WASHINGTON–The United States is “gravely concerned” by reports of excessive force used by Uganda’s security forces against lawmakers and journalists in the northwestern town of Arua, the State Department said Sept. 10 after the country’s opposition called on Washington to suspend military support to Kampala.
A group of five lawmakers, including opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, who is also a musician known by his stage name Bobi Wine, were arrested in Arua last month. Kyagulanyi, who is currently in the United States for medical treatment, and fellow member of parliament Francis Zaake say they were tortured while in detention.
“We have received multiple credible reports of excessive use of force by the Special Forces Command (SFC), including abuse of members of parliament, journalists and others,” the State Department said in a statement. “The United States has made clear to the Ugandan government that such human rights abuses are unacceptable.”
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, on Sept. 9, warned against foreign interference in Uganda’s politics.
Washington is a major source of funding for Uganda’s military, supplying hardware, cash, and training. It has given equipment, money, and intelligence for the military’s hunt for Lord’s Resistance Army warlord Joseph Kony.
Museveni also has received diplomatic support from Washington for deploying troops in international peacekeeping missions including the fight against militants in Somalia.
The State Department said the U.S. embassy in Kampala had not worked with Uganda’s Special Forces Command (SFC) since early 2016 because of human-rights concerns. The U.S. relationship with Uganda was aimed at promoting stability and security in the region.
“It is now up to the Ugandan government to demonstrate respect for its constitution and its citizens and conduct a transparent, credible, and timely investigation into these events,” according to the statement. “Any security personnel found to have used inappropriate force must be held accountable.
By Lesley Wroughton