Posted by Stephen Twinoburyo.
Following the recent state violence seen in Uganda, Ugandans in S Africa decided to petition President Jacob Zuma on the matter. After getting the necessary security clearances from both the presidency and the city of Pretoria police, a small group of people was permitted to deliver the petition and this happened today, 10 – 05 – 2011, with the petition being read out and handed over to an official of the South African presidency that was assigned to receive it at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. He stated that the contents of the petition make it an urgent matter requiring it to reach the desk of the president as soon as possible. Pictures of the violence were also attached in a booklet that made up the petition document. The petition was signed by a group of Ugandans on behalf of the wider Ugandan community and a copy to be retained by Ugandans was signed by the official of the presidency.
The petition follows:
His Excellency Jacob Zuma,
President of the Republic of South Africa,
Dear Mr. President
RE: THE DETERIORATING HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN UGANDA AND PRESIDENT ZUMA’S INVITATION TO THE UGANDAN PRESIDENT’S INAUGURATION
As you are well aware, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986 started very well and was a beacon of hope for Uganda as well as the continent.
However over the years, the values he held started getting eroded by his increasing and unending hold onto power and intolerance of those that sought to challenge him. Over the past decade or so, Uganda has seen increased authoritarianism, erosion of the rule of law, changing of the constitution to prolong his stay in power, escalating corruption, defiling of Judicial and parliamentary institutions, crumbling infrastructure, and non delivery of social services. Around the year 2000 some of his senior army officials broke away from his movement and formed rival opposition parties at the realization that Mr Museveni had abandoned the original values that motivated them to fight the bush war. These include Colonel Dr Kiiza Besigye and General Mugisha Muntu. This has caused bitter political friction and to a great extent made Museveni shed his earlier shine.
The general election of 18th February 2011, from which the presidential inauguration emanates, was full of irregularities as has been abundantly confirmed by various election observers. Indeed the opposition in the country dismissed the whole process as a sham. During this election Uganda saw the largest ever police, anti-riot police and military deployment ever on the streets of Kampala and all the major cities and towns of Uganda pre, during and after the elections. That deployment is still on, two and half months after the election.
President Museveni bankrolled his campaign out of state resources to the tune of US $ 350 million, financed through a supplementary budget after he had exhausted the national treasury. Currently, all government departments are not in a position to deliver services to people and civil servants are going without pay.
With the inflation currently at 15% and soaring, ordinary Ugandans can no longer afford the basic necessities.
The presidential inauguration scheduled for 12 May 2011 will cost a whooping US $ 1.36 million in an environment of high poverty and misery. Ugandans are not happy about this because this extravagant event completely disregards their plight and it follows a trend of inconsiderate state expenditures. The day is expected to be a day of protests and/or crackdowns.
The Ugandan community in South Africa is aware that your Excellency have been invited to Uganda for the inauguration.
- CURRENT SITUATION
Given the prevailing economic hardships and accompanying government extravagancies, on the 11th April 2011 Ugandans embarked on a walk-to-work campaign as an expression of their displeasure with the rising food and commodity prices.
The walk-to-work campaign was aimed at making the government pay more attention to the suffering of ordinary Ugandans, to initiate service-delivery which has been non-existent for years and put a check to the kind of reckless expenditure outlined above.
President Museveni’s response to this peaceful initiative has been very brutal and shocking to the world. For the past month, Ugandan forces have systematically and consistently brutalized unarmed citizens. Opposition leaders and their supporters have been shot at, beaten and tear gassed by both the police and the army in tragic scenes which have seen the death of at least 10 people, including two babies. Scores of people have been injured and many opposition politicians and ordinary citizens are under arrest. Impromptu arrests are now the order of the day and all kinds of security personnel units litter the street corners of many Ugandan towns.
All this is happening in the non-violent process of walking. This is a blatant abuse of human rights as enshrined in the Uganda Constitution and underpinned by the Core values of Human Dignity, Equality and Freedom.
All this state brutality has been widely covered by both the Ugandan and international media including the South African press. (See attached links for easy reference).
Mr. President, we hope the South African embassy in Kampala have briefed you already on the situation.
- OUR REQUEST
Your Excellency, as a leader of the largest economy and strongest democracy in Africa, and also a recognized member of the world’s emerging democracies, we request the following;
3.1 That you turn down the invitation to attend the inauguration of President Museveni
We feel that by attending, you will be giving legitimacy and tacit approval to the insensitivity expressed by President Museveni towards the people of Uganda through his extravagances in the face of massive sufferings of the common people. The people of Uganda look towards the leaders of more advanced democracies like South Africa to be the first to express disapproval towards the excesses of fellow leaders. By attending that function, we feel you will have broken the spirit of “ubuntu” of the ordinary Ugandan and sided with or helped entrench a system that torments them.
3.2 That you take up the issue of human rights violations in Uganda with President Museveni and demand that he treats his people with human dignity as enshrined in the Uganda Constitution.
Many Ugandans still have bitter memories of the way Idi Amin brutalised them and not much help came from the rest of Africa until the late President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania intervened.
We recognise that we live in a much changed world and are very hopeful that things will be done differently so that leaders like President Museveni who have showed repressive and dictatorship tendencies can be checked in time.
3.3 That you demand that President Museveni releases all those people that have been unjustly detained in prison simply because they chose to express their discontent through walking or other non-violent means.
3.4 That as a leading and respected member of the African Union, you table the pain of Ugandans before the organisation.
3.5 Mr President, Uganda has previously bought arms, police vehicles and equipment from South Africa. These are now being used as tools of terror against the people of Uganda. We request that you review and put a stop to any further purchase of military and police equipment by the current Uganda government from this country. It is widely believed by Ugandans that the tools that torture them are products of South Africa.
Your Excellency, the Ugandan community in South Africa is eager to see the same kind of democracy we enjoy in this country enjoyed by fellow Africans elsewhere and in this particular case, Uganda. We look forward to your good office to tackle the issue of Uganda with the seriousness it deserves because the ordinary people of Uganda feel they have been pinned to the wall.
We thank you very much Mr. President.
The Uganda Community in South Africa
Signed on behalf of the wider community.
- Uganda: Torture, Extortion, Killings by Police Unit (Human Rights Watch: March 23, 2011)
- Uganda: Concern over continuing restrictions to the work of human rights defenders (Amnesty International: 14 April 2011)
- Rights watchdog turns spotlight on Uganda Police ( The East African: 4 April 2011)
- Election funding: Uganda is broke, says Bbumba [Finance Minister] as tough times loom
- Human Rights Watch pins govt over killings
- Deadly Crackdown on Uganda’s Walk-to-Work Protests [TIME 23 April 2011]
- UN. Rights boss criticises Uganda protest crackdown.
- Ugandan protesters ordered shot for walking to work (The Washington Times: 20/04/2011)
- “Baby shot dead, Besigye jailed (Daily Monitor: 26 April 2011)
- Uganda urged to halt police attacks on peaceful protesters (Amnesty International: 21 April 2011)
- Uganda police brutality in pictures (Independent Newspapers SA: 26 April 2011)
- Thrty two leaders for Museveni fete