GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO CRIES OF PEOPLE, DRAFTS ACTION PLAN ON BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

The Government of Uganda has developed a National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights (NAPHR) designed to protect citizens against increasing abuse of human rights by investors. Through the Ministry of Labor Gender and Social Development, government has realized that private sector has impacted negatively on communities despite their contribution to the economy. The line minister, Frank Tumwebaze, in his speech delivered by Peace Mutuuzo, the State Minister for Gender and Culture, cited the continued exploitation of labour through underpayment, misguided displacement of people without upfront compensations, environment pollution and conflicts over land acquisition, which have continued to dispossess many Ugandans mainly affecting the vulnerable groups such as women, children, people with disabilities and the uneducated. During the 2nd symposium on business and human rights Naguru Kampala, Tumwebaze said the national action plan is a key tool in providing guidance to the state and non-state actors on the requirement that all business operations must be in line with human rights standards to contribute to the positive development such as creation of decent jobs, and protection of the environment among others. He further said the draft plan was done through extensive consultation with various stakeholders countrywide and already has been approved by the senior management meeting at the ministry and is to be presented to Cabinet for approval and it is a key tool expected to contribute to the advancement of equality by providing opportunities to the magnetized groups. The commissioner equity and rights at the MGLSD, Bernard Mujuni said irresponsible conduct of business without respecting human rights can be very costly. "Because of this kind of irresponsibility, the World Bank suspended funding of the Fort Portal-Kamwenge road construction," he noted. He said the abuses have led to the loss of lives, violence, increased crime and homelessness in different parts of the country. He cited the leasing of crater lakes to an investor in Kabarole, which caused conflict. "These are the things we are talking about. How can you lease lakes to one person? This is a source of water and livelihood for locals. It is also a cultural identity in the area," he noted. He noted that before any investor takes land, the locals must be consulted before any valuation is done on the land to understand the nitty-gritties of the land. He said the government also needs to look at the revenue transparency and tax exemption. "Foreign investors are given tax incentives at the expense of local Ugandans which is unfair," he added. The Director in Charge of Monitoring and Inspection Uganda Human Rights Commission, Ruth Ssekindi said if businesses don't observe human rights, it results in corruption, violence, poor remuneration and other disputes. "We have got many complaints from people being evicted to set up factories. These factories also don't care about the environment leading to the suffering of the locals due to lack of string laws," he said. The Danish Ambassador to Uganda, Nicolaj A. Hejberg Petersen said the observance of human rights at businesses promotes sustainable development.

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