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Nairobi, Mar 22 (EFE).- Hundreds of Ugandan government critics, opposition supporters and peaceful protesters suffered torture and unlawful detention between 2018 and 2021 at the hands of security forces, who have not been held accountable, Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced Tuesday in a new report.

“The Ugandan government has condoned the brazen arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, and abuse of detainees by its officials,” said HRW Uganda researcher Oryem Nyeko.

Although the authorities have sometimes acknowledged these abuses, the human rights NGO noted, they have made little effort to end them or offer justice to victims and their families, even when the victims face physical, mental and/or economic problems in the wake of their ordeals.

“Urgent steps are needed to help victims, to hold abusive security agents to account, and to end this specter of impunity and injustice,” added Nyeko.

The 98-page report is based on interviews with 51 people, including more than 30 former detainees, witnesses of abductions and arrests, government officials, members of parliament, opposition party members, diplomats, human rights activists, and journalists in Kampala between April 2019 and November 2021.

Former detainees described how, after being forced into unmarked vehicles at gunpoint by security officers, they were held in unauthorized locations such as safehouses, an underground room in parliament, vehicles, military barracks and an island in Lake Victoria.

There, where they were unable to speak to relatives or lawyers, the former detainees claimed to have been beaten, tortured, given electric shocks, and injections of unidentified substances. Some women and men said they suffered rape and sexual torture during their detention.

In almost all cases, those interviewed alleged that security officers stole or extorted money from them or their relatives in order to be released.

In the two months before the January 2021 general election, and for months afterward, incidents of abuse spiked, HRW said, adding that “while the authorities have released some detainees in the course of the past year, the whereabouts of many have not been revealed.”

Security agents accused some detainees of plotting to assassinate or spy on top officials in the government of President Yoweri Museveni, as well as of colluding with the leader’s rivals to oust him.

Ugandan law criminalizes arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention and torture, the latter in two acts, under which no one has yet been convicted, the HRW report noted.

The government should close all unlawful detention centers and investigate all reports of abuses, and ensure that all those found responsible are held to account, HRW said

“The Ugandan authorities, as a matter of urgency, need to reform the police and other security agencies to dismantle the structures that have enabled these horrific abuses to occur and go unpunished,” Nyeko said.

Last Friday, the United States asked the Ugandan government for detailed information on the deaths of 54 people during pro-opposition protests in Kampala in 2020, in addition to expressing concern about reports of missing or tortured citizens.

The European Union delegation in Uganda also expressed its concern in February over reports of torture and other human rights abuses in the country.

Museveni has governed Uganda since 1986 and was re-elected in January last year after a campaign period marked by the disappearance of hundreds of opposition supporters and the dispersal of protests with live ammunition Source: HRW

Digital lenders will now be barred from accessing customers' contact lists in the course of debt collection under new CBK regulations.

According to the Central Bank of Kenya (Digital Credit Providers) Regulations, 2022, a digital credit provider, its officers, employees, or agents shall also not, in the course of debt collection, use obscene or profane language with the customer or the customer's contacts for purposes of shaming them.

The Central Bank of Kenya has in the past raised concerns about the abuse of the personal data of borrowers by digital lenders.

The apex bank in turn called on lawmakers to fast-track legislation to provide for the regulation of digital lenders.

Under the new regulations, the digital lenders will also not use threat, violence, or other means to harm a customer, or his reputation or property if they do not settle their loans.

The regulations seek to address concerns raised by the public given the recent significant growth of digital lending, particularly through mobile phones. 

"These concerns relate to the predatory practices of the previously unregulated digital credit providers, and in particular, their high cost, unethical debt collection practices, and the abuse of personal information," said CBK.

The lenders under these regulations will also be barred from posting a customer's personal or sensitive information online or on any other forum or medium for purposes of shaming them.

They shall also not engage in any other conduct whose consequence is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.

Failure to comply with this regulation will incur a monetary penalty on a digital credit provider in an amount not exceeding Sh500,000.

Digital lenders have in recent years flooded the local market, attracted by demand for quick credit that does not require collateral.

Borrowers get loans within minutes via their mobile phones, making digital loans a quick fix for day-to-day bills.  By Susan Nyawira, Capital News

    • NTSA officials accompanied by police inspect a matatu in Nairobi in December 2019  K24 DIGITAL
    • The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) is looking into introducing a new training test manual for all Kenyan drivers.

      In a statement shared to newsrooms on Monday, March 21, the authority announced that it was exploring new automated theory tests to govern the industry.

      The new tests are aimed at ensuring that all driver tests are efficient to tame accidents on Kenyan roads, which have become deathtraps. 

      The authority further indicated that it had initiated the process of effecting the change and was looking into hiring a consultant to help it streamline its systems.

      An NTSA official marshalls traffic at a past accident scene
      An NTSA official marshalls traffic at a past accident scene  NTSA

    "The authority is exploring the introduction of automated theory tests so as to standardise driver testing in Kenya. The automation of the process will ensure the driver tests are efficient and effective hence improving the quality of testing as a result of reduced human interaction. 

    "To achieve this, the Authority seeks to engage a consultant to guide the automation journey, formulate modern approaches to driver competency testing with the aim of a common set of standards in theory testing and developing an efficient, practical testing methodology that can be administered to all drivers," read the statement in part.

    The new project is a partnership between NTSA and the European Union under the Usalama Barabarani programme.

    In the statement, the authority admitted that most of the accidents recorded in Kenya and across the world were attributed to poor driving.

    According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an average of 2.5 million people die annually through
    road traffic crashes while ten times this number end up maimed worldwide. In Kenya, over 3,000 individuals perish as a result of road crashes.

    Studies have also found that over 85 per cent of road accidents are caused by human behavior.

    In January 2022, the NTSA reported that 60 people were fatally injured in road accidents since the beginning of the year.  

    According to a recent report by the authority, Outering Road was the most dangerous roadway in Nairobi with the recorded number of fatal accidents standing at 44. 

    Waiyaki Way followed with 38 fatalities in 2021 while Mombasa Road and Northern Bypass were joint third with 29 accident cases each

    The announcement comes a day after an exposé by the BBC claimed that the country had a flawed system of issuing driving licenses.

    An undercover journalist at the global broadcaster exposed a syndicate that saw unqualified drivers get licenses making the roads unsafe. By Derrick Okumbasu,


Widespread sexual violence against women and girls in conflict is being fueled by systemic impunity, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said on Monday.

The Commission’s new report, based on interviews conducted with victims and witnesses over several years, describes a “hellish existence for women and girls”, with widespread rape being perpetrated by all armed groups across the country.

According to the UN Commission, sexual violence has been instrumentalized as a reward and entitlement for youth and men participating in conflict.

The goal is to inflict maximum disruption of the fabric of communities, including through their constant displacement, the report continues.

Rape is often used as “part of military tactics for which government and military leaders are responsible, either due to their failure to prevent these acts, or for their failure to punish those involved”, the Commission advanced.

Bodies reduced to ‘spoils of war’

“It is outrageous and completely unacceptable that women’s bodies are systematically used on this scale as the spoils of war,” declared Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the UN Commission.

Calling for urgent and demonstrable action by authorities, Ms. Sooka said: “South Sudanese men must stop regarding the female body as 'territory' to be owned, controlled and exploited.”

Sexual violence survivors have detailed “staggeringly brutal and prolonged gang rapes” perpetrated against them by multiple men, often while their husbands, parents or children have been forced to watch, helpless to intervene.

Women of all ages recounted being raped multiple times while other women were also being raped around them, and a woman raped by six men said she was even forced to tell her assailants that the rape had been “good”, threatening to rape her again if she refused.

The resultant traumas “ensure the complete destruction of the social fabric”, the UN Commission said.

Horrific assaults

“Anyone reading the details of this horrific report can only begin to imagine what life is like for the survivors. These accounts are unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg. Everyone, inside and outside governments, should be thinking what they can do to prevent further acts of sexual violence and to provide adequate care for the survivors,” said Andrew Clapham, member of the Commission.

A woman described her friend being raped by a man in the forest who then said he wanted to continue to ‘have fun’ and further raped her with a firewood stick until she bled to death. Teenage girls described being left for dead by their rapists while bleeding heavily.

Medical personnel also report that many survivors have been raped multiple times throughout their lifetime.

Traumatised for life

The report also describes women often bearing children as a result of rape, and notes that in many cases, survivors have contracted sexually transmitted infections including being infected with HIV.

Following rape and pregnancy, women are often abandoned by husbands and families, and left destitute. Some of those raped while pregnant, have suffered miscarriages.

Husbands searching for abducted wives and daughters often spend years not knowing their fate, with some learning they were abducted by men from rival ethnic groups and forced to bear multiple children – one such man was so traumatized, he wanted to take his own life.

The Commission reported that these attacks were not random opportunistic incidents, but usually involved armed soldiers actively hunting down women and girls, with rape carried out during attacks on villages, systematic and widespread.

Accountability versus impunity

The Commission said the failure of political elites to deal with security sector reform, and to provide for the very basic needs of armed forces on all sides, continues to contribute to a permissive environment in which South Sudanese women are regarded as currency.

With near-universal impunity for rape and sexual violence, perpetrators avoid accountability.

Calling on the Government of South Sudan and its obligation to end impunity for serious crimes, the Commission noted the recent Government initiatives to address sexual violence in conflict, including establishing a special court and holding military justice proceedings.

While welcoming such measures, the Commission also said, “they remain woefully inadequate given the scale and extent of crimes”.

Gender inequality context

"It is scandalous that senior officials implicated in violence against women and girls, including cabinet ministers and governors, are not immediately removed from office and held accountable.

To address this pervasive violence in conflict and other contexts, those in positions of command and other authority must promptly and publicly adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards sexual and gender-based violence.” said Barney Afako, member of the Commission.

To grasp the full impact of conflict-related sexual violence, it is also necessary to understand the social and cultural context in which sexual violence occurs, under patriarchal systems based on domination and gender discrimination.

Half of all South Sudanese women are married off before they reach 18, and the country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

Sexual and gender-based violence is also common outside of conflict, affecting women and girls amongst all segments of society.

The Commission is calling on the authorities in South Sudan to take the necessary steps to stop sexual violence against women and girls, by addressing impunity and the drivers of conflict and insecurity.

Work of the Commission

The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan is an independent body mandated by the UN Human Rights Council. It was first established in March 2016.

The Commission is mandated to investigate the situation of human rights in South Sudan, and to determine and report the facts and circumstances of human rights violations and abuses, including by clarifying responsibility for violations and abuses that are crimes under national and or international law. - United Nations

Photo Courtesy MNA

Fourteen people, including seven children, have been killed with machetes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Red Cross has said, as a community leader blamed a notorious armed group for the bloody attack.

The attack took place in a displaced people’s camp in the country’s northwestern Ituri province on Saturday, the humanitarian aid group reported.

Among the victims were five women aged between 25 and 32 and a two-year-old girl, according to a list shown by the Red Cross to the news agency AFP.

Gold-rich Ituri province has been plunged back into a cycle of violence since late 2017. Source: MNA

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