XUG Coalition Statement on CHOGM

>> Friday, November 16, 2007

Questioning the "Common Wealth"
November 18, 2007

It is a great shame that an organization like the Commonwealth, which professes to stand for the rule of law, respect for human rights, democratic pluralism and peaceful co-existence with neighboring states, is rewarding a military dictator with chairmanship of the Commonwealth, concluding the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), November 23-25th in Kampala, Uganda.

The record of President Yoweri Museveni’s rule in Uganda since he shot himself to power in 1986 indicates that he has consistently violated, and continues to disregard, all of the principles and ideals of the Commonwealth. In light of this, we question the criteria used by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in selecting Uganda as the host country for CHOGM and the appointment of General Museveni as Chair.


Uganda has been ruled by a military dictator clothed in flimsy civilian attire for the last 21 years. President Lt. Gen. Yoweri Museveni in 2005 hijacked Uganda's constitution by pressuring (bribing) Parliament[1] to remove Presidential term limits. In doing so, he reneged on a promise he had made to Ugandans 5 years earlier that he would not run for office again. Not only did he run last year, but he stacked the deck in his favor by arresting the major opposition candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye on concocted "treason" charges. Subsequently, Lt. Gen. Museveni declared himself the victor in country-wide elections tainted by massive rigging.[2]

As U.S. Senator John Kerry noted in a letter to President George Bush on October 29, the day before Museveni’s visit to the White House: “Breaking his express promise to abide by the terms of the Constitution allowed President Museveni to seek reelection for a third time in 2006.” Kerry urged Bush to “ask President Museveni to reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law.”[3]

Shackling the Rule of Law

Under Museveni's dictatorship there is no longer any pretense of rule of law; enforcement of the government’s will has extended to the courts. Shockingly, on November 25, 2005 and again on March 12, 2007, a secretive force called "The Black Mambas Squad" which is directly controlled by General Museveni's agents and not accountable to Parliament, stormed Uganda’s High Court to intimidate judges and re-arrest political prisoners who had been granted bail or released by the courts.[4] After the second incident, in protest of the gross interference and dismissal of Uganda’s judicial system,[5] judges and lawyers went on strike nationwide.[6] Even in the darkest days of Amin’s dictatorship this never happened.

Containing the Opposition

During the 2006 election, on several occasions, opposition political party candidates’ demonstrations, meetings and gatherings were violently suppressed by the police and government armed militias. On April 23, 2005 the government army was utilized to beat up four opposition ministers of parliament: Hon. Michael Ocula, Hon. Odongo Otto, Hon. Reagan Okumu and Hon. Latigo Morris. Harassment of two of the MP’s (Okumu and Latigo) continued when they were jailed on falsely trumped up murder charges. A Human Rights Watch report of the incident called attention to a Ugandan law which permits the detention of suspects on charges such as treason, rape and murder for almost a year without being eligible for bail.[7]

Equally as alarming, Uganda now operates "safe houses" where political opposition members or those suspected of being anti-government are routinely tortured.[8] Danish Ambassador and Head of the European Union’s Delegation to Uganda Styg Barlyng, whose Kampala residence is located next to one, witnessed a torture victim’s attempted escape in March 31, 2006. The escapee’s tormentors overpowered the Ambassador’s security guards and dragged the screaming suspect back into the "safe house."[9] Amnesty International has recently launched an “action alert” to address such tortures in Uganda.[10]

Repression of the Press

The press has not been spared by the oppressive hand of the Kampala dictatorship. Many prominent local journalists including (Charles Obbo[11] and Andrew Mwenda[12] ) have been detained and intimidated; newspapers have been forcibly closed. Canadian journalist Blake Lambert was recently unceremoniously thrown out of Uganda after his reporting ventured into sensitive territory.[13] Censorship is the order of the day.

Regional Military Aggression

Uganda’s military aggression against several of its neighboring countries, including the 1990 invasion of Rwanda, which was a contributing factor in the genocide four years later in 1994, is well-documented. Uganda's second invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997, led to the partitioning of the DRC and the proliferation of Uganda-sponsored militias. In December 2005, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in the DRC's favor, finding Uganda liable for war crimes including: massacres, rapes, looting of Congo's resources, mutilations, and other human rights abuses.[14] Uganda was ordered to pay $10 billion in compensation.[15]

Separately, in 2004, the International Criminal Court (ICC) initiated its own investigation of crimes against humanity involving Uganda's army and Uganda-supported militias in the DRC during Uganda's occupation between 1997 and 2005. The ICC has the mandate to indict Ugandan military and civil officials alleged to have been involved in the Congo genocide, which has claimed an estimated more than 5 million lives, including President Museveni.[16]

Forced Displacement, Death in Acholiland

Uganda has suffered gravely from 20 years of civil war involving the national army, the Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) and the vicious Lord's Resistance Army. The war has mostly been confined to the northern part of the country, where the government’s counter-insurgency has utilized tactics reminiscent of Nazi Germany—featuring the establishment of what the government terms “protected villages.”[17]

Nearly two million Ugandans from northern and eastern Uganda (primarily of the Acholi ethnic group) have been confined in squalid camps for over 10 years. Recently the crisis was made worse by disastrous floods.[18] Again, the government’s response was slow, and even as the world gathers in Kampala for CHOGM, thousands of people in the north are still reeling from devastatingly destructive ripples of hunger and disease.[19]

A survey conducted by Uganda's own Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005 revealed that at the height of the crisis, more than 1,000 excess deaths per week occurred in these 200 or so camps due to the camp conditions, which were characterized by insufficient access to basic needs such as water, health care, food and protection. [20] This translates into 52,000 deaths per year or 520,000 in the last decade and more than a million over the duration of the war.

Forgotten Crisis, Ignored Genocide

While there has been a lot of agreement about the travesty of the crisis in northern Uganda, bold steps to remedy the plight of the people has not been forthcoming from either the Ugandan government or the international community. As representatives from governments all over the world gather in Uganda, it is our wish that they visit the north, witness the conditions of Uganda’s forgotten citizens in northern and eastern Uganda and resolve to improve their lot by instituting developmental assistance which directly improves their basic conditions. As well, stringent accountability of funds slated for the north by their respective governments must be ensured.

Two former top UN officials have attempted to bring the northern Ugandan crisis to the world’s attention. Dr. Olara Otunnu, former UN Undersecretary General for Children in Armed Conflict rightly refers to the northern situation as a “secret genocide.” While Jan Egeland, UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs in 2003 enshrined the inaction of both the Ugandan government and the international community--calling the northern crisis “. . . the biggest forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today.”

Mortgaging Uganda, Land Rights

Uganda has essentially been mortgaged to various foreign investors and the issue of land rights and land use is a growing point of conflict in Uganda. Under the pretext of preparing for the Commonwealth Conference, President Museveni destroyed landmark public institutions and gave the land to special guest investors.[21] Likewise, in the name of investments, he attempted to sell-off a portion of the revered Mabira Forest for growing sugar cane.[22]

In northern Uganda’s Amuru district, negotiations regarding the sale of large tracts of land to sugar moguls[23] have begun to take place—even as the owners of the land in question remain incarcerated by poverty, disease and circumstance in Internally Displaced People's camps. The recently proposed amendment to Uganda’s Land Act will replace judges with government officials as mediators in land disputes—in effect bolstering the state’s ability to arbitrarily annex privately owned land. (Monitor, Kampala). Commenting on the implications of the amendment, a Kampala lawyer stated that "removal of land cases from courts would set a very dangerous precedent” and would “lead to the crumbling of rule of law and anarchy."[24]

Betrayal and Justice?

The millions of Ugandans who have suffered and survived the tyranny of Uganda’s recent history, beginning with the 1971 military coup by Idi Amin had much hope in the new Constitution, and were wholly betrayed when Gen. Museveni fundamentally destroyed it, by lifting presidential term limits—essentially recreating the law to suit his own ends.

This complete disregard of law has been translated to millions of Congolese[25] who have been adversely impacted by Uganda’s war crimes[26] in the DRC. The remaining hope for the Congolese is that the International Criminal Court (ICC) can conduct its investigations without any obstruction; however, for millions of their Ugandan neighbors, a secure future remains an uncertainty.

Common citizens of the commonwealth must pressure their governments to end their collusion in Uganda’s tyranny, demand accountability for public funds and advocate for the re-institution of human rights and peace.

> 21 Years and Running Writing Campaign

Works Cited

[1] BBC News, “Uganda MPs ‘beaten by troops,’” 23 November, 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/4034717.stm.

[2] Human Rights Watch “In Hope and Fear: Uganda’s Presidential and Parliamentary Polls ” February 2006, http://hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/uganda0206/index.htm.

[3] Allimadi, Milton. “Kerry: Uganda’s 2006 Elections ‘Marred’,” Blackstarnews.com, 30 October 2007, http://blackstarnews.com/?c=135&a=3853.

[4] Dewey, Gudrun. “A Reflection on Real Security for Uganda,” Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, April 2006 Vol. 14, http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org.

[5] “Widespread Condemnation of High Court Invasion,” Legal Brief Africa, Issue 221, 12 March 2007, http://www.legalbrief.co.za/article.php?story=20070312150046401.

[6] BBC News, “Strike halts Ugandan High Court,” 28 November 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4477110.stm

[7] Uganda: Key Opposition MPs Arrested” Human Rights Watch: Human Rights News, April 27, 2005, http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/04/27/uganda10548.htm.

[8] Sung, Michael. “Torture Most Common Rights Abuse Complaint in Uganda,” Jurist, 25 July 2007, http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2007.

[9] Mukasa, Henry. “Denmark, Govt in Talks Over Envoy Raid,” New Vision, 31 March 2006.

[10] Amnesty International, “Amnesty International Public Statement on Torture in Uganda,” 14 September 2007, http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR590062007.

[11] “Attacks in the Press in 2002,” Committee to Protect Journalists, 31 March 2003, http://www.cpj.org/attacks02/africa02/uganda.html.

[12] “A day after station is shut, Ugandan talk show host is arrested,” Committee for the Protection of Journalists, 12 August 2005, http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/Uganda12aug05na.html.

[13] Robert Ménard, “How to ‘kick out’ a foreign journalist,” Reporters Without Borders, April 3, 2006, http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16911

[14] “Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo” International Court of Justice Press Release, 12 December 2005, http://www.icj-cij.org.

[15] Wasswa, Henry “Will Uganda Pay Up for Congo Occupation?” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 26 July 2007, http://www.iwpr.net/?p=acr&s=f&o=337444&apc_state=henfacr337372.

[16] Human Rights Watch “ICC/DRC: Second War Crimes Suspect to Face Justice in the Hague,” 18 October, 2007, http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/10/18/global17125.htm.

[17] Patrick, Erin “Little Protection in ‘Protected Villages’: IDPs in Northern Uganda,” Migration Policy Institute, May 2005, http://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/uganda_two.php

[18] “Uganda Floods,” Web Source: Logic Cluster, [Retrieved 18 November, 2007], http://www.logcluster.org/uganda-floods.

[19] Pflanz, Mike. “Uganda's £70m conference, £7m flood relief” 18 November 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/11/18/wuganda118.xml.

[20] Republic of Uganda, Ministry of Health. “Health and mortality survey among internally displaced persons in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts, northern Uganda” July 2005, [Retrieved November 18 2007], [Retrieved November 18 2007], http://www.who.int/hac/crises/uga/sitreps/Ugandamortsurvey.pdf.

[21] Isingoma, John. “Word on the Street: Government Redistribution of Land” 25 August 2006, http://www.ugpulse.com/articles/daily/homepage.asp?ID=483.

[22] BBC NEWS. “Deaths in Uganda forest protest,” 12 April 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/6548107.stm2007/04/12.

[23] Kasasira, Risdel. “MPs decline to give Madhavan land in Acholi,” Monitor, 6 October 2007, http://allafrica.com/stories/200710080264.html.

[24] Muyita, Solomon and Mugerwa, Yasiin. “The Controversial Proposed Land Amendments,” Monitor, 3 November 2007, http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200711020967.html.

[25] AP News, “Armed Congo Groups Accused of War Crimes,” 10 August 2004, http://www.peacewomen.org/news/DRC/Aug04/warcrimes.html.

[26] Kalyegira Timothy. “Political implication of the Congo crisis,” Monitor, 26 September 26 2007, http://medilinkz.org/news/news2.asp?NewsID=21846.


About This Blog

The X.U.G (Xpose Uganda's Genocide) Coalition was created to bring to light the truth about Yoweri Museveni's woefully undemocratic regime and the ongoing secret genocide in northern Uganda, with the aim of the restoration of human rights and peace.

The coalition's secondary goal is to ensure accountability for reconstruction and development funds slated for war-torn N. Uganda by the US and other donors.

A crisis of epic proportions, the genocide being carried out against the Acoli for the last two decades has produced devastating consequences.

For the sake of current and future generations in Uganda, the world must recognize and end the genocide in Uganda. All Ugandans have a right to basic human rights, including the right to health, protection and education.

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