U.S. Concerned About Uganda War Crimes Using American Intelligence-- WikiLeaks

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[Global: Africa]

In Leaked Memos, U.S. Ambassador's Blunt Discussion of Rights Abuses, War Crimes, Corruption, Museveni's "Autocratic Tendencies"

The United States is concerned about possible Uganda army war crimes in its fight against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), while using U.S.-provided intelligence. Remarkably, the U.S. ambassador even warned Uganda to let American officials know in advance when it intended to commit war crimes while battling the LRA, according to revelations in memos provided by WikiLeaks.

The U.S. has been providing Uganda with intelligence and about $4.4 million every year in equipment to fight the LRA. Nevertheless, Washington is now disillusioned with Yoweri Museveni and is hoping that the February vote will restore the shine that the country has lost --clearly indicating the Americans would like to see Museveni voted out-- a memo by the U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier, states. The ambassador describes a Uganda president who has lost touch with political developments swirling around him including political rebellion within his own party.

The explosive revelations comes in several memos sent to Washington by ambassador Lanier; they were provided to media by WikiLeaks.

The United States now seems so concerned with human rights abuses under the Museveni government including in fighting the LRA that embassy officials are even investigating killings going back eight years ago. A December 17, 2009 memo by Lanier discusses a notorious 2002 execution of a prisoner, Peter Oloya, on alleged orders by Col. Charles Otema Awany, the head of Uganda's military intelligence in northern Uganda. "On November 3, 2009, Gulu District Chairman Walter Ochora told PolOff that he, Lt. Col. Otema, and President Museveni discussed an intercepted message on September 16, 2002, revealing plans by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to liberate prisoners from Gulu central prison," states the Lanier memo. "Ochora said President Museveni ordered Lt. Col. Otema to go to the prison, secure the prisoners, and bring them back to the military barracks."

The reference to PolOff is to the political officer in the U.S. embassy in Uganda, Aaron B. Sampson. The prisoner, Oloya, was reportedly shot in the back and later buried after being beheaded, which is probably why the U.S. is now keenly interested in exploring the full nature of the government it supports in Uganda. What's more, Otema Awany was subsequently promoted and is now a Brigadier in the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF). The investigation of the Oloya killing by the United States officials and it's time frame is critical. Oloya was killed after July 1, 2002, when the Rome Statute, the instrument that created the International Court of Justice (ICC) came into effect. Uganda is a signatory to the statute.

The revelations are made today in the U.K. newspaper, The Guardian.

The U.S. is concerned that Uganda not use American-provided intelligence to commit war crimes while fighting the LRA and Lanier had sought verbal assurance from Crispus Kiyonga, Uganda's defense minister.

In a December 16, 2009 memo, Lanier also wrote that "Uganda understands the need to consult with the US in advance if the [Ugandan army] intends to use US-supplied intelligence to engage in operations not [governed] by the law of armed conflict. Uganda understands and acknowledges that misuse of this intelligence could cause the US to end this intelligence sharing relationship." The memo does not show that the United States directly warned Uganda against war crimes, which is referred to euphemistically in the memo as "operations not [governed] by the law of armed conflict."

Last year, Olara Otunnu, who is president of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC) political party and a presidential candidate, called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Uganda army on war crimes allegations in the fight against the LRA. The ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo has been accused of pro-Uganda government bias. He had asked for documentation; ironically, the Americans, who have protected Museveni for decades, seem to be obliging.

Kiyonga had told ambassador Lanier that U.S. intelligence was being used in "compliance with Ugandan law and the law of armed conflict. This pledge includes the principles of proportionality, distinction and humane treatment of captured combatants."

Seperately, in an earlier memo last October 19, ambassador Lanier bluntly expressed frustration with the Uganda president, Museveni, writing to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, who was about to visit Uganda: "The president's autocratic tendencies, as well as Uganda's pervasive corruption, sharpening ethnic divisions and explosive population growth, have eroding [sic] Uganda's status as an African success story." The ambassador noted: "Holding a credible and peaceful election in February 2011 could restore Uganda's image, while failing in that task could lead to domestic political violence and regional instability."

Lanier wrote to Carson, referring to the killings of civilians who had protested in Kampala when Kabaka Mutebi II, the Buganda monarch had been blocked by visiting a region of hsi territory by the Museveni government: "It is too early to tell whether the deadly September 10-12 riots in Kampala are the beginning of a massive and open-ended effort for political change in Uganda, or will lead to a more productive internal dialogue and a stronger democracy. The path of Ugandan politics over the next eighteen months depends largely on the President's vision and leadership. Your visit will be crucial in conveying US views and policy on Uganda and East Africa, and in raising the President's awareness about how seriously Western governments will be following the course of democracy in Uganda in the coming months."

Lanier was critical of the Museveni government, writing, in reference to the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement, which has held power since 1986: "The NRM's near total accumulation of power has led to poor governance, corruption, and rising ethnic tensions, a combination that threatens Ugandan 'democracy' and stability."

Yet prospects for the parties arrayed against Museveni also seemed daunting, Lanier observed: "Opposition political parties, however, are fractured, politically immature, and greatly outnumbered in Parliament. They control no government ministries, and are not skillful using either press or protest, their primary political tools. Nor can the opposition provide a coherent and attractive platform of proposals to counter the NRM. And it is by no means clear the opposition would improve governance in Uganda in any way. Currently, a coalition of all but one of Uganda's main opposition parties looks likely to nominate a joint opposition candidate for 2011, probably the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Kizza Besigye, who lost to Museveni in 2001 and 2006. This coalition is demanding the dissolution of the partisan Electoral Commission constituted by Museveni, and the acceptance of specific electoral reforms. Since Museveni now appears unlikely to yield on either count, opposition parties and the government seem destined for another turbulent showdown as elections approach in early 2011."

But the ambassador devoted much of his criticism to the Ugandan leadership under Museveni, writing: "Museveni's heavy-handedness and the corruption of senior leaders have sparked dissent within the NRM. A group of NRM 'rebels' consisting of about 15 younger, mostly back-bencher MPs supports opposition demands for an impartial Electoral Commission and is critical of Museveni's unwillingness to hold senior NRM leaders -- such as Security Minister Mbabazi, Foreign Minister Kutesa, and Trade Minister Otafiire among others -- accountable for corruption allegations. Museveni also faces a challenge from some older party stalwarts -- generally the same senior NRM leaders accused of corruption -- who fought with him in the 'bush war' and want to succeed him as President. Press reports and anecdotal evidence suggest the President is increasingly isolated and unaware of the depth of resentment both within the NRM and among society as a whole."

Lanier also wrote: "Our message: Conducting free, fair and peaceful elections in February 2011 would reinforce Uganda's image as an African success story. Failure in this area could relegate Uganda to the list of unstable African nations, seriously jeopardize its future stability, and make it more difficult for the U.S. to continue as a strong security partner. To hold credible elections, Museveni must address the perceived partisanship of the Electoral Commission and make meaningful electoral reform within the next four months."

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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