17 -19 May 2022 (Kotido) UN Human Rights Office in partnership with the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), facilitated a 3-day training on human rights standards in Kotido district for Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force (UPDF). The training was designed to enhance capacity building, knowledge and understanding of human rights principles and standards, particularly pertinent to the context of the ongoing disarmament process. It targeted 40 soldiers including two women from the 405th Brigade that operates in Abim, Kaabong, Karenga and Kotido. The participants were actively engaged in various themes ranging from international and national human rights instruments, human rights standards applicable to arrest, detention, use of force, and safeguards for children and women, standard operation procedures on cordon, search operations, UPDF’s code of conduct and disciplinary procedures for misconduct. A compilation of relevant documentation as well as training certificates were availed to each participant.
Ms Grace Pelly, the Deputy Country Representative, in her opening remarks, stressed the importance of mainstreaming human rights considerations into all aspects of the ongoing disarmament operations by the UPDF within the region. “On behalf of the UN Human Rights Office, I pledge our readiness to upsurge engagements and enhance partnership with UPDF towards efforts to promote and protect human rights,” Ms Grace said.
Speaking on behalf of the UPDF, Brig. General Joseph Balikudembe, the UPDF 3rd Infantry Division Commander, expressed his appreciation for the UN Human Rights Office’s constructive engagement and timely support in the provision of capacity building to the UPDF personnel on human rights standards.
“It is extremely important to observe human rights in the cordon and search operations which is essential for maintaining the confidence and trust of community members,” Brig. General Joseph Balikudembe said.
Major Charles Wasirwa Mukhama, the Political Commissar of the 3rd Infantry Division, emphasized the importance of continuously raising awareness on human rights standards, UPDF regulations and the code of conduct. “The training was very practical and comprehensive and will guide the UPDF to utilize more human rights sensitive approaches in a day-to-day operation as well as streamline disciplinary measures and procedures in strengthening the accountability of human rights violations within the force,” Major Charles concluded.
Due to the rise of security concerns over cattle rustling and other criminal activities that have claimed the lives of many civilians and members of security forces in the Karamoja sub-region, the UPDF and Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) of the Uganda Police Force have launched the joint security operation code-named “Usalama Kawa Wote” (Peace for All) in the region since 21 July 2021.
Since 2007, the UN Human Rights Office has supported at least 30 training sessions on human rights for UPDF personnel intending to improve the accountability of alleged perpetrators and prevent and mitigate risks of human rights violations. More such training are in preparation jointly with the UHRC and other relevant stakeholders for UPDF personnel deployed in other districts. In regards to the enforcement of Human Rights Standards, the UN Human Rights Office will continue work with UHRC to intensify advocacy for the enforcement of redress for human rights violations.