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UN experts call on Uganda to repeal law that restricts assembly

11, August 2013(KAMPALA) – United Nations human rights experts have called on the Ugandan government to repeal a bill passed last week by parliament saying it places restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

On Tuesday last week Uganda’s parliament passed the Public Order Management Bill which requires that any protests of more than three people will require authorisation from the police.

President Yoweri Museveni is yet to ascend to the bill but its passing has been heavily criticised by both local and international human rights groups including three UN human rights experts.

On Friday, Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders called upon Ugandan to repeal the law.

“Unless this law is amended to comply with Uganda’s international legal obligations, it must be revoked. We are at the full disposal of the Government of Uganda to provide any technical assistance it may require to ensure this law meets international human rights law and standards,” the experts said in a news release on Friday.

Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur freedom of peaceful assembly and of association said the law effectively bans public gatherings.

“Requiring prior authorization from the authorities to hold an assembly may result in an effective ban on certain gatherings, which violates Uganda’s international obligations,” said Maina Kiai adding that “the requirement to list the names of all participants[ in a gathering] serves only to frighten people from expressing their right to peaceful assembly.”

On her part Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders said the law aims at limiting the work of human rights defenders.

“By excluding assemblies for social, religious, cultural, charitable, educational, commercial or industrial purposes, as well as meetings of any political party from its provisions, it is clear that this law is not intended to protect public safety during public events, but is designed to unduly limit those who wish to publicly defend their human rights,” she said.

Amnesty International said the law ’’represents a represents a serious blow to open political debate in the country”.

Uganda heads for general elections in 2016. Critics of the Kampala government say the law will make it difficult for the opposition to mount a significant challenge to President Yoweri Museveni who has ruled Uganda for the last 27 years.


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Uganda-South Sudan border market floods

August 7, 2013(Kampala) – A key market on the Uganda side of the border with South Sudan was on Tuesday night flooded after a heavy downpour made the nearby Unyama river to burst its banks flooding the market including the road that links Uganda to South Sudan.

Elego market located about 70 kms east of the northern Uganda town of Gulu was set up at the Bibia-Nimule border. It is an important market for both Uganda and South Sudan. For Uganda it’s an opportunity to serve the South Sudan market. For South Sudan, it’s an opportunity to buy goods that may be inadequate or unavailable in South Sudan.

By Wednesday afternoon the strategic road that links the two countries was flooded with only bigger vehicles capable of wading through the water.

Traders were also stranded as their shops and stalls were still filled with water.

‘‘The whole place has been flooded. People are stranded and have nowhere to go,’’ Patrick Okema, a Spokesperson for the Ugandan police in northern Uganda told the Sudan Tribune by phone.

On Wednesday a team of Uganda government officials and the Uganda Red Cross travelled to the border market to assess the situation.

No one died in the floods but a woman was injured after a tree she climbed to avoid the floods was swept by gushing flood water.

Uganda’s Minister of Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru put the number of those affected by the floods at 1,000.


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Great Lakes countries urged to contribute troops towards fighting LRA’s Kony

August 4, 2013(KAMPALA) – The US Charity Invisible Children has asked the East African Legislative Assembly(EALA) to lobby countries in the Great Lakes region to contribute troops towards efforts in fighting the Lords Resistance Army(LRA) rebels.

In a petition to the Speaker of EALA, Margret Zziwa, in Arusha, Tanzania, Invisible Children through its regional Ambassador Jolly Laker asked the East African parliament to send a fact finding mission to LRA affected areas in northern Uganda, DR Congo and the Central African Republic.

While receiving the petition, Zziwa said it would be discussed in the next session of the East African parliament.

“We are going to have our next session in the next two weeks and this (petition) will constitute a very important activity in terms of interrogating the information and challenges that you have expressed to us,’’ Zziwa said on Thursday last week.

Invisible Children also asked the regional parliament to lobby the governments of DRC Congo, Sudan and South Sudan to allow operations against the LRA in their territory.

In a report last week, Resolve, also a US based organisation released a report saying Kony was losing control over his rebel group.

Resolve, among others, recommended that the African Union (AU) should ask the Sudan government to allow broadcast messages encouraging defections from the LRA to be dropped in the Kafia Kingi enclave, where the LRA leader and some of his commanders are suspected to be hiding

In 2011, US President Barrack Obama sent to Uganda 100 military advisers to help the armies of Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central Africa Republic to fight the rebel group that in the past few years has mainly been operating in Central Africa Republic.


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