The European Union Head of Delegation to Uganda has asked government for dialogue following claims by top State officials that the donor community is supporting acts of subversion in the country.
Speaking at an evaluation meeting in Kampala yesterday about the EU contribution to human rights in Uganda, Mr Attilio Pacifici said it was wrong to be perceived as bad elements instead of active development partners.
“It is not right to say that we are supporting subversive activities, and that is why we are here to know, what we are doing wrong,” Mr Pacifici said.
“We want to hear critiques more than anything else because we want to improve the work that we do with Uganda,” he added.
Whereas Uganda continues to benefit from relations with the Western powers, mainly member states of the EU, there has been rising criticism on the partners from government officials who claim they support opponents of the State. In September, the Uganda Media Centre executive director, Mr Ofwono Opondo, described Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, as a foreign agent whose aim is to cast the country’s image in bad light.
Mr Opondo’s allegations were followed by extraditions of people from the West perceived to be Bobi Wine’s allies, while several others were barred from entering the country.
This came after the EU Parliament issued a stern warning to Uganda, accusing the country of continued violation of human rights during and after the Arua Municipality parliamentary by-election.
Mr Pacifici said as the world celebrates the International Human Rights Day, “Uganda should be praised for having ratified many International Human Rights conventions.”
“The Ugandan Constitution also stipulates non-discrimination and equality for all citizens, with specific provisions to ensure the rights of women, people with disabilities and children,” he said.
Mr Pacifici, however, cited persistent rights violations and the shrinking civic space, calling for solutions.
“Cases of police brutality, gender-based violence, child abuse, discrimination of minority groups, political and press freedom, are among the human rights challenges faced in Uganda,” the EU ambassador said.
Representing government at the meeting, Mr David Mafabi, President Miseveni’s political affairs private secretary, said human rights should be central to Uganda given its history which was previously characterised by gross abuse.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said the dialogue presents an opportunity to address challenges, especially in the Justice Law and Order Sector.
“I think we will need a national debate as to the priorities of the country where JLOS will be among the priorities after which we shall embark on teaching human rights and their importance,” he said.
Chief Justice Katureebe said the primary responsibility of observing human rights lies with the government and its citizenry, adding that the European Union can only supplement their efforts.
However, whereas funds of up to 60m Euros (about Shs280b) has been committed by EU for support to civil society and government networking, government has not signed the agreement for roll-out.
The former minister for Ethics and Integrity, Ms Miriam Matembe, said Uganda is facing democratic reversal due to Mr Museveni’s hunger for power.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe highlighted seven critical areas to both the government and the European Union to be achieved by 2020. They include freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression and press, accountability and fighting corruption, children and women rights and gender equality. Others are transitional justice, protection of human rights defenders and abolition of death penalty.