Uganda (Human Rights)
Jim Shannon (Strangford, DUP)
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I will speak about some of the human rights abuses in Uganda shortly, but they are at a worse level now than they have ever been in the past. Idi Amin was ousted, but at the end of the day what took his place was not necessarily for the betterment of the Ugandan people, and the hon. Lady has very clearly said that.
As I was saying, religious oppression occurs in individual cases, especially against Christians from a Muslim background. Where such Christians are threatened, the Ugandan state does not always seem able to protect them effectively prior to an attack or to provide them with justice following an attack. I will give three examples to illustrate that point. I know of these examples because of the Open Doors charity, which is a group that works on behalf of persecuted Christians right across the world.
The first example is that of Bishop Umar Mulinde, who was an Islamic teacher before his conversion to Christianity. Since then, he has often criticised Islam and has had to rely on police protection while preaching at large Christian gatherings throughout Uganda. Because of the threats he received, he and his family had to relocate within Kampala, the capital city. On
“We are happy that the acid has disfigured your face, and also disappointed because our intention was to kill you.”
The second example is also important. It is that of Hassan, a former sheikh and a former member of a violent Islamic group. In 2007, he started exploring Christianity and was warned by his associates not to
“make such a mistake again—we are ready to help you. If you continue with this move, then we will destroy you.”
He reported the threats to the police in the sub-county of Insanje, in the Wakiso district. In response, his associates sent other threatening letters. He became a Christian in June 2011 and received more death threats, which forced him to flee to Kenya. He returned to Uganda in September 2011 and received further death threats. He reported those threats to the police in Chengera, who told him that they would investigate. However, in October 2011 he heard of a plan to kill him and he again fled Uganda. He is now in hiding in Kenya again, and his movements are severely restricted following yet more threats to kill him.
The third example is that of a 13-year-old girl from the Kasese district. She was placed under house arrest for converting to Christianity. Her father threatened to slaughter her publicly with a knife for converting, before locking her up instead. For six months, he kept her in a room with no sunlight. She survived only on the food and water that her little brother managed to smuggle to her under the door. When she was rescued, she weighed less than 44 lb and had many medical complications. In fairness, the local police acted quickly when they were made aware of the case and arrested her father. However, they released him without charge soon afterwards. Again, where is the law of the land in Uganda when people, such as that young girl, need it most?
What support is being given by Britain to deal with cases such as those? Perhaps the Minister, in his response to the debate, can indicate whether Britain has had any direct contact with the Ugandan Government, particularly regarding these types of cases. I understand that we cannot police Uganda, but surely we can guarantee that any help and support that is given by Britain is going to the right people. I know that the needs of Uganda are great and I also know that there are Members in Westminster Hall today who have visited the country. I have not visited Uganda itself, but I have visited nearby countries. A good foundation is needed in Uganda and the open protection of Christians is required to show that persecution in any form will not be tolerated, that religious freedom is a protected freedom and that all people should be able to live in peace and practise their faith as they strive together to rebuild Uganda.
Amnesty International has said:
“The Uganda government and various public authorities have in recent years resorted to illegitimate restrictions on the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in response to some of the critical voices on a number of governance issues. In particular, journalists, civil society activists, opposition political leaders and their supporters risk arbitrary arrest, intimidation, threats and politically-motivated criminal charges for expressing views”.
That echoes the point that Margot James made in her earlier intervention.