Democracy is critical to Africa’s future. But if democracy is to take root and flourish, specific conditions must be met. Chief among these are free and fair elections. These in turn cannot take place if the voting public lacks access to information about important issues, or if voters are prevented from meeting with or rallying for their chosen candidates. In other words, freedom of speech and of the press, and freedom of association, are indispensable aspects of free elections, and of Democracy itself.
That is why the United States is concerned about the deteriorating electoral environment in Uganda, and the run-up to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, set to be held on February 18th.
Eight candidates are vying for the Presidency, including sitting President Yoweri Museveni, who first came to power in 1986, but was only elected into office in 1996. He is currently running for a fifth term in office.
According to Human Rights Watch, Uganda’s current election campaign is fraught with intimidation of journalists, including threats or warnings of possible repercussions for critical reporting; government harassment and intimidation of independent voices in the media and civil society; obstruction and dispersal by police of opposition rallies, with excessive illegal arrests, beatings and other use of force by security personnel. At least one member of a candidate’s staff, opposition campaign aide Christopher Aine, has disappeared.
For the sake of Uganda and all of its people, the upcoming elections must be free, fair and transparent. The United States believes that for this to happen, all Ugandans must have the opportunity “to exercise their right to assemble peacefully, express their opinions, and participate in the electoral process free from intimidation and abuse. They also depend on government institutions and security forces remaining neutral, defending the rights of all people and protecting all parties equally,” wrote State Department Spokesperson John Kirby in a statement.
"We call on the government, civil society, and political parties to do their part to ensure a peaceful, transparent and credible electoral process.”