What you need to know:
- The issue: US sanctions
- Our view: Government leaders should watch their actions because the day of reckoning, however delayed, shall arrive.
The United States Department for Treasury on Tuesday imposed financial sanctions on 15 top security and political officials in Uganda, Syria, and Yemen.
At home, the only sanctioned individual is the Chief of Military Intelligence (CMI), Maj Gen Abel Kandiho.
His crime, according to Washington, among others, includes superintending an organisation whose officers illegally held incommunicado and tortured critics and political opponents of President Museveni’s government.
The US Treasury noted that other suspects were targeted due to their nationality and many, once in CMI custody, were beaten or electrocuted, leading often to life-time injuries and in extreme cases death.
Maj Gen Kandiho was in some instances directly involved in the torture, allegations he has since denied. The sanctions are inconsequential, the top military spymaster told this newspaper. Why? He owns no assets in the United States, is concentrating on his work to secure Uganda and America’s meddling and unilateral imposition of punishment on key officials of other governments, without fair hearing, risks alienating allies.
It is not our remit to pass a guilty verdict against the two-star general because the United States did not immediately provide incriminating evidence to support its allegations. In addition, it is the court’s call to inquire into such allegations and determine whether the accused is innocent or guilty.
The conundrum in Uganda’s situation has been that, up until yesterday, and hours after the sanction list was made public, the government had appeared to ignore domestic demands for accountability for lives lost or missing persons in the run up to, during and after the January 2020 elections.
In which case, the largely unpunished shooting dead of 54 civilians by motley state security operatives sticks out like a sore thump to signpost the erosion of human security, which is ironical because this government consistently prides in restoration of peace and security.
Thus, five inferences are possible from the US sanctions.First, that the big brother from yonder is watching and documenting the excesses by state actors against citizens.
Second, that the international community can at its choosing punish individuals that governments employing them are unable or unwilling to bring to order.
Third, one’s high office can provide protection from justice, but that safeguard is temporary, meaning holders require to be conscientious with power. Fourth, the sanctions by a foreign government for a crime allegedly committed by Ugandan forces against Ugandans is an indictment of Uganda’s accountability institutions for failing citizens.
And, fifth, ordinary Ugandans can get from elsewhere justice and accountability for lives taken away by those by law required to protect it.
We, therefore, demand of government leaders to watch their actions because the day of reckoning, however delayed, shall arrive.