Speech of His Excellence, Ambassador Dr ROBERTO RIDOLFI
Head of Delegation of European Union to the Republic of Uganda at the
Occasion of the EU Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) Award
2nd May 2012
It is a great pleasure to see you all here on the occasion of the EU HRD Award ceremony. Let me first of all thank my Swedish colleague and friend, Ambassador Urban Andersson, for kindly hosting this key event.
This is becoming a tradition – to meet you in this very important way. Meeting HRDs on an annual basis is a commitment that the European Union missions in Uganda have undertaken in the Local Implementation Strategy for the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders in Uganda (which we adopted in February last year). Recognising an individual HRD through an Award is another way of highlighting the important, and often difficult and unsafe, work that you carry out.
As I told you last year when we met in a similar forum, the EU sets great store by the important work of HRDs. It is you who work to protect the rights of the vulnerable and marginalised in society and, indeed, to push forward the social development and human rights agenda for the benefit of us all.
This is certainly true for the Martin Ennals award winner Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera who we also want to honour tonight for winning this prestigious award. The award has already been handed over but you can see it here on display. Ms. Nabagesera is, as you know, a dedicated HR activist and founder/Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda and she has continuously been fighting for human rights in Uganda. She has also played a leading role in the Ugandan LGBT rights movement together with several other individuals such as Frank Mugisha. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Frank for winning the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and a Norwegian Human rights award. We know that you, Kasha and Frank, together with your colleagues, operate in a difficult environment and I know that several of the EU missions in Uganda are providing you with support.
Let me now turn to the 2012 EU HRD Award and share with you that it was not an easy mission to decide on one individual for winning this award. From a good number of impressive nominees, the EU HRD Focal Group – which I would like to thank for their hard work – drew up a shortlist of three candidates for the EU Ambassadors to select the winner from. The three shortlisted candidates, whom I would like to say a few words about, were:
Stella Murungi, Legal and Protection Officer at East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) who constantly is on the spot assisting HRDs with protection measures such as arranging emergency transport for HRDs, finding safe accommodations and taking any other necessary measure – also in the middle of the night and sometimes risking her own safety.
Geoffrey Ssebagala, Programme Coordinator and a founding member of Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) who continuously works to improve rights of journalists and protect the freedom of expression. Under Mr. Ssebagala's guidance HRNJ-Uganda has helped journalists in detention, represented journalists in court and produced Press Freedom Index reports to highlight the difficulty of journalists and propose ways of improving the state of the media in light of the human rights situation in the country.
Gerald Kankya, Programme Coordinator and a founding member of Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC), an organization based in the Rwenzori region which aims at sensitizing communities regarding freedom of speech and holding leaders accountable. Mr. Kankya initiates and encourages open debate through weekly radio programs. In addition to promoting and creating awareness of good governance and fundamental human rights in the community, he has challenged unfair practices in court; fighting against the banning of human rights programs on radio and against land grabbing. He has faced many challenges in his work such as attacks on radio stations hosting TLC’s programs, suspension of his radio shows, being arrested and detained by the police for work related reasons and having to take action in court. And all of this far away from the Kampala Civil Society spotlight.
The EU Heads of Missions met and voted among these three impressive candidates to choose the winner.
Without further ado, I am honoured to hand over this beautiful award by one of Uganda's leading sculptors and artists, Mr. Charles Kamya – a beautiful sculpture which has the very appropriate shape of a bird, the freest creature we know – to:
Mr. Gerald Kankya - please come over here to accept the 2012 EU HRD Award; "The Bird"
--- HANDING OVER OF THE PRIZE ---
My warmest congratulations, once again, to the 2012 EU HRD Award winner, Gerald Kankya and to the Martin Ennals Award winner, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera.
I would like to end this speech by extending my deepest appreciation to all HRDs in Uganda for continuously working hard to improve the situations for Human Rights activists in Uganda.
Thanks again Urban for hosting all of us today.