Sorry its late (Power blackouts in Accra last Friday). It seems like our weekly update on the Human Rights situation in the Commonwealth is a weekly update on the situation in Uganda. For an official CHRI statement on the recent troubles in Uganda click here. Once again Uganda was in the news this week for all the wrong reasons...
Tuesday 10/05: Protesters sprayed pink: Protesters attempting to hold a rally in Kampala were broken up by police using dogs and pink paint fired from water cannons.
Spraying distinctive colours on protesters was a tactic employed by security forces in apartheid era South Africa. It is used to brand protesters so they are unable to evade the police when out of the demonstration zone. This tactic was most famously used in the 1989 Purple Rain Protest in Cape Town.
Opposition parties were hoping to hold protest is the Constitutional Square, a place where political demonstrations have been banned since 2007. After the protest Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao was arrested. This follows the three arrests of Kizza Besigye, the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change. For footage of Tuesdays protests and subsequent clampdown click here.
Thursday 12/05: Besigye returns to Uganda as Museveni is sworn in: Besigye timed his return from Kenya (where he was receiving medical treatment on injuries sustained whilst being arrested last month) to coincide with the official swearing in of Museveni for his new term in office. Besigye’s supporters made efforts to embarrass the government and pelted the motorcade of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathon with stones. In the disturbances at least one of Besigye’s supporters was shot dead by security officials after coming too close to the presidential convoy.
Friday 13/05: Ugandan Parliament to debate homosexual legislation: The Ugandan parliament is to hold a special session on Friday to discuss legislation which proposes increasing the penalties for homosexual acts from 14 years in prison to life.
Ugandan parliament's Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has recommended passage of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bil. The anti-homosexuality bill, first drafted in October 2009, had thought to have been shelved in light of international pressure but reappeared in parliament last week. The original bill proposed the death penalty for a new offence of "aggravated homosexuality" (when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a "serial offender"). However MP David Bahati, who proposed the legislation, was quoted as saying that the death penalty "was something we have moved away from". Nonetheless Human Rights Watch report that the committee recommends retaining it.
On a slightly more positive note, the committee has also recommended that provisions criminalizing "attempted" homosexuality should be removed because such allegations would be very difficult to prove. The committee also recommends scrapping the law that would require anyone knowing of homosexual conduct to report to police within 24 hours as it would create "problems especially to professionals whose ethics include confidentiality in order to be able to carry out their functions like Doctors, Lawyers and Counselors." (Human Rights Watch)
LGBT groups argue that the bill is being proposed now as it allows president Museveni to divert attention of Ugandans away from the growing strength of the protests under Kizza Besigye and tap into widespread anti-homosexual sentiment in the country to boost his own position. For in interesting insight into the bill see the Daily Maverick.
Monday 09/05: Allegations of Electoral Fraud: Tony Momoh the chairman of Nigeria’s main opposition party The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), filed a law suit in Abuja after he alleged widescale fraud in the country’s presidential elections in April
He said, "We have detailed election malpractices in the south-south, south-east, some states in the south-west geopolitical zones and even some states in the north"
The CPC wants elections to be rerun in several southern areas, which voted overwhelmingly for the returned President, Goodluck Jonathan. On Saturday a Christian village was attacked in the predominantly Muslim north in what is believed to be a spill over from the post election violence of late April.