Med Kaggwa, Ugandan human rights defender RIP

One of Uganda’s most prominent human rights defenders, Med Kaggwa, died unexpectedly this week, aged 64.

At the time of his death Med Kaggwa chaired the Uganda Human Rights Commission. But his wide experience included serving two terms as a member of the East African Legislative Assembly. He had also been part of the Constitution Review Commission, a country-wide drive to collect the views of the public on proposed content of an amended constitution.

Well-qualified in various legal fields, Kaggwa worked with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as a commissioner and special rapporteur on prisons and conditions of detention.

He had been a member of the Uganda Law Society which immediately shared news of his death with its membership.

Staff at the commission described him as gentle, committed to human rights, a very competent manager and ‘a great person to work with’. ‘The country has lost a person who will be very (hard) to replace.’

He appears to have had a heart attack while driving himself to work, prompting some people to ask why he did not have a driver or an escort ‘given his status’.

However, colleagues at work said that Kaggwa ‘had chosen to live a simple but dignified life’.

During his funeral, a message from President Yoweri Museveni, read by Vice-President Edward Ssekandi, described Kaggwa as a great servant of the people from whom other public servants could learn. During his tenure he transformed the Human Rights Commission, said Museveni.

Despite the widespread praise for the work he did, however, his death has also exposed some concern that the commission he headed did not have enough power to act against human rights abuses.

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