UHRC Boss Med Kaggwa calls for respect of Human Rights
UHRC Boss Med Kaggwa calls for respect of Human Rights. File Photo

Human Rights must be observed to avoid gross violation in 2021 general elections, says UHRC Boss Med Kaggwa

As 2021 general elections draw closer, authorities led by UHRC together with citizens have been advised to promote and observe Human Rights if Uganda is to have a free and fair election.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) chairperson, Med Kaggwa in his view says this will pave way for a favourable voting environment for Ugandans, free from violence and discrimination of voters, political parties and candidates.

“For an election to be free and fair, they need to be held in an environment free of intimidation, coercion or discrimination of voters, candidates and political parties. That is what all Ugandans should be aiming at,” Kaggwa noted.

Kaggwa made the remarks at Lake Heights Hotel Entebbe during a three-day refresher training for focal persons, with trainees from different organisations that are basically implementing the Memorandum of Understanding on Human Rights-Based Approach to Data.

Kaggwa further said that for democracy to be realised during the election period, human rights must be observed, because any mess during elections can lead to gross violation of Human Rights.

“Elections have the potential to the realisation of Human Rights and mismanaged elections can lead to gross violation of human rights. So, these are important for democracy.”

More to that, Kaggwa said that civilians must be allowed to exercise their rights during election times, and these include; freedoms of Speech, Association and Assembly.

According to Kaggwa, no one deserves suffering because of elections.

“This is not about the Police or army, but, everybody. We need to approach this together because human rights touch everyone. No one should be intimidated, harassed, threatened or physically attacked by anyone because of elections,” Kaggwa stated.

African Freedom of Exchange (AFEX), ahead of 2016 elections filed a report indication deteriorating human rights in Uganda.

So this time around, Kaggwa says as human rights activists, they are more vigilant to ensure that no human rights abuses and complaints feature again in 2021 ballot.

“We are alert during this period of elections because during our annual reports we get a lot of human rights abuses and complaints, so we are more concerned as we head to this period,” Kaggwa asserted.

Among the complaints and issues they receive during election time include; violations on freedom of association, freedom of Assembly and Movement.

He, however, called upon Police and other security agencies to ensure that public gatherings are restricted and protected strictly, to guard people’s rights against being infringed.

Nevertheless, Emmanuel Bryma Momoh, an International Human Rights expert from Sierra Leone on behalf of the country representative for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that human rights approach should be mandatory to development and implementation of national policies and programmes in the country.

“We need to always keep in mind that what we are talking about here are not mere statistics and numbers, but people with live aspirations and hopes for them and their families,” Momoh stated.

He adds that UN OHCHR exists to help countries in integrating human rights in sustainable development because human rights are key in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if their needs and rights are well accounted for.

“We must utilize a human rights-based approach to our development planning and programming to ensure that everyone is counted and their rights and needs accounted for,” Momoh observed.

In the vision 2030, of “Leaving No One Behind”, Momoh says policymakers, data specialists, statisticians both in government, civil society organisations and Human Rights advocates should ensure that Human Rights are observed at all levels.

“It should be of interest to all policymakers, statisticians and data specialist, be it in government or civil organisation and human rights advocates to ensure respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights in measurement and implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

Human Rights Watch says three aspects that include; rules that are neither discriminatory nor arbitrary in excluding potential voter or candidates, rule of law accompanied by the judiciary that can handle election disputes fairly and promptly, and protection of freedom of speech and assembly should be observed.

The meeting was attended by focal persons from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), National Planning Authority (NPA), Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the UHRC.