1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation:
The political landscape of Uganda in 2018 was defined by consistent challenges to political and civic space. The narrowing of public debate by opposition, civil society organisations (CSOs) and media has been assured by robust and at times brutal behaviour of security forces, exemplified by the violent arrests and alleged acts of torture targeting opposition activists and MPs in the context of the by-election organised in the Arua district in August 2018. Several cases of increasing government violation of free association, expression, and assembly rights were documented. Corruption in the Ugandan public sector continues to be perceived as endemic. The country loses about EUR 7 billion each year in illicit financial flows through tax avoidance and evasion, money laundering, and bribery.
2. EU action - key focus areas:
An EU Election Follow-up Mission (EFM) was deployed in Uganda from 5-9 March 2018 to measure progress in implementing electoral reforms recommended by the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) in 2016. The EFM, led by MEP Eduard Kukan, met all key stakeholders in the country and concluded that there was limited political will and very limited progress in reforms in line with EOM recommendations.
The joint initiative of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) has continued to train members of the media. DGF worked in close collaboration with EU-funded actions as well as bilateral Member States interventions in the same field.
The EU Delegation and Member States continued to address corruption and wider accountability in their political outreach, including marking International Anti-corruption Day on 9 December, framing the issue as crucial for investor confidence.
EU continued to engage and encourage the Government to complete the process of approval of the Transitional Justice Policy and Bill. After much delay, the Bill was submitted to Cabinet in August but is still to be approved.
Throughout 2018, the EU Delegation chaired the HRD Development Partners group and regularly invited human rights defenders (HRDs), CSOs and government institutions for ad-hoc meetings. It also provided support to HRDs through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) emergency small grant facility and through the EU-funded CSO consortium-led programme 'protectdefenders.eu'.
The EU continues to underline the universality and indivisibility of fundamental human rights and employs a rights based approach in political engagements. Focus was placed on those who are disadvantaged, targeted or excluded, including refugees and the LGBTI community.
As a contribution to the implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in Uganda, the EU and its Member States, together with Norway, have adopted the Humanitarian-Development Nexus Action Plan. It highlights issues such as protection, dignity and self-reliance, and ensuring gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women.
3. EU bilateral political engagement:
On 20 August the EU and its Member States, together with Norway and Iceland, reacted to the violence in Arua with a joint statement on the incident, expressing concern over the events and calling for immediate transparent investigations. On September 13, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the "Arrest of parliamentarians from the opposition" which sparked an intense debate in the local media and was met with strong reactions from the Government of Uganda (GoU).
The EU called for the enactment of relevant human rights legislation such as the Private Member’s Bill ‘National Legal Aid Bill’, the Marriage and Divorce Bill and Sexual Offences Bill and enforcement of the Domestic Violence Act and the Female Genital Mutilation Act. In part due to this advocacy, Uganda’s judiciary, which is facing a significant backlog of cases and shortages of judges, set up special court sessions to expeditiously hear and dispose of 1,000 cases related to crimes on sexual and gender-based violence.
The EU continued to actively contribute to efforts to secure the permanent abolition of the death penalty in Uganda. The EU's political outreach included the organisation and active participation in actions to commemorate the World Day against the Death Penalty and publishing a statement in two leading Ugandan dailies. EU Heads of Missions paid a solidarity visit to death row inmates at Luzira maximum security prison in October 2018.
4. EU financial engagement:
A number of development cooperation projects, at national and regional level, have the objectives to ensure the protection of children's rights and curbing violence against children. This includes the Kampiringisa project, focusing on children in conflict with the law. Other flagship cooperation projects included the continued implementation of the Advance Afrika and PICOT project under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) budget line, which advocates for change in attitudes and behaviours that escalate sexual and gender based violence and child abuse.
Under the EU Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa, the EU has funded several projects worth a total of EUR 44.3 million. Two new EUTF programmes, one targeting security, justice and livelihoods and another one in support of service provision in refugee-hosting municipalities, including a regional focus, have been approved for start of implementation in 2019.
5. Multilateral context:
The EU closely followed the verification exercise undertaken by the Government and the UNHCR regarding the actual number of refugees hosted in Uganda, and stressed the importance of following through on the subsequent investigations on alleged cases of corruption, financial mismanagement and sexual exploitation and abuse.
See full EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2018 here [https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/39343/human-rights-2018-eu-annual-...].
See record of EU Annual Reports on Human Rights and Democratisation saved here [https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/uganda/8437/eu-annual-reports-human-r...]