UPDATE ON INTERNATIONAL RESPONSES TO UGANDA CRISIS

Here is some very encouraging news about the European Union’s debate on Thursday 11th February and their response to the serious situation in Uganda. The strength of this outspoken and demanding response just highlights the UK’s woeful failure to take any action which is so reminiscent of its failure to act in the years after Amin’s coup in 1971 and yet we have the strongest historical ties with Uganda. Is it more than coincidence that the party in government both times is the Conservative Party?

However, there is a spark of hope as far as the UK Government is concerned. Yesterday, I wrote to Mrs Pamela Latham, MP for Mid Derbyshire who is on the Human Rights Group Committee and also on the International Development Select Committee and asked her to raise a Question in Parliament. I was delighted and very surprised to get a response about 18 hours later from her Office to say that she would definitely ask a question on Monday morning. This means that it will be recorded, along with the response, in Hansard, which is a step in the right direction. I also wrote to Tom Tugendhat who is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which is what Baroness Nicky Morgan advised me to do, but have had no response so far.

So here is a report of the European Union’s debate and statement . . . . 

1.   EU Moves to Sanction Ugandan Officials, Threatens Souring Ties Over Election Violence: Report by Sam Waswa,  February 12, 2021

The European Parliament has threatened to limit its cooperation with the Government of Uganda in the future, if the later remains unwilling to implement a number of reforms relating to human rights and good governance.

The EU parliament has also proposed tough sanctions on individual Ugandan officials and government bodies implicated in gross human rights violations.

In a strong worded resolution on Thursday, the Parliament called on its member countries to “take advantage of the political leverage provided by development aid programmes, namely budget support programmes, to enhance the defence and promotion of human rights in Uganda”

The MPs also resolved that sanctions should be imposed against Ugandan officials and organisations responsible for human rights violations in Uganda.

The sanctions they said “must be adopted at EU level under the new EU human rights sanction mechanism, the so-called EU Magnitsky Act.”

In the document, the parliament listed dozens of human rights concerns that emerged in Uganda’s recently concluded general elections.

The MPs condemned what they termed as a “systematic use of state repression and violence” by the Ugandan government,” which “could fundamentally impact the EU’s future relationship with Uganda.”

And while the European Union remains ready to “engage with the Ugandan authorities and assist with much-needed democratic and governance reforms,” they noted that the “success of this cooperation largely depends on willingness from the Ugandan side to actually implement those reforms.”

It is understood that a copy of the EU resolution has been sent direct to Yoweri Museveni and as well as the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and the African Union and its institutions.

The parliament noted in the dossier that the Ugandan presidential elections was marred by violence, with opposition candidates, civil society organisations (CSOs), human rights defenders, electoral experts and journalists facing systematic oppression and intimidation when exercising their legitimate rights.

The MPs were also particularly upset that in this election, many foreign observers were denied accreditation and electoral expert missions were largely absent from the polls.

“Authorities intensified their repression of the political opposition ahead of the elections, with security agencies arresting the key opposition candidates Robert Kyagulanyi (aka Bobi Wine), Patrick Oboi Amuriat, and Lt. Gen Henry Tumukunde, disrupting their rallies and limiting media coverage of the elections” the MPs noted.

It should be noted that President Yoweri Museveni on multiple occasions has sternly attacked foreign nations and bodies accusing them of backing his opponent Robert Kyagulanyi.

However, the President is reported to have been privately courting these same countries through their envoys to try and calm their nerves.

In the wake of the election in which over 60 people were killed, and hundreds thrown behind bars, Museveni is said to have held a series of private one-to-one talks with envoys from donor countries, to try and “assess how strongly each partner feels about the situation and what leverage they might have against him.”

The president reportedly met diplomats from most major partner state, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the European Union has asked the Ugandan Government to “immediately and unconditionally release or drop all charges against all those arrested and detained solely for participating in peaceful political assemblies or for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association, including Counsel Nicholas Opiyo.”

*  *  *

2.  Uganda chafes at EU criticism over Museveni re-election

By Elias Biryabarema  Fri, February 12, 2021, 2:52 PM (Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda accused the European Union of meddling on Friday after the bloc’s parliament recommended sanctions over a crackdown and arrests of opponents around President Yoweri Museveni’s disputed re-election last month.

In power since 1986, Museveni was declared winner of the presidential poll with 59% of votes, but his main rival – pop star and lawmaker Bobi Wine – rejected the ballot as fraudulent.

On Thursday, the EU parliament passed a resolution saying the election was not democratic, police and soldiers used excessive force, and detainees should be released.

“Asking Uganda to release suspects already before the courts of law is tantamount to undue interference with a legitimate judicial process,” government spokesman Ofwono Opondo told Reuters in response.

“We consider its resolution against Uganda as unbalanced and unobjective, the motive of which we are yet to establish.”

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has challenged the results at the Supreme Court. During the campaign, security forces dispersed his rallies with teargas, bullets and beatings.

The government cited violations of anti-coronavirus measures as justification and accused Wine’s camp of destabilisation. At least 54 people were killed in November and some 600 detained.

“The election process was not democratic and transparent,” the EU resolution said. It condemned the security forces for brutality and interference in politics and chided the government for using COVID-19 as an excuse for repression.

“Sanctions against individuals and organisations responsible for human rights violations in Uganda must be adopted,” the lawmakers said in a recommendation to the 27-nation bloc’s executive.

Museveni, 76, has long been a Western ally, receiving copious aid flows while deploying his military to trouble spots like South Sudan and Somalia. His longevity in power and treatment of opponents have, however, caused increasing anger abroad.

The EU lawmakers’ call followed a similar plea from two U.S. congressmen who asked Washington to impose sanctions on seven Ugandan security officials for alleged rights violations.

*  *  *

3.  USA statements a month before the Elections

 December 9th, 2020 – Washington, USA

Extract: Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called on the Trump Administration to take immediate action to address a worsening human rights situation in Uganda prior to general elections in January 2021. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin, Engel underscored the need for the United States to provide robust support to human rights defenders and prevent further abuses perpetrated by Ugandan security forces against the country’s citizens……

For full Press Release, go to: https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/2020/12/engel-calls-for-magnitsky-sanctions-on-human-rights-abusers-in-uganda

*  *  *

December 10th 2020 – Uganda elections: Army and police chiefs face US sanctions over protestor killings

Extract from Africa News: “The United States is a longstanding partner of Uganda. We expect our partners to live up to their obligations to hold free and fair elections. We are paying close attention to the actions of individuals who seek to impede the ongoing democratic process,” said Mike Pompeo, the Secretary U.S. Department of State in a tweet on Thursday evening. Pompeo’s remarks came a day after Eliot Engel, the chairperson of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, demanded that several Ugandan security officials be sanctioned for what called a worsening human rights in the country.

For full Press Release, go to: https://www.africanews.com/2020/12/10/uganda-elections-us-threatens-sanctions-after-protestor-killings/

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