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Human Rights Commission must reconsider its core mandate to restore public trust

UHRC chairperson Mariam Wangadya

UHRC chairperson Mariam Wangadya

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) was established to be an independent, impartial watchdog over human rights in the country.

Tasked with investigating abuses, visiting detention facilities, and providing compensation to victims, the UHRC was meant to be a bulwark against state overreach and the violation of citizens’ most fundamental rights.

Sadly, under the leadership of Chairperson Mariam Wangadya, the UHRC has abandoned this crucial mandate. Rather than serving as an objective arbiter, Wangadya has shown herself to be beholden to the very authorities she is supposed to hold accountable.

Time and again, Wangadya has failed to properly investigate credible claims of human rights abuses, especially those involving the state security apparatus. She has dismissed complainants as “criminals” and “ghosts”, refusing to take their testimonies seriously.

Wangadya has willfully turned a blind eye to well-documented cases of torture, unlawful detention and violence against political dissidents and opposition figures.

This is a gross dereliction of duty. The UHRC, by the very nature of its constitutional role, must remain independent and impartial. It cannot simply do the bidding of the government it is tasked with overseeing. Yet under Wangadya’s leadership, that is precisely what has happened.

The commission has become a rubber stamp for state power, rather than a bulwark against its excesses. The consequences of this failure are severe. Citizens have lost faith in the UHRC, seeing it as just another tool of the ruling regime.

Victims of human rights abuses have been denied justice and compensation. And the culture of impunity that the UHRC was meant to combat has only been reinforced.

Mariam Wangadya’s tenure as UHRC chairperson has been a tragedy for human rights in Uganda. Her partiality and complicity have betrayed the commission’s founding purpose.

If the UHRC is to regain the trust of the Ugandan people, a new, truly independent leadership is urgently needed - one that will fulfill the commission’s mandate without fear or favour. Anything less is an abdication of its solemn duty to protect the fundamental rights of all citizens.

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