The Chief Justice of Uganda, Hon. Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny Dollo on 8th December 2020 presided over the Launch of the  Special issue of the Journal  of  Peace and Human Rights at an event held at Mestil Hotel in Kampala.

The Journal  which covers the subjects of Covid-19 and  Freedom of Expression, Access to information and Assembly, is a  production of the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC)  of the School of Law, Makerere University, in partnership with the American Bar Association, Rule of Law.

The journal focuses on how state sponsored measures to respond to Covid-19, the world’s current primary menace has introduced new limits on Freedom of Expression, Assembly and Access to Information. It aims at stimulating research and thinking on contemporary governance issues, problems, challenges and policies by providing a platform to scholars, practitioners and activists in the fields of Human rights, Constitutional law, Rule of Law, among others, to share knowledge and experiences.

In a key note address Hon. Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny, The Chief Justice of Uganda, defended the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to mitigate the spread of the deadly global COVID-19 pandemic.  He said the freedom to enjoy life overrides other fundamental human rights and freedoms.  He urged the public to stop politicizingCOVID-19 saying it is real and it does not know someone’s political affiliation or status.

The launch was characterized by open discussions and proposals by relevant stakeholders that followed presentations by eminent legal scholars on key findings namely Professor John Jean Barya  and Professor Fredrick Jjuuko of School of Law, Makerere University  as well as Ms. Cathie Anite,  Executive Director Freedom of Expression Hub.

In their discourse, they recommended more civic education about COVID-19 instead of using coercive force against citizens. Professor John Jean Barya said  it was wrong for the country to organise the general elections in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“These elections should not have taken place because there’s no way candidates are going to campaign while observing the standard operating procedures.  I don’t think the holding of elections is going to be useful to society and I believe it is illogical for us to have the elections,” he  observed.  He however advised the opposition not to boycott the elections saying they will lose the political scene. 

Makerere University’s vice chancellor in charge of academic’s Dr Umar Kakumba said the journal feeds into the University’s strategic plan of research and innovation. He commended the centre for taking a lead role in undertaking research in this area of Human Rights adding that  this was a major contribution to the efforts by the University to be the leading research University.

Dr Zahara Nampewo, the Director of the Human Rights and Peace Centre at Makerere University School of law said the journal gives special attention to freedom of expression, assembly and access to information during the COVID-19 period. 

She said  the findings in the studies undertaken  would be useful to Government agencies  in  their efforts to protect rights on Freedom of Expression, Assembly and Access to  information in the Covid -19 era.  The research  will be used by the Academia, CSOs and media for further research and advocacy. It comes at a time when peoples freedoms of expression have been curtailed despite the existence of various freedom of expression laws. It has also been observed that  many governments seem to have used the Covid-19 outbreak as an opportunity to further entrench repressive measures.

ABA ROLI, the sponsors of the Journal is  an international development program that promotes justice, economic opportunity and human dignity through the Rule of Law in more than 100 countries. For more than 25 years in collaboration with our in-country partners—including government ministries, judges, lawyers, bar associations, law schools, court administrators, legislatures and civil society organizations, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) have pursued strengthening of legal institutions support legal professionals, in fostering respect for human rights as well as advancing public understanding of the law and citizen rights.

HURIPEC on the other handis a human rights center established to foster teaching, research and activism on human rights and peace issues at Makerere University. The centre pursues a vision of contributing to the establishment of a human rights conscientized, educated, activist, academic society in Uganda and countries yonder. It seeks and has consistently engaged in events geared at promoting the understanding and respect for human rights, democratic governance and sustainable peace in the East Africa sub-region specifically and Africa generally through teaching, research, policy and advocacy.