Annual Report: Uganda 2008

Report
May 28, 2008

Annual Report: Uganda 2008

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  • In October, a private radio station, Life FM, in south-west Uganda went off air for several days following an attack by unknown armed assailants who poured acid on the station’s transmitters. The attack was thought to be linked to the airing of a radio programme critical of the delivery of public services by the local government. No one was apparently prosecuted for this crime.
  • In October, three journalists working for The Monitor newspaper were charged with sedition in relation to a story alleging that soldiers were secretly trained as policemen in order to try and bring the police force under military control.
  • In November, two journalists from The Monitor newspaper were charged with criminal libel over a story alleging that the Inspector General of Government had been taken back onto the government payroll after retirement, in breach of the public service regulations.

Accountability

The government started investigations into corruption allegations regarding the mismanagement of the Global Fund against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Uganda. Following these investigations, a former Health Minister and his two former deputies were referred to the police for further investigations. In May, the former minister, his two former deputies and one government official were charged with embezzlement and abuse of office.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In July, the government of Uganda signed a Tripartite Agreement with the government of Rwanda and UNHCR, in preparation for the repatriation of Rwandese asylum-seekers and refugees living in Uganda. On 3 October, about 3,000 refugees and asylum-seekers were returned to Rwanda from Uganda. Ugandan government officials stated that this process was voluntary and that UNHCR was informed of the process. The Rwandan Minister for Local Government reportedly stated that the 3,000 people did not have refugee status and were not seeking asylum in Uganda. However, many individuals complained that they were forcibly returned and were not given the opportunity to seek asylum in a fair and effective process. They claimed that they feared for their lives and security in their country of origin. At the end of the year there were also fears that Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers would be forcibly returned.

Internally displaced people

As of May 2007, an estimated 1.6 million people remained displaced in camps throughout northern Uganda. In the Acholi sub-region, the area most affected by the conflict in northern Uganda, UNHCR estimated in September that nearly 63 per cent of the 1.1 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in 2005 were still living in their original IDP camps. As of May, the UNHCR estimated that just over 7,000 people had returned permanently to their places of origin in the Acholi sub-region.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Reports of torture and other ill-treatment committed by the police force and state security services persisted. In particular, the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), formerly the Violent Crimes Crack Unit (VCCU), was criticized by organizations including the Uganda Human Rights Commission for numerous incidents of torture and other ill-treatment, and for prolonged and arbitrary detention of suspects. By the end of the year, there was no government response to calls for investigations into these allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.