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President Museveni Must Follow the Rule of Law and Bring an End To Abuse of Human Rights

Uganda and Museveni must adhere to the rule of law, the respect for justice and sanctity of the vote. An independent electoral management body, an independent judiciary and an independent and responsive police service are necessary ingredients of ensuring justice. These institutions in Uganda are captured by the Presidency. 

We state as follows:

i) The Conduct Supreme Court must be Investigated

We have noted the decision by Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi to his withdrawal of the petition challenging the results of the January 14, 2021 elections in Uganda. Hon Robert Kyagulanyi alleges that the court is biased and in incapable of delivering justice in the petition before it. 

An impartial, competence and independent judiciary is one of the pillars for building nations with stable democracies and shared economic prosperity. These qualities in a judiciary are also very crucial in electoral disputes adjudication because the acceptance or rejection of its decision as legitimate has consequences for whether democratization is advanced or not.

President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for the last 35 years and who is the main respondent in the election petition has appointed every member of the Ugandan judiciary, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the judges of the Supreme Court charged with inquiring into the conduct of the elections. A considerable number of judges are either former appointees or personal aides of the President. 

This appointment history of judicial officers to adjudicate on presidential electoral disputes goes against the adage that justice should not only be done but should also be seen to be done.

ii) Continued Attack on Civil Society and Critical Media

President Museveni’s regime has continued its attacks on independent media and civil society.

We condemn the violence that was meted by Uganda’s military police on journalists on February 17, 2021, while Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi petitioned the United Nations Commission for Human Rights. The events of February 17 represent a consistent pattern of brutality and violence against Ugandans in general and journalists in particular by President Museveni’s regime. We see the attack on journalists as a continuation of the regime’s strategy to block coverage of its violence against innocent Ugandans which was epitomized by the shutdown of the internet and social media following the 14 January 2021 elections.

We also observe with concern that continued harassment of members of civil society organizations. There is no doubt that the current push back on the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) is a deliberate attempt by President Museveni’s administration to undermine the essential pro-democracy and human rights work of civil society by disrupting the main funding mechanism for civil society in Uganda. 

While we welcome the ongoing engagement between the Government of Uganda and the DGF contribution development partners, we are concerned that the Uganda authorities may use these negotiations to impose further unwarranted conditions on funding for pro-democracy and human rights work in the country.

iii) Full Accountability for Human Rights Abuses as a Pre-Condition for Stability and Sustainable Peace

We note that there is some movement on the part of President Yoweri Museveni regarding accounting for Ugandan citizens who were kidnapped by the Ugandan security forces and state-backed militia groups. While the admission that these Ugandans were abducted by security personnel presents a glimmer of hope for the victims and their families, the regime must understand that accountability for human rights abuses must be comprehensive. 

First, the list of all kidnapped persons should be published publicly. Second, the regime must cease the growing practice of trying civilians in military courts. Thirdly, there must be speedy and transparent trial of the many Ugandans who are being persecuted for their political beliefs.

The increased use of force, arbitrary arrests, kidnaps and holding Ugandans incommunicado in military detentions and later trying them before military courts is proof of the resolute determination of the Ugandan authorities to stifle the increasing dissent and terrorize anyone who even considers expressing their opinions.

iv) The International Community Must Translate its Commitment of Disapproval to Measurable Actions

We note that the US and EU have been supporting Museveni since he came to power in 1986. The United States and the EU members states have invested in bolstering President Museveni’s administration by funding social service programmes, infrastructure development and the training and international deployment of the Ugandan military. We welcome the statements by the United States Government and the European Union (EU) expressing commitment to hold accountable the Uganda government officials and elements within the Ugandan security forces who are the primary perpetrators of the election violence and human rights abuses before, during and after the elections.

These countries have a responsibility to ensure that Ugandan authorities are held accountable to the standards of democratic practice and human dignity provided for in the Constitution of Uganda, international human rights standards as well as African human rights instruments.

v) The Silence of the East African Commission and the African Union and its Institutions is a Cause for Alarm

Finally, we are concerned about the deafening silence of the East African Commission (EAC) and the African Union (AU), its institutions and other African regional bodies on the current events in Uganda. 

The AU Heads of State and the African Union Commission seem to have maintained a policy of silence as President Museveni’s regime continues to undermine the core principles of democracy and respect for human rights which are at the core of the AU governance instruments.

We challenge the African Union Commission to step up and coordinate a continent-wide response to the irregularities that characterized the Ugandan elections and the ongoing human rights abuses in the country. 

No African government should ever hide behind the veil of sovereignty to brutalize its citizens and engage in all forms of human rights abuses and still be welcomed to engage in AU activities without reprimand. 

As Africa Elections Watch, we will petition the African Union currently chaired by President Tshikedi of DRC, The Africa Union Commission chaired by Hon Mousa Faki, the President of the Peace and Security Council of the AU and the Pan African Parliament sitting in Pretoria to take action on the Uganda case.

Signed

  • Kenya Human Rights Commission – KHRC 
  • Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi!
  • Elections Observation Group – ELOG 
  • Constitution and Reform Education Consortium – CRECO
  • ICJ- KENYA
  • Amnesty International
  • Haki Africa
  • Muslim for Human Rights
  • Pan African Lawyers Association 
  • The Orature Collective
  • Article19 East Africa