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US sanctions Ugandan officials over graft, rights abuse claims

FILE - Uganda's Speaker Anita Annet Among in Kampala, Uganda, May 2, 2023.
FILE - Uganda's Speaker Anita Annet Among in Kampala, Uganda, May 2, 2023.

The United States said on Thursday it was imposing sanctions on five senior Ugandan officials over accusations of involvement in corruption or human rights abuses.

Ugandan parliament speaker Anita Among was one of four officials the US State Department said would face travel bans because of "significant corruption", following similar action by Britain last month.

Mary Goretti Kitutu and Agnes Nandutu -- previously ministers responsible for Uganda's isolated and impoverished border region of Karamoja -- and former state minister for finance Amos Lugolobi were also named.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement the three had "misused public resources and diverted materials from Uganda's neediest communities".

"All four officials abused their public positions for their personal benefit at the expense of Ugandans," he added.

In addition, Peter Elwelu, former deputy chief of the Ugandan Peoples' Defense Forces (UPDF), has been sanctioned "due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights", he said.

While commanding defense forces, Elwelu was involved in extrajudicial killings committed by UPDF members, Miller said, without giving further information.

"As a result of these actions, the designated Ugandan officials are generally ineligible for entry into the United States."

Miller said Washington is also planning to impose visa restrictions on multiple other Ugandan officials for "undermining the democratic process and repressing members of marginalized or vulnerable populations in Uganda".

In April, the British government imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Among, Kitutu and Nandutu over claims of corruption.

At the time the Ugandan parliament said the sanctions on Among were based on a "false premise" and imposed because of her stance on the East African country's controversial anti-gay legislation adopted last year.

Kitutu and Nandutu are accused of stealing roofing materials destined for the poor under a government-funded project and redirecting them to politicians and their families.