Freedom of expression under siege in Uganda

September 22, 2017

Hivos East Africa condemns the recent police raids on Action Aid Uganda, Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS) and Solidarity Uganda. Ahead of the age limit debate in parliament, a series of raids, arrests, threats and intimidation of citizens and civil society organisations have continued to escalate the shrinking civic space in Uganda.  The police raids not only stifle freedom of expression and association, but represent a clear threat to people’s fundamental rights. This form of oppression impedes the necessary rights and freedoms thus bolstering an insecure society.

Article 19 of Uganda’s 1995 Constitution promotes the Protection of Freedom of Conscience, Expression and Movement, which guarantees its citizens freedom of speech and expression. This is a right that does not only exist on paper, but should be respected and adhered to.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Uganda is party to, states that the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. It is paramount that civil society organisations enjoy such rights in order to protect the rights of others. Furthermore, protecting the human rights of the Ugandan people is critical in creating a space where civil society can operate freely and citizens can safely work towards sustainable and inclusive development.

We join the international community’s solidarity with the organisations attacked and demand that the work of civil society organisations be protected and respected in Uganda and everywhere.

We urge the Ugandan government to respect the rights of its citizens as espoused in its constitution and uphold the rule of law (if these organisations are deemed to have broken any law at all).

Hivos further notes that shrinking civic space is a global problem. Civic space is being seriously curtailed in 106 countries, over half of which are United Nations (UN) members. We add our voice to global campaigns calling for an end to the impunity we see across the world of those who threaten, attack, and even murder members of civil society, activists, media outlets and citizens who stand up for their rights and are critical of oppressive regimes.