By Deng Dimo
December 10, 2020- The United States representative and chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Eliot L. Engel on Wednesday called on the Trump Administration to sanction more Ugandan security officials over what he described as a worsening human rights situation in Uganda ahead of the general elections expected next month.
In a letter to secretary of state, Mike Pompeo and treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, Engel says there is need for the US to provide robust support to human rights defenders and prevent further increase on human right abuses and immunity perpetrated by Ugandan security forces against the country’s citizens.
“My desire to see a better human rights record in Uganda is firmly rooted in the country’s own constitution and legal code, which prevent torture and enshrine the right to freely assemble and express viewpoints that may not be in accordance with those of President Museveni,” wrote Engel according to the statement seen by the African Report Files blog.
“I am writing to express my concern regarding the alarming slide towards authoritarianism in Uganda, a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid and one of the top recipients of U.S. security assistance in Africa. Having been in power for over three decades, President Museveni’s government has a long track record of repressive behavior,” the statement said.
More recently, this has included attacks on independent media, the banning of political rallies and concerts, the arrest, detention, and torture of individuals who dare to challenge the incumbent president Museveni or the ruling party, and a persistent lack of accountability for the arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and torture perpetrated by Ugandan security forces.
This is not the first time United States reaction, for several years, the United States has raised concerns about the Ugandan government’s lack of respect for the civil liberties of its citizens and urged the government to conduct or permit credible investigations into alleged human rights abuses.
However, diplomatic rhetoric alone has had little impact on President Museveni’s behavior. Instead, he has further consolidated power while preventing the emergence of a viable democratic opposition.
To cite a few examples: In November 2016, Ugandan security forces massacred over 100 civilians in Kasese. In September 2017, Ugandan Special Forces forcibly entered parliament during a debate over whether to remove presidential age limits from the constitution that was seen translating Museveni’s ages to retire and created worries of incumbent President to run for 2021 general elections.
Some top military close to President Museveni wants him to rule indefinitely, a move challenged by Ugandan oppositions including his former opponent Dr. Kiza.
During the turmoil, MP Betty Nambooze suffered serious spinal injuries from which she is still recovering. In July 2018, the government imposed a tax on citizens who wished to access social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter – a transparent ploy to discourage anti-government mobilization on the part of youths and dissidents.
Early this month, MP Robert Kyagulanyi and 32 popular artist known as Boni Wine and other opposition politicians were arrested and brutally tortured following a by-election in Arua district in west Nile region.
Honorable Wine was recently in November arrested by police following his rally closed to capital Kampala where he was released on bail following day at police custody.
MP Francis Zaake was also brutalized for distributing supplies to needy citizens during the coronavirus lockdown, while just last month, at least 45 people were killed by Ugandan security forces following protests in Kampala.
These violence incidents reflect a highly disturbing trajectory for the country, thus ensuring that the environment for general elections in January 2021 has been fundamentally tilted in favor of an incumbent who has been in power since 1986.
Therefore, I request that the Treasury Department and the State Department utilize the authority of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (Global Magnitsky Act) to designate individuals who may be responsible for violence in Uganda in recent years, such as Lt. Gen. Peter Elwelu, Commander of Land Forces; Maj. Gen. James Birungi, Commander of the Special Forces Command; Maj. Gen. Don William Nabasa, former Commander of the Special Forces Command; Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho, Chief of Military Intelligence; Maj. Gen. Steven Sabiiti Muzeyi, Deputy Inspector of General of Police; Frank Mwesigwa, security officials over what he called worsening human rights situation in Uganda prior to general elections next month.
The earlier violences raised International concern of fears that the scheduled January elections may likely to drag Uganda into deeper crisis as the beginning signaled no free and fair for the voters.