KAMPALA-The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) group has written to Pope Francis requesting him to speak out against some issues of human rights abuses both in Kenya where he arrived Wednesday and Uganda where he is expected to arrive on Friday.
In a November 16 letter, the HRW Africa Director Daniel Bekele, said the Pontiff’s visit to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic where he heads on Sunday morning has the possibility to provide hope to many across Africa, to both Catholics and non-Catholics.
“The Church’s voice, and in particular your messages on justice, tolerance and support for the rights of the marginalised, the poor and the oppressed can help address some of the critical human rights challenges many people in Africa face today. These include climate change, which presents crucial challenges to governments to address the ability of millions of people to sustain their livelihoods and access basic services,” the letter reads in part.
In Uganda, Mr Bekele, cited the “elusive” justice for serious crimes for victims of the nearly two decades Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in Northern Uganda, and recent political protests-where the military deliberately shot at, killed or injured protesters while others were arrested, tortured before release.
Only a handful of former LRA commanders have been served justice, and more recently Dominic Ongwen, one of the rebel leaders indicted by the Hague- based International Criminal Court in 2005 on counts of war crimes, awaits trial.
HRW also cited the government’s failure to investigate the use of lethal force by security forces that left at least 40 people dead in during the September 2009 Buganda riots and the 2011 election aftermath “Walk to Work’ protests in which nine people were reportedly killed, including a 2-year-old child shot in Masaka.
“Despite numerous promises to investigate, no police or military personnel have been held accountable for these killing,” the letter addressed to the Pontiff through the Palazzo Apostolico(Apostolic Palace)-his official residence,” the letter reads.
But precisely, HRW wants the Pontiff to “recognize and encourage the work of civil society organizations, including the Church’s own peace and justice commissions, which often play a key role in documenting human rights violations and calling for justice and reparations for the victims.”
Foreign Affairs officials were not readily available for comment but the deputy head of media center, a government’s communication clearing house, Col Shaban Bantariza said if HRW has rights issues to raise the best addresses are either government or the Uganda Human Rights Commission.
“The Pope has not time to go into that murky debate and they (HRW) should not bother him. Some attempts have been made by government, so even if the Pope has seen their letter, its means he has to cross-check with government as well,” Col Bantariza said.