Weeks After Gen. Museveni's U.S.-Trained Troops Beat and Raped Makerere University Students, He's Invited to Address U.N. Gathering in Kenya

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Gen. Museveni--the aged dictator thinks he can cow Ugandans by wearing military uniform. It didn't work for Gen. Omar al Bashir. Photo: Facebook

[Guest Editorial By Ugandans and Friends of Uganda]

The United Nations Population Fund

605 3rd Avenue

New York, NY 10158                                                                           


 

November 5, 2019

 

 

To Dr. Natalia Kanem and the UN Population Fund:

 

We Ugandans and Friends of Uganda write to express our dismay that Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni has been invited to address the upcoming International Conference on Population and Development in Nairobi (November 12-14, 2019).

 

On October 22nd, a group of students at Uganda’s Makerere University—a public, state funded institution--held a peaceful demonstration against a steep tuition increase.  Over the next week, the police filled the campus with teargas, hosed halls of residence with water cannons, broke into dormitory rooms, destroyed computers, TVs, dishes, and furniture, and beat and arrested dozens of students, including women and people with disabilities. Some of the leaders of the demonstration were abducted and assaulted by men in plain clothes who were almost certainly linked to state security. Journalists covering these events were also arrested and beaten.

 

These horrors filled the front pages of Uganda’s major newspapers for a week. However, it was only after the embassies of Uganda’s major foreign aid donors, the US and European Union, issued statements of concern that Museveni finally spoke about the crisis. He claimed not to know that the army had been deployed at the school, and promised to launch an investigation. Investigations into numerous previous atrocities in Uganda have either never taken place, or the findings have not been released.  Meanwhile, Uganda's First Lady has accused the students of being corrupt and taking money from unnamed opposition figures.

Since seizing power in Uganda by force 34 years ago, Museveni has demonstrated scant respect for the themes of this year’s ICPD conference--Gender, Youth, Dignity and Reproductive Health. His appearance at the ICPD is particularly disturbing because he has consistently blocked funds for family planning in Uganda, despite very high demand—even desperation-- on the part of Uganda’s women. As a result, Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in the world. It also has one of the worst health systems and lowest rates of primary school completion on earth. And of course, Museveni is no friend of sexual minorities.  

When members of the international community think of Uganda, they often recall Idi Amin and his famous eight year reign of terror in the 1970s. But Yoweri Museveni has killed far more people than Amin ever did, including thousands of Acholi, Langi and Teso men, women and children in northern and eastern Uganda in the 1980s and 90s.  Museveni also transferred weapons to rebels in Sudan, Rwanda and Congo, sparking or worsening conflicts in those countries that eventually cost millions of lives.  He’s now doing the same in South Sudan, while enjoying praise for helping the refugees from the very war he’s been stoking.

Uganda’s elections, although frequently rubber stamped by international observer missions, are characterized by voter bribery, police and army violence and rigging.  In 2016, the army gunned down at least 100 unarmed people, including 14 small children, in an opposition area in Western Uganda. Peter Elwelu, the commander of that operation was then promoted. In 2017, Museveni’s Special Forces crippled a woman Parliamentarian who was trying to filibuster a bill that would allow him to remain in power for life.  In 2018, security forces arrested and assaulted five Members of Parliament, including the renowned musician Bobi Wine and dozens of their supporters, one of whom will never walk again. Just yesterday, opposition leader Kizza Besigye and his supporters were arrested and assaulted too.

Unlike Amin, Museveni enjoys a favorable reputation in international circles. Not only is he welcomed at high level conferences such as the upcoming ICPD, but he is also praised in the Western media, and was even recognized by Transparency International, despite the profound corruption of his government, which has been linked to the theft of billions of dollars from the National Treasury, the Social Security Fund and even donor programs for AIDS, malaria and children’s vaccines. Last year, a Chinese entrepreneur seeking business opportunities in Uganda was convicted in a US court of making payments of $500,000 each to Museveni and his Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa—then head of the UN General Assembly.

Many UN officials are troubled by the contempt shown by some contemporary leaders for causes we too hold dear, like action against climate change, care for refugees and reproductive rights.  But how can you then ignore the suffering of the Makerere students and Museveni’s other victims?

The UN system rose from the ashes of World War II in order to put the ideals enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into action. Those rights include freedom of expression and assembly, freedom from torture and killing, and the right of people everywhere to freely choose their government representatives. Without those rights, how is progress on anything else possible? We regret that it has fallen to us to remind you of this.

 

 

Note: Petition demanding for suspension of U.S. weapons sales to Museveni regime

 

 

 

 

 

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