The Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) has condemned the decision by the United States government to impose financial sanctions against Major. General Abel Kandiho, the Chief of Military Intelligence.
In a statement released on Tuesday, UPDF spokesperson Brig. Gen Flavia Byekwaso said they are disappointed as a force and therefore will be seeking clarification from the United States of America authorities on financial sanctions imposed against Kandiho, adding that they are surprised and overlay disappointed that the US government could take such a decision without due process.
“As a country and UPDF in particular, a reputable government institution, we are disappointed such a decision could be made by a country we consider friendly, a partner and a great ally, without due process and in total disregard of the principle of fair hearing coupled with failure to make necessary consultations,” reads the statement in part.
Gen. Kandiho joins a growing list of Ugandan security chiefs such as former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Maj Gen Kale Kayihura, to be sanctioned by the US.
Gen Kandiho’s sanctions comes just months after the US Senators on the Committee on Foreign Relations early this year gave the Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, up to March 31 to present a detailed analysis of the US-Uganda relationship “informed by an inter-agency review of whether continued partnership” with the regime in Kampala posed risks to Washington’s interests in the region.
The Senators, James Risch (Republican, Idaho) and Cory Booker (Democrat, Washington), in a March 4 letter to Mr Blinken, said despite repeated calls on the state democracy and human rights abuses in Uganda, the Washington-Kampala relations have “remained largely unchanged for years” while the State Department and Department of Defence “have generally responded with platitude” about the Kampala regime’s essential contribution to Amisom, managing the South Sudan peace process, and the longstanding partnership on HIV/Aids, and additional regional security.
Last December, Democratic senator Bob Menendez, who currently chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, tabled a resolution to compel the Secretary of State and heads of other departments and agencies to consider the imposition of targeted sanctions and visa restrictions.
Two weeks earlier in December, the House of Representatives Committee on foreign chair, Eliot Engel (who lost his seat), also wrote to the former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, recommending sanctions against Lt-Gen Peter Elwelu, Maj. Gen. James Birungi, Maj-Gen. Don William Nabasa, and Maj. Gen Kandiho.
In the March 4, 2021, letter, the senators echoed previous calls for Washington to invoke the Magnitsky Act to sanction individuals involved in corruption in recent years, and in egregious human rights violations during and after January’s polls.
The calls to Washington to take action against the Kampala regime came on the backdrop of widespread reports of civilian abductions by unidentified security operatives and driven in vans with no registration plates, known as ‘’drones’’ to unknown destinations, leaving families and relatives in distress.
There were also widespread accusations that security forces kill people at will as long as they can qualify an individual was a protestor or threatened them, and go unpunished.
The US gives Uganda nearly $1 billion annually, mainly for health and security support. In return, the Kampala regime has positioned itself as an anchorman of stability in the volatile Great Lakes region, including running security errands, more significantly fighting al Shabaab in Somalia.