The United Nations has reportedly suspended “all non-critical external missions/visits” to Uganda, in an internal memo to UN agencies and personnel issued on the 12th of December, citing security concerns.
Under-Secretary General for Safety and Security, Mr Gilles Michaud, noted that he had endorsed recommendations by Ms Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, advising freeze travel to Uganda.
Part of the memo read, “The suspension will be lifted based on a revised security risk management process. We must avoid a repetition of recent events in different parts of the country including physical confrontations, incitement and hate speech by promoting peace and inclusive development. Sustaining peace is a shared responsibility and a common good.”
The unsigned statement titled, United Nations in Uganda extends programme criticality to missions from abroad, did not provide background references to the security in the country and called on all stakeholders to be “champions of tolerance and peaceful coexistence …”
UN said its operations would now specifically focus on health, food security, livelihoods and nutrition, life-saving services, elimination of gender-based violence and hate speech, social protection, justice and civic education, refugees, displaced persons and vulnerable returning migrants; immediate economic support for vulnerable people in remote areas and in the informal sector.
The international body indicated that these specific activities, are in sync with the “programme criticality approach” invoked by the headquarters in New York at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic for its missions to remain focused on life-saving and Covid-19 related operations.
The “programme criticality” framework is a UN system policy for decision making on acceptable risk. Highly-placed UN sources confirmed to a local newspaper that there are fears about the security situation in the run up to the January 14 polling day and worsening pandemic situation, categorised by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as Stage 4.
The UN office in Kampala did not mention any specific incident which may be the cause of concern though it was understood to be the November 18 and 19 protests in and around the country over the arrest of National Unity Platform (NUP) party presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. More than 50 people were killed, most from gunshots.
Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, last said that “for us we go with the letter issued by the Kampala office.”
Kampala neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the memo when asked. At 9.30pm, the office issued a statement in which it explained that the UN scaled down operations in Uganda from March when the country registered its first Covid-19 case.