Spire wins 2024 EU Human Rights Prize

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Ugandan academic, cartoonist and human rights defender Jimmy Spire Ssentongo received the EU Human Rights Defenders Award 2024. Dr Spire Ssentongo was recognized for having used social media to highlight issues of accountability.

The award, now in its thirteenth year, is awarded to a human rights defender who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of human rights in his or her community over the past twelve months.

Ssentongo is one of the brains behind the Agora discourse, which has used social media to expose corruption and mismanagement in government. In March, together with other activists such as Agather Atuhaire, he organized an “exhibition” about parliament.

His expose of corruption in Uganda’s Parliament attracted attention after documents revealed how Parliament Speaker Annet Anita Among had been doling out huge sums of public money to her cronies. They have held “expositions” on the potholes in Kampala and the state of health services in Uganda.

Dr Ssentongo has also used satire through his cartoons to drive change and better service delivery. He has drawn critical caricatures of some public figures, including President Yoweri Museveni, his son General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, and others.

“Use satire to make the reader laugh while reflecting on the message behind the drawings. The caricatures of him tend to bother his victims, but for him that is a triumph. He uses humor as a powerful tool to achieve the balance of power,” said one commenter.

Ssentongo is an associate professor of Ethics and Identity Studies at Uganda Martyrs University. He also teaches Ethics and Research Methods at Makerere University.

Signe Winding Albjerg, Ambassador of Denmark to Uganda, announced Dr. Ssentongo as the winner of the 2024 EU Prize.

Speaking at the awards event, the Danish ambassador also congratulated the two finalists for this year’s EU Human Rights Defenders Award, Jesca Ruth Ataa for their advancement of women’s rights Karamajong and Doreen Namyalo-Kyazze for defending the rights of vulnerable people in prisons.

The twelfth winner of the award was former URN journalist turned lawyer, Agather Atuhaire, who has been working with Dr Ssentongo on the accountability “exposés”.

the runners-up

Jesca Ruth Ataa is a human rights defender from Kotido, Karamoja. She runs Nakere Rural Women Activists (NARWOA), a community organization that brings together women’s groups.

NARWOA responds to humanitarian crises and addresses cross-border and inter-ethnic political instability, the rise of warlords, domestic violence and discrimination of women in society.

NARWOA has reached more than 15,000 women and 250,000 children through programs targeting appropriate and viable income-generating activities.

Doreen Kyazze is a lawyer and human rights activist. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law and a postgraduate diploma in legal practice from the Law Development Center Kampala.

For the past fourteen years, including her time at Penal Reform International, Doreen has campaigned against the death penalty and worked hard to secure the rights of women detainees.

He has worked across the region to push for a model law on crime prevention in Africa and has also trained police, prison staff and others in the justice sector. He has also been actively involved in drafting progressive laws and policies in Uganda.