On 20th March 2019, the Human Rights Centre Uganda (HRCU) celebrated 10 years of existence since its establishment in 2008. The celebration was part of the 6th Annual Human Rights Defenders Forum, 2019 convened under the theme; “Human rights defenders in Uganda: Reflecting on gains made in a decade and setting the agenda for the future”. Held at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala, the event was graced by human rights defenders (HRDs) from across the county; as well as representatives from government institutions, development partners, media, and civil society organisations.
In his speech, the Chief Guest, Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mr Andrew Sorowen who represented the Inspector General of Police, Mr Okoth Ochola, congratulated HRCU on making 10 years of dedicated service. He pledged Police’s continued support to HRDs in their noble efforts to promote and protect human rights in the country. He revealed that the Uganda Police has an established fully-fledged Directorate of Human Rights and Legal Services to address human rights violations by police and to punish errant officers. He encouraged HRDs to approach the police for support whenever they encounter challenges in their work, and called for continued partnership with other human rights institutions in the country to reduce on violations.
H.E Henk Jan Bakker, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who represented the DGF, informed participants that the DGF supports both state and non-sate actors because of the crucial need to have constructive engagements between the two categories of actors. He appreciated HRCU for its contribution towards protection and promotion of human rights over the years, adding that its work continues to be of utmost relevance and deserves respects from all walks of life.
He cited gains by HRDs that are worth celebrating, including the relatively good legal framework, improved relations and collaboration with state agencies, increased participation and influence in policy and legislative processes, and enhanced public awareness of human rights. He, however, regretted that HRDs continue to face threats such as physical and verbal abuses, during the course of their work.
The Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Hon Med Kaggwa, acknowledged that HRDs are crucial partners to government and UN human rights agencies in tackling human rights challenges in the country. He appreciated that a lot has been achieved with HRDs’ tireless efforts. For example, human rights desks have been established in security organisations, human rights committees have been established in prisons, and the infamous Nalufenya Prison was closed because of the exposure of human rights violations. He acknowledged the various challenges HRDs face such attacks and restrictive legalisation, and encouraged them to reach out to UHRC for support when confronted by such challenges.
In her welcoming remarks, the HRCU Executive Director, Ms Margaret Sekaggya shared the organisation’s genesis and journey since 2008. She underscored the fact that throughout the years, HRCU has relentlessly pursued its mission of contributing to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights, particularly the rights of HRDs. She thanked development partners, state and non-state partners, HRCU board members and staff for supporting the organisation in this journey. She highlighted the key achievements realised over the years including: training 1,411 HRDs, providing legal advice to 390 HRDs and members of the general public, and publishing 66,871 information, education and communication materials, among others.
She urged government to listen to voices of HRDs and take stock of what they say, because there is always something for learning. “A nation’s progress depends on how it can withstand constructive criticism” she said, adding that HRDs’ critical voices are intended to make Uganda, a better country for everyone.
Awards of recognition were presented to the HRCU founders and staff who have made exemplary contribution to the organisation over the years. In addition, a situation analysis report titled: “Myth and Realities: A decade of promoting and protecting the rights of human rights defenders in Uganda” was launched. The report assesses the HRDs’ operating environment, the status of their rights, and their interventions over the last ten years. To access the full report, please click here.
The DGF funds HRCU to implement a project titled “Strengthening Support and protection of the rights of human rights defenders in Uganda”