Uncertainty Roils Commonwealth Venue

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“We have important concerns about the state of governance in Uganda, particularly with respect to the independence of the judiciary, political space for the opposition and recent incidences of violence,� McCartney told the House of Commons. “We are working with the Government of Uganda to resolve these concerns.�

AFRICA UPDATE


Adding fuel to speculation about the venue for this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, a Labor Party parliamentarian has pressed a UK minister about contingency plans for an alternate location. Meanwhile a Uganda lawmaker spoke by telephone out gruesome tortures the outside word was “unaware” of.

Reports that British security services were reluctant to okay the trip to Uganda of Queen Elizabeth II for the summit appeared in The Times and The Guardian, April 26.

David Drew, Labor and Co-operative Party MP for Stroud, Gloucestershire asked Ian McCartney, Minister of State Trade and Investment and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, about contingency plans. The summit is slated for Kampala, the Ugandan capital, November 2007.

“We have important concerns about the state of governance in Uganda, particularly with respect to the independence of the judiciary, political space for the opposition and recent incidences of violence,” McCartney told the House of Commons. “We are working with the Government of Uganda to resolve these concerns.”

McCartney added: “We continue to stress that CHOGM presents a historic opportunity for Uganda to demonstrate that it is building an inclusive and pluralist society and we will continue to press for progress on the issues of concern.”

The minister also commented on the recent violent protests against the Uganda government’s plan to give away vast areas of Mabira forest to the Mehta family, Ugandan Asian investors—three people died, including one Asian.

“We are particularly disturbed by the racially motivated aspects of the violence by some demonstrators during street protests in Kampala on 12 April. We also condemn all such violence and call on all sides to show restraint and respect the rule of law during demonstrations,” the minister said.

“We are talking to the Ugandan Government about developing a ‘Code of Conduct' for running and policing demonstrations,” said McCartney. “We have expressed our concerns to the Ugandan Government about the importance of responsible and proportionate policing during demonstrations. Our high commissioner in Kampala raised this most recently with Foreign Minister Kutesa on 25 April.” Foreign minister Sam Kutesa previously has already denied that plans were afoot to switch venue—blaming saboteurs who want to wreck the summit.

Separately, in a telephone interview with this reporter, Ugandan member of Parliament Hussein Kyanjo (MP Makindye West), who recently spent time in jail after he was arrested by Uganda security agents, said it was a learning experience.

“It was good to detain me, because I have discovered a lot that has been happening behind the scenes,” he said. “Many people are tortured with all sorts of cruelty and then dumped to rot in jails. The outside world doesn’t know the acts of this regime. This was a very good change for me, because all along I have been demanding access to prisons and denied any a chance.”

Kyanjo, who is Uganda’s shadow Minister of Internal Affairs and Human Rights was arrested April 16 with another opposition figure, Forum for Democratic Change’s (FDC) Beatrice Anywar Atim (Kitgum Women MP). The duo was detained at Luzira Prison on alleged charges of inciting violence and participating in the Mabira protest.

Kyanjo said while behind bars he discovered people held for even more than one year without being produced in courts or charged with any offense. He said he learned of a man named Emmanuel Karangwa who has been detained at Kampala Central Police Station (CPS) for seven months without being charged, and of a Congolese national, Dido Manyiroba, who has spent six months behind bars with no charges; and, Acleo Kalinga, in detention for 16 months.

MP Kyanjo said Kalinga was “castrated by security agents.” He said, “These people are subjected to cruel torture that the outside world doesn’t know that these things are happening in Uganda.” Kalinga was reportedly castrated when his testicles were tied with a rope and pulled off.


Miwambo reports for The Black Star News from London.


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