Human rights in Uganda have had a limited recognition since pre-colonial times.  Uganda’s human rights record has been characterised more by violations than protection and promotion.  The quest for respect of human rights in our society must, therefore, have as its starting point the historical experiences of dehumanisation and devaluation of Ugandans.

The turning point in the struggle for respect for human rights and the promotion of human development in Uganda was marked by the promulgation of a new constitution for the republic in 1995.  The adoption and enactment of this constitution is the result of the growing need to protect and promote human rights by promoting a culture of constitutionalism and rule of law.  Thus, the 1995 constitution has given a recognizable place for human rights and freedoms.  In fact, some commentators have even remarked that the new Ugandan Constitution should be seen as a “human rights charter”[i] where human rights serve as the basis for all the provision of the Constitution.

While it is true that the 1995 Constitution made remarkable achievements in the recognition and protection of some human rights, as seen in chapter four, it did not go very far.  Many constitutional analysts have already alluded to this reality.  For instance, Oloka-Onyango has observed the fact that many rights, including social, economic and development rights, have been confined to that part of the constitution which has no legal force:


The majority of the rights of this character [referring to economic and social rights] are confined to the section of the constitution, which is not amenable to legal enforcement: the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.  The Language used in describing state commitment to the realization of these ideals is clear: “The following objectives and principles shall guide (rather than “bind”) organs and agencies of the state…” at best imposing a moral obligation, but providing no mechanisms for enforcement.  It is in this section of the Constitution that questions such as development, . . . education, health, water, food security and nutrition are covered.[ii]


It is not clear why these rights were moved to this part of the constitution because they formed an important part of chapter III of the Draft Constitution.  Perhaps one of the reasons could have been that “The Report of the Constitutional Commission” referred to these rights as “generally not enforceable by legal means as they state general principles rather than substantial entitlements.”[iii] What this means is that the state cannot be held legally responsible for any limited achievement of these rights, but could be held morally accountable.  Despite this structural and enforcement limitation, the 1995 Ugandan Constitution recognizes the right to development, stresses the role of people and the state in the development of Uganda, and brings to the fore the need for balanced and equitable development.         

This paper, therefore, attempts to reflect on the reality of the right to development as provided in the Ugandan 1995 Constitution against the background of the principles and dimensions of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (article, 22).  But first, let us look briefly at human rights and development in general.




The idea of rights in general and human rights in particular is not new to most people.  The language of human rights is predominant in our contemporary world.  It cuts across all aspects of the human person: social, political, economic, and cultural.  Human rights have occupied a central place in our lives because they have functioned and continue to function to protect and promote the dignity and value of human beings.

Although there has been no agreement about to what rights and human rights are because of differences in how people conceive them, the Oxford English Dictionary defines rights as justifiable claims, on legal or moral grounds, to have or obtain something, or to act in a certain way.  Human rights, therefore, have been defined as the rights that everyone has equally, by virtue of their humanity;[iv] they rightfully belong to all humans by the virtue of being human.  They are a crucial part of the human being because they are inherent as the basic components of a true human way of living.  Human rights have been defined also as “generally accepted principle of fairness and justice.”

The concept of human rights has been analyzed extensively in moral, legal, and political theories.  Human rights in one conceptual analysis are intrinsic human values inherent in the human person, due to all persons on the basis of their human dignity. These rights and freedoms are said to be fundamental and include the security of the persons the right not to be deprived of life and liberty without due process of law; the right not to be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and the right not to be held in slavery or servitude.  Their fundamental function and importance, therefore, is the protection and promotion of the intrinsic value inherent in human nature.  Every state has an obligation to guarantee them, and every individual has a right to claim and enjoy them because they give meaning to the human dignity. Human rights are not absolute, however, but the possibility of their limitation is limited to the common good.

The concept of human rights in Africa is one of struggle against all forms of domination, exploitation, oppression and abuse. It is this sort of conception that Shivji Issa alluded to in his book: The Concept of Human Rights in Africa.  For him, human rights must be rooted in the perspective of class struggle and must be claimed and enjoyed collectively.[v] This conception of human rights is also clearly reflected in the African Charter on human and peoples’ rights.  In its preamble, the Charter affirms the duty of everyone “to achieve the total liberation of Africa, the people of which are still struggling for their dignity and genuine independence.”

The concept of human rights in Africa is not limited to individual human rights.  Human rights in Africa include peoples’ rights enjoyed collectively or communally by a people or peoples.  The right to development is one such rights that can be claimed and enjoyed collectively.

The disagreement in the conception of human rights as seen above is one of the great aspects of, and challenges to, the process of globalization.  The dominant human rights discourse of the West has often been accused of being too restricted to individual rights of a civil and political nature, while ignoring the collective/communal rights (including social, economic and cultural rights) advocated mostly by the developing nations.  This disagreement as led to the categorization of human rights into first, second and third generations.

Attempts to harmonize such conceptual disagreements by the international community can be seen in the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development.

The right to development is thus defined by this declaration as “an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized” (Art. 1.1).  From such a definition there follows the holistic approach to human rights conceptualization emphasized by the experience “every human person” and “all peoples.”

The concept of development is sometimes as complex to define as that of human rights; development as a concept is sometimes difficult to understand.  Many countries and many different writers have referred to development in various ways.  Although development has been characterized as economic growth, its definition cannot be complete without reference to the human person. Development is a multidimensional process that includes the social, economic, cultural and political dimensions of human life.  Thus:


‘Development’ is a positive word that is almost synonymous with ‘progress.’ Although it may entail disruption of established patterns of living, over the long-term it implies increased living standards, improved health and well-being for all, and the achievement of whatever is regarded as a general good for society at large.[vi]

The United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development, 1986, in fact, makes a complete resume of all these new approaches to development.  One of the real forces of this declaration is its novel realisation that the human person should be at the center of development.  This has been the key to the innovation and revision of many other trends to development since the Industrial Revolution in Britain.  The new revolution in development is solely encompassed in the fact that development can be achieved only with the human person as the central subject active participant and beneficiary of the right to development.  Development is thus defined by the Declaration as:


a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom.[vii]

This definition of development not only underscores the central place of the human person in any development process, but also stresses the holistic or integral approach to development and makes clear the link between human rights and development.

Development without doubt is the achievement of human rights by an individual, community, and state: without respect for human rights, there can be no development.  There is, in fact, an interrelationship between human rights and development, which intertwines these two concepts.


 Where human rights are respected, development occurs.  Where the opposition is the reality, underdevelopment and backwardness are the usual results. Human beings perform best and exert their full potential for development where they are secure in the enjoyment of their rights.  The security of life, property and the guarantee of opportunities to raise the standards of living without discrimination or victimisation are at the core of people’s motivation for development.[viii]




Nothing has become an area of so great concern and commitment as development.  As the world continues to get more and more connected and as the reality of the present phenomenon of globalization preoccupies the mind of the world, issues of development have come to the fore.  One reason why this has become an issue of interest is the “development” of Europe and America, and in such countries of Asia as Japan, without correspondence to the condition of the poor developing nations characterized by mass poverty, illiteracy, diseases, malnutrition and high death rate.

In the awakening of the world consciousness to social issues and justice, especially to the issue of international economic order (or is it disorder?), the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) have addressed the issue of development by declaring development a right and responsibility.  The right to development has been considered a specifically African contribution to the international human rights discourse.  It is often attributed to the Senegalese Jurist, Keba M’baye[ix] who first propounded this right in 1972.  The legitimacy of the right to development, according to Kaba M’baye, relates to political and economic considerations, is founded on moral grounds and accords with legal standards.[x]

The right to development does not appear in most international human rights treaties, but is formally recognize in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.  Article 22 of this charter provides that:


All peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind.

States shall have the duty, individually or collectively, to ensure the exercise of the right to development.

Not withstanding its limited recognition in international human rights treaties, the notion of the right to development as a human right found its way to the UN system when its General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development on 4 December 1986.  Like any other declaration, the Declaration on the Right to Development has since then provided important guidelines and directives on development and has inspired the writings of many national constitutions and continental proclamations.  The African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation that was written in Arusha, 12-16 February, 1990, is a good example of the serious commitment to sustainable development in the African nations.

The government of Uganda recognizes the right to development of the state as a whole and of all its peoples.  It provides for this right in the new constitution of 1995.  Here, the right to development finds its expression among the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as objective number nine.

In the following provision, the state commits itself to the involvement of all its people in the process of development.  It provides that:


The state shall take all necessary steps to involve the people in the formulation and implementation of development plans and programmes which affect them.


The 11th objective describes the role of the state in development, by which the state commits itself to the enactment of legislation to establish measures that protect and enhance the right of the people to equal opportunities in development.  In recognition of the historical imbalances in development, the state commits itself to taking “necessary measures to bring about balanced development of the different areas of Uganda and between the rural and urban areas.”

Inspired by the vision and principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development and the constitutional provisions, Uganda has embarked on a number of development programs such as decentralization, liberalization of the economy, primary health care, universal primary education, poverty eradication and rural development, regional integration, etc.  The question that we are bound to ask here is: Have the constitutional provisions and development programs found real reflection in the life of the ordinary Ugandans?  This question certainly requires much careful thought. In what follows, we shall attempt to discuss the basic principles and dimensions of the right to development in the light of the Ugandan reality.  Some of the basic principles, dimensions and issues of development on which we would like to focus in this discussion include the following:

- Human-centered development

- Participation

- Democracy

- Self-determination

- International Cooperation

- Social Injustice

- Integral Development




Perhaps the most basic issue underlying the right to development is the principle of human-centered development. Recognizing the central place of the human person in the development process, the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development provides in article 2.1 that “the human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development.”

The fact that the human person is the central subject in development has been so much stressed in other circles where people acknowledge and appraise the value of the human being.  In Catholic social teaching, this fact has been emphasized in the encyclical Populorum Progressio where Pope Paul the VI insisted that:


Development cannot be limited to mere economic growth.  In order to be authentic, it must be complete, integral, that is, it must promote the good of every man and of the whole man. . . . We do not believe in separating the economic from the human . . . what we hold important is man, each man and each group of men, and we even include the whole of humanity.[xi]

Embedded in this vision, is the recognition of personal potential, capability, skillfulness in “self-fulfillment.” The African Charter for Popular Participation in Development affirmed the significance of the human-centered development approach when it stated:


We, therefore, have no doubts that at the heart of Africa’s development objectives must lie the ultimate and overriding goal of human-centered development that ensures the overall well-being of the people through sustained improvement in their living-standards and the full and effective participation of the people in charting their development policies, programmes and process and contributing to their realization.  We further more observe that given the current worlds political and economic situation, Africa is becoming more marginalised in world affairs, both geo-politically and economically.  African countries must realize that, more than ever before, their greatest resource is their people and it is through their active and full participation that African can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead.[xii]


This approach to development is a recognition not only of the value and dignity of the human person, but also of the need to address the issue of basic human needs for the sustenance of human life.  Food, shelter, health and education are some of these basic human needs for the preservation of life and its growth and development.

Measuring development in terms of access to basic health services, education, and food is more satisfactory than most other yardsticks. Such social indicators as life expectancy reflect more accurately the conditions of most of the population than per capita income because of a much broader distribution across households.[xiii]

The provision of basic needs is an essential investment in people as a way toward human-centered development.  “People are both the ends and means of development.  Although improved health, nutrition, and education are ends in themselves, healthy and educated human beings are also the principal means for achieving development.”[xiv] In Uganda, the provision of primary health care is assuming increased importance for the development of healthy human resources throughout the country. Thus despite the prevailing AIDS epidemic which is a major problem, not only in terms of physical health, but also its cost to the economic, social and the moral life of Ugandans.  Despite this scourge, reduction in the expenditures in the health sector and the introduction of cost sharing means that development will be greatly affected.  Therefore, provision of sustainable health care services that are cheap, affordable and accessible to all people is an important aspect of human-centered development.

The link, however, between education, health and development is one of cause-effect relationship.  Healthier children are more likely to attend school and to learn, and therefore to develop than the sick or malnourished. Education, in turn, enables people to understand health problems and to act in their prevention and cure.  Indeed education as a basic human need has an important part in the development of Africa’s human resources. 

Uganda has embarked on Universal Primary Education (UPE) in an effort to effect people-centered development.  Although this programme has had a number of setbacks such as inadequate classroom facilities, the limited number of trained teachers, inadequate resources, and limited coverage of the whole population of the school age children due to the above constraints, it is nevertheless essential for developing the abilities and the skills of the people for the future development. For this the secondary and tertiary levels also must receive the attention they deserve.  The importance of having a more comprehensive state supported programme of education has been stressed:


The approach must not only attempt to ensure that as many people as possible are able to attain minimal literacy and numeracy, but that specialized educational levels are also attained.  Otherwise, not only will it be impossible to resist to the imperatives of globalization, but the people of Uganda will be condemned to a marginal existence on the fringes of important cultural, technological, and economic developments.[xv]




Participation is yet another important concept underlying the right to development.  There can be no development without participation.  Popular participation gives the majority of the people the right to development through which they can provide shelter, education and health care for themselves.  For instance, a child develops its abilities when it begins to put the breast of its mother in its mouth for feeding.  When it begins to bath alone, there is progress towards personal hygiene without which there is total dependency on the mother for food and health care.  Here, development is the attainment of food and health through personal involvement which is participation; this right is fulfilled through participation.

The importance of participation has been emphasised at different levels of the international community.  The United Nations has already stressed the need to involve people in their own affairs.  In its agenda for development, the UN noted in particular that:


Participation is an essential component of successful and lasting development.  It contributes to equity by involving people living in poverty and other groups in planning and implementation.  Participatory decision-making, together with democracy, and transparent and accountable governance and administration in all sectors of society is an important requirement for the effectiveness of development policies. . . . The key to participatory development means fulfilling the potentials of people by enlarging their capabilities, and this necessarily implies empowerment of people, enabling them to participate actively in their own development.[xvi]

Therefore, the right to development is fulfilled through popular participation as echoed in the Arusha Declaration:


In our view, popular participation is both a means and an end.  As an instrument of development, popular participation provides the driving force for collective commitment for the determination of people-based development processes and willingness by the people to undertake sacrifices and expand their social energies for its execution.  As an end in itself, popular participation is the fundamental right of the people to fully participate effectively in the determination of the decision which affect their lives at all levels and at all times.[xvii]


The Organization of African Unity (O.A.U) is determined to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights especially the right of people to freely participate, by its affirmation in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that: “Every citizen has the right to participate freely in the government of his or her country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provision of the law (Article 13.1).” Here every African country is supposed to enact relevant laws in this respect.  Member states of the O. A. U are bound to affirm the right to development and encourage the right to participation in their different countries.  Popular participation, however, depends on the nature of the state and the ability of government to respond to popular demands.  This is possible where the government allows the people freedom in decision making.

The constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995 guarantees every Ugandan the right to participate in the development process of Uganda.  However, the same constitution limits this right in case of activities which may threaten the peace in Uganda (Article 38).  The Ugandan constitution also recognizes the need to protect the rights of the minority to participate in decision-making processes that their views and interests are taken into account in making national plans and programmes (Article 36).  This is a good gesture in response to the requirements of the right to development, which is to encourage popular participation in all spheres as an important factor in development and in the full realization of all human rights.  While it is true that the Uganda government has, since the enactment of the 1995 Constitution, encouraged different groups of the population: women, youth, workers, elders, the army, etc., to participate actively in the affairs of this country, it has remained reluctant to allow broad based political participation.  Article 269 of the constitution, for instance, regulates political organisations by limiting their active participation in the political governance of the country contrary to the other provisions of the same constitution.  This in reality means that people must not organize and mobilize themselves under different political organizations. The lesson here for Ugandans is that for meaningful development to take place, popular and democratic participation must be the guiding principle.




In a country like Uganda, popular participation of the people requires democracy.  Democratic involvement of people in charting their development goals and in the implementation and evaluation of these development programmes is at the core of people’s own development.  This can be achieved through respect for the right to participation and self-determination of peoples.

The experience of many African nations, however, shows a great diversity despite the call by the majority of the people for democracy.  Africa has suffered hunger, lack of shelter, lack of education opportunities, and poor health due to policies dictated from the center of political power.  This reality was adequately observed by the participants in the Arusha Conference for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation.  The participants observed that:


...the crisis currently engulfing Africa, is not only an economic crisis but also a human legal, political and social crisis . . . ., the political context of socio-economic development has been characterized, in many instances, by an over-centralization of power and impediments to the effective participation of the overwhelming majority of the people in social, political and economic development.[xviii]


The concern of the conference is, certainly, decentralization of power and the empowerment of the local people to take charge of their development process.

In the Uganda government’s reform programs, the program of decentralization is a real effort to enable the people from all the different levels of society to exercise democratic participation and to take full responsibility for their own development.  Uganda’s decentralization policy was designed to:


. . . increase the powers of democratic local authorities, it is expected to have a major impact on the civil service functions in the future.  With the responsibility for providing many public services delivery and increased transparency are expected.[xix]


            Decentralization is meant to promote capacity building at the local levels, and to introduce local choice into the delivery of civil services, fostering a sense of local ownership and responsibility.  This, indeed, is a great step by the government to full participation and sharing of the benefits of development at the national level.  Again, in the local governments act, 1997, the logistics of decentralization was worked out and the aim of governments undertakings was spelled out in this document “to ensure good governance and democratic participation  in, and control of decision-making by the people.”[xx] Whatever the real aim (stated or unstated) of decentralization was at its conception, “the best outcome of decentralization for Ugandans can only be their political, economic, and managerial empowerment.”[xxi] Unfortunately, research findings show that decentralization has not enhanced participation in local affairs by the majority of the citizens.[xxii]  Geoffrey Tukahebwa’s research so far makes this conclusion:


On the ground, particularly in rural areas where the majority of the population lives, civil society hardly exists. A few local organisations that have emerged spontaneously are driven by survival strategies rather than the desire to influence public policy.  Therefore, meaningful participation is lacking.  There is need to mobilise citizens to participate in regular council meetings and to check corruption and hold leaders accountable.[xxiii]




Self-determination is one of the cornerstones in the realisation of the right to development; it is one of the core values of development.  Self-determination is a sense of worth and self-respect, of not being used as a tool by others for their own ends.  Self-determination is based on the proclamation that all people of the world have an equal right to liberty, the right to free themselves from any foreign interference and to choose their own government, the right if they are under subjection to fight for their liberation, and the right to benefit from other peoples assistance in their struggle. The right to self-determination enables the people to enjoy their economic rights and their right to culture without distinction as to race, sex, belief or colour.  It also helps to empower people to exercise their inalienable right to full sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources.  This is what self-determination is all about.

The Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples (Article 5-7) puts great emphasis on the right to self-determination.  This right cannot be taken away; it is inalienable for every people who by its virtue have the right to determine their political status freely and without any foreign interference.

The right of people to self-determination did empower the African peoples through popular participation to achieve independence.  The racist regime in southern African collapsed in recognition of the fact that the majority of the people have the right to determine their government.  In Uganda, the people fought dictatorial regimes in order to break free the chains of dependence on military decrees.  However, some lack of self-determination can still be seen in independent states including Uganda where dictatorship (or is it paternalism?) and erosion of the right to development are manifest. Such attitudes are often contained in the form of an ideology: the ideology of “developmentalism.” Whereby rulers in developing states try to determine for people their social, political, economic and cultural life.  Manifestations of such ideologies in Uganda find their roots in military dictatorship and one-party democracy whose implications are immense.  In the first place, it helps to demobilize and disunite people who are already prone to disunity because of sheer diversities along social, cultural and political lines.  In the second place, the ideology of developmentalism helps to oppress and suppress people from realizing their developmental goals.  The other implications of this paternalism are aptly described by Issa Shivji:


The ideology of developmentalism serves as a rationalization of the politics of the ruling class under which the state and the ruling class establish their organizational hegemony over the people through the demobilization of the masses.  This is accompanied by a two-fold trend.  On the level of the state, power is concentrated in the executive/military arms as the various representative organs such as parliament, etc., are marginalised or drained of their democratic content.  On the level of civil society, various mass organizations are suppressed and usurped by the state, thus mutilating, if not destroying, the organizational capacity of the people.[xxiv]


Therefore, lack of self-determination is a cause of poverty by making people dependant on others. Indeed, self-determination is the national sense of self-esteem which all peoples and societies seek to be independent of the chains of poverty and dictatorship.  Where a people have no say in their affairs, they are colonized and oppressed because they have no freedom to feed, clothe and/or house themselves as they would wish to.  They are deprived because they lack the autonomy to become self-reliant; to break free requires national and international cooperation.




The creation of national and international conditions favourable to the realization of the right to development is certainly one of the responsibilities of every state.  This is because the realization of the right to development requires full respect for the principles of international law.  Underlying international law are principles of the sovereign equality of states, national and territorial integrity, the peaceful resolution of international conflicts, and noninterference in the domestic matters of a state—all of  which are contained in the Charter of the United Nations.

These principles are also contained in Uganda’s foreign policy objectives.  In particular, Uganda upholds the following principles for its foreign policy: (1) promotion of the national interest, (2) respect for international law and treaty obligations, (3) peaceful co-existence and non-alignment, and (4) settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding these noble principles contained in our constitution and our obligations to international treaties such as the UN and OAU charters, Uganda is far from the promotion of international cooperation based on these maxims, except for the East African Cooperation. There are many examples of this, but one notably clear and familiar example is Uganda’s military involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Whether true or not that Uganda’s involvement in the Congo is to promote its interest, its presence there has caused conditions unfavourable to development.  How can the people of Eastern Congo develop if they are constantly in fear of loss of their lives and property and of foreign domination, and are constantly displaced from their homes?  Uganda’s reluctance and lack of commitment, especially by the top leadership, peaceful means of resolving conflicts has been demonstrated by the Congo crisis.  For instance, Uganda and her one time ally Rwanda battled violently in the Congo city of Kisangani in May 2000, contravening the requirements of the Lusaka Peace Agreement, which called for a cease fire in the Congo war.  Similar such events have greatly retarded development in not only western part of the country, but also the northern part that neighbours Sudan, which has not enjoyed any good cooperation with Uganda for the last 15 years.  The need for peace and peaceful resolution of international as well as national armed conflicts through mutual dialogue as a prerequisite for development is not only urgent but also an imperative choice for development.


The choice for dialogue promotes development and peace. Since dialogue requires an acceptance of other persons and the thoughtful consideration of their convictions, its practice demonstrates a belief in human dignity and solidarity. . . . Dialogue also implies an expanded base of participation in the formation of ongoing consensus.  Skills and attitudes essential to dialogue are essential to development and peace.  The option for nonviolent conflict resolution such as mediation, confrontation, or non-cooperation contributes to the development of full humanness and peace. . . .[xxv]


At the heart of international cooperation is the need for a balanced international economic order.  At the moment, the African states are not on a par with the developed nations of Europe, America and Asia as regards a balanced economic order. With the huge amount of debt accumulated by many African states, it is almost impossible to think of a balanced economic order based on the principles of equity between partners, respect for their sovereignty, mutual interest and interdependence, and respect of the right of each state to determine its own political, social, cultural and economic policy options.  The continued involvement of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (and their founding countries) in the social, economic and political policies of Uganda is a clear indication of this imbalance.  In similar conclusions, Zie Gariyo noted that:


Uganda like many other indebted developing countries has for years been caught in a vicious circle of poverty, deprivation, political conflict and civil strife fuelled by the inability of its government to meet the basic needs of its citizens.  The international economic system championed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and based on the primacy of markets has worsened rather than resolved the debt crisis.  Most developing nations are currently undertaking structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) imposed by the IMF/World Bank at the behest of the G7 group of nations which comprise the vast majority of these institutions’ shareholders countries.[xxvi] 





The right to development also draws attention to the need for “equality of opportunity for all in their access to basic resources, education, health services, food, housing, employment and the fair distribution of income especially for the marginalized and less advantaged members of society, such as women, it is necessary to ensure that they have an active role in the development process by eradicating all social injustices.  Social justice demands that all citizens be aided in “the creation of patterns of societal organization and activity that are essential both for the protection of minimal human rights and for the creation of mutuality and participation by all in social life.  In other words, social justice is a political virtue.”[xxvii] Linked to social justice is distributive justice, which establishes the equal right of all to share or participate in all those goods and opportunities necessary for genuine participation in the human community.[xxviii] The demands of justice, are far-reaching in enhancing real development:


Justice demands equality and fairness in all private transactions, wages, and property ownership.  It demands equal opportunity for all to participate in the public goods generated by society as a whole, such as social security, health care, and education.  It demands that all persons share in material well-being at least to a level that meets all basic human needs, such as those for food, clothing, shelter, association, etc.  And finally it demands that all persons are under an obligation to share in the creation of those public institutions which are necessary for the realization of these other claims of justice.[xxix]


The existence of different forms of social injustices in Africa arising mainly from unequal treatment of people on the basis of their sex, religion, tribe, political affiliation, region, etc., has often denied people full enjoyment of their right to development.  Women in Africa, for instance, have experienced social injustices since time immemorial, which has lead to their low participation in social, political and economic activities of their societies.  For many societies, the place of women is still the private domain even if their public participation in decision-making and implementation of development programs is known to yield greater development results.  In Uganda, the development gap between the rural and urban areas, northern and southern areas, and between women and men is still wide.  Unfortunately, there has been limited intervention to redress these imbalances.  For instance, although the government has committed a lot of resources to implementing the Universal Primary Education program, there is no direct targeting of girls education to reverse the historical and social cultural impediments towards girls’ education resulting in a literacy rate of 38 percent for women compared to 65 percent for men.[xxx]  In an attempt to redress the regional imbalances in development between the north and the rest of the country, the government introduced the Northern Uganda Reconstruction Program (NURP).  The program has, however, achieved limited results in terms of schools and roads construction because its implementation was characterized by insecurity and corruption. Indeed, social injustices are major hindrances to the realization of the right to development.




In the light of the above discussion, the right to development in Uganda has not yet found real reflection on the life of the ordinary people, many of whom are still excluded from the development process. Uganda must get beyond constitutional provisions to translate these guidelines into concrete human well-being guided by comprehensive principles and an approach most suitable for the realization of this right to development.  The people of Uganda must, therefore, hold its government morally and politically accountable for any deviation from the principles and objectives of state policy contained in the constitution.  This is not to say that the people are exonerated from their responsibility to develop themselves individually and collectively.

The approach most suitable for the realization of the right to development is holistic and integral, considering not only the economic well-being of the people but also taking into account the social, political, cultural and moral dimensions of their life; one that considers the human person as the central subject, active participant and beneficiary of the right to development.

Drawing from the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development, integral development requires that the principles of human centered development, participation, democracy, self-determination, social justice and international cooperation be upheld.  Integral development therefore, must be underlined by good governance.  Dictatorships or political monopolies cannot create a conducive atmosphere for development, although this has been the extended experience of many African countries including Uganda.  The right to development recognizes  peoples’ potentialities and capabilities to determine their political and economic life. It recognizes that peoples should define their form of governance: how to be governed, by whom, and when. As a necessary condition for economic development, recognition of peoples’ sovereignty over their natural resources is paramount.  Economic development is not simply economic growth or the numerical increase of national gross domestic product (GDP); it encompasses the overall well-being of peoples. It involves the evolution of new forms of economic systems, trade relations, and the establishment of relevant economic policies and institutions. These must facilitate not only the production of goods and services, but also their distribution to all people of the community for their consumption and well-being. The “promotion of human dignity, basic human rights, solidarity of people, participation, and self-determination need to become the warp and woof of the economic structures.”[xxxi] Peoples’ development, therefore, must be rooted in “basic human needs and dignity,” rather than on greed.

Integral development involves also the social and cultural well-being of people.  The social aspect of development presupposes that the wealth of the country is equally shared among its people.  The cultural aspect of development presupposes that a country is able to grow and progress with its own values intact.  Uganda must not succumb to a materialistic consumerism life style, sacrificing and loosing its social sensitivity because of rapid economic development resulting from the forces of globalization.  The country should develop with its peculiar and particular creativity, values, talents and skills. We need to cultivate our values of integrity, solidarity, love and respect for others, which are intrinsic in our cultures and important in facilitating true and meaningful human relations significant for the peoples’ development.

Contemporary development requires that concrete choices ought to be made in order to achieve and maintain justice and peace.  The option for collaboration, dialogue and nonviolent resolution of conflict are some of the more significant choices.[xxxii]  Uganda, therefore, must promote regional integration and international cooperation based on the true principles of international relations.  International cooperation must play a significant part in encouraging and promoting the rights to development by creating peace and promoting respect for human rights.




[i] For such a remark, see B. J. Odoki, The Report of the Uganda Constitutional Commission: Analysis and Recommendations (Kampala: Uganda Printing and Publishing Press, 1993).

[ii] J. Oloka-Onyango, “Poverty and Marginalization in the Age of Extreams: Reflections on Human Rights and Development in Contemporary Uganda,” in D. Carabine and M. O’Reilly, The Challenge of Eradicating Poverty in the World: An African Response (Nkozi: Uganda Martyrs University Press, 1998), p. 84.

[iii] The Report of the Uganda Constitutional Commission, p. 638.

[iv] R.J. Vincent, Human Rights and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 13.

[v] I. G. Shivji, The Concept of Human Rights in Africa (London: 1989), p. 71.  Shivji has argued for a historical and social rooting of human rights.  He has dismissed any claim to individual rights because the right holder for him “is not exclusively an autonomous individual but a collective, a people, a nation.”

[vi] Allen and Thomas (eds.), Poverty and Development in the 1990s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 6.

[vii] United Nations, Declaration on the Right to Development, 1986, Article 1.

[viii] B. J. Odoki, The Report of the Uganda Constitutional Commission: Analysis and Recommendations (Kampala: Uganda Printing and Publishing Press, 1993), p. 133.

[ix] R. Rich, “ Right to Development: A Right of Peoples,” in J. Crawford (ed.), The Rights of Peoples (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 41.

[x] Kaba M’baye, “Emergence of the Right to Development as a Human Right in the Context of a New International Economic Order,” paper presented to the UNESCO Meeting of Experts on Human Needs and the Establishment of a New International Economic Order, Paris, 19-23 June 1978.

[xi] Paul VI, The encyclical letter Populorum Progressio: On the Development of Peoples, in: Gremillion (ed.), The Gospel of Peace and Justice: Catholic Social Teaching Since Pope John (New York, 1976), p. 387.

[xii] Organization of African Unity, African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation (Arusha, 1990), Article 8.

[xiii] World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa from Crisis to Sustainable Growth, (Washington: 1989) p. 63.

[xiv] Idem.

[xv] J. Oloka-Onyango, “Poverty and Marginalization in the Age of Extremes: Reflections on Human Rights and Development in Contemporary Uganda,” in D. Carabine and M. O’Reilly, The Challenge of Eradicating Poverty in the World: An African Response (Nkozi: Uganda Martyrs University Press, 1998), p. 101.

[xvi] United Nations, An Agenda for Development (New York: 1997), p. 66.

[xvii] Organization of African Unity, “African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation” (Arusha, 1990) Article 10.  An International Conference on Popular Participation in the Recovery and Development Process in Africa.

[xviii] “African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation,” Arusha, 12-16 February 1990, paragraph 6.

[xix] P. Langseth, “Civil Service Reform,” in P. Langseth (ed.), Democratic Decentralization in Uganda (Kampala: Fountain Publisher, 1996), p. 1.

[xx] The Government of Uganda, The Local Government Act, 1997.

[xxi] Apolo Nsibambi, Decentralization and Civil Society in Uganda: The Quest for Good Governance (Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 1998), p. 2.

[xxii] G. B. Tukahebwa, “The Role of District Councils in Decentralization,” in Apolo Nsibambi, Decentralization and Civil Society in Uganda: The Quest for Good Governance (Kampala: Fountain Publisher, 1998), p. 29.

[xxiii] Idem.

[xxiv] Issa G. Shijvi, op. cit., pp. 83-84.  Shijvi is critical to the treatment of the right to development as demands of the Third World states for better terms on the international market, greater aid and assistance.  “At best, these are statist trade union demands which seek a little more comfortable accommodation for Third World ruling classes within the existing order.  At worst, they amount to no more than a new way a asserting a ‘right’ to charity.” 

[xxv] Mary Elsbernd, A Theology of Peace Making: A Vision, a Road, a Task (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989), p. 226.  Elsbernd argues that development is a new vision of peace, marked by positive action and a sense of wholeness requiring a proactive understanding of trust.

[xxvi] Zie Gariyo, Uganda: Putting Development before Debt, Discussion Paper No. 1 May 2000, pages 2-3.

[xxvii] David Hollenbach, Justice, Peace and Human Rights (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1988), p. 27.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] See Zie Gariyo, op. cit., p. 16.

[xxxi] See Mary Elsbernd, op. cit., p. 234.          

[xxxii] See Mary Elsbernd, op. cit., p. 232.