Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law Wins Major Human Rights Award: Calls on Government to Cease the Unwarranted Intimidation of Civil Society

On Friday 3rd August, 2012, Uganda’s Civil
Society Coalition on Human Rights &
Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL) was deeply
honoured to receive the highly prestigious
Human Rights Defenders Award 2011 from the
US State Department. In presenting the
award, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton praised the Coalition for its structure,
diversity, leadership, activism, use of the
judiciary, and cohesion. She also thanked the
members for providing a model for human
rights activists worldwide.
The award comes at a time of growing
domestic and international concern at the
rapidly shrinking space for civil society in
Uganda today. In Febuary this year, the Minister of Ethics
and Integrity, Rev. Simon Lokodo, prematurely closed down a
workshop organised by a member organisation of the
Coaltion. In June a second workshop was raided and
forcefully closed down by police. A week thereafter, the
Minister made unwarranted remarks about the Coalition’s
work, which he described as ‘”recruiting” young children’ into
homosexuality and as ‘promoting a negative culture’ and
threatened to close down 38 organisations.
Similar language has been used on several occasions in
recent weeks by the Minister of Internal Affairs, both while
launching Uganda’s NGO Policy, and during the launch of the
3rd meeting of the East African Community Chiefs of Prisons.
As such, it seems to be a shared Government position that
NGOs are promoting what the Government views as
‘negative cultures’ in the disguise of promoting human rights
in Uganda.
In light of the Minister of Ethics & Integrity’s unfounded
allegations, as well as the erosion of human rights and civil
society which the statement of the Minister of Internal Affairs
suggests, this press statement serves to clarify the structure,
objectives and activities of the CSCHRCL (the Coalition). The
Coalition is, a body which was introduced in 2009 in response
to the tabling of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in October 2009.
The Coalition—which now stands at 50 member
organisations—brings together organisations with a shared
concern over the recent history of attempts to intimidate and
silence ordinary, law abiding Ugandans: we include
organisations working on women’s rights, HIV, refugee rights,
disabled rights, LGBTI rights, sex-work rights, IDP rights,
journalists rights, health rights, and democratic governance,
among others. We are concerned that the actions of the
Minister of Ethics & Integrity follow a recent pattern of
intimidation and clamping down against oppositional civic
action, including against those raising concerns about the
unconscionable oil agreements, land-grabbing and the
general lack of freedom of association and assembly in the
For those who have read the provisions of the
Anti-Homosexuality Bill closely, it was clear that the Bill is a
direct attack not just on sexual rights activists, but also on civil
society more broadly. It is a bill which seeks to allow some
elements within the state to exercise unconstitutional levels of
control over ordinary civilians and civil society at large. In
short, it is an attempt to increase the repression of civil
society under disguise of ‘protecting’ a particular vision of
The Coalition has consistently spoken out against the
unconstitutional Bill, and has met on a regular basis since it
was established three years ago; visitors to these meetings
have included, Members of Parliament, the public as well as
the staff of many embassies. The Coalition has hosted a
number of major events, in public spaces such as Makerere
University’s School of Law auditorium and major hotels in and
around Kampala. The Coalition’s work is placed on the
internet ( and as such is available
to the general public. The organisational membership of the
Coalition has been listed on each of the press statements
made in the public media. As such, any attempt to portray the
Coalition as engaging in secret activities is absurd. Contrary
to what the Minister, who speaks on behalf of the
government, has always asserted, opposing a piece of
legislation or even providing leadership or health skills to a
marginalized group is not an ‘illegal activity.’ The Minister’s
actions are thus unconstitutional and have no foundation in
In light of the recent actions of the Minister for
Ethics & Integrity, and the statement of the
Minister for Internal Affairs, we urge the
Government to think carefully before further
jeopardising the already threatened civil society
space in Uganda. The state of a country’s Civil
Society is a key indicator of the state of
governance in that country; weak civil society
reflects weak governance. The full enjoyment of
the rights to freedom of assembly and expression
is fundamental to democracy; attacks on these
rights are attacks on democracy. The extent of
sexual rights enjoyed serves as a clear indicator
of the capacity of a country to accommodate
diversity and pluralism: Weak sexual rights are
an indicator of weak democracies.
The current attacks on civil society, while diverting attention
from critical issues related to land and other resources, are
rapidly undermining the Ugandan Government’s
considerable achievements historically, as well as the
standing of our country in the eyes of the world. We are also
concerned that the Minister of Ethics has consistently
misapplied his mandate by using his office to intimidate and
frustrate organisations working towards protection of human
rights for all. The Coalition therefore calls upon the
Government of Uganda to clarify the role of the Minister of
Ethics & Integrity, and to cease the unconstitutional threats to
civil society organizations. We urge the Government to bring
an end to indiscriminate and manifestly illegal actions of
abuse against civil society and the rights of all Ugandans.
Instead, there is a need to prioritize the curbing of the
rampant abuse of young children in schools, homes and
churches by the very teachers, parents and spiritual leaders
who are supposed to protect them.
Until such time as Ethics & Integrity are defined in our
Constitution, and the role of the Minister can therefore be
properly understood and interpreted, we call for the removal
of this Ministry, as the anti-corruption functions it has to date
failed to accomplish are well catered for elsewhere. We
further call on Civil Society and the General Public to join us
in expressing our collective opposition to the government’s
increasing efforts to suppress the working environment of civil
society and to strongly oppose the Minister’s blatant
misinterpretations of the Constitution, as well as his
continued efforts at intimidating, suppressing and abusing the
rights of sexual and gender minorities in Uganda.


Uganda Harm Reduction Network (UHRN) is a Community Based Organisation, established in 2011, Reg No. WCBO/1253/11, found by former drug users, to provide a national platform and reduce the health, social and economic harms associated with “drug use”. We further seek to develop an enabling environment for the implementation and expansion of human right interventions for Drug Users (IDUs, Sex Workers and Youth) in Uganda in partnerships with other stakeholders as we strive for victory. Vision: “A Ugandan society that reorganizes and protects the health, social, economic and human rights of drug users”. Mission: “To reduce the health, social and economic harms associated with drug use to develop an enabling environment for the implementation and expansion of human right interventions for drug users in Uganda. Objectives: We work to: • Promote access to cancer screening, psychosocial support and comprehensive care (HIV, SRHR, TB, and Hepatitis B and C treatment). • Organize and equip drug users whose rights have been violated to take responsibility of their health, social, economic wellbeing and sustainability through economic empowerment trainings and functional adult literacy programmes. • Document and expose human rights violations against drug users and call for legal protection and engage in policy reforms on laws that negatively impact on drug users. • Build partnership, synergy and develop the leadership capacity of drug users to take charge of their program. • Promote the health, social economic and human rights of “drug users” in Uganda irrespective of their social, economic, academic, cultural or political background. • Promote safer sex education such as condom use, needle and syringe exchange program, comprehensive care and mechanism on how to deal with issues of overdose, trafficking and violence against drug users. • Call for an enabling environment and strengthen partnerships towards “drug users”. Core values for UHRN: The driving forces that guide all actions and practices in UHRN are:- • Social justice, protection and recognition in society • Love and respect for one another. • Support and care for one another • Honesty in all our undertakings • Empathy for each other as drug users • Sharing the available resources.


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