KAMPALA – Human Rights Watch has called for investigations into the shooting and killing of Ugandans following the protests arising from the arrest of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
The organization which defends the rights of people worldwide through spotlighting abuses and bringing perpetrators to justice says that that the arrest and detention of Kyagulanyi is a sign of the growing repression of opposition politicians ahead of Uganda’s general elections scheduled for January 2021.
Kyagulanyi who was arrested on Wednesday in Luuka district was today granted a one million shilling non cash bail for COVID-19 related charges. Following his arrest on Wednesday, protests erupted in up to 20 districts in the country. By Thursday, the death toll from the riots had reached 37.
In their statement dated 20th November, the organization noted that the detention of opposition leaders shows that there is no level playing field in the political arena. They have also called for an end to arbitrary detention and called for peaceful demonstrations to be allowed.
“The increasing spate of violence so early in the campaign season does not bode well for the weeks to come before the elections,” said the Human Rights Watch statement. Africa Watch also called for the end of violence and harassment of journalists and opposition candidates and their supporters.
The organization also condemns the act of non-uniformed personnel brandishing guns on the streets of Kampala and harassing Ugandans.
“The Ugandan government is obligated to ensure that excessive use of force is subject to scrutiny and in particular that there is an effective investigation into the deaths and injuries of all civilians.”
They further note that it is unfair for the National Resistance Movement -NRM candidates in the elections to have large crowds but not be arrested for violating the said guidelines.
“Despite attracting similarly large crowds in Gulu and Kotido, security forces allowed rallies and processions for the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party to continue undisrupted,” the HRW statement further reads.
They also say police has violently dispersed opposition rallies and blocked opposition members from reaching their venues since campaigns began 11 days ago. “In the last two weeks, the authorities have used Covid-19 regulations as a pretext to violate rights and clamp down on the opposition and the media. They have arrested opposition party leaders and journalists, and dispersed opposition campaign rallies with teargas for allegedly flouting Covid-19 guidelines.” says in the statement.
HRW urges Ugandan government to instead focus on ensuring that the security forces respect the rule of law and held accountable for abuses and act in an impartial manner.”