U.S. Condemns Violent Groping-Arrest Of Leading Female Uganda Politician

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[Global: Africa] 

In a strongly-worded statement the U.S. Department of State has condemned the use of excessive force by Uganda's Police, who sexually assaulted a leading female politician while arresting her last week.

Saying freedom of expression are "fundamental human rights" the U.S. also expressed "concern" over the banning of a leading civil activism organization, A4C, as well as the arrest of a group of women who demonstrated yesterday over the manner in which Ingrid Turinawe, the female politician, was mistreated last week.

Turinawe, who leads the Women's League of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), a major opposition party, was driving to attend a rally just outside Kampala, the capital, when she was dragged by her right breast while seated in the front seat of her car, by one of the several police officers in riot-gear.

Ugandan television shows the officer grabbing her right breast more than once, squeezing it and pulling on it, as Turinawe cried in pain and beat off the officer's hand. Turinawe reportedly was also punched several times on her breasts by officers once she had been hauled into a police van.

Ironically, Turinawe was driving in a two-car convoy, trailing the mayor of Kampala, Elias Lukwago, on their way to attend a rally by 4GC ("For God And My Country" Uganda's national motto), an organization created after the banning of A4C, when the sexual assault, in public and caught on camera, occurred.

"We condemn any excessive use of violence by police," the U.S. Department of State spokesperson said, when asked about the manner in which Turinawe was arrested. "We encourage Uganda to investigate allegations of excessive use of force by security services and to hold perpetrators accountable. We also continue to encourage Uganda to take tangible steps to improve its human rights record, particularly with regard to the protection of civil liberties and the human rights of women and of minority populations."

Uganda's minister of Internal Affairs, James Baba, today announced that one officer had been suspended and that investigations continue, according to media accounts.

The U.S. also reacted to the banning A4C, or activists for change, by Uganda's Attorney General, Peter Nyombi. A4C had been organizing a regular protest campaign called Walk-to-Work to highlight rampant inflation and corruption.

"We have expressed our concern, both publicly and privately, about crackdowns on peaceful protests and restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly in Uganda," the State Department spokesperson said. "As we have stated on numerous occasions, freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights and a critical component of democracy."

Reacting to the arrest yesterday of several female activist who demonstrated in front of Kampala's Central Police headquarters, by exposing their bras, the spokesperson said: "We call on the Ugandan government to respect the rights of civil society to engage in non-violent demonstrations."

The women arrested Monday, led by Barbara Allimadi, carried signs some of which read: "How would you feel if we squeezed your balls?" They called for the prosecution of the officer who allegedly molested Turinawe and the resignation of national police chief Gen. Kale Kayihura.

Turinawe is reportedly still receiving treatment for injuries sustained during the arrest.

"Speaking Truth To Power."

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