Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine has written to United Nations General Secretary António Guterres asking him to compel President Yoweri Museveni to allow opposition politicians to distribute relief food items to Ugandans during the lockdown, and also respect human rights.
For his petition to the UN, Bobi Wine, the leader of the People Power pressure group, secured the backing of opposition leader and People’s Government President Dr Kizza Besigye, Democratic Party (DP) President Norbert Mao, JEEMA’s Asuman Basalirwa and Peter Mukidi Walubiri of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC).
Besides Guterres, Bobi copied his letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and head of EU delegation to Uganda Attilio Pacifici, among other officials in governments in the West and international bodies.
In the letter, Bobi details the ordeal of his People Power ally and Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake who was arrested last month while supplying food to his constituents contrary to President Museveni’s orders that all relief items be taken to the Covid19 National Taskforce which would then distribute them to the vulnerable poor. Zaake appeared in a Mityana Court bearing marks of alleged torture.
He further complained of highhanded by the security forces during lockdown curfew hours, particularly blaming the Local Defence Units (LDUs).
Bobi Wine who donated food items to the taskforce also told the UN boss that the taskforce’s food distribution efforts were “riddled with corruption” and “highly politicized.”
“Our ruling party colleagues are free to distribute food without molestation. With an election scheduled for early 2021, this sends a chilling message to the voters: support the regime or starve,” Bobi and his colleagues complained. “We are appealing to you and the international community in general because our efforts to solve our problems are thwarted at every turn by the violence of the Museveni regime.”
The team of opposition politicians has asked Guterres to push the matter to the UN Security Council, ask donors to rethink their funding to Kampala and consider punitive measures against security officials involved in mistreatment of Ugandans.
So, what is this latest attempt by Bobi Wine likely to achieve? It should be remembered that such petitions to the UN, the US or the UK are nothing new, especially coming from Bobi Wine and Besigye.
In fact, most of the issues raised in this letter are being handled by one of those copied in. Days ago, head of EU delegation to Uganda Attilio Pacifici complained to government over Zaake’s issue and the arrest of other activists.
On April 29, Pacifici wrote what sounded like a warning to Kampala, thus, “The EU firmly opposes torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. We are very concerned about reports of human rights violations of people arrested during Covid19 lockdown, including MP Zaake and [author] Rukirabashaija. Due process must be followed and rights upheld even during lockdown.”
But Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo told off EU’s Pacifici: “Surely, don’t pretend to know what’s good for Ugandans or that you care so much.”
Pacifici then ran to Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Prof Ephraim Kamuntu who responded to him with promises that the matters would be handled by the Judiciary. Minister Kamuntu also assured Pacifici that lawyers would be allowed as essential workers to help defend the clients who might have been mistreated by members of the security forces.
On receiving Prof Kamuntu’s response, Ambassador Pacifici went ahead to praise the Museveni Minister.
“Minister Kamuntu responded to my plea. His professionalism, commitment, passion for work, respect and consideration for all partners made him our best friend and ally as Minister in charge of wildlife and antiquities. Such a relation continues stronger than ever. Thank you Professor,” wrote Pacific,” said Pacifici.
When Opondo learnt of the reply Kamuntu had sent to Ambassador Pacifici on April 30, and how the envoy had welcomed it, he urged him to always use proper channels to address issues between states.
“That’s a better way to deal with a sovereign country than trying to lecture us especially when you haven’t even established the accuracy of the allegations,” wrote Opondo.
The Pacifici-Kamuntu correspondence points to the responses Bobi should expect from the agencies and governments he is running to for redress. One of the officials he copied in seems to have already given his verdict on the same matter raised in a different letter. And Kampala is likely to, as usual, dismiss calls on the West and international agencies to deal with Uganda, reminding them that Uganda is a sovereign state.
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