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By Mulengera Reporter

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) says it is appalled by the deaths as a result of the riots that took place in over 20 districts in Uganda. The protests that broke out on Wednesday were prompted by the arrest of National Unity Platform – NUP Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi in Luuka district. Kyagulanyi was accused of flouting the election campaign guidelines that were issued by the Electoral Commission to control the spread of COVID-19 pandemic that has so far claimed over 160 lives in Uganda.

The riots which saw Kampala as the epi-centre led to the death of many people most of whom were innocent civilians who were hit by stray bullets. By Friday last week, official figures indicated that a total of 46 people lost their lives while several others were injured during the protests. Majority of the deaths were from gun related injuries.  Now the Uganda Human Rights Commission says the number of death is appalling.

In its statement dated November 23, 2020 on the Human Rights Concerns during the ongoing campaigns towards the 2021 elections, the UHRC says several serious human rights violations were recorded during the chaos that resulted from violent acts of lawlessness by some members of the public and the use of excessive force by some errant members of the law enforcement agencies who were deployed to query the riots.

The Acting Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti Wa Irumba in the report says on top of the lives that were lost, several people’s businesses and lives were greatly affected. He said the commissions condemns all the perpetrators of the violence. “The senseless acts of inflicting injuries and the loss of life to many people and loss of property in many areas are unacceptable,” he said.

Katebalirwe thanked peace loving Ugandans who desisted from taking part in the violence during the ongoing campaigns and called on all people to respect the rule of law and the rights of all people. “Everyone should ensure that they observe and carry out their duties and responsibilities that go hand in hand with the enjoyment of their rights,” he said. He said that although the country is currently involved in the process of elections amid Covid-19, all duty bearers and rights holders must respect all the fundamental human rights and freedoms in the Constitution.  He said members of the public must avoid acts of violence and political intorelance. He also asked security agencies to refrain from shooting people as it were last week during the protests.  “Security agencies should be well organised and use proportionate legal methods of dealing with such situations such that lives are not lost,” he said.

He added that all security organisations must cooperate with each other and the general public to ensure proper and effective mentainance of law and order in accordance with the Constitution. Dr. Katebalirwe says that as an agency that advices government, they advise security agencies to stop shooting people.  He said all law enforcement and justice should enure that all the suspects who were arrested during the riots and those held during the ongoing electoral campaign period are accorded their full rights and freedoms as enshrined in Article 44, 23 (5), 23 (4) b and Article 28 (1) of the Constitution which provides for suspects to be accorded a fai and speedy trial.

The commission further asked security agencies to investigate the incidences and bring all culprits to book. The commission asked candidates to respect campaign guidelines set by the Electoral Commission and the Ministry of Health on Covid-19 pandemic. The commission has also called upon all people whose rights were violated during last week’s clashes to report to any of their regional, field offices across the country including the headquarters. Reports say that as of today, the the commissions had not received any complaints. Such cases are handled by the UHRC tribunal which sits and decides cases reported although it’s currently not fully constituted because there is no substantive Chairperson. Since the death of Medi Kaggwa, who was the Chairperson of the Commission, the President has never filled the position. Nevertheless, the commission can still resolve cases that do not require a tribunal sitting.

The commission can invite parties so as to settle outside the tribunal on top of investigating cases and sorting those that need to be referred to Court and they are referred.  Sources said the commission has also launched independent investigations into last week’s clashes to ascertain what exactly happened. They have already dispatched their own independent teams to visit the different place where incidences of violence happened to find out what exactly happened and the way forward. Dr. Katebalirwe pledged that the commission would continue to carry out its Constitutional mandate of protecting and promoting human rights and freedoms in the county for all.

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