U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Uganda
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Uganda, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1e1e.html [accessed 30 May 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
UGANDAPresident Yoweri Museveni, elected to a 5-year term in 1996 under the 1995 Constitution, dominated the Government. He has ruled since 1986 through the National Resistance Movement (NRM), legislatively reorganized and renamed as "The Movement." The 1995 Constitution provided for a 276-member unicameral parliament and an autonomous, independently elected president. The Constitution formally extended Uganda's one-party movement form of government for 5 years and severely restricted political party activities, with a national referendum on the role of multiple political parties scheduled for the year 2000 after a 1-year campaign period. Movement supporters remained in control in the Parliament, which was elected to a 5-year term in July 1996. Both the presidential and parliamentary elections were peaceful, orderly, and technically transparent; but election conditions, including restrictions on political party activities, led to a flawed election process. The judiciary is generally independent, but understaffed and weak; the President has extensive legal and extralegal powers. The Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) is the key security force. The Constitution maintains civilian control of the UPDF, with the President designated as commander-in-chief. The UPDF's demobilization program, which concluded in 1995, was partially reversed due to increasing instability in the north, and some soldiers were reactivated in 1996 to combat the rebels. UPDF soldiers and members of local defense units (LDU's) assist the police in rural areas, although the LDU's continued to operate without a legal mandate. The Internal Security Organization (ISO) remained under the direct authority of the President. Although the ISO is primarily an intelligence-gathering body, its operatives occasionally detained civilians. The UPDF, police, and LDU's committed human rights abuses. The economy grew at a rate of 5 percent during the fiscal year ending June 30. While the agriculturally based economy continued to rely on coffee as its chief export, cotton and other agricultural exports continued to expand. Economic reforms encouraged investment, and the Government divested 13 parastatals. The Government introduced structural reforms in the banking industry and continued commercial law reform. In addition, the capital markets authority licensed a stock exchange. The Government also made major investments in power, communications, and transport. However, foreign economic assistance accounted for approximately 29 percent of government spending. Annual gross domestic product is about $250 per capita. The Government's human rights record remained the same, and there continued to be numerous, serious problems. Movement domination of the political process limits the rights of citizens. Security forces used excessive force, at times resulting in death. Government forces committed or failed to prevent some extrajudicial killings of suspected rebels and civilians. Police, UPDF, and LDU forces regularly beat and sometimes tortured suspects, often to force confessions. There were numerous cases in which the Government detained and charged UPDF and LDU members for human rights abuses. However, despite measures to improve the discipline and training of security forces, and despite the punishment of some security force officials guilty of abuses, security force abuses remained a problem throughout the countryVUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUution maintains civilian control of the UPDF, with the President designated as commander-in-chief. The UPDF's demobilization program, which concluded in 1995, was partially reversed due to increasing instability in the north, and some soldiers wacklog, and lengthy trial delays circumscribed due process and the right to a fair trial. The Government continued to cooperate with nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) on legal and prison reforms. The UPDF at times infringed on citizens' privacy rights. Although independent newspapers generally published freely, the Government at times restricted freedom of speech and the press in practice. The Government dominated the media and occasionally resorted to outdated laws on sedition and criminal libel or employed other means of press harassment, including imprisonment. This led some journalists to practice self-censorship. The UPDF continued to censor press reports about the northern insurgencies. In September the Government resumed administration of Movement political education courses, which had been suspended in 1995 to avoid interference with the elections. The Government restricts freedom of assembly and association, and the 1995 Constitution extended previously existing restrictions on political activity for an additional 5 years, effectively limiting these rights further. However, the Government continued efforts to improve representation in the political process of marginalized groups, including women and people with disabilities. Discrimination against women, people with disabilities, and ethnic minorities persists. Domestic violence, rape, and abuse of children remained serious problems. The Government worked with NGO's to combat the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Child labor, especially in the informal sector, is widespread. Insurgent forces committed numerous serious abuses. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, continued to kill, torture, maim, rape, and abduct large numbers of civilians, virtually enslaving numerous children. Although its activities diminished sharply late in the year, the West Nile Bank Front (WNBF) also committed killings, as did the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group active in western Uganda.