Over the years the rampant abuse of Civil and political rights has become the middle name of Uganda. Most of the previous regimes in Uganda had been characterized by gross human rights violations that had not been redressed. When the NRM came into power, Ugandans were hopeful that their rights would be respected as the NRM promised. Truth is their rights were in some way preserved but only for a short time. There have been numerous cases of human rights violations registered during the NRM tenure. These include but are not limited to arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, torture, and extrajudicial killings. Both the state and some non-state actors have perpetuated these. The promise made by the NRM in 1986 has turned out to be just a dream, another political speech messing with Ugandan Citizens.
Cases like these of Dr. Stella Nyanzi, Nana Mwafrica, Habib Buwembo, Kakonge Lee, Atuhaire Deo who are activists and human rights defenders whose rights have been violated are a clear example of human rights violations in recent times.
While many activists and human rights defenders have endured the cruelty of the oppression in Uganda, which has landed many in jail or torture chambers, not a lot of support has been availed to them in such times. Many lack legal, physical, financial and psychological support among other things. On realization of this, Solidarity Uganda through the Rapid response department embarked on a task of equipping and helping communities build up rapid response working groups in different communities across the country.
The Rapid Response working groups are meant to scale up solidarity support for activists and human rights defenders throughout their work. Some of the activities and actions they are involved in include jail solidarity visits to victims of arrest, amassing legal support and reaching out to the media for publicity and documentation of the human rights violations in order to cultivate support from the public and to also hold the state accountable. Many of these groups have already tasted the fruits of such solidarity. We have seen many groups organize and visit their comrades in jail, hospitals, and other horrid places.
The community solidarity visits opened up discussions around fear and intimidation that communities face in their pursuit of justice. Community members shared experiences of intimidation mainly from security agencies i.e. Police and army, sometimes-even leaders in public offices perpetrate these atrocities. Because of these experiences, many people are silenced for fear of their lives or of those close to them like their families yet still, others remain defiant and strong. When communities share experiences, they are encouraged and they are able to use their fear to positively and intentionally defend their rights and those fighting for them.
Our Rapid response network is steadily growing. We have over 15 rapid response working groups across all regions of Uganda i.e. Central, Northern, Eastern and western regions. Through these Rapid response trainings, we hope to collectively fight illegal detentions, torture of victims and subsequently push our oppressors to realize the need for respect of human rights and freedom for HRDs and ACTIVISTS.
We encourage other communities affected by police brutality and repression to get in touch with us for advice and guidance on how they can form their own group. We hope and believe for a better liberated Uganda.