ULS president James Ssebugenyi

Ugandan politicians should view the indictment of their Kenyan counterparts in the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity as a warning against human rights violations, the Uganda Law Society (ULS) has said.

In a statement on Monday, ULS said: “Those in charge of our political affairs shall be brought to account in the event that they conduct themselves in a manner that compromises the human rights of those that they seek to lead.”

ULS’s caution comes one week after the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed charges of crimes against humanity against Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Eldoret North MP William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang in connection with the Kenyan 2007/08 post-election violence.

Charges against Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey and former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali were not confirmed after the ICC’s pre-trial chamber ruled that there was no sufficient evidence implicating them in the mayhem which cost more than 1,000 lives.

ULS president James Ssebugenyi castigated what he described as parochial and sectarian sentiments which influence African politics.

“This is normally predicated at the request of our leaders who use divisive platforms to push their selfish agenda,” Mr Ssebugenyi said.

He described the ICC ruling as a testament to politicians that whoever commits crimes against humanity is not beyond reproach and accountability.

Uganda government security personnel are increasingly being criticised for excessive and indiscriminate use of force, at the unspoken prompting of regime politicians, in cracking down on legitimate expression of opposition views and lawful assembly.

In December last year, Daily Monitor reported Justice Minister Kahinda Otafiire appealing to the police to exercise restraint while handling protesters, saying the right to demonstrate is enshrined in the Constitution.

The 2011 Human Rights Watch report indicates that during the walk-to-work demonstrations in April, following February’s presidential elections, security personnel unnecessarily used lethal force which resulted in the death of nine people.

“Opposition politicians and hundreds of supporters were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly and incitement to violence, and state agents beat and harassed journalists covering the unrest,” reads part of the report.

Joining other world democracies’ condemnation of the high-handedness, the United States government has since maintained that whether in Uganda or anywhere else in the world, it will continue to “stand up strongly for respect of human rights, particularly the right to assembly and association”.

“It is important in any healthy democratic society for people to be able to express themselves peacefully,” said deputy Secretary of State, Ambassador William Burns, when he visited Uganda last week.

Information and National Guidance Minister Mary Karooro Okurut yesterday said the Kenyan experience is a very serious matter for the entire world to take note of.

By Ephraim Kasozi, Daily Monitor

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