After a hectic year in human rights, one would be well placed to hope for a better 2014. The different news stories that dominated the previous year had a strong relationship with abuse. Cries of activists were heard and in some cases, they caused the much-needed change.
It is however obvious that more needs to be done in sensitization of the public in matters to do with human rights. 2013 was dominated by stories about murder in places like Kayunga, a usual suspect when it comes to such morbidity. Security forces were apparently deployed but this did not stop the gruesomeness. The murder in Mbarara of a UN worker brought the crisis full circle and led to the Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura to camp in the district.
Already, Ugandans have had a taste of what is to come, although many were surprised when the army was sent to South Sudan to evacuate nationals doing business in that country. It was a gesture Uganda’s government is not known for. Nevertheless, South Sudan is still very much on the agenda, seeing as there are many businesses owned by Ugandans there. Human rights have not been observed there in the past and this should be a top priority. The recent stories surrounding the hounding of Rwandan dissidents and refugees have only brought back the feeling that there is a clear and present danger.
To many, it means that no matter how far they go, as long as they are in the bad books of the government, they are not safe. In 2012, there were attempts on the lives of different people with differing views to those of the president of the country. Perhaps to confirm these fears, a journalist was murdered in Kigali. Critical journalists continued to fear for their lives. 2013 brought the forceful repatriation of refugees who had refused to go back to Rwanda citing insecurity. The Ugandan government was complicit in this blatant breaking of the law, as hundreds were put on trucks and sent back to their unknown fate.
Two weeks ago, another dissident, Col. Patrick Karegeya, was murdered in a Johannesburg hotel. As the West lionises president Kagame, there are many voices that seem to point to a different personality – one that does not respect human rights. Ugandans should be worried because their government seems to wish to work closely with Kigali. This year, already the police chief in Uganda has said he will “not allow any more demonstrations in Kampala,” according to media reports.
This is a sign of the times. It says a lot about how far the country has dropped on the human rights index, if a police chief can out rightly tell the world that he is going to break the law. Instead of providing security for citizens, many in the establishment are bent on perverting the course of justice. It should be on plan now that no more women shall be raped by fake investors; that no children will be defiled by their presumed protectors; that alternative voices will be heard and that the media will be respected as an important part of a democratic society.
All this does not seem to be registering. This year will be crucial, especially on the political scene. There are two years left before the next general elections and going by history, this is when the politicians go into overdrive. Activists must be vigilant; voices must be raised this year because there will be obvious efforts to stifle them. As the government and its agents move into place to stifle the opposition, it is expected that tempers will flare and that many acts of lawlessness will be done. This does not mean Ugandans should keep quiet. It only takes the silence and inactivity of good people for evil to flourish