EU not supporting insurgents in Uganda - envoy

Attilio Pacifici

Attilio Pacifici

The European Union is not funding potentially subversive activities as has been alleged by the Ugandan government, head of European Union delegation in Uganda, Attilio Pacifici has said. Ambassador Pacifici said such claims have come up from the Ugandan government, questioning the EU support to support to civil society actors in areas of human rights and governance. Speaking at a dialogue on human rights at Kampala Serena hotel, Pacifici said the claims are baseless and unfounded.

"There is a perception of what is done by the civil society - very often seen as supporting something that is destabilising. We’re not, we’re not plotting absolutely anything. In fact very often when these issues are mentioned we ask in what ways do you think we’re supporting subversive activities? We want to know what we’re doing right or what we’re doing wrong." Pacifici said. 

He was one of the panelists at a dialogue under the theme "The European Union's contribution to Human Rights in Uganda - Are we doing the right thing?" Other panelists included Chief Justice, Bert Katureebe, former Ethics minister Miria Matembe, Lillian Adriko, CEO Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA-U) and senior presidential advisor political affairs David Mafabi.

Pacifici said the EU in Uganda supports activities aimed at implementation of the human rights issues as par the ACP-EU Partnership agreement, signed in Cotonou on 23rd June 2000. Uganda is part of the signatories of the agreement running from 2000 to 2020.

Part of the support according to Pacifici, goes to the civil society and the rest goes to government in form of budget support. The EU has been part of the biggest funders to the Justice, Law and Order sector in Uganda.

Germany's ambassador to Uganda, Albrecht Conze in carefully calculated remark, wondered whether the EU and its members in Uganda should not continue asking questions about human rights like another of Uganda's friend that never asks questions. He was seemingly referring to China that is generally known not ask questions about human rights in Uganda and other countries receiving Chinese support.

"I want an answer to what is really bothering us. Is it right that we talk about human rights in Africa, we Europeans? Is it right that we tell the president when we meet him twice a year, that he should think of abolishing the death penalty?" said Conze. 

The comments by the EU diplomats in Uganda come hardly a month after the EU Ambassador to Tanzania, Roeland Van dee Geer was unceremoniously made to leave the country. He was allegedly given an ultimatum to leave following a fallout with the President John Pombe Magufuli's administration.

Van de Geer was known for his "frankness" and was openly critical about the human rights situation in Tanzania. Now Conze during the discussion said has reflected on the Tanzania situation and wondered whether is high time that EU and its ambassadors toned down on their human rights demands and questions. It appears like there has been a behind the scenes exchange between the government and EU following the Arua violence in which Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi's driver Yasin Kawuma was gunned down and several MPs and locals arrested. 

Presidential advisor Mafabi stayed away from answering to question raised by the two diplomats apart from saying that Uganda is still evolving in terms of human rights observance.

"The Ugandan and the African people, I agree entirely, it’s our right and its our duty, our partners and our friends can give us a helping hand but no country in the world owes us a living….we appreciate friends, we appreciate partnerships, but ultimately, it's our duty, it's our responsibility, we or the Ugandan or African community to sort out these issues." said Mafabi. 

Former Mbarara Woman MP and state minister for Ethics, Miria Matembe said the civil society in Uganda had been accused of being agents of foreign interests because they are speaking against bad governance, militarism and corruption.

"I used to be in civil society and we used to work in complementarity with government. Down with the road, because we questioned wrong, we became wrong…That is why they say we’re foreign agents. But if the government is foreign funded, shouldn’t we also be foreign funded? Is government also an agent of foreign whatever. All this nonsense must stop, we should speak the truth and say the crave for power, to stay in power forever is the cause of all theses things that have happened." said Matembe. 

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd