How we got Uganda to strike out a colonial law criminalising poor people

The offence of being ‘rogue and vagabond’ saw people detained for how they looked. Now it’s gone, but there’s more to do.

On 5 December, we at the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) received an alert from Uganda’s Constitutional Court.

The court was about to pass judgment in our case challenging the constitutionality of parts of the offence of being rogue and vagabond.

Vagrancy offences were part of a retinue of laws introduced during the colonial era to ensure cheap labour for imperial ventures and to control the movement of “natives” into areas seen as the preserve of white people. The case filed by Francis Tumwesige – with the support of the HRAPF – argued that these laws were being used to violate the rights of poor and marginalised members of society.

I served as Tumwesige’s lead counsel, and was far from sure which way the case would go. And when the registrar – a court official who can read judgements on behalf of the judges – started by saying that we had not made a compelling case, my heart sank. I whispered to Tumwesige that we had lost.

Read full article by Adrian Jjuko of HRAPF: How we got Uganda to strike out a colonial law criminalising poor people

15 June, 2023
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The Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.


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