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Department of State 2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20520 Dear 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 to work” 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 with the current Ugandan government and contributes a significant amount of bilateral foreign aid to Uganda - over $450 million in Fiscal Year 2010.1 This relationship makes the US particularly well positioned to engage the Ugandan government to protect and advance the human rights, political freedoms, and economic well-being of its citizens. However, we are concerned that the US is not adequately using its leverage with the Ugandan government to do so. We write you today to strongly encourage you to use the diplomatic and financial resources at your disposal 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 officials with the Ugandan government, as well as the continued efforts of the US Ambassador to Uganda and the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa. To do so will require a more appropriate balance by the US between engagement on issues of democratic governance and human rights and cooperation with the Ugandan government on regional security and counter-terror issues. The US has important national security interests it is entitled to pursue, but not at the expense of human rights and political freedoms of ordinary Ugandans; to do so could trigger future instability that would erase economic growth and development gains achieved by US foreign assistance and hurt US national security interests in the longterm. 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 sustainable economic 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 that ultimately prevented them from being free and fair, including: lack of an independent electoral commission, 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, and arbitrary arrest and harassment of opposition supporters leading up to the elections. Many of these issues were recognized in reports issued by civil society groups, electoral observer missions from the African Union and European Union, and reports you issued to Congress throughout the 2011 electoral process. This scenario was not surprising- similar issues plagued the Ugandan electoral process in 2001 and 2006.
The Ugandan government has continued violent crackdowns on Ugandan citizens, including opposition supporters, 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. At least nine unarmed people have been killed by government forces, dozens injured, and over 600 arrested. US officials have publicly called for the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and Ugandan government 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-Uganda relations. 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 address other human rights concerns in Uganda. Your direct leadership and that of other senior State Department 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 and demonstrate 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, and impedes freedom of expression or public assembly; Press the Ugandan government to allow peaceful demonstrations and hold police, military, and militia forces accountable for violence committed against demonstrators and opposition supporters; Press the Ugandan government to develop and enforce a clear legal framework to prevent Ugandan military personnel from becoming involved in political affairs or from being improperly deployed 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 and monitor 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 it has 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 remain partisan and unaccountable for human rights violations and until concrete progress is made on the issues raised above. Military and security sector reform Actions by the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) continue to undermine the implementation of its constitutional mandate to protect the people of Uganda. UPDF forces have a history of committing human rights abuses against civilians in northern Uganda, and continue to commit grave human rights violations against civilians in Karamoja. In recent years, UPDF commanders have also prevented some former members of the LRA from reintegrating into civilian life under the terms of the 2000 Amnesty Act and have coerced them into joining the UPDF to fight the LRA. Senior commanders of the UPDF are widely seen to support the ruling NRM government, and have deployed their forces to intimidate opposition supporters during election periods. Military police killed at least 40 people during protests in Kampala 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.2 The US works closely with the UPDF on regional security and counter-terror initiatives by providing training and financial support for the UPDF, including for operations outside of Uganda in Somalia and against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). In addition to funds to support Ugandan operations in Somalia and against the LRA, the US gave over $1 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military 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 have received 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 strategic responsibility to promote professionalism, respect for human rights, and political neutrality within UPDF ranks. The US should work with the Ugandan government to greatly strengthen military and police accountability mechanisms so that all personnel, including in particular high-ranking commanders, can be accountable for crimes against civilians and other human rights abuses. Doing so will require you to consider all sources of leverage at your disposal, including the possibility of conditioning some US military 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 ensure that allegations of human rights abuses are thoroughly investigated and all perpetrators held to account; Ensure US military assistance does not support UPDF or security service units that are responsible for gross human rights abuses, in accordance with the Leahy Amendment; Press the UPDF to ensure that former LRA combatants are given amnesty certificates and benefits 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 on the 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” 3 and have concentrated wealth in politically-connected elite, slowed economic growth, and sparked fears about the sustainability of major oil development projects in western and northern Uganda. Stark economic disparities also exist between areas most recently affected by conflict, such as northern Uganda and Karamoja, and the rest of Uganda. These disparities – and the failure of the Ugandan government to close them- exacerbate historical political and ethnic divisions in Uganda that have led to destructive civil conflict and loss of human life in the past. The US has invested substantial financial resources in promoting development in Uganda, over $70 million 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,
promoting national reconciliation processes, and encouraging sustainable economic growth. Without such a strategy, US investments in development in Uganda risk being erased by future instability and corruption. Specifically we ask that you use the diplomatic and financial resources at your disposal to: Press the Ugandan government to empower independent, well-resourced mechanisms to investigate allegations of corruption among senior government officials and hold them accountable for transgressions; Press the Ugandan government to create the necessary institutions to manage the incoming oil revenues transparently and responsibly. Specifically, the government should be encouraged to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, to publish all contracts relating to natural resource extraction, to create a transparent budget framework for oil revenues, and to create a mechanism for citizen participation in the allocation and dispersion of oil revenues. Press the Ugandan government to invest more resources and senior leadership into implementing the Peace, Recovery, and Development Programme for Northern Uganda (PRDP) and other initiatives aimed at promoting development in conflict-affected regions of Uganda. Invest substantial funds in sustainable development across Uganda, including conflict-affected areas. Secretary Clinton, during your visit to Nigeria in August 2009, you said: “In order to create a peaceful, stable environment that creates development among the people, citizens need to have confidence that their votes count, that their government cares about them, that democracy can deliver basic services. They need to know that officials will be replaced if they break the law or fail to deliver what they have promised.” We thank you for your commitment to these principles and urge you to do everything in your power to bring them to bear in US-Uganda relations. Sincerely: Human Rights Network, Uganda Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), Uganda Concerned Parents Association, Uganda The Populace Foundation, Uganda Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Uganda Uganda National NGO Forum, Uganda Human Rights Watch EG Justice Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns Global Witness Voice Project Resolve CC: Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Africa Mary Yates US Ambassador to Uganda Jerry Lanier
US bilateral assistance to Uganda in FY 2010 by account: Global Health and Child Survival ($294,084,000), Developmental Assistance ($70,650,000), Global Health and Child Survival ($66,000,000), Food For Peace Title II Program ($25,000,000), International Military Education & Training ($550,000), Foreign Military Funding ($300,000), International Narcotics Control & Law Enforcement ($235,000). In addition, the UPDF receives substantial assistance as part of US support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
2010 Human Rights Report: Uganda, US Department of State. 2011 Investment Climate Statement: Uganda, US Department of State.