• November 4, 2011
  • From the Team
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U.S. expresses concern over Uganda’s recent human rights abuses

Resolve exists to see an end to LRA violence, but that doesn’t mean that we shut our eyes to other developments in the region. On the contrary, understanding the entire regional context is crucial to our work. We are very concerned about the Ugandan government’s long and spotty human rights record. Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has been accused of many human rights abuses during his 25-year reign.

Most recently, the State Department released a statement condemning the Ugandan government’s recent actions regarding political protesters:

“In April and May of this year, Ugandan security forces killed at least ten civilians, including a two-year old girl, while attempting to disrupt peaceful protests against rising prices. To prevent renewed protests in October, police preemptively arrested several dozen opposition and civil society activists and placed opposition leader Kizza Besigye under house arrest. Police charged several of those arrested with the capital offenses of treason and concealment of treason, even though the legal basis for such charges is questionable.…In October, the Ugandan government also urged Parliament to adopt draft legislation severely limiting public meetings of three persons or more. This legislation specifically references meetings where participants discuss government principles, policies, and actions, and appears to target opposition and civil society organizations critical of the government.”

This is especially troubling since President Obama recently announced that the U.S. Government will be sending 100 troops to support Uganda and other regional governments in disarming the LRA. The LRA must be stopped, and partnering with the Ugandan military remains the most immediately plausible way to achieve that. But just because we are supporting them in the anti-LRA effort doesn’t mean we can ignore their abuses at home—it actually means that we have to step up our diplomatic engagement with Uganda to stop these human rights violations.

This isn’t something that the U.S. can, or should, do alone. It needs to be a concerted effort, bolstered by the support of other European nations and the African Union. With enough diplomatic pressure, perhaps President Museveni, who has “positioned himself as a Western ally, particularly close to the United States,” will take the cue to behave and take its citizens’ human rights seriously (Reuters).

Reuters writes more about the problem here, adding the element that “Museveni’s critics have accused him of using the fight against rebels as an excuse to stifle political opposition.”

This is a problem. Don’t let it be ignored or overlooked. We are glad that the State Department has already made a statement condemning the repression of political freedoms. May action follow these words.

-Azy

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