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Monday, December 13, 2010

What the U.S. thinks of M7 - WikiLeaks

President Museveni yesterday denied reports that he was scared of an assassination plot by Col. Muammar Gaddafi on a day that more leaked cables showed that US diplomats believe the country is going backwards under his rule, despite making significant gains earlier.

In yet another revelation, America’s top envoy to Uganda wrote to Washington late last year warning that President Museveni’s tenure in office was gradually “eroding Uganda’s status as an African success story.” Ambassador Jerry Lanier made the comments in one of four confidential memos made public yesterday by whistleblower website, WikiLeaks. The US envoy also passed an indictment on the prospect of alternative leadership from Uganda’s opposition, describing the parties as “fractured, politically immature and greatly outnumbered in Parliament.”

“They control no government ministries, and are not skillful using either the press or protest, their primary political tools,” he wrote.

The leaked diplomatic cables, published yesterday by The Guardian newspaper, reveal Mr Lanier’s discussions on human rights abuse, war crimes and corruption. Writing on October 19, 2009, ahead of a crucial visit by US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson to Kampala, Mr Lanier noted that although Uganda had become a confidant and outspoken regional leader under President Museveni, the NRM leader’s “autocratic tendencies” were threatening to move the country in reverse gear.

“The President’s autocratic tendencies, as well as Uganda’s pervasive corruption, sharpening ethnic divisions and explosive population growth, have eroding [sic] Uganda’s status as an African success story,” wrote Mr Lanier. The US envoy noted, however, that holding “a credible and peaceful” election in February 2011 could “restore Uganda’s image” but failing to do so “could lead to domestic political violence and regional instability”.

Mr Lanier’s private observations were made less than two months after he arrived to his new posting in Uganda with authorities in Kampala describing him as a “very good” choice. With a diplomatic career spanning some 26 years, Mr Lanier replaced Amb. Steven Browning who left Uganda in July 2009. In the cable to Mr Carson, Mr Lanier also referred to the September riots and the killing of several civilians who were protesting a decision by the government to block Kabaka Ronald Mutebi from travelling to Kayunga and expressed criticism of President Museveni’s NRM government before concluding that “press reports and anecdotal evidence suggest the President is increasingly isolated and unaware of the depth of resentment both within the NRM and among society as a whole”.

“Then NRM’s near total accumulation of power has led to poor governance, corruption, and rising ethnic tensions, a combination that threatens Ugandan ‘democracy and stability,” he noted. The government yesterday moved to dismiss the contents of the leaked cables. In a separate cable, however, US concerns about possible war crimes committed by the UPDF in its fight against rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army with the aid of US supplied intelligence are revealed. Mr Lanier curiously wrote that he had in fact warned Uganda to let the US know in advance when the UPDF intended to commit war crimes using American intelligence.

In the December 16 memo, Amb. Lanier reported to Washington that Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga had verbally assured him that US intelligence was being used “in compliance with Ugandan law and the law of armed conflict. This pledge includes the principles of proportionality, distinction and humane treatment of captured combatants.” But just a day later, Mr Lanier authored another memo revealing US concerns over alleged human rights abuse, citing the case of an LRA colonel who had been killed eight years ago, at a time when the Rome Statute, the instrument that created the International Criminal Court of which Uganda is a signatory, had come into effect. He reported that Col. Peter Oloya, who had been jailed in Gulu had been shot on the orders of then UPDF northern Uganda intelligence coordinator Col. Charles Otema, now a brigadier, on July 1, 2002.

“I dismiss those statements with the contempt they deserve,” said UPDF spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, reacting to Ambassador Lanier’s memo. “It is erroneous for anyone to claim that Uganda got US intelligence in 2002. The Americans only offered us intelligence for Operation Lightning Thunder in 2008.” Discussing the Oloya killing, Lt. Col. Kulayigye said the LRA rebel was shot as he tried to escape from jail.
“Brig. Otema isn’t stupid to call for someone and then have him killed,” he said.

“That individual was under detention and tried to ran away and was shot. Ambassador Lanier was not in Uganda at the time of this incident.”

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