KAMPALA – Government has asked the European Union (EU) Parliament to respect the country’s sovereignty and ensure non-interference if relations between the two is to be sustained.
The EU Parliament last week adopted 19 resolutions taking stock of human rights violations in Uganda. Some of them include; call for justice and accountability for Ugandans who died in November riots last year, and call for sanctions against individuals and organizations responsible for human rights violations in Uganda.
The Parliament also called for an increasing scrutiny of Uganda’s fiscal management and transparency and systematic reviews of EU budget support programs.
Others include calls for Government of Uganda to stop using COVID-19 enforcement in pretext to introduce policies that violate rights and freedoms, condemns suspension and freezing of civil society funds, and attempts to limit civil society funding.
The Parliament also adopted the recommendation to ensure secure and unrestricted internet, ensure freedom of media and journalism and unconditionally release or drop all charges against all those arrested and detained for protesting peacefully among others.
Now in a 10-page letter dated February 15th , the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa has written to the President of the European Parliament, indicating that they were undermining Ugandan institutions and sovereignty of the country.
Kutesa who responded to all the allegations one at a time indicated 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, noninterference and sovereignty.
He says that they welcome any engagement with partners as long as they observe the principles, which in their view is inviolable. He says that the EU resolution was undermining Ugandan institutions like the courts of law and the Electoral commission.
Kutesa also says that he is 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 adds.
He says the statements are unfortunate at a time when the matter was still before court, adding that the legality of the elections will be determined by court.
He says the statement is a mockery to the rule of law which the European Union stands for, adding that this is an attempt to influence the outcome of the ongoing court process.
On the arrest of human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, Kutesa says that the the accused was charged with an offence in Uganda and the EU should not disrespect institutions doing their work.
On elections, Kutesa says that Presidential candidates Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu of the National Unity Platform (NUP) and Patrick Oboi Amuriat of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) chose to defy all the standard operating procedures set by the Ministry of heath and that is why they were arrested.
“These two repeatedly told or intimated to their supporters that COVID-19 was a hoax, incited them and willingly breached the SOPs, organizing mass ralies, thereby putting the lives of everyone, not just themselves and their supporters, at risk in the middle of a pandemic” Kutesa says.
Kutesa says that following the arrest of Kyagulanyi, there was a preplanned and funded riot in which his supporters engaged in robbery, mounting of illegal roadblocks, assaulting innocent people and attacks on security personel in Kampala which resulted into arrests .
“The Government is on record as stating that the incidents of November 2020 were regrettable and will continue to be investigated with a view to determining conclusively if and where operational mistakes where made by individual security personel thereby unlawfully causing death in particular cases” he says.
He says Government will compensate those who loved ones died innocently in the shootings.
Kutesa says Uganda achieved a historic milestone in holding a peaceful election amidsts COVID-19, and he is therefore , “quite frankly concerned how the EU Parliament in its resolution downplays the threat of COVID-19 pandemic in Ugand” well aware of the stringent measures EU countries have taken to fight COVID-19.
He says campaigns in some parts of the country were suspended for all the candidates and this was not a pretext to restrict the opposition.
On the issue of gay rights, Kutesa says that Uganda does not condone promotion of sexual orientation of any kinds, but maintained that gay persons are not being persecuted in Uganda.
On threats to sanction individuals involved, Kutesa has described it as regrettable, unwarranted and unwelcome and a barely disguised attempt to intimidate officials entrusted with ensuring the security and well being of all Ugandans into dodging responsibility.Kutesa instead called for those advocating for the sanctions to reconsider this decision.
On media, Kutesa says that Uganda understands the importance of the media, that’s why hundreds of them are licensed, but many had started broadcasting hate speech and calling for people to protest in the streets and when the severenity of the messages became apparent, Government responded by shutting the internet which has since been restored.
He says there is proof that the strategy worked as elections were peaceful and the country has moved on. Kutesa also says the west has twisted President Museveni’s call for mutual respect has been treated as anti-western.
On missing persons and kidnaps, Kutesa says that missing persons are being looked for while all those arrested will be prosecuted.
On freezing accounts of Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society, Kutesa says Government recognizes the critical role played by them in advancement of democracy and a better society, however he added that all organizations are expected to comply with the law.
Kutesa says Uganda is concerned from both a political view and a health view about the timing of the resolution at a time when the world is battling COVID-19. He says the Government of Uganda is committed to ensure domestic tranquility, the security and welfare of its citizens.