Commonwealth leaders are concerned about human rights violations in Uganda and will raise them in talks with longtime Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni during a summit in Malta, the Commonwealth's top official said Thursday. Uganda's military charged the main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, on Thursday with terrorism and illegal possession of firearms. Last week civilian prosecutors accused him of treason.
Besigye has mounted the strongest challenge to Museveni's 19-year rule. His lawyer said Besigye refused to answer the terrorism charge, which carries the death penalty, because he contends the accusations are fabricated. "I'd like to have a talk with President Museveni," Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said when asked by reporters about Uganda's human rights record.
Museveni arrived Wednesday in Malta for the Commonwealth's biennial summit, which runs from Friday through Sunday. Uganda is also due to host the Commonwealth's next summit. The Commonwealth has "concern over what we perceive to be significant breaches and violations" in human rights, McKinnon told a news conference on the eve of the summit.
The Commonwealth had pushed Uganda "very hard toward multiparty democracy," McKinnon said. Troops prevented European Union and other Western diplomats from observing the military's court martial proceedings, according to Denmark's ambassador in Uganda.
Besigye returned from exile last month. He has denied past accusations from the government that he led the People's Redemption Army and had links with separate rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army, the AP reports. On Wednesday, the Ugandan government banned the media from reporting on court cases, including that of Besigye.