State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Uganda
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||1 July 2010|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Uganda, 1 July 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c33310146.html [accessed 19 April 2015]|
In September 2009, a three-day riot in Kampala led to the deaths of at least 50 people and the arrest of 600 others. Members of the ancient Buganda kingdom rioted over the state's refusal to allow their traditional leader, the Kabaka, to visit a part of the kingdom. The Buganda community has continued to demand a semi-autonomous federal unit for itself, a demand largely driven by the quest for the restoration of Buganda land annexed by the state after the abolition of kingdoms during the first Obote government.
The discovery of oil early in 2009 in Lake Albert within the traditional territory of another kingdom, the Bunyoro Kitara, is also already creating serious tensions with the national government.
Minority groups in Uganda remain highly disadvantaged. The Batwa, Benet and pastoralists in Karamoja, for instance, held no important chieftaincies, meaning their access to political participation is limited. In northern Uganda, the integrated disarmament programme of the state, which for the first time had been designed with the Karamojong's involvement, was abandoned in 2008, when the state mounted another brutal security operation in the region. This resulted in deaths and destruction of property, and eroded community support for the disarmament programme. It also led to the suspension of funding to the programme by the main bilateral donor to the project, Norway.
Batwa, one of the most vulnerable communities in the world, witnessed further deprivation of their access rights in the Bwindi Mgahinga National Park when DRC, Rwanda and Uganda signed an agreement to create a transboundary biosphere out of the national parks that cover the Virunga landscape. This decision, like many before it, was taken with no consultation or involvement of Batwa. The Benet Lobby Group reported that a decision of the Ugandan High Court to restore the ancestral rights of the community over Mt Elgon National Park in 2005 remained largely unimplemented by the state, even though about 1,000 of their members in Kapchorwa district have been temporarily allowed to settle in the park.
Uganda's 2005 constitutional amendment that created the new Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) mandated the government to establish it within a year. The EOC was intended to address discrimination and to ensure that affirmative action for marginalized groups is promoted and observed. Despite passage of the 2007 Equal Opportunities Act, the Commissioners were only appointed by the president in August 2009. While it is still too early to assess its strengths, the establishment of the EOC provides an important institutional mechanism which minorities in Uganda, including Batwa, can use to advocate for recognition more visibly. In 2009, the president, contrary to the principles laid out in the Constitution, continued to create new districts defined on an ethnic basis, the Ugandan newspaper New Vision said.
The Ugandan parliament in 2009 considered enacting a law that would reaffirm penalties for homosexuality and criminalize the 'promotion of homosexuality'. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 targeted lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans, their defenders and anyone else who failed to report them to the authorities, whether they are inside or outside of Uganda (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission [IGLHRC], 2009). These homophobic attacks are reinforced by dominant religious views. Hence in March 2009, the IGLHRC pointed out that, 'The American religious right is finally showing its hand and revealing the depth of its support for homophobia in Africa.' However, while most orthodox religious groups support the legislation, they are opposed to the penal measures proposed, particularly the use of capital punishment. These developments, as pointed out earlier in this chapter, generally portend ill for pluralism in Uganda.