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Why Uganda's Sam Kutesa Must Not Be Allowed to Become UN General Assembly President

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SAM KUTESA
STRINGER via Getty Images

Hon. Secretary of State John Kerry:

Dear Secretary Kerry,

As you know, Uganda's foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa could become President of the United Nations General Assembly in June unless the world comes to its senses.

Mr. Kutesa is reputedly one of Uganda's most corrupt and wealthiest politicians.

The United Nations does not need this kind of embarrassment. The UN is still dealing with the damaging reports about alleged misconduct, including rapes of young girls, by UN peacekeepers deployed to DR Congo; and, the serious allegations that peace-keepers spread cholera in Haiti.

The post of president of the GA rotates amongst the world's regions, and this year is Africa's turn. So Mr. Kutesa is running unopposed. His election would be the most embarrassing thing that the United Nations Organization has endured in recent memory.

This must not be allowed to happen.

As President, Mr. Kutesa would preside over important meetings including the General Assembly, when you and President Obama attend in the Fall. As you are aware, his boss and partner Gen. Yoweri Museveni has now presided over a repressive and brutal dictatorship in Uganda for 28 years.

Gen. Museveni's domestic repression in Uganda and multiple invasions of neighboring countries such as Rwanda, DR Congo and South Sudan have caused the deaths of millions of innocent African civilians and has been well documented by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, as a simple Google search will confirm.

Mr. Secretary, Congo has been turned into the "rape" capital of the world by the marauding militias he's trained and financed including M23.

Mr. Secretary, most recently Gen. Museveni on Feb. 24, 2014, defied the international community by signing a law that incites violence against Uganda's sexual minorities, the LGBT community, purely for political purposes, as he's desperate to retain power in the 2016 elections. Gen. Museveni knows rural voters who form the majority are conservative and not educated on issues of LGBT people -- by demonizing them Gen. Museveni hopes to translate fears into votes. In the process he does not care about the consequences on the safety and lives of LGBT community and referred to them as "disgusting" in a CNN interview.

What's more, Gen. Museveni's family and his ministers have embezzled so many public funds, including monies designated for development assistance through the years that in 2012 the UK cut off all foreign aid.

Mr. Sam Kutesa, as foreign affairs minister, has been Gen. Museveni's top advisor and spokesperson. He is part and parcel of all these transgressions including the invasion of neighboring countries, which is a violation of the United Nations' cardinal rule -- the respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In 2005 the International Court of Justice found Uganda liable for what amounts to war crimes in Congo (massacres and plunder) as a result of the invasions and occupation of Congo. Uganda was ordered to pay $10 billion in reparations; not a dime has yet been paid.

The Court found that "Uganda violated the principles of non-use of force in international relations and of non-intervention; that it violated its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law; and that it violated other obligations owed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

Separately, on June 8, 2006, The Wall Street Journal reported that the International Criminal Court (ICC) also launched it's own criminal investigation linking Gen. Museveni to Congo war crimes and that the Ugandan ruler urged Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary General, to block the investigation. Might Kutesa not try to hinder possible investigations in connection to alleged crimes by M23 and by Uganda's army in South Sudan?

Mr. Secretary, on a personal level Mr. Kutesa should be disqualified even from consideration as candidate for the General Assembly presidency. He has been linked in numerous corruption scandals in Uganda dating back to 1999. More recently, his name was mentioned in a 2009 cable to the U.S. Department of State by former U.S. ambassador to Uganda Jerry Lanier in which he discussed officials who were alleged to have received millions of dollars in bribes from foreign oil companies. The cables were published on Wikileaks.

Mr. Secretary, Mr. Kutesa becoming President of the UN General Assembly would be a mockery of all the ideals that the UN is supposed to stand for.

While it's true that it would be a great honor for the next GA president to come from Africa, Mr. Kutesa's election would be irreparable damage to the UN's reputation. There are many African women and men who would be stellar candidates for the position.

Mr. Secretary, the U.S. recently denied a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran's designated Permanent Representative to the UN, when it was discovered that he was one of the students who seized hostages at the American embassy in 1979.

Mr. Secretary, as a global citizen who still cherishes and believes in the ideals of the United Nations, I urge you to do the right thing and revoke Mr. Kutesa's visa. Please help protect the reputation of this important body -- the United Nations Organization.

Readers can help stop Kutesa from becoming the GA president by signing the petition on Change.org. Please use the search term "U.S. Must Deny Visa To Uganda's Sam Kutesa" to access the correct petition as there may be more than one campaign.