Caption: Brenda Kugonza E.D WHRDNU attending the zoom meeting.
The Human Rights Defenders Law Collaborators’ convened on 21 July 2021 from 11:00am to 12:30pm over a zoom meeting to discuss and get up to speed with how far the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill has advanced. The Bill was moved by Hon. Lyandro Komakech in the 10th Parliament with support from Defenders Protection Initiative which overlooked all the processes of developing, modelling and tabling the bill.
The bill has seconders and collaborators who include
- Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDN-U),
- Human Rights Center Uganda,
- USAID Rights and Justice Activity,
- Uganda Human Rights Commission,
- Greater North Parliamentary Forum,
- Chapter Four,
- Action Aid,
- Justice Law and Order Sector,
- Defenders Protection Initiative.
The collaborators’ contributed to the forming of this bill through providing timely research, experiences, finances and coordinating with key committees in parliament to make sure the bill was prepared and read on the floor of parliament. For instance WHRDNU was glad to provide a gender lens to the Bill alluding to the unique harassment Women Human Rights Defenders face doing their work.
‘By the close of the 10th Parliament, the Bill had had its first reading and had been scrutinized by the Human Rights Committee of Parliament and was almost reaching the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee,’ reported Ms. Helen Namyalo from DPI. She also informed collaborators that the latest version of the HRD Protection Bill will be availed to members as soon as possible. This will enable members make informed decisions regarding the Bill.
It was noted with concern that the mover of the bill Hon.Lyandro Komakech had not returned to the 11th parliament. DPI promised to remain in contact with the seconders of the bill to ensure its progress.
Ms. Christine Candiru the Coordinator of Greater North Parliamentary Forum told members at the meeting that the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Jacob Oulanyah is aware of the two Bills i.e. the Legal Aid Bill and the HRDs’ Protection Bill. He is in full support of the Bills and it was highly hoped that they would be given priority to see that they pass this year (2021).
Members raised questions on how to engage new members of Parliament noting that the bill needed someone with influence to bring other MPs on board in order to pass it. The new Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee Mr. Fox Odoi deputized by Janepher Kyomuhendo were named as key allies in having the Bill passed into law. Media engagements were cited as necessary to provide mileage to our advocacy.
Ms. Brenda Kugonza the E.D. of Women Human Rights Defenders Network Uganda (WHRDNU) thanked the organizers of the meeting and pledged full support to enhance advocacy to have the bill passed into law. She also noted the importance of having a specific Law that protects Women Human Rights Defenders which will improve the conditions of their work.