Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Honourable Robert Menendez (D - N.J.),

The United States Senate, 

Foreign Relations Committee,

Washington D.C.,

United States of America.

Senator Menendez,

1. On the 17th December 2020, you introduced a Senate Resolution couched in apparently innocuous terms, “Urging the Government of Uganda and all parties to respect human, civil, and political rights and ensure free and fair elections in January 2021, and recognizing the importance of multiparty democracy in Uganda”.

2. Except closer perusal of your draft resolution, reveals the incredible opposite! Here are excerpts from your preamble:

“Whereas the NRM has engineered changes to the Ugandan constitution in 2005 and 2017, which removed presidential term limits and age-limits respectively, and have allowed President Museveni to remain in power for more than 3 decades;”

“Whereas national elections in Uganda since 1996 have not met internationally accepted standards for free and fair polls …;”

“Whereas Ugandan authorities have used coercive measures, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and intrusive surveillance technology to intimidate and silence political opposition in the country;”

Etc …!!

“Whereas same-sex relations in Uganda remain criminalized under section 145 of the Penal Code Act, and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (referred to in this preamble as ‘‘LGBTQ persons’’) face a range of direct punitive action from Ugandan authorities …;”

“Whereas the Museveni Administration has deployed an escalating array of repressive measures before the January 2021 elections … which have triggered protests and the subsequent use of force … which led to the deaths of at least 28 people in November 2020;”

3. Your “remedies” for the situation you so colourfully paint, continue in the same bizzare vein:

“That the Senate -

(1) Condemns the Museveni Administration’s assault on democratic freedoms, including attacks on opposition politicians, assaults on journalists and media freedoms, and burdensome restrictions on nongovernmental organizations;”

“(2) Urges the Government of Uganda -

(A) To respect the rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda … and relevant international obligations …;”

Etc …!!

“(3) Calls upon the Government of Uganda and President Museveni -

(A) To repeal repressive laws and administrative actions that are contrary to the principles of good governance, a healthy democracy, and the rights enumerated in the Constitution, such as -

(i) Colonial-era laws that target the LGBTQ community; and

(ii) The Uganda Communications Commission’s September 2020 public notice that, in conjunction with other regulations, undermines digital rights;”

 “(4) Calls on the Secretary of State, and the heads of relevant departments and agencies of the United States Government to continue -

(A) To speak out against the Government of Uganda’s efforts to undermine democracy;”

“(B) To hold the Government of Uganda accountable for respecting the rights of its citizens, in accordance with its Constitution and international obligations, including by -

(i) Considering the imposition of targeted sanctions and visa restrictions on actors involved in undermining credible, transparent elections, or for perpetrating or abetting human rights abuses;”


“(ii) Leading international partners and institutions, including those in Africa, in developing and implementing strategies and actions to promote and defend human, civil, and political rights and multiparty democracy in Uganda;”

“(iii) Immediately conducting a review of United States Government assistance and cooperation with the Government of Uganda …;”

“(iv)   Insisting on full and public investigations that ensure accountability for acts of violence, harassment and intimidation ...;”

4. Senator, your draft resolution is a startlingly disappointing mix of confusion, mistruth, exaggeration, distortion and irresponsibility.

5. Senator, to attempt to participate in a blow by blow discussion of its contents, is to lend legitimacy to an insult to our basic humanity and sovereignty … It is to accept your cavalier disdain of our people’s valiant efforts for their fundamental regeneration and forward advancement.

6. Senator we must note though, in passing - that the draft resolution suggests an astonishing ignorance (deliberate side stepping?) of the history of the United States … How could you possibly be unaware that for a full 175 years from the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to the passing of the 22nd Amendment in February 1951, the United States had NO presidential term limits? The legal-constitutional space that saw Franklin Delano Roosevelt run and win presidential elections 4 times? Nobody knows what would have happened if he had not died in office!

How could you possibly not be aware that the United States has no upper age limit for its President? That President Elect Joseph Robinette Biden Jnr turned 78 last month? That at his inauguration, President Donald Trump was 70?

7. Senator, are there no lessons you learn from the history of the Amendments to the United States Constitution? As for example, the 13th Amendment on Slavery? Do you sometimes reflect on the immortal words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident … That all men are created equal … That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … amongst which are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness …?”

Have you forgotten that the framers of these words - including Washington, Jefferson - all owned slaves? Have you forgotten that it took a most bloody civil war for the question of slavery to be settled? And that that in itself, did not settle the issues of civil and other rights? Have you forgotten the pains you, Senator, faced as a second generation Hispanic American?

The 19th Amendment? On Women Suffrage?

Senator, Democracy is nurtured … It is grown … National Statehood evolves, is consolidated … National ethos, national psyche - grow, evolve. The latest Presidential election in the United States has important lessons for all of us.

8. Senator, no country should speak down to another … No country should arrogate to itself the task of policing the world … We could, we should, we must … speak to one another, with one another … Maybe we could together explore a new and more equal multilateralism … Buccaneering big power diktat belongs in the past. It costs you nothing to learn to work with the respected leaders of our people, with our institutions like the African Union.

And, make no mistake about it. It has been a very long, tortuous and circuitous 600 year struggle - for Self Assertion, Independence, Democracy, Progress and Social Justice … But, the emergent peoples of the world are finally standing up. We shall not be insulted again. In the long and arduous process of re-ordering, re-structuring and democratizing the United Nations system and International Relations in general, we may have to enact our own “Magnitsky Act” … targeting and sanctioning individuals outside Mother Africa who undermine the new becoming of the emergent peoples of the world. 

9. Senator, two last points … In 2015, you were indicated on 18 federal charges of corruption … A mistrial was declared in February 2018 (very recently), the charges dropped - but not before you had voluntarily stepped down as Chairperson of the Foreign Relations Committee … Still, in April 2018 your peers in the Senate Select Committee on Ethics “severely admonished” you in written record … Should you really be lecturing anybody - inside or outside the United States - on “gross corruption”?

Then, your touching concern about LGBTQ persons …!! Senator, you run the risk of being misunderstood, of your motives being called into question … Are you speaking factually about countries like Uganda - or rather, to your constituents in New Jersey? If I am not wrong, the main issue between you and Republican Candidate Bob Hugin in the last election was about who was more consistently pro-LGBTQ … 

K. David Mafabi

Senior Presidential Advisor/Special Duties

State House


23rd December 2020