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EALS DRAGS UGANDA GOVT TO EACJ OVER INTERNET SHUTDWON

By Mulengera Reporter

In consideration of its mandate to promote and enhance the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights across the East African Community, the East Africa Law Society (EALS) on Friday March 12, 2021 instituted a reference before the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) challenging the legality of the actions of the Government of Uganda in restricting its citizens’ and residents’ access to the internet.

On January 13, 2021, a day before the general elections, the Government of Uganda imposed a total internet shutdown within Uganda. Before that, it had also blocked access to social media networking platforms and over 100 Virtual Private Networks.

The actions of the Government of Uganda followed in the footsteps of the Governments of Tanzania and Burundi that had similarly blocked access to major social media networks during their October and May 2020 general elections respectively.

“Such actions are part of a worrying and growing trend of mass censorship and intolerance to dissent within the member states of the East African Community (EAC). The restrictions and shutdowns are unlawful. They violate every important body of law including the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, international human rights law and even the domestic laws of the affected countries. They impermissibly limit, among others, the peoples’ rights to internet access, freedom of access to information, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, the right to freely participate in the affairs of one’s government, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, the right to self-determination and economic rights,” Mr. Bernard Oundo, EALS president, said in a press statement.

Mr. Oundo added that the restrictions are also a violation of the obligation of EAC state governments to abide by the principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, public accountability and transparency and social justice.

“If not addressed in time and checked, the rising trend of internet censorship in East Africa will only deepen and cement further. The Reference that the EALS has filed is against both the Attorney General of Uganda and the Secretary General of the EAC. Within it, the EALS not only seeks declarations that the Government of Uganda violated the law, but also seeks compensation for the immense inconvenience and loss suffered by many Ugandan citizens, residents, and businesses. The Reference also seeks a structural interdict compelling the Government of Uganda to put in place legal and other reforms, under the Court’s supervision, to ensure that a repeat of the challenged violations does not occur,” explained Mr. Oundo.

He added: “We hope that the Reference will serve as a deterrent for EAC member states and send the message that illegal actions will not be ignored or taken lightly. We call upon the people of the EAC and Civil Society Organisations to remain vigilant in holding the governments of East Africa accountable so that together, we can make the EAC a law-abiding Community. One people one destiny.” (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com).

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