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Andrew Mitchell’s sanctions will backfire on UK’s interests in Uganda

Speaker Anita Among

Speaker Anita Among

Ugandans love mob justice.

This is the only reason why some of them are over the moon about financial sanctions that the UK deputy foreign secretary and minister for Africa, Andrew Mitchell, recently imposed on the parliament speaker Anita Among and former ministers Mary Kitutu and Agnes Nandutu.  

None of the three is accused of a crime committed in the United Kingdom. Kitutu and Nandutu are embroiled in ongoing court cases, challenging the alleged acts of corruption in respect of the Karamoja iron sheets saga with which the UK government is officially concerned.

Meanwhile, Among has neither been fingered by any complainant nor charged with corruption under Ugandan law by the Inspectorate of Government and Directorate of Public Prosecutions.

So, what merit does the UK government thus claim for interfering with the internal judicial operations of a sovereign republic?
Viewed objectively, the official reasons for sanctioning the trio are tenuously linked to the prescribed purposes for which a UK minister may invoke Section 1 of the UK Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018.

With great respect, Mitchell scored an own goal when he announced global anti-corruption sanctions that strike at the heart of Uganda’s sovereignty and undermine mutually cherished common law principles such as sub judice, presumption of innocence and due process.

The sanctions are a dangerous signal to the Ugandan people who are desperate for accountability that the UK government endorses mob justice against Ugandan politicians and their fellow citizens.

Mitchell’s move evokes unpleasant memories of pre-independence deportations of Kabaka Mwanga and Omukama Kabalega, among other prominent critics of British colonialism in Africa, and of former president Idi Amin who in 1972 expelled Asians unceremoniously from Uganda for being ‘corrupt British citizens’ before taking over and redistributing their assets.

This long-arm jurisdiction and bullying practice by the UK government tramples on international laws and undercuts the foundation for Uganda-UK cooperation on furthering the interests of global peace and security and fostering respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The Ugandan ministry of Foreign Affairs has strongly condemned this move and has lodged serious demarches and a strong protest to the UK side. In addition, it should be swiftly and sternly condemned by every patriot and advocate of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

White Saviour Complex

It is hypocritical of Mitchell to give us a speech about ‘sending a clear message to those who think benefiting at the expense of others is acceptable. Corruption has consequences and you will be held responsible.’

His political nous is blighted by a White saviour complex which does not allow him to understand the ramifications of his latest anti-corruption grandstanding.

Backfire on UK interests

Uganda is a contraption that emerged out of manipulation and violence inflicted on indigenous tribes in furtherance of the aims of British imperialism.

The fragile peace and security we have experienced for the longest episode since official independence in 1962 is based on the 1995 Constitution which, imperfect though it may be, represents the best compromise for political contestation and the administration of justice in present-day Uganda.

It is, therefore, the duty of the UK department responsible for international cooperation, in Mitchell is a political leader, to foster the sinews of peaceful conflict resolution in our nascent democracy by upholding the constitutional and international treaty values that we all hold dear.

Using Ugandan MPs as guinea pigs for an UK initiative aimed at intimidating African lawmakers to assist a UK government foreign policy goal that is unrelated to addressing its concerns over the global corruption problem is blatantly unlawful and tantamount to playing with fire.

It is naive of the UK government to project global power by sparking conditions for a pro-sanctions mob rule in far-flung countries and expect that mobs inspired by its political darlings will set limits.

As a rule, mobs run out of control and tend to cross over borders into Europe and North America. There are so many UK citizens, companies and charities, as well as Asian and US citizens or their interests, that may be harmed as vicarious targets or collateral damage of UK’s inspired mobocracy.

Maintaining public confidence in our public institutions and causing meaningful prosecution to combat impunity is what the Ugandan public expects of the UK’s vaunted anti-corruption clout.

Zero tolerance

Meanwhile, our civic obligation to defend Uganda’s sovereignty is colour-blind: it doesn’t see our political, ethnic, tribal, religious, ideological, racial, gender or class differences. It is not a responsibility for only members of NRM party, but also for the opposition and civil society.

Defending sovereignty permanently requires a policy of zero tolerance, and is not limited to protecting the borders. It also extends to protecting the independence of our indigenous institutions.

We cannot let foreign countries to force us to pick and choose when to protect national sovereignty and independence based on the popularity of the citizen at the centre of the threatened incursion.  

All in all, it would profit the UK to stop the bullying and smear campaign against Ugandan lawmakers.  

The author is the CEO, Legal Brains Trust, a Kampala-based democracy and human rights watchdog.


+7 #1 jose 2024-05-16 11:28
atleast fear has been caused in the thieves.
you or anybody may come up with any form of defence or argument but who doesnt that the ugandan govt selectively treat its officials,

look a minister says that when he came out of his gate he found iron sheets at the gate so he uses them on his projects, but he is presumed innocent
but only 3 out of many officials are sacrificed to cover up the filth
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+3 #2 Lakwena 2024-05-16 17:13
But Ssemakadde, what Specific UK interest will backfire? I suppose to emphatically say that the UK government "is naive" about what goes on (ROT) in this country, is being dishonest and over-simplistic.

If it is about loss of "interest", it is Uganda to lose big time. The UK govt can do without Uganda a thousand times. The UK doing without its interest in Uganda, is like the loss of one hair from the head, does not make one bald like a vulture.

In other words, it would even be a relief to the UK taxpayers if the UK closed its High Commission in Uganda, just like Norway did.
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+2 #3 Lakwena 2024-05-16 17:18
E.g., globally, compared to Uganda and its foreign relations/missions; in how many countries does the UK have Embassies and/or High Commissions?

Even if it is for strings attached interest, to how many countries does the UK govt. offer aids and/or grants during hard times?

And how many times has Uganda/ns and/or other African countries come to the aid of e.g., other African countries like Mozambique during flood and therefore in dire need?

Above all, how many Al Among UK Speakers of Parliament or MPs, stole and/or embezzled theirs citizens tax money, and bought properties in Uganda or hid their loot in Uganda or other African countries?

Just asking!
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+3 #4 Tim K 2024-05-17 10:46
Anything that touches the Uganda's bigwigs, I support and this should spread wings to the many other ruling NRM leaders, army offices among others.

In the long-run, we shall restore dignity and sanity as well in this country. I support these sanctions slapped to the Uganda's untouchables....
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+2 #5 Remase 2024-05-18 00:02
Semakadde, what are you smoking or drinking these days? Who loves mob justice than M7? Whom are you lecturing about democracy, rule of law and sovereignty?

To be fair, you are the one who doesn't respect and further interfering with matters of a sovereign country, UK! UK is entitled to sanction anybody from any country as for any reason and/or as it deems fit!

Furthermore, since when has Uganda ever had democracy and rule of law? Semakadde, for your information, M7 captured power by means of "mob justice" in 1986 and has rule us for close to 40 years under mob justice, sanctioned corruption which is the cose of the sanctions of speaker Among and the 3 ministers!
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+3 #6 kabayekka 2024-05-18 09:06
One time this lawyer was screaming to the world for the mess this government and its judicial department were doing for now many years and counting.

Now the same lawyer is now sending away or discouraging people who are coming to assist in the rescue of some sort of sanity in the leadership culture of this country.

This is a law don who is well aware that democratic elections have failed to change anything to do with this ruling regime. Anything else can do it. One understands that in this country money speaks and a little bit of it, if given to some professionals, they can easily change their minds!
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+2 #7 Marc Mae 2024-05-18 12:45
Uganda has far more to lose than the UK. L6t us face reality.
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+4 #8 Remase 2024-05-19 04:27
Semakadde, say what you will but don't give whatever you are eating to your children! With clear knowledge of who M7 is and how he has ruined out country for 4 decades now, how could you defend speaker Among and the 3 ministers for being sanctioned after the UK realized that M7's gov't is motivated by impunity?

Semakadde, your article clearly shows that M7 has also compromised you and you drunk in corruption and have chosen impunity over sanctions! I didn't know that you arethat weak to be easily compromised by M7!
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