OFWONO OPONDO: US Visa Restriction on Ugandans relied on Hearsays

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Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo. Courtesy Photo/File

Donald J Trump’s four years as US president gave much of the world, particularly ‘shithole’ countries space to run their own affairs without meddling, and generally things have been better handled. With the exception of Ethiopia’s conflict in the Tigray region there hasn’t been new wars started, and even with Covid19 pandemic African economies showed resilience.

The prevailing convenient wisdom is that the US empire is invincibly powerful and its false proclaimed values are self-evident to be challenged. Joe Biden recently said that the unabated gun violence was America’s international embarrassment, although entrenched racism, and Trump’s cries that his election victory was stolen are bigger indictment.

So, when the US State Department recently issued a scathing and absurd reports against Uganda’s democracy, humans and rule of law, devoid of verifiable facts and perhaps relied on street hearsays, it left no other conclusion than foul motives. It appears that some sections in the US establishment are trying to leg-up a local political protégé like they have done elsewhere including recently in Venezuela. In 2001 the US and UK ‘sexed up’ intelligence dossier on alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) against Saddam Hussein so they could attack, destroy and loot Iraq’s oil which they exported without metering.

Slapping blanket visa ban on unnamed Uganda officials without official notification to government is tinged with mischief, violates rules of natural justice, and undermines bilateral diplomatic relations. It is arrogant because it doesn’t accord Uganda the right to reply, fair hearing, and tantamount to collective accusation, guilt and punishment. Let the US name the officials so we know the link. Most government officials have no reason travelling to the US. The US shouldn’t be the accuser, investigator, prosecutor, judge and executioner, yet claims to respect the rule of law.

In 1984, a CIA manual for training the Nicaraguan Contras rebel group, in psychological operations and unconventional warfare, titled “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare” became public. It recommended selective use of violence for propaganda and effects to neutralize or kill government officials like judges, police officers, and tax collectors among others.

The Contras were taught techniques of leading demonstrators into clashes with security forces, to provoke riots or shootings, which could lead to killing people who would then become ‘martyrs’ so as to create even bigger conflicts. The manual combined political, media, civic, propaganda, and paramilitary actions and ran in hundreds of millions of US dollars over many years. It recommended populations be mobilised to become collateral damage.

It advised extensive precautions to ensure that the people agree to such actions before and after the operations. When Congress stepped in, the assistance was diverted through third parties or countries like the infamous Iran-Contra scandal under Ronald Reagan administration.

In Uganda today you may be getting familiar with the phrase ‘Plan B’ or ‘politics by other means’ coming from opposition groups. You may already know US operations against Cuba which has suffered political, military, trade and economic blockade since 1959 merely because Cubans chose communism. It is a pattern that has flowed from Korean, Vietnam, and Latin America’s dirty wars, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Angola and Mozambique.

A former diplomat, and Latin American scholar Clara Nieto, in her book Masters of War, wrote “the CIA launched a series of terrorist actions from the “mothership” off Nicaragua’s coast. In September 1983, the CIA attacked Puerto Sandino port with rockets. In October frogmen blew up the underwater oil pipeline in the same port, the only one Nicaragua had. The CIA is an integral part of the US State Department.

In October it attacked Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua’s largest port, with mortars, rockets, and grenades blowing up five large oil and gasoline storage tanks. More than a hundred people were wounded, and the fire took two days to bring down, forcing the evacuation of 23,000 people.

In 1984 The International Court of Justice ruled that the US should pay reparations to Nicaragua, because it had violated international law by actively supporting the Contras in their rebellion and by mining the naval waters of Nicaragua. Instead, the US refused to participate in the proceedings after Court rejected its argument that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The U.S. used its veto powers at the UN Security Council to block enforcement of the judgment, and Nicaragua never got compensated.

This is a familiar storyline when you consider that recently the US refused to cooperate with the ICC and imposed sanctions on its prosecutors Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko for seeking to investigate possible war crimes against US soldiers in Afghanistan. Three decades of chorus that North Koreans have starved yet able to make nuclear weapons to threaten the world, is now a worn-out propaganda only a few believe.

Knowing as the world now does, how the US treats prisoners some classified as “ghost prisoners” because it refuses to register or identify them in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib (Iraq), Bagram Airbase (Afghanistan), Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, US officials should be modest when lecturing others on justice.

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The writer, is Government Spokesperson and head of Uganda Media Centre

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