MARCH 10, 2010: Mengo Backs Anti-Museveni ICC Petition

Mengo Backs Anti-Museveni ICC Petition

SOURCE: Observer

By Edris Kiggundu

The Mengo establishment has supported a recent petition lodged with The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), seeking the indictment of President Museveni over the September 2009 riot killings in Kampala and parts of Buganda.
The petition was filed last week by youths affiliated to the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC). Under The Hague-based ICC's complementality principle, it can only intervene if there are no national proceedings against those responsible for the crimes.

The youths in their petition want President Museveni and two other senior Army officials indicted for the killing of "42 people" during the September riots. Government's official account put the number of fatalities at 27.

Charles Peter Mayiga, Mengo's minister for Information, told The Observer that the ICC petition was needed, if anything, to re-affirm that people's rights should not be trampled upon by an authoritarian regime.

"We are very keen on matters of human rights so we support anybody who comes up to defend them like the youths have done by going to the ICC," Mayiga said.

He added that probably an ICC investigation would bring out the truth and clear the air as to whether the riots were instigated by Mengo as the central government has often alleged or not.

Asked whether Mengo had made an input in the petition, Mayiga said no, although some members of Nkobazambogo, a youth organisation linked to Mengo, were part of the group that drafted it.

The deputy Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi, said he could not comment about the petition because he had not looked at it. Moses Adriko, a former president of the Uganda Law Society said he did not think the petition will materialize into anything.

"I know that the court [ICC] has no jurisdiction to hear some of those charges," he told The Observer. He added that had it been genocide or war crimes, probably the court would have listened.

The September killings were triggered by government's refusal to allow Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi to tour Kayunga District, a region constitutionally under his jurisdiction.

In retaliation, some angry people, mainly youths in several urban areas of Buganda, rioted for three days, destroying property and assaulting some people. The main battleground was in Kampala where the Police and other security agencies first fired teargas at the rioters before resorting to live bullets.

Up to 800 youths were arrested and some media houses, including Buganda's CBS radio, switched off air for allegedly instigating the violence. Other affected media houses - Radio Sapientia, Ssuubi FM and Akaboozi Ku Bbiri - have since been re-opened, but CBS remains off air.

The government preferred terrorism charges against some of the suspects, particularly those linked to the burning of Nateete Police Station, meaning they are still serving the mandatory 180 days on remand.

Relations between Mengo and the central government have dipped since the riots despite the fact that President Museveni and Kabaka Ronald Mutebi met soon after to calm the tensions.

Mengo recently threatened to evict the government from the Kigo Prison land unless it is given Shs 18 billion by the state as compensation, for illegally occupying the land, a matter that has since been contested in court.

The ICC is expected to respond to the petition before the end of this week. Francis Mwijukye, one of the architects and a signatory to the petition, told us that they had gotten confirmation from The Hague that the matter would be looked into and a preliminary response given before the end of the week.

"Our envoy who delivered the petition to the ICC has made contact with [Luis Moreno] Ocampo (the prosecutor) who has assured him that he will get back to us," Mwijukye told The Observer last week.

Ocampo is the Prosecutor of the ICC, whose duty it is to prosecute individuals suspected of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crime of aggression.

President Museveni, the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, and the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, are the petitioners' main targets.

In the petition, the youths claim that the three individuals ordered the security forces to "shoot to kill or maim" the rioters. They are alleged to have ordered the use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians.

The petition states that the trio showed neither remorse nor regret over the deaths. According to Mwijukye, the petition serves to show that no Ugandan is above the law, and to warn security and military officers against misusing their authority.

Mwijukye added that the petitioners hope that if their petition is successfully investigated, it will act as a blueprint for security officials and political leaders' conduct in the run-up to the 2011 elections.

"Time is up for those who have been acting arrogantly and calling upon the Police to shoot to maim," he said.

The petition is also copied to the United States Congress, the United Nations Security Council, the African Union, and the East African Community.