Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has appointed a former military intelligence chief, who is blacklisted by the United States for alleged rights abuses, to command the country’s feared police force.
Major General Abel Kandiho was recalled from his post as security envoy to South Sudan on Tuesday evening just two weeks after he was removed from his post as spymaster.
Kandiho was “appointed to the joint staff post of the Uganda Police Force”, Ugandan army spokesman Lt. Col. Ronald Kakurungu said in a statement.
Until last month, Kandiho was the commander of the military intelligence chiefdom and has been accused of abuse, including beatings, sexual assault and electrocution.
The US Treasury slapped Kandiho with sanctions last December for alleged human rights abuses committed under his leadership.
Those arrested by his office were “subjected to gruesome beatings and other egregious acts by officials, including sexual abuse and electrocution, often resulting in serious long-term injury and even death. “, he said in a statement.
The United States said Kandiho was sometimes personally involved in the interrogations of detainees, including those who had criticized the government.
Uganda has long suffered a series of crackdowns aimed at stamping out dissent, with journalists attacked, lawyers imprisoned, election observers prosecuted and opposition leaders violently muzzled.
– Abductions and torture –
Kandiho’s appointment will put the police force in the spotlight with an increase in cases of kidnappings and torture at the hands of security forces.
A prominent author was recently detained for nearly a month for insulting Museveni and his powerful son Muhoozi Kainerugaba in a case that has sparked international concern.
Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, a 33-year-old satirical novelist, says he was tortured in detention and appeared on television over the weekend to reveal criss-crossing painful marks on his back and scars on other parts of his body.
The European Union and several member states issued a joint statement on Monday calling for a “thorough investigation” into rights abuses in Uganda.
Military and security analyst Charles Rwomushana said on Wednesday that Kandiho’s appointment demonstrated Museveni’s desire to “stand firm (on) the police force”.
Kandiho will be “powerful enough” to take crucial decisions “in favor of (Museveni’s) government”, Rwomushana told AFP.
Once hailed as a reformist, Museveni has ruled Uganda with an iron fist since taking control in 1986, when he helped end years of tyranny under Idi Amin and Milton Obote.