US report pins Museveni, security forces on rights violations

President Museveni at a past televised address. Photo: Africa News

A new report by the United States of America State Department has listed President Yoweri Museveni, the police, army and Local Defence Unit (LDU) among other government institutions in rights violations ahead of the 2021 general elections.

The report posted on the State Department’s website documents various violations its says were committed by the government or its agents in the form of “arbitrary or unlawful killings, including due to torture.”

While the law empowers several government agencies to investigate, inquire into, and or prosecute excesses by security officers, the report says, those agencies such as the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), the police disciplinary court and military were largely ineffective.

Among the killings the report lists is the February 24, 2020, killing of people power activist, Ritah Nabukenya who was knocked dead by a police truck at Nakawa.

“The police released a statement saying Nabukenya fatally injured herself when her motorcycle taxi collided with another motorcycle as it attempted to overtake the police truck. The police stated it would investigate what happened and promised to review the roadside CCTV as part of its investigations. [Robert] Kyagulanyi demanded police release the CCTV footage of the incident, but on February 26, the UPF declared the cameras at the location were faulty and had failed to record the incident. At year’s end police had not revealed findings from its investigations,” the report reads in part.

It goes on to further list other National Unity Platform (NUP) supporters who were shot and killed by LDUs, the police and the army, plus those that have been missing like John Bosco Kibalama who has been missing since 2019.

The report further claims that security personnel acted with impunity because authorities gave political and judicial cover to officials who committed human rights violations.

“While speaking on November 29 about the November 18-19 protests, President Museveni directed police to investigate and audit the killings of 20 unarmed protesters struck by stray bullets, but not of the other 34 unarmed protesters, who he said were rioters. On August 22, President Museveni commended the UPDF’s Special Forces Command (SFC) officers who beat Kyagulanyi in August 2018. Speaking at a police recruits graduation ceremony, Museveni stated: “I found the man (Kyagulanyi) had been beaten properly, in the right way. He boxed them, and they also tried to box back until they subdued him. I was surprised that the SFC people acted properly; it was self-defense and beyond self-defense they didn’t beat. It was in order.” The government also provided legal services to police and prison officers facing charges of abuse in court,” the report reads.

The report further accuses the government of using the excuse of Covid-19 to restrict opposition politicians. The numbers in the prisons consequently went up with the prisons authorities putting it at more than three times the prisons’ capacity, although other data from the nongovernmental organization; World Prison Brief, showed that the prison detainees held were actually at 375 percent of prisons’ capacity.

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