US deplores post-election rights violations in Uganda

Uganda's Internal Affairs Minister, Rose Akol

Uganda’s Internal Affairs Minister, Rose Akol

The US government has condemned Uganda for persistently violating the rights of its citizens and media in the aftermath of last month’s presidential election which saw President Yoweri Museveni extend his 30 year old rule of the East African nation.

In a statement Friday, the US State Department Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs John Kirby, said the United States is concerned with Uganda’s post-election environment, in which the government and its security forces have persistently violated the rights and freedoms of Ugandan citizens and the media.

“Uganda’s continued detention of opposition figures without legal justification, the ongoing harassment of opposition supporters, interference in legal challenges to the election results, and the intimidation of Uganda’s media are unacceptable activities in a free and democratic society,” said Kirby adding that recently proposed legislation to enhance the powers of the government to restrict media is an attempt to further limit the country’s political space.

He said that the United States and Uganda have a long standing and strong partnership that has contributed to the stability and prosperity of the region, adding that they are concerned that government’s recent actions could endanger the economic and political progress that has enabled the relationship to grow. “We urge the government to take prompt action to reverse this troubling trend,” he added.

The US concerns came just hours after six civilians were shot dead by security personnel when violence broke out in the flashpoint district of Kasese between civilians and security agencies.

The first skirmishes broke out on Friday when police and military officers were allegedly attacked by a group of civilians and retaliated by shooting dead six civilians in Kisenyi, Busongora North constituency.

The Rwenzori region Military Spokesperson Maj. Ronald Kakurungu said in one incident a group of over 25 civilians attacked an army patrol car in Kikonzo Cell, Hima Town Council and tried to disarm the soldiers.

“The attackers were wielding pangas, knives and spears. Soldiers fired gunshots to prevent the attackers from seizing the vehicle and the weapons in an incident that left two of the attackers dead and four soldiers injured. In the second incident civilians sneaked into a police barracks and stabbed four officers but four of the attackers were shot dead after they grabbed a machine gun from one of the police personnel,” Kakurungu told reporters.

Bob Kagarura, the Rwenzori East Regional Police Commander said most of the killed attackers were members of Rwenzururu Kingdom Royal Guards that protect Kingdom sites around Kasese town.

Jacob Opolot, the area Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations Opolot Jacob and one of his body guards were shot and injured during the confrontations.

The attack on security forces was a culmination of tension that followed the announcement of incumbent Katura Musan as winner of the area LC III race after beating his main challenger Tom Wabokumbi.

Internal Affairs Minister Rose Akol on Saturday defended the security forces saying that they acted in self defense.

“On March 10th 2016, civilians armed with machetes attacked Patrol Police and one of the attackers was shot dead. Again on Friday Commissioner Jacob Opolot, field commander with other police officers on duty were attacked. His leg was broken, his body guard disarmed and sustaining deep cuts on the head. So far five police and four soldiers have been injured,” she said.
Minister Akol said that security has been beefed up in Kasese as investigations in the matter continue.
“As I talk now, the Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura is on the ground to sort out the confusion in the district. But so far what we know is that the tension is being fueled by some individuals who want to secede from Rwenzururu Kingdom to form Yira Kingdom,” Minister Akol added.