and the rest of the world off- guard. In spite of this, there were many indications in the period leading to the elections of possible violence after the elections. These warnings were however ignored and as thus no steps were taken either by the African union, the East African Community or the international community to avert the violence. The violence alerted observers and experts to the fragility of the democratic processes in the region. It sent out signals that similar violence could easily break out in any county in the region including Uganda
In Uganda there were many overt and silent tensions with the potential to breed violence in the near future unless the situation was urgently addressed. In the run up to the 2011 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, many voices of dissent organization. The Electoral Commission was accused of partiality in favor for the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government in its conduct of the past elections. Voices accusing the NRM of being sectarian in the allocation of the national cake was also on the increase. The new Land Act Amendment of 2007 which among others reduced the proprietary rights of landlords heightened tensions between the Buganda kingdom and the central government.
Additionally, while relative calm has returned to northern Uganda, the perception by people from the north that government was not committed to the reconstruction of the region created an acrimonious relationship between the northerners and government and exacerbated the South – North divide. There were also indications of a possible constitutional amendment to remove from the constitution a provision that requires at least 51 percent of votes (absolute majority) for a person to be declared winner of a presidential election, coupled with the lifting of the age limit on presidential candidates. Both proposals were seen as mechanisms designed to keep the incumbent, President, in power for life. All these tensions could spark violence in 2011.
The above situation raised various questions namely.
- What can Uganda learn from Kenya’s experience in 2007/2008?
- Was Uganda sitting on a power – keg that was just waiting to blow up?
- Could the country explode again as was reminiscent of its history?
- What steps needed to be undertaken to avert possible violence in 2011?
To address the questions above, HURIPEC held a two day workshop and brainstorming session. The workshop brought together academics, activists and other stakeholders from Kenya and Uganda. The presenters and participants from Kenya provided a background of various factors that triggered the violence and how the same could have been avoided. On the other hand, the Uganda presenters and participants sought to analyze the Ugandan political environment pointing out tensions that cloud trigger violence in the 2011 elections. The workshop was also used as a platform to examine the potential of establishing a democracy watch coalition of civil organizations (DEWACO) which was used to advocate for the culture of tolerance, electoral reforms and sensitization. More specifically, the objectives of the workshop were;
- To provide Ugandans with a synopsis and update of the key contents of the Kriegar and Waki reports on the Kenya election violence and to distill the most important lessons that could be drawn from them for the situation in Uganda;
- To focus particularly on the issue of gender and sexual based violence related to elections and to consider the different ways in which mechanism could be put in place to prevent such acts from taking place;
- To bring together the key actors in the Kenyan civil society coalition for justice and peace with their counterparts in Uganda to share experiences on the response to violence and related political development in the country;
- To build a coalition of Uganda civil society organization to advocates against violence and ;
- To brainstorm on the desirability and the design of an appropriate mechanism (s) for preventing a Kenya- like situation from evolving in Uganda.
A workshop report with diverse views and suggestions and a summary of the papers presented during the two day dialogue is available for download.