May 16, 2016 (GIN) – “Blunt” is probably too kind a word for the remarks made by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at his inaugural ceremony that sent his western allies scrambling for the exits.
The ceremony is usually a celebratory affair, with dignitaries from around the world applauding the leader for scoring high enough in the polls to win another term – the fifth in this case.
This time, however, President Museveni revealed his disdain for the foreign dignitaries when he went off script to give his unvarnished opinion of the International Criminal Court.
“A bunch of useless people”, he said derisively of the Court while introducing the visiting heads of state including Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir who faces a warrant of arrest for crimes allegedly committed in the strife-torn Darfur region where an estimated 300,000 people have died and 2 million have been forced out of their homes since 2003.
He has also defended Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, accused of planning and funding violence during the post-election chaos of 2007-2008 that took some 1,300 lives.
The attack stunned visitors from the U.S., including the US ambassador to Uganda, Deborah Malac, followed by several Canadian and European diplomats who abruptly walked out.
“We believe that walking out in protest is an appropriate reaction to a head of state mocking efforts to ensure accountability for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly when his country has committed to accountability as a state party to the Rome Statute (that established the court),” Elizabeth Trudeau, a spokeswoman for the U.S. state department, said.
The EU in a published statement wrote: “The ICC is an important instrument of the international community to combat impunity for the most serious crime. Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes must not go unpunished and their prosecution must be ensured.”
Since his swearing-in, President Museveni has shown little regard for democratic practices. Live television or radio coverage of protests was banned, social media sites including Facebook and Twitter were blocked, and opposition candidate Kizza Besigye was sent to a high security prison in Kampala after being charged with treason, according to local reports.
Besigye has been frequently jailed, placed under house arrest, accused of both treason and rape, tear-gassed, beaten and hospitalized over the years. He is calling for an international audit of the vote totals.