Uganda Pressured On PRA Suspects
Now five British lawmakers, including Drew, are pushing for a discussion in the House of Commons about the East African countryâ€™s fitness to host the conference and for the Queen to travel there amidst the Uganda governmentâ€™s disregard of court orders.
No rule of law; no commonwealth.
That’s the message that a group of British Members of Parliament are sending to the Ugandan government, calling for the release of the so-called People's Redemption Army (PRA) suspects before the arrival of Queen Elizabeth, who is expected to attend the November summit.
MP David Drew (Labor and Co-operative Party MP for Stroud, Gloucestershire) yesterday called on Tony Blair’s government to “lead the British Commonwealth countries in persuading the Ugandan authorities to release these suspects on bail, as directed by the courts, before Her Majesty travels to Uganda.”
The men were arrested shortly before Uganda's last Presidential election and critics charged the move as a smokescreen by President Yoweri Museveni, who feared defeat by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) opposition. The FDC later charged the president with stealing the election.
These suspects – including FDC leader Dr. Kizza Besigye, who has since been released – have been detained on charges that they plotted to overthrow the Uganda government. When the High Court ordered the men freed, the government ignored the ruling and instead charged them with murder.
Now five British lawmakers, including Drew, are pushing for a discussion in the House of Commons about the East African country’s fitness to host the conference and for the Queen to travel there amidst the Uganda government’s disregard of court orders.
MP Drew yesterday spoke of “recent media reports which suggest the Commonwealth meeting in Uganda may be cancelled due to security fears associated with the continued harassment of the Opposition and human rights abuses” and he specifically noted that “Joseph Musasizi Kifefe, one of the Opposition suspects, is now seriously ill in Mulago Hospital.”
MP Drew also noted that the Uganda High Court had ordered Musasizi’s release and that he had been “one of the 22 People's Redemption Army suspects, including the main Opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye, who were released by the High Court on 16th November 2005 but were immediately rearrested by the military.”
MP Drew also mentioned that on January 12, 2007, the Constitutional Court had ordered the suspects’ release, including; Patrick Okiring, Frank Atukunda, Yahaya Asega, Iddi Yunus, Robert Tweyambe, John Arike, Bruhan Iwago and Samson Agupio. The “suspects were instead charged with murder,” added Drew.
Separately, the UK office of Uganda’s opposition Democratic Party has written a letter to Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon, detailing “the ongoing harassment, intimidation, torture and imprisonment of Members of the DP and other opposition political Parties in Uganda, at a time when the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is about to be held in Uganda.”
“As you will recall, the Commonwealth has in the recent past taken a stand against Member countries that have violated human rights of their citizens. The human rights situation in Uganda is not any different from that pertaining in Zimbabwe. Members of the political opposition in both countries have been denied the right to assemble; freedom of expression and have been beaten up, arrested, disrespected and imprisoned when they have sought to exercise these fundamental human and inviolable rights,” reads the letter in part.
“Whilst we applaud the Commonwealth’s declared objectives of promoting good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights in Member countries, we are extremely concerned about the Commonwealth Secretariat’s continued silence on the ongoing violation of human rights in Uganda.”
The letter concludes: “We therefore urge you to condemn and, if necessary, consider changing the venue for the CHOGM, should the Ugandan government continue to harass, intimidate, torture arrest, imprison and otherwise violate with impunity the fundamental rights of citizens and the political rights of Members of its political opposition.”
The letter, copied to Commonwealth heads of government and Rabab Fatima Head of Human Rights, Commonwealth Secretariat, was signed by Andrew Lubega Mulindwa, Chairman of the DP UK branch and Godfrey Sekisonge, the Secretary.
Miwambo reports for The Black Star News from London.
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