A senior official of the United States (US) Department of State has left a strong message for the ruling establishment in Kampala, calling for an end to human rights violations by security agencies.
Lisa Peterson, the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour who has been on a two-day working visit to Uganda told Ugandan government officials that the US expects to see action being taken against any security officer who is found guilty of abusing human rights.
“The US is concerned about the recurring accounts of forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture by Ugandan security services,” Peterson told journalists in Kampala.
She said that it’s not enough for the government officials to state that they don’t condone abuses that include torture, forced disappearance and even extrajudicial killing but should punish any errant officers found guilty of the same.
“I retaliated the US call for the Uganda government to transparently seek accountability for the killing of 54 individuals in November 2020 and other reports of forced disappearances and torture,” she said.
This way, Peterson said, they will have sent a message to others that human rights abuse is unacceptable.
Peterson’s visit to Uganda was prompted by increasing reports of human rights violations in the country. She held meetings with the government, opposition leaders civil society and media leaders.
She said her coming to Uganda is to send a message that human rights violations and the narrowing democratic space are a concern to the Biden administration.
The implored the Ugandan government to recognise that the people of Uganda want to have their rights guaranteed and the Constitution upheld.
“The government has a duty to protect rights of its citizens and hold accountable those that violate their rights. Forced disappearances, the use of physical and mental torture by security agencies must stop,” Peterson said.
Asked whether the United States has any moral authority to claim to be exporting democracy to other countries around the world when in its own backyard, there is a considerable number of people who believe the country is undemocratic, Peterson said they recognise that they are not perfect that’s why it is important to work with other countries to ensure that real democracy takes root.
Natalie Brown, the US ambassador to Uganda deflated claims that US resources are being used by the government to persecute political opponents.
Brown said most of the resources that the US invests in Uganda go directly to the Ugandan people through implementing agencies.
She said other than their cooperation on the African Peace Keeping mission in Somalia, there is little money that the US puts in the Ugandan military.
Brown added that the United States will continue to monitor human rights violations in Uganda and engage all stakeholders to see that this stop.
Government officials including the president have condemned acts of torture and said those to be found guilty will pay the price.
However, more than one year later, no such accountability has been made save for the two UPDF officers who received lengthy sentences for their complicit in the November 2020 killings