Spare My Name Please: UHRC’s Mariam Wangadya Tells MPs Not To Blame Her For Closure Of UN Office On Human Rights, DGF

The Uganda Human Rights Commission chaired by Hajat Fauzat Mariam Wangadya has defended itself on accusations of being silent when government decided to terminate operations of two international bodies including the UN office on Human Rights and Democratic Governance Facility (DGF).

The Wangadya team had appeared before the Legal and Parliamentary affairs committee to present the commission’s 2024/5 budget for consideration.

However, the meeting turned out to be a grilling session of sorts as some members led by Ndorwa west MP Wilfred Nuwagaba quizzed her over the closure of operations of two international bodies.

The committee members accused UHRC of what they termed as remaining mute on this matter yet the Commission was getting partial funding from them to do it’s work.

Wangadya however, informed members that even as they accuse her Commission of keeping quiet on the two matters, she had actually put up a spirited case to government to keep the UN Commission on Human Rights but government held a different view.

“I wish you knew what we went through, the battles we fought so that this office would stay and the meetings which were held and the last one was in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs attended by Cabinet Ministers, I was invited. I had written several petitions, trying to make a case for the office to stay. Actually I was lectured, that is what it (meeting) turned out to be. I was lectured on why this office must go and I must not be an obstacle. And these were decisions taken by the Government, other than pleading that let this office stay, there was nothing more we could do,” she told the committee.

We have however, learnt that the plan not to renew the operations of UN Commission on Human Rights in Uganda started way back during the times of Medi Kaggwa as the chairperson of the UHRC.

Inspectors said that government viewed the UN agency as a redundant one especially after it’s main task had been ‘completed’.

“The agency came in for purposes of advocating for the people of war-tone northern Uganda. Government saw that the war had ended and it had nothing more to offer. That’s why it’s mandate wasn’t renewed” explained a top inspector.

As for DGF, Wangadya informed members that the decision to close it was taken even before she took over as chairperson of the Commission.

“When the decision to end DGF was taken by the Government, this Commission wasn’t fully constituted. The Chairperson was deceased and the Commission is defined under the constitution and with the absence of Chairperson, there is technically no Commission.” Wangadya who at the time of DGF closure was a deputy IGG told the committee.

She noted that the closure of the UN office on Human Rights has had devastating effects on Uganda’s ratings on human rights globally. For example, the country has been blocked from physically participating in human rights meetings at Geneva and others at continental level.

Wangadya also fears that no more invitations will be extended to Uganda for this year’s meeting in June when the country’s rankings on the global human rights index are expected to drop.

”All the meetings that we used to attend, there are some key ones like in Addis Ababa, the headquarters of the African Union, in Geneva all those have stopped. And it is one of the reasons that come June 2024, we are going to be downgraded in status,” says Wangadya.

“And we are the only Human Rights Institution in the world, to attend a meeting of such significance via Zoom. And when I went to that meeting, I had gone with documents to show how much support we had received. So, you can see that we miss this office and there is nothing much we could have done.” she said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in February 2023 wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announcing that the mandate of the office had not been renewed. This resulted into the closure of the UN office in September last year after operating for close to 20 years in Uganda. Within this period, the LRA war in northern Uganda was still ongoing but now the place is fully settled.

As for DGF, government terminated it’s activities in February 2021 after hotly contested elections.

Inspectors also said that Uganda is likely to face more challenges globally having enacted the Anti-gay bill into Law now that some gay supporters have allegedly scooped top jobs at this UN agency’s headquarters.



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