Kayihura is sanctioned under the new severe Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016 which U.S President Donald Trump signed into law on December 20, 2017. Under this law, the U.S. says it seeks to “impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption”.
The Americans allege that Kayihura has engaged in numerous acts of corruption; including using bribery to strengthen his political position within the Government of Uganda, stealing funds intended for official Ugandan government business, and using another government employee to smuggle illicit goods, including drugs, gold, and wildlife, out of Uganda.
Under this law, all property and interests in the name of Kayihura, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by him alone or with other designated persons are blocked. The law also prohibits all transactions by U.S. persons or those with business links to the U.S. from dealing with Kayihura.
“We are targeting Uganda’s former Police Inspector General Kale Kayihura for using corruption and bribery to strengthen his political position, as units under his command committed serious human rights abuses,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “The U.S. government is committed to leveraging our human rights and corruption authorities to target, disrupt, and counter those who engage in abuse and corruption around the world.”
Kayihura used and dumped
Kayihura has reacted by denying all accusations, proclaiming his innocence, and accusing the Americans of hypocrisy and unfairness.
Kayihura, in a statement to the press, wrote: “I find it hypocritical that the United States Government authorities could claim to uphold Human Rights yet in their letter and action, they fall below the lowest standards of the due process of law. How can they accuse, judge and condemn a person without the basic decency to respect the principles of natural justice, specifically, affording a person the opportunity and the right to be heard?”
His most powerful defense is that, in any case, he did most of his work on fighting terror in close collaboration with American security agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
Kayihura is right. The Uganda Police’s collaboration with the Americans in the War Against Terror under the so-called “renditions” regime is well documented in numerous independent researches; including by the Open Societies Foundations.
The Independent newsmagazine in 2008 wrote a series that won an international award for uncovering how American secret services and Uganda’s Chieftaincy of military Intelligence were involved in illegal detention and torture at Summit View in Kololo in Kampala.
These stories were followed up by others. In 2013, the Open Societies Foundations published a report titled `Counterterrorism and Human Rights Abuses in Kenya and Uganda: The World Cup Bombing and Beyond’ which described some of the atrocities.
The report details alleged abuses against Walk-to-Work demonstrators led by opposition leader Kizza Besigye. The security forces allegedly killed 40 rioters in 2009 and 11 in 2011. It details torture of suspects at the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) headquarters at Kireka in Kampala, prominent Kenyan human rights defender; Al-Amin Kimathi who was detained for almost a year without charge after he was arrested in Uganda with a Kenyan lawyer, Mbugua Mureithi and blocking with impunity, a delegation from the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya.
Kenyan police, Ugandan police, and individuals who introduced themselves as U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials allegedly jointly interrogated suspects in the torture chambers.
The report concluded: Taken together, these incidents show Kenya and Uganda as willing to flout domestic and international law, engage in rendition, illegally detain and abuse suspects, and misuse counterterrorism laws and security forces to crack down on minority groups and human rights defenders. If the allegations are true, they also suggest the active involvement of foreign officials in abusing detainees.
Based on this, Kayihura’s camp has circulated photos of him receiving an award of excellence from the Americans.
Kayihura’s lawyer, Jet Tumwebaze, from the top-notch law chambers Kampala Associated Advocates, has been doing rounds on radio and TV talk-shows to proclaim his client’s innocence and America’s unfairness.
“First of all let us start with the basics; before someone makes such allegations, you have a right to be heard. That is the backbone of justice,” Tumwebaze has been saying before launching into how the American should have invited Kayihura and presented him with the evidence they have against him.
“That did not happen because the evidence was not there,” Tumwebaze told The Independent.