In Uganda, 76-year-old President Yoweri Museveni, who has held the country’s top political office since 1986, prevailed again in the January 14 elections. However, the United States stated that the process was neither fair nor free and vowed to take action against those responsible for election-related violence or undermining democracy.
In a statement made on April 16, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Ugandan government’s “actions represent a continued downward trajectory for the country’s democracy and respect for human rights as recognized and protected by Uganda’s constitution.”
“Opposition candidates were routinely harassed, arrested, and held illegally without charge. Ugandan security forces were responsible for the deaths and injuries of dozens of innocent bystanders and opposition supporters, as well as violence against journalists that occurred before, during, and after the elections. Civil society organizations and activists working to support electoral institutions and transparent electoral processes have been targeted with harassment, intimidation, arrest, deportation, and spurious legal charges and denial of bank account access.
The government limited accreditation for international and local election observers and civil society, but those who were able to observe the process noted widespread irregularities before, during, and after the election, which have undermined its credibility,” said Secretary Blinken.
He then announced that the United States will impose visa restrictions on those believed to be responsible for undermining the democratic process in Uganda, including during the election and in the run-up to it. This means that the designated individuals are ineligible for entry into the United States. The restrictions may also apply to their families.
“The Government of Uganda must significantly improve its record and hold accountable those responsible for flawed election conduct, violence, and intimidation,” said Secretary Blinken, adding that the United States may take additional actions against individuals who had a hand in undermining democracy and human rights in Uganda, as well as their immediate family members.
Before the elections, U.S. officials made clear that the United States did not support any one particular candidate, but rather supported a free and fair democratic process. Unfortunately, that process overseen by the Government of Uganda fell far short. Nevertheless, “the United States also emphasizes that we strongly support the Ugandan people, and we remain committed to working together to advance democracy and mutual prosperity for both our countries.”