Ugandans Deplore Commonwealth “Hypocrisy�

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A recent incident during which President Yoweri Museveni’s bodyguards allegedly assaulted a Ugandan living in London, injuring his testicles, has sparked a larger protest at the Commonwealth offices here in London, with accusations that the international community tolerates Uganda’s human rights abuses.

About 100 demonstrators delivered a petition calling on Commonwealth heads to deplore human rights abuses in Uganda, where the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is slated to be hosted in Kampala, next year.

Ugandans joined by Zimbabweans living in London, accuse the Commonwealth of hypocrisy, arguing that Zimbabwe was ejected from the fraternity of ex-British colonies due to allegations of human rights abuse—on the other hand, Uganda is treated with kid gloves, they contend. Officials at the Commonwealth didn’t immediately respond.

One petitioner, Dr. Rashid Kasaato, gained global media attention after a recent visit by Museveni to London; he accused the president of corruption and branded him a “war criminal” and “liar” before an audience of stunned diplomats and potential foreign investors who had come to hear about rates of return on investments.

Dr. Kasaato contends that when Museveni’s bodyguards converged on him at the London event held November 19, 2006, at the Royal National Hotel, his testicles were squeezed and bruised. This writer has confirmed the testicular injuries with Dr. Serena De Clermont, who examined Kasaato at St. George Hospital, in London.

The protest today was coordinated with Forum For Democratic Change (FDC), the country’s major opposition party headed by Dr. Kizza Besigye and The Justice Forum, who are part of an opposition alliance known as G6 in Uganda. FDC has contended it was robbed of victory at Uganda’s last presidential election. Petitioners were joined by Zimbabweans in London who are opposed to President Robert Mugabe’s long hold on power amid accusations of human rights abuses. 

Uganda doesn’t meet the conditions imposed as the 1992 Commonwealth Harare Declarations—so if Zimbabwe could be suspended due to accusations of human rights abuses, what of Uganda, where key opposition leaders are assaulted, and many opponents of the regime tortured in secret “safe” houses, the petitioners asked?

“Much as President Museveni is committed to bend the laws to cling onto power with no sign of remorse, we as well are not going to sit back and look on when he is raping our country,” declares Abby Mukasa, a member of the G6. “We all very well know that, Museveni is committed to continue terrorizing fellow Ugandans at all cost.”

Adds Michael Senyonjo, one of the mobilizers, “Mournfulness, apprehension and fear won't cut it. The brave efforts that have recently been displayed by people like Dr. Kizza Besigye, Gen. Mugisha Muntu, Dr. Suleiman Kiggundu, Dr. Rashid Kasaato and supporters of FDC should be given credit.” Muntu and Kiggundu are top FDC officials in Uganda; Dr. Kasaato belongs to the Justice Forum.

“Following the barbaric and brutal attack on the member of Justice Forum Dr. Kasaato, we protest in strongest terms the acts of President Museveni’s bodyguards,” reads the petition in part. Kasaato has said he plans to file legal action against the Uganda government.

Miwambo reports for The Black Star News from London.

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