The United States should suspend military aid to Uganda over the government’s human rights record, the US lawyer for a prominent critic of President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday.
The call broadened criticism of the government by opposition lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi, a musician known by his stage name Bobi Wine.
Authorities charged Kyagulanyi with treason last month over the suspected stoning of Museveni’s convoy.
He denies the charge and says he was tortured in detention. He arrived in Washington on Saturday for medical treatment for his injuries.
A State Department official said Kyagulanyi met with representatives from the department on Thursday, “as they have done in the past when he visited the United States.”
Undersecretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy did not participate in the meeting at the State Department.
There was no immediate comment from the government in Kampala.
Kyagulanyi has gained popularity for his attacks on Museveni.
The president has ruled since 1986 and has won a series of elections, but is viewed by some as out of touch. The government in Kampala denies torturing Kyagulanyi.
"It is a habit for Ugandan authorities to torture people and then come out and lie about it," Kyagulanyi said.
“We want the American taxpayer to know that the American taxpayer is funding this. The military equipment we are supplying to Uganda is being used in a war of terror against Uganda’s citizens,” lawyer Robert Amsterdam, flanked by Kyagulanyi, told a news conference in Washington.
“We call on the US government to immediately suspend military funding to Uganda,” he said.
Kyagulanyi, 36, used crutches and showed reporters blisters on the palm of his hand he said were traces of the torture.
“I must go back home. Uganda is my home,” he said. “I want you (my supporters) to stand with the oppressed, not the oppressor.”
Washington is a major source of funding for Uganda’s military, supplying hardware, cash and training.
It has given equipment, money and intelligence for the military’s hunt for Lord’s Resistance Army warlord Joseph Kony.
Amsterdam said the assistance amounted to $500 million, but a Washington-based monitoring group says US aid to Uganda’s police and military was slightly more than $80 million this year.
Museveni also receives diplomatic support from Washington for his deployment of troops in international peacekeeping missions including the fight against militants in Somalia.
A US State Department official did not respond directly to a query on Thursday concerning alleged use of US-supplied materiel to torture Ugandans.
The official did say however that the State Department closely monitors the actions of military units in other countries that benefit from US funding.
"There is no exception for Uganda," the official said.
"The United States is on the lookout, we are on the watch, and that there are consequences for this continued behaviour."
Chinese offshore oil and gas company CNOOC Ltd, France’s Total SA and London-listed Tullow Oil Plc are among major investors in Uganda.
“International investors in Uganda have obligations,” Amsterdam said.
“While we are not today in any way seeking disinvestment from Uganda, what we are seeking is responsible investment in Uganda,” Amsterdam said.
--Additional reporting by NMG's Kevin J. Kelley.