Dr. Paul Williams, the British lawmaker who confronted Gen. Yoweri Museveni over his dictatorial rule during the recent Commonwealth conference in London wants the U.K. foreign secretary to intervene in the case of a Ugandan lawmaker whose back was broken after she was tortured by security agents.
Williams wrote to Secretary Boris Johnson on June 29 asking that he make “all appropriate diplomatic representations possible in order to secure the safety and wellbeing” of the Ugandan MP, Betty Nambooze.
The U.K. provides the Museveni regime with about 100 million pounds in annual financial support.
Ugandan police, in recent days, had prevented Nambooze from seeking critically needed medical care outside the country, by arresting her even when she was confined to a hospital bed
Nambooze, is a staunch pro-democracy advocate. Gen. Museveni, whose military is trained by the U.S. in contravention of the Leahy Amendment,
which bars Washington from funding armed forces engaged in human rights abuses, has been in power for 32 years now. The regime receives more than $1 billion in annual U.S. support.
Nambooze is one of the leading MPs calling for a return to democracy.
Ms. Nambooze and other MPs opposed the removal of age limits from Uganda’s constitution. In retaliation, on Sept. 27, 2017, Gen. Museveni sent units of his Special Forces, which was once commanded by his son, Brig. Muhoozi Kaenerugaba, to assault the pro-democracy MPs. The security agents beat up several MPs inside Uganda’s Parliament; Ms. Nambooze endured torture and her back was broken. She subsequently had surgery in India where screws were installed to stabilize her spinal column.
According to an independent poll, 85% of the Ugandan public opposed removal of age limits, which allows Gen. Museveni to run again in 2021. The Economist
reported that Gen. Museveni bribed Ugandan MPs over $8,000 each to vote in favor of the removal, a significant sum in a country whose estimated average annual percapita income in 2017 was less than $2,000. Gen. Museveni previously had presidential term-limits removed in 2005.
Ms. Nambooze was recently arrested for alleged “inciteful” postings on social media. Critics contend Gen. Museveni is trying to scapegoat opposition leaders as more Ugandans have been demonstrating and demanding answers to a series of unsolved murders, especially of women in Uganda’s Buganda region, as well as political assassinations. In a recent high-profile killing, Ibrahim Abiriga, an MP from Gen. Museveni’s own ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) dictatorship party, was the victim.
Abiriga, prior to his death, in recent weeks complained in media interviews that Gen. Museveni had stopped returning his calls. Abiriga’s father also complained that before his son was killed, the Museveni regime never delivered on the promises to give his son a house and money on account of his support for the age-limit removal.
Many critics believe the harassment of Nambooze is intended to divert public attention from the unsolved killings. After her recent arrest, during transportation, a police vehicle reportedly rammed into the ambulance, aggravating the back injury Nambooze sustained in the September assault.
Helen Epstein, an American professor at Bard College who has done extensive research on Uganda on human rights and health-related issues, recently shared a dossier of the torture endured by Nambooze to Dr. Williams, prompting his June 29 letter to Secretary Johnson.
The MP, who is a medical doctor worked in Uganda treating people in rural areas before he joined the British Parliament. In the letter to Johnson, he said he had “witnessed first-hand many of the political difficulties in the country and I have been critical of President Yoweri Museveni.” He added: “My criticism of the President has brought me to the attention of the media in Uganda as as a result I am contacted from time to time by those concerned about the situation in Uganda from both constituents and from further afield.”
Dr. Williams concluded: “I have enclosed details provided by Ms Epstein, and I would be grateful if you would ensure that the Government is making all appropriate diplomatic representations possible in order to secure the safety and wellbeing of Betty Nambooze MP.”
When contacted by The Black Star Epstein confirmed she had been in touch with Dr. Williams about Nambooze’s ordeal.
Dr. Williams in the last few months has pressed the British government, a key financial and diplomatic Museveni regime supporter, to raise the issue of leadership. During the Commonwealth Heads of Government (chogm) meeting in London in April, he posed the following question to the British government during Parliamentary debate: “Will the government use chogm to give a message to Uganda’s President Museveni that after 32 years in power he’s become a barrier to his country’s development and that good governance includes leaving office.”