Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday, Bobi Wine reiterated his commitment to the preservation, protection and promotion of democratic principles in Uganda, a state where they are too often repressed. Seated alongside his international lawyer, Bob Amsterdam, Bobi Wine attested to the cause he represents, urging his compatriots to continue fighting against their oppression.
Asked Thursday about what he expects other Ugandan activists to do, he said simply: “I want you to stand with the oppressed, not the oppresser.”
Museveni, who took power by force in 1986, is a U.S. ally on regional security. In 2007 he deployed Ugandan troops to help fight al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists in Somalia, one reason many Ugandans believe Western powers are reluctant to criticize his human rights record at home.
“The fact is American arms and American equipment have been used to torture Ugandans,” Robert Amsterdam, Ssentamu’s U.S.-based lawyer, told reporters. “We call on the U.S. government to immediately suspend military funding to Uganda, launch an investigation immediately into the use of U.S. equipment to torture Ugandan citizens.”
Amsterdam said he would seek the application of a U.S. law under which individuals anywhere in the world can be targeted with sanctions for committing human rights violations.
“We are compiling a list under the Magnitsky Act,” he said. “Ugandan torturers beware. Your ability to travel, your ability to hold assets abroad may well be put at risk by your continuing to participate in a special squad of torturers.”
In recent years Ugandan forces have been accused by opposition politicians of harassing and torturing perceived opponents, and Museveni himself is accused of wanting to rule for life.
Museveni, who is 74, is now able to seek re-election in 2021 because parliament passed legislation last year removing a clause in the constitution that had prevented anyone over 75 from holding the presidency. Security personnel entered the parliamentary chamber and roughed up opposition lawmakers, including Ssentamu, who had been trying to delay a vote on that legislation.
Museveni has accused Ssentamu and other opposition figures of luring young people into rioting.
“Pseudo-democrats, be informed that the game of trying to hijack our democracy by fascists and foreign agents is over,” Museveni said in a statement recently. “We shall not tolerate any threats by words or by actions. Enough is enough.”