Kutesa's UN Bid Cast Global Media Spotlight On Uganda Regime's Corruption, Militarism And Political Repression

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Uganda's Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa

[Publisher's Commentary] 

Sam Kutesa's candidacy for the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly opened a can of worms as global media for the first time, in addition to writing about Uganda's state-homophobic law, focused on corruption, militarism and repression in the East African country.

Of course the Ugandan dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni's argument and that of Kutesa that they oppose gay rights because of African cultural values that predates the arrival of Europeans is a lie and pure politics -- two years ago Gen. Museveni told CNN's Christian Amanpour that there were Gays in Africa before contact with Europeans (since The Black Star News first reported Museveni's duplicity the CNN video has been removed from YouTube).

The general hopes that by selling hate and even inciting violence towards LGBT communities his homophobic crusade will translate into votes in Uganda's 2016 presidential election.

All told, more than 50 media outlets wrote about Kutesa's bid for the UN job and the Change.org campaign to block his candidacy. Kutesa ultimately was voted by acclamation on June 11 since he was the only candidate.

The coverage of, and expose of, Kutesa's transgressions means that even when he returns in September the scrutiny will continue and there will be many questions for him to answer.

Major media outlets such as The Guardian, The Times of London, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, Slate, Salon, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera America, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), The Voice of America, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), The Los Angeles Times, and many others, dealt with aspects of: Kutesa's censure for corruption by Uganda's Parliament in 1999; Uganda's wars of aggression against the Democratic Republic of Congo; the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars when Uganda hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting;  the alleged millions of dollars in bribes from an oil company; and Kutesa's conflict of interest -- making millions of dollars through contracts he obtained for his private company Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS) while serving as foreign affairs minister of Uganda.

The ENHAS contracts were for his cargo and luggage handling company to provide services at airports used by the United Nations for peace keeping operations in Congo and South Sudan.

This means that Kutesa was profiting from wars that Uganda either initiated, as in the Congo, or was involved in, as in South Sudan. Clearly, peaceful resolution of these conflicts would be detrimental to the bottomline of ENHAS, Kutesa's company.

ENHAS's business dealings with the UN reek of unconscionable conflict of interest for the incoming President of the General Assembly. At the time ENHAS began winning UN contracts in 2006, Kutesa was already Uganda's foreign minister.

Imagine if Secretary of State John Kerry was exposed as owner of a private company that had contracts with the UN to provide cargo and luggage handling services at an airport, such as Port au Prince, Haiti, for peace keeping operations?

Kerry would have to resign in shame of course. In Kutesa's case, he actually sought and was elected to a senior post at the United Nations General Assembly.

This is only one of the several reasons why Kutesa must resign.

Here are how some of the coverage in the several media outlets about the Kutesa scandal in recent weeks:

Under the headline "UN backlash as Uganda's 'anti-gay' minister heads for human rights top job" The Guardian on May 31, reported:

"In addition to the gay issue, Kutesa has also been criticized for persistent allegations of corruption. A lawyer by training, he is extremely wealthy and owns several luxury properties in Kampala. In 1999 he was censured by the Ugandan parliament for alleged misuse of his office. In 2009 he was named in a confidential US diplomatic cable disclosed by WikiLeaks as one of three senior government ministers Museveni had failed to hold "accountable for corruption allegations". Two years later he was forced to step down as minister after he and two other cabinet members were accused in parliament of accepting bribes from a foreign oil company – he was reinstated in 2012, but only after the investigation into the three was quashed by court order."

Voice of America on June 10, under the headline "Controversial Ugandan Set to Lead UNGA," reported:

"Sam Kutesa has been Uganda's foreign minister on and off since 2005, under long-time president Yoweri Museveni. He most recently garnered international attention for defending the Ugandan government’s harsh anti-homosexuality law that the president signed in February.

In the past, Kutesa has survived political censure by the Ugandan parliament following a corruption scandal, though no formal charges were brought against him. However, questions have been raised about a company he once chaired and is believed to still own shares in, Entebbe Handling Services, or ENHAS, which has contracts with at least one U.N. peacekeeping mission in Africa.

A U.N. spokesperson said the organization is trying to ascertain its current relationship with ENHAS, and whether it presents a conflict of interest. According to the U.N.’s procurement website, the company has been a registered vendor with it since June 2006."

On June 10, under the headline "Should a Homophobe Preside Over the UN General-Assembly?" Newsweek reported:

"Others note that the government of the aging president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, 69, who has been in power for 28 years, was trampling on human rights long before the anti-homosexuality law, and that allegations of corruption dog members of the government, including Kutesa, who in a leaked U.S. cable is implicated in the misuse of $27 million in British aid."

The BBC on June 11, under the headline "Uganda's Sam Kutesa elected as UN General Assembly president,"reported:

"Human rights activists say the Ugandan foreign minister played a role in the enactment of Uganda's strict anti-gay law, passed in February, which allows for sentences of up to life in prison for those convicted of having gay sex. Mr Kutesa, previously a junior investment minister, was also said to have been ousted from that position over charges he abused the office."

On June 3, under the headline "The U.N.’s Next President Is a Gay-Hating Friend of Uganda’s Corrupt Dictator," The Daily Beast reported:

"Kutesa is the right-hand man of Uganda’s military ruler, Gen. Yoweri Museveni. His last few years have been a revolving door of corruption, scandal, resignation, and reinstatement. In 2011, for example, he resigned for taking bribes from a British oil company—and at the same time using public money to renovate a hotel he owned. But he was reinstated shortly thereafter.

That’s just the most recent example. Kutesa was censured in 1999 for corruption. He was implicated in a 2007 scandal over $150 million in missing public money. (The case was dismissed on a technicality.) And he was named in a leaked 2009 diplomatic cable as being one of the inner circle of Uganda’s corrupt ministers, too close to Museveni to be held accountable for his crimes.

And then there is Kutesa’s perspective on homosexuality. Kutesa has been a strong supporter of Uganda’s new anti-homosexuality law—which has led to a tenfold increase in anti-LGBT violence, according to a new study. As foreign minister, he has defended it many times in the Western media. And why should sex between consenting adults result in life imprisonment? 'The majority of Africans abhor this practice,' he said."

The Washington Post ran an Associated Press story on June 9 under the headline "Controversial Ugandan Official May Get UN Job," reporting:

"Sam Kutesa became known to many Ugandans after he was ousted as a junior investment minister by lawmakers over charges he abused his office. Now foreign minister, he has been implicated in at least two more scandals since 1999, including allegations that he accepted bribes from foreign companies seeking oil contracts in Uganda."

On June 9, The Los Angeles Times ran an article under the headline "Ugandan named to head U.N. assembly faces criticism on human rights," and reported:

"Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa, who is set to take over the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, has a decades-long legacy of corruption, military aggression and human-rights abuses, according to opponents of his selection as ceremonial head of the world body.

The 65-year-old career politician and longtime ally of Uganda's controversial president, Yoweri Museveni, was unanimously chosen by the African Union last month to fill the rotating U.N. presidency during the continent's yearlong term at the helm."

Al Jazeera reported on June 11, under the headline "Controversial Ugandan minister wins UN post":

"Kutesa assumes the role as the nominee of the African group of nations, whose turn it was to take on the presidency. At least two senators from New York criticized Kutesa's appointment, and more than 13,200 people signed an online petition urging US Secretary of State John Kerry to block him from taking up the post.The petition cites his implication in corruption scandals at home and his alleged role in the enactment of Uganda's new anti-gay law. The minister was previously ousted as a junior investment minister over claims he abused his office.

The US-based Human Rights Campaign, which promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights, called his tenure "a black mark on the United Nations' commitment to protect the human rights of all individuals."

On June 11, under the headline  "Outcry over choice for 69th President of UN General Assembly,"  SABC reports:

"Allimadi says: 'It sends the absolute wrong signal to people that take the UN seriously all around the world, I think it’s only being done because Mr Kutesa’s own background and record and that of the regime that he represents is not well known, I believe there’s been some scrutiny now as a result of the campaign that we started on change.org.'



The petition has garnered over 11000 signatures while Allimadi has asked the US Government to block Kutesa’s immigration status claiming the foreign minister has dodged several corruption scandals in his home country, is complicit in Uganda’s military incursion into neighbouring countries and remains a firm defender of anti-homosexual legislation signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni earlier this year.

He slammed the AU decision and called on the UN Secretary General to condemn the nomination.

Allimadi says: 'I don’t know what kind of maneuvering occurred to allow Mr Kutesa to be the sole candidate, certainly, these officials must have been aware of Mr Kutesa’s background and his record. I think it’s completely irresponsible and I think the US Government should take a much more serious position and take a strong stand and make it known how you abhor this kind of conduct rather than allowing Mr Kutesa to become president of the General Assembly.' 

The Secretary General’s spokesperson says they are investigating claims of a possible conflict of interest between UN Missions in the region and a company - Entebbe Handling Services – to which Mr Kutesa is said to be affiliated."

UPI, the news service on June 2, under the headline "U.N. faces backlash over appointment of anti-gay politician to senior position," reported:

"The United Nations is facing backlash after the decision to appoint Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa as president of the General Assembly.

The backlash is coming from human rights advocates who are protesting Kutesa's appointment on the basis that he supported anti-gay laws in Uganda. The laws threaten to put people engaged in homosexual behavior in prison for life."

 

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