The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and establishes there shall be no state religion. It provides for freedom of thought, conscience, and belief and the right to practice and promote any religion as well as to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious body or organization in a manner consistent with the constitution. The constitution also stipulates the government may limit these rights by measures that are “reasonably justifiable for dealing with a state of emergency.” The constitution prohibits the creation of political parties based on religion.
The government requires religious groups to register to obtain legal entity status. The more established religious groups, such as the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Churches, and the UMSC, obtain legal status by registering under the on a one-time basis under new legislation enacted during the year. Upon the release of the new legislation, however, responsibility for the registration process shifted from the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ board for NGOs to the Department of Religious Affairs, under the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. The Department of Religious Affairs has not yet provided public information about its registration process.
In accordance with the constitution, religious instruction in public schools is optional, and the curriculum surveys world religious beliefs. Private schools are free to offer religious instruction.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In May media sources reported police arrested, and later released without charge, 10 members of the Njiri Nkalu religious group in the Mayuge district for refusing to allow their children to participate in a government immunization program. The Njiri Nkalu members said their religious beliefs prohibited them from participating. With police assistance, Ministry of Health officers forcibly entered Njiri Nkalu members’ homes and immunized approximately 200 children. Local officials considered the Njiri Nkalu a cult. Government policy defined a cult as a system of religious worship, often with a charismatic leader, which indoctrinated members with “unorthodox or extremist” views, practices, or beliefs.
After midnight on December 27, without advanced notice or warning, police raided a Salafi mosque in Kampala and arrested 14 individuals for suspected involvement in the November 26 killing of Muslim cleric Sheikh Mohammed Kiggundu, as well as other unspecified criminal activity. A spokesperson of the group that runs the mosque – the Jamaat Dawata Salafiya faction of the Tabliq group – accused the police of desecrating a place of worship, planting incriminating evidence, removing documents, and stealing approximately 50.5 million Ugandan shillings ($14,000). The police said they found arms in the mosque and documents revealing unspecified criminal activity. The 14 individuals had not been released at year’s end.
On December 29, the police raided another mosque at approximately eight pm, detained worshippers in the venue until 11:00 a.m., and arrested 13 people.
Media reported in April that police in Masaka District cancelled a planned public prayer rally by Christian evangelical groups after a group of Muslim imams complained the evangelical preachers insulted Islam by publicly reading the Quran, which the clerics stated Islam prohibits. The police also arrested, but later released the same day without charge, Christian preacher Paul Serunjogi, who was one of the organizers of the prayer rally, after Muslim clerics accused him of provoking Muslims.
The UMSC accused the government of discriminatory hiring practices against Muslims, stating Muslims were not receiving fair consideration for senior positions and filled only a small number of low-level positions. UMSC reported Muslims comprised less than 10 percent of the total staff in most government agencies, considerably less than what the UMSC stated was their percentage of the population.
The UMSC also stated the government manipulated the 2014 National Population and Housing Census. In May a spokesperson of the UMSC rejected the approximately 14 percent Muslim population recorded in the census and accused officials of manipulating the statistics to justify what the spokesperson called “marginalization of Muslims.”
The UMSC reported the government reopened the madrassahs and mosques it had closed in 2015 based on allegations of terrorism and possible links to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).