29 October 2019 

FIDA UGANDA STRONGLY CONDEMNS THE ABUSIVE RESPONSE BY GOVERNMENT SECURITY AGENCIES TO PEACEFUL PROTESTS AGAINST MAKERERE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS 

The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA Uganda) — the leading women’s rights organization in Uganda strongly condemns the excessive use of force and abusive response by government’s security agencies to the peaceful demonstrations initiated by female students of Makerere University Kampala between Tuesday October 22, 2019 and Friday October 25, 2019 against tuition increment. FIDA Uganda further strongly condemns the unlawful arrest and detention of the students, including female students participating in the peaceful demonstration. FIDA Uganda reviewed footage and photos published by Ugandan media houses that appear to show the government’s security agencies using excessive force against peaceful protestors that left many students, including female students physically injured and emotionally traumatized. 

The unlawful acts by the government security agents violated the rights and freedom to peaceful assembly, demonstration and expression recognized in Article 29 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995. The recognition of these rights and freedoms put a legal obligation on the government of Uganda and its security agents to protect these rights and desist from interfering with their enjoyment. 

FIDA Uganda, therefore, calls on the government of Uganda and the leadership of its security agencies to: 

(i) Publicly condemn the brutal attacks and use of abusive, excessive and unlawful response to the peaceful demonstrations by students of Makerere University. The government and its security agencies should also publicly declare that the security agents are legally obliged to protect the right to peaceful assembly, expression, and demonstration. (ii) Immediately and effectively investigate the conduct of the security agents and their use of excessive force, including identifying the offences, including offences targeted against female demonstrators and hold them personally and severally liable. The government and the leadership of the government security agencies should make the findings of the investigation, including the officers implicated public. 

(iii) Hold the security officers implicated in using excessive force and abusive response to peaceful protestors accountable through administrative and criminal sanctions and penalties. (iv) Prioritize establishing a zero-tolerance policy on the interference of peaceful protests by government security agencies. (v) Conduct regular training with government security agents to build their capacity on how to effectively utilize non-violent responses as opposed to using excessive force, how to protect the rights of female and male protestors/demonstrators, and how to particularly and effectively handle female protestors/demonstrators and protect their rights.

FIDA Uganda also calls on the administration of Makerere University to: 

(i) Immediately revoke the unfair suspension of and warning letters given to male and female students involved in the peaceful protests. (ii) Hold dialogues with the dissenting students with a view of peacefully resolving the impasse between the leadership and the students’ body. (iii) Immediately investigate the offences, including offences targeted against female demonstrators committed. During the investigation, the security agents and other perpetrators implicated in committing the offences should be clearly identified. The Makerere University administration should make the findings of the investigation, including the officers and other perpetrators implicated public.

FIDA Uganda remains committed to protecting women’s fundamental human rights; advancing gender equality and equity through advocacy, public interest litigation, public engagement, and improving access to justice.