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Dear Secretary Pompeo, Kayihura violated human rights under Museveni’s direct instructions

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President Museveni and Gen Kale Kayihura.

By Charles Kamya Ssentamu

On 13 September, the United States State Department released a statement titled, “public designation, due to gross violations of human rights, of Kale Kayihura of Uganda.” Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State followed with a tweet,
“Today I publicly designated former Inspector General of the #Uganda Police Force Kale Kayihura for his involvement in gross violations of #HumanRights. We will continue to promote accountability for those who violate human rights.”

Apparently the State Department “has credible information that Kayihura was involved in torture and/or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, through command responsibility of the Flying Squad, a specialized unit of the Uganda Police Force that reported directly to Kayihura.”

It’s well and good that Kayihura is being sanctioned for torture and other cruel human rights violations and that the State Department has committed itself to “continue to promote accountability for those who violate human rights.”

However, the obvious question then becomes: Won’t the highly selective application of this principle not undermine an otherwise noble cause? That apparent hypocrisy is on the minds of every Ugandan. How, for instance, can Kayihura be sanctioned for command responsibility, when the commander-in-chief to whom he was directly responsible and from whom he took the instructions to violate human rights is not equally held responsible for the same human rights violations?

Mary Serumaga, a human rights activist in Uganda put it best when she tweeted in response to Secretary Pompeo, “It is a beginning but Kayihura did not work alone; sanction @KagutaMuseveni, his son Maj Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Maj. Gen. #DonNabaasa for #Arua2018 and Lt. Gen. Peter Elwelu for the #KaseseMassacres.”

Perhaps the Americans think they can get away with the pretence that Kayihura was not acting under Museveni’s instructions. But Museveni himself has stated publicly that Kayihura is a loyal and exemplary cadre who others should learn from. Museveni could not have said this about Kale Kayihura if the latter was not merely enforcing the instructions of the former. Otherwise it would be absurd of Museveni to refer to Kayihura as an exemplary loyal cadre worthy of emulating.

In other words, the Americans aren’t fooling anyone by refusing to sanction Museveni and those other people around him who must also answer for gross human rights violations, as Mary Serumaga rightly notes.

The absurdity of the Americans refusing to designate Museveni and these other officials while selectively designating Kayihura is everywhere to see. For instance, the same human rights violations that they designate Kayihura for continue to this day, long after Kayihura left office in March 2018.

13 August 2018: Arrest and torture of six Ugandan opposition members of parliament including: Francis Zaake, beaten and tortured into coma – had to seek treatment in India

The driver of Hon Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine, Yassin Kawuma, shot and killed by SFC gunmen as he sat in the passenger seat of his employer’s car where Bobi Wine was known to prefer sitting.

Hon Bobi Wine hunted down in an Arua hotel where, once located and captured by Museveni’s SFC he was savagely tortured as per his own description of the incident. Guns and ammunition were then planted in his room and pressure was unsuccessfully applied against the hotel proprietor to bear false witness that the guns and ammunition were indeed brought into his room by Bobi Wine and not planted by Museveni’s SFC. Proceedings on this falsified charge intended to ensure Museveni could try his victims in his Court Martial were eventually dropped because of the ridicule.

Thirty three People Power supporters arrested and thrown into unknown detention places – badly tortured, with women among them raped by SFC.

20 August 2018, Reuters journalist Jimmy Akena savagely beaten, his equipment smashed.

8 June 2018, MP Ibrahim Abiriga and his brother Saidi Congo are gunned down; they die on the spot.

October 2018, Yusuf Kawooya are brutalized by CMI goons in civilian clothing in broad daylight – almost beaten to death with machinegun butts – before being bundled into a fake public taxi with false number plates (a signature operating practice of Museveni’s security operatives).

September 2018, DPC Kirumira Muhammad is killed with a lady companion. Kirumira had predicted his fate over and over, with his requests to meet Museveni to divulge information about the rot in high places repeatedly rebuffed by the Ugandan President.

24 March 2019, Ronald Ssebulime is arrested, handcuffed, immobilised and shot dead by police officer Ssali on ‘orders from above’.

August 2019, Ziggy Wine, a People Power diehard and a Bobi wine’s mobiliser is savagely murdered in cold blood, after extensive torture. There have since been extensive police efforts, redolent of Idi Amin’s methods, to dress the torture-murder into a common road accident using risibly spliced CCTV camera footage.

5 September 2019, Joshua Rushegyera and Tumukunde Merina are gunned down on the Entebbe Expressway in the night, by suspected security officers.

One could go on and on until the cows come home.

So, the selective condemnation raises questions about real motive of the State Department, whether it’s actually to hold people accountable for human rights violations or some other reason only known to the Americans who are then using human rights as a way of achieving their goals.

Therefore, if the Americans want to be taken seriously that they are concerned about the situation of human rights in Uganda their list of sanctionable individuals might indeed include Kale Kayihura. But without the individual that was giving instructions to Kayihura, i.e. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, on top of that sanctions list, this act smacks of some kind of posturing.

Indeed, if the Americans are serious they also know that these human rights violations are linked to corruption around Museveni, his brother Saleh, son Muhozi, and are defended by their equally corrupt hired mouthpiece Andrew Mwenda. Unlike these abusers, even Kayihura was not a corrupt man, even his critics say this, which possibly explains why he became the odd man out.

Ultimately, most Ugandans will welcome the sanctioning of Kale Kayihura and the Americans will be appreciated for this. However, it won’t mean much when it is perceived to be selective and not targeting the entire crime network that Museveni has built to keep power and to loot Uganda’s resources to benefit his family and cronies.

“We will continue to promote accountability for those who violate human rights,” Secretary Pompeo declared on 13 March. If Americans are really seriously interested in defending the rights of Ugandans as they have declared, then they know what Ugandans expect from them: No human rights violations can happen to the extent Kayihura is being accused of having committed them over such an extended period without Museveni’s express instructions, clearance and protection of the violator.