US asks govt to account for 54 killed in November riots

National Unity Platform (NUP) party president, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, talks to US Department of State acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Ms Lisa Peterson, after their meeting at Parliament. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

Bobi Wine, who earlier in the day together with the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, said torture has continued to be used by the security forces as a tool for suppressing dissenting voices

The United States government has warned Ugandan security forces against torture of citizens, saying government has a constitutional mandate to protect citizens and ensure that their rights are protected.
Ms Liza Peterson, the acting US assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labour, while addressing journalists after her two- day work visit to Uganda, asked the government to account for the 54 people who were killed during the November 2020 riots in Kampala and other towns.

The riots took place after security forces arrested the then presidential candidate, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, in Luuka District.
“During my meeting with the Uganda Human Rights Commission, I conveyed the United States government concerns of recurring events of forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture of Ugandans by the security forces. I also reiterated United States government call for Uganda government to transparently show accountability for security forces abuses including killing of 54 individuals in November 2020 and reports of forced disappearances and torture,” Ms Peterson said.

She said her visit underscores the US commitment to the people of Uganda and the need to raise the concern over human rights abuse. Ms Peterson said Ugandans deserve better than what the government is offering.
She added that the US has unwavering support to deepen democracy, respect for human rights, freedom of expression and association.
“Forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, physical and mental torture of Ugandan citizens by the security forces must stop,” she said.

Tribute to survivors
The US assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labour paid a glowing tribute to the survivors of torture for standing up to the regime and telling their stories without fear.  
“I commend the survivors of torture for sharing their experiences with the public and I commend citizens calling for full expression of their constitutional rights and protection,” she said.

Bobi Wine, who earlier in the day together with the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, said torture has continued to be used by the security forces as a tool for suppressing dissenting voices.
“You all know what the Uganda government under Gen Museveni has continued to do. He has continued to preside over torture and comes to thump chest his soldiers for job well done after torturing Ugandans. You all remember the events of November 18 and 19, 2020 where people were killed...,” he said.
He said as people fight for change, they will continue to use different avenues to put pressure on the government to respect human rights.

Mr Mpuuga said the Opposition leaders are united to demand for a free Uganda.
In the police report, which former Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa shared with diplomats representing countries that are permanent members of United Nations Security Council during a meeting on April 13, investigators said the actions of security forces were provoked by rampaging rioters who assaulted passers-by, damaged property and blocked and set car tyres alight on roads.

Government explanation
Mr Kutesa “regretted’ the November riot killings, but denied abductions by security forces mainly of the NUP party, arguing that “anyone suspected of wrongdoing in Uganda will be arrested, investigated and subjected to the due process of the law,” according to an April 13 press statement issued by the Department for Public Diplomacy of Foreign Affairs.

In a televised November 29 2020 address, President Museveni said 32 of those killed were rioters, backed by Opposition politicians, and characterised them “terrorists” in latter addresses some of whom he said had been taken out of action by Special Forces who had distinguished themselves fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in the DR  Congo.