The US government has sanctioned embattled Uganda’s ex-police chief Kale Kayihura over violations of human rights and engaging in graft, the Department of Treasury said on Friday.
Gen Kayihura, whose full name is Edward Kalekezi Kayihura Muhwezi was the Inspector-General of Police between 2005 and March 2018, where he was controversially replaced and then detained.
Now under house arrest in Uganda for committing crimes against the State, the US says it is sanctioning him for his brutal treatment of civilians and abuse of his office to advance his interest and that of the regime during his tenure.
The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said he had been a leader or official of an entity “that has engaged in or whose members have engaged in serious human rights abuse against Ugandan citizens, as well as for his involvement in corruption.”
The move also means Gen Kayihura, already barred from stepping onto US soil as indicated by the Department of State, will also not be able to access any assets he owns in the US either directly or through proxies.
“As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of (Gen) Kayihura, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 per cent or more by him alone or with other designated persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.”
OFAC’s regulations also prohibit any US citizen or a person in the US from transacting on assets linked to Gen Kayihura, meaning he will not be able to remove those properties from within the jurisdiction of the US.
The former police boss, both American and Chinese educated authorised the detention of political rivals, clamped down on protesters and barred right to assembly.
One report by the Human Rights Watch accused him of running detention and interrogation centres across the country, but mostly in Kampala from where suspects were forced into confessions.
The US government says he is culpable for allowing the feared Flying Squad Unit to detain and torture those detained at the Nalufenya Special Investigations Centre (NSIC) near Jinja Bridge.
The suspects were beaten and then offered money to confess.
Routinely guarded by members of the Uganda People’s Defence Force, the centre was often out of bounds to the public. It was later closed by Mr Kayihura’s replacement Mr Martin Okoth Ochola, last year, following a public outcry.
But the US says Mr Kayihura is also corrupt, “stealing funds intended for official Ugandan government business, and using another government employee to smuggle illicit goods, including drugs, gold, and wildlife out of Uganda.”
These allegations against the former police boss could boost President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to sack him, and then have him charged in a Military Court. Last year in August, he appeared before the General Court Martial in Makindye Military barracks.
He was charged with failure to protect state war materials and weapons, failure to supervise and ensure accountability for the arms and aiding kidnapping of people in Uganda.
"We are targeting Uganda’s former Police Inspector General Kale Kayihura for using corruption and bribery to strengthen his political position, as units under his command committed serious human rights abuses,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
"The US government is committed to leveraging our human rights and corruption authorities to target, disrupt, and counter those who engage in abuse and corruption around the world," he added.