Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Sam Kutesa has penned a lengthy letter to the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, responding to the allegations raised by the committee about the human rights situation in Uganda.
In the response, Hon Kutesa sought to shed light on the various incidents cited as well as the Ugandan law provisions in regards to those incidents.
The committee chairman, Congressman Engel Elliot early this month wrote to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin describing what he termed as the “alarming slide toward authoritarianism in Uganda.”
The letter followed the mass protests in Kampala in which over 50 people were shot dead in the wake of the arrest of Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine).
In the letter, Chairman Elliot advised Secretary Pompeo to slap sanctions onto a number of Ugandan security officials who were supposedly behind the human rights violations.
He also advised the State Department to “review all non-humanitarian assistance to Uganda.”
In response however, Sam Kutesa described the concerns raised by Mr Elliot as “of utmost surprise and of grave concern to Uganda.”
The minister then proceeded to dismiss and make clarification on the allegations which ranged from banning political rallies, arrests and torture of president Yoweri Museveni’s opponents, extrajudicial killings, media gagging and lack of respect for civil liberties.
In the case of the November 18th riots and arrest of Museveni’s political opponents, Kutesa pointed out that all presidential candidates are bound by the same laws including the incumbent and that only those that flouted them were the ones that faced off with security.
“The enforcement of the laws against any participant in the electoral process that violates or seeks to defy the laws, in no way amounts to tilting the ground in favour of the incumbent,” Kutesa wrote.
“All law abiding presidential candidates have been and are campaigning without any hindrance with exception of the those who have deliberately violated the law.
As for the 54 victims,Kutesa said the Government of Uganda “regrets the senseless loss of lives and consequently, it has extended condolences to the affected families and undertaken to compensate the families of those who were not part of the riots but lost their lives and those who lost their properties to criminals and/or rioters.”
“In addition a thorough investigation into each of the deaths is ongoing to ensure accountability where it will be established that the loss of life was avoidable. ”
In regard to loss of life during last month’s protests and in other cases where citizens have been gunned down by security, Minister Kutesa said Uganda Police by law is required to take appropriate action whenever an environment of lawlessness occurs.
For instance, he noted that during violent riots, “criminal elements engage in wanton destruction of property, assaulting and robbing innocent citizens, staging illegal roadblocks and attacking security personnel on duty.
The minister responded to other incidents including the 2017 raid by security forces on parliament as well as the November 2016 attack on the Rwenzururu kingdom palace in Kasese in which over 100 people were killed.
In this case, Kutesa said the attack was necessitated by the resistance staged by the kingdom guards and the attacks they had carried out and planned to carry out on security installations.
He further condemned what he termed as “over-politicization of the incident, including a recent petition filed to the International Criminal Court by Ugandan opposition figures, which was later to be thrown out by the court.