Amnesty International Report 2020

UGANDA, Republic of

Head of state and government: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

The authorities continued to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Security forces used excessive and unnecessary lethal force and killed at least 66 people. Courts made several rulings which promised to protect human rights. The authorities continued to carry out forced evictions, including against Indigenous Peoples. Refugees and asylum- seekers were left stranded and in need of humanitarian aid when borders were closed
in March to contain the spread of COVID-19.


On 22 March, President Yoweri Museveni issued directives which included lockdown measures to halt the spread of COVID-19. In July, after 34 years as President, he confirmed he would stand for re-election in the January 2021 general elections.


Security forces, including police, military and members of the armed civilian defence force
– the Local Defence Unit (LDU) – used excessive, unnecessary, and in some cases lethal force while enforcing physical distancing and other measures introduced to contain the spread of COVID-19 On 30 March, the Chief of Defence Forces publicly apologized to a group of women who were subjected to excessive force by security agents – mostly LDU members – and said the military would hold those responsible to account but did not specify how. Several videos had emerged showing security agents beating the women who were selling fruit in Kampala, for allegedly violating the COVID-19 measures.


Security forces unlawfully killed at least 66 people in the period from March onwards, at least 12 of whom were killed for violating lockdown measures.Since electoral campaigns began on 9
November, dozens of people were killed in the context of riots or protests, most of them shot dead by police and other security forces, including armed individuals in plain clothes. On 18 and 19 November, 54 people were killed in protests that followed the arrest of opposition presidential candidate and popular musician, Robert Kyagulanyi (also known as Bobi Wine) while campaigning in eastern Uganda.


Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, an activist from the eastern town of Iganga, said he had been tortured in Mbuya Military Barracks, Kampala, in April. He was arrested in April and again in September by military police. On the first occasion, he was held for 23 days on trumped up charges of defamation and cyber-related crimes before being charged with “committing negligent acts likely to spread infectious diseases” and released on police bond. In September, he was released on bond after three days, after being charged with inciting violence and promoting
sectarianism. Both arrests were connected to books he had written which criticized the
President and his family and the authorities.On 19 April, the authorities arrested Francis Zaake, an opposition MP. On 29 April, he was released on police bond after being charged with disobeying the COVID-19 presidential directives, when he distributed food to needy families during lockdown. On 4 May, he appeared with his face swollen in a video from Lubaga Hospital in Kampala. He said he had been tortured over several days in various detention facilities.


Political opposition members and activists, journalists and others were arrested, detained and faced prosecution for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and association.In January, police arrested and charged five protesters, including Robert Kyagulanyi
for violating the Public Order Management Act (POMA) during a political rally to protest the introduction, in 2018, of a social media tax. They were all released on police bond the same day. During the arrests, police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. On 10 September, the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Court in Kampala suspended proceedings against the five protesters, stating that the Court lacked powers to interpret such a case and deferred it to the Constitutional Court. In March, the Constitutional Court cancelled the provisions under the POMA which gave police excessive powers to prohibit public gatherings and protests.In February, the Kampala High Court ordered the release of Stella Nyanzi, an activist and academic, on the basis that she had been wrongfully convicted of harassing the President online, and that her human rights had been violated. She was released on 20 February, just days before she was due to complete the 18-month prison sentence she had been handed following her conviction. By the end of the year, she had been arrested and released at least three more times for organizing peaceful assemblies in protest at the government’s COVID-19 restrictions. In June, the Electoral Commission of Uganda launched a revised COVID-19 election road map for the 2021 general elections, requiring that all political campaigning be conducted exclusively online, thereby banning public political gatherings. These regulations were applied
more stringently against opposition candidates. In September, the Uganda Communications Commission ordered all online data communication and broadcast service providers to obtain licences before posting information on the internet.On 27 July, police arrested Bwaddene
Basajjamivule, a broadcast journalist and charged him with promoting violence and sectarianism. The charges were connected to comments he made in a video posted on Facebook in which he alleged that people from ethnic groups in western Uganda were favoured in appointments to the military and the government. He was released on police bond on 29 July.On 10 December, the Media Council of Uganda cancelled the accreditation of all foreign journalists. All media outlets and media workers in Uganda were forced to apply afresh for accreditation before 31 December.On 26 December, the Electoral Commission of Uganda suspended political gatherings in more than 10 districts citing COVID–19 prevention but without providing sufficient details to justify why these localities should be subject to restrictions.


Between February and August, the authorities forcibly evicted over 35,000 Maragoli Indigenous people from their homes in Kiryandongo district in the west to pave way for industrial farming.The authorities failed to establish adequate procedures to protect the rights of those being evicted, despite a High Court order in 2019 which ruled that the state should
urgently develop and implement protection guidelines. The Court noted that even when
evictions are inevitable, they must comply with human rights standards. In at least two
cases, the authorities failed to comply with the requirements to seek the free, prior and
informed consent of Indigenous Peoples regarding projects that led to their evictions
from their ancestral lands. In August, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development announced that the cabinet had directed the Ministry to allocate 82.5km2 of land in the Mount Elgon National Park in the east of the country to the Indigenous Benet people. Since 1983, the Benet have suffered multiple forced evictions by various authorities, including the National Forestry Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
These evictions, along with other housing rights violations over a 12-year period, have
left at least 178 families living in internally displaced people’s camps.


On 11 June, the High Court in Kampala ordered Makerere University to pay damages of UGX120 million (US$32,600) to Stella Nyanzi for her wrongful dismissal from her
research post in 2018 and ordered that she be reinstated.On 30 June, anti-riot police arrested
lawyers Kaijuka Aaron, Marunga Christine, Balyerali Joan, Tuwayenga Brian, Bajole Eric,
Muhindo Morgan and Nafula Elizabeth in Kiryandongo district as they were preparing
submissions for a hearing on the forced eviction of the Maragoli Indigenous people
(see above, Forced evictions). They were charged with “negligent acts likely to spread
infectious diseases” and released on police bond on 1 July.On 4 September, police arrested eight human rights defenders in Kiryandongo district, held them for three days and charged them with threatening violence and malicious damage to property before releasing them on police bond on 8 September. One of them, Pamela Mulongo, was brutally beaten during her arrest and detention. The eight were arrested after they had asked a company – accused of seizing community land in the area – to return livestock confiscated for allegedly trespassing on company property.On 22 December, the authorities arrested Nicholas Opiyo, the Executive Director of Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights organization, along with four others he was meeting and placed them in incommunicado detention overnight at the Special Investigations Unit of the police in Kireka, Kampala. On 23 December, the authorities released all the men except Nicholas Opiyo on police bond. Nicholas Opiyo was held on fabricated charges of money laundering until the High Court released him on bail of UGX15 million (around US$4,050) on 30 December.


Security forces used directives for the control of COVID-19 infection as a pretext to arbitrarily arrest and detain dozens of LGBTI people. On 23 March, 23 young LGBTI people living in a shelter were arrested. Four were released on medical grounds during the first three days after their arrest; the remaining 19 were charged with “negligent acts likely to spread infectious diseases” and “disobeying legal orders” and were detained without access to their lawyers or to medical treatment. Some were denied access to anti- retroviral medications. They were released on 18 May, and in June the High Court awarded each of them compensation of UGX5 million
(US$1,360) for being arbitrarily detained by the police for 50 days.


Uganda was host to around 1,430,000 refugees and asylum-seekers at the end of the year.On 20 March, the government closed country borders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) drove over 10,000 refugees seeking entry to Uganda to camp near the border. On 1 July, Uganda temporarily opened the border in Zombo district in the north, to allow refugees from the DRC to enter. The border with South Sudan remained closed, leaving hundreds of people displaced by conflict between government forces and armed groups in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state without access to humanitarian aid or protection. They lived in makeshift camps and were in urgent need of adequate shelter, food, medical care and clean water.

Uganda Newsroom

June 17, 2018 • Report

Israel: African asylum-seeker deportations and “voluntary” transfers are forced and illegal

The Israeli government’s transfers of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers is cruel and illegal, Amnesty International said today, as it released a new report titled Forced and Unlawful: Israel’s Deportations of Eritrean and …

September 28, 2017 • Report

Conform or flee: Repression and insecurity pushing Burundians into exile

Thousands of Burundian refugees are under mounting pressure to return to their country where they would be at risk of death, rape and torture, said Amnesty International in a report out today.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

October 15, 2014 • Report

Rule By Law: Discriminatory Legislation and Legitimized Abuses in Uganda

Repressive and discriminatory legislation enacted over the last 18 months in Uganda has led to increasing state repression, violence and homophobic and gender-based discrimination. This report details how three pieces of legislation have violated fundamental human rights, fuelled discriminatory abuses and left individuals unable to seek justice.

June 24, 2013 • Report

Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa

This report provides an analysis of the legal environment and wider context of human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent years have seen increasing reports of people being harassed, marginalized, discriminated against and attacked because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

May 29, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Uganda 2013

REPUBLIC OF UGANDA Head of state and government Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Restrictions on freedoms of expression and association continued. LGBTI people continued to face harassment. Police and other law enforcement …

June 16, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Uganda 2011

Head of state and government: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Death penalty: retentionist Population: 33.8 million Life expectancy: 54.1 years Under-5 mortality (m/f): 129/116 per 1,000 Adult literacy: 74.6 per cent Law …

March 26, 2011 • Report

Uganda: Arrest Now! Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen


March 26, 2011 • Report

Uganda: Child “Night Commuters”

Girl aged 14, walks a kilometre, along with her four siblings, to the safety of a shelter in Lacor, five kilometres out of...