LEAD PHOTO; Leader of Opposition in Parliament Rt. Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi and in set, Mr. Ambrose Kibuuka Wassaaka who is also missing

Investigative Journalist

IN the ongoing standoff between the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) Party and ruling NRM government, a pressing demand echoes through the corridors of power. 
Newly appointed Leader of Opposition (LOP) in Parliament Rt. Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi on Wednesday February 7, 2024 tasked Prime minister Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja to account for a number of missing supporters and sympathizers – some allegedly abducted, others confined to torture chambers, while many remain imprisoned in Safe Houses and undisclosed cells. 
The Nakawa East legislator Joel Ssenyonyi told Parliament that, “We have a couple of people who are in jail, there is a young lady Olivia Lutaaya and several others who have been in jail 3-4years while many are missing. We demand for urgent release of all political prisons.”
In this tumultuous climate, the family and kin of Ambrose Kibuuka Wassaaka, a distinguished Human Rights defender and environmental activist, find themselves enveloped in apprehension about his safety.
Ambrose Kibuuka Wassaaka, occupying the role of Associate Director at the Mid-Western Region Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (MICOD), stands as a prominent figure in the realm of civil activism. 
Established in 2008, MICOD operates as a National non-governmental organization committed to serving as a Civil Society platform dedicated to sustainable development and the promotion of Human and Democratic Rights.

PHOTO: Ambrose Kibuuka Wassaaka in one of senstization meetings on human rights

The Perceived threat to Ambrose’s life as the NUP intensifies its call for transparency and accountability.
Ambrose Kibuuka Wassaaka’s association with MICOD has thrust him into the spotlight. The family and close associates of this Human rights crusader express deep-seated concerns over his well-being in light of the government’s alleged crackdown on dissent.
The Mid-Western Region Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, spanning eight Ugandan districts, encapsulates MICOD’s commitment to sustainable development and the advancement of human and democratic rights. Ambrose, in his capacity as Associate Director, has become a symbol of resilience against environmental and human rights transgressions.

Ambrose Kibuuka Wassaaka’s activism has not been without its challenges. The heightened scrutiny on his activities stems from the documentation of environmental and human rights violations in Uganda, particularly the exposure of the state’s involvement in contentious practices such as land grabbing, loss of livelihoods, sexual harassment, intimidation, unwarranted arrests, and even alleged instances of murder.
A year has elapsed since Ambrose went missing, his whereabouts unknown. Family members reveal a chilling narrative of plain-clothed security personnel trailing him, intercepting his communications, and brazenly raiding his office. A relative, speaking anonymously due to safety concerns, discloses the gravity of the situation, underscoring the palpable threats that have forced Ambrose into a perilous state of seclusion.

In his role as Associate Director at MICOD, Ambrose Kibuuka Wassaaka has played a pivotal role in advancing community empowerment and advocacy initiatives. His responsibilities encompassed community mobilization, coordination, and the design and implementation of programs focusing on environmental awareness and human rights education. This commitment, however, brought with it increased scrutiny and opposition from the state.
One significant setback in Ambrose’s journey was the exploration of oil in the Albertine Region, where MICOD operates across multiple districts. 
The construction of the Eastern Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in Uganda, a project marred by controversy, unveiled instances of human rights abuse within the region. Ambrose’s instrumental role in exposing these abuses added to the mounting threats against him.

PHOTO: Locals listen to Mr. Ambrose Kibuuka on their human rights

As the EACOP project gained momentum, reports emerged of communities along the pipeline route enduring displacement, inadequate compensation, loss of livelihoods, sexual harassment, intimidation, unwarranted arrests, and alleged instances of murder. Ambrose’s unwavering commitment to bringing these issues to light drew the ire of influential figures aligned with President Museveni’s government, who were accused of exploiting the situation for unlawful land seizures.
The citizens, displaced from their generational lands, were confined to unofficial and unregulated internally displaced camps, representing a severe violation of their inherent rights. Ambrose’s efforts to address this critical issue through dialogue with government bodies, security forces, and oil companies were met with open threats and hostility, marking a turning point in his activism.

The establishment of the EACOP project resulted in a notable surge in the deployment of force and intimidation by security forces, specifically targeting individuals opposing the project. Ambrose, along with fellow human rights advocates, environmental activists, and community leaders, found themselves in the crosshairs of threats, arrests, and physical violence.
In response to the escalating injustices, Ambrose engaged in whistleblowing activities, persistently advocating for the rights of the displaced population. Despite organizing covert educational meetings to enlighten citizens about their rights, his efforts were uncovered and forcibly terminated. Accusations of inciting public disturbances further intensified the hostility against him.

From May to November 2022, covert security personnel meticulously monitored Ambrose’s activities, both at MICOD offices in Masindi and during field operations. A tip-off from a friend in the security sector revealed imminent arrest orders, prompting Ambrose to go into hiding. Seeking refuge at the residence of a friend a one Mugambe in Wakiso District, he hoped to escape the relentless pursuit of security operatives. However, his whereabouts were eventually compromised.

PHOTO: Workholic Ambrose training people

On June 27, 2022, Ambrose narrowly escaped interception by security operatives in Kitonya Trading Centre as he travelled to a community awareness meeting in Kitonya. The security operatives, acting on an intelligence briefing, were poised to apprehend him alongside a colleague, Kawuma. A timely warning from a security informant advised Ambrose to cancel his attendance, potentially saving his life.

During the night of August 18, 2022, a burglary occurred at the MICOD offices in Masindi. This sinister act resulted in the theft of Ambrose’s laptop, containing not only sensitive information but also confidential files crucial to his advocacy. The severity of this incident left Ambrose grappling with the chilling realization that certain entities were determined to silence him permanently.

As the timeline extends beyond a year since Ambrose meticulously documented human rights violations and shared this information within the civil society network, a haunting question remains unanswered: Where is Ambrose Kibuuka Wassaaka?

For those with views and comments on this story, email the editor at newseditor.info@gmail.com.


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