Secretary Clinton: Press President Museveni on “zero tolerance” for vote rigging and intimidation in Uganda elections
WASHINGTON (February 16, 2011)— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should personally ask President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda to publicly commit to “zero tolerance” of any vote rigging or intimidation of opposition parties and media during national elections scheduled for February 18, Resolve said today. Resolve also called on Secretary Clinton to urge President Museveni to publicly commit to respecting the results of the election and step down from office should the Electoral Commission announce another winner.
Preparations for the elections have been marred by restrictions on media freedoms and harassment of opposition political parties by Ugandan government officials, security forces, and supporters of Museveni’s political party, raising concerns that the elections will not be free or fair and could lead to civil unrest and destabilize the country.
“The stakes are high for these elections, and President Museveni must not tolerate actions that interfere with their credibility,” said Paul Ronan, Director of Advocacy at Resolve, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. “Secretary Clinton and President Obama have demonstrated clear leadership in raising human rights issues with President Museveni in the past, most notably in condemning anti-homosexuality legislation and attacks on gay activists in Uganda. The issue of free and peaceful elections requires a similar level of priority.”
National elections in Uganda in 2001 and 2006 were marred by violence against opposition supporters by state actors, intimidation of the media, and arbitrary arrests of opposition supporters. However, high-ranking officials implicated in politically motivated violence in these elections campaigns have rarely been properly investigated or prosecuted by state authorities.
These patterns have continued in the run-up to this month’s elections in Uganda. Peaceful opposition supporters have been arrested and jailed by the Ugandan government, as well as beaten by pro-government Kiboko (stick) squads that have operated without interference from police forces. Freedom of assembly is also threatened by the proposed Public Order Management Bill, which would require prior police approval before groups of three or more individuals can gather to discuss "principles, policy, actions or failure of any government."
In recent weeks, opposition leaders have condemned police recruitment of “crime preventer” groups in the run-up to the elections, calling the groups an attempt by the Ugandan government to intimidate opposition supporters. Civil society activists have also been harassed and detained after speaking out against payments of 20 million Ugandan shillings ($8,500) to members of Uganda’s parliament just weeks before the voting, which activist groups have condemned as a pre-election bribe.
“The track record of the Ugandan government in past election campaigns is deeply troubling,” said Ronan. “The United States needs to make clear to Uganda it expects state authorities to behave responsibly and transparently during the actual voting and in the post-election period, and that it must hold those who don’t accountable to Ugandan law.”
Senior U.S. officials have repeatedly raised concerns about the conduct of the election campaigns with Ugandan government officials, including during a visit by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson to Uganda earlier this month. A report released by Secretary Clinton last year, one of several mandated by 2009 Congressional legislation, was critical of the Ugandan government’s efforts to restrict local media freedoms and opposition parties’ freedom of assembly.
Even as the U.S. has been concerned about the Ugandan government’s elections conduct, the two countries have a close alliance regarding regional security issues, raising concerns that the U.S. is reluctant use its diplomatic influence to push for free and peaceful elections. The U.S. provides support to Ugandan military forces deployed in Somalia as part of the African Union force there, as well as to Ugandan forces operating against Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in central Africa.
“Secretary Clinton needs to demonstrate that free and fair elections in Uganda are a priority for the U.S. government,” said Ronan. “Recent events in Egypt, Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire demonstrate clearly that stronger democracies are top priority for people across Africa, and should be a top priority for U.S. leaders as well.”
Resolve is a U.S.-based organization of advocates, resolved to see an end to Africa’s longest-running war. Resolve works with activists, policy experts and civil society leaders to identify and build support for policy measures that can help end the atrocities being committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and enable affected communities to survive and rebuild.
To interview Paul Ronan, please contact him directly at 315-569-8051 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Advocacy
m: +1 315.569.8051.
o: +1 202.596.2517.