As a consequence of the 1986-2006 conflict between government forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), it has been estimated that some 75,000 persons were abducted in northern Uganda. The fate of thousands of these people remains unknown. The conflict began as a rebellion of the Ugandan People’s Democratic Army (UPDA), a group of army officers who fled Kampala when President Yoweri Museveni, leader of the National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M), took power in 1986 following a five-year guerilla war. The rebellion gradually changed into a movement with cult-like qualities. The LRA, headed by Joseph Kony, has committed extensive violations of human rights across northern Uganda and also in neighboring countries.

International Human Rights Mechanisms

Uganda is a state party to a number of international human rights mechanisms including the UN Convention against Torture, the UN Human Rights Council, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. It signed the Rome Statute in 1999 and ratified it in 2002.

Uganda also has a Human Rights Commission, a permanent body established to “monitor the human rights situation in the country in recognition of Uganda’s violent and turbulent history that had been characterized by arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, torture and brutal repression with impunity on the part of security organs during the pre and post-independence era.”

The Constitution

The 1995 Constitution is based on the principles of unity, peace, equality, democracy, freedom, social justice and progress. The State commits itself to the protection of and respect for human rights and freedoms, gender balance and fair representation of marginalized groups – Articles V and VI.

The Constitution and the international mechanisms to which Uganda is a party provide for a legal basis and an obligation to address violations of human rights.

In January 2016, the first major hearing involving a former LRA official was conducted at the International Criminal Court. No international or local trials of LRA officials have taken place to date. Dominic Ongwen, a child soldier who later became an LRA leader, is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda, but the charges against him exclude crimes committed by LRA forces elsewhere in Africa. Nevertheless, the hearing is regarded an important step.

In the presidential election of February 2016 Yoweri Museveni, in office since 1986, was re-elected, amid allegations of widespread voting irregularities.