On behalf of the Global Shapers, Kampala Hub – we wish to extend our heartfelt solidarity and deepest sympathies to the families of the those who died at the hands of police brutality in Uganda. To date, since the unrest erupted – many remain unaccounted for and worse still, injured and silenced by the very security forces sworn to protect them from harm. It is a dark day in the history of our country. 

We are appalled and deeply saddened by the senseless extra-judicial killings of innocent and unarmed citizens whose crime is to speak truth to power. Where’s the premise of democracy in Uganda? 

We are heartbroken over this politically charged unrest that continues to rob Uganda of its peace and cheer. No one should be made a target for harm on account of their tribe, skin or party affiliation. We are one people at the end of the day. 

The Kampala Hub advocates for the needs of the most marginalized. We strongly condemn and firmly confront what is hateful and destructive to life, love, and community. Our faith and conviction is incompatible with political systems that act undemocratic towards their people. We are taught to always promote justice, work to end suffering, and seek abolition of ways which are cruel and unjust. 

On top of deniability and political blame gaming, the Uganda Police Force combined with the security forces have failed their mandate in protecting and safeguarding the lives of Ugandans. In this regard, we will continue to send our love and strength to the countless families and communities who have been victims of violence by institutions rooted in prejudice and the perpetuation of injustice. 

In solidarity with every Ugandan citizen that has been forced to endure the immeasurable loss of life, we raise our voices across the world with one unified message: We will hold our leaders accountable and continue to keep the spirit of Ubuntu alive. 

We must note that these are not isolated incidents: The deaths reported in the media are just many of the hundreds that have lost their lives to this unjustified violence meted out by the police force and the UPDF over the years.

A real democratic society is one without police brutality. People should not feel unsafe in their own communities, or endangered by law enforcement, because of political affiliation or merely the colour of their skin. We are concerned about the increasing use of surveillance, the violation of media freedom and censorship, which are all rooted in prejudice and violence. The system has failed its citizens and as a youth organization, we will continue to embody the values of the Uganda we envision.  

The only way to end the cycle of government violence against its own people is to act every single day. Use your voice and Use your vote. Our world is unjust and the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified these existing inequalities. The culture of impunity needs to end. The wrongful arrest and indiscriminate shooting of Ugandan citizens needs to stop. To be exact, the militarization and high handedness of the Uganda Police Force must be dismantled.

We acknowledge that it is not enough to post a hashtag without looking deeper at the systemic oppression and brutality in our own country. Sadly – but not shockingly – the toxic culture of police brutality pre-dates Uganda’s post-independence regimes. Structural violence is so ingrained into law enforcement agencies that in a matter of weeks into the election, we are yet to witness a scale of political intolerance of a high magnitude. 

Witnessing plain-clothed security officers shoot indiscriminately at unarmed citizens opens up decades worth of pain for Ugandan communities. For those who think injustice ended with Idi Amin, the cycle is far from over. The hangover of systemic oppression still carries weight today. Not in dark corners hidden from the public eye – but in broad daylight, outside Ugandan streets with many citizens running, wailing and calling for help.

In a time when Coronavirus is taking lives indiscriminately, it seems the ones truly paying the highest price are Ugandan citizens. Ugandan security officers are determined to extinguish the lives of Ugandan citizens faster than the deadly coronavirus. 

Authorities need to take responsibility and address the grievances that Ugandan citizens have carried for so long. We are tired of seeing young souls snatched away by uncalled for police brutality. Our society is broken and it is damaged. We cannot be more concerned with law and order, than we are with equality and justice. The martyrs that have died in the recent days cannot die in vain. Their lives cannot be reduced to a more hashtag because of this impunity.

Ugandans you are not silenced, nor alone: the entire world is hearing and watching you. We stand behind you in support and we call upon the Ugandan Government to start a reconciliation process among the political parties. We demand equality and equity in the eyes of the law. This violence and brutality against citizens is a symbol of a broken system that needs to change.

In this moment, we are called to be allies, to honor the lives of those lost, their voices, and stories in life and in death. We are committing ourselves to doing more than mourning and publishing this letter. We commit to doing long-term work to educate and hold ourselves accountable, to address injustice within our communities, and to support efforts to confront political intolerance and transform democracy throughout our country. 

The changes we want to see with immediate effect:

  • We call on the Inspector General of Uganda Police, Gen. Okoth Ochola to arrest and prosecute all the police officers involved in this impunity
  • We call for stricter national legislation that requires more personal liability of security officers who abuse their powers. They must be held to account individually as opposed to the veil of protection they currently enjoy under the law. 
  • Accountability and justice – We need honest answers from our leaders on how they will fix this mess and put in place mechanisms to address the political intolerance exhibited.
  • Stronger checks in the hiring process of police officers (i.e. to ensure they are mentally fit and politically non-biased to undertake the immense duty to protect citizens)
  • Independent institutions to investigate police crimes, like civil society-led police review boards
  • Demilitarize the police force and train officers on civilian relations

Ways to help

  • Support bail support and organizations providing legal help to those arrested unlawfully
  • Put pressure on politicians to do more (through social media, letters, emails and calls)
  • We recognize that this is only a small start to doing the work that needs to be done in an attempt to take action and move beyond mere words
  • Donate to organizations actively fighting police violence (or contact those that are in a position to)
  • Document the police violence and contact the victim afterwards (to share that you can help as a witness). But also try to stay safe, as police is targeting people that are filming them, especially if they are using violence at the moment of filming.

Please join us in sharing this statement far and wide! 

The views expressed in this statement are authored by the members of the Kampala Hub and do not necessarily and generally reflect those of the Global Shapers community/World Economic Forum.