ASF in Uganda

Location: Kampala Date of establishment: December 2007 Team: 15 collaborators Contact: oug-cp2@asf.be – Telephone +256 75 09 39 349

General Context

With over 60% of the population under 25 years of age, Uganda has one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations (40 million inhabitants) in the world. The colonial boundaries created by Britain to delimit Uganda grouped together a wide range of ethnic groups with different political systems and cultures. These differences complicated the establishment of a working political community after independence was achieved in 1962.

The dictatorial regime of Idi Amin (1971-79) was responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents; guerrilla war and human rights abuses under Milton Obote (1980-85) claimed at least another 100,000 lives. In 1986, the “Liberation War” brought to power the National Resistance Army, led by Yoweri Museveni. Turned as a political party under the acronym National Resistance Movement, the NRM regime has remained in power since 1986 and brought relative stability to the country. However, the NRM rule has also been characterized by conflicts in West Nile, Acholiland, Karamoja and the Rwenzori regions. In particular, the insurgency of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda, led to large-scale and grave human rights violations.

The condition of justice

In spite of great efforts by the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), the courts of Laws are still physically, financially and technically inaccessible to the poor, who represent the majority of the population. Courts of Law and Law enforcement agencies are widely perceived as corrupt by the population. As a result, the vast majority of legal disputes and legal needs are addressed outside the courts. At community level, there exist multiple routes for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which, despite being more accessible, are often flawed in ways that impede their efficiency and fairness, in particular with regards to gender equality.

In the absence of a country-wide public legal aid scheme, access to justice remains a challenge for the majority of the population. The limited public services and the ineffectiveness of the local council system make the population rely on services from Legal Aid Service Providers (LASPs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), which are increasingly constrained in a context of reducing civic space and limited consideration for human rights. Besides, such services are scarcely available, especially in rural areas.

The prevalence of the Rule of Law in the administration of Justice remains a challenge. There exists a systematic discrepancy between the legal frameworks and the practices of criminal justice actors, which is detrimental to the protection of the populations’ rights. In particular, unabated deviations in the standards of arrest and remand, coupled with a growing incarceration rate over the last ten years, have led to prisons congestion.

Uganda’s history of conflicts has been partially addressed by the Transitional Justice process so far. Most crimes committed during past conflicts haven’t led to criminal prosecution or other forms of justice, and a culture of impunity remain. In Northern Uganda, and other parts of the country, victims still suffer the consequences of past conflicts. The recent adoption of a Transitional Justice Policy has renewed hope for a meaningful transitional justice process, in particular one that can give victims of international crimes the agency to participate in judicial proceedings.

In the last two decades, Uganda has witnessed an unprecedented increase in foreign direct investment and actual economic activity by both multinational corporations and local business enterprises in its economy. Alongside the infrastructure sector, foreign investment primarily targets the country’s primary (land and forestry) and strategic (oil deposits and minerals) resources. In particular, extractive industries have risen in the Albertine Graben and Karamoja regions. While these trends present opportunities for development, they raise the question of the latter’s sustainability, as they also carry potential harmful impacts on individuals, communities and the environment.

Rural communities in Northen Uganda are being sensitized about transitional justice

Projects

News

June 19, 2024

Report – Analysing Civic Space in East Africa through a judicial lens

For the past years, civic space has been described as “shrinking” in many countries around the world. The adoption of restrictive laws, the harassment of journalists, the arrest and detention of human rights defenders, the suspension of activities or freezing of accounts of civil society organisations, are common tactics used by states to restrict civic space and intimidate activists. Unfortunately, East Africa is no exception to this trend. In fact, countries of the region are defined as “repressed”, best “obstructed” by the CIVICUS Monitor. This research addresses the jurisprudence on civic freedoms from national courts of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi as well as from the East African Court of Justice.

Freedom of expression | Human rights defenders | Security and freedom | Burundi | East Africa | Kenya | Tanzania | Uganda

February 28, 2024

Uganda – Knowledge, attitudes and practices on pre-trial detention

ASF just published a report that explores the level of knowledge, the attitudes and practices of key stakeholders towards pre-trial detention under the criminal justice system in Uganda. It sheds light on the root causes of violations of procedural and constitutional rights. With this evidence base, the report provides recommendations for action and positive reforms in the area of pre-trial detention.

Detention | Uganda

February 1, 2024

ExPEERience Talk #12 – Pre-trial detention in Uganda: Learnings from a study on knowledge, attitudes and practices

During this ExPEERience Talk #12, ASF’s team in Uganda will present the resutlts of a soon-to-be-published report on knowledge, attitudes and practices about pre-trial detention in Uganda.

Detention | Uganda

Publications

May 28, 2024

Analysing civic space in East Africa through a judicial lens

Civic Space | Freedom of expression | Human rights defenders | International justice | Burundi | East Africa | Kenya | Tanzania | Uganda

February 23, 2024

Uganda – Knowledge, attitudes and practices on pre-trial detention

Detention | Uganda | Study-Report

October 26, 2023

Access to Remedy for Human Rights Violations in East Africa: Lessons learned from the perspective of Civil Society Organizations during the East African Business & Human Rights Conference

Business & human rights | Congo (the Democratic Republic of the) | Kenya | Tanzania | Uganda