19 April 2017

Africa: Kasese Deaths - U.S Blocks Maj Gen Elwelu

Photo: The Observer
Major General Peter Elwelu.

Organizers of the 2017 African Land Forces Summit, which is due in the Malawian capital Lilongwe, are still holding onto the invitation of Maj Gen Peter Elwelu, the UPDF commander of land forces, The Observer has learnt.

Gen Elwelu had been invited for the summit scheduled for May, but the decision was rescinded after the United States government cited his lead role in the army attack on the Rwenzururu king's place in Kasese last November, which killed more than 100 people.

The decision came after the US military, one of the main sponsors of the Malawi summit, expressed reservations about Gen Elwelu's attendance. Efforts to talk to Elwelu were futile but someone who picked his phone yesterday and identified himself as his military assistant, insisted the general will attend the summit.

Christopher Brown, the public affairs officer at the US embassy in Kampala, said he was not aware of the development.

"We [the US embassy in Kampala] are not part of those organizing the summit; so, I cannot be of any help," he said.

Army spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire, too, said he was not aware of anything regarding the Malawi summit. Gen Elwelu was commander of the UPDF 2nd division before he was promoted to his current position. He led the November 26-27, 2016 attack on the palace of Charles Wesley Mumbere, which sparked off the killings.

In the aftermath of the killings, he said he did not regret anything, referring to some of the people who had died in the exchange, particularly the Rwenzururu royal guards, as "terrorists."

In March, Human Rights Watch issued a critical report that blamed government security forces' highhandedness for the massive killings.

"The assault on the palace in Kasese, which killed more people than any single event since the height of the war in Northern Uganda over a decade ago, should not be swept under the carpet," said Maria Burnett, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement that accompanied the release of the report.

"People in Kasese are still looking for their family members, including children, and they deserve answers and justice for these gruesome killings."

Government dismissed the report.

Elwelu follows in the footsteps of senior security officers who have been denied visas to some countries over what the would-be hosts perceived as active participation in human rights violations at home.

In April 2014, we reported that the former assistant inspector general of police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi (RIP), had been denied a visa to the USA after Uganda enacted an anti-homosexuality law.

He had been scheduled to attend a three-month course at the FBI Junior academy. Last year, after the elections, there were reports that the then deputy commander of the Special Forces Command (SFC), Brig Sabiiti Magyenyi, had been stopped from travelling to the USA for a military course.

The land forces summit is an annual, weeklong seminar that brings together land force chiefs from across Africa to discuss and develop solutions to regional and continental challenges and threats.

The theme for this year's summit is Enhancing Capacity through Partnership in Africa.

According to a tentative programme of the summit, speakers from the U.SA, Malawi and African partner nations will address topics such as standardizing forces and concepts, building logistics institutions, peacekeeping and peace support operations.

"This is not a small exercise," said Brig Gen Paul Phiri, the Malawi defence chief in charge of training, last week during preparatory activities for the summit.

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