WASHINGTON – A senior member of the US House of Representatives has petitioned the Ugandan Ambassador to the US, protesting the “false detention and torture” of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka, Bobi Wine, other Members of Parliament and civilians following the outbreak of violence in Arua Town on August 13.
In a strongly-worded letter to Ambassador Ssebujja Katende, Mr Brad Sherman, a representative of the Democratic Party in California’s 30th District, also condemns the use of live ammunition from police and security forces that has since led to deaths of civilians, including Yasin Kawuma, Bobi Wine’s driver.
“… I condemn the violence that took place on August 13. Mr Kyagulanyi was taken into custody, which led to the death of Yasin Kawuma, Mr Kyagulanyi’s driver, along with six civilians in Arua Municipality. I call for the release of those detained around the country who demonstrated for Mr Kyagulanyi to be discharged from custody,” Mr Sherman’s August 23rd letter reads in part.
“Demonstrations calling for Kyagulanyi’s release have erupted around the country. They have been met with violence from state police and security forces, who fired tear gas and used live ammunition on demonstrators. Reports have surfaced that 68 protestors have been arrested during the demonstrations as President Museveni has said, in order to “send a warning to those who are in the habit of miscalculating,” the letter adds.
The congressman also condemns President Museveni for suppressing internal dissent against his regime since the lifting of the presidential age limit from the Constitution.
“I am aware that tensions have run high in the country since a bill was passed in December 2017 allowing for the constitutional amendment to eliminate the presidential age limit, essentially granting President Museveni the ability to hold his position for the remainder of his lifetime. Kyagulanyi has stood as one of the most vocal opponents to the constitutional amendment,” the letter adds.
“I call for the release of those demonstrators that exercised the basic human right of assembly and freedom of expression. I call on the government of Uganda and President Museveni to resolve such matters within the bounds of democracy and uphold those principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Mr Sherman’s letter adds to the growing number of criticisms both internally and externally over the manner in which the state handled the MPs during the arrest in Arua and how security agencies handled protesters in the aftermath of the violence. The violence in the recently concluded Arua Municipality by-election that left at least one person dead and five nursing gunshot wounds. A number of individuals, including MPs, were arrested and 33 of them have since been charged with treason. The arrest and torture of Mr Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, the MP Kyadondo East, last Monday sparked off protests in Kampala and surrounding areas.
Last Thursday, Amsterdam & Partners LLP, the London based law firm that is part of Bobi Wine’s legal team dismissed the charges against the MP as fabricated and vowed to take on the government on an international front.
Last Friday, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) asked the Judiciary to institute criminal proceedings against police and army officers who were involved in the brutal arrest and torture of civilians, including Members of Parliament, in Arua and Kampala.
On the same day, the Uganda Law Society (ULS) gave government one month to prosecute police and army officers who perpetrated the torture of civilians during the Arua by-election, failure of which the association will prosecute the individuals on a private basis.
The US is a significant development partner for Uganda. This year, the US government offered Uganda Shs1.7trillion ($436m) in development assistance, with the bulk going to the health sector and the rest distributed to areas such as economic development, democracy, human rights, governance, peace and security.
The new funding puts Uganda in the seventh position of top US aid recipients after Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Afghanistan, Kenya and Tanzania.
In the year ending, 2017, Washington offered Uganda $398m (Shs1.4 trillion) and $535m (Shs1.9 trillion) in 2016, according to data by the State Department’s Foreign Assistance office, which coordinates the US foreign assistance programmes. The increase in assistance by nearly $39m (Shs140b) highlights Washington’s unchanged stance towards Africa contrary to what several critics anticipated when President Donald Trump assumed office.
President Trump in September hosted select African leaders to a luncheon at the sidelines of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York where he underscored his administration’s plan to continue partnering with Africa.
Uganda, according to the Foreign Assistance office, is a “key strategic partner for the United States, particularly with regard to regional stabilisation.”
Besides working together to “resolve regional security threats and conflicts”, Washington says its support is “critical for enabling democratic institutions to function effectively and fostering more sustainable and equitable national development elements that are essential to both short and long-term stability in the East Africa region.”