Museveni an exemplary respecter of human rights | By Faruk Kirunda
On Saturday August 14, President Yoweri Museveni delivered an impromptu address to the nation in which he issued the sternest warning ever to security forces against the use of torture against suspects in their custody as well as while conducting public policing operations.
The president was very elaborate in his address and many Ugandans tuned in to watch and listen. Others must have picked what he said from those who tuned it.
As a communicator, I believe that the president’s message sank deeply. Uganda must be free from human rights violations and torture in compliance with relevant Constitutional and legal provisions, and the Geneva Convention. That is the position of the President of the Republic, head-of-state, fountain-of-honour and Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces.
All the concerned parties heard what he had to say and for that matter, are expected to comply or have themselves to blame.
Talk of “orders from above” cannot apply in Museveni’s Uganda.
But while we would expect that the big man’s message was very plain, in simple language and with live demonstrations of what he was talking about, politicians are feigning failure to understand the message. Why? Most of them know that Museveni was very honest about his concerns and Ugandans trust him more.
Some of the public figures claimed that Museveni has presided over human rights abuses and that his security forces have tortured people.
To respond, first of all, the NRM government presided over by Museveni restored the full dignity of Ugandans and a whole system of human rights observances. The fact that Uganda today does not have genuine seekers of asylum abroad says a lot.
The value of respect for human rights was ingrained in the mind and spirit of the NRA revolutionaries as they fought to free Uganda. Theirs had to be the stark opposite of those they were fighting against.
Human rights restoration and observance featured prominently in the Ten Point Programme, the blue print document which spelt out NRM’s plan for Uganda upon assumption of power.
That document wasn’t a wishlist just as Museveni’s address wasn’t about the coffee cup, human dignity precedes everything else other than life.
We have recently been through an election in which NRM promised to “secure the future” of Ugandans.
Doesn’t it occur to the politicians that a future cannot be secure unless people feel safe, respected, desired and involved?
President Museveni told person experiences of how he respected human rights even as a fighter and how he inculcated the same values in his command.
Museveni has never tortured anyone or violated rights of people knowingly. The fact that he always works to bring his enemies close means that he respects their status and views. And if he can respect the rights of his enemies, then whose rights can’t he respect?
NRA was very strict in enforcing discipline among its fighters. Those who abused he rights of wanainchi were usually set up on firing squad, although they were few.
The same standard of discipline and control was carried over to the UPDF and I have no doubt that a serviceman who uses his powers irresponsibly against a civilian cannot have a place in the people’s army.
And since all our armed forces are well coordinated, it goes without saying that other security agencies operate under the same code of conduct.
I saw the IGP issuing an advisory and a call center where anybody can report any incidents of torture. That’s a fine step. Every cop knows that they are being watched while on duty.
Museveni did not just wake up last week and recall that human rights matter and that torture is evil. He has a track record, and is on record as seen in communications he read out to the public from as far back as 2017.
I am sure there were earlier ones, including verbal instructions, from as far back as 1986. It’s just that the system needs constant reminders and new thinking on how to resolve lingering incidents.
Some voices claimed that Museveni was on record applauding his forces for “torturing” people, giving the example of remarks he made on the Arua incident involving Bobi Wine.
I see no contradiction in the president’s assertions back then and what he said on August 14. What happened in Arua was not an attack by security on an innocent civilian but someone who was actively engaged in a confrontation with security personnel.
Security personnel were acting in self-defence after coming under attack, a claim that was replicated by his lieutenant, Mityana Municipality MP, Francis Zaake.
That’s why appeals and attempts to petition ICC have not worked. None of the incidents that have happened in Uganda of recent warrant policing by the world court and powers.
Everything happens within the context of the players, but the overall position is that Uganda is an ardent observer of people’s rights. Where any violations may occur, again depending on the circumstances, channels of redress are in place.
Also, it is not the sole preserve of the security forces and government officials to observe human rights. The general population must do its part. People should act responsibly when dealing with fellow civilians and security personnel. A civilian who attacks security officers on duty should not cry out when things don’t go well for them.
The author is a Presidential Assistant in Charge of Media Management
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