No, hu­man-rights de­fend­ers are not im­pe­ri­al­ist agents

The East African - - OPINION -

IN A let­ter Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni wrote to the Speaker of Par­lia­ment last month, about claims of tor­ture by se­cu­rity per­son­nel, he refers to hu­man-rights de­fend­ers as agents of im­pe­ri­al­ism and their local lack­eys. This is quite un­for­tu­nate. A hu­man-rights de­fender works for the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of hu­man rights in a peace­ful man­ner. His or her ac­tions in­clude speak­ing on the sit­u­a­tion of hu­man rights at any one time, as­sist­ing cit­i­zens to gain ac­cess to jus­tice, writ­ing ar­ti­cles on hu­man rights, cre­at­ing aware­ness and in­form­ing the cit­i­zenry about their rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, speak­ing out against such ills as bad gov­er­nance, im­punity, cor­rup­tion, nepo­tism, sec­tar­i­an­ism, poor ser­vice de­liv­ery, and unem­ploy­ment.

Hu­man-rights de­fend­ers de­rive their le­git­i­macy from the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Republic of Uganda un­der Ar­ti­cle 38 that pro­vides for civic rights and ac­tiv­i­ties hence:

•Ev­ery Ugan­dan cit­i­zen has the right to par­tic­i­pate in the af­fairs of gov­ern­ment, in­di­vid­u­ally or through his or her rep­re­sen­ta­tives in ac­cor­dance with the law.

•Ev­ery Ugan­dan has a right to par­tic­i­pate in peace­ful ac­tiv­i­ties to in­flu­ence the poli­cies of gov­ern­ment through civic or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Clearly, the above de­scrip­tion does not con­sti­tute be­ing “agents of im­pe­ri­al­ist in­ter­ests.”

On the same page, the pres­i­dent as­sures the Speaker of a coun­try with ca­pa­ble sys­tems and in­sti­tu­tions. One could write a long es­say on this as­ser­tion.

UPDF be­ing a com­pe­tent and pro­fes­sional army is now de­bat­able. To cat­e­gorise the Spe­cial Forces Com­mand, at this point, as be­ing com­pe­tent and pro­fes­sional, is to re­ally push it.

Last but not least, the pres­i­dent tries to even de­fend the use of tor­ture as rea­son­able force. The pres­i­dent is wrong.

Bob Kirenga Univer­sity of Columbia, US

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