WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID), both members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing concern about the state of democracy and ongoing human rights abuses in Uganda.
The letter also urges the Treasury Department and the State Department to utilize the authority of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability to designate individuals who are responsible for human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda in recent years, and to request the State Department to review all U.S. non-humanitarian assistance to Uganda to ensure that it is not aiding or abetting corruption or human right abuses.
The letter comes in the wake of Ugandan government authorities detaining and carrying out violence against opposition leaders and activists ahead of Uganda’s January 2021 presidential election.
“The U.S.-Uganda relationship has remained largely unchanged for years, spanning multiple administrations,” the Senators wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “When lawmakers, civil society, and human rights organizations have raised concerns with State Department, Department of Defense, and other U.S. officials about Uganda’s human rights record and failing democracy, these agencies have generally responded with platitudes about Uganda’s essential contributions to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Uganda’s role in managing the peace process in South Sudan and hosting nearly one million South Sudanese refugees, its longstanding partnership with the U.S. on HIV/AIDS and other health related programs, and additional regional security and development issues. Uganda’s critical role in these areas is undeniably true, but this should not grant President Museveni, his government, and party- which are virtually synonymous – a free pass to commit human rights abuses at home.”
The Senators continued, “Uganda is a young and vibrant country with enormous potential. If managed by a competent and uncorrupt government, rather than one that has time and again put its interests first, Uganda could quickly become one of the region’s largest agricultural exporters, tourist destinations, energy exporters, and manufacturing leaders on the continent. Once again, Uganda could secure itself as a net exporter of security to the region and genuinely claim the mantle of being the ‘Pearl of Africa.’”
Specifically, in their letter, both Senators requested that the State Department respond to questions and concerns relevant to the U.S.-Uganda bilateral relationship. Additionally, they requested that the State Department provide a detailed analysis of the U.S.-Ugandan relationship, informed by an interagency review of whether continued partnership with an increasingly brutal authoritarian leader poses risks to U.S. interests in East and Central Africa, and to develop a plan to mitigate such risks over the next five years. It also tasks the State Department with developing a plan to intensify the U.S. response to human rights abuses in Uganda beyond rhetorical condemnations, and to work with the Government of Uganda and local non-governmental organizations to secure accountability for citizens who have been subjected to arbitrary arrests, torture, and extrajudicial killings.