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The European Union Must Not Endorse Military Coronation in the Name of Elections

The African Election Watch is deeply concerned with the entire process of elections in Uganda which has been lauded by the European Union as peaceful and organised.

The Electoral Commission in Uganda has disregarded the due process required in the electoral process. Reports from civil society, observers and monitors in Uganda paint a very grim picture of an electoral process that has mutated into a security operation — shrouded in intimidation, brutal force and secrecy. Further reports indicate that agents at the polling station from various parties and accredited observers have to wait for the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission to verify results and issue declaration of results forms from polling stations. This is highly irregular and against the process under the Presidential Elections Act because no verification can happen at the national tallying centre.

Further, the Electoral Commission in its press briefing reported that it is using an alternative fibre optic transmission system that uses alternative internet instead of the local internet.   This fortifies our earlier statements that show differential treatment of election players. Such exemptions made to the internet shutdown should have been declared publicly in the directive by the Uganda Communications Commission.

We reiterate that what is happening in Uganda does not meet the threshold of a democratic, free, fair, transparent and credible electoral process because of the following critical violations:

  • The pre-election period was rife with state sponsored violence, killing of citizens and other forms of intimidation targeted at opposition politicians, civil society actors, human rights defenders and journalists. This includes deployment of  the military presence in the streets and polling centres;
  • Arrest and detention of local election observers, campaigners for presidential candidates, and the candidates themselves, especially those of Patrick Oboi Amuriat and Robert Kyangulanyi  (popularly known as) Bobi Wine, including house arrest of Robert Kyangulanyi;
  • The shutdown of internet and interference with communication channels including the short messaging services (SMS);
  • The denial of accreditation to independent  observer groups including domestic and international civil society organizations, the United States (US) diplomatic observers and even the European Union (EU);
  • The obfuscation around the tallying and transmission of results. The Electoral Commission is transmitting the results in an opaque and secretive manner with data that cannot be verified in any way.
  • The Electoral Commission further continues to evade scrutiny and does not address existing uncertainties in a timely manner. The Electoral Commission has further avoided accountability to the greater public nor in communicating with electoral stakeholders even before the final announcement of the results.

To anyone that lauds this election process, we would like to reiterate that a free, fair, just and peaceful election cannot be held in a climate full of violence and intimidation.

Earlier media reports of citizens fleeing their country into neighbouring countries should worry everyone. It should worry the international community and intergovernmental organisations, especially the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) that these Ugandans are being denied entry and being handed over to border police and immigration officials from Uganda. We reiterate that the right to asylum should not be limited especially during such a tumultuous electoral and security process in Uganda

Calls:

  1. We join Ugandans to demand full accountability for the nearly concluded general elections using all available legal means and embark on a journey of reforming their electoral and governance process with lessons from the conduct of this election and previous elections.
  2. We call on all international observers and particularly the EU, to cease the continued validation and bleaching of the flawed electoral process in Africa. The reported observation by the EU head of delegation reek of hypocrisy and border on connivance with the abusers of democratic and human rights principles.
  3. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the 26 civil society actors and election observer team who were arrested on 14 January and continue to be detained at Kibuli Police barracks,  Kabalangala and Jinja Road Police stations, and an additional nine civil society leaders arrested between 14 January and 15 January 2021.
  4. We urge the governments of Kenya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania, especially, not to involuntarily return any asylum seeker or refugee who flees from Uganda. Forcing unwilling and fearful asylum seekers back to insecure countries of origin is in direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights instruments that protect the right to seek asylum.
  5. We also reiterate our earlier demand for the immediate opening of the internet and mobile money.