If you haven’t already written to Rt Hon Dominic Raab (whose official title is Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and First Secretary of State), please consider sending this letter to him by email, with copies to those listed at the end.

Dear Mr Raab,

I would like to applaud your statement to the UNHRC on 22nd February 2021 about the UK’s concerns about violations of human rights in the world.

I note that you mentioned various countries of particular concern to the UK, but was dismayed that you did not include Uganda, a country with which the UK has always had close links and where events surrounding and since the recent Presidential Election in Uganda on 14th January 2021 show a serious dereliction of human rights. I believe that it is most important that the UK  exercises whatever influence it can on Uganda and not just monitor the situation, which seems to be the Government’s policy.

The Presidential Election in Uganda appears to have been a travesty of democracy, and I would urge you and the UK Government to prioritise pressure upon Uganda, not least because of the strong links that exist between our two countries.

I note that Robert Kyagulanyi (aka Bobi Wine, Leader of the NUP opposition party) has made it clear at every opportunity that his supporters should never use violence, even in the face of the horrific abuses used to terrorise the opposition. Unlike Museveni back in the 1980s, Bobi Wine has not retreated to “the bush” or a neighbouring country to build up an army with which to invade Uganda. Instead, he is remaining in Uganda advocating non-violence, keeping his supporters calm and appealing to the international community – which is why the UK should respond quickly.   He has made the following requests, which I think our Government should take very seriously:

  • The Commonwealth of Nations should suspend Uganda pending further investigation and insist on an audit into the electoral process and investigations into the allegations of human rights abuses.
  • Impose targeted sanctions on Museveni and the most powerful abusers in his team. (Although Museveni has scoffed at this suggestion, Bobi Wine is asking for it and there are many Ugandans who say it would have a significant impact.)
  • Governments (and he has particularly focussed on the UK because of the historical links) “need to protest with strongly worded statements but follow these with strong actions and hold Museveni to account“.
  • The UK (and any other donor country) should “review its cooperation with Uganda and make the respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law conditions for cooperation, then Museveni will be reminded he is accountable for all the statutes Uganda is a signatory to. This would be a positive step in the right direction.”

As Bobi Wine has requested, one ‘weapon’ at our disposal is the way in which our financial aid to Uganda is used. I  know how easy it is for a government such as that of Museveni  to regard aid donations as a sign of our approval or indifference to its actions. It is also easy for the recipient government to misuse and re-direct aid unless it is given directly to reliable NGOs for independent programmes (aimed at reducing poverty and strengthening civil society) that would not normally be funded by the Uganda Government and which can be monitored for their effectiveness and transparency, as was done by the British Government in the early 1980s during Obote’s second period as President. It is of deep concern that the UK no longer contributes to the Democratic Governance Facility in Uganda.

Those of us who have written to our own Conservative MPs have all received a standard reply, which includes these words: “The UK provides aid in order to alleviate [poverty and inequalities] . . . .  given the UK regularly raises issues of human rights with the Government in Uganda, urging it to uphold its international commitments, I do not think the UK should suspend its vital aid efforts in the country.

This is missing the point. We are not advocating reducing the UK aid budget for Uganda, but that it should be allocated more appropriately. It is ironical that the only action taken so far by the UK has been to freeze £40,909 (out of a total aid budget of nearly £100m), part of which was allocated for human rights training for the Uganda police and prison services, thereby removing one channel we had for challenging the violation of human rights! Aid direct into government budgets is fungible and effectively frees Museveni’s government to spend it on strengthening abusive security services such as the Special Forces under the command of his son.

Have you personally met with Kyagulanyi since the Election? Have you also personally met with responsible Ugandan civil society leaders to discuss ideas about appropriate action, including the distribution of the UK aid budget?

For the sake of democracy and the thousands who have already “disappeared”, been abducted, beaten, tortured and killed, as well as those civilians still in detention who have been brought before military courts, I urge the UK Government to do so much more than just monitor the situation, “urge” and “raise issues of human rights” with Museveni, action which has no impact on the critical situation. Instead, take targeted action, as outlined by Kyagulanyi and other informed people, which will have a significant impact on Museveni. This can only enhance the UK’s reputation for standing up for human rights wherever abuses may occur.

Yours sincerely

[Name, and full address]

When you write to Dominic Raab, please also send copies to your own MP (you can find his/her email address HERE) and all of the following who have already asked questions in Parliament about Uganda – it would encourage their continued involvement and commitment:

  1. Mrs Pauline Latham (MP who is on the International Development Committee and also on the Human Rights Joint Committee): pauline.latham.mp@parliament.uk
  2. Mr Stephen Doughty (MP, Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development): stephen.doughty.mp@parliament.uk
  3. Lord Boateng (House of Lords, International Relations and Defence Committee): boatengp@parliament.uk
  4. Mr Tom Tugendhat (MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Commitee): tom.tugendhat.mp@parliament.uk
  5. Ms Ruth Jones (MP Newport West, interested in human rights): ruth.jones.mp@parliament.uk