Uganda is one of only 10 African countries with a national access to information (ATI) law. These types of laws are essential to human rights, providing citizens with legal access to the government-held information that directly impacts them—information on issues like mining permits, logging concessions, air quality data, and more. But as researchers are learning, ATI laws on the books do not necessarily guarantee freedom of information.
Investigating Access to Information in Uganda
The Access to Information in Africa project—a joint initiative with WRI and the Center for Democratic Development, Greenwatch, and Open Democracy Advice Centre—evaluates transparency models and environmental accountability in Africa. The project’s research includes conducting a series of citizen requests for information in Ghana, Uganda, and South Africa.
- Uganda passed its Access to Information Act in 2005, releasing an implementation plan and ATI regulations in 2011. The regulations establish procedures for citizens to request government-held information and for the government to respond to citizen requests. WRI and Greenwatch, a Ugandan environmental law and advocacy organization set out in August 2011 to investigate how the law works.
Image credit: Eenrgy Inforamtion Administration
Greenwatch requested information from the National Forestry Authority (NFA), a government institution responsible for managing Uganda’s Central Forest Reserves. A staff member submitted a request form for information on forest concessions—including a map of the licensed areas, copies of concession agreements, government revenues, and the number of people displaced by concessions. Government officials then asked the staff to write a letter to the NFA’s Executive Director about why she wanted the information, even though the ATI law does not require the reason to be disclosed.