KAMPALA – Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister – Norbert Mao has revealed that a cabinet standing committee on human rights has been established amid ever-increasing human rights abuse complaints in the country.
Chaired by himself, the committee is made up of a number of other ministers including ministers in charge of defence, internal affairs, gender labor and social development among others.
Addressing the 5th Business and Human Rights Symposium at the Sheraton Hotel on Friday, Mao also revealed that the committee has already embarked on its first assignment which is to develop a national plan of action.
“The law is about asserting rights and redressing wrongs. Sometimes, we have been misunderstood by those who act as if there’s no due process in Uganda, it is there, though low.”
He encouraged the human rights defenders to be ready for disagreements but to stick to their words of fighting for the less privileged.
“The poor and marginalized groups who have less access to justice can at least have their voices heard.”
Minister Mao warned Government officials and agents against violating human rights stressing that there will be no legal support provided to anyone should they be dragged to court. The practice has been that Government officials get legal representation from the Attorney General`s office but Minister Mao says that this will not happen again.
Ms. Mariam Wangadya, Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission noted that there is a need for protection and promotion of businesses across the country and also sensitize businesses on how to respect human rights while conducting their businesses.
“Business and Human Rights is a concept that emphasizes the responsibility for businesses to respect human rights as well as fulfilling their obligation to respect, protect, and remedy the rights of all businesses involved.”
“The guiding principles on business and human rights are the global standards for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impact on human rights involved in the business activity and they provided the internationally accepted framework for enhancing standards and practices with regard to business and human rights.”
In a bid to implement these guidelines, Wangadya said Uganda has put in place both internal and external mechanisms, such as the enactment of laws, policies, the national action plan on business and human rights, vision 2040, institutions such as the Uganda Human Rights Commission, among others.
She noted that the five-year national action plan on business and human rights prioritizes sustainable use of land and natural resources the environment, labour rights, revenue transparency, tax exemptions and corruption, social service delivery by private sectors, consumer protection, access to remedy the rights of vulnerable and marginalized persons.”
“Despite the presence of these mechanisms, businesses have had a negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights. These include but are not limited to underpayment, child labour, compensation issues and land conflicts, displacement of people, environmental pollution, and violation of cultural rights.”
Wangadya added that vulnerable persons such as women, poor children and persons with disabilities are the most affected.
She urged the government to adequately fund the commission to enable it do its work but also called for continued cooperation and collaboration amongst all the agencies and stakeholders working towards the enforcement of human rights across business operations.
Andrew Byaruhanga, the executive director of Resource Rights Africa one of the conveners of the symposium is concerned about human rights violations in areas with mining in Karamoja region.
“There is alot of child Labor especially in mining marble. There is alot of alcohol abuse with many workers using crude waragi which is dangerous to them. If I may ask, all those roadblocks by the UPDF, why do they allow trucks to take in the crude waragi because it’s already killing people…..Some mining companies do not respect land rights and are not providing compensation….. All these issues need to be addressed”