Posts Tagged ‘Uganda’

Internet shutdowns to silence opposition – what to do?

January 28, 2019

“African governments use Internet shutdowns to silence opposition more and more —what can people do?” askson EuroNews of

What would you do if your government decided to intentionally shut down your access to the Internet? Millions of people around the world have had to answer this question time and time again over the past few years, as government-mandated Internet blackouts are on the rise. Less than a month into 2019, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Zimbabwe have experienced government crackdowns on Internet connections.

From 2016 to 2018, 371 separate cases of Internet shutdowns were documented around the world. More than half of them occurred last year alone, according to international non-profit organisation Access Now.

Authorities have used a number of reasons to justify the blackouts, including public safety, national security and stopping the dissemination of rumors and illegal content. However, advocacy groups investigating governmental tendencies to exert control over the flow of information don’t buy it. They claim it has more to do with silencing opposition movements and protests and trying to limit political instability.

They harm everyone: businesses, emergency services, journalism, human rights defenders, and demonstrators. They don’t help victims or restore order,” Access Now’s website reads.

In the past few weeks, several African governments have turned to partial or complete shutdowns in attempts to control the public discussion.

Sudan doubled down on social media amid widespread anti-government protests, with Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition calling on network operators to fight back against state pressure — but it wasn’t the only African country to do so.

Zimbabwean authorities were quick to gag social media — including Facebook and Whatsapp — as soon as civil unrest over rising fuel prices spread in Harare and other major cities, and the DRC also ordered a full blackout following recent elections…..

From 2016 to 2018 alone, Africa witnessed 46 Internet shutdowns,…….Chad, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Algeria, Togo, Cameroon, Gambia, Uganda, Gabon, Algeria, Morocco, Lybia, Tunisia, and Algeria have all cracked down on their citizens’ access to the Internet in the past.

How did citizens react to Internet or social media shutdowns?

People always find a way”, Zimbabwean analyst Alexander Rusero told Euronews. “But it {VPN} doesn’t work for everyone”, Rusero pointed out. “Usually the ones in Harare, at the centre of the country, manage to”.

The analyst was quick to underline the issues behind similar crackdowns…”During the Internet blackout there were a lot of lies and rumors — they spread faster than you would believe. Media relies on social media, and so do critical opinion leaders. Outside those platforms, fake news manifest”.

Jean-Hubert Bondo, a journalist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, doesn’t believe the problems end here. “Many Congolese families live off their small cybercafés. Also, we are in a country where there are not enough physical libraries. Students and researchers use the Internet to research their work at the university. Young people animate pages on Facebook and WhatsApp”, he told Euronews. “To deprive us of the Internet is to take us back to antiquity”. As for the VPNs Rusero mentioned — the most common ways to avoid Internet censorship worldwide — Bondo said that, during the latest shutdown, they failed to work. “In response to what is being perceived as a violation of human rights, Bondo reported that several Congolese civil society organisations have now lodged a complaint against the main telecommunication companies.

In Uganda, a crackdown on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and mobile money apps in February 2016 as citizens were heading to the polls sparked a legal case that will be discussed in court in February 2019. “Shutdowns may not silence people, but they do hinder communication”, said Ugandan blogger Ruth Aine Tindyebwa….

https://www.euronews.com/2019/01/26/african-governments-use-internet-shutdowns-to-silence-opposition-more-and-more-what-can-pe

https://www.dailynews.co.zw/articles/2019/01/27/ed-justifies-internet-shutdown

Call for nominations for women human rights defenders from East Africa to learn about digital safety

January 26, 2019

The community of Safe Sisters is announcing the 3rd round of women’s digital safety fellowship program to start in March 2019. They are looking for creative, self-motivated and dependable women who want to take their digital safety skills and online activism to the next level and they invite women human rights defenders from Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda to apply. The workshop is scheduled in March 2019 in Kampala, Uganda.

Two years ago, they started the work of building a community of tech-savy East African women ready to stand up and defend digital rights and digital safety while fighting online harassment in their communities. Since then 21 amazing women from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Tanzania have been trained to play an important role in their communities as digital security mentors! [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/09/defenddefenders-launched-new-security-manual-for-human-rights-defenders-in-africa/]

Participation involves 

Minimum 4 hours per week for 3 weeks before the first workshop to complete self-study assignments and exercises. Please note these exercises are mandatory for participation in the workshop; you must be available for weekly email check-ins with mentors;

You must be able to attend a one-week workshop to be scheduled in March 2019 in Kampala, Uganda. You will get an opportunity to seek small grants to carry out community digital safety activities of your own; you will work with mentors and peers as they improve their skills and work to defend your community; and Opportunity to participate in the 2nd gathering of Safe Sisters to further grow skills and reflect on practice and experience gained during project implementation

Application requirements 

Applicants must have a demonstrated interest in digital safety and security; should have experience working in the human rights and/or media field with strong links to communities who are digitally at-risk; must hold a sufficient level of English, as English will be the working language; and must complete and submit the application form.

Selection Criteria 

Priority will be given to applicants who: demonstrate experience with strong technical competencies (though this need not be formal education); have experience with tech and human rights initiatives; demonstrate an understanding of their own and their community’s digital safety challenges and needs; Propose creative project ideas; and construct clear project objectives/goals.

Applications are now open until 15th February 2019. You can apply by filling out the online application form.

For more details, visit Defend Defenders.

Profile of William Leslie Amanzuru, Africa’s defender of the month

November 7, 2018

On 6 November 2018, the African network NGO DefendDefenders published this profile of their ‘Defender of the month’: William Leslie Amanzuru from Uganda:

Read the rest of this entry »

Profile of Human Rights Defender Margaret Arach Orech from Uganda

October 14, 2018

Human Rights Defender Margaret Arach Orech from Uganda is a victim of landmines and turned activist to help others. Another in the series recently published by European External Action Service (EEAS) in the context of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/04/chia-wei-chi-first-in-series-of-videos-by-european-external-action-service/]. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/23/two-ugandans-get-eu-human-rights-award-in-uganda/

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/51519/human-rights-defenders-margaret-arach-orech-uganda_en

Two Ugandans get EU human rights award in Uganda

May 23, 2018

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Peter Sewakiryanga (left) and Margret Arach Orech after receiving their awards at a function in Bugolobi. Photo by Ashraf Kasirye

The 2018 Human Rights Defenders Award went to Margaret Arach Orech, the founder of Uganda Landmine Survivors’ Association and Peter Sewakiryanga, the founder of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, an organisation that supports child victims of sacrifice.

Arach, who lost her leg to a landmine during an attack by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in 1998, uses her organisation to solicit for support for fellow survivors and persons with disabilities.

Sewakiryanga, a pastor now takes care of 80 child survivors of trafficking and human sacrifice has built an extensive network linking communities and security to track suspected cases. In 2017, Sewakiryanga travelled to Oman to rescue six victims of child trafficking. He is credited for championing research and spearheading an awareness campaign in communities to stop the crime.

https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1478305/ugandans-eu-human-rights-awards

Enough break-ins is enough say Ugandan human rights defenders

February 12, 2018

I wrote earlier about the suspiciously high rate of break-ins in the human rights community in Kampala [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/14/uganda-ngo-offices-regularly-ransacked-coincidence/]. The Ugandan Observer of 12 February writes: “Angry human rights workers camp at Old Kampala police

Police has called for calm and patience from furious staff of human rights awareness and promotion forum-Uganda (HRAPF), who’d staged a protest at Old Kampala police station following a second break-in into their offices last week. Nearly two years after the first break-in on May 22, 2016 – leading to the brutal murder of the security guard on duty Emmanuel Arituha; last week on February 9, HRAPF offices in Kampala were again broken into by unknown assailants.

Some of HRAPF staff and partners in a meeting with police station DPC

Armed with placards, HRAPF staff camped at Old Kampala police station to demand for the immediate conclusion of the investigations into the now rampant breaking into NGO offices. Following a meeting with senior police officials at the station, police acknowledged the need for quicker investigations and promised to provide armed guards to the NGO until the investigations are concluded. For the first break-in investigations, police officials reportedly said the file had been called to the CIID headquarters but will be recalled to the station to conclude investigations. 

A matrix organised by the by National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda (NCHRDU), shows that at least 24 premises of Non-governmental organisations and civil societies have been broken into since 2012.

…..

Organisations such as the Uganda Land Alliance, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, the Legal Aid Service Providers Network, Akina Mama Wa Afrika and the Anti-Corruption Coalition have suffered break-ins in similar fashion and, despite timely reports to the police on all occasions, investigations have been unsatisfactory and the follow up insufficient.

This is the latest in a series of attacks against civil society organisations which, regardless of the motivations of the assailants, points to the increasing lack of protection provided to human rights defenders in Uganda, said Jjuuko.

http://observer.ug/news/headlines/56884-angry-human-rights-workers-camp-at-old-kampala-police.html

https://76crimes.com/2018/02/09/unchecked-criminals-hit-ugandan-civic-groups/

9 December, Human Rights Defenders Day, ‘celebrated’ in Uganda

December 13, 2017

In an article in the Ugandan paper The Independent entitled “Activists mark Human Rights Defenders day” (13 December 2017), Robert Kirenga, the Executive Director of the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in Uganda spoke to Flavia Nassaka about his perspective on international human rights defenders day and the general human rights situation in the country. He made some interesting points such as (excerpts):  Read the rest of this entry »

In memoriam: Corinne Dufka remembers Peter Takirambudde

December 1, 2017

On 1 December 2017 Corinne Dufka of Human Rights Watch wrote a column aboutPeter Takirambudde who passed away on 16 November in his native Uganda. He was head of HRW’s Africa division from 1996 to 2008 during multiple crises, including in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. After leaving Human Rights Watch, Peter founded and directed the Botswana-based African Human Rights Consortium, which helped train members of civil society from across the continent in human rights investigation and advocacy. Peter was also a lawyer and a well-respected law professor, including at the University of Botswana-Gaborone, where he served as head of social sciences, and at the University of Lund in Sweden. He received a bachelor’s degree from Makerere University in Uganda and a doctoral degree from Yale University.

As noted by Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director, “We remember him fondly for his deep intellectual engagement with African human rights issues, his always-incisive analysis, and his principled and passionate defense of the rights of people throughout the continent. He made a very important mark establishing Human Rights Watch in Africa, and we remain deeply indebted to him.

The full text below:

Read the rest of this entry »

Advice from one defender to another: what to do when your office is raided

October 25, 2017

 The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) in Uganda has written to the Non-Government Organisation Bureau (established under the NGO Act of 2016 to register, regulate, and oversee all NGO operations in the country) about the three civil society organisations it is investigating. The CID is investigating ActionAid Uganda, the Uhuru Institute for Social Development and Great Lakes Institute of Strategic Studies (GLISS) for allegedly funding opposition projects that the government believe are intended to cause unrest in the country. Investigators have demanded from Non-Government Organisation Bureau work plans and budgets of the three organisations. The spokesman of CID, Mr Vicent Ssekate, said the detectives want to understand whether the three organisations are following the law. “After the search of the offices of these organisations, our investigators found evidence that we suspect doesn’t tally with their mandate they stipulated while registering with the NGO Bureau. The purpose of our letter to the bureau is to obtain officially what they committed themselves to do in Uganda,” Mr Ssekate said yesterday.

Two weeks ago, detectives raided ActionAid Uganda and GLISS on the same allegations. The offices of the two CSOs were searched and financial documents and mobile phones of the workers seized by detectives. Another CSO, Solidarity Uganda in Lira District, was raided and its workers arrested on September 21. All affected organisations deny allegations that they are funding projects to destabilise the country. Since the raids, police have not got back to the NGO managers on the offences they committed. The affected NGOs are still open, but their operations have been constrained since their financial departments were disrupted by the detectives.

Since then Arthur Larok, the country director of ActionAid Uganda, shared his view: Our offices were raided in Uganda. Here’s what to do if yours are, too. This may be useful advice for other NGOs in other countries:

ActionAid Uganda leads a scenario building exercise. Photo by: ActionAid Uganda

The office raid appears to be part of a wider crackdown on legitimate protests against the plan to remove the presidential age limit from the Ugandan Constitution, thus allowing the current president to remain in power indefinitely.

We think these attacks have ulterior motives.

1. To delegitimize civil society. Police raids on our offices immediately present us as subversive elements. This could affect our public image, and that of civil society in general. It could also scare away our funding partners and threaten the stability of our work.

2. To compromise our systems and information. These attacks disrupt our work, and potentially sow seeds for future surveillance by targeting our communications systems and infrastructure.

3. To disrupt and derail us from our mission. Part of our mission as civil society is to help articulate public positions. We are opposed to regressive constitutional amendments. We will invest in organizing citizens to resist attempts to remove the age-limit, even though we know this puts us in direct conflict with the ruling party.

4. To threaten and demoralize civil society. In the hopes of driving us into self-censorship, weakening our resolve, and preventing us from tackling injustice.

5. To provide a justification for further action. Such as halting activities of civil society under the pretext that investigations are still ongoing. We have already seen this happening in the case of ActionAid, where two field activities have been halted by the police.

What can we learn from these attacks and what should civil society do to defend ourselves in ongoing efforts to protect civic space? How can we ensure that we are not derailed in our mission to tackle injustice and poverty?

Here are some tips if your office is at risk of being raided.

1. Always keep your house in order. You must update and back up all institutional information and documentation. During the impromptu siege, the police demanded documents without delay. If we had failed to do so, it may have caused unnecessary suspicion.

2. Staff and board members must understand all processes in the organization. If interrogated, we do not want colleagues to inadvertently arouse suspicion by saying inconsistent things about how we organize ourselves and what our business processes are.

3. Rapid legal response is necessary. As civic and political space continues to shrink in Uganda and globally, we must strengthen our legal response capabilities. The presence of competent lawyers is extremely important.

4. A positive relationship with the media is essential. The media were very helpful in reporting the siege — and established relations meant they did so in a manner that was both supportive and objective. Social media platforms were of increased importance during this crisis, and future investment here is key.

5. Being relevant to civil society and wider citizens’ struggles. The immense show of solidarity from other civil society organizations, politicians, and the public at our time of need demonstrated our value and relevance to civil society. The more outward looking an NGO, the more likely it is to receive much-needed solidarity from others. We were able to call upon our supporters both in Uganda and across the world to amplify our voice and provide solidarity.

6. Beware of potential informers. Finally, we have learned that the forces that seek to undermine our work are in our midst. It is therefore important to better understand our internal environment and partners with whom we work. We must remain vigilant and transparent and have the confidence to defend what we stand for.

The threat to civil society is far-reaching. We must learn from these attacks and work together to protect and defend the legitimacy and effectiveness of the work that we do.

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Arthur Larok is the current country director of ActionAid Uganda. He has previously worked with the Uganda National NGO Forum, the Forum for Education NGOs in Uganda and World Learning for International Development. He is the current chairperson of the Uganda National NGO Forum, the largest NGO platform in Uganda.

Sources:

Opinion: Our offices were raided in Uganda. Here’s what to do if yours are, too. | Devex

http://allafrica.com/stories/201710090056.html

Fascinating insight: local community can be the leading violators of rights of HRDs

July 6, 2017

Local community leading violators of rights of HRDs

We all assume that the biggest threat to human rights defenders comes from the State or similarly powerful actors. Now a report by the Human Rights Centre Uganda (led by former UN Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya, pictured above) shows that it can be the local community that is the leading violator of the rights of HRDs. Juliet Kigongo of KFM, reports on 16 June 2017 that – at least in Uganda – 28% of complaints recorded were about members of the community, against 17% about government officials and 16% about politicians. The study was carried out in nine districts of Kasese, Mbarara, Lira, Soroti, Gulu, Mbale, Hoima and Kampala with Arua being the most affected.

[The report compiled by the Human Rights Centre Uganda also raises the red flag over the slow investigations of cases of violations against rights defenders, warning that the “slow pace of investigation could be seen as condoning attacks on Human Rights Defenders. While launching the report Margaret Sekaggya, the center’s Executive Director appealed to parliament to review existing laws that impede the work of human rights defenders and ensure that the legislative framework reflects provisions of the constitution and Uganda’s international commitments to ensure a safe and conducive environment.]
That the danger comes from all sides is clear, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/30/uganda-killing-of-human-rights-defender-erasmus-irumba-by-security-forces/, but I really wonder what the situation is in other countries and whether other such studies have been carried out.

Source: Local community leading violators of rights of HRDs | KFM