Uganda Human Rights Commission
Mr. Joel Aliro-Omara,
Commissioner Uganda Human rights Commission,
At the World Conference Against Racism,
Durban South Africa,
31st August -7th September 2001.
Fellow Representatives of National Institutions
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure and honour to speak on behalf of the Uganda Human Rights Commission at this very important world conference. May I first pay particular tribute to the government of South Africa and the High Commissioner, Mrs. Mary Robinson, for making it possible for us to meet and discuss this very important subject of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Secondly Madam, allow me to convey our appreciation to all the leaders who found time to attend this conference. We were very much inspired and encouraged by their speeches which left no doubt that racism and all its manifestations are evils that we all must strive to combat. We were equally inspired and encouraged by the inaugural statements made by President Thabo Mbeki, Secretary General Koff. Annan and High Commissioner Mary Robinson. The presence of all these eminent Personalities is proof that a conference such as this is a good forum to discuss human rights issues that affect human rights globally.
I speak here as a member of a national human rights institution
from Uganda. I use this opportunity to tell the world that from our experience,
national human rights institutions, which conform to the Paris Principles of
independence, accountability and objectivity, can play an important role in
the fight against racism and all its manifestations. The Uganda Human Rights
Commission was born out of past atrocities that had afflicted Uganda since independence
and part of these atrocities had racist undertones like the expulsion of Asians
from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1992. Today there is evidence that the presence of
the commission has greatly influenced respect of human rights in the country.
Racism is a crime against humanity, the fight against which should be one of the roles of National Human Rights Institutions. These institutions would be more effective with increased support from the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights. For that reason it is our call that the United Nations should provide sufficient financial, technical and other relevant support to the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights.
Prior to this Conference, national human rights institutions met and were able to exhaustively discuss the theme of this conference and come up with a declaration. The Uganda Human Rights Commission would like to put it on the record of this conference that it fully participated in the drawing of that declaration and it supports the principles and the action program contained in it. We call upon all the member states of the United Nations to support this Declaration by the National Human Rights Institutions.
The theme of this conference was widely publicized in Uganda.
With support from the Office of the High Commission for Human rights, our Commission
carried out various programs aimed at promoting debate over the theme of this
conference and sensitizing Ugandans about the evils of racism, racial discrimination,
xenophobia and other related intolerance. This programs helped us not only to
gauge the mood in the country but also enabled us to assess the level of consciousness
about the dangers of discrimination, racism, ethnicity and other related intolerance.
We carried out public lectures and workshops in all the four regions of the
country; we called for art and essay competitions from all the people of different
categories. We in turn got a lot of response from primary, secondary, and tertiary
institutions on top of the massive response from the general public. It was
clear that most Ugandans while concerned about the wider issues of racism, want
emphasis also to be placed on issues of ethnicity, tribalism and religious intolerance
which have been responsible for divisions and civil wars in Africa.
I would like to mention that in Uganda the problem of racism
is not very much pronounced. Other than discrimination based on ethnicity, tribalism
and regionalism and to some extent religion, we are not experiencing conflicts
between races that live in Uganda.
In 1995, after almost 10 years of intensive consultation with the population in Uganda, Ugandans came up with a national Constitution that prohibits discrimination in all forms whether it is based on race, ethnicity, tribe, disability, sex, gender, birth, creed, religion, social and economic stranding, political opinion or colour. As a national institution charged with the responsibility of promotion and protection of human rights, we have relentlessly sensitized the population about this very important provision. The declaration and the program of action that will be adopted at the end of this conference will help fortify this constitutional provision, which we pledge to make widely known and respected in Uganda.
As the Uganda Human Rights Commission we were fully convinced of the importance of the themes of this conference. We were also cognizant of the need for a national program of action against Racism, Racial Discrimination, tribalism, Xenophobia and other related intolerance. We therefore encouraged participants in our national sensitization programs to work out a National Declaration of Commitment to Eradicate Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related intolerance in Uganda. This was finally adopted at a national conference held in Kampala on 22nd August 2001. The Commission promises to assist in the implementation of this commitment. We call upon other nations to have similar national commitments based on their own individual circumstances.
There have been disagreements in this conference about what should be done about past injustices due to racism. At the same time there is near total agreement that slavery and colonialism were manifestations of racism and that all efforts should be put in place to ensure that they do not surface again. We are encouraged and support this development and call upon all nations to follow this up with practical measures to combat these evils.
We want to salute all those who have been in the struggle against racism and all of us who have found time to continue the struggle in this conference. We believe that through discussion, sensitization and concerted national and global efforts racism can be combated.