19 June 2017

Uganda: Heed Bishops' Call On National Issues


The Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) last week raised concern over key issues that they want the government to urgently address. The Catholic conference of bishops, chaired by Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odama, noted six key issues, particularly underlining gross human rights violations through torture and detention of suspects by the police and the military. The bishops have stated that these violations must stop and culprits must face the law.

When men of God express grave worry about the state of our country, the citizens too have a reason to worry. We concur with the bishops and join them in calling for action to steer our country to the right direction. The six key issues highlighted by the bishops - the Kasese killings, the refugee influx, proposed forceful acquisition of land by the government and the proposal to introduce contraceptive to primary school children - are some of the issues that have dominated public debate lately.

In recent months, reports about torture have been the most dominant feature in the media, with special focus on the Special Investigations Centre of police in Nalufenya, Jinja District - a facility that carries a grim portrait as a torture chamber. Last month, Sunday Monitor highlighted chilling accounts of some of those who have been incarcerated at Nalufenya.

Nalufenya has become the preferred detention facility for suspects, most recently those arrested over the killing of former Police Spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi. Some of the Rwenzururu Kingdom loyalists, who were arrested over last year's Kasese violence, were also at one point detained at Nalufenya. Following a court appearance last year, a Daily Monitor journalist who was in court wrote: "Several of the suspects looked malnourished, frail and were in obvious pain.

Some bore festering wounds on their limbs, which attracted flies. One man's palm appeared to have been split open."

Similarly, the bishops have raised another emotive issue of land. We have seen the destructive effect of land conflicts in this country. As recent as last week, the long-standing Apaa land conflict, which pits two communities - Acholi and Madi as well as the Uganda Wildlife Authority against each other - erupted again, leaving six people dead and more than 700 hundred displaced.

It is against this background that the bishops have issued a statement saying such practices are a stumbling block to true justice. We cannot wish these issues away. As a country, we can and must address them through an honest national conversation and dialogue. The government should listen to the bishops' counsel.

The issue: National issues

Our view: We cannot wish these issues away. As a country, we can and must address them through an honest national conversation and dialogue. The government should listen to the bishops' counsel.


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