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In the spirit of promoting the ‘Truth’, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) nine years ago in 2010 proclaimed 24 March as the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. This date was chosen because it was the day on which Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador, was assassinated in 1980 for his active engagement in denouncing violations of the human rights of highly vulnerable individuals. The purpose of the Day is to: Honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice; Pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all; Recognize, in particular, the important work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, for defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.

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The UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (2019) report published in time for the recent Fourth United Nations Environmental Assembly, calls on decision makers to take immediate action to address pressing environmental issues to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other Internationally Agreed Environment Goals, such as the Paris Agreement.

Even when such flagship reports show governments how they can put the world on the path to a truly sustainable future, there is still reluctance by many to take full action. For example, when over 170 countries recently gathered in Nairobi to address the environmental impacts of plastics, they could not still take bolds decision to eliminate single-use plastic products. So how do we then deal with the report’s emphasis on urgent and inclusive action needed by decision makers at all levels to achieve a healthy planet and with healthy people?

As RLP and Uganda join the rest of the world on March 21 to mark International Day of Forest, a day proclaimed by the UN General Assembly for raising awareness on the importance of forests, I offer my thoughts on our different roles in this journey to achieve a truly sustainable world by 2050.

First, pollution of the aquatic spaces: Annually more than eight million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans—leave alone what ends up in our lakes, rivers, wetlands, and the environment around us. Earlier proposed initiatives such as the phasing out of single-use plastic by 2025 had already been objected to by several richer nations - led by the US. So with such high profile engagement failing to bring about an agreement to phase out single-use plastics, for how long shall we continue postponing our moral obligation to address our environment issues? It’s a shame that selfish interests coupled with lack of political will of nations, institutions and individuals continue to impede achieving key milestones in the right direction to save the environment for future generations. The current Pope once expressed his support during the push to the #BeatPlasticPollution for clean seas campaign, saying “we cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic”. Natural polymers and organic materials that biodegrade rapidly are practicable options that also could manage our ecosystems smartly & sustainably. Uganda needs to revive or enforce the seemingly shelved government ban on environmentally hazardous product (Plastic/Kavera) that the president ordered last year to be effected (Section 2 of the 2009 Finance Act), a statutory instrument issued over nine years ago banning the manufacture, importation and sale of polythene bags less than 30 microns in order to protect our environment but fell short of implementation by NEMA for some reasons.

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 Andre Habarugira

The first time I went to court in 2012 for Kinyarwanda interpretation, the challenges I faced marked a turning point for me in the implementation of glossary building. Glossary building is a term used to refer to the act of collecting difficult terms in their alphabetical order and find their explanations and meanings in other languages The legal officer with whom I went to court had explained to me that he would be on ‘watching brief’. That was also my first time to come across the legal term “counsel on watching brief.”

While in court, I took oath and the court clerk handed me a charge sheet to sight-translate to the client. The latter was accused of being “rogue and vagabond.”  “How do you plead?” asked the magistrate, as I was interpreting into Kinyarwanda. After pleading not guilty, the accused was informed that he had the right to apply for bail. He was requested to produce substantive sureties, unfortunately he did not have any. When he also failed to prove that he had a fixed place of abode this prompted the magistrate to adjourn his case to a later date.

I must admit that the thirty minutes I spent in court made me sweat! I struggled to find the direct equivalents of the words “rogue and vagabond, counsel on watching brief, how do you plead, substantive sureties, fixed place of abode” in Kinyarwanda, yet it is my native language.

On another occasion, I was asked to do Kinyarwanda interpretation in a workshop organized by the Refugee Law Project. The same challenge re-occurred when I had to interpret the words “Access to Justice, Gender and Sexuality, Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing, Media for Social Change, Conflict, Transitional Justice and Governance” which are the five thematic programmes of the Refugee Law Project.

Later, during other interpretation sessions, I came across the words “gender, PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), gender non-conforming, depression, stress, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), flashback, positive thinking, group therapy,” and other words like “affidavit, plea bargaining, output, outcome, affirmative action, screening” and the same challenge of finding direct equivalents into my native language re-surfaced.

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A collaborative initiative of the RLP and the Kitgum District Local Government. The NMPDC is located in Kitgum district town council - Northern Uganda an area ravaged by over two decades of armed conflict and is struggling to recover in the post-conflict era...
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