Observers increasingly fear that some local government politicians in Uganda, in a panic due to Covid-19, are turning to the strategy of victimizing minority groups, including the LGBT community, to curry favor with voters.
By Kikonyogo Kivumbi
“Local government politicians are in panic. They are resorting to victimizing vulnerable groups to appeal to their electorates on morality ticket,” stated Aisha Nalubega, a human rights defender with Uganda Health and Science Press Association.
Many politicians had hoped that, by now, they could have begun strategising ahead of the 2021 presidential, parliamentary and local elections. There are currently 134 local government districts in Uganda.
But the Covid-19 lockdown disrupted their plans.
In March, President Yoweri Museveni warned politicians against giving out food to the needy during the Covid-19 lockdown, saying that such politicians will be charged with attempted murder.
Food handouts are only allowed by the national task force on Covid-19.
Nalubega said local government politicians expect to use victimization of vulnerable groups as a moral political campaign card.
“They think they have no options now. The Covid-19 task force stopped them from politicking and giving out food handouts to the poor,” she said.
Human rights defenders recently called out security agencies and local governments against cruelty, arrest and extortion targeting women, sex workers and vulnerable groups as publicized on Erasing 76 Crimes and RightsAfrica.com.
Raphael Magyezi, the minister of local government overseeing all local governments, is responsible for ensuring that local governments don’t abuse human rights or overstep their mandate. So far, he has been silent on local politicians’ obligations to protect minorities during the lockdown.
Nalubega noted that even as local government politicians complied with the Presidential Directive against giving out food, some local electorates are angry with delayed, substandard or no food at all from the national Covid-19 task force.
Francis Zaake, a member of parliament who distributed food to constituents, was arrested and then reportedly was tortured in custody. Police insist that Zaake, the MP for Mityana Municipality, inflicted the wounds on himself.
Kikonyogo Kivumbi, the author of this article, is the executive director of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association.