KAMPALA – The Minister of State for International Affairs, Mr Henry Okello Oryem, has said that the government is in discussions with the US State Department to explain the visa denials and travel bans against senior Ugandan officials amid reports that more individuals in the Kampala government have been targeted for sanctions.
Following the sanctioning of Gen. Kale Kayihura, the former Inspector of General of Police, the US government recently denied Mr Pius Bigirimana, the permanent secretary of the Judiciary, a visa to the US.
The move is said to have rattled senior government officials who are wondering who is next on the list. As a result, Mr Oryem said they are seeking audience with the US over the matter.
“We are engaging the State department on the Kayihura sanctions, even on Bigirimana because we want to understand better,” he is quoting as saying in an interview with the Independent magazine.
On September 25, PML Daily reported that President Yoweri Museveni delegated Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to represent Uganda at the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly amid question marks over whether the obvious choice, Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa, is eligible to travel to the US.
Diplomatic sources intimated to this website the President chose to leave out Mr Kutesa amid reports that he faces arrest should be step in US over past cases. A US court in 2018 convicted Patrick Ho Chi Ping, the man that the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigations accused of compromising Mr Kutesa with a $500,000 (Shs1.8 billion) bribe. Mr Ho, 69, allegedly offered the bribe and gifts to President Museveni to secure support for CEFC China Energy, a Shanghai-based rising star in the energy industry.
Mr Ho is alleged to have wired the bribe from HSBC (Hong Kong) account of the energy Non-Government Organization (NGO) to Deutsche Bank in New York on to the account of the Kutesa’s NGO’s account in one of the main commercial banks in Uganda. Kutesa was never charged.
While the ministry of Foreign Affairs later defended Mr Kutesa over the bribery claim, Mr Ho was early this year handed a three-year sentence and fined $400,000 after he was found him guilty by a US court on five counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and two counts of money laundering.
However, Mr Oryem insists that there is no warrant of arrest or any charge against Mr Kutesa.
“They have not even initiated any criminal or civil suit against Kutesa,” he says.
Nevertheless, the US. Embassy spokesperson, Mr Philip Demon, is quoted by the Independent as saying that the embassy visa desk does not consider politics.
“U.S. officials make visa decisions strictly based on U.S. law, not political ebbs and flows. Visa records are confidential under U.S. law; therefore, for privacy reasons the U.S. government does not comment on individual visa cases,” Mr Demon says.
Mr Ofwono Opondo, the government spokesman, says the government would like the U.S. to release the list of Ugandans it has blacklisted.
“The problem is, they (U.S.) are not telling us who the blacklisted officials are,” Mr Ofwono says.