BLM: Perspectives from the DHRLab-Community

Katharina Bauch Aug. 5, 2020

The death of George Floyd in May 2020 has unleashed a wave of indignation: People around the world keep on following the Black Lives Matter movement, taking it to the streets and speaking out against structural racism and police violence. 2 months after the incident in Minneapolis, we asked our community how the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests are affecting civil society in Uganda from their perspective.

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Peaceful protesting meets police system

Brian Geoffrey Chanwat from Strategic Response International (SRI) shared with us his observations during the Black Lives Matter-Protests in Kampala.

“Like in the rest of the world, peaceful protesters in Kampala joined to protest against racial injustice in the brutal murder of blacks in America, joining the Black Lives Matter movement. (At SRI), we anticipated the usual police behaviour of arresting them and indeed over 14 people were arrested during the protests. We provided lawyers to assist them secure freedom and they were released. The Uganda Police conduct speaks a lot about freedoms of expression here in Uganda despite a global challenge of inequalities.”

He states:

“The world has reached a time where we must embrace each other irrespective of gender, race or any other consideration. The #BlackLivesMatter campaign is an eye-opener of the need for justice starting from within our communities.”

Structural racism meets labour market

For Charles Ochan from U-Touch Uganda, the Black Lives Matter movement is of high global relevance. He cites the labour market, especially in the nonprofit sector, as an example of a lack of equality and addresses his impression that black people today still face roadblocks and barriers in effort to advance their careers.

“Black people who oppose or confront racial discrimination practices in their own organizations are “black-listed” and often the employment reference check and background search ensure that they are not employed elsewhere. They often are forced to shut up and tolerate racial discrimination out of fear that their careers and lives will be destroyed.

If a black person is fortunate enough to get past the often racially tainted employment practices, he*she embarks on another journey of breaking racial ceilings in boardrooms and the workplaces where promotions and firings are routinely administered through a racial lens.

Employers have become too legalese in dealing with “Equal Opportunities for Employment Laws”. In many cases, jobs are publicly advised to cosmetically fulfill a legal requirement, and the self-disclosure forms that include one’s race tend to work against black people.

Job applications these days go to a bottomless pit and there is almost zero accountability or feedback in the hiring process. The fact that employers can reject applicants for any or no reason and often through silence makes it impossible for racially driven decisions to be monitored, regulated and addressed.”

The global issue of inequality

Phillip Ayazika from Pollicy also observes the global Black Lives Matter movement carefully.

“In the wake of George Floyd’s death, there was so much anger all over the world, the situation in Uganda was different. There was a deafening silence about this saga especially from civil society and the Ugandan Government with just very minimal mumbles on social media from citizens and a few media houses.

Does this mean the situation isn’t relatable? Or is it the fear of “biting the hand that feeds you?”. As a matter of fact, there is so much racism that happens in Uganda from schools to restaurants and in public institutions but goes unaddressed.

Even when it is not relatable, the George Floyd saga should be a reminder of what every black person or even Ugandan both abroad and at home risks facing. So every time when a #BlackLivesMatter hashtag re-appears, it should be a reminder to not only our leaders, civil society and the public in Africa to take action and speak up against these injustices.

We want to thank our community for sharing their thoughts on this important topic.