Oryem: The U.S should Listen to Our Side of the Story

Henry Okello-Oryem

Faced with a new threat of having some senior officials in the government and security agencies sanctioned by the United States of America (USA), the government of Uganda has invited the American government not to act without listening to its side of the story.

Speaking to Radio One, a private broadcaster in Kampala, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs state minister, Henry Okello Oryem said that while the government has not received a formal communication from Washington, the U.S should listen to Kampala’s version rather than acting on “excitement” in the press.

“The government of Uganda will respond once we receive official communication and give our version of events so that any decision taken is based on both sides of the story rather than this excitement they are reading in the press,” Oryem said.

On Thursday, the U.S Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo indicated that they are paying close attention to actions of individuals who seek to impede the democratic processes in Uganda as the country gears up for general elections early next year.

“The United States is a longstanding partner of Uganda. We expect our partners to live up to their obligations to hold free and fair elections. We are paying close attention to the actions of individuals who seek to impede the ongoing democratic process,” Pompeo stated.

His statement followed a letter to him and his Treasury counterpart, Steven T. Mnuchin from Congressman Eliot L. Engel calling for sanctions on Ugandan military and Police officers for alleged human rights violations against Ugandan opposition politicians and their supporters.

Engel’s letter quoted the killing of more than 50 people, shot during last month’s riots that were sparked off by the arrest of opposition presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu as he campaigned in the eastern Uganda district of Luuka.

The letter did also not skip the 2016 killings in Kasese, western Uganda as the military moved to crash a revolt by the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu (Rwenzururu Kingdom) loyalists.

Engel went on to name Gen. Peter Elwelu (Commander of Land Forces), Maj. Gen. James Birungi (Commander of the President Museveni’s elite force – the Special Forces Command [SFC]), Maj. Gen. Don William Nabasa (former SFC Commander), Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho (Director, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence [CMI]), Maj. Gen. Steven Sabiiti Muzeyi (Deputy Inspector of General of Police), Commissioner of Police Frank Mwesigwa and Col. Chris Serunjogi Ddamulira, the Director of Crime Intelligence in the Uganda Police Force.

Pompeo said, the U.S will not hesitate to consider serious consequences for those responsible for election-related violence and repression. He has also called upon the Ugandan government to create a safe environment for civil society and non-governmental organizations to undertake election training and monitoring.

“Repeated violence and excessive use of force by security forces are deeply troubling. We urge the government to ensure the safety of all candidates, respect the right of peaceful assembly of all Ugandans, and ensure that election authorities and security forces act impartially.” Pompeo said.

Oryem blamed the developments on individuals whom he said are working for foreign interests to undermine Uganda’s sovereignty.

“They have lobbied their friends abroad to see how best they can undermine the government of Uganda,” Oryem said.

Several Ugandan opposition politicians welcomed the move. Former presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye who filed a petition at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Ugandan government officials hailed the U.S government for “adding a voice onto Uganda’s call for independent investigation and accountability.”

Last year, the U.S slapped sanctions on former IGP Gen Kale Kayihura and his immediate family over alleged human rights violations.

Additional reporting by URN

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