Members of Parliament (MPs) of the United Kingdom House of Commons have underscored the need by their government to ensure that democracy and the rule of the law are protected in Uganda.
They were on Tuesday debating democracy in Uganda, in a session motion moved by Dr Paul Williams of Stockton South Constituency that touched Uganda’s ‘systematically undermining of democratic’ value.
But the country was lauded for its efforts in keeping peace in Mogadishu and its expansive immigration policy that has seen it placed the third host of global refugees.
“Serious concerns have been raised internationally about the Ugandan Government systematically undermining democracy in their country,” Dr Paul Williams said.
Most of the MPs who contributed to the debate criticized Uganda’s governance system except for John Howell of Henley constituency who sought to know why Britain meddled in Uganda’s affairs.
He quoted press reports where a section of Ugandans questioned why the British Parliament was trying to tell them what to do their own Parliament.
“Does that not show that we face an uphill struggle in getting our points across in the measured way he (Dr Williams) describes?” Howell asked.
But Dr Williams retorted; “I thought it right to ask what our legitimate interest is and to establish why our relationship is important and how Ugandan democracy impacts on that relationship. I hope to develop that argument as I progress through my speech.”
The MPs said that certain Uganda development partners in the European Union, due to corruption in the country, have taken other steps whereby they now channel donations directly to agencies.
In 2012, Wiiliams said, €12 million contributed by Ireland, Denmark and Norway directly into the bank accounts of officials working in the Prime Minister’s office.
“We now have to provide our UK support through private sector and non-governmental organisations. We cannot pretend that that is a good thing – it is always better to work with governments – but, to be honest, we know that if want to help the people of Uganda, we cannot give money to their current government,” Williams said.
He reiterated that he has a personal interest in Uganda having stayed here for four years working in Kanungu District as a doctor with local health workers.
“I am a friend of the country, and I have many Ugandan friends. I want to speak today in that spirit of friendship and as an equal partner,” Dr Williams said.
The UK parliamentary debate was sparked by the August 2018 chaos that preceded the military detention and torture of opposition members that security alleged incited or participated in the stoning of President Museveni’s armored vehicle.
The incident attracted international condemnation with questions being raised by Uganda’s global partners.
Dr Williams last year alleged that President Museveni was a barrier to Uganda’s development.
Yesterday. He outlined the misdeeds of Uganda’s leadership where the military attacked Parliament as MPs debated the extension of presidential term limits.
“There is evidence of serious human rights abuses, including serious and credible reports about a 2016 attack on the palace of King Charles Mumbere in Kasese, and the massacre of 150 civilians by Ugandan forces,” Williams noted.
“The solider who led that attack has been promoted, and no independent investigation has taken place. I hope that the Minister (for Africa Affairs) will explain the Government’s position on that attack,” he said.
He said serious allegations have been made about our elections although in diplomatic terms the process is described as “short of being free and fair”.
He referred to the EU report on the 2016 presidential election where 30 recommendations proposed that should be enacted before the next election in 2021.
“As of March 2018, none of those EU recommendations had been implemented. There are credible stories of vote-rigging, with the police preventing access to “rigging houses”, and electoral bribery is common. Ugandan politicians routinely hand out money or gifts at election rallies,” he said.
Williams said that those who seek to get elective leadership positions have their homes cordoned off by soldiers and police and the electorate is threatened after rallies.
Williams also described a young, charismatic popular Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine who he said has been harassed.
“Bobi has been the target of totally undemocratic behaviour. In August last year, he and four other MPs were arrested by the military while campaigning for a by-election. His driver was shot dead, and he was severely beaten by soldiers before being brought to court on trumped-up charges that were later dropped,” Williams said.
He said the attacks on democracy allow ‘a small group of people to retain power’ as they illegally benefit from that power and patronage.
“The corruption has meant that the UK’s Department for International Development has stopped direct budgetary support to the Government of Uganda.,” Williams said.
But Stafford MP, Jeremy Lefroy argued that amidst all criticism, Uganda should be credited for its soldiers who have died in a peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Chris Law of Dundee lauded the Uganda government for its expansive policy on refugee being the third largest global host of immigrants but cautioned that the UK should be prepared to ensure that democracy and the rule of the law are protected.