Human Rights activists, diplomats call for probe in the wake of new HRW report.
Pressure from human rights activists, critics and the diplomatic community is mounting on government to act on the disturbing revelations about last year’s Kasese killings detailed in a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
This comes after the government’s public relations machine roundly dismissed the report titled “Uganda: Ensure Independent Investigation into Kasese Killings.”
In an unusual show of force, hours after the report was published on March.15, spokespersons of the Uganda Police, Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) and the Media Centre, the government communication outfit, took turns to punch holes in the report. Activists have called this a “mere PR exercise” and are calling on government to act on the concerns raised in the report.
The report calls for an international investigation into the killings and reveals that while the reported death toll over the two days was slightly over 100 people, at least 55 people, including 14 police officers were killed on Nov.26, and more than 100, including at least 15 children, during the attack on the palace compound on Nov.27.
Despite the government’s efforts to dismiss the report, pressure is mounting. Both the E.U and U.S. missions in Kampala, who happen to be Uganda’s biggest development partners, have called on government to carry out investigations on the killings.
Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi, the MP for Butambala County and the shadow minister for internal affairs saysthe ‘lousy-cynical’ response the government PR machinery gave to HRW was a deliberate political spin that has been ongoing since the incident happened last November.
The government’s reaction is a self-preservation reaction, said Nicholas Opio, the executive director of Chapter Four on March 21.
“That is expected from a government like this one because it is not easy for someone to accept to be investigated about their conduct,” Opio said.
Opio described government’s attempts to rubbish the report as merely a PR exercise, noting that deep down in the functioning of the state, the government takes these reports seriously.
He says a country’s human rights record is an important aspect, for example, on investment because serious investors take decisions based on, among other things, rule of law.
“So, although these reports might appear meaningless, they do actually have impact on many aspects of governance,” Opio says, “In the business of running a state, the officials might posture publicly to say the reports don’t matter but deep down, they know the reports actually matter.”
Centenary Franco Robert, the MP for Kasese Municipality also told The Independent on March 21 that the government should appreciate that HRW is non-partisan and is an international body that operates in principle.
“HRW’s cardinal role is to ensure that human rights violations don’t occur and if they do, they should be investigated and perpetrators brought to book,” he told The Independent.
Centenary says even if the government has the capacity to investigate, it cannot investigate itself for the atrocities they caused. That is why, he said, a private investigation be allowed to set to the root of the Kasese killings.
To this, Opio adds that what the human rights fraternity are asking for is an investigation about the conduct of the state actors in Kasese; the commandants involved in the incident who themselves appear to suggest that their orders came from the chief commandant.
In a joint statement released on March 16, the European Union said it regrets that the Ugandan authorities have not yet launched a comprehensive independent investigation into the Kasese killings four months later.
The EU called upon the competent authorities to immediately conduct the necessary field investigation, ensure strong witness protection and protection of evidence after the government came out to say that “Uganda has no lack of independent investigative capacity.”