Uganda minister 'unfit' for UN appointment

Critics say Sam Kutesa, previously implicated in corruption scandal, is not fit to lead the UN General Assembly.

    Uganda foreign minister Sam Kutesa has been implicated in at least two scandals since 1999 [AP]
    Uganda foreign minister Sam Kutesa has been implicated in at least two scandals since 1999 [AP]

    Uganda's Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa, who was previously ousted as a junior investment minister over claims he abused his office, is not fit to become the president of the United Nations General Assembly, a watchdog has said.

    Kutesa has been implicated in at least two more scandals since 1999, including allegations that he accepted bribes from foreign companies seeking oil contracts in Uganda.

    "He's a hugely divisive figure because of his chequered history in Uganda's politics," said Nicholas Opiyo, a prominent Ugandan lawyer who runs a watchdog group called Chapter Four.

    "He's not a paragon of virtues and he's not the best this country can put forward,'' Opiyo said.

    Kutesa, who denies all allegations, is Africa's unanimous choice to become the UN General Assembly's president. He's expected to be elected to the UN position on June 11, replacing John W Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda. The post rotates annually by region. 

    9,000 sign petition

    At least two senators from New York have criticised Kutesa's appointment, and more than 9,000 people have signed an online petition urging US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN member states to block the Ugandan from taking up the post.

    The petition cites his implication in corruption scandals at home and his alleged role in the enactment of Uganda's new anti-gay law.

    Kutesa and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni are "making a mockery" of UN values and it would be a "travesty" if Kutesa was allowed to lead the next session of the UN General Assembly, the petition says.

    Although Kutesa, 65, is not known for making provocative anti-gay statements, rights activists say he supported the Ugandan law that allows jail terms of up to life for those convicted of engaging in gay sex.

    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said it would be "disturbing to see the foreign minister of a country that passed an unjust, harsh and discriminatory law" preside over the UN General Assembly.

    Okello Oryem, Uganda's deputy foreign minister, said Kutesa's opponents ignored his "success stories" within Africa's violence-prone Great Lakes region, including what he said was Uganda's role in pacifying Somalia.

    Ugandan soldiers lead African Union troops helping the Somali government fight the al-Qaeda-linked rebel group al-Shabab.

    Kutesa told a Ugandan daily he was unfazed by the controversy surrounding his ascent to the UN post.

    His supporters point out that he has never been convicted, insisting he is qualified on the authority of his long career as a lawyer and a diplomat.

    Kutesa, a wealthy businessman, is also widely seen by critics to have benefited from his close ties with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, an increasingly authoritarian leader who has held power for nearly three decades. Kutesa's daughter is married to Museveni's son.



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