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Inadequate funding frustrates UHRC operations

UHRC boss Mariam Wangadya.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Human Rights Commission-UHRC has decried funding as a major obstacle in fulfilling its mandate to monitor and advance human rights in the country.

This was revealed by Mariam Wangadya, the Chairperson of the Commission while delivering the 2021 Human Rights Report to the Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa on Monday.

Wangadya revealed that in the financial year 2021/2022, the Commission required 72.227 billion Shillings but only 20.897 billion Shillings was allocated.

Similarly, in the 2022/2023 financial year, UHRC required 78.81 billion Shillings but only 20.63 billion Shillings (26 percent) has been provided as an indicative budgeting figure which doesn’t provide much help.

Wangadya further told the Deputy Speaker that in November 2016, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni directed the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development to ensure that government contribution to the Commission increases beginning financial year 2017/2018 to no avail.

She also said that Parliament’s Legal  Committee had equally recommended funding increment to the Commission in a phased manner of 18.71 billion Shillings in FY 2020/2021, to enhance staff salaries, provide civic education to the population, carry out investigations into human rights violations and procurement of vehicles among others but it has never been implemented.

Wangadya pointed out that funding shortfalls impact negatively on the country as the Commission is constrained to investigate impunity, traverse hard-to-reach areas, limited access to detention facilities, and investigate cases of abuse among others.

Tayebwa said that the pertinent issues raised by the Commission will be handled expeditiously by the sectoral committees in order for appropriate actions to be taken.

The Commission asked Parliament to lobby President Museveni to appoint three new members to fill the existing vacuum at the Commission, which currently is being steered by only four members after the exit of two members whose contracts expired and the death of Rev Fr Simon Lokodo in January.

During the period under review, the UHRC registered 3,624 complaints in 2021 compared to 3,238 complaints in 2020. But the Commission did not conduct any tribunal hearings due to lack of quorum. The Commission conducted 611 inspection visits to places of detention which included 312 police stations, 200 police posts, 93 prison facilities, three remand homes, and three military detention facilities.

Notably, the Commission’s report comprises 12 chapters, that cover issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects in 2021, externalization of labour and its human rights concerns, access to electricity, extractive industries in Karamoja and human rights concerns, human rights situation on selected islands in Kalangala and Buvuma.

The report also captures 705 forced disappearances in Uganda out of which 700 were accounted for while the five remain pending; the plight of urban refugees; juvenile justice and the human rights concerns; and Karamoja disarmament; social media and human rights concerns; banishment from communities; twin bombings in Kampala; and teenage pregnancy among others.

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