WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States should suspend its military aid to Uganda over the government’s human rights record, the U.S. lawyer for a prominent critic of President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday.
The call broadens criticism of the government by opposition lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi, a musician known by his stage name Bobi Wine.
Authorities charged Kyagulanyi with treason last month over the suspected stoning of Museveni’s convoy. He denies the charge and says he was tortured in detention. He arrived in Washington on Saturday for medical treatment for his injuries.
Kyagulanyi was elected last year and has gained popularity for his attacks on Museveni. The president has ruled since 1986 and has won a series of elections but is viewed by some as out of touch. The government in Kampala denies torturing Kyagulanyi.
“We want the American tax payer to know that the American tax payer is funding this. The military equipment we are supplying to Uganda is being used in a war of terror against Uganda’s citizens,” lawyer Robert Amsterdam told a news conference in Washington flanked by Kyagulanyi, 36.
“We call on the U.S. government to immediately suspend military funding to Uganda,” he said.
Kyagulanyi used crutches and showed reporters blisters on the palm of his hand he said were traces of the torture.
“I must go back home. Uganda is my home,” he said. “I want you (my supporters) to stand with the oppressed, not the oppressor.”
There was no immediate comment from U.S. authorities or from the government in Kampala. The U.S. embassy previously said it was concerned about the beating of MP’s following the incident during which Kyagulanyi’s driver was shot dead.
Washington is a major source of funding for Uganda’s military, supplying hardware, cash and training. It has given equipment, money and intelligence for the military’s hunt for Lord’s Resistance Army warlord Joseph Kony.
Museveni also receives diplomatic support from Washington for his deployment of troops in international peacekeeping missions including the fight against militants in Somalia.
Chinese offshore oil and gas company CNOOC Ltd, France’s Total and London-listed Tullow Oil are among major investors present in Uganda. [L5N1VS2S9]
“International investors in Uganda have obligations,” Amsterdam said.
“While we are not today in any way seeking disinvestment from Uganda, what we are seeking is responsible investment in Uganda,” Amsterdam said.
(Reporting by Reuters TV in Washington and Elias Biyraberema in Kampala; Writing by Cecilie Kallestrup in Nairobi; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Matthew Mpoke Bigg)