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US Senators Reiterate Need to Review Relations with Uganda

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken/Bloomberg

Two United States Senators have written to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeking detailed information about US Policy on Uganda.

Senators Cory Booker and Jim Risch who are both members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations expressed concern about the state of rights violations and democracy in Uganda. Their concerns were documented in a letter dated March 4, to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The letter comes at a time when the Government of Uganda has released  a list of up to 177 Ugandans being held mostly in Makindye Military barracks for crimes related to the January 14 elections.

The two senators say that although Uganda plays a critical role in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the peace process in South Sudan and hosting refugees, this, should not grant President Museveni, his government, and the NRM party, a free pass to commit human rights abuses at home.

“When lawmakers, civil society, and human rights organizations have raised concerns with the State Department, Department of Defense, and other U.S. officials about Uganda’s human rights record and failing democracy,  these agencies have generally responded with platitudes about Uganda’s essential contributions to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Uganda’s role in managing the peace process in South Sudan and hosting nearly one million South Sudanese refugees.” The senators say in their statements.

In the letter, both senators have requested that the State Department responds to questions and concerns relevant to the U.S.-Uganda bilateral relationship. They  are seeking a detailed analysis of the U.S.-Ugandan relationship, informed by an interagency review of whether a continued partnership with an increasingly brutal authoritarian leader poses risks to U.S. interests in East and Central Africa, and a plan to mitigate such risks over the next five years.

They also want a detailed list of all U.S. security assistance and capacity building programs for Ugandan security forces since the year 2015 and an assessment of the U.S. government’s capacity to perform end-use monitoring of all weapons sales and transfers to the Ugandan military, particularly those meant exclusively for use in Somalia, as well as efforts to prevent U.S. training and equipment from being diverted to suppress dissent within Uganda.

They also, seek an evaluation of the credibility that the U.S. government assigns to the Ugandan elections held on January 14, 2021, and an assessment of the impact that several years of violent repression and impunity for serious human rights abuses have had on the Ugandan political environment. 

Additionally they have called for a plan to intensify the U.S. response to human rights abuses beyond rhetorical condemnations and to work with the Government of Uganda and local non-governmental organizations to secure accountability for citizens who have been subjected to arbitrary arrests, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

Attempts to Speak to officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government to comment on the matter were futile by press time.  But earlier, government officials accused the European Union of meddling in Ugandan affairs, after the bloc recommended sanctions following enormous arrests of opposition supporters in the aftermath of the January 14, polls.

The EU parliament passed a resolution saying the re-election of Yoweri Museveni to the presidency was not democratic. They also faulted the police and other security agencies for using excessive force to silence dissenting voices.  But Ofwono Opondo, the government spokesperson said, back then, that the resolution against Uganda was unbalanced and nonobjective.

Similarly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa wrote to the President of the European Parliament, indicating that, through the resolution, the bloc was undermining Ugandan institutions like the courts of law and the Electoral Commission, as well as the sovereignty of the country. Kutesa added that Uganda and EU relations are historical and strong, but the sustenance will depend on the upholding of the universally accepted principles of mutual respect, non-interference and sovereignty.

Kutesa added that he was perturbed by  the resolution that refers to the process and the results declared by the Electoral Commission. “This statement is clearly partisan in tone and intent. We see this as an attempt to undermine and challenge the Electoral Commission and its work”, he added.


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