UN to close its rights office in Uganda

UN to close its rights office in Uganda

Move comes after authorities in Kampala refuse to renew agreement allowing it to continue operations in country, says UN high commissioner

By Godfrey Olukya

KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) — The UN announced Friday that it will be closing its rights office in Uganda this weekend.

Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the office's branch in Kampala will cease operations on Saturday after Uganda refused to renew its agreement to continue operating in the country.

Voicing regret over the closure after 18 years, Turk said that during its service, the office was "able to work closely with civil society, people from various walks of life in Uganda, as well as engaging with state institutions for the promotion and protection of the human rights of all Ugandans."

He called on Uganda's government to protect human rights defenders and journalists in the East African country, expressing concern that most of the 54 non-governmental organizations suspended by the authorities two years ago have yet to resume activities.

Turk also pointed to the lack of funding by Kampala for the Uganda Human Rights Commission and called on the government to provide sufficient resources for its effective operation.

"Our long-standing partner (the commission) in the protection and promotion of human rights in the country is chronically under-funded and under-staffed, and reports of political interference in its mandate undermine its legitimacy, independence and impartiality," he said.

All this comes as Uganda faces allegations of human rights violations, especially against opposition politicians and supporters.

In February, Uganda's government decided to terminate the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda, with many human rights defenders condeming the move.

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