UN OHCHR Country Representative Challenges Uganda government on disability rights

“Persons with disabilities in Uganda continue to suffer grave human rights abuse despite the existence of a good legal and policy framework”, OHCHR’s Country Representative,  Uchenna Emelonye, said while speaking at a national dissemination meeting of the Concluding Observations on Uganda’s Initial Report on CRDP as adopted by the Committee on People with Disabilities on its fifteenth session (29 March - 21 April 2016).

The meeting which took place on 15 June 2016 at Imperial Royale Hotel, in Kampala – Uganda, was jointly organized by the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), and the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) in partnership with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda.

The UN Human Rights Office is concerned that although Uganda has very sound legal frameworks, their implementation remains a huge challenge. Dr. Uchenna said, adding that “This, however is not peculiar to Uganda, but nearly all African countries experience the same scenario”.

“There are still challenges in the enjoyment of rights of People With Disabilities in Uganda. The laws exist but implementation is still challenging,” Dr. Uchenna said. And the majority of PWDs in Uganda continue to suffer discrimination, exclusion, sexual violence, and they experience serious challenges while accessing justice.

The UN CRPD committee of experts in April 2016 reviewed Uganda’s progress report on the implementation of the CRPD, eight years after ratifying it in 2008.  However, the committee faults government on a number of areas. For instance, the committee noted varying definitions of disability as contained in the current laws and policies, delayed debate and enactment of the PWDs Act 2014, non-consultation of PWDs and their organizations and associations in the process of enacting [national] laws, failure to protect children with disabilities, limited access to information, inaccessible transport system, violation of the right to life, and access to justice among others. Many of these issues need immediate action from Government, while others are progressive in nature.    

The CRPD committee recommended to the Ugandan Government to review the laws related to disability,  and to establish mechanisms of consulting PWDs and their organizations on budget allocations, incorporating the concept of reasonable accommodation in the legal systems, establishing measures to tackle discrimination against women with disabilities, increasing  awareness on the rights and dignity of PWDs, and raising awareness among parliamentarians, the executive and judiciary regarding the Convention on the Rights of PWDs.  

Dr. Uchenna believes the concluding observations can only be successful once government endeavors to know, critically understand the concluding observations and believes in them as the best options to address the plight of PWDs in Uganda.