The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) group has written to Pope Francis requesting him to speak out against human rights abuses both in Kenya and Uganda where he is expected to arrive on Friday.
In a November 16 letter, 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, both Catholic and non-Catholic.
“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 read in part.
Mr Bekele cited the “elusive” justice for victims of the nearly two decades of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in northern Uganda, and recent political protests where the military “deliberately” shot at, killed or injured protesters.
Only a handful of former LRA commanders have received justice 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 Apostolic Palace read.
HRW precisely wants the Pontiff to “recognise and encourage the work of civil society organisations, 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 the media centre, the government’s communication clearing house, Colonel Shaban Bantariza, said if HRW has rights issues to raise the best addresses are either the government or the Uganda Human Rights Commission.
“The Pope has no 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, it means he has to cross-check with government as well,” Col Bantariza said.
SOURCE: AFRICA REVIEW