Hail to the chief. Gen. Museveni.
You would think that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would think twice before awarding a $491.5 million loan to a dictatorship such as Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s in Uganda where the state is the biggest criminal, engaged in kidnappings, disappearances and unsolved murders.
It’s true that COVID-19 has disrupted socio-economic fabric in most African countries who, to begin with, are already fragile, and that financial assistance is required. Indeed that is the argument that the IMF made recently to my colleague on Black Star News.
Yet, what is the guarantee that a corrupt and violent military dictatorship such as Gen. Museveni’s will actually direct the funds to needy Ugandans given the regime’s track record?
Who can believe that a regime which engages in crimes against its own citizens—and plunders state resources—will take care of their welfare with the IMF funds during this COVID-19 crises. Isn’t the IMF therefore aiding and abetting tyranny in Uganda?
Did the Board of Directors review the U.S. State Department’s latest human rights report on Uganda before approving the loan? The March 4, 2020 report refers to, “Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance; torture; and arbitrary detention by government agencies.”
Did the directors take into consideration that in December 2018, a Chinese national named Patrick Ho Chi-Ping was convicted in U.S. federal court for bribing Gen. Museveni and his foreign minister Sam Kutesa $1 million which the two split to grant illegal oil concession to a Chinese company?
In the 1970s military juntas in Chile and Argentina were notorious for perfecting kidnappings, disappearances, and extra-judicial murders by the state. Those countries continued getting strong support from the World Bank and the IMF. The IMF is duplicating the model in Uganda.
Prior to the lockdown imposed by the military ruler Museveni two months ago, the U.S. issued a warning to Americans traveling to Uganda to use “increased caution in Uganda due to crime. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, home invasion, and sexual assault, is common, especially in larger cities including Kampala and Entebbe. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious crime.”
There are so-called “safe houses” throughout Uganda, manned by by security forces where civilians are detained and tortured; some die and are secretly buried. Recently, the Uganda Parliament’s committees investigating torture incidents were denied access to the alleged torture installations which are euphemistically referred to, in the macabre language typical of autocracies, as “safe houses.” Only Gen. Museveni could block access.
One of the many cases of disappearances followed by this reporter involves a woman named Sharon Kalungi. She’s been missing since October, 2017. Soon after, her partner, Joan Nakityo, also went missing. One wonders whether they’re dead or alive. Their two children are also missing.
According to Geoffrey Kityo, Joan’s brother, his sister disappeared on March 14, 2020, together with the two children, aged 10 years and four years. The 10-year old, Palton Kasozi, was Kalungi’s son, and the four year old girl, Nakityo’s.
Kidnapping adults, together with their children, has become common. After the assassination of Andrew Felix Kaweesi, former assistant inspector general of Police, in iMarch 2017, several Muslim parents were arrested including children as young as two. Courts have since awarded damages that the regime ignores.
“I have almost spent all my lifetime savings. My heart is getting weak every passing day, when I think of my sister and the toddlers,” Kityo recalls, in an interview. An army spokesperson, Brig. Richard Karemire, says, “Yes, this case reference you’re referring to, is purely a police matter.” When pressed, he says, “Tell the relatives to come to my office.”
What would that accomplish? Why not produce the kidnapped parties or state if they’ve been killed?
When presented with a list of “disappeared” people, a Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, says, “We are working with all agencies to get to the conclusion. The investigations are not closed. They’re still going on. The findings will be shared with the public.”
This is the type of nonsensical response to be expected from a government official in an autocracy. The same public is waiting for the regime to share information about the investigation into the execution-style murder of Kaweesi, who once held Enanga’s job, and the late Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga.
Enanga adds, “Your query was forwarded to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to generate the right information. I am awaiting their response.”
The kidnapping and disappearances of civilians have increased since August 2018, after the detention and torture of the popular politician, Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu, aka Bobi Wine, Francis Zaake, and other young members of parliament. They embody the aspirations of the country’s youthful voters determined to remove dictatorship, and are seen as a real threat to the military ruler in next year’s vote.
Zaake, was recently again kidnapped and tortured after he distributed food relief to his starving constituents suffering from the COVID-19 lockdown that has left most Ugandans hungry. The U.S., the E.U., and Human Rights Watch called for an investigation.
The organizations involved in the kidnappings and disappearances are the notorious Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Internal Security Organization (ISO).
What now follows is just a small sampling of the disappearances, kidnappings—with some victims likely already being killed—that have occurred in Uganda. I hope the IMF’s board of directors will gets to see this list:
1. Geoffrey Ssenyonjo went missing in 2019. The missing person report at Kibiri Police Station is Ref. No. SD60/18/11/2019.
2. John Bosco Kibalama, an activist allied with Bobi Wine’s People Power movement went missing in 2019. The missing person report at Nakanyonyi police station is Ref, No. SD/02/04/06/2019.
3. Hellen Namubiru. Badly tortured on March 26, and remains in hiding where she gets treatment. Her 39-year-old sister, Juliet Namiiro, went missing since 02/03/2020.
4. Juliet Namiiro disappeared shortly after her friend Rita Nabukenya, was killed. Nabukenya, she was a supporter of People Power movement. It’s alleged that she was intentionally knocked dead by a police track. No one was held accountable, since February 24, 2020.
5. Solomon Ssebbaale, 29, of Kiwoko-Luwero- District, disappeared in September 2019, shortly after his friend John Bosco Kibalama’s disappearance. His disappearance left a lot of questions. He had just been given a contract to supply the maize flour, when he got 3 archers of his tomatoes razed down.
6. Father Anthony Kiiza went missing on June 28, 2017.
7. Maria Nagirinya Gateni, 28, a social worker and her driver Ronald Kitayimbwa were both kidnapped on August 28, 2019, from her gate in Lungujja-Busega Community Zone. The body Nagirinya and that of his driver were discovered on August 30, 2019, in Naama-Mukono, about 22 miles from Kampala, the capital.
8. Dylan Kirabo, 8-year-old daughter to Hakim Sibukyu, a book publisher, was kidnapped on January 11, 2020, from Luwafu-Nakindte Division, Kampala and killed.
9. Ugandan blogger Michael Kalinda a.k.a. Ziggy Wine, also a supporter of Bobi Wine, died of injuries sustained when he was tortured. He had an eye plucked out and two fingers severed. He had burns on his entire body, believed to be inflicted on him using a flat iron. The body was dumped outside Mulago hospital in Kampala on August 5, 2019. He had been kidnapped on July 21, 2019.
10. Rose Nakisekka, 18, kidnapped on May 10, from Kigo Villa-Maria in Kalungu District, about
76 miles from Kampala. Her body was discovered in Nalumunye-Kampala on May 21, 2018. Reportedly ransom of $1,319 was demanded. The family paid $527. She was still killed.
11. Thirty two-year-old Charity Kyohiewe was kidnapped on March 23, 2020. The body was discovered with strangulation marks two days later.
12. Francis Ekalugar, 49, an accountant who worked with Case Clinic went missing on January 2, 2018 while on his way to the bank with 15,000,000 shillings, about $3,954.Two days later Ekalugar’s body was discovered burnt beyond recognition more than 10 miles outside Kampala.