Calls to investigate Ugandan security forces recent behaviour

By Henry Gombya

Barely three months ago, the man in a grey stripped shirt being unceremoniously dumped on a police truck, was standing for election as President of Uganda. Defeated by the incumbent Yoweri Museveni, Dr Kizza Besigye has since been arrested four times, ending in this episode last month that has brought shame to the entire Ugandan Police Force.

The government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni today stands accused of using live ammunition to disperse peaceful protesters that ended in at least nine innocent civilians being killed. In a scathing report by the US-based rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRC), Maria Barnett, a senior Africa researcher at HRC says: “Uganda’s security forces met the recent protests with live fire that killed peaceful demonstrators and even bystanders.”

In a strongly-worded statement, HRC is calling upon the Ugandan government to ‘conduct a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation into the use of lethal force by security forces to counter recent demonstrations and rioting throughout the country’. The call is in response to recent demonstration in the East African country infamous for once having Idi Amin as its leader in the mid-1970s. Protesting against rising commodity prices and wasteful government spending, several Ugandans led by opposition political party leaders, decided to show their disapproval of what was going on in their country by ‘walking to work’, a slogan that came to be seen by the Museveni government as an attempt by the opposition to overthrow the 25-year old government of the National Resistance Movement (NRM).

HRC says it carried out investigations into fatal and non-fatal shootings by Uganda’s security forces. These included beatings, thefts and rapes that are said to have taken place between the dates of April 14 to April 29, 2011. “Based on multiple eyewitness accounts, Human Rights Watch documented at least nine unarmed people killed by government forces – six in Kampala, two in Gulu, and one in Masaka – none of whom were actively involved in rioting,” the HRC report says. Ms Burnett accused the Museveni government of allowing ‘a climate of impunity for serious abuses by the police and military’. She added: “A prompt, effective, and independent investigation into the violence is essential.”

The Rights Group claimed it had interviewed more than 60 people, including victims and their relatives, eyewitnesses, community members, medical staff, members of civil society, police, military, and journalists in Gulu and Kampala. It also claimed to have gathered forensic evidence, such as photographs of bullet holes, and medical and police records. HRC called upon the NRM government to include outside, independent international experts to participate in investigations and set out the concrete steps it will take to ensure perpetrators are held to account. “Specifically, the Ugandan government should invite the African Union and United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Executions to Uganda to conduct an in-depth investigation.”

Because of the deep mistrust between the security forces and communities affected by the recent violence, HRC said the inclusion of independent international experts would encourage witnesses to come forward. It called on donors, including the British and Irish governments to end support and training of Ugandan police and military units until the killings are investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

2 thoughts on “Calls to investigate Ugandan security forces recent behaviour

  • May 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm
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    This is why the owners of the country need support to reclaim their stake having been let down by the policy makers and policy leaders. We therfore stand on their back to stand tall and claim on their behalf to be in control of what truthfully belongs to them.

    You the children we educated and nartured, we call upon you to support our cause as we stand with courage to resisit tear gas, imprisonment, poverty and ill health. When the president is spending millions of pounds and dollars to purchase a personal jet and unveil an office building worth £3.6 billion!!!!
    When there are no basic medical suppliers in a national referaal hospital!!! We appeal to our long friends in the West to listen to us now than later!!!

    All nationalties that make up Uganda should join force now. Uganda is an occupied state.

    Reply
  • May 11, 2011 at 5:11 am
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    Editor, Uganda security officers have been carrying out extrajudicial killings and its only now that the HRW is pinning them directly. Since the peaceful demo on Monday where they petitioned the UN’s special rapporteur, Margaret Ssekajja, and also a copy handed over to government, government has not denied the report and has taken some weird move.

    In regard to walk to work, no government official now talks of crashing those who walk to work but have come out openly to say that it is okay for Ugandans to walk to work. Amama Mbabazi has addressed the public more than thrice to tell Ugandans they are aware that majority of Ugandans walk to work so they can walk to work as long as their exercise of the right does not infringe on the rights of others. The past one week saw opposition leaders walk to work without any scuffle with security forces.

    However, fearing for a complete breakdown of public order, government keeps a close watch on walkers, and recently, having realised that HRW and international community complained on government’s use of tear gas, introduced dye. On Tuesday, red dye was sprayed on the walkers/protesters.

    Editor, this kind of torture is comparable to Idi Amin’s government even though the head of Uganda’s government has denied his government is not that bad. The police and military have emerged so powerful today that at their sight, people run into hiding. People are living in fear. The pressure is mounting and someday, use of live ammunition and sprays will be outlawed. Time will come when military officers will no longer walk through the streets of Kampala holding guns. I thought they would be in their barracks but one wonders what they are doing on the streets, worse still, they come walking to work from their barracks to down town but these hunters have never been hunted for walking. This message from HRW has shaken government and we expect some improvements soon.

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