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EU alarmed by excessive force and arrests of journalists at Mak

FILE PHOTO: Injured journalist during Mak protests.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Delegation of the European Union to Uganda has expressed worry over the excessive use of force against journalists covering a recent strike at Makerere University.

The university has been the theatre of violence and the use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies, as students challenged a 15 per cent cumulative increment on tuition and functional fees. The increment, which started this academic year, will affect all first-year students, for the next five years.

However, the strike became violent after the arrest of its 15 instigators who were served with suspension and warning letters. Subsequently, heavily armed soldiers stormed student’s residences in the middle of the night, and clobbered them leaving a number of them with injuries.

Similarly, Makerere University blocked access for the journalists at the University campus. In the aftermath, a number of journalists covering events at the institution were beaten up as they attempted to cover the events. Many were injured, while others had their equipment damaged.

But the European Union Delegation, in a statement issued this afternoon, urged both Makerere University and the security services to ensure that all accredited journalists are allowed to do their job without intimidation and harassment, in order to ensure that they can report events independently. The statement is jointly endorsed by the Heads of Mission od Iceland and Norway.

Early in the week, the Uganda Human Rights Commission expressed concern over human rights violations recorded in the strikes at Makerere University citing violations of the right to respect for human dignity and protection from inhumane and degrading treatment.  The rights body also noted that the right to personal liberty, freedom of expression and assembly and economic rights of persons in areas neighbouring Makerere University were violated during the crackdown.

“We support the analysis of the events made by the Uganda Human Rights Commission and call upon all parties, particularly the Uganda Police Force and Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces, to refrain from acts of violence and to respect freedom of assembly and expression. Any possible misconduct by their members should be investigated and acted upon,” the EU statement said.

The university management has since deployed hundreds of police officers to ensure students go back to class and study insisting the examinations will go on as scheduled. Students are commencing examinations on November 18, 2019.

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