In September 2019, the United States government through its State and Treasury Departments slapped sanctions against Gen. Kale Kayihura, our former Inspector General of Police. In a statement by one Sigal Mandelker, a Treasury department officer, Kayihura was targeted for “using corruption and bribery to strengthen his political position, as units under his command committed serious human rights abuses.”
On December 7th, the United States, again through its Treasury department, slapped sanctions against our current chief at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence – CMI, the amiable Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho. The Treasury department alleges that under Maj.Gen. Kandiho, military intelligence officers have arrested, detained and physically abused Ugandans “due to their nationality, political views, or critique of the Ugandan government”.
Uganda, under the National Resistance Movement led government, remains a regional bulwark of security. It is a bastion of democracy. But Uganda is also a strategic ally to the United States’ global fight against Islamist jihadist terrorism.
Today, 10th December, president Biden hosts a so-called “Democracy summit” at the White House. Seventeen African countries are taking part. This summit is billed as an event to discuss ways to defend against the rise of authoritarianism.
However, many observers say it highlights the contrasting priorities of the US and China on the continent.
Sanctions against General Kayihura and Maj. Gen. Kandiho have both come at a time after the defeat of our political opposition in National elections AND also at a time of heightened security maneuvering by our political opposition to usurp our will at our polls.
Indeed, under Maj. Gen. Kandiho, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence – a legitimate and necessary branch of any modern military – has been able to disrupt planned terror operations against Uganda.
Both Gen. Kayihura as head of Uganda Police force and Gen. Kandiho as head of CMI succeeded in part because of collaboration with agencies such as America’s own Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Britain’s well respected Intelligence outfit – Mi6. Our cooperation with Israel’s intelligence units as well as with sister intelligence units within Africa are the staff of legend.
Where our security agencies have infringed on the rights of innocent civilians, no less than the commander in chief, has issued statements of condemnation and taken corrective action.
The United States’ itself is no stranger to violation of “Human Rights”! Neither are some of its Anglo Saxon allies. Just today, Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture said of a British court decision against Julian Assange – “His human rights have been violated systematically at all stages of every legal proceeding he has been exposed to.”
Assange, an Australian, is the subject of a bitter row with the United States over his release of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.These releases included files on cover ups of gross human rights abuses by the US military on Afghani and Iraqi prisoners of war.
For its part, China’s involvement in Africa in general and Uganda in particular, has been solely focused on strategic infrastructure development.
A 2017 Mckinsey report found that there are over 10,000 Chinese companies involved in economic activity across Africa. 90% of these are privately owned suggesting that China’s economic activity in Africa is market driven.
In 2013,the African Development Bank argued that for Africa to meet her Agenda63 infrastructure deficit, $93bn would need to be invested annually until 2020. Indeed, 40% of Chinese loans to Africa are geared towards addressing this challenge – with emphasis on connective infrastructure such as Interior to Coast railways, ports, dams and modern expressways.
China’s investments (factories and strategic infrastructure) in Uganda will continue to grow and help many of our young people in securing both skills and jobs. It is perhaps why, in a trend similar to most of Africa, incumbent regimes have popular electoral support.
Reader! I put it to you that this is America’s chief dispute with our leadership.
To strengthen our democracy, to defend our democracy requires investment in infrastructure such as electricity, hospitals, schools. It also requires investment in Industries.
It requires Security. Security can only happen when there is cooperation and respect of local situations within the context of a global fight against all terrorism.
It does not require unnecessary meddling.
China, Israel, Russia, and our allies all know this. Uganda welcomes this.
I pray that president Biden and his government do too.
This is why these sanctions are most unfortunate and unnecessary.