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Uganda: Claiming Spaces, Tactical Tools for Human Rights Defenders

In commemoration of International Human Rights Defenders Day and Human Rights Day celebrated annually on 9 and 10 December respectivelyDefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Uganda (NCHRD-U) are co-hosting the 9th edition of the annual event Claiming Spaces: Tactical Tools for Human Rights Defenders in Kampala, from 7- 11 December 2020.  The event will equip over 100 human rights defenders (HRDs) from across Uganda with new tools to claim their space and provide a platform to build their capacity to effectively carry out their work. 

The opening ceremony was presided over by Rosa Malango, United Nations Resident Coordinator, H.E. Per Lindgärde, Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda,  Hassan ShireExecutive Director DefendDefendersRobert Kirenga, Executive Director NCHRD-Uand moderated by Memory Bandera, Director Programmes and Administration. All speakers highlighted the important role of HRDs in the advancement of human rights, often at a high risk of reprisalsRobert Kirenga reflected on the timing of this event when there is increased pressure on civil society organisations and HRDs. The speakers called for continued and strengthened support towards the protection of HRDs and doubled efforts to reclaim the shrinking civic space. 

In his opening remarks, Hassan Shire, Executive Director DefendDefenders welcomed participants to the event noting that the event isan opportunity for learning, innovation, networking, linkages, and exchanges that will strengthen us individually and our organisations to develop better strategies for our work. It is designed for a space of sharing experience that will help to re-enforce human rights defenders’ ability to contribute to building of more democratic societies that hold governments accountable. 

In his remarks, H.E. Per Lindgärde stated, It is essential to recognise that HRDs are essential partners to governments to tackle many challenges. Sweden is tackling the challenges of declining democratic space by encouraging dialogue. 

Still on dialogue, Rosa Malangoemphasised the needto avoid escalation of violence during elections, Uganda must hold peace dialogues in the community, ensure political candidates sign a peace pact and involve the private sector in promoting peace messaging.

Additionally, DefendDefenders  launched a new report, Open the doors, Towards Complete Freedom of Movement for Human Rights Defenders in Exile in Uganda, which examines the difficulties and concerns HRDs living in protracted exile in Uganda face in relation to exercising their right to freedom of movement. The report also serves as an educational tool for HRDs, to navigate through the identified challenges. 

In her address, Rosa Malango recognised the launch of the report and appreciated DefendDefenders effort to take stock of the issues pertinent to HRDs exiled in Uganda. 

Over the course of the week, parallel workshops will run on four themes: strategic advocacy and communication; sustaining activism through resourcing resilience; accountability mechanisms and legal compliance of CSOs; and critical thinking, documentation and report writing. HRDs will spend time learning from these sessions, sharing their experiences and best practices, and creating strong networks. 

Report launch

For more information, please contact: 

Memory Bandera, Director of Programs and Administration DefendDefenders 

Estella Kabachwezi, AdvocacyResearch and Communications Manager, DefendDefenders
[email protected] 

Edward Serucaca, Advocacy and Networking Officer NCHRD-U
[email protected]