With a political structure that functions as a one party state, Uganda’s government can easily be regarded as an authoritarian regime.
In fact since 1986, only two of Uganda’s elections have been considered multiparty elections. The President is the head of state, the head of government, and leads the armed forces.
After gaining independence from Britain in 1962, Uganda became a republic while maintaining its membership with the Commonwealth nations. Following a military coup in January 1971, General Idi Amin seized control of the country and with the support of the military, imposed a notorious dictatorship that lasted eight years. During his rule mass killings, vast human rights abuses, and forced removals of minority groups became the norm. His reign ended after the Uganda - Tanzania War of 1979, when Tanzanian forces invaded the country.
Following a protracted six-year guerrilla war, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni took power in January 1986 through a military coup, and remains in power to this day. After seizing power, Museveni quickly stacked the country’s voting commission with his henchmen and has been accused of rigging every election since. He severely restricted all political party activity in a measure to ostensibly reduce sectarian violence. Under the new system political parties officially continued to exist but were barred from campaigning. The ban was cancelled by a constitutional referendum in 2005, the same year Museveni abolished presidential terms limits.
Parliament Party Representation
Museveni was last re-elected in February 2016 in a highly contested election. Local observers claimed the elections to have been neither free nor fair, and according to international observers, the election process failed to meet international standards. Adding to this understanding is the fact that prior to the presidential elections, the Uganda Communication Commission blocked access to all major social media networks and messaging services. Additionally Opposition presidential candidates faced arrest, detention, and obstructions. The police blocked some candidates’ access to media and public meetings and arrested and beat journalists attempting to report on the house arrest of opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye. Free and fair elections and the ability of Ugandans to freely exercise fundamental human rights remain paltry.
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: SWAHILI AND ENGLISH
GOVERNMENT: PRESIDENTIAL REPUBLIC
PRESIDENT: YOWERI MUSEVENI
IN POWER SINCE: JANUARY 26, 1986
RULING PARTY: NATIONAL RESISTANCE MOVEMENT
LEGAL SYSTEM: MIXED LEGAL SYSTEM OF ENGLISH COMMON LAW AND CUSTOMARY LAW
INTERNATIONAL LAW PARTICIPATION: ACCEPTS COMPULSORY ICJ JURISDICTION; ACCEPTS ICCT JURISDICTION
Primary human rights concerns in Uganda include threats to LGBTQ rights, as well as attacks on freedoms of association, expression, and opinion.
The criminalization of homosexuals and same sex relationships in Uganda finds its origin in the British colonial rule and their so-called anti-sodomy law. Section 145 of the Ugandan Penal Code, termed “Unnatural Offences,” prohibits “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and any contravention carries the risk of lifetime imprisonment.
In 2009 a Ugandan politician introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act (known as the “Kill the Gays“ act in Western media), which included the death penalty for serial offenders, and criminalized acts where an individual “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality.”
In February 2014 President Museveny singed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law, which not only outlawed homosexual acts but incited citizens to report “suspicious“ activity to the police. Even though the bill was ruled invalid by the Constitutional Court on procedural grounds only a few months later, government officials continued to voice their support for it. Unfortunately the global condemnation of the bill and the public debates only further increased intolerance and violence against the LGBTQ community in Uganda. LGBTQ Ugandans continue to face severe discrimination and harassment by the media, police and the general population. Ugandan media frequently exposes LGBTQ individuals and calls for violence against them.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND OPINION
Civil liberties are severely restricted under president Museveni’s rule.
In 2015 the government passed an NGO law allowing the government to close down organizations and arrest their members at will. In the past the government also used laws such as the 2002 Antiterrorism Act and the 2010 Regulation of Interception of Communications Act to increase surveillance of the internet and phone communications.
Dissidents calling attention to these problems have been subject to arbitrary arrest, seizure of property, detention without trial, and mysterious disappearances. These violent incidents peak during campaign seasons.
HRF and Uganda
In May 2016 HRF publicly condemned the Ugandan Communication Commission’s order blocking access to major social media platforms ahead of President Yoweri Museveni’s controversial fifth term inauguration.
FREE SPEECH UNLIMITED
Human Rights Foundation, in partnership with John Templeton Foundation and Universidad Francisco Marroquin, provides a resource which outlines access to free speech and details relevant cases.
Kasha Jacqueline (Nabagesera) is a Ugandan LGBTQ activist
She is the founder and director of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), one of the only lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersexual organizations in a country where homosexuality is criminalized. FARUG strives for the attainment of full equal rights and the eradication of all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation. In retaliation for her advocacy, she has been harassed, attacked, and threatened with arrest and death. FARUG, based in Kampala, Uganda, lobbies nationally, regionally, and internationally, partnering with human rights, women’s rights, feminist, donor and health organizations to spread awareness about the plight of LGBT persons in Uganda. Jacqueline publically campaigns for an end to homophobia in Uganda, in spite of calls for her death and the media-led witch hunts which target homosexuals in her country.
FARUG led an effort to stop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 from passing in the Ugandan Parliament. Unfortunately, President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill into law in early 2014. The bill criminalizes homosexuality (threatening those found “guilty" with severe punishment, including life in prison) and compels anyone witnessing “homosexual conduct” to notify the authorities or face three years in prison. In response to widespread anti-gay media, in 2014, she launched the Kuchu Times, a platform for LGBT communities throughout Africa. She also publishes the magazine Bombastic, which focuses on the LGBT community in Uganda. In 2015 she was a featured speaker at the College Freedom Forum at Stanford University hosted by the Human Rights Foundation. Jacqueline is the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the 2013 Nuremberg International Human Rights Award and a recipient of the 2015 Right Livelihood Award. She continues her activism through her publications, social media, public speaking and interviews.
Kuchu Times Media Group is a new media initiative that was formed to provide a platform to the LGBTI community in Uganda, and in Africa more broadly.
KTMG is aimed at achieving positive attitude changes in the struggle for equality and freedom by sharing, educating, and informing African communities about the lived realities of the LGBTI community.
Operating as a a website, radio, television and print magazine KTMG shares day to day lived realities of the LGBTI community through debates, talk shows, discussions, stories, and movies/documentaries