News / Africa

HRW Report: Ugandan Civil Society Under Attack

Threats and intimidation of civil society groups is on the rise in Uganda, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.  

The Ugandan government has been stepping up harassment of non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.  The watchdog group claims organizations dealing with governance, land rights, oil and homosexual rights are increasingly under attack by Ugandan officials.

The report, called “Curtailing Criticism: Intimidation and Obstruction of Civil Society in Uganda,” says the government’s rhetoric toward NGOs has grown more hostile during  the past year, accompanied by threats, harassment of individuals and the arbitrary closure of meetings.

Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch says since the presidential elections last year, the Ugandan government has put more effort into curtailing access to information.

“Our sense is that the government’s concern over the role of those independent journalists and civil society has sort of changed over time, as the government has become increasingly paranoid about the president’s ability to stay in power in the long term, and about other criticisms of long-term governance issues, including concerns about corruption, financial mismanagement and inflation,” she said.

The administration of President Yoweri Museveni has been under increasing pressure at home and abroad.  

Government spokesman Fred Opolot insists the administration is not hostile toward civil society and it has been instrumental in opening the country to NGOs.

“There are a multiplicity of NGOs operating in this country since 1986," he said.  "Most of them are actually embedded within government departments, and it is in the realization that NGOs can actually complement government work.  So it would be foolhardy for government to, all of a sudden, target these NGOs, most of which are doing a good job.”

But Human Rights Watch says many groups considered threatening to the administration’s political or financial interests have found themselves under attack.  

One label the government is fond of using, says Burnett, is “economic saboteur.”

“We have seen that term get thrown around a lot over the last couple of years, also leveled at journalists," she said.  "There is this sense in civil society that if you push back on government programs, that you are somehow deemed an economic saboteur of government programs, or deemed anti-development.”

Human Rights Watch reports the government has also stepped up its persecution of groups promoting homosexual rights.  In June the government threatened to deregister any NGO advocating homosexual rights.

Burnett says that while such moves are an easy way to drum up popular support in Uganda, they also distract international donors from other issues, such as poor governance.

“There is a sort of facile public reaction to the issue of the rights of homosexuals," she said.  "But at the same time, it has also been a quite strong issue for the Ugandan government to use against the international community.  It has been a diversionary tool, which has kept the diplomats very occupied.”

Although a number of NGOs are still openly critical of the Ugandan government, the report found many are censoring their own activities to protect their staff.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs