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Western officials weigh regional security role as calls grow for tougher measures against Kampala

Critics call for Museveni's officials to be sanctioned over election and political violence as opposition prepares more protests

Although National Unity Platform leader Bobi Wine dropped his Supreme Court challenge against the official declaration that President Yoweri Museveni had won 59% of the votes in the 14 January presidential elections, he insists his party and its allies are gearing up for another season of activism.

The commission gave Wine just 35% in the presidential elections and his party won 56 out of the 527 seats in parliament. Fearing a violent response by security forces to renewed protests, rights activist groups are calling for measures to restrain the government.

Western officials, we hear, are trying to balance these calls with broader concerns about stability in the region: the stalemate over elections in Somalia where Uganda has over 6,000 peacekeeping troops; rising tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan; and a tenuous peace agreement in South Sudan, where Uganda remains the most influential foreign state.

In a letter to United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 4 March, US Senators Cory Booker and James Risch gave Blinken a 31 March deadline to present a detailed analysis of US-Uganda relations and the risks it may pose to US interests. The letter urged the State Department to impose sanctions on the Museveni government under the Magnitsky Act which prescribes penalties against individuals for human rights abuses.

At the January elections Museveni 'demonstrated the depths to which he and his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) will go to preserve their three decades' hold on power' the Senators said, accusing the government and state security services of widespread violence and intimidation (AC Vol 62 No 2, Iron fist carries the day and Vol 61 No 24, Museveni falls back on force).

Kampala's International relations minister, Okello Oryem, retorted that the US lawmakers were 'acting on misinformation by some political actors here through their lobbyists'.

In December the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee recommended sanctions against four of Museveni's leading securocrats, while Bob Menendez, the chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, also tabled a motion urging the Secretary of State and other government departments to consider sanctions.

Wine has held meetings with key diplomats from the US and Europe since his post-election house arrest was lifted at the end of January. These encounters appear to have borne fruit.

Last month, the European Parliament called for the European Commission to impose sanctions on Museveni's government under the EU's own version of the Magnitsky Act, citing election rigging and police violence during and after the polls.

The opposition leader said that he had withdrawn his petition calling for the January election results to be annulled and a new election called because he would not get a fair hearing from a Court whose members were appointed by President Museveni. Wine added that the court was 'not interested in giving Ugandans justice.'

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