WASHINGTON DC – The United States government has described as unacceptable the brutality and highhandedness by security forces in the arrest of opposition MPs, journalists and civilians during the Arua Municipality by-election chaos and asked that the soldiers involved be held personally accountable.
In a statement issued on Monday, the US State Department said it is “gravely concerned” by reports of torture of the Opposition MPs and urged Uganda to respect its constitution.
“We have received multiple credible reports of excessive use of force by the Special Forces Command (SFC), including abuse of members of parliament, journalists and others,” a State Department official is quoted as saying in a statement published by REUTERS.
“The United States has made clear to the Ugandan government that such human rights abuses are unacceptable,” the official adds.
MPs Robert Kyagulanyi, Paul Mwiru, Gerald Karuhanga, Wadri Kassiano, Francis Zaake, former MP Michael Mabikke and 26 others were arrested following the chaos. MPs Bobi Wine and Zaake, who have since accused security forces of torturing them during the arrest, have since flown out of the country for treatment.
And the State Department official is reported as saying that the U.S. embassy in Kampala has not worked with Uganda’s Special Forces Command (SFC) since early 2016 because of human rights concerns. The U.S. relationship with Uganda was aimed at promoting stability and security in the region, the official added.
“It is now up to the Ugandan government to demonstrate a respect for its constitution and its citizens and conduct a transparent, credible, and timely investigation into these events,” the official said. “Any security personnel found to have used inappropriate force must be held accountable.”
Representatives from the State Department last Thursday met with Mr Kyagulanyi, who is in the US for treatment, “as they have done in the past when he visited the United States,” the official is quoted as saying.
The revelation comes after President Museveni on Sunday warned against foreign interference in Uganda’s politics.
“It is important that external players refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries,” Mr Museveni told a press conference on Sunday. If there’s any problem in Uganda, I surely will handle it better than the outsider,” he added.
“NGOs (non-governmental organizations) funded by foreign governments actually give money to opposition players, give advice, lie on their behalf,” Mr Museveni said.