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Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were several reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including due to torture.

On June 23, media reported that, Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police Force (UPF) personnel allegedly shot and killed Erasmus Irumba, a coordinator at local human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) The Twerwaneho Listener’s Club, and his friend Vide Kanyoro. According to NGO, Irumba had been investigating two high-profile corruption cases involving security officials. According to local media, a police spokesperson claimed the men were suspected arms traders and said that elements of the security forces killed them. The UPF later announced it had arrested Third Mountain Battalion Commander Richard Muhangi, Ntoroko District Police Commander Gerald Atuhairwe, and District Internal Security Officer Elidard Babishanga on charges of murder and robbery and remanded them to Kitojjo Prison, where they awaited trial at year’s end.

According to the local NGO Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), the UPF tortured to death a suspect arrested for alleged involvement in the March 17 killing of Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi. FHRI reported that in the course of investigating Kaweesi’s killing, police arrested and tortured at least 13 suspects, including tying polythene bags over two suspects’ heads while transferring them between detention facilities, asphyxiating one suspect to death.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) had yet to release the findings of its investigation into the security service’s November 2016 raid on Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere’s palace, during which, according to local and international media and human rights organizations, UPDF and UPF personnel killed between 60 and 250 persons, including a number of unarmed civilians. Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) March 13 report noted that, as of year’s end, 15 children ages three to 14 years who were last seen in the palace compound the day of the raid remained missing. On March 15, UPDF spokesperson Richard Karemire told a local television station that under the law, the military could not investigate the raid while the court case against Mumbere and some of his guards was pending.

On February 6, the Jinja Magistrate’s Court released Mumbere on bail and confined his movements to Kampala, Wakiso, and Jinja Districts, hence forbidding him from travelling to his kingdom in Western Uganda. Trials of the king and his guards continued at year’s end.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. The 2012 Anti-Torture Act stipulates that any person convicted of an act of torture may be sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of 7.2 million shillings ($2,000), or both. The penalty for conviction of aggravated torture is life imprisonment. Nevertheless, there were credible reports security forces tortured and physically abused suspects.

From January through May, of the 289 detainees the African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) interviewed, 255 said that UPF or UPDF personnel had tortured them. ACTV provided legal advice to 64 torture victims.

Media reported multiple cases of the UPF torturing detainees suspected of involvement in the Kaweesi killing. On May 12, ACTV reported that UPF and UPDF personnel tortured 13 detainees suspected of involvement in his death. Reportedly, the suspect’s lawyer said police had tortured his clients by flogging them while they hung upside down, inserting red peppers in their noses and mouths, cutting them with knives, burning them with clothes irons, giving them electric shocks, and submerging them in water, among other methods. On October 12, a court awarded 22 individuals, whom police had arrested for alleged involvement in the Kaweesi killing, with 80 million shillings ($22,200) each, as compensation for being tortured by UPF and UPDF personnel.

Of the 22 individuals arrested in May, on November 7, the court granted seven of them bail. Immediately after their release, plain-clothed armed men violently apprehended four of the men in front of the courthouse. Several hours later the UPDF took responsibility for the arrests and stated that the men were suspected of belonging to the Allied Defense Forces, a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)-based militia group, unrelated to Kaweesi’s death. On November 9, local media reported that the UPDF and UPF denied holding the four men and accused each other of doing so.

On May 11, local media reported UPF personnel also arrested and allegedly tortured Kamwenge Town Mayor Geoffrey Byamukama for suspected involvement in Kaweesi’s death. Local media broadcast images of deep wounds on Byamukama’s knees and ankles and reported on May 30 that according to state prosecutors, UPF officers had beaten him with metal bars. On May 11, UPF spokesperson Asan Kasingye denied that UPF officers tortured Byamukama, claiming that he was injured during a struggle with the arresting officers. After public criticism and calls for accountability, however, local media reported on May 20 that the UPF arrested four police officers, Habib Roma, Ben Odeke, Fred Tumuhairwe, and Patrick Muramira, on charges of torturing Byamukama. The court arraigned them on May 26 and released them on bail on May 30. The case continued at year’s end. Byamukama remained in police custody at the Flying Squad Unit’s (FSU) headquarters, the site of many previous allegations of police torture, until his September 9 release on police bond, without having been charged with any crime.

On May 11, local media reported that UPF officers arrested Ministry of East African Community Affairs’ Principal Assistant Secretary James Okuja on allegations of torture. The UPF said Okuja instructed security guards at his hotel to detain two individuals, including a UPDF soldier whom Okuja accused of trespassing and damaging hotel toilets, and then burn him with a hot metal object. On May 16, the state charged Okuja with torture. The case continued at year’s end.

There were no known updates on the trial of police officers Patrick Katete and Charles Okure concerning the 2016 torture and murder of Twaha Kasaija at Walukuba Police Station. ACTV reported in 2016 that, after police arrested Kasaija on suspicion of theft, unidentified individuals beat him to death while he was in police custody.

The UHRC reported that during 2016, it awarded one billion shillings ($275,000) in compensation to victims of torture.

On May 15, HRW reported that since 2015 UPDF soldiers (deployed as part of an African Union effort to eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army, a nonstate armed group) had sexually abused and exploited at least 13 women and girls in the Central African Republic. HRW reported that a UPDF soldier raped a 15-year-old girl in Obo village, while other soldiers offered food and money to girls and women in exchange for sex. According to HRW, in 2016 the UPDF investigated certain rape allegations against its soldiers and “found no evidence of wrongdoing.” According to HRW, three of the victims said that UPDF soldiers threatened reprisals if they told Ugandan and UN investigators about the abuse.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in detention centers remained poor and, in some cases, life threatening. Serious problems included overcrowding, physical abuse of detainees by security staff and fellow inmates, inadequate food, and understaffing. Local human rights groups, including the ACTV, received reports of torture by security forces and prison personnel. Reports of forced labor continued. Most prisons did not have accommodations for persons with disabilities.

Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding remained a problem. On June 19, Inspector General of Prisons Johnson Byabashaija told local media that the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) held 55,784 inmates, yet its capacity was 22,000. Luzira Maximum Security Prison, the country’s largest, housed 8,500 inmates, yet its capacity was 3,000. At the three Kampala police stations FHRI visited through May, it found food shortages, overcrowding, and unsanitary living conditions. FHRI reported that at Katwe and Kabalagala police stations, detainees had to remain in a sitting position on the floor at night, because there was insufficient room for them to lie down. FHRI also reported that at the police stations it visited, the UPF fed detainees once daily and prisoners had to rely on family members to bring food for basic nutrition. FHRI also observed that detainees at Katwe, Wandegeya, and Kabalagala police stations did not have access to toilet paper or soap and had to secure these items personally through police officers. On September 12, Byabashaija told local media that the UPS required an additional 1,500 medical personnel to provide adequate medical services to its inmates.

In its 2016 annual report, the UHRC reported it inspected 164 of the country’s 253 prisons and 292 of 296 police stations. The UHRC reported that at 52 of the country’s 70 prison farms–correctional facilities designed to rehabilitate prisoners through agricultural production training–it visited, prisoners had to use water or leaves to clean themselves, as the UPS did not provide inmates with toilet paper. The UHRC also found that the UPS did not provide adequate soap at 78 percent of the prisons it visited. At one prison farm, the UHRC found that the UPS provided one bar of soap for more than 40 inmates to use for three months.

On May 23, the UHRC told the media that the UPF separated a lactating mother detainee at the FSU headquarters from her seven-month-old child and prevented her from breastfeeding for an unspecified period. The UPF denied the accusation. On June 6, the UPS told local media that 284 babies lived in the prisons with their mothers. The UHRC reported the women’s sections at Luzira and Mbarara prisons had day-care centers. A local newspaper reported, however, it did not find any day-care facilities at the seven prisons it visited. Authorities in Kampala separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, but prison authorities in other parts of the country did not.

The UPS reported 67 inmate deaths in 2016. Causes of death included malaria, cardiac arrest, anemia, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Media also reported deaths by suicide and police abuse.

FHRI reported that UPF officers at the Kisugu Police Post beat some detainees at night. It also reported that the UPF did not intervene to break up fights between detainees at Katwe Police Station.

Local media reported that at some prisons, inmates walked up to 15 miles to appear at their court hearings. The UPS told local media that inmates had to walk to court because it had insufficient vehicles to transport them and that some UPS staff transported inmates to court in their personal vehicles.

Administration: Although the UPF said its Police Standards Unit duly investigated accusations of improper conduct, its officers mistreated inmates, and the UPF frequently failed to investigate the accusations properly (see section 1.a.). Local television stations and newspapers published images of some of the Kaweesi murder suspects bearing deep wounds at their first court hearing on May 6, which the suspects said resulted from police torture. With no known investigation or evidence, the UPF told local media that the suspects bore those injuries before police arrested them.

Local media and NGOs reported the UPF occasionally prohibited visitors from accessing detainees. On May 15, local media reported that UPF personnel at the FSU headquarters had blocked Byamukama’s family from visiting him since his arrest in late March and also prevented the families of 13 suspects in the Kaweesi case from seeing their incarcerated relatives. On August 18, however, media reported that the UPF had since allowed Byamukama’s wife to visit him.

Independent Monitoring: Although local NGOs such as FHRI and ACTV visited some detention facilities, ACTV reported the UPF and the UPS denied it permission to visit FSU headquarters and Luzira Prisons, where authorities detained individuals suspected of links to Kaweesi’s killing. The International Committee of the Red Cross declined to comment on whether it conducted prison visits during the year.

Improvements: On June 19, the UPS told local media that it had transferred 100 inmates from Luzira Maximum Security prison and distributed them among Jinja, Nakasongola, Kitalya, and Kigo prisons to reduce congestion. The UHRC reported newly constructed and renovated cells, wards, stores, and offices at 12 percent of prisons. It also reported the UPS had phased out the use of buckets for collecting human waste at 38 percent of prisons and 15 percent of police stations.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the law prohibits such practices, security forces often arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, including opposition leaders, politicians, activists, demonstrators, and journalists. The law provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, but this mechanism was seldom employed and rarely successful.


Under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the UPF has primary responsibility for law enforcement. The UPDF, under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security and may aid civil authorities when responding to riots or other disturbances of the peace. The Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence is legally under UPDF authority and may detain civilians suspected of rebel or terrorist activity. Other agencies with law enforcement powers include the Directorate of Counter Terrorism, Joint Intelligence Committee, and Special Forces Brigade.

The security services continued to use excessive force, including torture, often failed to prevent societal violence, and at times targeted civilians. Local media reported on June 26 that the UPF fired on teenage students of Kacheera High School in Rakai District to disperse a protest, injuring three of them with gunshot wounds. Media reported the UPF shot students Hassan Magara in the groin and Jackie Ahimbisibwe and Boaz Serwanja in the thighs. The UPF said it arrested the officers involved and intended to charge them with “unlawful wounding.” The case was underway at year’s end.

On February 1, a police disciplinary court convicted nine UPF officers of unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority, and with discreditable or irregular conduct, related to the 2016 public beatings of unarmed supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala. The court demoted three senior officers and reprimanded the six others, fining each of the nine officers one-third of their monthly salary. A case against the inspector general of police (IGP) for his supervisory role during the beatings remained pending at year’s end.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the UPDF and UPF. Due to corruption, political interests, and weak rule of law, however, the government’s mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse were ineffective, and impunity was pervasive (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.). Despite the domestic and international controversy surrounding the UPDF’s 2016 raid on a traditional king’s palace in the western region, on January 10, the president promoted the raid commander, Brigadier General Peter Elwelu, to major general and appointed him commander of land forces.

As of year’s end, former Kampala central police station commander Aaron Baguma’s trial for his alleged role in a 2015 murder had yet to begin. The judiciary transferred the assigned trial judge in November 2016 but had yet to reassign the case. Baguma turned himself in to authorities in August 2016 after media reports incited a public outcry for justice and accountability. The court released Baguma on bail nine days after his arraignment, and he remained free while awaiting trial.

The UHRC reported it trained 221 UPDF soldiers on respecting human rights and freedoms in the performance of their duties.


The law requires that judges or prosecutors issue a warrant before an arrest is made, unless the arrest is made during commission of a crime or while in pursuit of a perpetrator. Nevertheless, authorities often arrested suspects without warrants. The law requires authorities to arraign suspects within 48 hours of arrest, but they frequently held suspects longer without charge. Authorities must try suspects arrested under the Antiterrorism Law within 120 days (360 days if charged with a capital offense) or release them on bail; if prosecution presents the case to the court before the expiration of this period, there is no limit on further pretrial detention. While the law requires authorities to inform detainees immediately of the reasons for detention, at times they did not do so. The law provides for bail at the judge’s discretion, but many suspects were unaware of the law or lacked the financial means to cover the bond. Judges generally granted requests for bail. The law provides detainees the right to legal representation and access to a lawyer, but authorities did not always respect this right. The law requires the government to provide an attorney for indigent defendants charged with capital offenses. Citizens detained without charge have the right to sue the Attorney General’s Office for compensation for unlawful detention; however, this right was rarely exercised. Security forces often held opposition political members and other suspects incommunicado and under house arrest.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention, particularly of opposition political party members, remained problems. On September 12, the government initiated a process aimed at rescinding Article 102 (b) of the constitution, which prohibits anyone younger than 35 years and older than 75 years from running for president. Opponents of the amendment feared it would enable the president to remain in power indefinitely. Police regularly detained activists protesting the initiative and broke up public meetings and rallies perceived as opposing the amendment. In Rukungiri District, while dispersing an October 19 protest against the initiative, police arrested Besigye and detained him for six days without an arraignment. At his October 25 arraignment, the state charged Besigye with inciting violence, malicious damage to property, and disobeying a statutory authority, and released him on bail. Immediately after his release, however, police rearrested Besigye and detained him at Kampala Central Police Station, 230 miles away, before taking him home later the same day.

Besigye’s trial for treason, related to his taking a mock presidential oath in May 2016, continued at year’s end. Police had not concluded their investigation by year’s end, and Besigye remained free on bail.

According to local media, the UPF detained without charge at least 13 children ages two to 15 years old for 51 days. According to police, the parents of the children were suspects in the killing of Assistant Inspector General Kaweesi. The UPF initially denied holding the children after their mothers made a public outcry for help via local media on May 7. The UPF then told the media on May 8 that it had been holding the children to protect them from their parents, who police claimed intended to traffic them. Local human rights NGOs asserted the police took the children to pressure the parents to confess to the crime or provide information. On May 11, police released the children.

Pretrial Detention: Case backlogs due to an inefficient judiciary that lacked adequate funding and staff, the absence of plea bargaining prior to 2015, insufficient use of bail, and the absence of a time limit for the detention of detainees awaiting trial contributed to frequent prolonged pretrial detentions. FHRI and the UPS reported 52 percent of the country’s 55,784 inmates were pretrial detainees. FHRI also reported 20 percent of prisoners had spent at least three years in pretrial detention. After a successful pilot program in 2014, the judiciary introduced a plea-bargaining mechanism to the High Court in 2015. The UPS reported that between June 2016 and June 2017, the judiciary reached plea bargains with 1,245 defendants. The judiciary’s March-June report stated that the High Court concluded 2,010 capital cases through plea bargaining in 2016, at a third of the cost it would ordinarily take to do so.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the government did not always respect this provision. Corruption, understaffing, inefficiency, and executive branch interference with judicial rulings often undermined the courts’ independence.

The president appoints Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and High Court judges and members of the Judicial Service Commission (which makes recommendations on appointments to the judiciary) with the approval of parliament.

Due to vacancies on the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, High Court, and the lower courts, the judiciary did not deliver justice in a timely manner. At times the lack of judicial quorum precluded cases from proceeding.

Judicial corruption was a problem, and local media reported numerous cases where judicial officers in lower courts solicited and accepted bribes from the parties involved. On March 31, the chief justice accused the inspector general of government (IGG) of enabling corruption in the judiciary by refusing to prosecute a number of judicial officers caught accepting bribes. The IGG asserted that her office did not have the resources to prosecute low-level officers for accepting relatively small bribes and advised the judiciary to punish such officials with administrative measures.


Although the law provides for a presumption of innocence, authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and are entitled to free assistance of an interpreter. An inadequate system of judicial administration resulted in a serious backlog of cases, undermining suspects’ right to a timely trial. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult with an attorney of their choice. The law requires the government to provide an attorney for indigent defendants charged with capital offenses. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and appeal. The law allows defendants to confront or question witnesses testifying against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, but authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal.

All nonmilitary trials are public. A single judge decides cases in the High Court, while a panel of at least five judges decides cases in the Constitutional and Supreme Courts. The law allows military courts to try civilians that assist members of the military in committing offenses or are found possessing arms, ammunition, or other equipment reserved for the armed forces.


During the year authorities detained numerous opposition politicians and activists on politically motivated grounds. Authorities released many without charge but charged others with crimes including cyber harassment, inciting violence, holding illegal meetings, and abuse of office. No statistics on the number of political detainees or prisoners were available.

On April 7, the UPF arrested Makerere University lecturer Stella Nyanzi on a charge of cyber harassment for calling the president “a pair of buttocks” in a Facebook post (see section 2.a.). On April 10, the court remanded her to Luzira Prison, where she remained until the court released her on bail on May 10. Nyanzi’s lawyers said the UPS attempted to conduct a medical examination on Nyanzi by force, but she resisted. The UPS stated it was a routine medical examination conducted on all inmates. The state claimed that Nyanzi was mentally ill and requested the court order her to submit to a mental examination. Nyanzi petitioned the Constitutional Court to block the examination, and the case remained pending at year’s end.

On multiple occasions the UPS delayed or blocked visitors from seeing Nyanzi. On April 19, UPS personnel blocked Nyanzi’s children and lawyers from accessing her for four hours, saying the visitors did not have clearance, but later allowed them to see her. On April 22, UPS personnel blocked opposition leader Besigye from visiting Nyanzi, asserting that it was not a visitation day, but allowed him to visit other inmates that day in the same prison. Nyanzi’s family said that to stop Nyanzi from teaching and reading to other inmates, the UPS confiscated her books and writings and instructed other inmates not to speak with her and to avoid her.

There was no available information on whether the government permitted international human rights or humanitarian organizations access to political detainees.

On July 13, the Constitutional Court issued an order to halt opposition politician Michael Kabaziguruka’s military court trial until the court ruled on his application contesting the constitutionality of trying a civilian in a military court. In 2016 the state charged Kabaziguruka with treason in a military court alongside 26 others, allegedly for plotting a violent government takeover.


There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Victims may report cases of human rights violations through the regular court system or the UHRC, which has judicial powers under the constitution. These powers include the authority to order the release of detainees, pay compensation to victims, and pursue other legal and administrative remedies, such as mediation. Victims may appeal their cases to the Court of Appeal and thereafter to the Supreme Court but not to an international or regional court. Civil courts and the UHRC have no ability to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses criminally liable, and bureaucratic delays hampered enforcement of judgments that granted financial compensation.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but there were reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Police did not always obtain search warrants to enter private homes and offices.

The Antiterrorism Act and the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act authorize government security agencies to tap private conversations to combat terrorism-related offenses. The government utilized both statutes to monitor telephone and internet communications.

The government continued to encourage university students and government officials, including members of the judiciary, to attend NRM political education and military science courses known as “chaka mchaka.”

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech, including for the press, but the government often restricted this right.

Freedom of Expression: The government restricted the ability of some individuals to criticize it or to discuss matters of general public interest. It restricted some political buttons and symbols, music lyrics, and theatrical performances.

Local media reported that in response to public opposition to the government’s efforts to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) issued several veiled warnings aimed at intimidating the public and media organizations from using social media to oppose the change. The UCC’s September 14 statement said, “Social and electronic communication platform users, account managers, and administrators should refrain themselves and group members against authoring, posting, receiving and sharing or forwarding any forms of electronic communications containing and or referring to illegal and/or offensive content to avoid the risk of being investigated and/or prosecuted.”

On October 7, the UPF banned football fans from wearing red ribbons, which had become a symbol for opposition to the government’s plan to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution. On October 17, the UPF banned member of parliament (MP) and musician Robert Kyagulanyi from performing concerts pending the police’s investigation into allegations that Kyagulanyi used “words that incite the public” at an October 15 concert. On October 18, a UPF official warned musicians not to politicize their art, saying, “Music is not supposed to be partisan.” On October 19, Kyagulanyi sued the government for 300 million shillings ($82,500) in damages for infringing on his right to employment, freedom of speech, expression, association, and conscience. The case was pending at year’s end.

On April 7, plain-clothed UPF officers arrested Makerere University professor Stella Nyanzi on charges of cyber harassment related to a series of Facebook (FB) posts in which she criticized the government’s failure to fulfill the president’s 2016 campaign pledge to provide sanitary pads for school girls and called the president “a pair of buttocks” (see section 1.e.). According to local media, the UPF interrogated Nyanzi about her posts for six hours on March 7 and told her she had offended the president. On March 18, airport immigration officers prevented Nyanzi from traveling to the Netherlands for an academic conference. Further, the state-controlled Makerere University suspended Nyanzi on March 31 for “continually insulting the first lady.” On April 10, the state charged Nyanzi with cyber harassment and offensive communication. A court released Nyanzi on bail on May 10, and the case continued at year’s end.

Press and Media Freedom: The country had an active media environment with numerous privately owned newspapers and television and radio stations. These media outlets regularly covered stories and often provided commentary critical of the government and officials. The UPF’s Media Crimes Unit, however, closely monitored all radio, television, and print media, and security forces subjected numerous journalists to harassment, intimidation, and arrest. Government officials and ruling party members owned many of the private rural radio stations and imposed reporting restrictions. Media practitioners said government and security agents occasionally called editors and instructed them not to publish stories that negatively portrayed the government. On September 14, local media reported that the president had warned FM radio stations that his government would not tolerate any that hosted opposition politicians who campaigned against government legislation.

Violence and Harassment: Security forces often harassed journalists. According to local media, on April 7, unidentified individuals kidnapped a local television journalist and held her for eight hours for posting messages on FB that supported Nyanzi’s criticism of the government’s failure to fulfill the president’s campaign promise to distribute sanitary pads to poor girls. The kidnappers interrogated her about her connections with Nyanzi, beat her, cut off her hair, threatened to kill her and her family, and forced her to delete the FB posts. By year’s end there was no known update on the investigation into the reporter’s kidnapping.

On April 1, unidentified individuals broke into the office of local newspaper The Observer, taking at least 20 computers, the computer server, one camera, and a television, as well as the security camera footage covering the burglary. This marked the second time in six months that unidentified individuals had broken into The Observer’s offices (the first break-in occurred in October 2016). The Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), whose premises were also broken into in 2013 and 2015, criticized police for not taking these break-ins seriously; the HRNJ stated that as of September 19, the police investigation had not made progress on any of the break-ins. On September 19, The Observer stated that police had asked for money to facilitate the investigation and added there had been no updates from the police. According to The Observer and the HRNJ, investigations remained pending as of year’s end.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government directly and indirectly restricted media coverage and content. On September 26, the UCC prohibited local television stations from live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings after MPs brawled in the House, claiming that such broadcasts incited public violence and hatred. On October 5, the UCC lifted the ban.

On September 30, Kyagulanyi reported that the UCC had warned radio stations that they could be shut down if they allowed him to participate on their talk shows. The UCC, however, denied making this statement. Local media reported that the UCC also ordered some radio stations to dismiss employees who had criticized government’s plan to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution and suspended the broadcasting licenses of those that refused to comply with the directive.

On April 21, after the IGP learned that four media outlets had been publishing leaked internal UPF information concerning Kaweesi’s killing (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.) and the ensuing investigation, the IGP successfully petitioned the Constitutional Court to prohibit these outlets from reporting on these subjects, claiming the publications were “injurious” to the investigation.

Many print and broadcast journalists practiced self-censorship, particularly when reporting on the president and his inner circle.

Libel/Slander Laws: Authorities used libel and slander laws to suppress criticism of government officials. On June 20, the UPF detained, questioned, and later released Ben Byarabaha, editor of local newspaper Red Pepper, whom it accused of offensive communication, following the newspaper’s report the IGP was ill. The UPF said the report was false.

National Security: Local media reported that a UPF disciplinary tribunal charged two officers with breach of confidence for recording and then sharing images from the November 2016 UPDF and UPF raid on the Rwenzururu Kingdom’s palace. This case was pending at year’s end.


There were allegations that government security agents censored online content by harassing and threatening authors of online statements that criticized the government or government officials. Although the government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet during the year, it established the legal authority to do so in the future. An amendment to the Uganda Communications Act, passed by parliament on April 6, authorizes the minister of information to regulate communications, including blocking access to the internet, without parliament’s approval. The amendment also affords parliament the ability to block any communication regulation issued by the minister within 30 days of issuance.

On June 28, local media reported that the government had created the Government Citizen Interaction Center, which would “scrutinize FB profiles and follow up on people who are angry with government, so it could give them solutions.” Several journalists reported that security agents monitored them and threatened to attack them if they continued to criticize the government on social media. Two bloggers reported in April they received threatening messages on FB demanding they stop posting messages in support of Nyanzi.

Citing the Antiterrorism Act, the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, and the Computer Misuse Act, the government monitored social media. According to local media, the minister for information told a crowd gathered to mark World Communications Day on May 28 that the government was filtering social media content because internet users “have taken advantage of such platforms to terrorize the country.”

According to the International Communication Union, approximately 22 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.


The government occasionally restricted academic freedom and cultural events. On May 16, media reported that the Uganda Media Council prohibited the embassy of the Netherlands from screening The Dinner Club during the European Film Festival because the film “depicted and glorified homosexuality, which is a criminal offense in Uganda.” In a public statement, the Netherlands embassy stated it “deplores” the government’s decision and would withdraw from the film festival.

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.


While the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the government did not respect this right. The government used the 2013 Public Order Management Act to limit the right to assemble and disrupted opposition and civil society-led public meetings and rallies. The act also placed a significant bureaucratic burden on those wishing to organize or host gatherings and afforded the UPF wide discretion to prevent an event by refusing to approve it, or, more commonly, by not responding to the permission request, which then created a legal justification for disrupting almost any gathering.

According to local media, between September 12 and November 9, the UPF dispersed at least 30 rallies protesting the government’s plan to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution and arrested at least 170 protesters. On October 19, the UPF shot and killed three persons in Rukungiri District who were protesting against the government’s plan to rescind the article. On July 19, local media reported that the UPF arrested more than 60 persons, at various venues in Kampala, who were protesting against the proposed constitutional amendment. The UPF claimed the assemblies were unlawful and detained participants at FSU headquarters for three days before releasing them without charge. Such arrests of persons peacefully protesting efforts to amend the constitution occurred throughout the fall.


While the constitution and law provide for freedom of association, the government did not always respect this right and restricted the operations of local NGOs, especially those that work on civil and political rights (see section 5). On May 5, the government published implementing regulations for the 2015 NGO Act. The regulations require NGOs to disclose sources of funding and personal information about their employees and impose onerous registration and reporting requirements. The regulations enables the NGO Bureau and its local level structures to deny registration to any organization focused on issues deemed to be “undesirable” or “prejudicial” to the “dignity of the people of Uganda.” The regulations also provide the NGO Bureau broad powers to inspect NGO offices and records and to suspend their activities without due process. The regulations increase registration and annual permit renewal fees for local NGOs from 20,000 shillings ($5.50) to 100,000 ($27.50), and from 20,000 shilling ($5.50) to 60,000 shillings ($16.50), respectively. They also introduce new fees, including for the NGO Bureau to review permit applications (60,000 shillings, or$16.50) and for NGOs to file annual reports (50,000 shillings, or$13.80).

The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) said police concluded the investigation into the 2016 break-in into HRAPF offices, which included the killing of a guard, and that they found it was a normal burglary with no correlation to the organization’s work. The HRAPF stated that police did not provide any evidence to support this conclusion.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern. The government continued to uphold its enabling asylum policies and practices towards refugees and asylum seekers from various countries, mainly from South Sudan, the DRC, Burundi, and Somalia. Most refugees enjoyed unhindered access to asylum, freedom of movement, freedom of residence, right to registration and documentation, and access to justice, education, health care, and employment

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Some South Sudanese refugees reported that customs officials at border points confiscated their motorbikes and vehicles. Customs officials said they would release these items when the owners could present documentation establishing their ownership. Some of the affected refugees stated that they were unable to provide such documentation because they had fled their homes due to the conflict in South Sudan, and they asserted that the customs officials were requiring documents as a ploy to steal their possessions. UNHCR and government authorities continued to investigate these incidents at year’s end.

According to UNHCR, the UPF was unable to protect fully refugees in several of the large refugee settlements because of insufficient equipment, transportation, and personnel. As of year’s end, Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, one of 21 refugee settlements in the country, hosted more refugees than any other settlement in the world. UNHCR received reports that South Sudanese armed groups had infiltrated some refugee settlements near the border with South Sudan and abducted South Sudanese men to force them to fight in the country’s civil war. UNHCR reported the government deployed additional troops to improve its border surveillance and was investigating the alleged abductions.


Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. While individuals fleeing South Sudan have prima facie refugee status (status without determination of individual refugee status), the Refugee Eligibility Committee determines whether individuals fleeing from the DRC, Somalia, and Burundi are eligible for refugee status. The committee was functional, but administrative issues and the continued influx of asylum seekers from the DRC and Burundi created a case backlog.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country does not have a policy of presumptive denials of asylum to applicants. There were reports, however, that police officers at the asylum registration office in Kampala turned away two lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals who sought asylum due to discrimination in their home countries (Kenya and Afghanistan), in violation of the country’s asylum policy.

Durable Solutions: The government did not accept third-country refugees for resettlement, but it assisted in the safe and voluntary return of refugees to their homes and supported the resettlement of third-country refugees to other countries by providing birth certificates and travel documents. Following a 2015 constitutional court ruling that confirmed the right to naturalization for certain long-term refugees, however, the government in May 2016 committed to begin processing naturalization cases for an estimated 15,000 refugees who had resided in the country for approximately 20 years. By year’s end there were no known cases of a refugee having naturalized.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Nevertheless, the February 2016 presidential and National Assembly elections were marred by serious irregularities. The 2015 amendment to the Local Government Act instructs authorities to carry out elections for the lowest-level local government officials by having voters line up behind their preferred candidate or the candidate’s representative, portrait, or symbol. Civil society organizations criticized this legislation, saying it violated citizens’ constitutional right to vote by secret ballot. On December 20, Parliament passed a bill removing presidential age limits from the constitution, and on December 27, President Museveni signed the bill, thereby paving the way for him to run for another term. During the period before passage of the bill, the government limited freedoms of speech and assembly.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In February 2016 the country held its fifth presidential and legislative elections since President Museveni came to power in 1986. The president was re-elected with 61 percent of the vote, and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Besigye finished second with 36 percent. The ruling NRM party captured approximately 70 percent of the seats in the 431-member unicameral National Assembly.

Domestic and international election observers stated that the elections fell short of international standards for credible democratic elections. The Commonwealth Observer Mission’s report noted flawed processes, and the EU’s report noted an atmosphere of intimidation and police use of excessive force against opposition supporters, media workers, and the general public. Domestic and international election observers noted biased media coverage and the Electoral Commission’s (EC) lack of transparency and independence.

Media reported voter bribery, multiple voting, ballot box stuffing, and the alteration of precinct and district results.

Late delivery of voting materials on election day, including ballots, disenfranchised many voters. The most significant delays–up to eight hours–occurred in opposition-affiliated areas, including Kampala and Wakiso Districts. While the EC extended voting from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at a number of polling stations that experienced delayed starts, officials at more than 30 of the most delayed stations cancelled voting and postponed it to the following day.

During the 10-day period in which opposition candidates could contest election results, police confined Besigye to his home and limited his access to his lawyers and party leadership. Besigye’s lawyers claimed the police actions rendered it impossible for Besigye to file a legal challenge to the election results, although Amama Mbabazi, who came third in the election, did challenge the results. In March 2016 the Supreme Court upheld Museveni’s victory, ruling that any incidents of noncompliance with electoral laws before and during the election process did not substantially affect the results. In August 2016 the Supreme Court recommended changes to electoral laws to increase fairness, including campaign finance reform and equal access for all candidates to state-owned media. The Supreme Court instructed the attorney general to report in two years on the government’s implementation of the reforms.

Domestic election observers reported irregularities during 2017 parliamentary by-elections. The Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) reported incidents of ruling political party members bribing voters, and that the government deployed UPDF and UPF personnel on voting day, and during campaigns for the June 29 Kyadondo East by-election, to intimidate opposition supporters. Local media and the FDC also reported the UPF deployed a large number of police to intimidate opposition supporters during the campaign for the May 11 Kagoma County by-election and took no action to stop ruling party supporters who attacked them.

Political Parties and Political Participation: According to the EC, there were 29 registered political parties. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained opposition leaders and intimidated and beat their supporters. While the ruling NRM party operated without restriction, regularly holding rallies and conducting political activities, authorities often prevented opposition parties and critical civil society organizations from organizing meetings or conducting activities. According to local media, on September 9, authorities in Kabale District instructed radio stations not to allow opposition supporters to participate on radio or television talk shows.

The CCEDU reported that authorities responsible for the parliamentary by-elections denied its observers access to witness all aspects of the voting process.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and/or members of minorities in the political process.

Cultural factors limited women’s political participation. Local NGOs reported that in rural communities, husbands restricted their wives from contesting for public office.

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