Human Rights Defenders in Rwenzori Region Trained in Physical and Digital Safety and Security Management

Over 30 Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) from the districts of Kabarole, Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko converged at Springs International Hotel in Kasese District from 10th to 12th February 2020, for a physical and digital safety and security management training on the theme: “Enhancing protection towards a safe and secure working environment in Uganda”. Organised by the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda (NCHRD-U), with funding from the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), the three-day training aimed at equipping HRDs with safety and security skills.

Speaking to the participants on understanding the key concepts of security, safety and protection, Ms Prossy Babirye, the Capacity Building Officer, NCHRD-U, noted that the work of human rights defenders within Uganda has a great impact on the interests of various actors that have the power to pose a threat in form of arrests, torture, harassment and killings among others. “Because of the threats human rights defenders face in their work, it is important that you take deliberate steps to manage their safety and security,” Ms Babirye added.

On analysing the security implications of their work, Ms. Dorothy Kiyai, the Protection Officer, NCHRD-U, encouraged participants to always endeavor to understand the context in which they are working. “A good analysis of that context enables informed decisions about which security rules and procedures to apply. It is also important to think about future scenarios, in order, where possible, to take preventive action as a human rights defender,” she explained.

Ms Kiyai told participants to analyse the context of their working environment by asking questions that will help them adequately understand the critical issues for maintaining their safety; visually identifying how different forces within their communities are helping or hindering the achievement of their work objectives; and identifying different stakeholders involved and their relationships, based on their characteristics and interests – all in relation to a protection issue.

Ms. Lucy Peace Nantume, the Programme Manager at the DGF, informed participants that the DGF is mindful about the safety and security of human rights defenders as evidenced by its support towards such initiatives aimed at improving the working environment of HRDs. She encouraged participants to be cautious and put into action the lessons learnt from the training especially during the upcoming elections in 2021, which are usually marred by the increase in violations of the rights of human rights defenders.

Participants were also trained on risk assessment, digital safety and security including how to protect their digital traces, computer usage, password management including how to create a secure password, safe browsing and personal accounts security. Further, among the HRDs that took part in the training were representatives from several of DGF’s partners in Rwenzori Region that included Kind Initiative for Development-Uganda (KIND-UG), Rwenzori Forum for Peace and Justice (RFPJ), Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and Kabarole Research and Resource Center (KRC).

Following the training, NCHRD-U held a two-day regional dialogue between human rights defenders in Rwenzori region and key stakeholders with representatives from the Electoral Commission, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Uganda Police Force and District Authorities to advance collaboration between state actors and defenders in the region.

The DGF is supporting NCHRD-U to implement a project titled: "Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Uganda". The project seeks to enhance the security and safety of human rights defenders in Uganda through different interventions such as; capacity building, advocacy, emergency response and protection and enhancing the visibility of the work of human rights defenders.