Rights watch chief meets Muhoozi on UPDF CAR rapes

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Gen Muhoozi and Ms Burnett

The UPDF Chief of Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, has this morning met Ms Maria Burnett, the Director East and Horn of Africa of Human Rights Watch.

The two discussed cooperation in the arena of human rights and noted the improved performance of UPDF.

The UPDF General reassured Ms Burnett that the force he leads will endeavour to preserve human rights wherever it is deployed both at home and abroad.

On Tuesday, Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) officials met Gen Muhoozi, and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence boss, Col Abel Kandiho, over suspects being tortured at Nalufenya police detention in a meeting avoided by the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura.

On Friday, Muhoozi and Burnett further exchanged information on past reports by Human Rights Watch on UPDF operations in Somalia and Central African Republic.

They expressed satisfaction with the various investigations on suspected sexual exploitation and abuse cases that were conducted and subsequent actions taken by the UPDF leadership.

The meeting which agreed on a continued engagement between the institutions was also attended by former Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Ms Lydia Wanyoto Mutende.

Rape cases in CAR

This month, Ugandan soldiers in the Central African Republic were accused of sexually exploiting or abusing at least 13 women and girls since 2015, including at least one rape, and threatened some victims to remain silent, Human Rights Watch said.

Burnett meets UPDF CDF Muhoozi

The Ugandan military has been deployed in the country since 2009 as a part of the African Union’s Regional Task Force to eliminate the Uganda rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), but recently announced it is withdrawing its troops.

Human Rights Watch interviewed a total of 13 women and 3 girls in early 2017, who described exploitation or abuse since 2010 by Ugandan soldiers in the southeastern town of Obo, where Ugandan forces were based, and heard credible accounts of other cases.

The 16 cases documented by Human Rights Watch clearly under-represent the full extent of sexual exploitation and abuse by the Ugandan forces, not only because sexual violence is generally underreported, but also because others, including the UN and local health workers, have documented other cases, Human Rights Watch said.

In the Central African Republic, women and girls often do not report sexual violence or exploitation due to shame, stigma, or fear of retaliation.

In 2016, the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights reported 14 cases of rape by Ugandan forces in the country, including cases involving victims who were children at the time.

Four of these cases are among those Human Rights Watch documented.

According to an internal UN report from 2016 obtained by Human Rights Watch, UN investigators in Obo registered 18 cases of sexual violence or harassment by Ugandan soldiers against women and girls who were afraid to give details out of fear of reprisals.

The report states that investigators also obtained information about 44 women and girls with children fathered by Ugandan soldiers; the UN team interviewed 12 of them, all girls.

In January 2017, the BBC reported cases of rape by Ugandan soldiers in the Central African Republic, including of a 12-year-old girl who gave birth.