Annual Report: Uganda 2008

May 28, 2008

Annual Report: Uganda 2008

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Head of state and government Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Death penalty retentionist
Population 30.9 million
Life expectancy 49.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 135/121 per 1,000
Adult literacy 66.8 per cent

Peace talks continued between the government and the armed group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), aimed at ending the 20-year conflict in northern Uganda. The talks reportedly focused on withdrawal of the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants for four senior LRA leaders. A ceasefire agreed in 2006 was extended. The independence of the judiciary was threatened and attacks on freedom of expression and press freedom continued. Violence against women and girls remained widespread. Reports of torture by state security agents persisted.

Trial of Kizza Besigye

The trial of opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye and six others accused of treason remained pending in the High Court in Kampala. On 1 March, the six co-accused still detained were released on bail by order of a court, but government security personnel invaded the court premises and rearrested them. The defendants, one defence lawyer and a journalist were reported to have been ill-treated by the security personnel. The defence lawyer subsequently required medical treatment. The armed raid on the court provoked national and international outcry. Following the raid, the judiciary suspended its work and lawyers went on strike. The President issued a public apology to the judiciary and promised an investigation into the incident. By the end of the year, the process and results of this investigation had not been made public.

After their re-arrest the six defendants were charged in two upcountry courts with new charges of murder. All six were later granted bail on the murder charges. By the end of 2007, three of the defendants remained in detention after failing to meet the bail conditions and three others had been released.

Armed conflict

Peace talks between the government and the LRA continued in southern Sudan. Both parties agreed to extend the cessation of hostilities in April, and in May both signed a document entitled Comprehensive Solutions to the Northern Uganda Conflict. On 29 June, the parties signed an agreement on “reconciliation and accountability”, an agreement purportedly establishing a framework to address crimes committed during the conflict in northern Uganda. Negotiations reportedly focused on bringing about the withdrawal of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) arrest warrants for four senior LRA leaders – Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen – by setting up alternative national processes. In 2005, the ICC charged the men with crimes against humanity and war crimes. Rumours persisted that Vincent Otti, one of the LRA leaders charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, had been killed by the LRA in October following an alleged disagreement with Joseph Kony.

By the end of 2007, both parties had reportedly engaged in consultations with victims of the conflict, as stipulated in the agreement. The outcome of this consultation exercise had not yet been made public. Speculation over the future of the peace process continued but the government stated that the peace process was still on course.

Freedom of expression

Attacks on freedom of expression and press freedom continued. Some journalists faced criminal charges because of their work.