Uganda: Commonwealth "Shocked" By Violence

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A Commonwealth official expressed "shock" at scenes of violence by police against pro-democracy demonstrators in Uganda.

A Ugandan delegation of opposition party leaders met with the official at the Commonwealth offices to complain about widespread corruption and continuing crackdown against their supporters, eight months before the East African country is to host the heads of states’ conference.

Leaders of the Democratic Party (DP), one of the country’s oldest political parties showed Fatima Rabab, the Commonwealth’s Head of Human Rights, video of President Yoweri Museveni’s police crackdown against political rallies, including the use of tear gas against peaceful gatherings. Ironically, Rabab has a picture of her posing with Kale Kayihura, Uganda’s police chief, in her office here in London.

“Let me hope you’re not offended seeing me in a photo standing beside Mr. Kayihura whom I met and we agreed not to use such excessive force on the opposition,” Rabab said, distancing herself from Uganda police, following the meeting at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth headquarters. “We sensitized the Uganda police on handling people and respecting of human rights, I will continue to discuss this with Margaret when I meet her next week,” Rabab said, referring to Margaret Ssekajja, chair of Uganda’s Human Rights Commission.

The Commonwealth is a grouping of Britain’s former colonies. Rabab vowed to raise the issue of human rights abuse with Ugandan officials next week. She met in London with the DP’s Erias Lukwago (MP Kampala Central), Isa Kikungwe (MP Kyadondo South) and the party’s spokesperson, Betty Nambooze, and the party’s U.K. representative Godfrey Sekisonge.

DP officials say although they are not opposed to Uganda hosting the annual conference’s gathering of heads of states, the issue of human rights had to be addressed, including land seizures by the government to prepare for the conference. In one instance, a school has been destroyed to build accommodation for a gathering that lasts a mere two weeks, party officials said.

“The land give away by President Museveni in the name of constructing CHOGM facilities has left thousands of parents and children in dilemma,” MP Lukwago said, noting that as many as 3,600 students were ousted as a result.

While in London the group also hopes to get to the bottom of a report prepared 20 years ago by London’s Scotland Yard, at the invitation of the Museveni government, about the murder of a prominent politician, Andrew Kayiira.

Two versions of the report have been published in Uganda; one by the independent Daily Monitor, which seems to implicate the government, the other by the government owned New Vision, exonerating government.

Europe correspondent Miwambo is based in London.

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