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Civil Society Letter to Sec Clinton | May 30, 2011

Civil Society Letter to Sec Clinton | May 30, 2011

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Published by: Resolve on May 30, 2011
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05/30/2011

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May 30, 2011The Honorable Hillary ClintonSecretary of StateU.S. Department of State2201 C Street, NWWashington, DC 20520Dear Secretary Clinton,
Your tenure as US Secretary of State is taking place at a crucial time in Uganda’s history and US
-Uganda
relations. Recent national elections and the Ugandan government’s brutal crackdown on the “walk towork” demonstrations in Uganda have highlighted existing concerns about the state of human rights and
democracy there and their impact on the future stability of the country. The US has a firm alliance withthe current Ugandan government and contributes a significant amount of bilateral foreign aid to Uganda- over $450 million in Fiscal Year 2010.
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This relationship makes the US particularly well positioned toengage the Ugandan government to protect and advance the human rights, political freedoms, andeconomic well-being of its citizens. However, we are concerned that the US is not adequately using itsleverage with the Ugandan government to do so.We write you today to strongly encourage you to use the diplomatic and financial resources at yourdisposal to ensure progress towards a peaceful, free, and economically secure future for all Ugandans.Doing so will require direct, high-level engagement by yourself and other senior administration officialswith the Ugandan government, as well as the continued efforts of the US Ambassador to Uganda andthe Assistant Secretary of State for Africa. To do so will require a more appropriate balance by the USbetween engagement on issues of democratic governance and human rights and cooperation with theUgandan government on regional security and counter-terror issues. The US has important nationalsecurity interests it is entitled to pursue, but not at the expense of human rights and political freedomsof ordinary Ugandans; to do so could trigger future instability that would erase economic growth anddevelopment gains achieved by US foreign assistance and hurt US national security interests in the long-term.In particular, we would like to highlight several issues that we believe require your urgent engagement
with the Ugandan government: reform of Uganda’s electoral process and ending violent crackdowns on
opposition supporters, reform of the Ugandan military and security sector, and promotion of sustainableeconomic growth that benefits all Ugandans.
Electoral reform and ending violent crackdowns on opposition supporters in Uganda
The 2011 national elections in Uganda, though largely peaceful, were marred by several issues thatultimately prevented them from being free and fair, including: lack of an independent electoralcommission, intimidating deployment of Ugandan military forces before and during the elections, lack of a level playing field for opposition political parties, intimidation of independent media sources, andarbitrary arrest and harassment of opposition supporters leading up to the elections. Many of theseissues were recognized in reports issued by civil society groups, electoral observer missions from theAfrican Union and European Union, and reports you issued to Congress throughout the 2011 electoralprocess. This scenario was not surprising- similar issues plagued the Ugandan electoral process in 2001and 2006.
 
The Ugandan government has continued violent crackdowns on Ugandan citizens, including oppositionsupporters, in the post-election period. Ugandan police and military officials have responded to peaceful
“walk to work” demonstrations in April and May with tear gas, live ammunition, and
truncheons. Atleast nine unarmed people have been killed by government forces, dozens injured, and over 600arrested.US officials have publicly called for the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and Ugandangovernment to institute electoral reforms and end arrests and repression of opposition supporters.However, you and other senior State Department officials have been largely silent on these issues,raising concern that short-term US national security interests remain an overriding priority in US-Ugandarelations. Diplomatic engagement to discourage the passage of the Anti-
Homosexuality bill by Uganda’s
Parliament has been positive, but equally strong diplomatic engagement should be extended to addressother human rights concerns in Uganda. Your direct leadership and that of other senior StateDepartment officials is needed to achieve concrete progress over the next five years to ensure free, fair,and peaceful elections in 2016 and to protect the rights of Ugandan citizens to organize anddemonstrate peacefully.Specifically we ask that you use the diplomatic and financial resources at your disposal to:
 
Press the Ugandan government to withdraw support for any legislation in Uganda’s Parliament
that unlawfully restricts the rights of minorities, including the Anti-Homosexuality bill, andimpedes freedom of expression or public assembly
 ;
 
Press the Ugandan government to allow peaceful demonstrations and hold police, military, andmilitia forces accountable for violence committed against demonstrators and oppositionsupporters;
 
Press the Ugandan government to develop and enforce a clear legal framework to preventUgandan military personnel from becoming involved in political affairs or from being improperlydeployed during election periods, and to hold personnel who violate the rules accountable;
 
Encourage and facilitate the development of strong civil society networks to participate in andmonitor electoral processes, as well as to closely monitor the intimidation and harassment of civil society and raise concerns with the Ugandan government;
 
Press the Ugandan government to appoint an independent electoral commission and ensure ithas the resources and freedom to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections in 2016; and
 
Consider withholding some support to the Ugandan military and police if these forces remainpartisan and unaccountable for human rights violations and until concrete progress is made onthe issues raised above.
Military and security sector reform
Actions by the Uganda People’
s Defense Force (UPDF) continue to undermine the implementation of itsconstitutional mandate to protect the people of Uganda. UPDF forces have a history of committinghuman rights abuses against civilians in northern Uganda, and continue to commit grave human rightsviolations against civilians in Karamoja. In recent years, UPDF commanders have also prevented someformer members of the LRA from reintegrating into civilian life under the terms of the 2000 Amnesty Actand have coerced them into joining the UPDF to fight the LRA. Senior commanders of the UPDF arewidely seen to support the ruling NRM government, and have deployed their forces to intimidateopposition supporters during election periods. Military police killed at least 40 people during protests inKampala in September 2009 and there have been no investigations or prosecutions of responsible
 
soldiers. The State Department’s 2010 Uganda Human Rights report documents several cases of 
Ugandan military and police committing abuses against civilians and escaping accountability.
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 The US works closely with the UPDF on regional security and counter-terror initiatives by providingtraining and financial support for the UPDF, including for operations outside of Uganda in Somalia and
against the Lord’s Res
istance Army (LRA). In addition to funds to support Ugandan operations in Somaliaand against the LRA, the US gave over $1 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and InternationalMilitary Education and Training (IMET), and International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement(INCLE) assistance to the Ugandan military in Fiscal Year 2010. Some security sector units that havereceived support from or collaborated with the US, such as the Joint Anti-terrorism Task Force (JATT)and the Ugandan police, have been implicated in gross human rights abuses against Ugandan citizens.US support for the UPDF and other security agencies gives US officials a unique moral and strategicresponsibility to promote professionalism, respect for human rights, and political neutrality within UPDFranks. The US should work with the Ugandan government to greatly strengthen military and policeaccountability mechanisms so that all personnel, including in particular high-ranking commanders, canbe accountable for crimes against civilians and other human rights abuses. Doing so will require you toconsider all sources of leverage at your disposal, including the possibility of conditioning some USmilitary assistance on concrete improvements in human rights and democratic governance.Specifically we ask that you use the diplomatic and financial resources at your disposal to:
 
Strengthen accountability mechanisms within the UPDF and Ugandan security services to ensurethat allegations of human rights abuses are thoroughly investigated and all perpetrators held toaccount;
 
Ensure US military assistance does not support UPDF or security service units that areresponsible for gross human rights abuses, in accordance with the Leahy Amendment;
 
Press the UPDF to ensure that former LRA combatants are given amnesty certificates andbenefits accorded them by the 2000 Amnesty Act, and are not coerced into joining the UPDF;and
 
Consider withholding some US military assistance to Uganda until concrete progress is made onthe issues raised above.
Recovery for conflict-affected regions and sustainable development
Recent events across North Africa and the Middle East have demonstrated that economic stagnation,high-level corruption, and uneven development can lead to political instability and unrest. Despite
unprecedented economic growth in Uganda under the rule of the NRM, “
corruption and government
interference in the private sector are endemic”
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and have concentrated wealth in politically-connectedelite, slowed economic growth, and sparked fears about the sustainability of major oil developmentprojects in western and northern Uganda. Stark economic disparities also exist between areas mostrecently affected by conflict, such as northern Uganda and Karamoja, and the rest of Uganda. Thesedisparities
 –
and the failure of the Ugandan government to close them- exacerbate historical politicaland ethnic divisions in Uganda that have led to destructive civil conflict and loss of human life in thepast.The US has invested substantial financial resources in promoting development in Uganda, over $70million in Development Assistance funds in Fiscal Year 2010 alone. However, these investments in
Uganda’s future need to be matched by a political strategy to encourage more effective leadership from
the Ugandan government in combating corruption, equitably exploiting oil and other natural resources,

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