Fort Portal | October 2022: The Rwenzori region remains one of Uganda's most conflict-prone and fragile regions because of the porous border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, with recurrent eruptions of armed conflicts and influx of refugees into Uganda.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda in partnership with the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and the Rwenzori Forum for Peace and Justice (RFOJ) organized a three-day training for human rights defenders in the Rwenzori sub-region. The training was aimed at strengthening the capacities of 45 human rights defenders (females and 24 males) and to equip them with skills in monitoring and reporting on human rights violations, and a commitment to supporting progress towards the full realization of human rights throughout the Rwenzori region.
“The engagement with the UN Human Rights System helps amplify the voices for change in the civic space because it provides a crucial entry point for human rights defenders to dialogue on trends of human rights violations.” Mr. Bryma Emmanuel Momoh, Human Rights Officer at OHCHR noted. Adding that “human rights defenders play a vital role in monitoring human rights violations, raising awareness and providing services to communities, especially to the most vulnerable.”
In her opening remarks, the Chairperson Uganda Human Rights Commission Hon. Mariam Wangadya, said that the Commission had set up a human rights defenders desk to champion the protection of their rights and ensure quick receipt of the human rights complaints and concerns at the grassroots. “The work of human rights defenders has been recognized at international, regional, and national levels. They are instrumental in defending victims of human rights violations and ensuring that access to appropriate redress and remedies is derived.” Wangadya noted. She further noted that the establishment of a specific national legislation on human rights defenders was underway and it was vital for them to fight impunity within their communities and continuously lead by example,” She noted.
The training focused on application of international, regional, and national mechanisms for the protection of human rights; human rights monitoring, reporting, and advocacy, the concept of human rights defenders, prevention and prohibition of torture, the role of civil society organizations in the promotion of human rights; and monitoring business and human rights.
Mr. Albert Mwebaze, a human rights officer at Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) called upon participants to ensure a balance between facts, truth, and allegations, as the only way they can make resourceful and informed interventions in human rights work within their communities. “Human rights defenders should impart principles of transparency, confidentiality, accuracy, impartiality, objectivity, and integration of gender during their interventions.” He said.
Other facilitators were from OHCHR, and Rwenzori Forum for Peace and Justice (RFPJ). Ms. Agasha Tabaro, a human rights officer at OHCHR underscored the primary duty of the state to respect, protect and fulfil human rights by refraining from interfering with the enjoyment of rights and adopting appropriate measures towards the full realization of rights. “Through its obligation to protect, the state is responsible for investigating, prosecuting, the trial and the sanctioning of those persons who commit crimes and human rights violations,” Ms. Agasha said.
Mr. Francis Tuhaise, the Executive Director, Rwenzori Forum for Peace and Justice (RFPJ) said that the Rwenzori region remains one of Uganda's most conflict-prone and fragile regions because of the porous border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, with recurrent eruptions of armed conflicts and influx of refugees into Uganda.