Gov’t Blasts EU, Respect Uganda’s Sovereignty

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The Ugandan government has asked the European Union (EU) Parliament to respect the country’s sovereignty and ensure non-interference if relations between the two is to be sustained.

The EU Parliament last week adopted 19 resolutions taking the stock of human rights violations in Uganda in the period before, during and after the recent elections. In the resolutions was a call for justice for Ugandans who died in the November 2020 riots, and a call for sanctions against individuals and organizations responsible for human rights violations in Uganda.

The Parliament also called for scrutiny of Uganda’s fiscal management and transparency and systematic reviews of the EU budget support programs, and asked the government to stop using COVID-19 enforcement to violate rights and freedoms of its opponents. Also adopted is a recommendation to ensure freedom of the press, to secure unrestricted internet access, and ensure the unconditional release of all those arrested and detained for ‘protesting peacefully,’ among others.

Now in a 10-page letter dated February 15, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa has written to the President of the European Parliament, indicating that they were undermining Ugandan institutions and sovereignty of the country.

Kutesa who responded to all the allegations one at a time indicated that Uganda and EU relations are historical and strong, but the sustenance will depend on the upholding of the universally accepted principles of mutual respect, non-interference and sovereignty.

He says that they welcome any engagement with partners as long as they observe the principles, which in their view is inviolable. He says that the EU resolution was undermining Ugandan institutions like the courts of law and the Electoral commission.

Kutesa added that he is perturbed by the resolution that refers to the process and the results declared by the Electoral commission. “This statement is clearly partisan in tone and intent. We see this as an attempt to undermine and challenge the Electoral Commission and its work”, Kutesa says. He hastens to add that the statements are unfortunate at a time when the matter was still before the court which will determine the validity of the elections.

He says the statement is a mockery to the rule of law which the European Union stands for, and an attempt to influence the outcome of the ongoing court process. 

On the arrest of human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, Kutesa says that the accused was charged with an offence in Uganda and the  EU should not disrespect institutions doing their work.

On elections, Kutesa says that Presidential candidates Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu of the National Unity Platform (NUP) and Patrick Oboi Amuriat of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) chose to defy all the standard operating procedures set by the Ministry of health and that is why they were arrested.

“These two repeatedly told or intimated to their supporters that COVID-19 was a hoax, incited them and willingly breached  the SOPs, organizing mass rallies, thereby putting the lives of everyone, not just themselves and their supporters, at risk in the middle of a pandemic” Kutesa says.

Kutesa says that following the arrest of Kyagulanyi, there was a pre-planned and funded riot in which his supporters engaged in robbery,  mounting of illegal roadblocks,  assaulting innocent people and attacks on security personnel in Kampala which resulted into arrests .    

“The Government is on record as stating that the incidents of November 2020 were regrettable and will continue to be investigated with a view to determining conclusively if and where operational mistakes were made by individual security personnel thereby unlawfully causing death in particular cases” he says.  

He says Government will compensate those who loved ones died innocently in the shootings.  

Kutesa says Uganda achieved a historic milestone in holding a peaceful election amidst COVID-19 and he is, therefore, “quite frankly concerned  how the EU Parliament in its resolution downplays the threat of COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda” well aware of the stringent measures EU countries have taken to fight COVID-19. He says campaigns in some parts of the country were suspended for all the candidates and this was not a pretext to restrict the opposition.

On the issue of gay rights, Kutesa says that Uganda does not condone the promotion of sexual orientation of any kinds, but maintained that gay persons are not being persecuted in Uganda.

On threats to sanction individuals involved,  Kutesa has described it as regrettable, unwarranted and unwelcome and a barely disguised attempt to intimidate  officials entrusted with  ensuring the security and well being of all Ugandans into dodging responsibility. Kutesa instead called for those advocating for the sanctions to reconsider this decision.

On media, Kutesa says that Uganda understands the importance of the media, that’s why hundreds of them are licensed, but many had started broadcasting hate speech and calling for people to protest in the streets and when the severity of the messages became apparent, Government responded by shutting the internet which has since been restored.

He says there is proof that the strategy worked as elections were peaceful and the country has moved on. Kutesa also says the west has twisted President Museveni’s call for mutual respect has been treated as anti-western.

On missing persons and kidnaps, Kutesa says that missing persons are being looked for while all those arrested will be prosecuted.  

On freezing accounts of Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society, Kutesa says Government recognizes the critical role played by them in advancement of democracy and a better society, however, he added that all organizations are expected to comply with the law.

Kutesa says Uganda is concerned from both a political view and a health view about the timing of the resolution at a time when the world is battling COVID-19. He says the Government of Uganda is committed to ensure domestic tranquility, the security and welfare of its citizens.