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Tribute to Med Kaggwa; The Gentle Human Rights Advocate

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Kaggwa, a former Parliamentarian and human rights defender died suddenly on Wednesday. He was aged 64.
20 Nov 2019 18:40
Med Kaggwa Launching Worker's Rights report . Credit Wambi Michael

Audio 4

A cross-section of Ugandan’s continues to pay glowing tribute to Med Kaggwa, the Uganda Human Rights Commission Chair following his death.

Kaggwa, who has been at the helm of the Commission suffered a sudden death early on Wednesday morning while driving to office. He is suspected to have suffered a cardiac attack.

At his office, the Commissioners and members of staff were saddened by the demise of “good man” who treated all equally and dignity. Med Kaggwa said to have officiated at a human rights monitoring and evaluation mission in Luwero on Tuesday.

He was expected to attend a child rights symposium at UNICEF country office in Kampala.   Dr. Amooti Katabalirwe, one of the Commissioners at the Uganda Human Rights Commission confirmed that the late was found unconscious in his official car.

Katabalirwe said the late was later rushed to CASE medical centre where he was pronounced dead. He said Med Kaggwa has been normally driving himself to the office for most of the period he has been the Chair of the country’s human rights body.

Tribute from Commission's staff

Victoria Rusoke has spent about a year at the Commission and worked under Med Kaggwa’s supervision. She says the late was a very competent manager, “Causing results and not forcing results because he was exemplary. He was a role model” Kaggwa has been known for always being early at the office. He had been true to this virtue until the time of his demise.

//Cue in; “If you heard the statement of the time he collapsed. 7:30 he was almost reaching here. Very organized, a very good communicator, a very good supervisor, very accountable, disciplined, a country has lost a person who will be very rare to replace” //

Meddie Mulumba was one of the first Commissioners to rush to CASE hospital only to find his boss lifeless. “It was so saddening to see a person who was full of life just yesterday to be dead today.”

Mulumba remembers Kaggwa for his simplicity and kindness “He was always a jovial person; he was always giving hope even when there was no hope. He was a great person to work with”  

Joan Kampe Wasswa, has served under Kaggwa as the Head of Human Resources unit. She says Kaggwa represented “grace, dignity and respect”  

She recalls her time in the Commission under Kaggwa saying he will be missed because he was quite approachable.

“He was a parent, he took each staff at their own level and was very accommodative of each situation. He was one person that fathered everybody. He always urged us to be developmental outside office” 

Med Kaggwa had power and privilege at his disposal having served as a legislator and later head of the Uganda Human Rights Commission from April 2009untill his death.

Some questions emerged following reports confirming his death. Why was he driving himself to Office? Why didn’t he have police or army escorts given his status?

Joan Kampe Waswa explained that the late had chosen to live a simple but dignified life. “At one time he had share and said it made him very comfortable. And it made him associate with everyone. He just enjoyed his space”

///Cue in “He told us one time that he didn’t see the reason why he would be guarded or why it became so difficult for someone to reach him. He was just like that. He was a simple man. A very simple man. So he asked his driver to meet him at the office. Just like what was supposed to happen this morning. And he was not guarded.”//

Med Kaggwa succeeded Margret Sekaggya to become the second chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission. He, like Margaret Sekaggya, rose to serve other international human rights bodies outside Uganda.

In December 2016 he was unanimously elected as Chairperson to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC-IPHRC) He between 2012 -2016 served as special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa -African Commission for Human and People’s Rights.

Kaggwa was Commissioner on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) between 2011 – 2017. Speaking from Geneva on phone, Margret Sekaggya said Kaggwa was dedicated to his work of pushing fort human rights forward.

She said Kaggwa’s contribution will be greatly missed especially as the country prepares for the next general election. “It would have been very vital for him to be around especially when we are going to the next election. It is a big blow to the human rights Community” said Sekaggya

Sekaggya said Kaggwa will be remembered as a timekeeper, as a very dedicated person to whatever he does.  

Kaggwa has been the Vice-Chairperson of the national Initiative for Civic Education where he would still continue to push his constitutional role as a civic educator.

Crispin Kaheru, the Secretary of the National Initiative for Civic Education said Kaggwa always wished that citizens are enlightened about the political processes and are heavily engaged.

“He was a very candid guy I would say. He always said the truth without mincing words. And this was heavily depicted in his human rights reports that he authored every year” said Kaheru

// Cue in “He didn’t fear to say the truth where it mattered most. But he also had a virtue that he interacted with everybody. And respected each and everybody’s opinion.  And that is why he would very comfortably interact with members of the ruling party but also interact with members of the opposition who are at times victims of human rights violations”//

Criticism over police brutality

Kaggwa’s leadership at Uganda Human Rights Commission was not free of criticism especially from those that felt he and his Commission had not prevailed on police and UPDF officers openly engaged in human rights abuses especially torture.

Some of the criticism came from Lawyer, Karoli Ssemogerere who in 2018 wrote a newspaper column questioning whether Uganda Human Rights Commission had reduced itself to a mere advisory body.

Sheila Muwanga, the Acting Executive Director of Foundations For Human rights Initiative says the late Kaggwa did his best as the Chairperson of the commission.

Muwanga, also the Vice President at International Federation for Human Rights said Parliament and the Executive bare the blame for having not implemented or debated most of the annual reports authored by Kaggwa and his team.

“He raised issues in Parliament, he raised issues during tribunals. He raised issues around the human rights record of the state. So Med did his part.” Said Muwanga  

Sheila Kawamara was with Med Kaggwa at the East Africa Legislative Assembly between 2003-2006. She agrees with Muwanga that Med Kaggwa may have been let down by Parliament and the Executive in as far as enforcing sanctions against human rights abuse.

“The Human Rights Commission has a mandate to perform and it has where it stops. It can point out and caution government but it cannot go out to stop human rights abuses by the Uganda police and the army” said Kawamara

Miria Matembe and Med Kaggwa were Commissioners of the Uganda Constitutional Commission. Kaggwa was in charge of publicity and Chairperson for Kawempe Division and later in charge of publicity on hearings on Constitutional and Human Rights issues. She, in an interview, said the country has suffered a great loss saying Med was a “man of conscience” who “fought tirelessly” for the people of Uganda while collecting views later to be debated at the Constituent Assembly.

Matembe and Kaggwa were also members of the Constituent Assembly and later appointed to cabinet. Kaggwa was Minister of State in Charge of Political Affairs -  Office of the President.

//Cue In; “Certainly I will miss him...

Cue Out gone so early.”//

Kaggwa died at the time when the Human Rights Committee in Parliament had just finished wiring a report about abuse in safe houses operated by the military and intelligence services.

He held a Master of Laws Degree (LL.M) from the National University of Ireland (UCD-Belfield), a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LL.B) from Makerere University, Uganda and a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre, Uganda

Kaggwa’s Other Career highlights

Member of Parliament – Kawempe South 1996 – 2001

Member - East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) 2003- 2006

Council Member Makerere University - 1994 – 1996

Member of the Constituent Assembly –1994 – 1995

Secretary to the Board - Uganda Revenue Authority 1999 -1996

Law Lecturer - Law Development Centre - 1982 – 1984