Uganda Human Rights Commission
Statement on the recent clashes in Rwenzori region in Kasese District on Sunday 27th November 2016
Issued on Friday 2nd December 2016
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) is deeply concerned about the recent clashes reported in the Rwenzori region and particularly in Kasese district. UHRC has been closely monitoring the human rights situation in this region for the last two years following earlier clashes in 2014 and issued a statement on 24th July 2014 providing guidance on how to resolve the conflict in this region.
The Commission has been carrying out regular monitoring of the region as part of its constitutional mandate; asa result of the sporadic clashes reported in the region; during the just concluded electoral period and by carrying out special investigations into the conflict in the Rwenzori region early this year. The recent investigation set up by the Commission was carried out by a high level investigation team which spent almost a month in the region interviewing various categories of the community including cultural leaders; religious leaders; civic leaders; youth; victims of previous clashes and interacted with local and national leaders as well as security agencies operating in the region. The Commission compiled a report which we are yet to discuss with the concerned stakeholders for final input before it can be released to the public.
The Commission is further concerned by the most recent nasty clashes in Kaseselast weekend which led to widespread loss of lives and property; injury to persons and disruption to normal life as well as the arrest of several suspects. The Commission therefore dispatched a team headed by its Head of the Fort portal Regional Office on Tuesday 29th November 2016 to investigate the recent horrific incidents. The UHRC team again interacted with a number of stakeholders including members of the civil society organisations; security agencies; members of the media; local leaders and some cultural leaders.The UHRC deployed itsstaff from the UHRC Jinja regional office to visit the Nalufenya detention facility where some of the suspects are being held. The Speaker of Parliament was also yesterday reported by the media that Parliament is directing the UHRC as an independent Constitutional body to investigate alleged human rights violations in Kasese. Therefore, investigations by UHRC are still on going and a comprehensive report on Kasese will soon be issued. However, the UHRC has so far registered about 30 complaints of alleged human rights violations at its Fort portal office since this year began.
Arising from its several investigations into the clashes in Rwenzori region over the last two years, the Commission noted the following preliminary issues as the key triggers of these clashes:
- rivalries related to ethnicity
The Commission observed that there was a tendency for some groups to make attempts to be the dominant ones which makes the other groups resent such moves;
- inequitable sharing of resources
There are concerns about fairness in the distribution of resources among the various ethnic groups especially the question of land allocation in the region and feelings of marginalization by some groups;
- non-adherence to legal provisions
There are instances of non-adherence to established legal provisions especially with regard to the functions of cultural institutions in the region. Related to this challenge is the establishment and operation of structures outside the established requirements of the law;
- hostility towards security institutions
There are widespread incidents of attacks on security institutions which are put in place to provide law and order, leading to un necessary clashes;
- separatist and secession tendencies
Such tendencies were noted among some groups in the region who are reported to have been indoctrinated and incited some members of the communities in the Rwenzori region and widespread militarization of the youth;
- political intolerance and negative influence
alleged negative campaigns were reported to have been carried out by some politicians among some of the communities and that this had contributed to fomenting violent tendencies that led to violent clashes;
- high levels of ignorance
We noted that there were high levels of ignorance among communities in the region as exhibited in the widespread and strong belief in witchcraft
- lack of implementation or follow up on recommendations by previous inquiries carried out by various commissions of inquiries into issues in the region and;
- lack of timely response to situations by those in positions of responsibility whenever they arise.
The Commission therefore being the body charged with protection and promotion of human rights in thecountry would like to add its voice to the others by making the following recommendations:
- Appeal to the various categories of people in the Rwenzori region including leaders of different categories; security agencies; ethnic groups; the media and individual community members to do everything they can to remain calm and therefore promote peace and stability in the area in order to allow the issue in their area to be resolved. We further appeal to all parties in the region to desist from activities of lawlessness; violence and destruction of life and property.
- We call on all members of the communities in Rwenzoriregion who have concerns to present them to appropriate authorities both at the local and national levels and for those who feel aggrieved to seek redress through the available legal mechanisms. We strongly urge the people in the Rwenzori to avoid revenge, retribution and extra judicial actions.
- The Commission appeals to the legal institutions and security agencies handling matters arising out of conflicts in the Rwenzori region to expedite the processes and ensure that it’s done effectively and in a non-discriminatory manner.
- The Commission also urges the authorities to observe and respect the rights of those in detention by allowing them access to their relatives and personal doctors among other rights.
- We call upon the security agencies on the ground in Kasese to do their work in a professional manner while being mindful of Article 221 of the Constitution which requires all security agencies to observe and respect human rights and freedoms in performance of their functions.
- We also appeal to the political leadership, both local and national to work towards achieving stability, unity and peace for the entire country.We call upon the leaders in the region to join hands with other stakeholders to sensitise the communities on the need to transcend sectarian and parochial tribalism
- We are making a special appeal to authorities and security agencies at national level and in the Rwenzori region to uphold media freedoms and also appeal to the media to report responsibly by desisting from biased and sensational reports in order to avoid inciting feelings of hatred and violence among the communities in the region. The Commission particularly calls upon users of the social media platforms to also use them responsibly and refrain from circulating reports and images that may instead inflame the already delicate situation.
- Noting that the problems of the Rwenzori region have got historical connotations, we strongly urge all parties to use dialogue to find a lasting solution to the problems
- The Commission would like to see all perpetrators of criminal activities in Kasese region brought to book.
- The Commission also appeals to foreign interests and other foreign groups not to make statements or interventions that exacerbate the situation in the Rwenzori region but instead provide support where necessary to bring about the much needed calm; establishment of security; resolution of conflicts and contentious issues and contribute to the overall establishment of permanent peace and stability in the region
In conclusion therefore, the Commission notes that the Rwenzori region has experienced ethnic divisions for the biggest part of post-independence period and is at the moment a fractured community torn apart along ethnic lines. The Commission therefore pledges to continue with sensitization programmes aimed at creating awareness on people’s rights, duties and responsibilities and the need for the different communities in the Rwenzori region to co-exist. Accordingly, the Commission would like to advise the people in the Rwenzori region who may need information; advice; assistance and redress to contact the Uganda Human Rights Commission Fort portal regional office on plot 3/5 Mugurusi Road or toll free number 0800 144 200 or our Head office on Twed Plaza, Lumumba Avenue, Kampala.
The Commission further calls on the communities in Rwenzori regionto fulfill their civic obligations and responsibilities by respecting the rule of law;learn to co-exist with other tribes; andendeavor to address their grievances through the legally established procedures and dialogue instead of resorting to and destructive, violent and unlawful actions.
We assure all stakeholders in the Rwenzori conflict and the general public that the Commission will shortly publish its most recent detailed investigative report on the region and lobby for the implementation of these and previous recommendations, as a way of contributing to the search for a lasting solution to the conflict there.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY
Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti Wa Irumba
For: Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission