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Activists Concerned Over Human Rights Situation In Karamoja :: Uganda Radionetwork

Activists Concerned Over Human Rights Situation In Karamoja

Charles Donaldson Ogira, the Coordinator for Karamoja Human Rights Network noted that there are several cases of land grabbing and extrajudicial killings which are not brought to the attention of the public in the region.
Some of the suspected Karamojong warriors arrested by the security forces during cordon and search for illegal possesion of firearms

Audio 4

Human rights defenders have raised concern over the increasing cases of human rights violations in the Karamoja sub-region.

The activists alleged that several cases of human rights abuses have not been reported to the authorities and a few which are registered are not considered for justice.

They also observed that access to information from the community has been another burden frustrating their efforts to get enough evidence for supporting the cases.

Charles Donaldson Ogira, the Coordinator for Karamoja Human Rights Network noted that there are several cases of land grabbing and extrajudicial killings which are not brought to the attention of the public in the region.

Ogira said that they got concerns from several families who have decried losing land to the investors who use the church and local leaders to deprive the community of land. He added that the mechanism of acquiring the land does not have prior and informed consent of the land owners.

Ogira told URn on Wednesday that they also noted that there have been extrajudicial killings by both the state actors and the local community in the ongoing cattle rustling. He said that most of the cases are not reported to the concerned authorities because of threats by the perpetrators.

He also revealed that although they reported some of the cases to the human rights body, justice has not prevailed due to a lack of concrete evidence to qualify the matter as a human rights abuse.

Ogira said that the human rights body has always vowed to follow up on the cases and carry out further independent monitoring but all in vain.

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Mark Aol Musoka, an elder from Rupa sub-county in Moroto district observed that the entire disarmament exercise has been engulfed with human rights violations.

He said that the current operations against illegal guns are forceful despite the ongoing campaign encouraging communities to embrace the voluntary handover of illegal firearms.

Musoka recalled that during the first disarmament in 2001, a lot of sensitization was carried out which led to the recovery of more guns because the community had embraced the program.

He said that the current disarmament procedures have changed and human rights observers are never allowed to monitor the exercise. He added that the elders have also been banned from evaluating the disarmament process as it used to be before in the early 20022.

He also noted that the security forces have not allowed the elders to participate in the ongoing disarmament process and the boys listen so much to elders.

Abdi Aramathan, one of the Human Rights Activists working with the Karamoja Women’s Umbrella Organization observed that several young boys have been unlawfully detained over illegal possession of firearms.

Aramathan cited that between 2022 and 2023, more than 46 youths were unlawfully detained in the Moroto prison over illegal possession of firearms without trials in a court of law.

He said that at least five boys admitted to owning firearms and the rest of the suspects were detained for no charge against them.

Aramathan also noted that filing the human rights violations cases has been difficult for them because the community is not willing to share the information.

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Moses Lorika, another Human rights activist in Moroto municipality said that they need capacity building on how to report human rights issues and deal with cases. Lorika said that a lot of cases have not been reported because they lack knowledge on how to gather information concerning human rights violations and where to report the cases.

He also observed that most of the human rights abuses are committed during the screening exercise after the cordon and search operations. Lorika revealed that the violations occur because they are not allowed to access the detention or a holding ground for the suspects.

He also called for more sensitization and to create awareness among the community so that they can freely speak up whenever their rights are violated.

Meanwhile, the journalists from the sub-regions of Teso, Elgon, and Karamoja have been trained on how to report on the human rights violation stories and their safety.

Solomon Serwanjja, the Executive Director of the African Institute for Investigative Journalism emphasized that reporters to shift from event stories to investigative stories which are critical in society.

Serwanjja urged journalists to keep an eye on the public officials and hold them accountable by digging deeper into the stories they report especially on the human rights violations.

He noted that several journalists especially from up country have always met challenges while practicing investigative journalism because of the security threats and limited resources.

Serwanjja revealed that the institution has some grants to support journalists interested in doing investigative stories but challenged reporters to always consider risk assessment before taking on the story.

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The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) with Co-applicants such as Chapter Four Uganda & African Institute for Investigative Journalism are carrying out district dialogues aimed at fostering a collective environment where various stakeholders, including elected and appointed local leaders, Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, community leaders, CSOs, and ordinary citizens, can come together to discuss issues related to accountability, participation, and development that are of concern to their communities.