Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Uganda say they are experiencing some levels of discrimination in the country especially in the rural areas where their role in monitoring and challenging human rights abuses and violations has put them on spot of being discriminated against.
They said it is negating the Government’s intentions to build local capacity in the protection of all human rights defenders across the country because many are faced with discrimination, harassment and even death while carrying out their duties especially in rural areas.
Most of the human rights defenders are found in urban areas such as Kampala and as such, they are mostly prominent and can access some level of protection unlike those in rural areas, Women human rights defenders, Ethnic minority, Oil and destructives, Anti-corruption campaigns, Civil political rights and Electoral reforms and other groups.
The concerns were raised during a coalition meeting of human rights defenders in Kampala held on September 2, 2016.The workshop was organized by the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders –Uganda (NCHR-U) a local non-profit organization that coordinates and networks with organisations that spearhead human rights work in the country.
The theme of the day was “Promote and protect human rights defenders irrespective of their background: National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in Uganda (NCHRD-U) members committed to a Non-Discriminatory National HRD Program”. The meeting drew participants from across the country from the rural areas, urban centers among others.
They claimed that there are serious concerns particularly on issues like the rapid and emergency support that only goes to prominent known human rights defenders that are based in Kampala.
Coalition members said the meeting enabled them to realize the need of understanding diversity and inclusion.
“There is no way we can say we are human rights defenders providing rights for all and when it comes to response and providing support, we discriminate. In many instances, we have supported Women, journalists, LGBTI, ethnic minorities, oil& extractives, rural and urban HRDs” ” says Brenda Kugonza , the National Coordinator NCHRD-U.She said the meeting aimed at bringing together all human rights defenders to have a collective voice in promoting the protection of all HRDs in a non-discriminatory way.
Joseph Bolton, the Second Secretary (Political) at the British High Commission in Uganda says the non-discriminatory approach for human rights defenders will enable them take lessons and disseminate important information up to the grass root levels.
He says such a meeting is important since it brings together human rights defenders who are representing different thematic areas, adding that these face different challenges and hence have different approaches in resolving issues.
Bolton says whereas Uganda is making strides towards protecting rights of its citizens, a lot still needs to be done as the country still faces rights abuses especially from security bodies as per the recently released Uganda Human Rights Commission Report-2015.
While presenting a paper titled: “Understanding a Non-discriminatory HRD protection Program”, Tabitha Netuwa wondered why some women activists go silent minority women are facing abuse in the community.
“I only see few women organizations at press conferences that involve a minority group that has faced abuse. Why should this be so? she asked, before adding, “It is an African cultural thing to come together and help one another. We don’t need to discriminate just because the victim is from a rural area and hence live them to suffer,” says Netuwa. See more in our Video Gallery