By Oweyegha Afunaduula
30th October 2023
When the combatant of Luwero, now in power for 37 years, emerged out of the bush and captured the instruments of power, of course through the barrel of the gun, they promised a lot of things. These were cast their promises in what could be called “NRM/A Blueprint of Governance”, but which they characterized as “The Ten Point Programme”.
Muniini K Mulera, in his blog of 24 February 2020 “Ten Point Programme of Uganda’s National Resistance Movement” listed the ten points as:
Consolidation of National Unity and elimination of all forms of sectarianism.
Defending and consolidating National Independence.
Building an independent, integrated and self-sustaining national economy.
Restoration of and improvement of social services and rehabilitation of war-ravaged areas.
Elimination of corruption and misuse of power.
Redressing errors that have resulted in the dislocation of sections of the population and improvement of others
Cooperation with other African countries in defending human and democratic rights of in other parts of Africa.
Following an economic strategy of mixed economy.
If we are to accept that this was the blueprint of NRM/A governance, we do not have to over stretch our critical thinking to aver that as far as actualizing the Ten Point Programme is concerned, the failure story has superseded the success story on each of the 10 points of the governance blueprint.
In this article I am interested in interrogating the human rights record of the NRM regime in Uganda. It should, however, be noted that the blueprint, in its point that mentions human and democratic rights, does not specifically mention human and democratic rights in Uganda. It stressed human and democratic rights in other parts of Uganda.
This could explain why the regime has let the human democratic rights situation in Uganda has continued to meteorically deteriorate since 1986 when the NRM/A captured the instruments of power.
Human rights are rights we have simply because we exist as human beings – they are not granted by any state. These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. They range from the most fundamental – the right to life – to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty, according to Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, was the first legal document to set out the fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It sought to bring order where there was chaos in the governance of human rights in the World.
The UDHR mentions 30 different human rights, namely:
Right to Equality
Freedom from Discrimination
Right to Life, Liberty, Personal Security
Freedom from Slavery
Freedom from Torture and Degrading Treatment
Right to Recognition as a Person before the Law
Right to Equality before the Law
Right to Remedy by Competent Tribunal
Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest and Exile
Right to Fair Public Hearing
Right to be Considered Innocent until Proven Guilty
Freedom from Interference with Privacy, Family, Home and Correspondence
Right to Free Movement in and out of the Country
Right to Asylum in other Countries from Persecution
Right to a Nationality and the Freedom to Change It
Right to Marriage and Family
Right to Own Property
Freedom of Belief and Religion
Freedom of Opinion and Information
Right of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Right to Participate in Government and in Free Elections
Right to Social Security
Right to Desirable Work and to Join Trade Unions
Right to Rest and Leisure
Right to Adequate Living Standard
Right to Education
Right to Participate in the Cultural Life of Community
Right to a Social Order that Articulates this Document
Community Duties Essential to Free and Full Development
Freedom from State or Personal Interference in the above Rights
One can say without hesitation that virtually all these human rights are routinely violated by the “diminishing State of Uganda. I say “diminishing” because, as I stated in my article “From State to Deep State”, increasingly the State of elected officials is being replaced in Uganda by a group of men and women existing or working as a secret, subterranean network of criminals who include politicians, soldiers, policemen and policewomen and bureaucrats all committed to ensuring that it is their interests, not the people or their rights, that matter in the country. They protect each other and fund each other using the Uganda National Budget.
The regime has concentrated on capturing every aspect of the country’s structure and function, simply to enhance its control of the movements and minds of Ugandans. In the process it has taken to hype power retention instead of making power work to improve the human and democratic rights in the country. The social, economic, political, environmental, ecological and cultural rights of the indigenous Ugandans have been greatly violated by the regime. Their extended right to belong, live and survive in peace and security without fear of being disoriented towards manifesting as foreigners in their country is being violated by the regime or those connected to it.
This is not surprising. The majority in the regime that exercise and control power in Uganda belong to a small migrant group that initially sought refuge in the country to escape socio-pollical chaos in Rwanda and the Mulenge area of the Eastern part of present-day Democratic Republic Congo (DRC). As a consequence, the NRM/A Blueprint of governance has been rendered useless. Hence, the overwhelming failure of the regime with respect to each of the 10 points in the Blueprint.
On the issue of human rights in Uganda, which were not inbuilt in the design of the Blueprint, we should remember that the regime gave the impression that it was serious as far as defending and upholding every type of right in the country. We saw this in the design of the original Uganda Constitution 1995.
The Preamble of the Uganda Constitution 1995 states:
WE THE PEOPLE OF UGANDA: Recalling our history which has been characterized by political and constitutional instability; Recognizing our struggles against the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation; Committed to building a better future by establishing a socio-economic and political order through a popular and durable national Constitution based on the principles of unity, peace, equality, democracy, freedom, social justice and progress…….
People’s sovereignty is emphasized in Chapter 1 of the constitution, which among other things states that All power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with this Constitution.
There is no doubt that the people’s right to sovereignty is consummated by the diminishing State, with the ultimate aim of making the Institution of President the exclusive sovereign.
Article 2 on the Supremacy of the Constitution, states among other things that “This Constitution is the supreme law of Uganda and shall have binding force all authorities and persons throughout Uganda”. However, although the NRM functionaries, like the late Noble Mayombo, repeatedly told Ugandans that the Constitution would stand the test of time, our constitutional history or experience since 1995 has shown that the Constitution is repeatedly adulterated to serve the interests of the regime by freeing it from the scrutiny of the people. This has undermined the right of Ugandans to be governed or ruled constitutionally.
Although Article 5 of the Constitution states, among other things, that Uganda is one Sovereign State and a Republic, the country is being governed as if it belongs to the ruling family. All effort is being made by power to sow seeds of hereditary politics with the ultimate aim of building a dynasty not only Uganda but the whole of te Great Lakes region. Republicanism is now a myth. The country is like a mega-monarchy, with small monarchy-like entities purposely reduced to cultural institutions to disempower them politically and remove the right of identity from the indigenous peoples.
Article 10 on Citizenship, which guarantees Ugandans their right to citizenship, has been rendered open to “citizenship usurpers” from elsewhere by revising it to include s new article on dual citizenship”. Although the absolute majority of Ugandans, who are the indigenous people of Uganda, cannot possess another country’s citizenship, people from elsewhere can. This has disadvantaged Ugandans with regard to opportunities and resources (land, natural resource, food, employment, etc.). It explains, for example, why land grabbing is by people with no historical, ecological, environmental, biological and cultural roots in Uganda. It explains why jobs in government, and even in the private sector are today dominated by people of exogenous origin.
It explains why the implementation of virtually all of the 30 human rights of the UDHR are now extremely difficult to observe in Uganda. It should be emphasized that as if the designers of the constitution knew what could happen, Article 15 of the Uganda Constitution 1995 prohibited dual citizenship. In Article 15(1) it stated “Subject to this article, a Uganda citizen shall not hold another country concurrently with his or her Uganda citizenship”. The people of power violated the Article legislatively and bulldozed dual citizenship, thereby imposing it on the citizens of Uganda to disadvantage them in favor of people with foreign roots.
Chapter 4 of the Uganda Constitution 1995, which guaranteed the rights and freedoms of Ugandans, has been rendered a paper tiger, by the governors of the country. Although Article 20 (1) states that “Fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual are inherent and not granted by the State” and 20 (2) states that “The rights and freedoms of the individual and groups enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of Government and by all persons”, the human rights situation in the country is a far cry from the latter and content of these article.
In order to create a docile, fearful, hopeless, hapless population virtually all the Articles of Chapter 4 of the Constitution are being abused and/or vandalized.
Hence Article 21 on Equality and freedom from discrimination; Article 22 on Protection of right to life; Article 23 Protection of personal liberty; Article 24 Respect for human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment; Article 25 Protection from slavery, servitude and forced labor; Article 26 Protection from deprivation of property; and Article 27 Right to privacy of person, home and other property have been rendered meaningless and ineffective.
That is not all. Article 28, which states “In the determination of civil rights and obligations or any criminal charge, a person shall be entitled to a fair, speedy and public hearing before an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law” is just in the pages of the Constitution. Many people have been declared criminals without ever committing any crime, and incarcerated for extended periods of time. Others have been kidnapped in drones never to be seen again.
Of Article 29 on Protection of freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion, assembly and association, we may confidently say the regime ha scored minimally on all except religion. People are free to seek or not seek God any way they want except if when doing so they commit crime. So while the religious have been praising President Tibuhaburwa Museveni for giving them freedom to worship, other Ugandans have been saddened by his regime’s performance on the others.
Article 39 on the Right to a clean and healthy environment Every Ugandan has a right to a clean and healthy environment has been barbarically violated by the regime and its functionaries. Whole ecosystems have been converted to simple systems of grazing, industrial parks or monoculture agriculture. Others have been personalized by individual actors in the regime or those attached to it historically, genetically and ethnically. Land grabbing has proved greatly injurious to the environment with long-term dire consequences for humanity not only in Uganda but also in the region and the world. For example Mabira Rain Forest, whose influence on climate in Uganda, the region and the world has been reduced to a miniature by the land grabbing culture and behavior of the powerful and the powerless empowering themselves by their strong ties to power.
I do not have time and space to review the performance of the NRM regime on all the rights spelt out in the Uganda Constitution 1995. Such rights include: Article 30 Right to education; Article 31 Rights of the family; Article 33 Rights of women; Article 34 Rights of children; Article 35 Rights of persons with disabilities; Article 36 Protection of minorities; Article 37 Right to culture and similar rights; Article 38 Civic rights and activities; Article 40 Economic rights; Article 41 Right of access to information; Article 42 Right to just and fair treatment in administrative decisions; Article 43 General limitation on fundamental and other human rights and freedoms; Article 44 Prohibition of derogation from particular human rights and freedoms; Article 45 Human rights and freedoms additional to other rights; Article 46 Human Rights and Freedoms During a State of Emergency; Article 47 Detention under emergency laws; Article 48 Review by Uganda Human Rights Commission; Article 49 Report to Parliament; Article 50 Enforcement of Rights and Freedoms by Courts; Article 51 Uganda Human Rights Commission; Article 52 Functions of Human Rights Commission; and Article 53 Powers of the Commission.
Openminded, courageous and patriotic students, scholars and actors in the field of human rights can not only review this review of performance of the NRM regime on human rights, but can extend the review to those articles I have been unable to tackle. We need to be completely aware of our human rights situation and why it has meteorically deteriorated so much as to make life not worth living in Uganda.
Let me end my article by asking again:
DO HUMAN RIGHTS MATTER ANYMORE IN UGANDA?
For God and My Country