Government has responded to recommendations by the European Union (EU) Parliament in which it recommended sanctions against Ugandan individuals and organisations they said were responsible for human rights violations during the recent general election.
In a response by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Sam Kutesa to the president of the EU parliament, government says there are laws governing the country and that it is its duty to ensure they are not broken by anyone.
“At the outset, I wish to note that relations between Uganda and the European Union are both historical and strong. As a country, we acknowledge and value the partnership with EU as a bloc and with individual member states. Nonetheless, we strongly believe that the sustenance of the relationship depends on upholding of the universally accepted principles of mutual respect, non-interference and respect for sovereignty,” the response dated February 15, 2021 reads in part.
According to government, it will always welcome engagement with any of the international partners provided they all adhere to the set principles.
In their resolutions, the EU parliament said they based their decisions on human rights violations during the just concluded general elections which saw security forces crackdown on opposition and civil society organisations.
However, in response, government says in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, a number of guidelines were put in place to help combat the virus but noted they could not sit behind when the guidelines were being violated.
“These SOPs applied to all the people in the country irrespective of one’s gender, status and pursuits. Despite the regrettable fatalities, we are proud of our record in preventing deaths and limit the spread of the pandemic. We believe that the primary duty of the government is to its citizens.”
“The one thing therefore, that we have not compromised and cannot compromise about, more so in the midst of the pandemic is the security and wellbeing of the people.”
Kutesa said the SOPs were again applied in the general elections and to all candidates, regardless of their affiliations but noted that some candidates including FDC’s Patrick Oboi Amuriat and National Unity Platform’s Robert Kyagulanyi chose to violate them.
He noted that as a result of the violation of the COVID-19 SOPs, Kyagulanyi was arrested, sparking widespread protests that government had to bring to an end.
“As it turned out, these riots were not spontaneous but pre-planned, supposedly to “test the system”. It soon became clear that some of the political leaders had planned to frustrate the election and even financed the prior purchase and storage of weapons used by the rioters like old car tyres, rocks, hammers and firebombs.”
Government says in response that faced with such weapons and with intent to cause harm to other members of the public, security agencies had to take action to protect the wider public.
“I am therefore quite frankly concerned how the EU parliament in its resolution downplays the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda. This is especially when we are well aware of the stringent steps that individual EU member countries have taken in an instant for the common good , imposing travel and social restrictions while others are currently in lockdown contemplating further measures.”
Government also told the EU parliament that calling the 2021 polls not free and fair is partisan in both tone and intent and aimed at undermining the Electoral Commission and its work.
“Such a statement being issued at this time in particular when the conduct and outcome of the election is a subject of adjudication in the courts of Uganda is quite unfortunate to say the least. The statement is an assault on the independence of our institution and a mockery of the rule of law.”
Government says in its response to the EU parliament that it is committed to ensuring domestic tranquility, security and welfare of its citizens but also good governance in the country in accordance with the law.
“The government of Uganda remains committed to strengthen our partnership and to continued dialogue on all matters of mutual interest or concern but as already mentioned, this will be best achieved if we all continue to adhere to and keep reminding ourselves of the time-honored and non-negotiable, principles of mutual respect, non-interference and sovereignty.”