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2 May 2019

The Right Honourable Theresa May

Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

Dear Prime Minister:

We are writing to call your attention to the dire state of affairs in Uganda – a country that has
recieved hundreds of millions in development and humanitarian aid from the United Kingdom.
Many regard Uganda as a bastion of democracy and stability in a troubled region. In reality, it is
a military dictatorship in which the Ugandan Junta, under the direct control of President Yuweri
Museveni, uses violence to terrorize civilians and suppress political dissent. These illegal actions
fly in the face of Uganda’s constitution and its guarantees of freedom of assembly, association,
peaceful demonstrations, and the right to participate in the affairs of government.

Indeed, just this week the Ugandan government arrested our client, the hugely popular
musician/Member of Parliament HE Robert Kyagulanyi AKA Bobi Wine, in a blatant attempt to
silence his opposition movement. At the time, Mr Kyagulanyi was en route to a scheduled
interview with the Criminal Investigations Department which concerned the government’s
cancellation of his concert and his arrest (on different charges) earlier that same month. In total,
the government has blocked 124 concerts organised by Mr Kyagulanyi, who uses his music to
criticise government excesses.

Ugandan police intercepted Mr Kyugalanyi’s car at a roundabout and took him into their
custody. Some two hours later, he was taken to court where he was remanded to Luzira
maximum security prison until 2 May 2019. The initial charges against him relate to a protest
held in July 2018 against Uganda’s social media tax. According to police, “he faces additional
charges of holding an illegal assembly and procession, after he was accused of organizing his
supporters to escort him along the wayi”. This morning, Mr Kyugalani was granted bail
following a hearing at the Buganda Road court. Mr Kyagulani did not attend the hearing and
instead made his submissions via video conference from inside the prison.


The days following Mr Kyagulanyi’s arrest have seen the police abandon any pretence of
proportionate force. Ugandan police arrested scores of Mr Kyagulanyi’s supporters that had
taken to the streets to protest his arrest. On Tuesday, security forces used tear gas, water cannons,
rubber bullets and even live ammunition to disperse the crowds of protestors. Many people have
already been injured and still, the protests continue, undeterred.

Yesterday, the Ugandan government directed seven radio stations and six television stations to
suspend members of their staff for airing content which allegedly breaches “minimum broadcast
standards”.ii It should come as no surprise that the content referred to is coverage of, and
commentary on, Mr Kyagulanyi’s arrest as well as discussion of his opposition movement and of
Mr Kyagulanyi in general. While free speech is frequently cencored in Uganda, this blatant
intimidation of the media marks a worrying escalation in President Museveni’s efforts to
eradicate the voice of dissent, and in particular, that of Mr Kyagulanyi and his supporters.

Still, many Ugandans, have now spoken out against the government, condemning Mr
Kyagulanyi’s arrest. Most noteably, General Mugisha Muntu, former commander of the
Ugandan army under President Museveni, remarked on how the situation in Uganda “keeps
deteriorating” and that “…[t]here is a wind of change. When time for change comes, you can't
stop it".iii

Outside of Uganda, Mr Kyagulanyi’s arrest continues to make headlines in the international

press, prompting NGOs and politicians all over the world to speak out against the Museveni
regime and the actions of Uganda’s police forces. On Wednesday, Seif Magango, Amnesty
International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, declared that “The
Ugandan authorities must immediately free Bobi Wine and stop misusing the law in a shameless
attempt to silence him for criticizing the government”.iv

A tidal wave of support has also been growing on social media, with thousands of people using
Twitter and other platforms to voice their outrage. Amongst them is a statement from the former
Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the United Nations Development Program,
the Right Honourable Helen Elizabeth Clark. Ms Clark noted on Twitter that it was “[v]ery
distressing to see #Uganda opposition MP & popular musician #BobiWine detained again. Last
year in detention he was beaten & tortured. International solidarity is vital to protect Bobi's
health & life”v.

Prime Minister, in nineteen short months, the Ugandans will face the prospect of another staged
election, rigged to defeat the expectations of the common man to achieve a voice in the affairs of
their country. Mr Kyagulanyi and other opposition leaders are fighting for the rights of those
people to be heard. Recently, I was privileged to attend, with Mr Kyagulanyi, a meeting in Berlin

wherein he outlined not only his program for Uganda’s future development, but his fears for the
continuation of any form of opposition activity at the present moment in time.

The events of this past week and those detailed below, illustrate the lengths that President
Museveni will go to in order to retain his control over Uganda and importantly, highlight the
urgent need for the United Kingdom’s attention.

Museveni’s repressive rule in Uganda

Prime Minister, elections in Uganda are routinely marred by state sponsored violence, beatings
and killings of opposition figures and their supporters, voter bribery and most likely electronic
vote Numerous critics of Museveni’s government have died under mysterious
circumstances in car accidents, apparent poisonings, drive-by shootings and other incidents.
While investigations have been promised, they either have not been carried out, or the reports
have not been made public.vii

Torture and other human rights abuses have been a mainstay of President Museveni’s regime
since he seized power in 1986.viii In September 2017, Museveni’s Special Forces troops, wearing
plain clothes, raided the floor of Parliament to prevent opposition MPs from filibustering a bill
that would enable him to extend his grip on power. In the course of the raid, Mukono
Municipality MP Betty Nambooze was crippled and had to be flown abroad for extensive
surgery. She was then rearrested and tortured again in June, necessitating another trip abroad for
surgery. ix

In 2016, over 150 unarmed subjects of the Rwenzururu kingdom in Western Uganda, including
at least fourteen children, were gunned down by security forces in broad daylight. The
commander of this operation, Peter Elwelu, then received a promotion.x

On 13 August 2018, five Parliamentarians, including Mr Kyagulanyi, and twenty-nine others

were rounded up, tortured and held in illegal detention for several days at the conclusion of a by-
election campaign in the northern Ugandan town of Arua. During the melee, Mr Kyagulanyi’s
driver was shot dead, though it is widely believed that Mr Kyagulanyi himself was the intended
target. News of these events, and those which followed, were reported widely in the international
press and numerous NGOs, including Amnesty Internationalxi, released public statements in

The Arua detainees were all charged with treason, a crime punishable by death, in connection
with the alleged stoning of a vehicle in President Museveni’s convoy. Most, if not all of the
accused detainees were nowhere near the scene of the alleged stoning. Several of the accused,
including two of the MPs were severely beaten; one, Francis Zaake, had to be flown to India for

surgery and the other, Shaban Atiku, may never walk again. Numerous journalists, peaceful
demonstrators and bystanders were also arrested and tortured in connection with the events in

The Arua detainees were granted bail on 27 August 2018, however, many other political
prisoners remain behind bars, some reportedly in Uganda’s notorious secret detention centresxiii .
To this day, many of their families remain unaware of their whereabouts.

Since the incident in Arua, President Museveni has relentlessly pursued Mr Kyagulanyi and his
supporters, seizing every opportunity to stifle their oppositional message and subdue the
movement growing around it. In April 2019, Ugandan police cancelled Mr Kyagulanyi’s concert
in Busabala – Wakiso District, blocking a peaceful procession of his supporters and using teargas
cannisters to disperse the crowd. In the chaos that ensued, Mr Kyagulanyi was arrested violently,
yet again. Sometime later, the musical festival’s organisers, Andrew Mukasa and Abbey
Musinguzi, were also arrested.

Upon his release, Mr Kyagulanyi and his family were held under house arrest, with access to his
supporters limited at the whim and discretion of military and police commanders operating
outside the rule of law.

Museveni’s activities in the Great Lakes region

Ugandan citizens are not the only ones who have suffered at the hands of President Museveni’s
regime. During the 1990s, Uganda’s military massacred unarmed civilians in northern and
eastern Uganda, looted animals and food stores, engaged in the mass rape of men and women
and forced nearly two million Acholis into camps where, according to the World Health
Organization, the death toll from disease and hunger rose to above 1000 people per week.xiv

While President Museveni has received praise for hosting nearly half of the more than two
million refugeesxv that have fled war torn South Sudan, less has been said about Uganda’s role as
a key instigator of the violence that has driven these people from their homes.xvi

A recent report by the non-profit group Conflict Armament Researchxvii describes how Uganda
serves as a conduit for small arms, military and surveillance aircraft to the South Sudan regime
and its allies, which have been accused of blocking aid deliveries to opposition areas,xviii raping
aid workersxix and committing genocidal acts.xx Ugandan soldiers have also fought on the side of
the South Sudanese government, in violation of UN sanctions.xxi Meanwhile, Museveni’s
officials have looted millions of dollars donated by the international community for refugee

Despite a European Union arms embargo against South Sudan, in place since 2011,xxiii weapons
sold to Uganda by Bulgaria, Romania and the Slovak Republic have been illegally re-transferred
to South Sudan since at least 2014. While there is no evidence the governments of the three EU
countries knew about this, former Chief of Uganda’s Defense Forces, Katumba Wamala, appears
to have been involved, along with the Permanent Secretary of the Ugandan MOD. One of the
companies involved in these transactions was also named in a 2001 UN Experts report as having
facilitated the transfer of weapons manufactured in the Slovak Republic to the Liberian warlord
Charles Taylor, again via Uganda. An American jet with weapons capabilities also seems to
have been illegally exported to Uganda in 2009, and then illegally re-exported to South Sudan in

Uganda’s troop contribution to the African Union Peacekeeping Force in Somalia (AMISOM)
has helped contain the Al Shabaab insurgency. At the same time, this force, often underpaid and
riven with ethnic division, has been implicated in grave human rights abuses, including the rape
of children,xxiv and has even been caught selling weapons to Al Shabaab itself.xxv Thus Western
taxpayers have been, at times, funding both sides of this brutal war.

More recently, Uganda has been stoking tensions with neighboring Rwanda, which has accused
President Museveni’s security forces of supporting anti-Rwanda rebels.xxvi Museveni has also
indicated his intention to invade neighboring Congo in the near future. The last time the
Ugandan army did so in 1996, it committed war crimes, engaged in looting and caused damage
for which the International Court of Justice ordered reparations of US$10 billion. To date, this
debt remains outstanding.xxvii

Since January 2018, over eighteen people have been shot and killed and over 850 homes and
properties have been burnt down by security forces in Amuru district. This appears to be one of
many disguised land grab projects orchestrated by the Ugandan government throughout the
country in recent years.xxviii

Museveni’s corruption and dismissal of democratic values

While on the one hand President Museveni welcomes funding from the United Kingdom and
other foreign financial aid programs, on the other, he continuously flouts the values we believe
in. In May 2017, Uganda claimed to have cut ties with North Korea, whose brutal military has
been training Uganda’s security forces for decades.xxix However, according to the Wall Street
Journal, North Korean operatives remain inside In December, Chinese businessman
Patrick Ho was convicted in a US court of having sent bribes of US$500,000 each to Museveni
and his Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, when the latter was Chairman of the UN General

In addition to these unsavoury political relationships, Uganda is also a major smuggling route for
gold,xxxii elephant tusks,xxxiii pangolin scalesxxxiv and other contraband.

Museveni’s misuse of Western foreign aid

Since 1986, billions of dollars have been stolen by President Museveni’s associates from the
Ugandan Treasury and foreign aid programs, including the Global Fund for AIDS TB and
Malaria and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.xxxv While some foreign aid to
Uganda goes to reputable charities and supports care for people suffering from diseases such as
HIV, much of it also goes to multilateral organizations such as the World Bank which aid
Uganda’s Treasury directly. This aid is highly vulnerable to theft and misuse.xxxvi

In 2012, €12 million in aid funding from Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden was funnelled
into the private bank accounts of officials working in the Prime Minister’s officexxxvii . Since
then, the United Kingdom has quite rightly suspended budget support to the Ugandan
Governmentxxxviii and yet, it nonetheless allocated a budget of over £99 million in aid to Uganda
for the fiscal year 2018/2019xxxix .

Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of hardware and training from donor nations have also
gone to Uganda’s military, which deploys it for internal repression or diverts it to clandestine
support for foreign wars.xl For years the United Kingdom has provided military and intelligence
training to senior Ugandan officers and cadets at both Sandhurst and the Defence Academy of
the United Kingdomxli. In January 2019, Dr Paul Williams MP addressed this issue at the House
of Commons, remarking:

“… when there are questions about the Ugandan army’s use of cluster bombs in South Sudan,
when the army is used to enter Parliament and, allegedly, to massacre people in Kasese, or when
special forces are used to hunt down and arrest politicians campaigning in a by-election, how
can we be sure that the people whom we are training engage only in peacekeeping activities?”xlii

Why Museveni should matter to the United Kingdom

Uganda shares a long history with the United Kingdom and is an important partner to it in
security and trade. Further, the United Kingdom is one of Uganda’s largest development donors,
providing US$31 million in unearmarked contributions to UNHCR Uganda in 2019 alonexliii.
This despite the “serious risk management and control deficiencies and accountability lapses”
reported in the 2018/097 internal audit of Ugandan operations for the UNHCRxliv. Clearly, the
United Kingdom has a vested interest in protecting the institutions of democracy in Uganda and
by extension, the rights of its citizens.

It is time for the United Kingdom to reconsider its relationship with Uganda. Aid provided by the
United Kingdom has helped President Museveni to suppress the rule of law and has contributed
to the persistence of the Ugandan Junta and their illegal aggressions against citizens. A lasting
peace in this troubled region of Africa can only be achieved through the free politics of a true
democracy – something President Museveni will do anything to prevent. In light of this, it is
clear that the United Kingdom must take immediate action to denounce the crimes committed by
President Museveni’s regime. Most importantly, it is time for the United Kingdom and other
Western donors to ensure that all aid, military and non-military, is conditional on the holding of
free and fair elections. Ending the harassment of our client, Mr Kyagulanyi, would be an
important first step.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Amsterdam


vii; Epstein. Another Fine Mess.
Helen Epstein. Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda and the War on Terror. Columbia Global Reports. 2017.
Adam Branch. Displacing Human Rights: War and Intervention in Northern Uganda. Oxford University Press
2011; A Brilliant Genocide. A documentary film by Ebony Butler. Atlantic Star Productions 2016

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Operational Update: Uganda (January 2019).
United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services, Internal Audit Division. Audit of the Operations in Uganda
for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Report 2018/097 (17 October 2018).

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