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November 18th Remains a Dark Spot in Our History, Says Livingstone Sewanyana

Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), says the day will always remain a dark spot in Uganda’s history and it will be a day Ugandans will always look back and ask how did the nation arrive at a moment when soldiers would roam Kampala streets shooting people indiscriminately. The riots resulted into death of more than 50 people.
18 Nov 2021 13:01
Dr Livingstone Sewanyana

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Today is the first anniversary of November 18th riots triggered by arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine while on campaign trail in Luuka District. The spontaneous riots began in Kampala at around midday and spread across many districts in Buganda and Busoga region as Bobi Wine supporters demanded for his immediate release.

  

Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative -FHRI, says the day will always remain a dark spot in Uganda’s history and it will be a day Ugandans will always look back and ask how did the nation arrived at a moment when soldiers would roam Kampala streets shooting people indiscriminately. The riots resulted into death of more than 50 people. 

  

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The first anniversary also comes at a time when many questions are still unanswered.

Government has not released any investigation report yet the president promised it. There has not been any compensation of innocent victims which was promised by the president, some of the people arrested in the aftermath of the riots are still in jail while about a dozen people, according to the National Unity Platform, who were abducted are still missing. And police claims that it has not completed investigation but they have not answered questions as to where they have reached with the investigations and what they are remaining to do.

  

For justice to be served, Sewanyana says, the unanswered questions must be answered by government. An independent commission of inquiry should be established to investigate who was exactly responsible for what during the riots, he says. 

“It’s important that the state comes clean on this matter because justice demands that families of those who lost loved ones get to know who was responsible,” he said. 

 

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Apart from the president’s promise of compensation, there has never been clarity from any government office when and how much compensation families of victims would be receiving. Ssubi Kiwanuka, the acting Director of Uganda Media Council  told URN that the process of compensating the families is ongoing. Period. Nothing else. 

  

Dr Sewanyana says government must come clear on its promise by telling the public: which office is responsible for compensation, who deserves it, what is the procedure of getting it. Blanket statements, he said are not enough. Government must take concrete steps in investigations and processing of compensation for the families. 

  

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Asked why civil society didn’t play a critical role in pushing the state to release investigation reports and help families of the victims in pursuing justice, Sewanyana said his organization did its part.

He also still urges people with complaints to register them with Foundation for Human Rights Initiative. But he also argued that civic space has continued to shrink in Uganda limiting the scope of work that civil society organizations can do. 

The NGO Bureau in September, for instance, suspended more than 50 organizations for failure to adhere to registration and auditing requirement. Its move was construed as an attempt to narrow civic space.  

Since civil society organizations couldn’t do much, Sewanyana says Uganda Human Rights Commission should have played a critical role in investigating riots as well as pushing for compensation of the victims. 

But the chairperson of the commission Mariam Wangadya, in a recent interview with URN said the commission can’t push for compensation because it was not part of the process that climaxed with the president promising it. 

  

“We have no idea how many people were promised compensation and who they are. We don’t know how much money he promised them,” she said. 

Asked if the commission would be willing to remind president of the promise, she said, “It would be redundant on our part to purport to remind the president on something we know nothing about. Meeting the president is a privilege. If I met the president, I would talk about concrete issues with sufficient evidence, which I can defend.”  

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Wangadya said the commission can’t also push government to release riots investigations reports because “I don’t know that the government must share investigation reports with the public.” 

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