After a humiliating travel ban slapped recently against Gen Kale Kayihura and the denial of a US visa to Pius Bigirimana last week, Kampala has halted all pretense of normalcy at the highest levels of government and asked the US government to name and shame all ranking officials on the American blacklist.
Interviewed yesterday about the US visa denials and blacklist of government officials fingered by Americans for being corrupt and human rights abusers, Ofwono Opondo, the Uganda Media Centre executive director and Government spokesman said, “If there are people being squeezed because they stole money and stashed it there [outside Uganda], that is good, but the problem is, they [US] are not telling us who the blacklisted officials are.”
“The suspected criminals whether corrupt or facing human rights violations should be availed to us, they [US] should provide us with reasons and evidence so that we can deal with them here. We want them to name and shame these officials,” Opondo added.
“It will be good if they tell us which properties they have and where, so that we can confiscate them and recover the money they stole,” he said, adding that President Museveni disapproves of Ugandan officials travelling to western countries to attend conferences and other trainings yet they can easily access the materials online.
Kampala was jostled yet again on Monday by news that Bigirimana, the new permanent secretary to the Judiciary, had been denied a visa to travel to the US to attend a conference at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, California, along with Chief Justice Bart Katureebe.
Well-placed sources have intimated to The Observer that Bigirimana’s problems stem from the 2012 Shs 500bn corruption scandal that rocked the Office of the Prime Minister where he served as permanent secretary. Interviewed for a comment yesterday, Bigirimana said, “I don’t want to comment about that matter for now.”
But in an earlier interview with The New Vision carried in the Monday edition, Bigirimana insisted he had not been denied a visa. He said there was simply a delay in the processing of his visa. He said he was in the US in March and will travel again in December.
The chieftains in Kampala were first panicked on September 13, when the Office of Foreign assets Control (OFAC) under the US Department of Treasury, announced a travel ban against former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Gen Kale Kayihura and his family –accused of human rights violations, corruption and wildlife trafficking.
The Observer has learnt that the US watch-list of potential inductees in Uganda includes several senior officers in police and security agencies and, some cabinet ministers.
Through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the sanctions bar Kayihura and his family from travelling to the USA on top of seizing any assets he may have there.
The Americans, according to the source, have been quietly compiling evidence against several government officials linked to various corruption scandals that have rocked the country in the recent past. Their keen interest is on projects financed by donor funds which Ugandan officials have swindled and stashed away in safe havens outside the country.
The watch-list also has a senior military officer who has reportedly been banned from not only the US but the European Union (EU) member states.
President Museveni in his missive published on September 22 said Uganda stopped sending its security officials to training courses sponsored by western powers after they became selective on which officers should attend the trainings.
Beyond human rights abuses that Kayihura is accused of, a source adds that the USA is keenly monitoring several individuals accused of involvement in what is termed as Illicit Financial Flows (IFF).
Such IFFs included illegal exploitation of mineral resources, drug and wildlife trafficking as well as corruption. The timing of Kayihura’s sanctions, according to some observers, is to warn the ruling class in the country to watch their actions.
“Back in 2013, the US blacklisted several police officers for their involvement in unleashing terror on demonstrators [See: Officers denied US training for their role in quelling ‘walk-to-work’ riots, The Observer December 4, 2013].
Then, the police authorities were kept in the dark until several officers nominated to attend a US-sponsored training course were denied visas. The officers included; Grace Turyagumanawe, Laban Muhabwe and Joel Aguma.
In April 2014, the US slapped sanctions on the late Andrew Felix Kaweesi while he was the Kampala Metropolitan Police commander. Yet again, Kaweesi wasn’t informed about the ban until he was due to attend the course at the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) junior academy in the USA.