Posted by Taylor
The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative is an independent human rights advocacy organization in Uganda. Their support for each person’s right to life is completely not-for-profit and separate from the government. Their vision is “A strong and democratic human rights culture as a foundation for peace, stability, democracy, social justice, and sustainable development in Uganda.” Sheila Muwanga spoke to our group about the major services offered and issues faced by the organization. She focused a lot of her discussion on the overcrowding that is currently happening in Ugandan prisons. 53% of these prisoners are waiting to be tried. Holding these prisoners in remand is considered unlawful, but the lack of affordable and available representation makes it difficult for them to defend their rights. FHRI offers free legal services that allow inmates and other citizens to seek justice. FHRI was also involved in a fight against the growing number of inmates being placed on death row. The constitutional court ruled that inmates on death row for longer than three years will receive life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. More emphasis on mitigated factors for each case and each person’s right to life was defended by FHRI’s Right to Life Project.
Some recent changes in Uganda’s recognition of Human Rights have led to more fair treatment of the general population. The revised constitution recognizes a need for rights and equality. The addition of a Bill of Rights now backs up the entitled rights that were often overlooked in the past. Another recent change is the addition of separate political parties in Uganda which allow for different views to be considered. The government still struggles to give equal rights of expression and assembly to all. The media is still censored to an extent, rallies are dispersed quickly, and many feel as if the right to life is still not being respected by government officials.
I was very impressed with Sheila’s talk and her openness about the issues that FHRI faces. I respect the fact that they strive to give a voice to those who often go unheard. It was very interesting to hear about the overcrowding within the jails because that is something I never would have thought about as a Human Rights issue. I went into this experience thinking that we would hear a lot about the rights of women, children, and gays, but these topics were only addressed minimally. I think that improvement in human rights efforts is a huge step in the right direction for sustainable development in Uganda. Now that the improved Constitution includes a Bill of Rights, enforcement needs to become the focus of their efforts. We have seen a lot of evidence that this country is very corrupt. I think that this corruption is affecting people’s openness and willingness to get involved with these issues. Many important advances have been made in recent years, but there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the rights of all citizens in Uganda.
What did you think of Sheila’s talk? Is there anything that surprised you? What would you have liked to hear more about?
Do you think that recent advances in Human Rights are affecting Uganda’s sustainable development? How so?
What do you think the next step in Human Rights in Uganda is?