December 6, 2013 (KAMPALA) - The US government has reportedly blacklisted some Ugandan police officers from travelling and attending training in America over their brutal handling of protesters.
The Observer, a Ugandan newspaper reported this week that the officers have been blacklisted because of rights violations of ‘‘Walk-to- work’’ protesterss- a 2011 campaign by opposition leaders to protest rising costs of living and corruption.
The paper said the officers cannot travel to the US or attend any US sponsored training programmes.
In a response to an inquiry by the Sudan Tribune, Will Stevens, Spokesperson
U.S. Department of State Bureau of African Affairs, without denying or confirming the blacklisting of the officers said respect for human rights is an important aspect of US- Uganda security relations.
‘‘Human rights vetting is an integral part of this process, ensuring that security assistance is being used in the manner intended and is consistent with our legal obligations, foreign policy goals, and values.’’
Asked to specifically comment whether some Ugandan police officers had been blacklisted by the US, Stevens said: ‘‘U.S. privacy laws prevent us from commenting on the eligibility of individuals for visas.’’
He added: ‘‘However, consistent with U.S. law and policy, the State Department vets its assistance to foreign security forces, as well as certain Department of Defense training programs, to ensure that recipients have not committed gross human rights abuses. We do not provide assistance to individuals or units where the vetting process uncovers credible information of human rights violations.’’
After reports of the blacklisting, Norbert Mao, president of the opposition party, the Democratic Party (DP) claimed he had submitted names of ‘‘brutal’’ police officers to western embassies.
‘‘When I announced last year that we had submitted a list of police officers involved in or complicit in acts of brutality against unarmed civilians to Western Governments, some people thought it was a joke. Now the day of reckoning has come. Officers previously selected for training abroad have been told they are no longer eligible to travel abroad for further training,’’ said Norbert Mao.
One of the senior police officers said to be the US-blacklist is Andrew Felix Kawesi. When contacted by phone on Friday Kaweesi said ‘‘contact the American embassy.’’
When informed that a response from the Americans had already been got, he told Sudan Tribune: ‘‘I don’t care. Write what you can as long as it’s not speculation.’’
Uganda’s opposition and human rights organisation have accused the police of using brutal methods in tackling protesters.
The Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni recently ascended to the Public Order Management Act, a piece of legislation his critics say is meant to check on his critics. The government says the law is necessary to keep law and order.
Museveni has proposed that protesters should be denied bail, the suggestion critics say targets his political opponents. Bail is a constitutional right in Uganda.