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Massive Electoral Malpractices and Gross Human Rights Violations in Uganda: The World Must Speak Out

Africa Elections Watch is a coalition of organisations and individuals working on the continent’s electoral issues including monitoring, observation and advocacy.

Africa Elections Watch had over 2000 election monitors in the Uganda general elections. The coalition has documented widespread violations of human rights as well as deliberate disregard of the electoral process. 

Four days after the announcement of Yoweri Museveni’s win, we have received information of the arbitrary arrest and illegal detention of 223 people (including Bobi Wine) in the post-election period in Uganda. This is in addition to reports of continued abductions and intimidation of opposition agents and human rights defenders.

The African Elections Watch is now calling on Africa and indeed the world to speak out on the situation in Uganda. The announcement of Yoweri Museveni as the winner of the presidential election comes in the wake of widespread human rights violations already documented. 

President Yoweri Museveni and his administration have among other things mismanaged the elections; suppressed the right to freedom of expression through an internet and social media shutdown; used security forces, including military deployment to intimidate members of the political opposition and their supporters ahead of and during the election; intimidated the media through state violence and direct intimidation against journalists. The state has also supressed scrutiny and accountability through physical attacks, arrests and other forms of coercion against opposition political party agents, human rights defenders and election observers.

The outcome of this election would surmise that most Ugandans chose Museveni to continue leading the nation. But if that were the case, wouldn’t these same Ugandans be on the street and everywhere else, celebrating their win? Would there be need for the military to restrain them, or isn’t that the reason for the massive military deployment and the internet shutdown?

Is the election result really the product of the voice of Ugandans? Who is it that has spoken for them? 

Election data indicates that about seven million Ugandans did not vote, the reasons for their failure to vote have not been established. However, this is a massive number which speaks volumes.

Further, the overall conduct of the electoral process was marred with flaws and calls for accountability. There are reports of delays of delivery of polling materials to several polling stations, reports of party agents being rejected at polling stations, and being intimidated in others, failure of the BVV kits leading the Electoral Commission to resort to manual verification which in itself would invite further scrutiny.

Indeed, there is sufficient reason to poke holes into both the results and the entire process, which is why the Africa Elections Watch is asking regional and international bodies like the African Union, East African Community, the European Union and governments; regional and international human rights organisations to rise up and speak out with and for already suppressed Ugandans.

Silence will kill Uganda. And this silence will embolden other leaders, especially in the region to take a similar route to muzzle the voice of the people and deny them the right to elect their leaders of choice in a free, fair and just way. This would set a precedent for other countries on the continent to rubbish the will of the people with impunity.

Action must be taken to ensure justice for Ugandans. Legal action but also action to secure the lives of people on the forefront of exposing the sham that is this election in Uganda.

Our partners in Uganda indicate that the citizens are keen to avoid violence for which they must be commended and supported. A call for justice should not be viewed as a promotion of violence. The two are not synonymous. 

Reports of people in parts of Uganda protesting the results cannot be ignored. If the people felt they could be heard, they would not resort to protests. And since Museveni has refused to listen to them, it would be tragic for the world to side with him at the expense of the people of Uganda.

The question now would be, is the world witnessing a reincarnation of Idi Amin Dada? Amin’s rule of terror in Uganda was between 1971 and 1979, and was characterized by brutality at many different levels. Extrajudicial killings, persecution of political and ethnic groups, intimidation of real or perceived critics, among other rampant human rights violations,  

The blatant disregard and indeed active muzzling of the people’s voice would suggest that it is. The 2021 electoral process has reduced Ugandans to helplessness and fear and Museveni’s actions obviously seek to legitimize an illegal process.

While the announcement of Museveni’s win has been acknowledged in some quarters and by some governments, we must reiterate our call:

1. To the African Union to urgently:

  • Convene talks to restore democratic governance to Uganda;
  • Address the growing risk of contagion in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa region. At this rate, there will be no silencing of the guns in our continent and especially in our region!

2. To the United Nations, we call on you to undertake measures that allow for a transparent audit of the electoral process and accountability for any electoral misconduct.

3. World leaders to demand for thorough and independent investigations against Uganda authorities for mass human rights violation and gross elections offences during the electioneering period and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable and that victims are granted access to justice and effective remedies. 

World leaders must now look beyond powerful national, political and diplomatic vested interests and take action against Uganda authorities to ensure justice for Ugandans.

To the governments of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we urge you to keep your borders open for any persons in Uganda who will be seeking asylum during this period,  In due observance of your international human rights obligation to grant asylum. 

4. As civil society organisations from across Africa we demand Immediate and unconditional release of all the 223 detainees and unfettered access to: family, legal representation, medical support and essential supplies. 

5. Further, we demand, full reinstatement of, and access to communication channels of all persons illegally detained and held incommunicado  

To all Ugandans – we honour your courage and resilience and stand with you in seeking justice and sustainable peace.

Signed by;

  1. Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi
  2. Kenya Human Rights Commission
  3. Journalists for Justice
  4. Pan African Lawyers Association 
  5. The Orature Collective
  6. Haki Africa
  7. Muslims for Human Rights
  8. Amnesty International
  9. Article19 East Africa
  10. Independent Medico-Legal Unit
  11. Defenders Coalition – Kenya
  12. ELOG