Uganda's human rights record deteriorated after Idi
seized power in 1971. By the end of the 1970s, it was one
worst in the world. Several hundred thousand civilians
the hands of local security forces. In 1986 Museveni
improve Uganda's reputation for human rights. To achieve
goal, the NRM arrested and tried soldiers and civilians
crimes, and the government worked to improve its
respecting human rights.
In May 1986, NRM officials created a Commission of
into the Violation of Human Rights to investigate these
under all governments since independence until the day
NRM seized power. The commission examined judicial and
records regarding arbitrary arrest and detention, torture,
executions. Its hearings began in December 1986, when an
investigation team and the commission's chief counsel,
Ssekandi, began selecting witnesses who would testify in
session. One of the most controversial witnesses, a former
political instructor, testified that political opponents
A lack of resources hampered the commission's
Financial and transportation problems initially confined
activities to Kampala; later, these difficulties
brought public hearings to an end. Although a February
Foundation grant enabled the public hearings to resume,
commission's final report was unavailable in late 1990.
In 1987 the president also established the post of
general of government (IGG) to investigate individual
about human rights abuses committed since the NRM came to
The inspector general answered only to the president and
authority to seize documents, subpoena witnesses, and
civil servants as high ranking as cabinet ministers, with
presidential approval. Government officials had to
the IGG or face three-year prison terms or fines.
problems and staff shortages reduced the inspector
effectiveness, and there were complaints during the
period that his investigations were too slow and produced
results, despite lengthy testimony and evidence by
human rights groups and individual witnesses.
Several nongovernmental human rights organizations also
worked to improve conditions in Uganda. The UHRA, for
has monitored developments in Uganda since the early 1980s
through its quarterly publications, The Activist.
Initially, UHRA's relations with the government were tense
the 1989 arrest of UHRA Secretary General Paulo Muwanga
comparing the NRM's human rights record to that of the
government. Muwanga was subsequently released, and a UHRA
in 1990 generally approved of Museveni's human rights
The Uganda Law Society is one of the most vocal
protection of human rights in Uganda. In 1990 a quarter of
country's 800 lawyers belonged to the Uganda Law Society.
from speaking out against human rights violations in
eastern Uganda, the Uganda Law Society has called for an
independent judiciary, an end to illegal arrests and
legal reform, and constitutionalism. A lack of funds and
resources has hampered Uganda Law Society activities.
The Ugandan Association of Women Lawyers works to
rural populations of their legal rights, promote family
through legal advice and counseling, ensure equal
under the law for women and children, and promote Ugandan
citizens' welfare by emphasizing laws that promote
development. In March 1988, the association opened a legal
to help indigent Ugandans, especially women and children.
August 1990, the clinic had handled more than 1,000 cases
with property rights, inheritance, and a variety of family
To counter accusations of human rights abuse,
northern and eastern Uganda, the government has punished
of the NRA convicted of assault or robbery against
Several soldiers have been executed for murder or rape.
officers even carried out some of these executions in the
where the crimes were committed, inviting local residents
witness the executions. Despite protests by several
organizations, these executions continued in 1990.
attorney general, George Kanyeihamba, justified the
insisting that strict discipline was necessary to maintain
in the military.
Despite these harsh measures, human rights violations
continued in parts of northern, eastern, and western
the late 1980s and early 1990s. In October 1987, for
witnesses reported that soldiers killed 600 people in
District during an NRA counterinsurgency operation. People
southwest claimed that the security services killed a
school children in antigovernment protests and that as
200 villagers were shot for refusing to attend a political
Murders of people suspected of being rebel sympathizers
In early 1989, Dr. H. Benjamin Obonyo, secretary
the antigovernment Uganda People's Democratic Movement
corroborated evidence of atrocities acquired by Amnesty
International and other human rights organizations. He
charged that the NRA had "burned or buried civilians
regions of the north and east.
Throughout 1990, according to Amnesty International,
killed a number of unarmed civilians in the districts of
Tororo, Kumi, and Soroti. Despite several government
Amnesty International claimed that no NRA personnel were
charged with these human rights violations or brought to
Moreover, more than 1,300 people remained in detention
charge at the end of 1990. Government officials labeled
these allegations "exaggerated," but it was clear that
unable to eliminate abuses by the military forces and that
would face mounting international protests engendered by
* * *
Several comprehensive studies deal with the evolution
security issues in Uganda. The colonial era is covered in
Moyse-Bartlett's The King's African Rifles and
Uganda, by H. Thomas and R. Scott. A.
Politics and the Military in Uganda, 1890-1985 also
assesses the development of the security services. A.
Soldiers and Kinsmen in Uganda provides insight
military's role in society. Conflict Resolution in
edited by K. Rupesinghe, is a compilation of papers by
scholars presented at a 1987 conference in Kampala
Uganda's quest for peace and stability.
Uganda's tradition of an open and lively press was
revived in the late 1980s. New Vision,
numerous other local newspapers report and comment on
developments. Numerous government publications also
valuable information on the history of the security
conditions of service, and the effects of political and
change on them. Uganda Journal is useful for
about the historical development of the security services.
more recent information on the Ugandan military, see
Defence Journal or the National Resistance Army's
The 6th of February. Preindependence information on
and the criminal justice system is available in the
Reports of the Uganda Police Force and the Prison
(For further information and complete citations,
Data as of December 1990