KAMPALA — The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has asked President Joe Biden to slap more sanctions on President Museveni and his senior officials “responsible senior for covering up torture stories.”
The senatorial committee asked the Biden Administration to take consistent, decisive action to “signal our unflagging support for democracy, human rights, anti-corruption, and the rule of law.”
Tweeting in response to Daily Monitor’s Monday May 9 lead story titled, “UN issues tough demands to Uganda govt on torture,” the senatorial committee asked President Biden to strongly reconsider Mr Museveni’s participation in the US-Africa Heads of State Summit.
The Daily Monitor report highlighted gross human rights abuses and the many attempts the government allegedly uses to cover up, with the UN report quoting a senior official as saying several victims had been compensated in the recent past.
However, all the cited persons, including BBS journalist Scovia Culton Nakamya and Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, have strongly disputed the claims that have since also been disowned by Amb Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the UN.
But the development does not help the matter at hand with the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations revealing on Wednesday that it had on March 28 written to Biden asking for his administration to rein in Museveni’s government.
The barbed sticks, if Biden followed through with, would amount to one of the harshest the West has slapped on Museveni’s administration in its 36 years of rule. Given how the winds by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs is sailing, it already looks unlikely that President Museveni will start attend the next US-Africa Heads of Summit.
The Summit, the largest event any US President has held with African heads of state and government, is built on the President Obama’s trip to Africa in the summer of 2013 and seeks to strengthen ties between the US and Africa, a continent that has in the last two decades seen unprecedented interests from the West on one side and China or even Russia on the other.
In November, the White House announced it would host the second summit this year. The first was held in August 2014 during which President Museveni spoke of the need to target the resurging African consumption market in order to stimulate further the expansion of the American business.
Tetchy transfer of power issue
The latest unease from the US is particularly alarming for Uganda as it comes fast on the tail of Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s recent ‘political’ activities and undertones that suggest he is making big strides in succeeding his father to continue the rule that started in January 1986 with the capture of Kampala.
Gen Muhoozi, who is mentioned in the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ letter to Biden as one of the key figures of the regime that must be sanctioned for alleged role in torture, earlier this month announced he would be taking over power.
In the letter, Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told Biden that he was deeply concerned about Uganda government’s troubling human rights record, citing the continued use of torture against civil society activists and Opposition members.
“President Museveni has long relied on torture, violence, and illegal detention to punish critics and tamp down dissent,” Sen Menendez wrote in the letter copied to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Mr Menedez cited the widely publicised repression and human rights violations in the run-up and post-2021 General Elections during which Museveni’s main challenger Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, and his loyalists were repeatedly arrested and tortured.
In January, Menendez reported to White House, the media reported of the arrest and torture in December of novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, taking particular interest in Gen Muhoozi, whom he told Biden had been directly involved in the interrogation of Mr Kakwenza.
The senator relied on the account of Mr Kakwenza, now exiled in Germany after fleeing the country soon after he was released on bail saying he needed urgent medical attention after his torture ordeal.
“No one has been held accountable for these crimes, or for the numerous instances of other security forces abuses such as the 2016 Kasese Massacre in which more than 100 men, women and children were killed, or the 2020 killing of 54 civilians protesting the arrest of Mr Kyagulanyi during the course of his election campaign,” Sen Menendez said, adding that Mr Museveni’s disregard for human rights and democratic norms is inconsistent with US values and foreign policy goals.
He said he was troubled that President Museveni, who has “twice changed the Constitution remain in power in perpetuity,” had been included in the US-Africa Heads of State Summit 2022.
“Extending invitations to leaders who benefit from corruption, show a lack of commitment to democracy, or trample human rights norms will undermine the important work this administration is doing in Africa and around the world to promote democracy, combat corruption, defend human rights, and advance the values and interests of the US,” Menendez said.
Busoga Today has contacted the government spokesperson, Mr Ofwono Opondo, on the latest show of discomfort from the US government against President Museveni and his officials.