Kampala. The European Union yesterday joined other partners including the United States in piling pressure on the Uganda government to appoint an independent investigation into the Kasese bloodletting last November, which left more than 100 people dead.
The EU delegation of 10 countries: Austria, Belgium Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and United Kingdom did not, however, call for an international investigation like the Human Rights Watch and some opposition leaders in the country have demanded.
On Wednesday, government in a statement signed by Mr Ofwono Opondo, the executive director Uganda Media Centre, maintained it had the capacity to institute an independent investigation, if there is need.
“And therefore, the call to suspend some commanders from their duties or restrain them from conducting government duties is uncalled for and unacceptable. The main focus of government has been pursuing criminal investigation, bringing suspects to prosecution and restore order, which is being achieved.”
The EU expressed readiness to facilitate the investigation if the government shows commitment to the inquiry.
“We therefore call on the competent authorities to immediately conduct the necessary field investigation, ensuring strong witness protection and protection of evidence. We stand ready to support such efforts,” the EU statement reads in part.
However, the EU delegation warned of undesirable consequences if government fails or refuses to institute such an investigation.
“The European Union believes a failure to fully investigate this tragedy will perpetuate insecurity, undermine the rule of law and deny the families their right to know the truth. As a strong partner to Uganda, we believe justice for victims on all sides is a prerequisite for peace and development,” the EU stated.
The EU position is similar to the call by the Human Rights Watch ,which released its report on Rwenzururu violence, implicating security forces and calling on the government to punish the perpetrators of the bloodletting.
In their statement, the EU too stressed the need to hold the culpable members of the security forces (army and police) to account for their actions during the raid on the Rwenzururu king’s palace at Buhikira in Kasese.
“We also note that the government considers the ongoing court case against the Omusinga (Rwenzururru king) to be the appropriate process for delivering justice. For justice to be impartial and complete, the conduct of the security forces during the raid on the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu palace should also be subject to scrutiny, with their full cooperation,” the EU statement further reads.
The Human Rights Watch said in a second report on the killings committed by both the army and police, especially during the raid on the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu’s palace, that their findings “warrant an independent, impartial fact-finding mission with international expertise”.
“If given unfettered access to witnesses and forensic evidence,” HRW said, “independent experts with a fact-finding mission could determine if the massacre on November 27 should be characterised as a “crime against humanity.”
The United States in a statement shortly after, backed the call saying it “takes note” of HRW’s report and is “deeply troubled” by the “disproportionate use of force by security officials” especially the reports that “no effort to remove unarmed people from the compound was done which may have contributed to the death of numerous children”.
The statement added that “the Ugandan people deserve a full and factual accounting of the events in Kasese, which government has not yet allowed.”