Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The government of Uganda has been criticized over its alleged failure to adequately investigate the use of lethal force by security forces that resulted in the deaths of at least nine people during protests over corruption and rising commodity prices in April 2011.
In a statement made available to PANA here Sunday, the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said a year after the nine were killed, no member of the security forces has been held accountable and only one had been arrested.
It said the failure to investigate the deaths and prosecute members of the security forces who used unnecessary lethal force during the April 2011 protests, as well as new threats in recent weeks on the right of free speech and assembly, set the stage for future abuses and contribute to escalating tensions.
“Members of the Ugandan military and police commit serious crimes with impunity, particularly during politically charged demonstrations,” the statement quoted Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at HRW, as saying.“Ugandan law guarantees the right to free assembly, speech, and association, but security forces disregarded these basic freedoms and responded with live ammunition.”
A wave of protests began in April 2011 after Activists for Change (A4C), a non-partisan group, called on the public to “foster peaceful change in the management of public affairs.”
The first action was “Walk to Work” protests twice a week to protest escalating food and fuel costs and government financial mismanagement. The government contended that the protests constituted unlawful assembly and said it intended to stop them.
HRW said it documented the killings of at least nine unarmed people over several days by government forces – six in Kampala, two in Gulu, and one in Masaka.
None of the nine was actively involved in rioting and some were not involved in the protests, the rights group said, adding that security forces also beat or shot at more than 30 journalists, confiscated audio recorders and cameras, and deleted images of the violence.
Several opposition politicians, including two former presidential candidates, were violently arrested and charged with unlawful assembly and inciting violence. All charges were eventually dropped, it said.
-0- PANA SEG 29April2012