When Jackson Olema started advocating for the rights of his community members in Arua in 2007, he did not know the magnitude of the work he had gotten himself into. In the beginning, his work involved defending the rights of his community members including the right to education, health and peaceful co-existence. He did this through his advocacy work.
Olema had not given hard thought to the uniqueness of Arua district. The district is located in the north western corner of Uganda that borders both South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. The two countries have been marred with conflict and human rights abuses which tend to spill over into Arua district, making the working environment for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) even more complicated.
Olema who currently works as the manager operations for Rural Initiative for Community Empowerment- West Nile (RICE-WN) realized that the scale of his work must stretch from defending community members’ rights to defending the rights of fellow human rights defenders in Arua.
Though he was going through different trials with limited resources, Olema tried to share with other HRDs, his best practices such as being security conscious and moving in the company of trusted friends. “I always dreamt of a safe haven for HRDs especially in times when State agencies are the oppressors of the rights of HRDs,” Olema says.
In October 2016 and February 2017, Olema got an opportunity to attend two seperate trainings focusing on case management, timely and appropriate assistance for HRDs at risk. The training was organized by the National Coalition of Human rights Defenders in Uganda (NCHRDU) with support from Democratic Governance Facility (DGF).
By conducting the trainings, NCHRDU sought to enhance the capacity of regional and sub-regional focal personals across Uganda to be able to effectively manage HRD cases at regional levels. The training also aimed at sharing the NCHRDU’s protection manual as a standardized protection manual to be used by focal persons to improve response to HRD cases.
“The training was good. It enhanced our ability to commendably handle HRD cases in West Nile,” Olema says.
Through RICE-WN, Olema says they have successfully assessed and referred three critical HRDs at risk to the NCHRD-U protection desk.